Literature: A Land Fit for Heroes

A Land Fit for Heroes is a 'Fantasy Noir' trilogy by the British author Richard K. Morgan (writer of the gritty Cyberpunk Takeshi Kovacs trilogy). It is written in a similar vein to the Joe Abercrombie First Law trilogy; dealing with a fairly Crapsack World fantasy world.

The world the books are set in is, like the First Law trilogy, very far into the cynical hand of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, and the intention to subvert and deconstruct a certain number of Fantasy tropes.

The trilogy follows three heroes of a great war that took place 9 years before the beginning of the story, fought against the aquatic Scaled Folk who invaded the human lands from the western ocean hints are given that the Scaled Folk invaded human lands as they themselves were fleeing something even nastier in the west.

All three heroes, previously war-buddies, are now disgusted by their actions following the war, the way their various societies now mistreat and ignore them and are all haunted by the ones they lost during the conflict. Soon, however, they are drawn into a new adventure.

The main characters:

  • Ringil Eskiath - A highly skilled human swordsman who lead a now-legendary battle against the Scaled Folk and helped lift the siege of the city of Trelayne. A Straight Gay, which is something of a problem in the distinctly intolerant League, although as Ringil points out "You don't go queer baiting when your victim has a reputation of chopping trained swordsmen into dogmeat at the drop of a hat"

  • Egar Dragonbane - Clan chief of one of the numerous northern Majak Tribes. Straight. Possibly the only one.

  • Archeth Indamaninarnal - A human-kiriath half-breed who was left behind when the rest of her race abandoned the world in their 'fireships' due to her mixed blood.

Books in the series:

  1. The Steel Remains
  2. The Cold Commands
  3. The Dark Defiles

This trilogy provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Kiriath weapons, including but not limited to Ringil's greatsword Ravensfriend and Archeth's collection of throwing knives (Bandgleam, Laughing Girl and others). Ringil describes the blade as "Kiriath-forged steel, it'll cut your very soul."
  • Action Girl: Archeth
  • Alien Sky: There is no moon, just an accretion disc that the characters refer to as the 'Band'.
  • All There in the Manual: Want to know what the last scene means? Go read the Kovacs novels!
  • Anti-Hero: All three of the main characters.
  • And I Must Scream: See the Losing Your Head entry.
  • Arbitrary Scepticism: The most recent war was against a race of lizard men led by dragons alongside an immortal race that came from within the earth, but the Aldrain are still considered a mere fairytale.
  • Badass: Pretty much everyone, but Egar deserves special mention, and not just because he's a dragonslayer
  • Badass Bookworm: Ringil
  • Badass Gay: Ringil and Seethlaw amongst others.
  • Bury Your Gays: Both the League and the Empire take a rather intolerant view on homosexuality.
  • The Caligula: Emperor Jhiral, who has spent most of his reign conducting executions or playing with his Harem, seems like this on first glance. On the other hand though, he's actually fairly rational and intelligent in a crisis. Later on, he reverts back to type with no crisis to deal with.
  • Cool Sword: Ringil's Kiriath-forged greatsword Ravensfriend.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Well, two-thirds full
  • The Chessmaster: The Helmsmen.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: And how!
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The whole trilogy.
  • Church Militant: The Yeltethian Church of the Revelation
  • Crapsack World
  • Darker and Edgier: Whoo boy
  • Defector from Decadence: Ringil abandoning his order due to him being at odds with a certain initiation ritual...
  • Deity of Human Origin: strongly hinted at with the Sky Dwellers. Subverted, the Sky Dwellers are the Dark Court and really are 'gods'.
  • Deus ex Machina: When the deities in question feel like it. Though they really prefer it when their subjects can save themselves.
  • Earth All Along
  • Doing In the Wizard: The Dwenda are actually descendants of a military starship crew that got trapped in hyperspace. Their surroundings mutated them and gave them psychic abilities.
  • Dragon Ascendant: A rare good version may happen at the end of the story involving Archeth.
  • Empathic Weapon: Implied and then made explicit with Kiriath weapons. Archeth makes clear that it's a form of Magic from Technology.
  • Grey and Grey Morality: Let's see, among other things our hero burns people alive, engages in Cold-Blooded Torture and organises gang rapes. It leads to a lot of Not So Different speeches.
  • Gayngster: Grace-of-Heaven
  • Hollywood Acid: Dragon venom can destroy anything on this world, even Kiriath-made items aren't safe from it. This is what makes dragons such an effective siege weapon during the old war against the Scaled Folk.
  • Knife Nut: Archeth. She has names for all of them too.
  • Left Hanging: The main Dwenda plot is resolved. However, the Empire is still at war with the League, Archeth is still on her way back to Yhelteth with her newly sworn bodyguard who consider her a goddess and the Helmsmens' plans are still in play. For all her protestations about leaving Jhiral on the throne Archeth is going to be mightily pissed off when she finds out what he has done to her lover in her absence... It's in keeping with the spirit of the trilogy as it leaves it ambiguous as to if Archeth will usher in the golden age that the Helmsmen are trying to bring about or just be the cause of yet more wars.
  • Lizard Folk: The Scaled Folk
  • The Empire: The Yelteth Empire
  • The Republic: The Trelayne League
  • Karmic Death: It's likely Emperor Jhiral will get one, now that Archeth is approaching him as he beats up her lover and furthermore Egil wants Archeth to depose the Emperor and will support her in the event of a coup.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: All three main characters, but Ringil most of all
  • Losing Your Head: The Dwenda like to cut off the heads of those who displease them and graft the still-living heads to tree stumps as a warning to others.
  • Magic from Technology: The Kiriath flashbacks make this pretty clear.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: For one thing they're aquatic, don't seem to fly and (as well as breathing fire as normal dragons) have acidic spittle
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: Steppe Runners
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Dwenda
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Grave Mites, a rather new spin on zombies
  • Rape as Backstory: Ringil, his older brother and father are all members of their kingdom's knightly order. Unfortunately said order's initiation process is gang rape of the initiate by the senior members. This is so that all the members are bonded by the same secret shame.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Ringil makes Kovacs seem positively forgiving.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Ringil is a descendant of the Dwenda race through his mother's side. He inherited a portion of their speed and looks, while his mother likely has some degree of longevity - she's known for looking younger than people decades her junior.
  • Straight Gay: Ringil, Archeth and Grace-of-Heaven and Seethlaw
  • Take Up My Sword: In both senses of the phrase. Ringil got Ravensfriend handed down to him from its original owner, Archeth's father. He also took up command of the fight against the Lizard Folk in the process.
  • The Berserker: Egar tends to get a bit angry in combat
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ringil in retaliation for his cousin being sold as a sex slave, has the female crimeboss responsible gang-raped for almost a whole day.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: As hinted by the trilogy's title (it's meant with Morgan's usual cynicism), this is the main theme of the series.