Creator / Pamela Dean

Pamela Dean is an American SF and fantasy writer. She has also written short stories set in the Liavek Shared World universe. She also began a Liavek novel, but seems to have put it aside for the moment in order to complete the fifth Secret Country book, Abiding Reflection.

The Secret Country books

  • The Secret Country Trilogy, about a group of five cousins who find themselves in a world they thought they had invented for their games.
    • The Secret Country
    • The Hidden Land
    • The Whim of the Dragon
  • The Dubious Hills is set in the same world, but takes place in a different area and involves different characters.
  • Abiding Reflection (working title), an upcoming joint sequel to the four previous books. In 2013, she referred to it as her "still-in-limbo amazing and expanding shrinking novel variously known as Going North, Abiding Reflection, and My Poor Book. It was rejected by Viking Press in 2013 due to its length.
    I need to finish revising Going North before we publish it. It got into repeated trouble with the publisher that bought it on spec, because it was just too long. Then, when I cut it down, my editor rightly thought that Iíd gone too far and made it difficult to comprehend. Also, sadly, the opening, which I am much attached to, does not work for people who havenít read the earlier books. Thatís the major issue right now; the rest is just adding back in some of the scenes that I cut. - Pamela Dean in a February 2016 interview.


  • Tam Lin, which retells the Tam Lin story in a modern college setting
  • Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, which involves three sisters and their neighbor, who wants to build a Time Machine in their house.

Tropes found in her work include:

  • The Atoner: Prospero (no, not that one), Melanie's elder brother, who helped her kill a unicorn and became immortal using its blood; he later foreswore the teachings of their school of sorcery and is currently one of the scholars of Heathwill Library.
  • Arranged Marriage: Lady Ruth of the Green Caves and Lord Randolph. In the kids' game, it was arranged when she was a young child although in the real Hidden Land, it seems likelier that it was arranged later to strengthen ties between their opposing schools of magic. Later on, Lord Andrew complicates the peace negotiations between the Hidden Land and the Dragon King by offering Ted and Ruth to be married to the Dragon King's son and daughter.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Carroll children learn this in The Secret Country books.
  • Big Bad: Claudia/Melanie in The Secret Country trilogy.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Benedictis from her Liavek stories.
  • Bromance: Lord Randolph and Fence the wizard are devoted friends.
  • Cast Incest: In-story in "The Last Part of the Tragical History of Acrilat"- Deleon's character is the mother of the character played by his boyfriend.
  • Child Mage: In The Dubious Hills, all children younger than ten have magical abilties, which wear off as they grow older.
  • Crosscast Role:
    • Since Liavekan theatre roles aren't determined by gender, pretty much all of the Desert Mouse theatre company play both male and female characters.
    • In the school production of Twelfth Night in Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, both Malvolio and Antonio are cast as girls.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Lord Andrew, living in a world imbued with many different kinds of sorcery, does not believe in magic.
  • The Fair Folk: In Tam Lin.
  • Immortality Immorality: In the Secret Country books, humans can become immortal using the blood of a unicorn killed in treachery. Since the unicorns, although annoying, are sentient beings, most of the characters are horrified by this. The wizard Shan, one of the founders of the Secret Country and a major contributor to its culture, also apparently disapproved of immortality on principle.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: In The Secret Country, when Fence, Randolph, Patrick, Ellen, and Laura are discussing Lady Claudia, whom Randolph had been looking chummy with earlier:
    Fence: What did she [Claudia] want with thee?
    Randolph: ::looks amused::
    Fence: Apart from the obvious.
    • Laura catches on very quickly what they're talking about.
  • Longing for Fictionland: The Carroll children in The Secret Country had a long, elaborate fantasy game about said country for years. They thought it was a fantasy of their own creation. It wasn't. Once they're involved with the actual place and its people, not only the real world but their old fantasy looks dull and wrong by comparison.
  • Magic Music: The Flute of Cedric.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In the first two Secret Country books, the Carrolls impersonate the royal children and everything depends on their maintaining this facade. People in the Secret Country speak Early Modern English, more or less, with formal and casual styles. The children do well with this when they remember to use it. But they frequently lapse into 20th-century American English. Nobody seems to notice. Either they are all hearing what they want to hear, or given the reason the kids are there in the first place, maybe A Wizard Did It.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: In The Dubious Hills, where the enchantment that turns people into werewolves cancels the one that gives the Dubious Hills' inhabitants their "knowledge".
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: A very odd example. There are no indications that Lady Ruth and Lord Randolph would have gotten on well at all... but when Ruth Carroll takes Lady Ruth's place, she finds herself falling in love with Lady Ruth's intended, who ultimately reciprocates.
  • Promoted To Parent: Arry in The Dubious Hills, after her parents mysteriously never returned from a business trip.
  • Reality Subtext: In-story example in "The Last Part of the Tragical History of Acrilat."
  • Really 700 Years Old: Prospero and Melanie in The Whim of the Dragon; Nick and Robin in Tam Lin.
  • Play Within The Book: All the time, and it's always a play:
    • The Secret Country opens with a the kids performing the climatic scene of their original, "game" version of the story, as a private play.
    • In The Hidden Land, Ted participates in a ritual play, whose significance he does not know about until it's over.
    • In Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Gentian and her friends try out for the School Play, Twelfth Night.
    • In Tam Lin, some college students perform The Revenger's Tragedy, a real but obscure Jacobean play, as a commentary on their department head's conduct.
    • One of her Liavekan characters, Deleon Benedicti, was an actor; the two stories in which he had a major role, "Two Houses in Saltigos" and "The Last Part of the Tragical History of Acrilat", ended with the first stagings of plays.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Used in a... different context than usual in The Hidden Land.
  • Unicorns: the ones in the Secret Country are snarky and unhelpful, but can be bargained with.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Shan in the Secret Country Trilogy. He never wanted to become immortal; his lover Melanie made him so against his wishes, using unicorn's blood. He then spent the rest of his life trying to undo this. People in the Hidden Land now swear by Shan's mercy, meaning "that mercy which was granted to Shan"- death.
  • They Just Didn't Care: Possibly, in the Secret Country books. Ruth, aged sixteen, "hasn't been to high school yet." Ted says he's just fourteen; yet he has "just started junior high", which normally begins at twelve.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Subverted in The Secret Country. In fact, several chapters at the beginning are devoted to the kids painstakingly working out that time moves exactly the same outside the Secret Country as in it, and realizing that they are quickly going to get into serious trouble in both worlds if they don't find a way to account for themselves. They finally jerry-rig a solution, which has both good and bad consequences.