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
  2. Dark of the Moon
  3. Seeker's Mask
  4. To Ride a Rathorn
  5. Bound in Blood
  6. Honor's Paradox
  7. Sea of Time (published June 2014)
  • Blood and Ivory: A Tapestry (collection)

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. 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 page. There is also a Wild Mass Guess page for crazy theories.

This work provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ganth—dear lord, Ganth! Take a look at Tori and Jame and remember the only reason Jame is as well-balanced as she seems is because she got away from him early—that's right, the twin that lived in Perimal Darkling, the heart of evil, is better adjusted. Ganth's father also counts.
    • Probably Caldane as well, though how much he considers Graykin his son is debatable as the Kencyr attitude towards illegitimate children is that they don't have relatives. Rawneth might count as well, though she'd be more of an Abusive Grandparent towards Shade—maybe.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • Arc Number: Three, and multiples of three, are a recurring motif of the Kencyrath.
    • The Kencyr creator deity is the Three-Faced God, personifiying respectively creation (Torrigon), preservation (Argentiel) and destruction (Regonoreth).
    • Ominously, the ruling House Knorth has only three surviving full-blood members, literally a sign of the apocalypse.
    • Three races of the Kencyrath: Highborn, Kendar and Arrin-Ken.
    • Three objects of power: The Book Bound in Pale Leather, the Serpent-Skin Cloak and the Ivory Knife.
    • Three professional colleges that operate independently of the feudal structure (one doesn't, in fact, but its patronage by House Randir is a bad thing): 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 kencyr is a legal adult.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Or at least, the system in the Kencyr is evil, even if not all the aristocrats really are. Jame, and her twin brother Torisen to a lesser extent, are both frequently disgusted by the behavior of their own Highborn caste.
  • Assimilation Academy: The Women's Halls at Gothregor. The girls and young women sent there are not only taught the secrets of the "Women's World", they're also taught to behave as befits a Highborn female, which means to accept that their only real purpose is being married off to further their house's ambitions. Jame doesn't take kindly or well to it; the Jaran don't send their daughters there unless the girl wants to go. The Priests' College also has this as a goal.
  • 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: Jame and Gran Cyd in Bound in Blood. 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.
  • 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.
  • Battle Cry: Each Kencyr house has its own battle-cry. The Knorth one, the house of Jame and her twin Torisen, is the cry of a rathorn, a sound which appears to (magically?) strike terror into opponents.
  • 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.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: The Dark Judge, an Arrin-ken who was badly tortured. Subverted in that it is still an enemy of the torturer, instead it went mad and nihilistic.
  • 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.
    • Inverted in Bound in Blood when Tori is mistaken a couple of times for her.
    • Also Kirien, who also is legally regarded as male. But in her case, only a few know she's a she. She doesn't try to hide that she's female; it's just that no one notices.
    • 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.
  • Bonding Over Missing Parents: Jame and Prid, both of whose mothers died horribly.
  • 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.
  • 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 of the Academy of 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.
  • 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.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: For Jame and Torisen. Both were raised in exile by an Ax-Crazy father; Jame got kicked out at age seven after showing her Shanir (God-touched) nature by developing claws; Torisen ran away at age fifteen, in fear that his father would eventually kill him (and ended up being captured and extensively tortured by savages during a war). Jame ran straight into minions of the Big Bad and was raised in his house, something she doesn't mention much.
  • Decadent Court: The so-called poison courts of the Central Lands are said to be this. (These are the courts of seven minor kingdoms, who are always squabbling with each other, often using Kencyr mercenaries.)
  • Deuteragonist: Torisen, to Jame's protagonist.
  • Dramatis Personae: The characters are helpfully listed at either the beginning or end of the books.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: Kin-Slayer is portrayed as a weapon which doesn't want to be put in the scabbard without having killed someone first.
  • Dream Land: Every Kencyr has a soulscape which can be accessed during sleep, regular or dwar. Jame and Tori, as twins, frequently shared each other soulscapes as children (much to Tori's chagrin and occasionally Jame's mild embarrassment, they still do). The fifth book confirms that all of the soulscapes are linked during sleep, although knowingly traveling between them is rare. Shanir Healers work by determining the soulscape of the injured person and repairing damage to it.
  • 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.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Jame's response to the Shotgun Wedding to Prid is to get very, very drunk.
  • 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 noone 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, making Jame not a princess.
  • The Exile: In the backstory: Ganth, and then Torisen from Ganth. Kendar, like Marc, without a lord to follow. 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 Counterpart Culture: The Kencyr have a lot of Jewish inspiration, being monotheists in a polytheist world, and having a tough, unforgiving God who cares more about obedience than faith or love. They have Temples and Books of Law and quite a bit of the whole Kabbalah-like secret knowledge in the priesthood, and they're wandering tribes who don't fit in where they live, far from their long-ago-lost homeland. On the other hand, their honor code, ritual suicide, and martial arts have Japanese inspiration, the cloistering and covering-up of Highborn women is rather reminiscent of Islam, and their God is a Trinity of three gods in one person as per Christianity or Hinduism.
  • 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: The Highborn 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-Forged Friends: Jame and Gorbel, although he hides it. Even though his father wants nothing more than for Jame to be killed or ruined, he refuses to kill Jame even when she begs for it.
  • 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).
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Played with, when Jame tries to find a name for her blood-bound rathorn colt (a carnivorous and deadly armored unicorn, basically).
    Jame: Death's-head. Are you sure you want that for a name?
    Death's-head: [hisses
    Jame: All right, all right. After all, that's what you are. Death's-head and Nemesis it is, then, although for the element of surprise I would have preferred Snowball and Buttercup.
  • Freakiness Shame: Jame's claws, which are a major source of shame for her and most Highborn.
  • 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 Kencyr 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.
  • Get Out: Kinzi delivers one after she forces Rawneth down when she's about to blood-bind Greshan. Rawneth gets her back for that, but still…
    "Not today. Not while I live. Go, snake-heart. Now."
    And Rawneth went, out of the room, out of the Knorth quarters, out of Gothregor.
  • 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.
  • Grew a Spine:
    • Donkerri ordering the Caineron troops to their posts in the end-battle in Dark of the Moon, countermanding his grandfather's orders.
    • A plot arc for Torisen in his relation to Adric, Lord Ardeth in the same book.
  • 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.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The pommel of the Ivory Knife has three faces on it, Maiden, Mother and Crone. Jame sees herself in the Maiden and her mother in the Mother, and sometimes in the Crone.
  • Hellish Horse: Rathorns are carnivorous armored unicorns matching many of these tropes, being fanged, double-horned (nose and forehead), red-eyed, and armored with ivory-like plates on head, neck, chest and forelegs. The armor plates continue to grow as long as the rathorn is alive, so the really old ones are also in constant pain and likely to smother in their own armor. They are notorious man-killers with really bad tempers, and are generally some combination of black and white, from all-black to all-white or various combinations.
  • 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.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs:
    Kindrie: You can serve a rathorn rabbit, but you can't make him eat it.
  • The Horde: The Waster Horde
  • Horsing Around: Jame's bound rathorn, Death's-head, is very prone to this; he likes to challenge Jame and show that he isn't subservient, even if he's bound to her.
  • I Am Not My Father: This is a motivation and a source of conflict for many of the Tentir cadets, and others:
    • Timmon, after he learns the truth about his father rather than the lies he's always been told.
    • Torisen, who is very determined to not be his father, but worries that he might turn into him.
    • Shade, with her Changer blood, is determined to do right yet worried that it leaves her cursed, Fallen.
    • Gorbel, whose earliest memory is his father killing his mother.
    • Jame herself, in her determination to be a force for good and not a tool for Gerridon like her 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: Jame gives several in Honor's Paradox, but the most important is the last line in the book, when she reveals her full name to Tentir and thus (sooner or later) the entire Kencyr.
  • Invulnerable Horses: very much averted here, 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".
  • Living Shadow: Willow is a dead little girl whose bones are found by Torisen, but her spirit is still around and casts a shadow. As it turns out, she's Marc's younger sister and he proceeds to safe-keep her bones from fire so that he can keep her near to him at the cost of barring her from the afterlife.
  • 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.
  • Lottery of Doom: In the Merikit feast at the Spring Equinox in honor of the Eaten One, a fish carved out of rock crystal is added to the fish stew served to the residents of the Maidens' Lodge. The unlucky girl who finds it in her stew is the chosen sacrifice to the Eaten One that year.
  • 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.
  • Martyrdom Culture: The Kencyr. They are more than half in love with death and dying with honor.
  • 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...
  • Moral Myopia: Many of the Kencyr Highborn; the Ardeth are particularly noticeable in that regard, since they're not generally on the side of ill, yet are very blind to the things they do to others.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Tirandys, wholly aware of the wrong his Master does, but duty-bound to follow him. However, his honor only binds him to obey Gerridon's Exact Words; he deliberately interprets his orders in whatever way will gain his Master least advantage.
    • The original Jamethiel (and probably several of the other Changers, at least originally) count as well.
      • Averted in Dark of the Moon when the original Jamethiel decides to die and fall into the abyss rather than harm her daughter, Jame.
    • 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 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. So she gives Jame a mask and then they sit talking and eating with Jame otherwise naked.
  • Nay-Theist: Jame. This is largely what drives her experiments with divinity in God Stalk, to satisfy her curiosity—since she lacks reverence for the deities, she is able to study them clinically.
    • Honestly, most of the Kencyrath are like this. They respect and to an extent revere their god, but like the thing? Not in a million years.
  • 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.
  • Ninja: The Shadow Guild assassins, who are definitely not Highly Visible Ninja, literally; they tattoo their bodies including their eyeballs with the juice of the invisible mere plant, which makes them invisible themselves once it is completed. Initiates wear clothing made from the fibers of the same plant.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Averted. Lesbian relationships are very traditional among Highborn women. Adiraina is over 120, lesbian or bi, and still in love with her late sister-kin Kinzi. Kinzi was pretty old by the time she was killed, so she counts too.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Jorin, Jame's blind ounce (a medium-sized spotted big cat) is pretty much her only constant companion. Sometimes he's useful, sometimes he needs to be rescued, and sometimes he's comic relief. It's likely that Death's Head will take on a similar role as well (albeit requiring less in the way of rescuing). Jame and Jorin share limited sensory input—he's aware of what she sees, she can sometimes sense what he hears or smells.
    • Also, the Wolver Yce for Tori in the fourth and fifth books, and the wyrm "Beauty" for a Darkling Changer and, judging from Bound in Blood, potentially Graykin in the future.
  • No Periods, Period: In four 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.
  • One-Hit Kill: The Ivory Knife is the holy artifact of Destruction, and instantly kills with the merest scratch. Jame carries this for a large portion of books 2 and 3.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Wolvers are not humans that take wolf form, but wolves that take human form. They are born in the form of a wolf and develop the ability to take human form later in childhood. Also see Humanity Ensues, kinda.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Haunts, dead reanimated by Perimal Darkling, are pretty standard zombies: dying unburned in the Haunted Lands turns you into one, as does being bitten if the infection kills you. Singer Ashe, however, becomes a haunt through an infected bite and carries on as if nothing happened, although with insight into the world of the dead. And then we get a zombie salmon...
  • Parental Issues: Almost too many to list, but here's a start.
    • Jame's absent mother 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 a 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).
    • Ardeth are (basically) well-meaning Chessmasters
    • Brandan are solid, dependable, and unimaginative
    • Cainerons are selfish and greedy
    • Coman are pugnacious
    • Danior are small and cute
    • Edirr are tricksters
    • Jaran are absent-minded scholars
    • Knorth are inspiring leaders who are a little bit crazy (or a lot, depending on the Knorth in question).
    • Randir are secretive, fanatical, and manipulative
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • Reality Changing Miniature: Featured in the short story "Bones".
  • Rearing Horse: Rathorns are made to fight like this, with armored forelegs, chest, belly and head, sharp dewclaws on the forelegs, and fangs.
  • 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"
  • 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.
  • Ruling Family Massacre: The Knorth Massacre. Only Ganth was intentionally not killed.
  • 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.
  • 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…"
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Doesn't really occur, but it's Discussed by Adiraina.
    Adiraina: You cut, so as not to kiss.
  • The Squad: Jame acquires one in Seeker's Mask. It's then made permanent when she enrolls at Tentir in To Ride a Rathorn.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: This will be the sign that the primal chaos of Perimal Darkling has broken the barriers holding it back from yet another world.
  • Succession Crisis: The Coman in Dark of the Moon—their old lord died without naming an heir. The family thinks the eldest son is an Inadequate Inheritor, so they Offered the Crown to a different guy. The eldest son isn't down with that.
  • 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.
  • Theme Naming:
    • Alphabetical Theme Naming: Most of the Highborn seem to have letter-themed names within each House, such as a lot of G-names in the Knorth.
    • Floral Theme Naming: Female Kendar almost universally have plant-based names, such as Rue and Brier.
      • Male Kendar have plant-based names too—like Burr and Bark.
  • Thieves' Guild: Tai-tastigon is in many respects Lankhmar, although even weirder. In fact, Marc and Jame are deliberately set up to be equivalent to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (albeit more so in the original short story, included in Blood and Ivory, that was later reworked into a chapter of God Stalk).
  • 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.
  • Timmy in a Well: Jame wakes up to find Shade's bound swamp adder, Addy, in bed with her, and works out that Shade must be in trouble. Shade is, in fact, literally down a well. However, Shade did not expect rescue; she sent Addy to Jame to keep her safe.
  • 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."
    • 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.)
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore (with a bit of Great Big Book of Everything): The Book Bound in Pale Leather was given to the Kencyr by their God, but it, like the God, is not entirely nice. Reading it is likely fatal, and copying it killed a priest after only a few pages. It contains Master Runes for doing all kinds of things, including transport to the next world in the chain. Jame reads entirely too much of it for her own good, and uses Master Runes to set a blizzard on fire, among other things.
  • 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:
    • Gerridon and Jamethiel
    • Potentially Jame and Tori. The sexual tension between Jame and her twin brother Torisen grows in Honor's Paradox. The idea of being her brother's consort clearly arouses her at one point. Later, the two of them dance together and obvious, magical sexual power builds between them.
    • Shanir powers were historically bred for by pairing close relatives, especially twins.
  • Unicorn: But different; the rathorns are carnivorous, two-horned armored unicorns that are known man-eaters.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: A Merikit maiden is sacrificed to the Eaten One at the Spring Equinox every year. If the sacrifice is accepted, she never returns; whether that means death or another fate is uncertain.
  • Vestigial Empire: Bashti and Hathir
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wife Husbandry: Attempted by Gerridon on Jame. Failed.
  • 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