A trilogy of books by C.S. Friedman that successfully manages to combine the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. The books' titles in order are Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows. There is also a short story prequel, Dominion, which takes place about five hundred years before Black Sun Rising.The story takes place on Erna, a planet colonized many centuries ago by humans who soon realized that a mysterious force originating from the planet, the fae, had the power to let their subconscious emotions such as their desires and especially their fear affect their environment and even create embodied creatures out of their nightmares. These creatures, called faeborn or in some cases demons, feed from humans, sometimes literally, sometimes in a more subtle way. They vary greatly in shape and strength. Some are literally gods that humans worship (and thus feed) in exchange for favours and help.In return, some humans have managed to manipulate the fae to their need by using symbolism and the pattern of sacrifice, practicing Sorcery. Some humans, the Adepts, have even adapted to Erna to the point that they are born with the ability to perceive the fae and manipulate it instinctively. There exist four different kinds of fae:
Earth fae originates from Erna's frequent seismic activity and is the one most often used by humans.
Solar fae originates from the sun's light when it touches the atmosphere, it usually cannot be used unless a massive amount of people are concentrating on the same thing.
Tidal fae is tied to the gravity of the different moons of Erna and their alignments. No human is known to be able to use this very subtle force.
Dark fae originates in true darkness, either from subterranean places that never see light, or during True Night, during those lapse of time when no moon nor star light the sky. As powerful as it is dangerous, it is implied that the demonic Hunter is the only fleshborn who can utilize it directly.
The fae renders technology unreliable because people's fear affects its operation. As a result, the civilization of Erna has fallen down into a medieval level of technology. Some 1,000 years ago, some of the people who yearned for their Earth heritage created the Church. Based upon the writing of the Prophet, they hope that by garnering enough faith and mass symbolism to affect the fae on a macro scale they can manage to join/create the God of Earth and free themselves from the effect of the fae.The story centers around the characters of Father Damien Kilcannon Vryce, a priest and warrior who also practices Healing sorcery, and Gerald Tarrant, the Neocount of Merentha, a mysterious Adept who allies himself with Damien Vryce for his own reason. Damien is seeking to kill demons to allow Ciani, the woman he's in a relationship with, to recover her memory and Adept abilities, sucked away by demons. Their quest will bring them to a deeper, more complex threat.See Magister Trilogy for another of C.S. Friedman's work involving magic and the cost of using it.
This series provides examples of:
Aerith and Bob: Names like Gerald and Damien appear alongside names like Senzei and Ciani.
Action Girl: Hesseth. Tabra Zefila too, for the few pages that we even know her.
Affably Evil: Tarrant, who has both his cruelty, harsh pragmatism, and impeccable, old world manners.
The Undying Prince as well, for the small parts we see him.
After the End: Subverted since the trilogy takes place years and years after such a period, where humanity is back on its feet but nowhere near its former glory.
A God Am I: This is not too difficult to accomplish on Erna. Demons often play gods—Karril is a fairly benign example. Calesta and the Undying Prince both aspire to this, and offer it to Gerald Tarrant in return for his support. They don't know that Tarrant represents a subversion of this trope in that godhood is against his principles. The Mother acts like this to the Iezu.
Alien Sky: In a number of ways. Erna has three moons—Prima, Domina, and Casca—and a slightly Weird Sun that is noted to be whiter than Earth's. The planet's position in the Milky Way causes most stars to appear in one of two clusters—the Core, (the center of the galaxy,) and the Rim. True Night occurs after all these bodies have set.
All Myths Are True: Creatures like vampires and sirens exist because the fae creates them out of people's subconscious.
Always Chaotic Evil: Averted, even with the demons. While they're all dangerous, they're not all evil, and some can be quite helpful if you know how to work with them.
Ancient Conspiracy: Evil plots often take multiple centuries to orchestrate, and time is no object to the villains.
And I Must Scream: The Undying Prince's victims when he pulls a Grand Theft Me. They're aware of whatever he's doing, see through his eyes, but can't move their body at all. The Prince usually stays in them for three to four decades, and when he finally releases them, most of them have been driven insane.
Gerald Tarrant: I am the first—and only—Neocount of Merentha.
Badass in Distress: Both Tarrant and Vryce end up in this situation at least once a book. Since they're fighting things that are way beyond their power (particularly for Vryce), it's to be expected. And since Tarrant's the bigger threat, he gets in these situations more often.
In the first book, Tarrant is crucified and trapped in a fire, and is just barely keeping himself alive. In the second, he's chained to the top of the Undying Prince's tower, where the focused light of the sun will kill him. And in the third, he's in hell.
Bigger Bad: The Nameless. The ultimate evil, but he/she/it/they doesn't direct or drive the plot nearly as much as Calesta does.
Book Ends: The plot really starts to kick in when Ciani gets attacked and all of her collections and her valuable library is burned down. The plot more or less comes to a close when Gerald Tarrant dies and his library and his castle is burned to the ground.
Brought Down to Normal: By the end of the series, everyone. Damien gets some satisfaction out of this when he sees Tarrant's new incarnation get a little dirty and he can't automatically groom himself anymore.
Bus Crash: Rasya. Her foreign appearance gets her killed by a mob suspicious of the strange.
The Bus Came Back: Subverted. In Crown of Shadows, Karril takes her form when he guides Damien through Tarrant's hell.
Catchphrase: Damien Vryce's, "Damn you, Tarrant!" Lampshaded later, when he wonders when he started not to really mean it.
Cat Girl: The Rakh are basically lion-people in terms of physical appearance. Hesseth is the most prominent example, both of the trope and her species in general.
Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the first novel, there's an apparent throwaway scene in which The Hunter, traveling in disguise, promises a young woman that she will come to no harm by his hands. She reappears at the end of the novel when Calesta tries to trick the Hunter into killing her. The Hunter rescues her and gives her a safe-passage token; she disappears from the story. Both she and the safe-passage token reappear as major elements of the third novel.
Tarrant's damaged heart, mentioned in the prologue of Black Sun Rising that threatens his life and consequently kicks off his Start of Darkness. He has a congenital heart defect, and the instant he becomes human again it comes back with a vengeance, severely weakening him.
Chessmaster: Calesta. The Undying Prince. Tarrant is perfectly capable of this, though normally he prefers manipulating the environment to people.
Cold Flames: The Anti-Villain developed his own version of fire magic that burns cold rather than hot. As an undead, it's the only way he can safely wield fire.
Corrupt Church: The Matria-led church in the east, much to Damien's horror. But subverted—the Matria are the only corruption, and have complete control over those who follow them, but the faith is kept pure.
Costume Porn: C.S. Friedman was a costume designer before she was a writer; she always goes into loving detail when describing particularly elegant clothing. Gerald Tarrant gets these descriptions the most.
Cowboy Cop: Damien is this, plus Church Militant and a side of Good Shepherd. He takes his public service (primarily demon slaying) very seriously, but will flout the rules to accomplish demon slaying. Except for harming innocents. It takes him a long time to cross that line. The follow-through on Cowboy Cop, Turn In Your Badge, shows up in the third novel.
Crapsaccharine World: Mercia, where the absolute faith of the people have ensured both their safety and a technological superiority over that of the westerners. However, their faith crosses over to extremism—adepts are slaughtered, and some children are raised purely as sacrifices to kill the malevolent faeborn monsters that wait just outside the city boundaries.
Creepy Child: The Terata, a tribe of lost children who seem off somehow. Most of them aren't actually children at all—they're physically malformed, psychologically stunted adults made unaware of the effects of time, illness, and injury on their bodies thanks to a veil of illusion.
Cult: Many of the Iezu act as gods to their own minor religions, some of which are more cult-like than others.
The Terata... kind of.
Da Chief: The Patriarch, so very much—he is the exacting, intimidating, by-the-book foil to Cowboy Cop Damien.
Dark and Troubled Past: Gerald Tarrant. Before he makes his Deal with the Devil, he lived most of his life during the brutal end years of Erna's Dark Ages, under the tyranny of both his father and the "sibling cruelty" of his eight older brothers. It was bad enough that their deaths at his hand are among his most pleasing memories.
Tarrant theorizes that this is also the reason behind the Master's insane need for power.
The Dark Side: The Church disapproves of using fae because it reinforces the pattern of its answering human imagination. Yet Damien still uses it, as long as he believes it's necessary and not a selfish use. Tarrant of course has no such compunction, and they often argue about it. Also how Senzei got convinced of stealing the Fire in hope of becoming an Adept.
Deal with the Devil: A major theme of the trilogy. People who strike these bargains pay with their humanity, identity, and personal agency. The Hunter got his demonic attributes through a very well negotiated one of these. Damien's arrangement with Tarrant is a form of this—he pays with the erosion of his morality. The villains who do a pact with Calesta or the Unnamed always fare badly. Lots of deals for everyone.
The entire interaction with the Fae is actually dictated by a Deal with the Devil of sorts. One of the original human colonists, Ian Casca, realized that there was a force on Erna that was interacting with them. He established a means of communicating with the fae through ritual and sacrifice by detonating the mothership that brought them to the planet. His efforts made sorcerers, adepts, and long-term life on Erna possible, but his fellow colonists killed him for it.
Death Trap: Tarrant falls into one where he experiences getting burned again and again as soon as he heals himself. Fun times.
Defrosting Ice King: Tarrant. Damien guesses that spending time with people, instead of brooding in the dark fae-infested Forest, is making him more human. Lampshaded when Damien says that it was easier to deal with him when he was nastier.
It betrays him, at the end of When True Night Falls—Tarrant accidentally shows Toshida a vision of the corrupted Church if it continues, bringing the leader to his senses and possibly saving thousands or millions of lives in the process. This breaks the contract he made with the Nameless and vulnerable to their wrath.
Determinator: The Hunter allows nothing to stand between him and success—he determines what is most likely to work and makes it work. Amazing feats are routine, and the shadow of his Moral Event Horizon loom behind them all.
Disproportionate Retribution: The Hunter's standard modus operandi. The town of Mordreth in particular has drawn the Hunter's wrath: in one case where some people tried to overthrow him, the Hunter responded by impaling twenty heads minus eyes and tongues on the stakes just outside the gates of the city. On another briefly-mentioned incident, when another group tried to set the Forest on fire, the Mordreth Massacre occurred: the Hunter turned the thriving port into a ghost town overnight.
Doing in the Wizard : It's hinted from the first book on, but the third book outright states that the inhabitants of the world are descendants of space travelers and the most powerful gods and demons are advanced aliens.
Driven to Suicide: Tarrant strikes a bargain with a woman on the trip back to the western: if she survives for five months while he feeds on her fear, he'll free her and make her a wealthy woman. She doesn't make it, and throws herself off the ship.
Earn Your Happy Ending: The series really ends like this, more than a Bittersweet Ending. Plenty of people died to get there, and plenty of sacrifices were made, but at the end the world has changed for the better. With their lives no longer under the mercy of the fae, people are safer from the terrors that it once spawned; humans are also free to finally tap into Earth science now that their own doubts no longer hold them back.
Most definitely one for Andrys Tarrant. It's easy to forget that he's just one of the many victims of the Hunter, since he throws his lot in with Calesta early in the third book. At the end of Crown of Shadows, he even comes to forgive the Hunter (somewhat), killing his identity instead of his life.
It doesn't seem like one for Damien Vryce at first, but it's really just the shock of the world changing so quickly, as well as the apparent death of Gerald Tarrant, that keeps him in place for so long. Otherwise, the book implies that he'll be fine.
It's also a documented philosophy of the church: Set evil against evil. With a little luck, they'll destroy each other.
Fake Defector: Tarrant pretends to accept the Undying Prince's offer to give Damien one good shot at trying to kill the Prince. Too bad it didn't work.
Fate Worse than Death: Tarrant is chained in an eternal fire constantly burning and regenerating, with no way to free himself.
Faux Death: Tarrant erasing his identity as the Hunter and the Prophet and changing his appearance at the end.
Subverted somewhat in that since magic now requires self-sacrifice, "Gerald Tarrant" and "The Hunter" both actually need to be destroyed as entities. What's left afterward isn't Tarrant anymore and can't even acknowledge that he once was except in the most oblique fashion or his sacrifice is lost.
The Fettered: Damien and Tarrant are both bound to strict codes of conduct. Damien has his priestly vows. Tarrant has terms of his demonic pact (and the personal code that lets him maintain his human psyche on top of that). Damien and Tarrant's interactions with each other degrade their ability to hold to their codes.
Fire-Forged Friends: Most definitely Gerald and Damien at the end of the series. When Andrys "kills" Gerald, Damien mourns the death of his friend.
First Name Basis: Supposing you have the standard number of fingers, you have enough to count the total number of times Damien and Tarrant address each other by their first names. Tarrant calls Damien by his first name twice in the course of the trilogy. Don't expect any in the first book.
Genocide Backfire: Tarrant runs a grizzly sort of heredity experiment on his own descendants. He periodically goes back and murders the whole clan, leaving one survivor—the one who looks most like him. Of course, this bites him in the ass when the current sole survivor plays a key role in the Calesta's scheme to destroy him.
The Good, the Bad, and the Evil: Damien is the good, Tarrant is the bad, Calesta and his partners/pawns are the evil, and the Nameless is the off-the-chart evil.
Grand Theft Me: The source of the Undying Prince's immortality, though he still has a tenuous link to his original body, which he keeps preserved in an undisclosed location to act somewhat like a Soul Jar.
Jenseny. She tricks the Undying Prince into possessing her, tempting him with her ability to tap into the tidal fae. She then kills herself, killing him in the process.
Gerald Tarrant, at the top of Shaitan, in an act of altruism anathema to Calesta's existence. Of course, since this is Tarrant, it doesn't stick.
The Patriarch, who sacrifices his life to ensure both that none of his followers turn to violence after their war on the Forest, and in fulfillment of the Church's dream: a world where the fae no longer dominate their lives.
Identical Grandson: Andrys looking so much like his grand-grand-grand-and some-father is quite handy to the plot. This isn't accidental. The Hunter has been performing a kind of negative eugenic experiment by periodic slaughter of all his descendants except the one who looks most like him.
I Did What I Had to Do: Tarrant's justification for some of the things he does, if he bothers giving any. Damien grudgingly learns this reasoning from him.
The Igor: Gerald Tarrant's albino servant, Amoril.
I Have Many Names: Tarrant has a lot of titles, almost all of them spoilers. The Hunter, the Prophet, Premier of the Order of the Golden Flame, Neocount of Merentha ...to name the major ones.
Incurable Cough of Death: Tarrant, so it doesn't stick. However, the show of weakness is so uncharacteristic it shocks everyone into silence. Also significant: first, following the direction of the wind shows the party where Senzei's corpse is; second, they discover that they've lost the Fire in the flask; and third, the unnaturally generated wind shows them that it's of the Master's making.
Intergenerational Friendship: Ciani and Senzei, although it doesn't look like it since Ciani looks like she's in her thirties. They first met when Senzei was just a child.
Jacob Marley Apparel: The shadows of the dead in Crown of Shadows are gruesome examples of the "stuck in the moment of death" type. The Gorn is justified in that they're moments of violent death given form by the fae rather than "lost souls".
Kill and Replace: The eastern rakh to some leaders of the protectorates, starting with Kierstaad.
Andrys gets literal shining armor, but any delusions of shining knighthood are crushed quickly.
Ladykiller in Love: Andrys, when he falls in love with Narilka. Emphasized later during their wedding, when all the women he previously dated try their luck with him again, only to find that he's truly quite in love with her.
Load-Bearing Boss: The Undying Prince. His death causes the Wardings between the rakh and the humans in the north of the east continent to fall. The humans immediately begin massacring and purging any trace of the rakh—even when it turns to other humans, who they believe had any contact with them.
The Hunter too, for the Forest. When his connection to it is severed, the Forest immediately loses its meticulous balance, and its inhabitants start turning on each other. And then Amoril takes over...
Lost Colony: Played with somewhat. The setting is low-tech, yes, but the people of Erna all know they're descended from Earth colonists. They know that their ancestors had advanced technology too, but absolutely none of it remains.
And then a very late example in Almea for her husband, Tarrant. Her ghost—inspired by the last moments of love she felt for her husband before she died—helps lead Tarrant and Vryce through Calesta's illusions and to Shaitan.
Mad Scientist: Tarrant. For instance, his accomplishments in genetics and heredity are impressive, yet horrifying.
The Magic Goes Away: By the end of the series, humanity loses the ability to manipulate the fae, but can no longer be manipulated by it; the rules have been changed through the actions of Gerald Tarrant and the Patriarch of Vryce's Church so that the fae responds only to self-sacrifice.
The Magnificent: Several people have these kind of titles, such as the Master of Lema and the Undying Prince. Gerald Tarrant has several—the Hunter, the Prince of Jahanna, the Neocount of Merentha, and the Prophet.
Villainous characters appreciate how violating it is to rifle through the minds of captives for information. Exploited when Damien deliberately gets captured to feed false information at the end of Black Sun Rising.
Tarrant comes close to this at times when he compels traumatized people to relate the horrible things they've been through in order to learn what the enemy is up to.
Monster Misogyny: Justified Trope: The Hunter targets beautiful, young women because it's apparently an effective way to terrorize a population. Of course, aesthete that he is, he just likes it better this way.
Mordor: The Wasting in When True Night Falls, designed by the Undying Prince to ward off opponents.
Non-Action Guy: Senzei. His powerlessness, lust for power, and their dependency on Tarrant are what the Master's demon plays on to make him try to take the Fire.
Obstructive Code of Conduct: The rules that Iezu must obey. The terms of his compact that Tarrant cannot breach. The rules of the Church Damien tries to uphold.
Our Vampires Are Different: Played straight, but there are implications of inversion too. The Hunter is the main subject of this trope, and he is an Emotion Eater, preferring to feed on fear and other negative emotions rather than blood (though he can make do with blood if necessary). Ordinary vampires are out there as well—fae constructs that the reader may assume conform to the popular conception of vampires. The Hunter claims he started out as one of these, but he's since surpassed "mere" vampirism.
It's actually implied in spots that he actually started out as a cannibal; vampirism was a stepping stone to what he is now.
Pet the Dog: Tarrant giving toys for Jenseny to play with.
Earlier in the trilogy, in a moment of magnanimity, Tarrant giving Narilka his word that harm would not come to her. As mentioned above, comes in handy in the final book.
Pretty Boy: Tarrant skirts this line. In the very first chapter, his wife even describes his features as being almost feminine, and perhaps would be on another man. His new incarnation at the end of Crown of Shadows is even more so, as well as being younger, shorter, and with longer, waist-length hair.
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Hesseth and the Rakh. The males of the species are especially described this way. Hesseth still qualifies, despite claiming a greater degree of sensibility and mocking the male Rakh.
Satanic Archetype: The Nameless and Calesta split this between them. The Nameless is the most powerful evil force in the trilogy, explicitly referred to as "Erna's Devil", but is in many ways more Eldritch Abomination-y than traditional devil. Calesta is not a counterpart to Satan in terms of his role in the cosmology, but he sure does act like him.
Spanner in the Works: Jenseny for Tarrant's plan to take them to the Undying Prince. Subverted since it turns out to be not a good thing—the long journey takes them into the Wasting, where they wear themselves out and lose Hesseth.
Stealth Hi/Bye: Tarrant gets moments like these at the beginning of the trilogy, when Damien's still suspicious of him.
This Is Not a Floor: Calesta never harms people directly, but his illusion powers make it easy to keep people from noticing imminent threats as great as incoming tidal waves and as literal as deceptive floors.
To Hell and Back: Literally, when Karril and Damien rescue Tarrant from his personal hell.
Try to Fit That on a Business Card: Damien Kilcannon Vryce—Knight of King Gannon's Order of the Golden Flame, Companion of the Earth-Star Ascendant. Reverend Father of the Church of the Unification of Human Faith on Erna.
Was Once a Man: Happens to Amoril twice. The first time is in Dominion, where he's introduced as a former sorcerer who tried to conquer the Forest but failed. Tarrant transforms him back into a human. The second time, in ''Crown of Shadows'... he's not so lucky.
Wizards Live Longer: It's not that difficult for sorcerers to undo the effects of aging. Ciani is seventy, but looks like she's in her thirties. Really determined sorcerers (the Hunter or the Undying Prince for instance) can effect immortality.
Would Hurt a Child: The priests of the east continent would, for the sake of keeping their city free from the faeborn. And of course, Tarrant would.
You All Meet in an Inn: Doesn't fully play the trope, but Senzei, Ciani, and Damien do first meet Gerald Tarrant in a tavern. Only this time they're the ones in the dark, shadowy corner, watching him.
You Have No Chance to Survive: When trapped in Hell, the Nameless agree to let Tarrant go, under the condition that he find another way to sustain his life at the end of the thirty days or he just dies again. He doesn't, so he does die, but he's revived by the Iezu Mother, rendering the contract void.
Your Worst Nightmare: Subverted. Damien actually agreed Tarrant would cause these, in order to feed from them.