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siblings: Victor, logical and imperious, Vanity, who is giddy and curious, the domineering bully Colin, and the quiet, withdrawn Quentin.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:

  • 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.
  • 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, at least as Amelia interprets them. Note that this is explicitly incorrect; due to the interactions between their powers each orphan has one other whose powers they are literally incapable of understanding (the one whose powers trump theirs).
  • 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.
  • Cool Starship (This one takes some aftermarket modifications....)
  • 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.
  • Enemy Civil War: Part of the backstory, and connected to why the orphans are in the school.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Grendel, who has a reverence for his mother more honest than his reverence for "marriage."
  • 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.
  • Feed the Mole: Amelia ponders what her actions might reveal when the orphans are being spied upon, 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, who enjoys playing up her femininity more than tomboyish Amelia does.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gilded Cage: The orphanage where the story begins, though the gilding is in the education available, and thus not even apparent to the imprisoned orphans.
  • 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 his kidnapped girls like this. Her future daughters-in-law.
  • 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 is more than he appears. Even Grendel, though not much more in his case.
  • 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.
  • 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. And everyone who works in the orphanage.
  • I Know Your True Name: Done by one of the villains late in the trilogy, as an attempt to control Quentin.
  • In Harm's Way: Amelia says boys want this: Victor points out that she dos.
  • 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: The "head of the board of visitors and governors," Hephaestus.
  • Love Triangle: Amelia, Victor and Colin, though amusingly Amelia fails to figure this out for a long time.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Don't tell a boy to put you down when you're both being held aloft by aerial spirits.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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)

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