The Morgaine Cycle, also known as The Morgaine Stories, are a series of science fantasy novels by science fiction and fantasy writer C. J. Cherryh, published by DAW Books. They concern a time-traveling heroine, Morgaine, and her loyal companion Nhi Vanye i Chya.
The first book in the series, Gate of Ivrel (1976), was Cherryh's first published novel, and was followed soon thereafter by Well of Shiuan (1978) and Fires of Azeroth (1979). These three works have been subsequently released in omnibus editions under various titles, including The Book of Morgaine, The Chronicles of Morgaine, and The Morgaine Saga. In 1988, Cherryh published the fourth book in the series, Exile's Gate.
In the 1980s, Jane Fancher? began a graphic novel adaptation of Gate of Ivrel in close collaboration with Cherryh. Although it was never completed, Fancher self-published one segment of the work with a color cover and black and white interior art entitled C. J. Cherryh's Gate of Ivrel No. 1 (1985). Two parts of the adaptation were subsequently published as full color versions by The Donning Company under its Starblaze Graphics imprint: Gate of Ivrel: Claiming Rites (1986) and Gate of Ivrel: Fever Dreams (1987). In 1987, Tor Books published an interactive novel set in Morgaine's universe, The Witchfires of Leth.
This series has been identified as being set in the Alliance-Union universe, as it is stated that Morgaine was sent on her quest by the "Union Science Bureau".
The construct at the center of these novels is a set of "gates" that facilitate travel among a series of distant worlds connected by these gates. In addition to traveling from place to place, the gates can also be used to facilitate time travel. Cherryh has cited the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Andre Norton? as influences in the development of her gate system.
Because of the temporal paradoxes involved in time travel, the gates are a threat to universal causality and therefore to the future of innumerable worlds. In fact, as presented in the backstory of the Cycle, unwise use of the gates' temporal properties has already decimated at least one highly advanced civilization, the qhal. To prevent additional such calamities, Morgaine is engaged on a centuries-long quest that takes her from world to world via the gates, setting each gate to self-destruct just after she has used it to move on to the next. It is not clear from the storyline how long Morgaine has been traveling, but it is spelled out that she was sent by the Union Science Bureau as a member of a task force one hundred strong given the mission of destroying the gates. There has been attrition over time, with an act of treachery prior to the first novel leaving Morgaine the sole survivor.
The gates and other items in the stories are based on advanced technology, and there are no magical or supernatural elements presented, so the works can be properly classified as science fiction. But the books feature several tropes common to fantasy, including medieval-type settings and low levels of technology on the worlds depicted in the novels, a feudal-like relationship between the main characters, and medieval-style warfare and weaponry.
The device Morgaine uses to destroy the gates, for example, though it incorporates advanced technology, has the appearance of a sword. In the tradition of heroic-epic swords, it has its own name, Changeling. This blending of technology and elements more common to fantasy often results in the books being labeled as works of "Science Fantasy." The stories have also been identified as Heroic Fantasy, and earned Cherryh membership in the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a literary society that recognizes notable achievements in heroic fantasy fiction.