Literature / Chronicles of the Kencyrath
P.C. Hodgell's own artwork depicting heroine Jame atop the Tower of Bats in the city of Tai-tastigon.

"But if I should become Regonereth, the Ivory Knife incarnate, destroying everything I touch, everything I love—well, I'll do what I was born to do, break what needs to be broken, and then break myself."
Jame, To Ride a Rathorn

P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath High Fantasy series consists of seven novels and a short story collection so far:

  1. God Stalk (1982)
  2. Dark of the Moon (1985)
  3. Seeker's Mask (1994)
  4. To Ride a Rathorn (2006)
  5. Bound in Blood (2010)
  6. Honor's Paradox (2011)
  7. The Sea of Time (2014)
  • Blood and Ivory: A Tapestry (collection) (2002)

They follow Jame, a young woman of the non-human Kencyr people with an uncertain past who attracts disaster and destruction seemingly by her very existence. She's a catlike, acrobatic Action Girl with, she soon discovers, extraordinary ability in unarmed combat and dances that seem to have a hypnotic, magical effect on the watcher.

At first, she takes cautious root in the great city of Tai-tastigon, where she joins the Thieves' Guild, learns more about her people, experiments with the nature of divinity, and in general finds herself during the first book, God Stalk. The second book, Dark of the Moon, sees Jame setting about finding her long-separated twin brother and their people, and along the road learning much more of what she is and her place in the long tragedy of their history. The third book, Seeker's Mask, finds Jame almost destroyed from trying to fit into the cage her people expect her to live in, and breaking out and, painfully, finding a new place, which the following books, To Ride a Rathorn, Bound in Blood, and Honor's Paradox have her taking on and learning the responsibilities and duties attached to a Military Academy and the world. The Sea of Time follows the next stage of her training, in the field. There is also a short story collection, Blood and Ivory, where the short stories mainly fill in the world and its background. Several of these are now regarded as non-canonical.

The series manages to be simultaneously Trope Overdosed and full of fantasy clichés and yet packed with imagination, new ideas, and twists on the ones we're used to. Hodgell tosses ideas casually into the story that could be the basis for whole novels from another author, but here are just little details of the setting. While other writers have people who perform magic, Hodgell's whole world is magical down to the core of its nature, and full of wonders to discover.

While the series is sometimes incredibly gloomy, it is also, at times, hilariously funny. Bathos is used, and both the author and her characters manage to see absurdity in even the darkest places, and Jame, always a very physical heroine, is a rich source of slapstick physical comedy as well as wry thoughts.

These books have had a spotty and very drawn-out publication history and have been hard to find, leading to a small, cultish fanbase; recently, though, she's been picked up by Baen Books and the older books have been re-released, including ebook formats.
Character-specific tropes are being moved to the character pages. The Kencyrath, their culture, Shanir, and mythology, also have their own page. There is also a Wild Mass Guess page for crazy theories.

This work provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Played straight with Ganth, because his reign ended with him getting huge numbers of his own people killed, and then getting upset and running away like an angry toddler. Everyone who's alive to hate him today had family who was killed in that battle. Otherwise, it's mostly averted with the present lords—which kind of implies that Ganth might be a bit of a case of Historical Villain Upgrade. The current lords have followers with a mix of opinions on them. Torisen is trying his very best to be a good lord, but he's very aware that 100% Adoration Rating is impossible because it's not about being a good ruler, it's about whose interests you serve, and no matter what he does, half other half of the Kencyr are going to hate him. Meanwhile, despite the Enemy Civil War, many Randir are fanatically loyal to Rawneth. None of Caldane's Kendar really seem to like him, but they are basically loyal to him. His Highborn family members tend to either love him or hate him.
  • Academy of Adventure: Several
    • Tentir, the Kencyr Military Academy Jame attends in To Ride a Rathorn, Bound in Blood, and Honor's Paradox.
    • In the Alternate Universe short story "Child of Darkness", the university Jame Talissen and the others attend. (These first two might also qualify as Schools For Scheming.)
    • The scholars' and singers' academy, Mount Alban, which goes wandering the weirdingstrom in Seeker's Mask (to the delight of the bevy of scholars aboard).
  • Action Girl: Jame. More action than everyone else put together, it seems. (Though a number of female cadets, especially Brier Iron-thorn, come in for their share as well.)
  • Alien Geometries: The temples, and other works of the Builders, like their city in the Anarchies.
    Jame: But are you sure this thing is real? It's so small.
    Marc: Only on the outside. The Builders could be very playful about space.
  • Alien Sky: In The Sea of Time, when Jame and Shade walk deep into the Master's House, far down the Chain of Creation, at one point Shade looks out the window and says that the sky is green.
  • Alternative Calendar: An appendix to God Stalk describes the Tastigon calendar, which appears to generally be in use everywhere. The year is 360 days plus one intercalary day, the Feast of Fools, which is not counted or shown on any calendar. Weeks are ten days long, and the seasons are not of equal length; summer and winter are 120 days each, while spring and autumn are only 60 days. The Kencyr count years from their arrival on Rathillien, just over 3,000 years ago, and Kencyr years tend to be stated minus the thousand number; the current year as of the most recent book, Honor's Paradox, is shown as 3064.
  • Apocalyptic Log: "Lost Knots," Kinzi's letter to Adiraina on the night she was murdered. The last paragraph talks about something falling over, and feet on the stairs... which we know is the assassins coming for her.
    How the wind howls! Now something has fallen over below. I hear many feet on the stair. Perhaps it is Ganth, come home at last…
  • Arc Number: Three, and multiples of three, are a recurring motif of the Kencyrath.
    Jame: Nearly everything in the Kencyrath comes in threes: The faces of God, the Tyr-ridan, the three times three major houses and temples.
    • The Kencyr creator deity is the Three-Faced God, personifying respectively creation (Torrigon), preservation (Argentiel) and destruction (Regonoreth). The three Objects of Power (The Book, the Cloak and the Knife) are each aligned with one of the faces, and the Chosen Ones, the Tyr-ridan, do too.
    • Ominously, the ruling house has only three surviving full-blood members, literally a sign of the apocalypse.
    • Three races of the Kencyrath: Highborn, Kendar and Arrin-ken.
    • Three professional colleges: the Scrollsmen's College, the Priests' College and the Randon College.
    • Multiples of three:
      • Nine (3x3) great houses whose lords comprise the High Council.
      • Nine temples to the Three-Faced God built across Rathillien.
      • Twenty-seven (3x3x3) is the age at which a Highborn Hencyr is a legal adult.
  • Asleep for Days: At the very beginning of God Stalk, Jame's arm is haunt-infected, and she spends her first 13 days at the Res aB'tyrr in dwar sleep, healing. At the time it seems like a plot-device, but later on, you get a better sense of dwar sleep, and it makes more sense—and becomes clear how extreme 13 days is, and that that's is the outer limit of what's possible.
    Tanis: The healer said it would have to be amputated—bitten off, preferably, if we could find someone with a suitably tame demon—but while Tubain was trying to make up his mind, it began to mend. Damnest thing he'd ever seen, the healer said; but then he'd never tended a Kencyr before. Thirteen days it took. Yes, you've been asleep that long.
  • Attempted Rape: On several occasions
    • In God Stalk, Niggen tries to rape Kithra, and Jame stops him, knocking out some of his teeth. It leads to Kithra having a bit of a crush on Jame.
    • In Seeker's Mask, Caldane tries to rape Brier. He's trying to exercise his Highborn power on her—she's a Knorth by that point, but still of Caineron descent , and he still probably has some power over her. Jame goes berserker flare on his ass and sends him over the rail (though he doesn't die)
    • Very cleverly Subverted during the Winter War in Bound in Blood. Timmon pulls a convincing Entitled to Have You moment and pretends to try to rape Jame—so he can tackle her without her realizing he's trying to steal her flag. He grabs it and runs off.
    • In The Sea of Time, when Jame's ten-command goes into the Southern Wastes, one of the caravan drives tries to rape Damson. Damson, being a randon cadet, breaks his leg. Her ten-command shows up in a minute too.
    • Later in The Sea of Time when Dar leads the ten-command in getting revenge on Amberley's ten-command, Mint almost gets raped. First Damson, then Brier, defend her.
  • Author Catchphrase: "Askance." It's the only way anyone ever looks at anyone else on Rathillien.
  • Automaton Horses (Averted): Hodgell became an equestrian in order to write about horses accurately, and lessons in the care and tending of horses feature fairly prominently at Tentir, especially for originally horse-phobic Jame.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses:
    • Harn and Ashe in Dark of the Moon. Given that one was in a berserker rage and the other was three days dead at the time, it brought the trope to new levels.
    • Jame and Gran Cyd in Bound in Blood.
  • Bad Powers, Good People:
    • Jame and Brenwyr.
    • Shade is a Changer. All such we've previously seen have been corrupted by Perimal Darkling. Shade, however, had Changer blood from birth, not by her own volition, and this means she is not automatically corrupted since she didn't choose it.
    • Torisen's powers are more neutral, but he's convinced they're bad.
  • Bar Brawl: In Peshtar near the beginning of Dark of the Moon.
  • Bee Bee Gun: In To Ride a Rathorn, Jame and Gari jointly kill someone with a swarm of bees, summoned by his Shanir power and guided into the victim's mouth and down their throat by Jame.
  • Bed Trick: Keral had sex with Rawneth by pretending to be Greshan. He then revealed himself... as someone else he also wasn't actually.
  • Bifauxnen:
    • Jame is constantly mistaken for a boy. Her one feminine feature is long hair, but it's normally hidden under a cap. She's flat chested and skinny and doesn't eat enough. She's also officially or legally regarded as male a bunch of times. She gets mistaken constantly for her twin brother, too (though that has a lot more to do with them being Half-Identical Twins, and it's inverted in Bound in Blood when Tori is mistaken a couple of times for her.)
    • Kirien also is legally regarded as male. She doesn't actively try to hide that she's female, it's just that people assume she's male she's such a Bifauxnen no one notices she's not.
    • Brier too—Jame, Rue, and Caldane (a fairly varied range of people) all call her handsome. And with her cropped hair and neat dress, she absolutely fulfills the aesthetic.
  • The Big Guy: Includes several varieties of this trope:
    • Marc combines type 2 and 5, the Gentle Giant and the Genius Bruiser. Strengthens his gentle giant style by feigning berserker rage, so that he doesn't have to fight.
    • Harn is a type 1, and a Berserker.
    • Bear is a type 1 big guy, but with the gruff, scarred, and withdrawn traits taken to extremes.
    • The entire house of the Coman, and maybe Brandan as well.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Technically, the entire Kencyrath can be described as this. The Randir and the Caineron are probably the worst, being rife with corruption and in-fighting, but the Ardeth has plenty as well. The Knorth would easily qualify if they hadn't been so screwed up earlier that they near managed to destroy themselves (though they did have outside help).
  • Body Surf:
    • Bane in Seeker's Mask. Primarily because possessed bodies slowly fall apart in the riding. Partly because it amuses him.
    • In Bound in Blood, The Burned Man rides the body of an unfortunate Merikit ceremony participant until he crumbles to ash.
    • Indicated to be a favorite technique of Rawneth, Matriarch of Randir. She sometimes lets go before riding her mount to death.
  • Brown Note: The cry of a rathorn, and the Knorth battle-cry that's based on it, induces terror in those who hear it. The Knorth appear to be immune to it.
  • Capture the Flag: The Winter War has some variations, but it's very similar to capture the flag
  • The Chosen One: Or rather, the Chosen Three. It is implied that there have been other chosen ones earlier, but that they've been un-balanced, missing one or more of the roles.
    • Torisen—Torrigion, That-Which-Creates
    • Kindrie—Argentiel, That-Which-Preserves
    • Jame—Regonereth, That-Which-Destroys
  • Chucking Chalk: A variant. The strategy instructor at Tentir has a wooden fist. He has a tendency to detach and throw it at dozing cadets. Later exaggerated, when he dismisses a class where half are mildly concussed for inattention.
  • Clucking Funny: Thanks to a hilarious chicken-chase scene in Restormir in Seeker's Mask.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: So many; after all, this is what "honor's paradox" is all about. Jame and Torisen especially seem to cause this a lot, because they are so personable as to sway many whose loyalty is to lords opposed to the Knorth. Many Randir are also torn by this—see Enemy Civil War below.
  • Cool Gate: Mother Ragga's house's doors open wherever in the world she chooses, sometimes very conveniently indeed.
  • Cool Horse: Both the Whinno-Hir, almost immortal intelligent horses, and the carnivorous unicornesque rathorns.
  • Cool Sword
    • Kin-Slayer, the Knorth heirloom sword. If wielded by someone wearing the Knorth signet ring, it cuts through flesh and armor like butter. If the bearer isn't wearing the ring, it's just a large, somewhat unwieldy sword.
    • The Scythe-arms manage to combine the Dual Wielding, Blade Below the Shoulder, and Double Weapon tropes. Not surprisingly, training with them easily dissolves into chaos.
  • Covers Always Lie: With Jame being repeatedly and emphatically described as a flat-chested girl in the text, one has to wonder what part of "skinny elf-girl" the latest cover artist is having so much trouble with.
  • Crashing Through the Harem: Invoked by Adriana—she gives Torisen an aphrodisiac and sets him in the women's halls. Deconstructed, because he's chased by a horde of women who might rape him, and a 7-year-old asks him to marry her.
  • Creation Sequence: Averted with Kin-Slayer (it's forged anew off-screen), but Marc's glass-making effort has been going on for several books now.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Part of the charm of God Stalk is that Jame knows much of the history of the Kencyrath and occasionally makes oblique references to it, but does not elaborate on it, presumably because she already knows it. This is slowly being expanded upon in the later books.
  • Dance Battler: For the Kencyr, their ritual dance, the Senetha, is a twin to their martial arts, the Senethar, and both have the same four disciplines.
  • Dance Line: A very creepy one in Seeker's Mask. Most of the priest's college had been in one for days, killing many of them while they kept dancing.
  • Deuteragonist: Torisen, to Jame's protagonist.
  • Dramatis Personae: The characters are helpfully listed at either the beginning or end of the books.
  • Dream Walker: Sharing dreams is reasonably common, and Jame shares dreams with both Torisen and Timmon. Timmon is able to control the dreams much more than Jame or Torisen can. He keeps trying to design Erotic Dreams for him and Jame, but she always makes the dreams either non-erotic or non-Timmon.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: The dreamers are placed in the bodies of the people in the historical scenes. Seeing as these scenes are often tragic, this can be pretty upsetting for the dreamers.
  • Easy Amnesia: Jame enters the first book at the approximate age of seventeen not remembering a thing since the time, aged seven, her father cast her out of his keep to die. However, all of the skills she learned during that time remain. Over the course of five books so far, some details of that time have floated to the surface, but most of it still remains hidden to her. It's likely that magical/supernatural reasons are behind the amnesia, and it may or may not have been deliberately caused; we are left wondering what other secrets are hidden in her past, and what might have been done to her mind.
  • Elemental Powers: The four native gods of Rathillien: Old Man Tishooo (wind), Mother Ragga (earth), The Burnt Man (fire), and The Eaten One (water). All of the Four were once human, but became something more. The native gods do have quite a bit of agency and sentience, but how much of it comes from their human roots is unclear.
    • The four disciplines of the Senetha and Senethar: earth-moving, water-flowing, fire-leaping and wind-blowing.
  • Ensign Newbie: Jame, Gorbel, and Timmon, in To Ride a Rathorn. Despite being the randon (officer) cadet with probably the least military knowledge in the whole school, Jame is appointed Master Ten of her house's cadets (approx 90 cadets) due to her status, and has absolutely no idea what to do, or even where to start. Gorbel has some command experience when he is put in the same position, but no one takes him seriously, since he's "obviously" there as a political statement from his father. Timmon is the most capable and experienced, but has an attitude problem: he doesn't listen to his subordinates at all, and evades all "un-fun" stuff.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses (Averted): Jame's father, and later her brother, are both effectively kings, but hold the title of Highlord. Everything's Better with Princesses is usually a girl who's a princess for no real reason—Jame isn't a princess, for no real reason.
  • The Exile: In the backstory: Ganth, and then Torisen from Ganth. Several women, including Rawneth, Jame, and Kallystine have been exiled from the Women's World.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style:
    • The Senethar appears to be a Wu Shu-like style with hard and soft aspects and four elemental styles
    • Kothifiran street fighting appears to be an analogue of Capoeira with its cartwheels and emphasis on foot strikes, as seen in Sea of Time.
  • Fantasy World Map: Drawn Tolkien-style (by the author), too. Not a Left-Justified Fantasy Map, though; the oceans are on the east and south. Seems to make at least some geographical sense, so not a Patchwork Map.
    • A depiction of this map in stained glass is important in Seekers Mask (Jame shatters it) and Bound in Blood (Marc learns glassworking to rebuild it). Authorial discussion suggests that in a later book the act of repairing this map brings home to Mother Ragga and other characters just how much of Rathillien has already been lost to Perimal Darkling when Ragga discovers there are parts of Rathillien she can no longer reach.
      • The forging of which is detailed from the author's experience as a stained-glass artist herself.
    • The map happens to be largely circular, but this is intentional; Perimal Darkling has swallowed up much of the world, leaving only a slice of it still free.
  • Fate Worse Than Death/Soul Jar: Kencyr can ask another to hold their soul for them. The primary reason one would perform such an act is to allow a newly-soulless warrior to commit dishonorable acts without actually being responsible for them in the afterlife, as his soul had nothing to do with them, and he is expected to commit suicide as penance when his soul is restored (or to be physically killed by the sinless soul and sinful body mutually annihilating). As a secondary effect, it makes the Highborn very very hard to kill. When asked why it's a bad thing, Jame dryly notes that it's a good idea to allow for death as an option.
    • This is very graphically depicted in the death of Bane on the Mercy Seat. Normally, people on the Mercy Seat only survive so long into the flaying and dismemberment. When you can't die…
  • Fictional Holiday: Those generally celebrated appear to be the turning points of the seasons and the solstices, placed exactly halfway in the longer winter and summer seasons. Both the Tastigons and the Kencyrath celebrate the intercalary day (see Alternative Calendar above); in Tai-tastigon it is called the Feast of Fools, and is a Saturnalia-like orgy of excess and freedom, while in Tentir, the Kencyr military academy, it is called the Day of Misrule, where the normal rules of Tentir are suspended and anyone who grabs the scarf from around a cadet's or officer's neck can command them. The Tastigons also celebrate (or fear) the Feast of Dead Gods, which occurs during the night after Autumn's Eve.
  • Fire Purifies/Kill It with Fire: Fire is one of the few reliable ways to kill corrupted beings like Haunts and Changers, and usually the most practical. Also, until the body of a Kendar or Highborn is burned, their spirit is bound to the world although we find in books three and four that the blood in death banners bind those Highborn and Kendar so immortalized, until the death banner itself is burnt.
  • Five Races: The five sentient races on Rathillien fit this trope pretty well:
    • Stout (Dwarf)—The Kendar (not small, but otherwise they fit the archetype closely).
    • Fairy (Smaller Elf)—The Arrin-ken fit the "most magical" part of this stereotype; they're sentient big cats who communicate telepathically and have extremely long lifespans.
    • Mundane (Human)—The native people of Rathillien.
    • High Men (Taller Elf or Human)—The Highborn, who are gracile, charismatic, long-lived, prone to magical abilities, and believe themselves superior to everyone else.
    • Cute (Hobbit/Moogle/Gnome etc)—The Builders (we don't know much about them, since they were already extinct before the story opens, but they were certainly hobbit-sized, and the evidence Jame found in their city suggests they liked parties… and the crystals she gave to Caineron seem to have been intended as a practical joke).
  • Friendship Trinket: Winter carved Jame and Tori a little wooden kitty when they were children. They fought over it until they broke it. Torisen saved it all these years, and gave it back to Jame at the Lordan's Presentstion, both as a symbol of how close they were when they were little… and the idea that they can't share anything without breaking it.
  • Genre Shift: The first book, God Stalk, reads as Low Fantasy, and the larger High Fantasy plot only really starts to be noticeable in the second book, Dark of the Moon. Some readers didn't like the change.
  • Genuine Human Hide: The Book Bound With Pale Leather is made from Kencyr skin.
    • Pat has indicated on her LifeJournal that she's considered requesting in her will that a very special edition of the books be put out using her skin for the binding.
  • The Girl Who Fits This Slipper: The Kenthiar is a collar that only the Highlord can wear—everyone else who touches the inner surface will lose their fingers, or worse.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: As Jame's experiments on the gods of Tai-tastigon prove.
  • Going Native: how Jame's enemies in Tentir interpret her ties to the Merikit and her wearing her hair in Merikit braids.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Probably the most charitable interpretation of the Three-Faced God, which could also be seen as a Neglectful Precursor, a Jerkass God, or even a (relatively benevolent) Eldritch Abomination. In any event, it doesn't seem to expect its followers to like it, so long as they get the job done.
  • Happy Rain: In God Stalk, "Chapter 11: The Storm Breaks." There's been a drought, and tempers are getting short, and it looks like the wheat crop is going to fail… and then it rains, and the whole whole city rejoices.
  • Have You Seen My God?: At the beginning of the series, the Kencyrath have not heard anything from their God in thousands of years, but it's implied that this is not the first time this has happened.
  • High Fantasy: Although always planned as a High Fantasy epic, the first book (God Stalk) is a Low Fantasy introduction to the heroine that owes much to Leiber's Lankhmar, although there's much foreshadowing of the broader plot to come. The abrupt Genre Shift for the second novel alienated some readers. The series as a whole displays many of the standard High Fantasy tropes, although it's more often Black and Gray Morality rather than the typical Black and White Morality of most High Fantasy series:
    • Setting: Check. Rathillien and the Chain of Creation are most definitely not our world, although there are parallels; Tai-tastigon, for instance, has obvious inspirations both in the real world and in pre-existing fantasy fiction. On the other hand, the world has hidden depths, and the Kencyr certainly do.
    • Scale: Check. Suitably epic, even though it's seen from a human scale with very few viewpoint characters. The doings of nations, the fulfilling of ancient prophecies, gods walking the earth (or at least the avatars of them), the possible last great battle between order and chaos—it's all here.
    • Great evil: Check. Perimal Darkling is a corrupting influence inimical to life as we know it, so definitely. Gerridon and the Changers are a slightly more human-scale set of bad guys.
    • Methods: Cautious Check. While we're nowhere near the end of the series, the Kencyr cannot defeat their ancient enemy through force of arms. Something bigger and wilder has to happen, involving both their triune God manifest in physical avatars and possibly the ancient, wild powers of Rathillien as well.
    • Functional Magic: Check, though some magical things are more innately magical than acts of magic. The Shanir talents of the Kencyr and the magical practices of native Rathillien both qualify.
    • Additional common elements as listed on the High Fantasy page: Artifact of Doom, Cool Horse, Cool Sword, Rightful King Returns, Medieval Stasis, Mordor, and prophecy all play major parts in this series. There's no Quest, yet; that's the missing piece; any quests there have been have been smaller and more personal.
      • Well, there is the "Defeat Perimal Darkling" Quest, however in order for that to happen the Three-Faces-of-God need to manifest, and in order for that to happen the three meant to manifest need to go through some character development, and in order for that to happen smaller personal quests need to happen… so everything that happens is working on that prophecy we read in book one.
  • The High King: The Kencyrath consists of several houses, each ruled by a lord who has a lot of power in his own right. The leader of all the Kencyrath has the title "Highlord".
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    Kindrie: You can serve a rathorn rabbit, but you can't make him eat it.
  • The Homeward Journey: Dark of the Moon for Jame and Marc. Not played totally straight because Marc can't go home again, what with Kithorn being a Doomed Hometown, and Jame was born in exile and has never been to the Riverlands. But the Riverland is the closest thing they have to a homeland, and so the thought is still there. The last line of God Stalk is:
    A sudden feeling of happiness lightened her step. Despite the uncertainty that awaited them both, despite fire, ruin, and the snow that had begun to fall, they were going home at last.
  • I Am Not My Father: This is a motivation and a source of conflict for many of the Tentir cadets, and others:
    • Torisen, who is very determined to not be his father, but worries that he might turn into him.
    • Timmon, after he learns the truth about his father rather than the lies he's always been told.
    • Shade, with her Changer blood, is determined to do right yet worried that it leaves her cursed.
    • Gorbel, whose earliest memory is his father killing his mother.
  • I Would Say If I Could Say: Jame, trying to work out the possible bloodline relationships of Kindrie:
    Jame: If I had a piece of chalk, I could work it out on a wall, if I had a wall.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • Kirien's gender is revealed to the audience a few chapters after we first meet her, but in Honor's Paradox, she revels it to the High Council
    • Jame, in the last line of Honor's Paradox, reveals her full name to Tentir and thus (sooner or later) the entire Kencyr.
  • Invulnerable Horses (Averted): Averted, especially in the mounted combat at the end of Honor's Paradox; Death's-head finds attacking the opposing horses more productive than the riders; they scare more easily and provide bigger targets. Several die, almost all the others are wounded.
  • Kill It with Water: Demons can be killed with "fire, water and their true name."
  • Kill the God: Jame killed a little rain god named Gorgo one. Although honestly, he was really weak at the time, so it didn't take much. She later feels bad and saves him.
  • The Lost Woods: Several examples. The Anarchies swallows most of a brigand band. The Weald. The heart of the wood outside Hurlen. But most of the woods in Rathillien have a smidge of it.
  • Love Dodecahedron: When they were young, the previous generation was a mess of this. Ganth and Trishien liked each other, but Ganth's father Parental Marriage Vetoed it. Ganth's brother Greshan liked Rawneth—who didn't really like him so much as she wanted to marry him for political power, but they suited each other very well anyways. Greshan's grandma Grandparental Marriage Vetoed it. Their father tried to marry Ganth to Rawneth, but that didn't really go anywhere. Greshan was killed, and Rawneth tried to raise him from the dead, and even got his father to approve their marriage under those conditions. But she ended up getting Bed Tricked by a different undead. Meanwhile, Ganth fell in Love at First Sight with Jamethiel, and next to her, Trishien couldn't hold up. Jamethiel eventually became his consort, but was her brother's consort for 3,000 years before that. Also, their half-brother Tirandys loved Jamethiel too, but was only ever an Unrequited Tragic Maiden in that regard. Jamethiel's own feelings for any of them are highly ambiguous.
  • Low Fantasy: Although the overall structure of the series is High Fantasy, God Stalk, the first book, is a Low Fantasy introduction to the heroine with a fair degree of foreshadowing of the larger plot to come. The Genre Shift in the second book alienated some readers, although many Low Fantasy traits remain, including many gray shades of morality.
  • Magic Dance: The Kencyr ritual dance, the Senetha, is magically powerful; the energies of a Kencyr temple are channeled through dance, and magic can be performed thereby. Jamethiel Dream-Weaver reaped the souls of two-thirds of the Kencyr Host through dance during the Fall, and Jame shows the same level of ability.
  • Magic Map: Mother Ragga has one.
    • Marc is making a minor one
  • Mating Dance: The Senetha can be notably sexy.
  • Meaningful Echo: In To Ride a Rathorn, variations on the words "Stay with me… Stay." Timmon asks Jame on two occasions to stay with him, and both times she doesn't. Later, it's reversed with her being the speaker, and offering—not asking—"stay" to Tori. But like before, he doesn't stay.
    • When Jame meets Timmon for the first time:
      Timmon: Rest first. Stay with me… It's quiet here now, and safe, as long as the ceiling doesn't fall in. Stay. I've never met anyone like you before.
    • And again in a dream:
      Timmon: I know a better dance than this. Stay with me. Stay.
    • And then with Jame and Torisen, in Mother Ragga's lodge, just after their kiss and before Tori bolts, Jame says it to him:
      Jame: Stay. I will stay with you.
  • Meaningful Name: P.C. Hodgell has said in interviews that she often comes up with names this way, by thinking of a quality the character has and finding words to suit it, sometimes shifting them slightly to make a better name:
    • Bane—Very appropriate given the darkness of his nature, and what happens with his soul. He's Jame's dark shadow throughout the first novel, and some later on.
    • Brier Iron-thorn—appropriate given her solid strength and prickly exterior.
    • Burr—Torisen can't shake him off.
    • Kindrie—kind.
    • Perimal Darkling—the surrounding evil darkness.
  • Metamorphosis: The wyrm Beauty undergoes a transformation, and Jame recognizes what it becomes.
  • Mounted Combat: Jame's penultimate challenge at Tentir is mounted combat—alone against against eight enemies. Fortunately, nothing specified what she had to be mounted upon…
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: This trope makes up one of the important themes running through the books and referred to as "Honor's Paradox": What do you do if you are ordered to do something dishonorable? Made explicit in the opening chapter of Seeker's Mask, when Jame badly flummoxes a young instructor and her class with the tale of Jamethiel's fall from grace.
  • Naked First Impression:
    • Graykin meets Jame when she's naked.
    • Jame first sees Randiroc naked, via Outdoor Bath Peeping, and at first thinks she's having an dream.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The whole sequence in Dark of the Moon in which Jame escapes the bad guys stark naked and comes across Graykin and then Lyra in the empty palace of Karkinaroth. It's funny precisely because Jame is so blasé about her nudity and the others so bothered by it; even more so because what bothers Lyra the most is that Jame, who she recognizes immediately as a full-blooded Highborn woman, is not wearing a mask as custom dictates. She reacts with Please Put Some Clothes On—and then they sit talking and eating with Jame masked, but otherwise naked.
  • Near-Rape Experience: Ganth, with his seven-year-old daughter. One of the things that finally pushes him over the edge to total Ax-Crazy-ness.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: Jame often defeats armed foes bare-handed and is initially not keen on blades at all. Later, she develops more of a taste for them and wears a knife-fighter's jacket and boot knife. She still does not like swords, until Bound in Blood, when she finds a bladed weapon she can think of as extensions of her own claws.
    Jame: I don't like knives!
    Dally: Well, you've got to learn how to use one anyway, unless you want every flash-blade in town picking on you. You can't take them all on bare-handed…
    [Jame tackles him bare-handed, disarms him, and pins him with his arm over his head.]
    Dally: …then again, maybe you can.
  • No Periods, Period: The novels covering several years of Jame's life, absolutely no mention. Justified in that Highborn women are able to control conception at will, and possibly the entire menstrual and reproductive cycle; thus, there may be no periods because Jame doesn't have them. Another possibility is that she's not physically mature enough yet; she showed no interest in or sexual attraction to anyone until the fourth novel, and while she's about twenty or twenty-one, she's not considered adult until she's twenty-seven; Kencyr Highborn live long and mature slowly.
    • In chapter 3, part 2 of Seeker's Mask, a Caineron captain comments on a bloodied piece of cloth that Jame held as "That time of month, is it?"
    • In Bound in Blood, the fifth book, a Kendar woman is shown with menstrual bleeding.
  • Oh My Gods!: Lots of fantastic god-invoking exclamations from the Kencyr. Common ones in the series are "God's teeth!" (or, once, "God's teeth and toenails!"), referring to the natural armament of Regonereth, That-Which-Destroys, the third aspect of their God. "Trinity!" is one of Jame's favorites, too, referring to all aspects of their triune God.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Thoroughly Deconstructed at Tentir (through To Ride a Rathron, Bound in Blood, and Honor's Paradox). Timmon likes Jame, and Jame kind of likes Timmon too. But she likes someone else more, and Timmon can be a dick sometimes, so she's not really interested in getting together with him. So Timmon launches Operation Jealousy and gets with Narsa. It actually does work—Jame, much to her annoyance, is a little jealous. But she's not jealous enough to actually do anything about it, and she's annoyed at Timmon for pulling this. Meanwhile, it turns out Narsa is a Clingy Jealous Girl, and furious and heartbroken over her role in all of this. She tries to kill Jame, and later, after Timmon gets her pregnant, kills herself.
  • Parental Issues: Almost too many to list, but here's a start.
    • Jame's Missing Mom nearly soul-ripped her when they finally met, and committed suicide to avoid doing so. Her father first came close to raping her, and then drove her off, nearly killed her, and did kill her nanny Winter when her shanir traits expressed themselves.
    • Torisen also had that Missing Mom, and then his father apparently tried to blood-bound him. He did manage to inject a malignant piece of his soul into Torisen.
    • Kindrie's mother died at or close after his birth, and he was believed to be a bastard, in a society where that is a major stigma. In reality, there were a legitimate marriage-contract for his birth, but his father was the Big Bad of the entire series.
    • Nightshade has a half-changer for a father.
    • Timmon's father was a traitor and known for his womanising ways (that bordered or were mind-rape). His mother is extremely status-conscious and domineering.
  • Planet of Hats: More like "Family of Hats", in that the different houses all seem to have particular stereotypes and personalities associated with them. Justified because the reigning Lord and/or Matriarch seems to stamp his or her personality to an extent onto all of their followers (and there are definitely exceptions).
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • Averted, though not for lack of trying. Because all the Knorth women were killed off before he was born, Tori has not had any advisors to guide him through the treacherous shoals of Women's Mysteries. A particular case in point has to do with the ransom of the death-banner (and also the soul) of Aerulan to the Brandan house. Tori did not want to accept the money Brandan offered, not wanting to profit by Aerulan's death. However, he did not understand (for there was no one to tell him) that refusal to do so would dishonor Aerulan (by saying she has no value) in the eyes of those who love her. (Such as Brenwyr, the curse-flinging maledict.) This ends up resulting in Jame getting cursed by Brenwyr and a lot of unnecessary strife and ill will.
    • In Bound in Blood, the crop failure caused by the volcanic eruption in To Ride a Rathorn forces Tori to relent so that his people do not starve—though not before another misunderstanding results in Brenwyr cursing him. Fortunately, it seems Tori is more or less curse-proof—though his clothing isn't.
  • Posthumous Character: A bunch of Knorth ancestors (Ganth, Greshan, Tieri, Gerraint, Kinzi, Aerulan) as well as some of the Knorth from the Keep (Anar, Winter) and a couple others (Genjar, Rose Iron-thorn, Hallik Hard-hand)
  • Power Trio: Torisen, Kindrie and Jame are becoming this, as the Tyr-ridan, the avatar of the Kencyr triune god:
    • Torrigion (That-Which-Creates)—Torisen (Ego)
    • Argentiel (That-Which-Preserves)—Kindrie (Superego)
    • Regonereth (That-Which-Destroys)—Jame (Id)
  • Public Bathhouse Scene: When the Tentir kids go swimming at the swimming hole, they're all naked.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Mostly averted, but it shows up in a minor way in few words, like d'hen (a Tastigon knife-fighter's jacket) and b'tyrr (a luck-bringer statue). These both seem to be eastern words.
  • Reality Changing Miniature: Featured in the short story "Bones".
  • Red Baron: Epithets are common among the Kencyr, and are chosen by others, not the recipient. It is possible to have more than one epithet, though this is uncommon. Notable ones include
    • Brenwyr "the Iron Matriarch"
    • Brier "Iron-thorn"
    • Ganth "Gray Lord"
    • Greshan "Greed-heart"
    • Harn "Grip-hard"
    • Jamethiel "Priest's-Bane"
    • Sheth "Sharp-tongue"
    • Torisen "Black Lord"
  • Replacement Goldfish: Torisen and Marc spend most of Dark of the Moon taking care of each other's little sisters—in both cases, sisters they lost when they were young. It wasn't either of the faults, but both were unable to prevent it, and they've both spent most of their life since then feeling guilty about it. When he finally has to give Willow up, Torisen admits that it's not really about her—a dead child he never knew—but about Jame, as she was when Ganth drove her out. It's implied that there's some of the same on Marc's side.
  • Roof Hopping: with echos of Le Parkour, this is Jame's favorite way of getting around Tai-tastigon. Incredibly physically able, with a dancer's physique and an expert level of martial arts training, Jame's quite up to the task.
    • There's a gang, the Cloudies, who are reputed to live their entire lives from birth to death without setting foot on the streets. Jame's master manages to do Roof Hopping in places where roofs no longer exist.
  • Ruling Couple: It used to be a thing in the Kencyrath. Not so much anymore.
    Kirien: There's nothing in the Law that prohibits a lady from heading a family instead of a lord. In the case of fraternal twins like the Master and the Mistress, the power even used to be shared.
  • Series Continuity Error: Given that the author has stated she has a profound dislike of rereading her older works, for a story this complicated and written over so long a period it is only surprising there are not more continuity errors.
    • Rawneth is Kenan, Lord Randir's grandmother in Seeker's Mask and his mother in To Ride a Rathorn.
    • Dari's place in the Ardeth family isn't stable either. At first he's called Timmon's cousin, making him the son of one of Adric's older sons, who died in the White Hills. Later he's called Ardeth's son himself.
  • The Shadow Knows: Shadows show the state of a person's soul. Someone who has lost their soul will cast no shadow, and changers' shadows are very deformed.
  • Ship Sinking: Marc and Brier, in Bound in Blood, possibly in response to fan speculation after they were seen being close in To Ride a Rathorn.
  • Shocking Defeat Legacy: Kencyr history is petty much just a long string of these. The Fall, the Kithorn massacre, the Knorth Massacre, the White Hills, Urakarn… And that's not even counting that they've fought and lost on every world they've ever lived on.
  • Shout-Out: to Dr. Venkman's famous line in Ghostbusters (1984), "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!"; in this case, it's "Rathorns and Whinno-hir, living together…"
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Jame and Torisen frequently interact and talk with each other in their dreams. This is especially the case when one of them is knocked out, or someone else interferes with their dreams.
  • The Teetotaler:
    • Halfway though the first book, Jame gets drunk at what soon proves to be a very inconvenient time, and almost fails all her friends because of it. After that, she vows to herself never to get drunk again. She keeps this promise for the next five books, until the night of her Shotgun Wedding, at which point she says screw it and gets very drunk.
    • Brier doesn't drink because she's discipled and badass. This serves to make her breakdown in The Sea of Time when she's drunk (thought not by choice) a case of O.O.C. Is Serious Business.
  • Thoroughly Mistaken Identity: Adric, Lord Ardeth starts mistaking his grandson, Timmon, for his son (and Timmon's father) Pereden, in a sign that senility may be catching up with him. His warleader, Aden Smooth-face, does the same thing, mistaking Timmon for Pereden, and Jame for Timmon's mother, Distan; again, it is a sign of losing his mind.
  • Tightrope Walking: Jame has excellent balance and training in Le Parkour, and frequently ropewalks. The Kendar companions, however, often has a great fear of heights despite having great balance. The officer academy of Tentir makes use of that, by having the cadets ropewalk in order to learn how to control their fear and their bodies, and as a test.
  • Title Drop:
    • God Stalk—In "Chapter 13: Three Pyres': "And she sensed that they were increasingly aware of her, the god-stalker and theocide, in their midst."
    • Dark of the Moon—In "Chapter 7: A Rage of Rathorns": "She remembered how frightened she had been as a child during the dark of the moon."
    • Seeker's Mask—In Chapter 6: "Trapped behind a seeker's mask, searching for a name that would let her survive among her own people, how could she even defend herself, much less someone dependent on her?"
    • To Ride a Rathorn—In "Chapter 5: A Length of Rope": "The Kendar had a phrase: to ride a rathorn. It meant to take on a task too dangerous to let go."
    • Bound in Blood—Near the beginning of "Chapter 13: A Day in the Life". Singer Ashe says "Aye. Bound in blood… free neither to come nor to go."
    • Honor's Paradox—The paradox inherent in the Kencyr definition of honor is mentioned several times. (In short, disobedience is dishonorable, but what if the order is to perform a dishonorable act? The rules have no exceptions, leaving the Kencyr in such a situation caught between two different dishonorable acts and thus without escape except, perhaps, for suicide.)
    • The Sea of Time—In "Chapter 9: Into the Wastes": "Once everything for days in all directions belonged to the Sea of Time. Ah, consider how much of the present floats atop the past."
  • Translation Convention: God Stalk is mostly in Easternese, and the latter books are mostly in Kens. There are some parts in Merikit and Rendish, with the occasional line of High Kens. The characters are all easily multilingual, thanks to Kencyr memory training, and these language switches are only occasionally noted.
  • Truce Zone: The town of Peshtar, gateway to the Blue Pass, allows both brigands and the caravans they prey upon to trade there and enforces the truce by only letting one group in at a time.
  • Twincest: Shanir powers were historically bred for by pairing close relatives—especially twins—because inbreeding is the best way to produce powerful Shanir. Twin marriage was especially valuable for this, since it reinforced traits so strongly in offspring. It's also worth noting that among the Kencyrath, inbreeding sometimes produces crazies, but it doesn't produce sickly or deformed children. Because of Gerridon and Jamethiel's infamy, they've kinda stopped inbreeding since the Fall—although the Ardeth still do. But because of the old tradition, the Kencyrath now see incest as—at worst—a bad idea, not creepy or immoral.
    • Gerridon and Jamethiel are a Subverted case of Villainous Incest. They're twins, consorts, and the most infamous people in the entire history of the Kencyrath. But what at first looks like obviously Villainous Incest slowly gets subverted, as the reader learns about the tradition of inbreeding, and the way incest is seen in Kencyr culture. Gerridon and Jamethiel's incest is never portrayed as wrong—it was the Fall that made them evil; their incest was morally neutral. And by the time the protagonists start getting incestuous, there's no doubt it has been subverted.
    • Jame and Tori are a case in the making. They have UST, including various fantasies, an Erotic Dream or two, and a Big Damn Kiss Mother Ragga's house in To Ride a Rathorn (though Tori's emotions and his issues—his fear of and jealousy of Jame, among others—get in the way, and he runs away). The idea of being her brother's consort clearly arouses Jame at one point. Later, the two of them dance together and obvious, magical sexual power builds between them. After everything that happened with Gerridon and Jamethiel, Jame wonders at one point if anyone knew they were twins, would they throw them together, or never let them meet again.
  • Unequal Pairings: Highborn men commonly have dalliances with Kendar women, because they can. Bane, Keral, Shade, Vant's mother, and Drie are all born of such unions.
    Vant: Anyway, did you think that the Caineron are the only house whose Highborn make sport with their Kendar?
  • Unicorn: But different; the rathorns are carnivorous, two-horned armored unicorns that are known man-eaters.
  • The Wall Around the World: The Barrier, which encircles all of Rathillien. At first it just sounds like it's far to the north, by the Haunted Lands, but its in the south too, by the Southern Wastes.
    Jame: Our scrollsmen tell us that it's round, like every other threshold world we've encountered. So what's on its far side?
  • Watching Troy Burn: Tai-tastigon is burning when Jame and Marc leave.
  • Water Is Air: Though only in sacred space, it seems. Jame and Prid find themselves able to breathe underwater in the presence of the Eaten One.
  • Weddings for Everyone (Downplayed): God Stalk ends with two engagements: Cleppetty + Sart Nine-toes, and Rothan + Kithra.
  • When Trees Attack: The willow tree in To Ride a Rathorn. The very same tree pops up again from time to time over the next few books. In The Sea of Time, Tori finally gets fed up with problems caused by hunting it and decrees that it shall no longer be hunted as long as it is on Knorth lands.
  • White Stallion: Death's-head is a white rathorn stallion, and Jame riding such a beast into battle is definitely this trope. In a twist on the trope, her other mount, the whinno-hir Bel-tairi, is a white mare, but still fulfills the requirements of the trope.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The Book Bound in Pale Leather is full of them, and the curses from a maledight like Brenwyr are quite real too.

Alternative Title(s): Chronicles Of The Kencyrath