Over one hundred years ago in another world known as the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice, an emperor was deposed. To preserve their families' safety and livlihood, his twelve advisors took his young son and accepted exile from their homeland. An exile which brought them to ours.

These exiles, who came to call themselves the Thirteen Orphans, represent the twelve animals on the Chinese zodiac, with their emperor representing the cat. They settled in our world, doing what they could to preserve their magical knowledge until the exile was rescinded for either themselves or their descendants.

Today, Gaheris Morris, great-grandson of the original Exile Rat, had planned to impart this knowledge to his heir apparent, his daughter Brenda. He brought her to California to visit the current Tiger, their [[HonoraryUncle Honorary Aunt]] Pearl Bright, and introduce her to the current Cat, Albert Yu. What they find when they arrive is an Albert Yu lacking any memory of the Thirteen Orphans and the start of a journey that will eventually lead them and the other Orphans into battle against enemies from the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice.

The ''Breaking the Wall'' trilogy was written by Creator/JaneLindskold, author of the ''Literature/FirekeeperSaga'', and has three books: ''Thirteen Orphans'', ''Nine Gates'', and ''Five Odd Honors'', detailing the Orphans' quest to defend themselves from attack from the Lands and make their return to it and discover the cause behind them after all this time.
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!!This series features examples of:

* ActionMom: Nissa. Though a few of the Orphans are mothers themselves.
* AlliterativeFamily: The Nitas. Besides Nissa and (Noe)Lani, every person in the family also has an N name.
* AnArmAndALeg: Righteous Drum, early in book two.
* TheAtoner: Loyal Wind.
* BookBurning: An instance of this taken UpToEleven is what created the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice and is the reason people from the lands call Earth the Land of the Burning.
* ButNotTooForeign: Every Orphan who isn't pureblooded Chinese. Given the nature between Earth and the Lands, probably not even then.
* CheerfulChild: Lani
* ClapYourHandsIfYouBelieve: The various magical traditions possess this to one extent or another. The Lands' very existence comes from it.
* CoolBigSis: The Ox's daughter, Hua was this for the second generation Orphans.
* CoolOldGuy: Both of the Monkeys we meet, Waking Lizard and Bent Bamboo. Shen Kung.
* CoolOldLady: Pearl & Deborah.
* DarkActionGirl: Honey Dream in the first book.
* EasternZodiac
* FormerChildStar: Pearl Bright, though she subverts the usual definitions of what occurs to these characters in old age.
* GenreSavvy: Brenda, at one point rushing along [[TalkingInYourDreams a messenger in her dream]] specifically to avoid waking up before she learns anything useful. Also, nobody makes the mistake of assuming Brenda's message was AllJustADream.
* GottaCatchEmAll: Tracy Frye's attitude towards learning magics from other traditions. She's compared to a magpie collecting shiny trinkets with little regard for their actual worth.
* HeirClubForMen: A particular issue with Pearl and her father.
* HumanResources: The [[spoiler:Mahjong sets]] handed down the Orphans' family lines.
* TheInnerReveal: What was ''supposed'' to happen with Brenda at the start of the series.
* {{Mahjong}}: The Thirteen Orphans' magic is based around various Mahjong hands. Early training has apprentices hand-making tiles to use their spells with.
* NameThatUnfoldsLikeLotusBlossom: Anyone and everyone associated with the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice. Up to and including the Lands Born of Smoke and Sacrifice.
* NeverMessWithGranny: Pearl Bright. When your first on-page action in one of the books is beheading an attacker who took you by surprise, you've earned your place in this trope. Deborah Van Bergenstein tries to invoke this as the Pig by pointing out that boar spears were invented for a ''reason.''
* PassFail: Many of the original Orphans used magic to pass as other races so as to not be found by any pursuers who would search Chinese communities for them. This diluted over time -- for example, Gaheris looks more white than his daughter Brenda does.
* PowerCopying: The Cat can temporarily replace any of the other Orphans in the course of rituals.
* SmugSnake: Honey Dream and especially Tracy Frye.
* SpannerInTheWorks: Brenda's tendency towards WrongContextMagic tends to throw a spanner into many of the plans the protagonists' enemies craft.
* StraightGay: [[spoiler:Albert Yu.]]
* TalkingInYourDreams: Brenda tends to get this a lot.
* UnfortunateNames: Des Lee, full name Desperate Lee. The result of an ignorant nurse and a Chinese relative with a heavy accent trying to say how Des's mother had desperately wanted a boy.
* [[WellDoneSonGuy Well Done Daughter Gal]]: Pearl, before waking up to what a JerkAss her father was. Honey Dream as well, though her father is far more acknowledging.
* WellIntentionedExtremist: Righteous Drum, Honey Dream, and Flying Claw. Also, if you take his word for it, Franklin Deng.
* WrongContextMagic: Brenda's major trait throughout the story. She's able to call upon the powers of the Rat, despite the fact that she shouldn't ''have'' access to those powers while her father yet lives.