Literature: Castle Perilous
Take the High Concept
of a gigantic castle at the center of The Multiverse
, where every door or window can lead to another world; add in numerous characters from those worlds, each with his own special talent
he develops just by being there; and then throw them into various wacky hijinks
and screwball comedy, and you get John DeChancie's Castle Perilous
Novels in the series are:
- Castle Perilous
- Castle for Rent
- Castle Kidnapped
- Castle War!
- Castle Murders
- Castle Dreams
- Castle Spellbound
- Bride of the Castle
Join Gene, Linda, Snowclaw, Sheila, Thaxton and Dalton, Kwip, Jeremy, and many, many more
as they search for a way home, learn to adapt, and have incredible adventures both ridiculous and frightening, all while Lord Incarnadine and his family work to keep the castle and its 144,000 worlds stable and safe (though not always sane
). It's thought-provoking, it's crazy, it's weird, and it's unexpected, but it's almost always hilarious. Sadly, the author seems to have abandoned the series, leaving it on quite the Cliff Hanger
, but it is still worth a read for its entertainment value alone.
The castle’s 144,000 Aspects include the following tropes (and many more!):
open/close all folders
- Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Subverted in Castle Murders—not because it isn't the center (the castle is) but because Thaxton discovers to his chagrin that the castle doctor's nanotechnology and DNA identification do not, in fact, come from being in close contact with Earth developments in modern police methods.
: Earth is hardly the most advanced aspect in the field of forensic medicine. Or anything else, for that matter.
Not only can we positively identify the victim by the blood sample, but we can identify the murderer if he left any dead skin cells on the handle.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Hosts of Hell's true form.
- Elephant in the Living Room: The status of Gene and Linda's relationship.
- Enemy Civil War: In Castle for Rent, the Blue Meanies versus the Hosts of Hell, with Ferne and Deems's forces later thrown into the mix. In Castle War!, all of the Mirror Universe Incarnadines and their guardsmen versus each other.
- Enemy Mine: Part of how Trent changes his tune, and how Inky comes to trust him, happens because they are trapped together on Earth and have to work together to get back to the castle.
- Epigraph: Every book except the first has at least one literary reference quoted at the start. Castle for Rent quotes Tennyson's "Blow, Bugle, Blow", Castle Kidnapped quotes Keats' "Ode to a Nightingale", Castle War! quotes Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho, Castle Murders quotes Wordsworth's "Elegiac Stanzas Suggested by a Picture of Peele Castle in a Storm" (and Peele Castle further appears as a place in the narrative), Castle Dreams quotes Longfellow's "A Psalm of Life", Castle Spellbound quotes Nora Archibald Smith's "The Christmas Child and Other Verse", and Bride of the Castle quotes The Taming of the Shrew and "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". While these last two are wedding themed, the rest tend to reference castles, portals, and windows, by no coincidence.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Not precisely evil, but after joining Ferne in her takeover attempt, not only does Deems have second thoughts but he makes it very clear that if he had known ahead of time of her deal with the Hosts of Hell, he would have joined Incarnadine and never helped her. In the end it is these standards which cause him to die in battle against the Hosts' demons. Ferne too could be said to have limits, since the assistance she gives the Hosts in Castle Kidnapped is only obtained under duress, and in Castle for Rent she shows true remorse for her actions, particularly Deems' death.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The golfing Aspect, just for contrast (and fun and adventure, occasionally).
- Everything's Better with Princesses: Played straight with Dorcas, averted (almost to God Save Us from the Queen! levels) with Ferne.
- Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: Completely averted with Charon—who isn't evil anyway, nor is he a Grim Reaper figure!—who very much enjoys Incarnadine's jokes and stories.
- Evil Is Not a Toy: What Prince Vorn (and Jacoby) learn all too well, when Ramthonodox is released. Also, Ferne's lesson after she makes a deal with and releases the Hosts of Hell, and Tragg and Ruthven's after their zombie-spell for Incarnadine is broken.
- Evil Is Petty: Tragg, whose main grievances with Incarnadine are that he (supposedly) cuckolded him and that he once sued his estate for back taxes.
- Evil Me Scares Me: Linda's reaction to her Evil Twin in Castle War!
- Evil Twin: Thanks to the Mirror Universe everyone has one. But special mention also goes to Jeremy's in the series of alternate realities in Bride of the Castle.
- Exact Words: Incarnadine told his family he had dispensed of Ferne "with coldest justice". They took this to mean she'd been executed, but it was actually referring to a Fate Worse Than Death.
- Excited Show Title!: Castle War!
- Expendable Alternate Universe: The infinite number of variants of Earth found for Max by Jeremy's Evil Twin explores this in many permutations—some are For Want of a Nail where one simple thing having changed (his boss Herb Fenton having died in a car accident, him going into partnership with different men, whether or not he proposed to his beloved Andrea) changed his entire life; at the same time In Spite of a Nail the rest of the world is always identical save small things such as who the president is, and Max's overall personality and past are the same, as is everyone's in his life. Still others are complete Alternate Universes with versions of himself (and Jeremy) from the far past or the future. As soon as Max discovers the flaw in a particular universe, he immediately wants out and dismisses it, its denizens, and his alternate self from there as having any value. In the end, though, it turns out that no matter how many variants he finds, he can never find the original again—and in every one, whether due to his choice in partners, a ruined marriage with Andrea, or financial hardships with his company, Max will never, ever be able to find true happiness or the life that he wants. The trope is also played with (and somewhat Played for Laughs) in that all those alternate selves he dismissed as having any value show up at once at the end, clamoring for the right to have a world of their own to live in, to the point the alternate Jeremys have an auction where they can bid on the "best" world.
- The Exile: Trent, courtesy of a Curse cast by his father.
- Face-Heel Turn: Deems.
- Faking the Dead: Linda, courtesy of a bulletproof vest after her Evil Twin shoots her with a poison dart.
- Fat and Skinny: The Gooch brothers.
- Fat Bastard: Jacoby.
- Faux Affably Evil: The Hosts of Hell adopt such an attitude in their dealings, but it's all just a mask.
- Felony Misdemeanor: In Thaxton's own words, he is able to put up with volcanoes, earthquakes, acid hazards, and mythological beasts in the Golfhell Aspect, but when supernatural creatures start propositioning him for blood (or actively trying to trick him into falling prey to their Deadly Gaze), then It's Personal. (He proves this by maliciously ordering basilisk steak for dinner.)
- Five-Man Band: Most of the time the Guests of Castle Perilous are either on their own or divide up into pairs for their adventures, save for the trio of Gene, Linda, and Snowclaw. But when they do team up...
- Flanderization: Poor, poor Snowclaw. While never very bright, he certainly wasn't stupid, yet later installments play up his dumbness far more than earlier ones. His Big Eater status also gets worse as time goes on.
- Flynning: What Gene's talent amounts to, only with the real Master Swordsman cred to back it up.
- Footnote Fever: Castle Dreams, a rather surreal and existentialist entry in the series to begin with, has oodles of fun playing with spurious footnotes. The topics range from somewhat serious explanations of literary tropes, self-referential textual allusions, and obscure plot points to tongue-in-cheek humor, a hilarious send-up of many fantasy tropes and overall mockery of other examples of the genre (or the author!), fake attributions of famous poetry to modern-day celebrities, random comments which have nothing at all to do with the book, and times where the footnote writer propositions the reader for a date. And that doesn't even begin to describe the preface in which the supposed footnote writer reveals he didn't write them at all (or the preface!), as well as quizzes and tests scattered throughout the novel—usually based on info from the footnotes.
- Forgotten Phlebotinum: Dalton's ability to levitate is demonstrated once in the first book, mentioned once in Castle Murders, but otherwise never brought up again. The same is true for Osmirik's scent ability. Snowclaw can teleport (which is discovered right when they need it), but his power doesn't appear again either. The latter might seem justified in that Snowclaw is hardly the magical sort, more prone to thinking with his axe and wading in to attack, plus his usage of it in the first book is described as rather taxing and difficult for him and he later finds himself unable to perform it without running into a wall. But then in Bride of the Castle Gene speaks of Snowy "never having had magic" and theorizes about his talent relating to disguising himself instead; apparently DeChancie did forget.
- Functional Magic: While mages need to attune themselves to each world they are in before they can perform spells properly, every world's magic seems to work in generally the same way with Ley Lines and nodes of force. While the Guests can tap into these to perform their talents, mages such as Incarnadine and Trent access them through incantations and other paraphernalia. Each magician also has their own style or signature to their spellwork that can be identified by others in the field.
- The Fun in Funeral: Incarnadine wakes up right in the middle of his, thanks to a spell that made him appear to be dead getting broken by Trent. "Ye gods, can't a fellow take a little nap around here?"
- Gender Bender: Unless either the laptop or the mainframe is gay, this trope has happened to one of the computers by the time of Castle War!—in Castle Kidnapped the two computers were romancing each other, but after the mainframe is destroyed and rebuilt, it "had the hots for" Jeremy, and this only becomes intensified when he boots up Isis. Further evidence: the laptop, which continues to call Jeremy "baby" or "sweetie", is used as the OS template for the mainframe. Its OS? MS-DOS.
- Genius Loci: Castle Perilous is a vastly powerful interdimensional demon torn from primal chaos, who happens to get trapped in the form of a city-sized castle. The whole "chaos" deal means it frequently changes its internal layout and contains portals to thousands of universes.
- Girl of the Week/Temporary Love Interest: For Gene: first Vaya, then Alice, then Sativa. The latter suffers the usual fate while Vaya gets Put on a Bus.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Trent and Sheila.
- God Guise: Played with and inverted. Upon learning that the king of Mykos intends to sacrifice one of his daughters to the gods to alleviate the bad weather assaulting his fleet, Trent puts a stop to it by using magic for Divine Intervention...except instead of making himself seem like a god, he makes it seem as if the gods are showing their disapproval through a Bolt of Divine Retribution which also strikes him for interfering. This takes suspicion off himself as the cause and convinces the king the whole sacrifice was merely a Secret Test of Character a la Abraham and Isaac.
- Played straight (but still played with) in the very first book when Incarnadine poses as God (or the Devil, or a God Is Evil situation) in order to manipulate Jacoby.
- Grass Is Greener/Wanting Is Better Than Having: What Max discovers after trying to find a better life in an Alternate Universe—not only is he a failure no matter where he looks, but he can't even get his old, normal life back. Summed up best by his ruminating on his crummy, roach-infested apartment: "He'd sign a ninety-nine-year lease and never leave."
- Grey and Gray Morality: What Trent discovers is true of the Arkadians and Troadeans—both are barbaric pirates.
- Guile Hero: Gene, much of the time, and Incarnadine all the time (when he’s a hero at all).
- Heel-Face Turn:
- Trent, who was once a Rebel Prince and determined to claim Castle Perilous for himself to the point of being portrayed as dark, sinister, and not to be trusted, and who self-describes as amoral, ends up becoming one of Incarnadine's most faithful and loyal supporters, as well as a source of great help to the Guests when danger threatens. At least partly comes to pass thanks to his love for Sheila, although he does have a momentary relapse and hunger for power when Incarnadine seemingly dies—until he finds out a) his brother isn't really dead and b) ruling isn't what it cracks up to be.
- Jeremy was an illegal hacker, drug-user, and criminal on the run from the law when he came to the castle, but quickly becomes one of the more powerful Guests, helping rescue others from various magical mishaps and becoming indispensable to Incarnadine and Osmirik as a redesigner of the castle's 'operating program' and incorporating both magic and technology in rewriting reality and restoring stability.
- And speaking of Osmirik, he started off working for Big Bad Melydia, but a case could be made he was The Mole all along, since it seemed his whole intent in serving her was to get into the castle—since as soon as he did so, he made a beeline for the library, researched the spell Melydia was using to destroy the castle, and then did all he could to help Incarnadine stop her.
- The Hero: Gene
- Heroes Want Redheads: Or at least, Trent and Isis do.
- Heroic Dolphin: Or some sort of cetacean anyway; they rescue Trent and Sheila on the water world.
- Heroic Sacrifice/More Hero Than Thou: In Castle for Rent, Gene and Sheila vie for this role, to keep the demons from making it to Earth through the portal since Sheila can't close it from the other side—until Linda summons a bank vault over the portal...and then Ferne summons it back to her quarters, making the whole thing moot.
- Hidden Agenda Villain: Ruthven. Unbeknownst to his cat's-paw Tragg, the Con Man mage only used him to get Incarnadine out of the way, and once it was revealed he'd be lying in state for ten days (and could possibly wake up from the spell during that time), he deliberately went behind Tragg's back by bribing his undertaker friend into claiming the preservation spell wouldn't work, thus shortening the time lying in state and getting Trent's attention...all so he could make Trent his offer to rule together.
- Hidden Depths: Snowclaw has perfect pitch and can tell bad singing when he hears it, and Gene theorizes he may be smarter than he appears.
- Hilarity Ensues: Both the original intention of this phrase, and what this trope has actually become, show up. Genuine humor and silliness during Castle Spellbound, but genuine danger, fear, and dire straits during any of the various invasions, attacks, and magical mishaps. (The Mirror Universe's Evil Twins of Castle War! come to mind.)
- Hinduism: Dorcas's education and religious beliefs seem to stem from this, or a fantasy counterpart. (Samra, soul-substance; bramhara, a contemplative and sleeping position; the Internal Eye.)
- Historical In-Joke: In Castle War!, when Incarnadine meets his uncle Mordecai in an attempt to get back to the castle and fix The Multiverse, he learns that the cosmic disturbance had caused a quake on Earth: in San Francisco. (The book was published in 1990.)
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Kwip never would have lost his thief's stash to the spell-summoned crowds in Castle Spellbound if he'd just left it in his room, instead of assuming the cleaning homunculi were thieves come to steal it.
- Hollywood Hacking: Averted for the most part; Jeremy can do incredible, amazing things with his hacking, but it is generally the sort of thing hackers in real life are known to do, nor is he shown to be able to access devices he shouldn’t be able to or create effects which are impossible. It isn't until he gets to Castle Perilous that he starts doing the jaw-dropping, crazy hacking...and this is justified since he has become a literal Techno Wizard.
- Holy Hand Grenade: The blessed bottle of seltzer water in the Noir Aspect (and nicely foreshadowed, too).
- Hordes from the East: The army of Vorn from the first book, which is said to come from Hunra, capital of the Eastern Empire. The army which sacks Orem in Bride of the Castle is also this, by no coincidence.
- How We Got Here: The first book begins with the main Five-Man Band meeting up and becoming acquainted, telling their backstories and how they arrived at the castle in retrospect. At the end of the book, when time is reversed and the castle is restored, the reader finally gets to see those moments before the Aspect opened, revealing some meaningful and thought-provoking details which prior to then had been conspicuously left out.
- I Did What I Had to Do: Melydia; Ferne.
- Idiosyncratic Chapter Naming: Nine times out of ten, chapters are named after locations, particularly very specific locations in the castle by wing, tower, room, even stairwell. Or they are other Aspects or places found therein. Things get interesting when the characters don't know where they are so that the chapter names become vague epithets instead.
- I Gave My Word: Why Trent won't abandon the siege of Troas even though he's left Sheila alone for a very long time (or so he thinks) and he doesn't even care which side wins (since they're both equally bad).
- I Know You Know I Know/I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You: The master of the local mages' guild in Malnovia has a conversation like this with Trent—and he manages to reveal the motive for Incarnadine's "murder", that the spell responsible is still working and he would look the other way if it were broken, what Trent will be up against, and the musical harmonics of the spell so Trent can locate its source...all without breaking any guild rules or giving himself away.
- I Know Your True Name: Knowing Ramthonodox's true name gives a mage power over him, and allows him to be released. In the process his Laser-Guided Amnesia is reversed—in fact it is the very recollection of his name that releases him, so his true name allows him to have power over himself.
- Informed Ability: We are told every Guest in the castle develops a talent if they stay there long enough, but there are a number of Guests whose talents we never see or even learn—Deena, Barnaby, DuQuesne. Thaxton hews even more to the trope, since he claims to not even have a talent but Dorcas says he has "great untapped potential"...which, other than his intellectual ability to solve crimes, we never see either.
- The Ingenue: Sheila, at least at first.
- Insistent Terminology: The 144,000 portals to other worlds, and the worlds themselves, are always called Aspects (because, as it turns out, they are natural aspects of the demonic magic which composes Ramthonodox). Travelers from these worlds, even before they stay at the castle for good or decide if they will, are called Guests by Incarnadine and his staff and fellow nobles, due to his noblesse oblige and medieval sense of hospitality. Incarnadine always calls himself lord, not king, because his ancestor had originally been vassal to a king, only gaining rulership after a war and in any event mostly ruling only an unpopulated desert.
- Intangible Man: Kwip.
- I Should Write a Book About This: Apparently, Incarnadine does just that, in disguise as John DeChancie, with assistance (maybe) from Osmirik. See Literary Agent Hypothesis. Gene also rather tongue-in-cheekly claims he will do this to relate his adventures with Vaya.
- I Take Offense to That Last One:
Incarnadine #1: Well, all you liberal pantywaists can hold a raffle for the door prize.
Incarnadine #3: Who's a liberal?
- It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: Castle Murders opens on a college campus, with the line "It was a stark and dormy night..." He also later uses the line "It was a dark night of Sturm und Drang."
- It Was His Sled/Late-Arrival Spoiler: The fact that Castle Perilous is actually the transmogrified demon, Ramthonodox, is referenced casually, albeit indirectly, in-universe in several books after the first and stated outright in Osmirik's first preface to Castle Murders and therefore treated as something the reader should know already, despite being a mystery and the big reveal of the first book. For anyone who missed the first book or read them out of order, however...
- Jack-of-All-Trades: Gene, who self-describes as a dilettante; he has several masters degrees (one in philosophy), went to law school, and wrote when not performing various odd jobs.
- Kavorka Man: Gene
- Killed Off for Real: Melydia, Jacoby, Ferne, Deems, Jamin, Tragg and Ruthven.
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual/Robosexual: Jeremy and his AI, Isis.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: The Hosts of Hell (a name which was chosen because of their resemblance to, and possible inspiration for, Earth's myths of demons and devils), the Blue Meanies/Bluefaces that invade in Castle for Rent.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Ramthonodox himself suffers from this as part of the transformation spell, forgetting his name and identity so as to become the castle. Only this amnesia keeps him locked in his inanimate form.
- This also happens to Incarnadine in the "Afterlife".
- Laser-Guided Karma: Jacoby's fate. And for that matter, Jamin's, Tragg's, and Ruthven's.
- Last of His Kind: The Hosts of Hell, since they are actually a single Hive Mind.
- Last-Second Word Swap:
- Laughing Mad: Ferne, eventually.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall/Breaking the Fourth Wall: In Castle Spellbound, when Gene quips about them once more having to prevent The End of the Multiverse as We Know It, he notes, "Chapter Twenty-one, In Which Our Heroes Once Again Save the Universe". Counting the Idiosyncratically Named Chapters reveals this actually does occur in Chapter 21. Later they encounter Stephen Brust's Vlad Taltos and Gene actually asks him, "Are you in this book?"
- Leave Your Quest Test: Downplayed version with Melanie, who almost goes off with the minstrels in Castle Spellbound until Jeremy of all people snaps her out of it by pointing out their unreal, Flat Character Doppelgänger nature.
- Lie Back and Think of Jeremy: What Isis thought she was going to have to do as payment to the Gooch brothers. Luckily this was not the case.
- Lineage Comes from the Father: Railing against this trope (and how it keeps women from having any power or authority) is Melydia's excuse for leading a siege against the castle; in truth, it's more about Revenge and insanely wanting to Take Over the World. It's also Ferne's motivation, in response to being denied the Seat Perilous in favor of her younger brother.
- Literal Genie: The spell in Castle Spellbound.
- Literary Agent Hypothesis: The books are purported to be true adventures (except Castle Dreams) discovered in the castle library by Osmirik, Court Scribe and Royal Librarian to Lord Incarnadine, and are so 'introduced' by him at the beginning of both Castle Murders and Castle Dreams, although he claims no trace of John DeChancie exists on Earth and so he and the novels must be from a variant Earth where the castle is only fiction. Later it is revealed that Lord Incarnadine himself takes on the identity of a writer here on Earth, though he claims that he did not pass these off as his own fantasy works, something contradicted by the ending of Castle for Rent... (Presumably "John Carney" is a pseudonym for DeChancie himself!) This self-mockery also appears in Castle Murders when 'Osmirik' claims never to have seen the earlier novels until now, let alone written them or the prefaces, and engages in a long and lively debate about alternate realities, how the magic of the castle could have spontaneously produced such works, and the literary merit (or lack thereof) of such "cheap trash" with "terrible cover art", "written in an uneven, 'quasi-grammatical style' by turns breezy, serviceable, and sesquipedalian" with "all the conventions of the popular romance" (as well as debating the cultural origin of the "immodest" author’s name, and claiming that none of the critics and colleagues quoted on the covers are real either). It even enters Mind Screw territory when he not only denounces the footnotes which appear throughout Castle Dreams, but claims in the second preface of Castle Murders that it appeared in the book before he had even written it, complete with relevant footnote and his expression of astonishment at finding it.
- Literary Allusion Title: Castle Perilous, aside from being a very apt name for such a dangerous, unstable place, is a reference to Arthurian Canon and the Siege Perilous, as well as a castle in the tale of Gareth and Linette. It is implied that it actually is the castle of legend, or of various legends throughout the Aspects.
- In both a Stealth Pun and Genius Bonus, the supposed "castle editions" of the series found in the library by Osmirik are published under the overarching title Eidolons of the King. Not only is this entirely appropriate for a work whose central location comes from Arthurian Canon, but an eidolon, being a ghost or phantasm, could aptly describe what the events of the books, being fictional, would be to DeChancie and the readers here in the real world.
- The Load: Thaxton and Dalton, Deena and Barnaby, Jeremy (at first).
- Loads and Loads of Characters: As might be expected in a setting where there are 144,000 possible worlds. We never even meet all the Guests (the non-human ones other than Snowclaw, and the humans who aren't from Earth, even have their own separate dining halls and never mingle with the main cast), and among the ones specifically introduced to the reader, there are a number who act only as window dressing and get little Character Development.
- Long List: Of nautical terms known by the sailors on Incarnadine's ship in the "Afterlife".
- Loveable Rogue: Kwip, though with more emphasis on the rogue part.
- Love at First Sight: Sheila for Trent.
- Love Triangle: Between Gene, Linda, and Incarnadine.
- MacGuffin: The shard of the Brain of Ramthonodox, stolen by Kwip and then appropriated by Jacoby before finally making its way to Incarnadine's hands.
- Madden Into Misanthropy: Melydia, post-breakup. Hastened by her study of Black Magic and other Things Man Was Not Meant to Know.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Played with. The rules of Functional Magic themselves remain consistent and reliable, even when the castle itself isn't due to its chaotic, entropic nature...but magic can act differently from Aspect to Aspect, causing spells to behave weirdly, having the opposite or no effect, and talents to go awry. Even Sheila summoning a portal can become next to impossible in certain worlds. On the other hand, once enough time is spent in a world, talents adapt and mages can make their spells work again; Sheila eventually attunes herself enough to draw portals wherever she goes.
- The Magic Versus Technology War: Science, particularly electricity and mechanical constructs, does not work within Castle Perilous, though it can work in certain Aspects. Justified by the castle actually being a transmogrified demon whose very nature could suppress or run counter to technology. This rule can be creatively gotten around: an elevator which has no mechanical parts and runs on magic, or a computer which is built entirely by magical means.
- The Man Behind the Man: The Hosts of Hell, to Ferne and then Jamin. Also, Ruthven to Tragg.
- Man-Eating Plant: One is stopped from eating Jacoby. More's the pity.
- A Man Is Not a Virgin: Gene gets a great deal of sex, with every one of his Girls of the Week and, eventually, with Linda. At least one time, however, is actually important and plot-relevant—his ability to have sex with Alice proves he is no longer under the control of InnerVoice.
- Meaningful Funeral: Ferne's, albeit off-screen.
- Meaningful Name: Castle Perilous. Incarnadine. Kwip.
- Thanks to Classical Mythology, the "good" half of Annau's Split Personality is this: Dis, the alternate Roman name for Pluto/Hades. Thanks to his questionable (if unfair) reputation, any place named after him is sure to make one wary, though in this case it could also be a reference to the wealth Annau once possessed, and the fact the sane portion of the city was underground.
- Medieval Stasis: Justified; while technology will work in various Aspects, it does not work in the castle, in fact even gunpowder can be suppressed by a simple spell. Thus, all fighting is done with medieval weaponry or magic.
- Medium Awareness: Gene is very much aware he is in B-movie Parodies (and, once in a while, books).
- Metafiction: Castle Dreams is made of this trope, but it appears earlier than that in "Osmirik" and his prefaces, acting as Royal Scribe to describe the world of Castle Perilous, the novels, and their possible origin, then revealing in the second preface that he did no such thing. They were instead the work of some 'hack fantasy author' on Earth...the very one Incarnadine poses as. Also of note is the bit of Blatant Lies in which he claims the book in the reader’s hands is "painstakingly set in movable type, printed on vellum stock, and bound in fine-grained leather with gilt lettering and filigree...faithfully reproduced without editorial emendation or gloss" instead of being made with "cheap pulp paper, hastily glued bindings, and garish covers".
- Metaphorgotten/Sidetracked by the Analogy: From the ending of Castle Kidnapped: "This particular tale is almost done, but for the wrapping up. It's been a long concerto, and the soloist has one more cadenza in him, if the audience will allow, in which the theme is restated for the benefit of those who've drowsed, wonder-weary, through the third movement—"
- Mind over Matter: Jacoby's power. Which leads to...
- Mind Rape: Thanks to Bad Powers, Bad People, and Jacoby enjoys said powers and what they can do with corrupt, sadistic glee.
- Mind Screw: The crossover of Literary Agent Hypothesis, Metafiction, and All Just a Dream (or is it?) that is Castle Dreams. But Castle Perilous itself is a Mind Screw, from its Mobile Maze, Bigger on the Inside, chaotically shifting, insanely wild nature to how many worlds, creatures, spells, and mysteries lie within it. And that's just in the first book...things get even worse when Time Travel, Alternate Universes, and a Mirror Universe get involved.
- Mirror Universe: In Castle War! By the end of the book there are actually multiple ones. (And in fact the breakdown of reality gets to the point that any Aspect in the castle can become a Mirror Universe, each with its own 144,000 possible Mirror Universes, which each have their own 144,000...)
- Mobile Maze: The entire castle acts this way. The outer regions are especially chaotic and unstable, quite Escher-like, while the Guest areas are relatively safe with only a few minor gravity and perspective shifts every so often. Since the castle is also a massive Portal Network to 144,000 worldsnote , a trip to the bathroom can lead to adventure, terror, or the bathroom.
- Momma's Boy: Vorn.
- Monster of the Week: Aside from the threats which manifest in each book (the Blue Meanies, the Hosts of Hell, the doppelgangers), random monsters often appear around every corner or through every door whenever an Aspect is crossed.
- Most Writers Are Human: Despite the fact there are 144,000 worlds, many of them alien and nonhuman, and that nonhuman Guests are mentioned in the background, all the main characters are from Earth or a similar world, and are human. Except Snowclaw.
- Mr. Smith: Variation—Incarnadine's author pseudonym on Earth is "C. Wainwright Smithton".
- The Multiverse: And Castle Perilous is at the center. And thus maintains all of existence.
- Mystery Arc: In Castle Murders.
- Asshole Victim: Viscount Oren. Not only does hardly anyone like him, he is guilty of spousal abuse (verbal and physical); openly flirting and making out with Lady Rowena right in front of her husband the Earl of Belgard; making a pass at Sheila that almost became more; and betraying various friends for political or financial gain. In fact it ends up being revealed that several of the suspects actually did intend to kill him, had gone so far as to prepare a dagger with the proper spells, but were either beaten to it (Trent), had problems with the spells (Belgard), or came to their senses at the last moment (Lady Rilma). Ironically, though, the motive for his death turns out to have nothing to do with any of this, though his murderer is someone who didn't like him.
- Bluffing the Murderer/Lying to the Perp: How Thaxton gets Lord Arl's confession. Trent lampshades this as the reason for/intended result of the Summation Gathering.
- Chronic Evidence Retention Syndrome: Played with, and also enforced: Lord Arl doesn't hold onto the murder weapon himself, but he isn't able to find and remove it as evidence against him either because it's invisible even to him. Thus, Thaxton is able to find it first.
- Closed Circle: The party guests are not allowed to leave the Garden Aspect until the murder of Viscount Oren is solved. Justified since otherwise the killer could escape into any of the 144,000 Aspects.
- Conversational Troping: Thaxton not only discusses the Locked Room Mystery (and its lack of plausibility in Real Life), but makes note of the fact most murders are crimes of passion and not premeditated, and therefore not well-planned. Happens because Thaxton is himself an avid mystery reader.
- The Corpse Stops Here: Averted; despite Thaxton being found with the viscount's body, and a brief moment of suspicion from Lord Arl, neither he nor Dalton are ever accused of doing the deed, possibly because Oren was a fairly proficient magician while they, as Guests, were not. A bit surprising though, since one would think Arl, the real murderer, would have been eager to pin the crime on someone else and so used this as a pretext. Then again, him being a Sympathetic Murderer and Oren being an Asshole Victim may have made him wish to not involve or blame anyone else.
- Dramatic Thunder: When Dorcas makes her confession to Thaxton and Dalton.
- Eureka Moment: Thaxton has one, after reading the book of spells and getting a good night's sleep.
- Everyone Is a Suspect: At least, everyone who is a powerful magic-user. Although before magic is conclusively proven to have been involved in the murder, everyone at the party is indeed held on suspicion just in case. Also, everyone who is a powerful magic-user is a suspect because everyone hated the victim.
- Fair Play Whodunnit: Although the specific spells which were required to commit the murder have no real way of being guessed by the reader (though it becomes clear fairly early on that invisibility must have been involved somehow), the clues as to who the murderer was were indeed in the text all along. Not only was Arl the actual first suspect met in the narrative, and revealed in that conversation to not be close to his brother, but he is mentioned in passing during Linda and Melanie's visit to the library as having been there that morning, and Lady Rilma remembers him touching Oren just before the viscount left the party.
- He Knows Too Much/Saying Too Much: Seems to be the motive for killing Count Damik since he had previously been going around telling everyone in Peele Castle that he had seen one of the suspects buying the murder weapon, and trying to decide if he should tell the authorities what he knew. (This would seem to be a Too Dumb to Live moment, except that he was counting on noblesse oblige to protect him and was in fact using his obvious attention-grabbing move to try and warn the killer he was on to him, thus giving him time to either hide the evidence or come clean.) However this is all a Red Herring: not only was the person he saw not the killer, but he wasn't even the target and was in fact a friend of the real murderer. (The actual target was, in fact, slated for killing due to this trope.)
- Hidden in Plain Sight: The murder weapon, since it was made invisible.
- If You Kill Her, You Will Be Just Like Him: Why Lady Rilma didn’t go through with killing, not Oren, but Lady Rowena.
- Important Character, Important Evidence: Thaxton and Dalton are not only the ones to find the body, but Thaxton finds the murder weapon and later the book of magic that helps him figure out the solution. Particularly noteworthy since before this they were usually only the Butt Monkey or The Load, but once they got A Day in the Limelight...
- Murder by Mistake: Poor Count Damik.
- Needle in a Stack of Needles: The murder weapon is chosen precisely because it is a plain, very common, and easily procured knife and thus easy to confuse with others of its kind, as well as easy to find sold anywhere (thus proving nothing about where the purchaser came from).
- Never One Murder/Suspect Existence Failure: Knowing that Dorcas had discerned his guilt, Lord Arl tries to kill her as well. In the process, however, he accidentally kills Count Damik instead—which also happens to exonerate him, since prior to this he'd been a strong suspect due to his fascination and skill with knives.
- Old Dark Castle: Peele Castle, complete with seacoast cliff, crashing waves, and a thunderstorm.
- Red Herring: A number of them, and lampshaded when Thaxton interrogates each suspect in turn during The Summation, but particular emphasis goes to Trent being a suspect.
- The Summation/Summation Gathering: At Peele Castle. Both enforced and a subversion, since Thaxton arranged it in order to get the murderer to incriminate himself.
- Sympathetic Murderer: Lord Arl. Aside from disliking Oren and believing he deserved to die for all the various sins, cruelties, and appalling habits the viscount had committed, he only wished to ensure a good future for his son by making sure Oren died childless instead of divorcing Rilma, thus causing the peerage to devolve to him, and then to his son. Despite this motive, and the fact everyone wished Oren dead, he does in fact still get taken to prison, his scheme abrogated, partly because murder is still unjustified but mostly because of the accidental death of Damik and attempted murder of the princess.
- Naked on Arrival: Sheila, thanks to the Aspect opening in her shower.
- Narnia Time/Year Inside, Hour Outside: Time varies widely between the castle and its many Aspects. In some you emerge exactly the moment you left; in others, you come out after being gone for what you think is months or even years, only to find it was just a few hours. (This is quite helpful for Gene on the one hand, and Trent and Sheila on the other, in Castle Kidnapped, and again for Trent and Incarnadine in Castle Spellbound.) For still others, it's the reverse.
- The Native Rival: The head of Vaya's royal guard, to Gene. It only gets worse when, after challenging and defeating him, Gene chooses not to kill him because of Honor Before Reason (and If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him). The fellow takes this to be Cruel Mercy instead...and makes Gene and Vaya pay for it.
- Negative Space Wedgie: Happens a lot early on in the series. One of the most memorable would be the weird time dilation/Timey-Wimey Ball effect that happens at Ferne's mansion on Earth. Another is the breakdown of the castle's magic caused by the Hosts of Hell's tinkering in Castle Kidnapped.
- Nerds Are Virgins: At least until they meet beautiful female AIs, anyway.
- Never Split the Party: A constant danger when wandering through a Mobile Maze, and always leading to trouble throughout the series. Osmirik learns it in the very first book.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Literally, as every person who comes to the castle develops a talent which may just happen to be exactly what is needed at that moment to save the day. (I'm looking at you, Sheila.) Or not; but the nature of the plot still causes such magic to show up, regardless of its usefulness.
- Nice to the Waiter: Trent, as a certain guildmaster learns to his chagrin.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The whole frickin' battle between Trent, Incarnadine, and the Hosts of Hell. Dinosaurs and fighter jets and missiles and horror movie monsters and demons, oh my! Helped along by the ability to summon working technology, once Earth magic has been mastered.
- No More for Me: The reaction of the pot-smoking truck driver who sees Snowclaw's disguise spell momentarily break down.
- The Nose Knows: Osmirik's power. Enables him to find the library, and then the Hall of the Brain, but otherwise useless.
- Not What It Looks Like: Naked Sheila...in Gene's bed.
- Nubile Savage: Vaya, who is also a Statuesque Stunner and barbarian queen. Possibly an Expy of Ayesha or Dejah Thoris—Linda even lampshades the latter. Then subverted when she goes to Earth and begins studying at college (although helped along by Incarnadine using magic to teach her English.)
- Number Two: Tyrene, for Incarnadine.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The armorer, who seems to take great pleasure in taking as long as possible to describe every type of weapon he possesses, at least until Snowclaw simplifies things—although in his defense Gene's newbie status did make his requests quite vague.
- Incarnadine also runs into a demonic form of this when going to rescue Ferne from the Hosts of Hell. Like Snowclaw, he gets his way through threat of violence; unlike Snowclaw, he actually carries it out.
- And Trent encounters this when made regent, to the point he realizes he can't handle the quotidian aspects of ruling and that being king isn't really worth it in the end, so he drops his ambitions.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Trent makes one to the Privy Council after Incarnadine’s "death": make him Regent for Life, or until he gets tired of the job and steps down to allow Brandon to rule, or he'll pursue his claim to being the rightful heir through the courts and wrest the throne from Brandon. The Council takes option one, partly because they are sure he'll win his case, but mostly to spare their pocketbooks the litigation fees.
- Once per Episode: At first, it was "an army/host of evil/crazed mob invades or attacks the castle". Then it became "something weird/strange/silly happens with the castle’s magic that nearly overwhelms the heroes". The end result of both was that the characters end up having to flee, hop in and out of Aspects, and have ridiculous random adventures. Eventually the trope becomes "Gene gets stranded/lost/goes off to get the juices flowing and find himself and the others worry/try to rescue him".
- Once Upon a Time/Happy Ever After: Castle Spellbound actually starts and ends this way.
- Only in It for the Money: Deems.
- Order Versus Chaos: The Hosts of Hell state that they are greatly disturbed by chaos and wish to "establish a semblance of rationality" through "a benevolent order".
- Our Demons Are Different: In two flavors, the Hosts of Hell (which are not true demons but did inspire them and are certainly wicked, destructive, and hateful) and demons like Ramthonodox which are more like Cosmic Horror Story antagonists. They also have a Number of the Beast which is 144,000 rather than 666 (although it's still from the Book of Revelation).
- Our Werewolves Are Different: The werewolf encountered in Golfhell is apparently more on the vampiric side, since he's interested in Thaxton's blood. When Thaxton claims "Everybody Knows That werewolves don’t drink blood", the creature quips, "Everyone’s wrong, I’m AC/DC."
- Our Wormholes Are Different: As evidenced by his sci-fi series, DeChancie loves this trope. Here it appears in Sativa's world, where Faster-Than-Light Travel is made possible by dangerously skirting seams or faults in the "plates" of spacetime called the Thread, then using these "cracks" as Hyperspace Lanes.
- Out of Focus: While this could be said of any character who becomes less important or common in later installments, this is particularly true of Sheila: undergoing Character Development from The Ditz to a smart, competent sorceress, she is a key character in both Castle for Rent and Castle Kidnapped, but after this her Happily Married bliss with Trent coupled with her insistence on staying in the ocean Aspect to run her resort makes her vanish from the narrative, only having brief appearances in Castle War!, Castle Murders and Castle Spellbound (the latter consisting only of waiting around for Trent to return and then showing up with everybody else at the end).
- Overly Long Gag: The inscription in the Zinnite tomb detailing the nature of the curse, which ends up rambling on and on about the rudeness of robbing a tomb and the unfairness of stealing from a long-suffering king—to the point that it covers all the walls and runs down numerous passages.
- Parody: Of a number of genres, tropes, and specific writers or tales. One Aspect Gene ends up stuck in resembles an Italian romance, another where he and Snowclaw lead a revolution resembles a Dumas novel, still another comes right out of a pulp novel like those of H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs, while Incarnadine gets a Noir Episode and plays out an Expy of the Trojan War with Trent.
- Bride of the Castle contains a Parody of the Mystery Arc in which Thaxton, believing he can solve the murders because of his experiences three books previously, valiantly tries to gather facts and formulate theories. Not only do the bodies keep piling up while the numerous suspects, alibis, motives, and lies make it next to impossible to figure out anything, while it all takes place in a microcosm of upper-crust England perfectly mimicking Christie Time (complete with class warfare and racism), but in the end it all dissolves into utter nonsense with the Summation Gathering turning into a convoluted mess of accusations and confessions worthy of Murder by Death followed by a literal bloodbath while the inspector merely stands around and lets it happen to 'sort itself out'. About the only mystery trope it doesn't mock or play with is The Butler Did It, although the butler in question actually seems to be quite Genre Savvy to the whole business as being a regular occurrence in this insane Aspect; whether people are just murdered constantly, or if they actually come back to life and play it out again the next day, is unknown.
- Personality Powers: While not all Guests' talents have anything to do with their personalities or interests, several do—Gene, who always wanted to do something heroic and meaningful, gets to be a Flynning Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass; Sheila, who only wants to go home, can summon portals; Kwip the rogue is Intangible; Jacoby, the Manipulative Bastard, has mind-control powers; and Jeremy the hacker ends up becoming a Techno Wizard.
- Pineal Weirdness: Dorcas and her Interior Eye, the Eye of Yahura.
- Plot Magnet: Castle Perilous itself, besieged by no less than four armies or takeover attempts during the series. Justified because any number of powerful people, armies, or mages would love to have access to 144,000 worlds, or just to its immense magical power.
- The Guests wonder, twice, why it is that despite this the castle has not been invaded before or ever fallen. The conclusions are that because it is a Genius Loci, it makes sure to open only to unpopulated worlds or ones where civilization has collapsed and thus there is no imminent threat of invading armies; or that only those who are at Rock Bottom and thus wish to abandon their life and world can ever even see the portals. This last would seem to be undermined by the Bluefaces and the Hosts of Hell except that the latter, at least, do indeed hate their own world (and themselves, and all of creation) while the Bluefaces, as aggressive as they are, do seem to at least hate each other as well as what they consider lower life forms. And, as Dalton points out, the castle doesn't have hard and fast rules. (I.e., wishing to leave one's world, but only for the purpose of conquering another, still counts in making an Aspect open.)
- Portal Network: Variation. Like the Wood Between the Worlds of Narnia, each of the 144,000 worlds is connected to Castle Perilous as the nexus, but none of them connect directly with each other. Certain powerful mages can 'burrow' from one Aspect to another, but this is rare and difficult.
- Portal Slam: Happens much more frequently early on, when the instability of the castle causes Aspects to move ("wander"), close, or otherwise change their nature. (Some are even "orbiting", not staying within the confines of the castle!) Becomes less of a problem when Sheila appears with her ability to control them, and less still when Incarnadine finally gets the castle and its magic under control...but every once in a while it still happens. Comes from the chaotic nature of the demon Ramthonodox and its magic.
- The Power of Creation: Linda's conjuration (and by extension, Sheila's when her understanding of magical systems lets her mimic this). Generally considered to be done through No Conservation of Energy, though the things summoned can be either permanent or temporary (the latter starts off being accidental on her part, but she later can create weak versions of things that will fizzle out on their own). It is possible, however, that she is actually summoning them from somewhere else; the possible moral ramifications of this are briefly explored in the case of Goofus and also when they consider summoning Incarnadine and Melanie (i.e., is it the real person or merely a clone). In any event, whether summoned for real or formed out of nothing, she is able to conjure things she's never seen before based solely on descriptions or the thoughts of others.
- Power Floats: What Dalton can do, though only on a very limited level, and only objects.
- Precision F-Strike:
(after they have figured out how to get the Sidewise Voyager back to the castle)
Jeremy: Great! Isis, I love you.
Isis: Jeremy, darling!
Melanie: We are going to fucking crash if you people don’t get on the stick!
- Pre-Climax Climax: With neither of them being any good in a fight, Deena and Barnaby take refuge in a bedroom during the climax of Castle for Rent...and then, since they think it might well be The End of the World as We Know It, one thing leads to another and...
- Properly Paranoid: Incarnadine in Castle for Rent, it turns out, though the family member causing problems wasn't the one he thought.
- Prophecies Are Always Right: That Castle Perilous would be unmade, Ramthonodox freed to ravage the land, but restored again by one whose "name shall be as blood".
- A Protagonist Shall Lead Them: Subverted in the world of the Umoi—Gene rises from humble beginnings as the Queen's concubine, only to become her captain of the guards and king who does lead the tribe to the glory of the Old Gods...except The Native Rival comes back for Revenge, the tribe is almost entirely slaughtered save those who will join other tribes, and Vaya loses her throne so that she and Gene are forced to go to Annau alone in order to escape that world. Played straight, however in Alice's world where Gene's magical gift (and ability to resist InnerVoice) inspires him to begin a rebellion—and when he leaves, he passes on his gifts to her so that she can lead it in his place.
- Psycho Ex-Girlfriend: Melydia to Incarnadine. Played with, however, in that even before their break-up she was mad, or had the potential for it, and that the break-up acts as merely a Freudian Excuse which doesn't in fact excuse her villainy at all.
- Put on a Bus: Vaya. First she learns English and goes to Earth to attend UCLA off-screen sometime between Castle Kidnapped and Castle War!, then (as we are told in Castle Dreams) she drops out of college to join a biker gang some time before Castle Murders.