I read this originally as a teen, when I first discovered MZB and read everything of hers I could get my hands on. I still think that The Mists of Avalon is one of the best books I've ever read, and I still love everything Darkover, but I have to say that upon re-reading this it really fell flat for me.
I see what others (and the introduction by Elisabeth Waters) are saying, in that you can see parts of the Darkover-that-is-to-come in this, her first ever novel. And of course, since I'd read this before and vaguely remembered the plot, none of it was really a surprise. Actually, I was going to give this 3 stars for the re-read, just for old times sake until getting to the very last paragraph of the book.
I looked at Miellyn, took her slender unmanacled hand in mine, and smiled as we walked through the gates of the city. Now, after all my years on Wolf, I understood the desire to keep their women under lock and key that was its ancient custom. I vowed to myself as we went that I should waste no time finding a fetter shop and having forged therein the perfect steel chains that should bind my love's wrists to my key forever.
This left me firmly disgusted, that our 'hero' as it were, upon for the first time ever discovering love, decides that he now understands the custom of chaining the women of the Shainsa - but even worse, that he is going to act
on this feeling, and as soon as possible. And 'his love' that he refers to is a woman who deliberately chose to cast off her chains and leave the Shainsa - this is who he is going to chain up again, all in the name of love? What a selfish bastard! If MZB had just left off the very last sentence, I could have dealt with that, more as a declaration of love and cultural awareness, not liked it, but dealt with it. But to act on it? Ugh! I know it was written in 1961, and probably for a male audience, but no. Just NO.