The first installment of The Nine Lives Of Michal Piech
saga by Crowqueen
Never actually written down in any detail, and went through a lot of redrafting since its conception during 2000, abandoned for a while because of the nebulous structure of the story and attempts to not make it a catalogue of Michal Piech's Deus Angst Machina
. The plot for the latter part of the story was the result of a vivid dream about being
Jane Austen in late 2005, and this was developed through brainstorming for other later books. Because the author has found that writing stories set over a short period (a month or so) is more exciting than plodding through a whole year of timeline without a single coherent narrative, it did not get fully plotted until the start of the first draft. Elements of the bigger story were grafted on as required, creating a complex network into which Seymour and Piech were placed to begin their duel.
The book covers mental health issues in a setting where treatment for mental health is meted out in a brutal and ham-fisted way. The author is trying not to write, essentially, BDSM porn - particularly with the scenes where Michal is threatened with shock treatment and exorcism because of his refusal to let go of his entirely true story. This is difficult to get right, particularly because the author is writing from experience of needing treatment for a breakdown which was overblown by the mental health establishment into something more than it was and her trying to maintain some sort of control backfired in some ways. Setting the tone for the book is setting the tone for the whole series, even if the rest of the series does not touch directly on mental health. Michal Piech believes he's sane - but the others don't think he is, and playing by their rules is difficult. Piech is also depressed to start off with - and then accidentally flung into a parallel universe to the one he has previously lived in. It also echoes the Victorian fantasy of a sane person incarcerated in an asylum by putting a sane character into a situation in which the person in control is the mad bastard.
It all started with the murder of cabbie Pavel Ustinov.
Michal Piech is found on a dark night lying in the gutter by Simon Seymour, the deputy warden at the Lowe Road workhouse. Seymour takes advantage of the young man's distress and obvious illness and brings him home, where he promptly relieves him of his valuables, destroys his identity papers, finds his house keys, and, afraid to actually kill him, signs him into the workhouse as a pauper charge.
In an effort to both conceal his original crime and divest Piech of the valuables stored at his house, Seymour enlists the help of Aushra Vainyte, former prostitute and the mistress of the Pendlebury workhouse, to dispose of Michal's former valet, Wojciech Tarczowski - with brutal and horrific results for both. Meanwhile Carrie Sewell is attempting to trace her missing husband, who was in the process of suing for divorce; Seymour spots the chance to intercede and assist her to annul the marriage.
Michal is repeatedly punished and denounced as mad for holding to his own story despite the seduction of accepting Seymour's version of his own life, but is protected from complete annihilation by Andrew Russell, warden of the workhouse, who delivers Seymour an ultimatum over his conduct towards Michal.
Later that year, Seymour's niece, Julia, comes to stay and her uncle finally gives Piech a glimpse into what he's done. Julia helps him recover something of his dignity, but will it all come right in the end?First draft finished 05/09/2011
- Abhorrent Admirer - Aushra towards Seymour, and later on, Frinton. It may be why Seymour wants to dispose of her.
- A Date with Rosie Palms - Ellis. Incessantly. Michal mentions that it is considered a sign of madness, and doesn't want to do it too much himself in case people question his mental health any further; he does it reluctantly when Hilda rejects him. Hilda almost accomplishes it while removing the bedpan, however; and following the botched exorcism he is too numb to feel anything when a convent nurse is giving him a bedbath - cleaning his bottom and genitals. Later on, Mad Tsib gets in on the act, inadvertently causing Wojtek's death through his accompanying taunts at him.
- Angel Unaware - Halina hints that Russell is this at Carrie's concert.
- An Officer and a Gentleman - Seymour, on the surface, fits the evil version of the trope. His experiences during the war are known, and he used The Uriah Gambit once, if not more, to be able to plunder the effects of his fellow soldiers who never made it back. He transferred the tactic to Lockley once he left the army and took over at Lowe Road.
- Anything That Moves - Ellis and Mad Tsib are the workhouse perverts, at Lowe Road and Pendlebury respectively.
- The Artifact - quite a number from the early plans for the series.
- Russell's sister-in-law, Jessica Sharp (Countess Jessica Russell) was originally the sweetheart of Michal's son, born at the end of the original, abandoned novel.
- Wojciech and Agatka Tarczowscy are more-or-less the same characters; however, they were originally husband and wife, not sister and brother, and Agatka gave birth to Stanislaw, Michal's illegitmate son. The current timeline removes that incident altogether as part of the Bleached Underpants reworking of Michal. Wojtek's sweetheart, Justynka Kosowna, is another former girlfriend of the randier Michal and in the original stories ran off with his local rival Lucjan Czarniecki - who will reappear later on.
- Michal's nose in the early cartoons (up until 200-something and his appearance in The Liberal Cuckoo) was drawn comically large (think Cyrano de Bergerac, though in the context of the artwork style, it wasn't entirely out of proportion). It's still recognisably aquiline to Alyosha when he sees him in Lowe Road but no longer of ridiculous proportions.
- Francis Palmerston was Michal's original antagonist in The Night, a dupe of the main villains turned against him because of a rivalry between the two men. The relationship will be developed in further books, but the story that one of them will rule his own "kingdom" is told in this book.
- The scenes with Julia are partly lifted from an alternative timeline, when Michal does become poor but avoids the workhouse. In the original story he was employed in the household of a shipping magnate, Dobranov, and met a woman who he had courted while trying to find an eligible match. She did recognise him, whereas Julia doesn't ever quite make the leap of faith needed to believe he really is the missing Michal Piech.
- Bedlam House - Osbourne House. Used as a threat but one that is never carried out; it is implied that Falls has contacts within it and uses their apparatus from time to time in treating disturbed and lunatic patients. Wladek, meanwhile, takes a hotel room within sight of it.
- Bilingual Bonus - inverted in-universe. Michal and Carrie argue at the dinner-table in Breston, in front of his family, which don't speak the same language. He accuses Alexei of being her 'gigolo' - which sounds worse to the listeners as the same word in Polish/Salvat is the word for a male prostitute rather than a male escort. At the end, however, Michal repeats the word 'divorce' in Allemundisch, which everyone in the room knows as the Empire's lingua franca, for the family's benefit to be able to truly humiliate Carrie in front of them.
- Break the Cutie - Seymour with Michal, and what he urges Aushra to do to Wojtek, though she argues that treating someone well is more likely to instil loyalty into them than abusing them.
- But I Would Really Enjoy It - Hilda, several times. She's had one unwanted pregnancy that put her in the situation she's now in, and she doesn't want another.
- Byronic Hero - Alyosha. He crosses the line when he actively conspires with Seymour to get Michal's marriage written off by taking advantage of what Seymour told Carrie on her earnest visit to Lowe Road.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
- Sluzhba - Slovian word for servant. Used as a term for a morgue assistant, in the manner of the real world usage of diener, from the German word for servant also used for the same profession.
- von Habichtendorf's Delusions - Munchausen's Syndrome. The case of von Habichtendorf comes from a real anecdote mentioned in a book about the insane inmates of workhouses. Falls muses on that the disease can be cured by puncturing delusions and proving them to be false, which is taken from Clifford Beers' memoirs about how he was finally convinced his persecution complex was not real.
- Calabarin and valeriate are real remedies; the calabar bean is mentioned in The Family Physician as a treatment for tetanus despite being toxic, and the valerian herb is used as a homeopathic treatment for insomnia or as a herbal sedative.
- Melonner - a bowler hat. In many European language - German and Polish particularly, for the authors' purposes - it is named after a melon. It is noted by Wojtek that Frinton wears one, hence the viewpoint established gives it its Polish moniker.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough - Russell and Seymour. It's metaphorical, with Russell as the effete aristocrat put in charge of Lowe Road and left to moulder there, and Seymour as the younger, more dynamic and certainly rougher junior partner who even intimidates his commanding officer, but Seymour has been a sergeant and the roles correspond to this trope's general dynamic. Seymour can of course be a smooth, manipulative bastard in his own right, but in terms of the dynamic, he is the violently depraved one nonetheless.
- Cardboard Prison - Michal knows that the restraints he's put in in the infirmary make him about "as secure as a circus escapologist" but he doesn't want to bring more trouble on himself by trying to undo them.
- Chilly Reception - just as Seymour intended, no-one believes Michal is the missing barrister and put through crueller hazing than normal. Tyne and Kumarin, although initially and subsequently friendly, are both sceptical and insulted by his insistence on his identity. Yuri keeps insisting he isn't even when the nature of skinning becomes a topic of press conversation in Brother Wolf and the question is raised as to whether Michal was "skinned", and Ellis is apparently paid off by Seymour to bully Michal despite almost stumbling across the truth in the second book.
- Closed Circle - Seymour works jolly hard to ensure Michal can't escape, and he's assisted by the contempt in which paupers are held even by the working poor, the militia and other people's servants, and the tightly controlled regimen leaves very little opportunity for him to abscond. He has nowhere to go after the end of Scerpa, either. When he could escape, though, it simply doesn't cross his mind.
- Cloud Cuckoolander - Michal, to the rest of the inmates of Lowe Road, starting with the nurse and getting worse from there. His mother is also regarded as a ditz, though she is a shaman, which entitles her to mystical pronouncements, and she is down-to-earth and considered wise. Wladek is more impatient than she is to find Michal.
- Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like - Michal would rather be dead than where he is after Seymour finds him.
- Confess in Confidence - Because Wojtek belongs to a pseudo-Catholic religion (though it is later decided to be a pagan religion with high church trappings bolted on by a foreign church) he is particularly eager to confess his part in the pillaging of Michal's house to a priest who gives confession at the Pendlebury workhouse to its Salvat inmates. However, the priest tells him that that confession should be made to the militia, not to him, and he won't take any notice of the accusations against anyone else, including Aushra - who is supervising him.
- Darker and Edgier - the stories all started off as a politicised version of Joan Aiken's fiction. This is the post-watershed, Grimdark version.
- Dark Mistress - Aushra. She is trying to emulate Seymour, but suffers from a bad bout of terminal incompetence and gets caught.
- Denied Food as Punishment - happens onscreen several times, and implied as a regular punishment throughout. Most notably when Michal is caught stealing unspoiled food from a pig-bin early on in his career at Lowe Road.
- Depraved Homosexual - Ellis, for a bag of tea.
- Deus Angst Machina - Averted. The setting is one that has been either ignored in fiction or demonised. The point is not how miserable Lowe Road is - a significant endowment prevents it veering into Oliver Twist territory (though comparisons with Panczewo workhouse do touch on the misery of a poor workhouse, and Petermarsh in Going Home is more typical of contemporary imaginations). The aim of extensive authorial research was to make it more like the late 19th century/early 20th century institutions, significantly better places to be than their 1830s counterparts, though never entirely pleasant. Although photographs taken in the 1920s show filthy uniforms and unpleasant conditions, that is somewhat of a deterioration from the early 1900s, when inmates even looked prosperous and well-looked after. The 1908 introduction of basic pensions and other social provisions largely rendered the workhouse system obsolete as a home for senior citizens, but people continued to be admitted there well into the 1940s, up until the foundation of the welfare state. The point of the setting is more what Seymour is doing with the institution as his own private jail and what he does with Michal - and others like him - than to depict the workhouse as a living nightmare in and of itself. The trick is to make it as disgusting as possible without putting people off reading it, and also to exorcise certain fears the author thinks she might have about the setting since she read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase at the age of 12.
- Don't Call Me Sir - Subverted. Yuri wants people to call him "sir", since it's a mark of his position in the dormitory pecking order. Michal volunteers the "sir" part, expecting his response to be similar to Kumarin's, who waves away the honorific politely. Oh no. Not Yuri.
- Downer Ending - no, he doesn't get the girl or vanquish Seymour. It's only the first book, though, and the first of three dealing directly with Seymour versus Piech, so this is probably to be expected.
- Electric Torture - Why Russell refuses to commit Michal to the lunatic asylum. It apparently killed one former Lowe Road inmate whom Seymour kidnapped in the same manner as he did Michal and then sent insane simply by cruelty and denial of his identity. It is a crude form of electroconvulsive therapy being tested not only on current inmates but found beneficial to help calm 'gunshock' after the war. Michal's uncle helped develop it.
- Epiphany Therapy - averted with Carrie. She is still ill at the end of the book - and accepts the Seymours' offer of staying at Fennwood over the winter in order to recover completely from Michal's death. Even though she gives Halina her photograph of Michal, and removes her mourning she hasn't completely sat up and got over it at that point.
- Ethnic Menial Labor - in-universe example - Piech is assumed to have been a station porter at Pendlebury Station, where there are a lot of Salvat workers, having come south and got a job straight off the train. He eventually stops trying to prove who he is to people and adopts a background that takes this into account. Interestingly this idea was spawned long before the 2004 influx of Eastern European labour into the UK, at the very least dating from 2000 when the back-story to the original novel was fleshed out.
- Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory - in-universe example. Halina Orlowska-Piech has written a thesis on mythology and storytelling as prophecy predicting the battle between a Messianic Archetype and The Devil. When he sees the robbed house in Hytherton, Wladek starts to believe she may not have been living with her head in the clouds after all.
- Faux Affably Evil - when we first meet Seymour, he's nursing Michal back to health, all the while robbing him, taunting him about his behaviour and his obvious alcoholism, taking advantage of his thirst by placing a glass of water just out of reach, and cutting off Michal's hair with the excuse that he doesn't want an infection in the workhouse. And then he cleans up Michal's sick. The only thing genuine is his initial mistaking of Piech's desperate request in his own language for woda (water) as a request for vodka (which is the diminutive of the word woda/voda, but of course is used as the name of the spirit) - he gets Piech a glass of water anyway as a substitute. And things get worse with him from there on in - it's how he's so seductive to people like Carrie and Alexei and wins their favour even while persecuting Michal a hundred yards away from where Carrie is sitting.
- Foreshadowing: While most scenes deal directly with the plot of this novel, the book is also beginning to set the stage for the following books and try and do significant world-building.
- Although not otherwise involved in the story, Hugo Montgomery and his approach to criminal investigations are mentioned in one passage, foreshadowing the third book in the series which dwells on this particular character.
- Carrie indignantly believes there should be a law against paupers being served booze. It happens, but not quite yet.
- Mlynarczyk calls Woolf Old Sharpnose, suggesting the supernatural elements revealed in Brother Wolf. Seymour also ponders whether Dobrovolsky's name - literally good wolf - is similarly significant in hinting at a secret within.
- In-universe - not only did Michal miss the midsummer night bonfire the year before his disappearance through depression, he also lights a small fire in the garden to make up for missing the celebrations.
- Edwin Atkins is discussed in part 2. His story makes an appearance in Going Home.
- For the Evulz - Played with. Is Seymour simply doing this just because he can - out of greed - or does he really have some direct reason for his cruelty to Michal?
- Friend in the Black Market - Frinton acts as a fence for the silver robbed from the Piech estate.
- Funetik Aksent - Wojtek. It's done without trying to make him look stupid, though, just to give the merest hint that he has an accent. However, Michal's neighbours think he is simple because of his thick accent and treat him a charity case when he needs work to get the money together to go home. He plays this card for all its worth, only finding his feet in Pendlebury workhouse where there are other Salvats for him to talk to in his native language.
- Gaslighting - one of the ways Seymour manipulates his victims. He doesn't subtly rearrange items to induce madness, but he verbally obscures Michal's origins, fits him up with a new biography, and persuades everybody else that he would genuinely have returned Michal to Carrie if he had found him. Aushra and Frinton know, and Alyosha is tacitly complicit at least in his scheme regarding Michal, but no-one else believes anything other than that Michal is a pauper with an exciting fantasy life. He takes rather a gamble with Alyosha's reasons for disowning recognition of Michal, but given that Seymour is a telepath and a hypnotist, and has met Alyosha frequently before Alyosha comes face to face with Michal, the gamble pays off.
- Gentleman Thief - Seymour - his initial audacious robbery of Michal's house is done right under Carrie's nose.
- Good Shepherd - Andrew Russell is a non-priestly version, though he is somewhat of a priest manque. He was rejected by both a woman, now married to his brother, and the seminary to which he applied - he did not have a robust enough character to cope with the "rigours" of priestly duties. Upon the institution's endowment, after a long illness, he was made warden by his father, Earl Russell, trying to find him an occupation that suited his temperament. He may have a sweet tooth that makes Marie Antoinette look like she fed herself on bread and water, but he is respected by the inmates as a foil to Seymour's excesses, striving hard to give his charges back the dignity that Seymour has robbed them of. He displays an awful lot of misinterpreted kindness and spiritual concern, exploited by Seymour, such as his compassionate treatment of Michal's so-called delusions, which is turned into an excuse for Seymour to torture him until he agrees to stop claiming he is who he is. It is his concern for spiritual matters that lead to the attempted exorcism of the "dead" Michal Piech from the "live" one. He also has a love of animals and children, and a desire to see the workhouse teach fine embroidery and artistic crafts (but does not get his way until the end of Going Home). The only thing he is hardline about is Carrie's "profession".
- Heir Club for Men -
- Seymour's brother needs to marry Julia off to secure his trade fortune. She herself somewhat subverts the trope; she is doing exactly what is expected of her as heiress and, what is more, has resisted the temptation in the past to run off with Stubbings, the servant usually assigned to her on her visits to Lowe Road but who has now found an alternative place as a waiter in a top restaurant, and is now suitably engaged to the heir to a squire's country estate.
- Russell's family is, for a fictional pseudo-Victorian landed family, comparatively secure.
- The Piechowie, liberals and adventurous and thus not necessarily hidebound to the dreaded system of entailment but faced with the loss of their direct male heir, have ample means of keeping the estate in the immediate family; Wladek has three brothers, the eldest of which, Walentyn, has competent male issue; Celina has a husband, Lech Pawlicki, prepared to adopt the Piech name, and a child is on the way - which turns out to be male and is named Michal in his lost uncle's memory.
- The Wieslawscy, local rivals to the Piechowie, have seen their estate dwindle to nothing. Their daughter Stanislawa is their last hope of preserving their inheritance; it's not stated, nor the focus of the book, but it seems that if she had not made an advantageous match they would have had to sell out to Wladek and his family. Think of the Crawleys from Thackeray's Vanity Fair, only with slightly more respectability and hygiene (though not much - Stanislawa is seen outdoors in her underwear, leading Wladek to counter-blackmail Alojzy Wieslawski).
- Hollywood Exorcism - we don't see the particulars, but the procedure is so frightening Michal has to be put in a straitjacket and given laudanum (real application of a straitjacket was painful the first time it happened because of the unnatural position of the limbs and fingers. Michal is put in it several hours before the shaman is due to start, but won't calm down for long enough for them to get the ritual done, so he has to be drugged to be gotten through it. Like most of these things, truth is more horrible and more sad than the author can imagine - CW Beers' autobiography was used as research into psychiatric treatment of this era). We do see the shaman, bought off anyway by Seymour, counsel him not to listen to the spirit inside him, which is quite obviously that of the missing barrister. Um, guys...
- Ho Yay - touched on in-universe with Michal and Wojtek. It's more of a bromance, but people will think what they will about a man who doesn't share his wife's bed carrying on behind closed doors with a bottle of vodka in a language no-one else understands...Later on, an altercation between Wojtek and Mad Tsib - Lolek Cybulski, a genuinely insane workhouse inmate at Pendlebury - begins with Tsib insinuating he's a homosexual because he doesn't get excited talking about Aushra's vital statistics and new lover Frinton and leads to Wojtek blurting out what really happened to him and why he doesn't fancy her, and his unfortunate end at Aushra's hands.
- Idealized Sex - averted with Aushra and her lovers, Hilda and her unnamed lover, and, it is implied, with Carrie and Michal. Sheaths exist, but they are lambskin and said to be unreliable. Aushra as a prostitute uses them. Hilda did not.
- I Found You Like This - Fry with Michal. He's the first person who tells him he's in a workhouse. Cue utter incredulity and disbelief on a massive scale. Metaphorically: Seymour, in the first scene after the prologue, although Michal is only semi-conscious and his delusional state has left him unable to understand Breston, so his understanding is incomplete and despite the enforced haircut, he is not able to fully take in the seriousness of what has happened to him.
- In-Series Nickname - Michal gets assigned the nickname Muzhik, which is a word for peasant - Yuri is contemptuous of Salvatkans and has also nicknamed Ellis Tosspot - because of his nocturnal habits. Michal acquires the sobriquet "Pissbed Piech" when his little "infection" starts; Harris uses it contemptuously in one of the denouement scenes.
- Internal Reveal - the destruction of the Hytherton house; subverted because the house is revealed to Michal as having been destroyed before we see how it got like that.
- Kindhearted Simpleton - Wojtek. He's not as dumb as he looks, but he's out of his depth in city life, probably over-promoted as valet, and he can't resist Seymour and Aushra once they get to him.
- Miss Kitty - played with. Aushra is a former prostitute turned Matron of Pendlebury workhouse, but uses it mainly as a way of gaining respectability while carrying on with Seymour...and others.
- Meanwhile, in the Future - There is some alternative chronology in the middle of the book in the section dealing with the burning down of the Hytherton house. We alternate between Michal's discovery, reaction and realisations about Seymour's role in everything, and the process by which Alyosha, Frinton, Vainyte and Seymour contrive to edit Michal out of official existence.
- Na´ve Newcomer - Michal at the beginning of the book. Passed from person to person over his first week at Lowe Road, he becomes entangled in their games and interests and perspectives - from Seymour's initial brutality to Nurse Fry's gentle patience, back to Seymour to be formally signed in, to Ellis to be shown around (and given some background on what has happened to his celebrity wife while he has been separated from her) and to Yuri to face his first night. It may be an Info Dump but it is generating the hooks on which the whole story begins to hang.
- Nobody Poops - averted with Michal. The bedpan knocked over by Hilda Grafton only adds to the impression the workhouse staff have of him as mentally ill. Dysentery was associated with asylums during the mid-19th century, with issues surrounding Haydock Lodge, forcing the reform of at least the British systems of restraint and neglect. Here Michal's incontinence is linked to his fear when effectively waterboarded by Falls and then exorcised by the nuns and their shaman. It also forms a central part of Michal's struggles in Part 2.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown - Wojtek on admission to Pendlebury. The way he handles the receiving orderly, however, gives him ideas of going into professional bare-knuckle fighting as a route out of his own private incarceration and wins him certain favour with the trusties, making his stay at a spike more pleasant than Michal's until the end. The trope is played straight with the ultimate ending..
- No Periods, Period - Aushra knows that pleading her belly - where a pregnant woman can't be hanged - won't wash with the militia when she finds blood in her knickers.
- Offstage Waiting Room - lampshaded. From the time Michal is exorcised and begins work for Mlynarczyk and the day he leaves on exeat expecting to go home, a month elapses. We see the ruined house - and then how it got like that. Except, it involves Alexei coming to the workhouse twice. The solution? Michal is just existing there, waiting to be allowed to leave properly, but otherwise beginning to get used to the situation. Although he could still have made it home, by the night before the house is destroyed, he's laughing and joking with his fellow inmates, even the bullies, and Alexei doesn't say anything because it wouldn't be in his interests to do so. What is crucial is that Michal has a life to lead in between escapades, and that adjusting to the new life is taking place even though he intends to go home. Except, of course, he can't - neither physically, nor mentally/emotionally.
- Oh My Gods! - "Go'ss-blimey" or "Go'ss-knows". Fricka is a goddess, hence the changes.
- One Steve Limit - Subverted. In the course of their search for Michal, the militia turn up several Michal Piechs registered in Ludlin. Most can be discounted. One is registered at Lowe Road. Oops...or is it?
- Porn Stash - Ellis is getting off to a picture of Michal's wife. Because of the way celebrities were not universally known by their faces in the 1880s - allowing even the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, to stay incognito at a Dorset hotel anonymously on a couch when there was no room for him - he doesn't realise the woman he sticks for ten tanners in the courtyard is Carrie Sewell-Piech. This is also why Michal is not recognised - the newspaper likenesses of him are inaccurate and exaggerated, and as a result not even Andrew Russell knows who he is.
- Precision F-Strike - Kumarin at the end, referring to Seymour. It's more of a Precision C strike.
- Psycho Psychologist - Falls plays at psychiatry, but Russell remarks that although he trusts him to fix physical ailments, he doesn't trust him to try and treat Michal's mind. A major theme of the book being mental illness, Falls wants to use Michal as a guinea pig to study how his mind works and how it responds to his idea of treatments. He remarks at one point, while Wojtek is in his care for tetanus, that physical illnesses may be simpler to treat, but they are less rewarding and fulfilling to cure. What is telling is that Falls feels more sorry for Wojtek with his infected hand than Michal, who he wants to incarcerate as a lunatic despite his fascination with the case ultimately leading him to put Wojtek and Michal both in danger from their respective jailers.
- Sibling Yin-Yang - Michal and Celina. Celina has the physical attributes of her father and the temper of her mother. Michal has the physical attributes of his mother but the temper of his father.
- Sigil Spam - Seymour's efforts to sell Michal's silver are frustrated by the Piech monogram being on everything. He thinks of melting the items down to get rid of the marques.
- Stockholm Syndrome - Michal has a bad case of it by the end of the book. In Michal's case the kindnesses shown by Seymour are an evening off and a guilder for a pub dinner. Twice.
- Suspicious Spending - Seymour. He's pretty audacious, as we're told his salary is equal to that of Hedges, who is not wealthy enough to have her own cook and lives more like a servant than a master. However, he does have a war pension, and it's not so much that he's obscenely wealthy - he has invested the money from Michal's silver in shares in Dobrovolsky's company, meaning the interest adds to conspicuously to his wealth. It surprises even close relatives such as Julia that he talks about taking her and her friends to the Kaleidoscope restaurant.
- Token Evil Teammate - Alyosha to Carrie and Wladek.
- The Vicar - Andrew Russell, in all but actuality. A would-be priest not allowed to take up his vocation, he tacks to this trope even though he is technically a layman. Most pronounced when he meets Halina and talks earnestly to her about religion.
- Victorian London - Ludlin was conceived as an Expy of London of this period, but its geographical situation and demographic profile is more like Bristol or Liverpool. It is not the capital, even of Brest, and is west-facing, rather than east-facing. It was once the capital of Brest before the Empire was centralised, and on devolution the competition between cities necessitated the creation of an artificial capital. This makes it rather more like Victorian Dublin where the removal of the parliament upon Irish union with Great Britain meant the degradation of government property and the flight of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and much of the city's wealth (the housing stock in particular was dilapidated and falling apart, becoming slums, and the city's modern appearance, full of restored, Georgian-built property, is because very little building was done during the Victorian period). However, unlike Dublin, a considerable wealth still remains from commerce, shipping and light consumer industry. Thus, it is an amalgamation of various different British cities of the 1800s rather than a carbon-copy of any particular one of them.
- Villain Opening Scene - we don't know the names of the perpetrators of Ustinov's murder; we don't start off knowing who actually did it; but this is what happens when we see the murder through the victim's eyes. Plus, the second scene is more directly about Seymour as much as it is about Michal, and we are introduced to the villain and protagonist in one go.
- Villain with Good Publicity - Seymmour has cultivated a reputation as a philanthropist, and during this book and the next uses this reputation to line his own pockets without embezzling the workhouse accounts.
- The Von Trope Family - von Habichtensdorf, expy of Baron Munchhausen. The author does not speak German so she keeps the Deutsch nationality largely out of sight, but this is just a suitably ludicrous Germanic name for the condition.
- When It All Began - the prologue murder of Ustinov, as seen through his eyes.
- You Wake Up in a Room - Michal is aware of nothing between being "rescued" by Greg Hart and coming to in Seymour's parlour. He still doesn't know where he is until he is in the infirmary and regains full awareness of his surroundings. Then the news is broken...