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Literature: Chronicles of Chaos

The Chronicles of Chaos is a fantasy trilogy by John C. Wright. Amelia Windrose, a sheltered tomboy who dreams of travel and adventure, narrates the story of herself and her four foster siblings: Victor, logical and imperious, Vanity, who is giddy and curious, the domineering bully Colin, and the quiet, withdrawn Quentin. They are the only five students at a private school somewhere in the English countryside, so sheltered that they wonder if the "Earth" their teachers have taught them even conforms to the world they live in?

But over the events of a few days, these children slowly discover their own heritage and the nature of the beings imprisoning them.

Works:

  • Orphans of Chaos
  • Fugitives of Chaos
  • Titans of Chaos

Tropes featured Include:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Vanity can ensure you get them.
  • Alien Geometries: Has an unusual take on the 4th dimension.
  • Amnesiac Hero: All of the orphans, multiple times
  • Amnesia Loop: Some discoveries have to be made more than once.
  • Arson Murder and Jaywalking: When Amelia confronts the possibility of getting back her memories, she fears that her true self could be someone terrible, like murderess, an adulteress...or an environmentalist, she also fears to be someone that can't do math, or who likes Tony Blair.
  • Archangel Gabriel: In Orphans, Amelia says that rather than pray to God, she prefers praying to Gabriel, seeing him as the only one mentioned in the major religions (Christianism, Judaism and Islamism)
  • As You Know: Subverted; "Headmaster Boggin" begins one of these, but is quickly stopped. Double subverted later, when you find out his reason.
  • Author Appeal: The curricula that the orphans are taught are taken directly from Wright's alma mater, St. John's College.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Amazons.
  • Axe Crazy: Artemis, the Maenads.
  • Back from the Dead: Because of Mutually Exclusive Magic, by several means.
  • Bad Dreams
  • Being Watched: A natural consequence of their hostage situation
  • Blackmail
  • Children Are Innocent: Explicitly invoked; Mrs. Wren asks Vanity and Amelia to pray for her, because God will hear the prayers of the "young and sweet" better than hers.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Colin's powers run on this.
  • Close-Knit Community: The Prelapsarians, who will not act to distress Helion despite his holding no official position.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Victor was warned of this as a child.
  • Conversational Troping
  • Cool Ship. Which, as it turns out can be:
  • Crossover Cosmology: Features Grendel, Greek gods, and figures from nursery rhymes — among others.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Amelia is a bit to ladylike to qualify as a First-Person Smartass.
  • Death of Personality: This is referenced by Vanity, upon learning that all of them are Uranians (or Titans) and prisoners of war of the Olympians, who had their memories erased, forced into human bodies, and raised as such she cries that they commited murder by making them forget their true selves.
  • Determinator: Telegonus.
  • Don't Explain the Joke
  • The Dreaded: Even for the four faction of Chaos, the Army of the Dead seems to be this, Boggin recalls that the four armies either fled or stoped their advances when The Unseen One (Hades) opened the Gates of hell:
    "Yet even they, yet even they were held back by one more terrible still: the great lord whom I will not name, the Unseen One, the Lord of the House of Woe, came forth that day in all his horror, opened the hell-gate, and drove his armies of shadow before him; the dead walked, and the Great Fear was at hand: the dreamlords shrieked and fled like mist; the Fallen spirits cowered, aetherial spear and shield a-tremble in their airy hands; and the cold brains of the war-machines of the Lost would not open fire with their planet-destroying weapons without the support of their allies. Even the deathless Titans of your timeless people, the prelapsarians, were astonished, and they paused, even though they could not be made afraid."
  • Due to the Dead: They have to bury some corpses they come upon, though they know nothing of the dead.
  • Dumb Blonde: Invoked as an insult.
  • Enemy Civil War: Part of the backstory, and connected to why the orphans are in the school.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Grendel may have drowned hundreds of sailors and drunk their blood, but damnit, he's never molested a woman outside of wedlock. He's got the skull of a preacher in his shed to officiate, too...
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Amelia muses that every conspirator should know Morse code, as it makes things simpler.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: slightly subverted in Orphans, played straight in Fugitives.
  • The Fair Folk: Invoked by Quentin when he theorizes that Vanity's people The Phaeanicians could have been this in the Homer's The Odyssey, he mentions some similarities, like not having to suffer heat, cold, the seasons or weather, having food always ripe etc.
  • Famed in Story
  • Feed the Mole: Amelia ponders what her actions might reveal, and how to manipulate it.
  • Five-Man Band: Played with, in that different characters rotate in and out of the Hero slot according to different circumstances.
    • The Hero: Victor, when the situation requires logical, careful planning. Amelia is his Lancer.
    • The Lancer: Amelia, who tends to take the lead during battles.
    • The Smart Guy: Quentin. When he takes the Hero role, Victor is his Lancer.
    • The Big Guy: Colin (although he fits The Brute better). Only gets leadership of the team once when everybody else is out cold.
    • The Chick / Team Mom: Vanity.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Every paradigm is vulnerable to another, and a third is vulnerable to it. Working out how to exploit flaws is a major plot thread.
  • Forceful Kiss: Amelia tends to run into these.
  • Forgiveness:In Titans, Amelia is told to speak the word and the universe will be destroyed in Revenge for her killing. It is, it turns out, a Secret Test of Character; when she does not speak, they proclaim she forgives her killers and shows that a human can make correct moral judgments. Later, Quentin manages to nullify a Curse against him for killing Lamia by forgiving her for the injuries she did him.
    • Also, this is represented by Queen Basilissa (Hera) who is said by Cupid to be the Lady of Forgiveness, and one of the three goddesses that can grant the Throne of Heaven by this.
  • A Friend in Need: Several people spontaneously help the children.
  • Genius Loci: Bran
  • Gilded Cage: The orphanage.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Explicitly invoked by Vanity in hopes of giving Colin the will to turn himself from eagle back to a young man. Also see Crowning Moment of Funny.
  • Go-Go Enslavement: Grendel has his mother dress up the girl like that.
  • Great Big Book of Everything
  • Happiness in Slavery: Well, not happiness, but Miss Daw, who as a siren is also a POW, admires and is loyal to Queen Hera.
  • Hidden Depths: Every character.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: "Terrance Miles" wears punk gear and conceals knives and throwing stars among the zippers and chains on his clothes.
  • The High Queen: Queen Basilissa (Hera), whom Miss Daw, deeply admires and says that she's the only decent one of the Olympians who she respects.
  • Home Sweet Home: Victor's desire.
  • Humans Are Special: In Titans, Boggin certainly seems to think so, and assures to Amelia that she will come to realize this too, when questioned about being raised among humans, as humans he says:
    You will not believe this now, but in times to come you may. The art and science, poetry and literature, philosophy and thought and myth of mankind exceed the best efforts of the immortal races. Our muses need their artists as much as their artists need our muses. What men had to teach was more rational, fair, and lofty and, in a word, better, than the lessons you would have learned from the Olympians. They are the creatures of Prometheus.
    • There were already mentions of this in Orphans:
    In every human being, there is a spark of divine fire, which makes them sacred. We have nothing like that in us. We are mightier, older, wiser than man, and we do not violate our laws; but Mankind is a finer thing than we are, and some day we will save them from the Demiurge, who made them merely to be playthings. He did not know what he made.
  • I Have Many Names: The children, as it turns out.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: In Fugitives, this briefly happens to Amelia.
  • I Know Your True Name: Done by one of the villains late in the trilogy.
  • In Harm's Way: Amelia says boys want this: Victor points out that she dos.
  • Insubstantial Ingredients
  • It Wasa Gift: Mrs. Wren gave them peculiar birthday gifts. Romus also gives Amelia and Quentin gifts in Fugitives of Chaos.
  • Jerkass Gods: Ingeniously examined. In this universe, moral laws have definite weight, which is why every supernatural species is leery of breaking them. Olympians, however, can define and change morality and destiny, which means they don't have to pay heed to them. At all.
  • King Incognito
  • Knight Templar
  • Language of Magic: Quentin's power.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: At the end of the first book. And, as it turns out, the beginning as well.
  • Last of His Kind
  • Like Brother and Sister
  • Losing Your Head: Orpheus and Bran.
  • Love Triangle: Amelia, Victor and Colin.
  • Made a Slave: The music teacher, Miss Daw, claims to Amelia that she is a POW. as a Siren, she is also a Uranian and has the same powers as Amelia.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: And Magic B is Magic B, and Magic C is Magic C... they get up to F.
  • Malicious Slander
  • Mama Bear: Echidna.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Headmaster Boggin can usually play the orphans like violins.
  • Manly Tears: after Amelia explains to Colin that a certain picture shows his loving parents being forced to give him up at birth as a hostage, and Colin contemplates how he has lived his entire childhood in the care of hostile strangers, Colin cries.
  • Masquerade: The gods are secret from man.
  • Meaningful Name: The orphans chose their own names. This became quite important towards the end.
  • Metaphorgotten
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Characters discuss saving a cruise ship that they are on vs. endangering the universe.
  • Mind over Matter
  • More Deadly Than The Male: Amelia, as the most dangerous of the orphans.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Amelia from necessity, so she keeps insisting, Vanity far more enthusiastically
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: There is a sophisticated system involving four paradigms of power, each with a specific weakness to a different paradigm and the power to trump another. Plus two composite paradigms.
  • Never Found the Body: After Colin vanished
  • Not Quite Dead
  • Numerical Theme Naming: Their original names — Primus, Secunda, etc.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: One god is out to destroy and remake the universe.
  • Order Versus Chaos The Olympians vs the Uranians.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Though there's an unusual amount of education going on in this one.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different
  • Parental Abandonment: The title orphans never knew their parents. All of whom are, in fact, alive, but had to surrender their children as hostages to the Olympians.
  • Physical God: Lots of them, including some mythological gods.
  • The Power of Rock: Colin unlocks his powers by playing rock music. Deadpan Snarker Amelia notes that if he hadn't been playing in the middle of a war, the resultant noise would have been pretty bad.
  • Power of Trust: Amelia recounts a fantastic story and all the other children immediately vote that they are in a crisis and must take all precautions. She is moved by their trust.
  • Power Nullifier: Half the purpose of the school is this.
  • The President's Daughter
  • The Promise
  • Promotion to Parent: Amelia and Victor.
  • Restraining Bolt
  • Running Gag: Quentin's "The true name of the first Salmon." It later becomes a Crowning Moment of Awesome when he uses said name to turn a group of Maenads into fish.
  • Sacred First Kiss: Amelia is saving hers for Victor. She kisses all of the other orphans first, though. Even Vanity. Chronologically, Victor is the last person she kisses in the entire trilogy.
  • Secret Legacy
  • Secret Test of Character
  • Shout-Out: Many. There is banter mangling together the Lord of the Rings and Wagner's Ring Cycle. When Amelia and Victor are talking on the Queen Elizabeth 2, about what a young man wants, she rattles off something very similar to the "Roc's Egg" monologue from Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road.
    • Also notable is one point in the second book when the Orphans need to get past a locked, magically trapped door and Quentin uses one of the incantations Gandalf used on the Moria-Gate. Nothing happens.
    Quentin: That would have worked if these had been dwarf doors.
  • Shown Their Work: Concerning the gangs trip to Mars: "astronomers can figure out what year the scene takes place, because I established the orbital positions needed for a Hohmann transfer orbit".
  • Show Some Leg: exploited by both Vanity and Amelia.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Don't tell a boy to put you down when you're both being held aloft by aerial spirits.
  • So Proud of You
  • Speak of the Devil
  • Spock Speak: Victor and Dr Fell, being robotic. This makes their pre-battle banter somewhat...odd.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Amelia has a slight tendency towards this, at least at first.
  • Stealth Insult: Boggin's conversation with Centurion Infantophage is loaded with these.
  • The Stoic: Victor and Quentin both behave like this most of the time.
  • Succession Crisis: Part of the reason the orphans have been in the school so long is there is dispute over who should take the throne of Olympus now that Zeus is dead.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Amelia toward Glum.
  • Talking Animal: Lelaps the hound.
  • Talking in Your Dreams
  • Take a Third Option
  • Take That: Amelia's musing after reading Ulysses on how Joyce should have sued his publisher for all the typographical errors. Probably a general Take That to True Art Is Incomprehensible.
    • Also done to Kant, whose books are the only ones in the library that don't give off any usefulness-light when Amelia looks at them with her higher senses.
  • Tap on the Head: Amelia tried to do this to Headmaster Boggin, but failed, probably because she didn't really want to cave his head in.
  • They Have the Scent: when Grum sets Lelaps on Vanity and Amelia's trail, he finds them, turns away, and starts to bay, running off. Grum comments that he's found the scent.
  • Through His Stomach
  • Time Abyss: Amelia's people, The Prelapsarians, are said to be from before the Fall of Man (or Adam) and said not to suffer the pass of time whatsoever
    • It's also implied by Cupid her own son, that Lady Cyprian (Venus) may be older than Chaos or Old Night
  • Trickster Archetype
  • True Love Is Exceptional: Mulciber attempts to bribe Amelia by offering her her True Love on a platter.
  • Unable To Support A Wife: A motive to keep quiet about love.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sort of, The four factions of Chaos, want to overthrow the Olympians and destroy Cosmos, but one of their main motivations (well at least for two of them) is to free humans form the suffering of time and fate,the later being indeed controlled by the gods, who according to the Creatures of the Void sees them as playthings (see Humans are Special above)
  • We Need a Distraction: This is Colin's default job.
  • What You Are in the Dark
  • The Wild Hunt