The Doctrine of Labyrinths is a series of four fantasy novels by Sarah Monette, largely featuring the incredibly dysfunctional Lord Felix Harrowgate, a very powerful wizard who nearly managed to put his baseborn past and unsavory history behind him, and his equally-dysfunctional younger brother Mildmay, whose personality is just asfractured and whose past isjustasdismal.The character-driven plot is too complex to relate here; there are many sub-plots, minor characters, and dangling plot threads. As a whole, the books mainly focus on the emotional and psychological trauma that accompany Mildmay and Felix (and, occasionally, the guest protagonists of the third and fourth books), and how they heal from said trauma, with a heaping helping of additional trauma, abuse, magic, murder, and emotional regression to keep things interesting.Felix is generally a vain, self-centered ass, and Mildmay generally attempts to protect him and keep him out of trouble, with varying levels of success. Combine their wildly different personalities, two more first-person narrators, more minor characters than you can shake a stick at, an assload of labyrinths, and you've got The Doctrine of Labyrinths.Amongotherthings, the series should be noted for its extremely realistic portrayals of post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disordernote Which, Word Of God, Felix has, but lives in a world where diagnosis and treatment do not exist, clinical depression and the personality and behavioral consequences of childhood abuse; the characters never really get over what has happened to them, so much as... work through it to pass for halfway-normal, and slowly, eventually, heal.Set in a fantasy version of what roughly correlates to the Industrial Revolution-Era Francenote though in later books they hit a vaguely Victorian country complete with Steampunk magic, the series goes out of its way to subvert, avert, and deconstruct as many tropes as it possibly can, especially the Standard Fantasy Setting. Perhaps due to the subjectmatter it covers, the series is not very well known, which is a shame. However, it is very well-loved by those who do know it.The series consists of the books Mélusine, The Virtu, The Mirador, and Corambis. Sarah Monette has also written an additional side story, A Gift of Wings, set in the same universe but involving no interlocking characters. note A septad is seven of something, usually seven years. A decad is ten days. An indiction is one year. Any other terms the reader is unfamiliar with can probably be found in a larger, more extensive dictionary; they are all historical in nature.This series provides examples of:
Abusive Parents: Basically everyone, up to and including orphans... whose parental figures were abusive enough to make up for any ambiguity.
Agent Peacock: Felix is this trope to the very core: beautiful, vain, cruel, and shallow, but still an extremely powerful wizard.
Aloof Big Brother: Averted. Felix is so obviously not the more stable of the brothers, not that that's saying much.
Stephen would be a better example, particularly towards rebellious younger brother Shannon.
Animal Motifs: The magic of Felix' insanity causes him to see people with the heads of animals that represent them. Perhaps tellingly, Gideon is just a green blob.
Animal Theme Naming: Why hello there Mr. Mildmay the Fox. Likewise, Felix and Mehitabel share their names with famous cats.
And the Adventure Continues: The end of Corambis. The author has said she wanted to make it clear that the story didn't end with the narrative, and she definitely did.
Antihero: Felix is the Type IV variety, sometimes skirting type V (for example, when ordering Mildmay to kill Vey Coruscant or when torturing prostitutes). Mildmay at his best is Type II, but he generally stays at Type III and his past indicates Type IV.
The Apprentice: Felix takes Corbie as an apprentice after swearing off taking an apprentice for years for fear he'd abuse a young wizard as he was abused. To his amazement, he does a pretty good job.
Arc Words: Arguably, "The doctrine of labyrinths", or "Every maze has a monster at its heart." The continued motif of "the heart and the center of a labyrinth are not the same" also deserves honorable mention.
Attempted Rape: Far less common than actual rape. Discussion continues over whether this is a subversion, making the story more realistic, or... not. Honestly, a lot of the criticism for the series comes down to how this trope is handled.
Attention Whore: Methony is implied to be one. Felix can sometimes be one, too. It would be a gross understatement to say he loves attention, though it should be noted that Felix is far less comfortable with attention he earns without seeking it. As Mildmay observes, Felix doesn't like attention for his own achievements, just superficial things, like his looks.
Badass: Mildmay, through-and-through, even after his leg goes wonky. His reputation as a badass kept even an extremely powerful blood witch away from him and his girlfriend, until things went From Bad to Worse, and he was sold out to the police.
Felix is a magical badass, described as the most powerful wizard in around a century. The oaths he's taken as a Cabaline wizard, however, keep him from using his magic on people, which seriously dulls-down his on-screen Badass factor.
Mehitabel Parr, international spy and an actress so talented that her cover as an actress works flawlessly? Kay, kickass famous warrior since he was fourteen? All the Point of View characters are Badasses in their own right.
Badass in Distress: Mildmay is the resident Badass, but at one point he gets locked in a farmhouse cellar and has to get rescued by Felix who is completely insane at this point and fights like a little girl even at his best. Not to mention later, when the usually competent Mildmay is captured in the Bastion and has to be rescued Damsel in Distress style.
Badass Normal: Despite the fact that Mildmay is completely magicless, he never gets lost (even in ancient labyrinths and mazes), and is fully capable of taking out powerful wizards and heavily armed politicians.
Berserk Button: Felix has a number of triggers to set him off, namely Malkar, the Sim, Malkar, his Keeper, Malkar, that time when he was crazy, and Malkar. Mildmay's are people pitying him and people not understanding his speech. Shannon's is his mother and Stephen's is Felix. Gideon's is the Bastion. Basically the people in these books have a lot of issues, mmkay?
More importantly, Felix and Mildmay are each other's Berserk Buttons. Mess with one, and the other will go batfuck on you.
Big Brother Instinct: Mildmay is good with children and protective of them, even though his face tends to scare them.
He also has a serious case of this towards Felix from the moment they first meet, despite being six years younger. In Corambis, Felix develops a similar instinct, to the point where he turns to prostitution to raise money when Mildmay falls sick.
Bishōnen: Felix is described as "as beautiful as sunlight". Unfortunately for others, he also shamelessly uses his beauty to manipulate and control.
Blessed with Suck: Most of the characters with any significant talent, be it magic, larceny or good looks, end up paying for it more than they benefit. If they don't end up losing those skills outright in the most thematically ironic way possible.
"For all things worthwhile, you must suffer."
Blondes are Evil: Gloria Aestia, earning her the nickname 'the golden bitch'. People believe Shannon will follow suit if allowed to be Lord Protector (earning him the nickname 'the golden whelp').
Blood Magic: Malkar and Vey Coruscant are accomplished practitioners. Also Porphyria Levant, for historical figures. They have been using this to keep themselves young and vital for who knows how many years. Vey was terrorizing the Lower City when Felix and Mildmay were children, and when Mildmay killed her she didn't look a day over twenty. Judging by how long it's been since Porphyria Levant died, Malkar has been at it for at least two-hundred years.
Book Dumb: While Mildmay is quite intelligent, he's also functionally illiterate... until Felix begins to teach him to read in 'Corambis'.
Brains and Brawn: This is what Felix and Mildmay are, respectively, to outside eyes. However, it's really subverted, because while Mildmay never had formal education, he's still more sensible than Felix. Felix, who was educated, but only pragmatically, and as such has huge holes in his knowledge and habitually makes terrible decisions.
Bratty Teenage Daughter: Methony's motivation for basically sleeping with everyone in Nephele and then running away to Mélusine.
Brother-Sister Incest: It's hinted that Mad Elinor slept with her brother to produce her heir, Henry Ophidius. The other possibility was her father. Either way, Henry was 'a little peculiar'.
And then there's Felix and Mildmay, and the fact that everyone thought Mildmay was Kolkhis's little brother.
Mildmay: "What was I doing wrong that everybody thought I was committing incest once a decad?"
Buttmonkey: Just about every protagonist in the series is this to one degree or another. Most notably every character who gets a POV... and also Gideon.
Camp Gay: Felix is very fashion-conscious, refers to other people of both sexes as "darling" (usually when he wants to be mocking; it's something he picked up from Malkar), and also is extremely beautiful.
Card Sharp: Mildmay was trained as a card sharp while he was a kept thief. He is such a good card player that he pays his and Felix's traveling expenses without even needing to cheat.
Catch Phrase: "Fuck me sideways 'til I cry!" "Darling." "Acting the swan daughter."
Also: "Fuck this for the Emperor's snotrag!" and "Fuck this for a half-wit dog."
Not to mention "bitchkitty" and "Milly-Fox" and "eyes as big as bell wheels." Mildmay has a lot of these.
Character Development: The main arc of the story is centered on how Felix and Mildmay, and to a lesser extent Mehitabel and Kay accomplish this, becoming functioning members of society again, or... ever.
City Guards: The city watch if you're upper class. The Dogs if you're from the Lower City.
Classic Villain: Malkar, inverted/invoked/Lampshaded when Mildmay points out he was, "just like them evil wizards in stories," to which Felix notes, "he would have loved the comparison," implying Malkar was playing up a trope on purpose.
Combat Pragmatist: Mildmay. He's gone below the belt several times in fights, once even kicking Felix... anyway, yeah, he's gone below the belt several times.
Come to Gawk: Felix is paraded through Mélusine after he was framed for breaking the Virtu.
Kay is put on display in public after he's blinded and forced to surrender his army.
Cool Big Sis: Corbie slips herself into this role with Julian.
Mehitabel acts this way towards Felix and Mildmay, even though she later starts sleeping with Mildmay.
Creepy Blue Eyes: Felix, whose right eye is most definitely a Creepy Blue Eye as it's a strangely pale, cloudy blue. In the Lower City with its superstitions, this is blended with Occult Blue Eyes. Given his left eye is yellow, it creates an overall eerie effect that even Mildmay refers to as "spooky eyes."
Creepy Cemetery: The Boneprince. It has the ghosts of murdered children and everything.
Cult: Methony was in one when Mildmay was born, thus the ridiculous name she gave him, and Gideon's worship of the White-Eyed Lady.
Also, the ancient, and different, cult of the same White-Eyed Lady, which involves some pretty darn spooky labyrinths...
And the cult of The God of The Obscured Sun.
Mélusine (the city, not the book) is just chock full of cults!
Cynicism Catalyst: Joline is this for Felix. After she died, he never really trusted anyone until Mildmay.
Mildmay could count as this is some situations. As well as Gideon even after The Virtu when his tongue has been cut out. His conversations with Felix and Simon imply this. And Stephen, if the end of The Mirador is anything to go by.
Death by Origin Story: Methony, Joline, Iosephinus Pompey, Zephyr Wolsey, Gerrard Hume and the list goes on...
Deal with the Devil: When a wizard summons a fantôme, the spirit offers the wizard incredible powers in exchange for basically getting to eat the wizard's soul sooner or later.
Felix accepts a fantôme at the end of Corambis before tricking it into becoming the final offering to the engine below Summerdown.
Deconstruction: The series is a massive, excruciatingly realistic deconstruction of the fantasy genre in general and the over-the-top traumatic pasts most (suspiciously well-adjusted) fiction characters have in particular. In general, it relies on invoking the tropes in question (traumatic pasts especially) and then playing them as realistically as possible, showing it's not so glamorous to have been raised as a beautiful prostitute, a deadly assassin, a skilled spy, or a noble warrior.
Disappeared Dad: Neither of the brothers knows who their father was. Felix's could be anyone in the Gardens of Nephele and Mildmay's could be... well, anyone in Mélusine. Possibly with green eyes.
Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Tends to be subverted, more often than not, with many a character noting that they would have fended off attempts at help... if they weren't really, really in need of it.
Doorstopper: Each (paperback) book is at least 400+ pages of really small font.
Double Standard: Rape—Female on Male: There aren't very many characters in the series who think the fact that Kolkhis started sexing Mildmay up when he was fourteen is wrong, but no one ever outright calls it rape. In The Mirador, Mildmay says that "she could make [him] do it, whether [he] wanted to or not." Even Mildmay doesn't seem to think of it as abuse. Surprisingly, Felix does.
Subverted in Corambis by Edwin Beckett's attempt to restart the Clock of Eclipses.
Downer Ending: All of the books have quite somber endings, but The Mirador takes the cake in the 'depressing ending' department.
Dramatic Irony: Used very well; unsurprisingly, Monette has a Ph.D in English Literature. For example, in The Mirador, Felix doesn't want Mildmay to go to the St. Dismas Baths in the Arcane, and uses the obligation d'ame to enforce his wishes. Mildmay thinks he's being a dick (which he is), but that's not the only reason. The St. Dismas Baths are where Felix goes to clean himself off after he gets done having extremely violent S&M sex with random prostitutes, some of whom he nearly kills.
Dream Land: There is an implied wide dreamworld out there, though Felix mostly sticks to the Khloidanikos and calls dreamwalking not a good habit to get into.
Dysfunctional Family: Felix and Mildmay (and possibly their mother and respective fathers). The Teverii. The Cordelii. Heck, let's say most of the important families in Melusine and leave it at that, shall we? Also, Kay's family.
Dysfunction Junction: Powers and saints, where to start? Fucking everyone in this series is screwed-up beyond repair. But Felix and Mildmay, due to their horribly miserable childhoods, really take the cake, with the other two POV characters, Mehitabel and Kay, as close runner-ups. Gideon, Thaddeus and Mavortian get honorable mention: we never quite find out what happened to them, but it's implied to be bad, or at least soul-crushingly depressing.
Felix can only correlate love with sex, is mean and hateful to even those he loves (even when he recognizes it and knows he should stop), is a sadist when it comes to sex, is manipulative and controlling, and has a Guilt Complex the size of a horse's small intestine.
Mildmay has horrible self-esteem and huge trust issues, is self-degrading, only wants to be loved in a non-sexual way, and still hangs around Felix even after Felix does and says seriously horrible things to and about him. While he was Kolkhis's assassin, he was clinically depressed. He falls back into that after Ginevra dies, pulls himself out of it when he meets Felix, and then falls right back into it again after Felix sends him, using the obligation d'ame, to murder Vey Coruscant, which he does. Malkar catches him and tortures him for around a month. And he has amnesia regarding what happened. And it's implied his amnesia may be a forced coping method that he has to maintain.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Done very well in the ending of Corambis. Felix and Mildmay are technically being banished again, this time out to the back of beyond, but they've both (mostly) come to terms with themselves and each other, and promise to try to be happy with each other.
Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Mildmay, until Mavortian forced him to stop dyeing his hair. Kolkhis is also mentioned as having this complexion, leading many people who knew Mildmay as a kept-thief to assume they were related... and ergo committing incest regularly for years.
"She's mostly there expressly in order for Felix to reject getting embroiled in That Kind of Fantasy Novel." Says the author herself.
Evil Matriarch: Kolkhis. She claims to love her children, Mildmay especially, but she seems to love making them suffer for her amusement more.
Gloria Aestia, although she's long dead by the start of the series. She plotted to restore monarchy in Marathat with her son Shannon when he was fourteen or so, so she would have several years to consolidate power and make Shannon into a puppet king. Years after her execution, Shannon still flips out when people so much as mention her.
Expository Hairstyle Change: Once for Felix in the beginning of Mélusine, and once again at the end of Corambis. Also for Mildmay when he returns to being a redhead for the first time since he was little.
Face of a Thug: Mildmay's face is mentioned to be incredibly frightening— to the point where he never smiles because he knows it would scare other people.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: More or less, the Troians = Ancient Greek, the Marathines = Anglo-French with a dash of Renaissance Europe, and the Kekropians = Modern Greek/Roman. Norvenans are obviously German, and the Merrows are obviously Russian. What little there is hints that Ygres is Spanish. Midlanders may be Italian? Mind, this is mostly in terms of naming, architecture and language, instead of actual culture... with the exception of Cymellume and Lucere, which seem to be the spiritual ancestors of Ancient Rome and Byzantium. Clear as mud? Cool!
Femme Fatale: Mehitabel. It's mentioned that she has around five guys on her string at any one time. Then she gets in bed with the Lord Protector. Interesting variation on the trope as she does this as a last resort and because it's the only intelligent means of keeping her afloat, not as her first weapon of choice.
Generation Xerox: Felix and Shannon are both said to look exactly like their mothers. Neither is too happy about this.
Genre Busting: At first glance the series seems to be fantasy, then a horror trip into a crazy guy's head, then a book about people trying (and failing) to overcome the incredible traumas in their lives. Then it throws in some murder-mystery-conspiracy-politics and a whole assload of psychology, and then it ambles on over to Steampunk territory.
Genre Savvy: Mildmay, mostly acquired through his extremely rough-and-tumble life.
In order for Malkar to embrace his self-titled "evil wizard for a story" persona, he'd have to be this.
Gentleman Snarker: Felix again. Sometimes, the people he insults actually flee the room rather than try to retort.
Gentleman Thief: Mildmay is again a deconstruction of this. He is not a gentleman, and actually he hates burgling.
Gentleman Wizard: Nearly all wizards. Having proper magical training is often—though not always—shorthand for class.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: The greatest distinguishing characteristic of Mildmay is the large scar that distorts his upper lip and stretches up the entire left side of his face (just missing his eye), which has left that side of his face nearly dead. He also has minor scars on his hands and acquires another serious one on his right leg. Felix's back is a mess of ugly scars, though they're easily hidden under clothing.
Gray Eyes: Stephen and Victoria are type 2. Kolhkis is type 4.
Green Eyes: Mildmay. While he has no magic of his own, he has the uncanny ability to never get lost ever, even in the middle of magical labyrinths.
Handicapped Badass: Mildmay, who, as of the end of Mélusine, has a nearly lame right leg, and Kay, who is, from the get-go of Corambis, completely blind.
Harmful to Minors: Pretty much everything that happened to Felix and Mildmay from age three until adulthood.
Mehitabel's pervy uncle, too.
Really it's harder to think of something in this series that doesn't conform to this trope, rather than does.
Haunted House: The wizard tower in Hermione is haunted by a fantôme.
Heroic BSOD: Felix when Malkar rapes him and uses his magic to break the Virtu, and again throughout the course of Mélusine as he bobs in and out of insanity, then again' in The Mirador when Gideon is killed. Mildmay suffers one in The Virtu when Malkar tortures him, and then again in The Mirador'' as he remembers all, exactly, what was done to him.
Hidden Depths: Shannon, and many other characters prominently featured in The Mirador.
Hitman with a Heart: Mildmay, who in his teens was arguably the most feared and notorious assassin in the city. Yes, you read that right. He's given it up by the start of the series (he's all of 20), though it keeps coming back to haunt him...
Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Corbie. And, after Mildmay gets sick and Felix has to prostitute himself to get money for a doctor in Corambis, Felix himself. Again. Also Vincent Demabrien, in The Mirador. Averted with Methony (who sold her children into slavery) and young Felix.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Felix and Corbie. Felix is explicitly stated as standing 6'2", taller than anyone in Corambis. Corbie, even in comparison to the slightly shorter (than Marathines) Corambins, is exceptionally small judging by Mildmay calling her a "little tiny gal."
I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: When Mildmay fishes Felix out of a river in The Virtu and a dripping wet Felix clings to him in terror.... well, Felix's lust for Mildmay makes itself known in an, uh, very awkward way.
I Know Your True Name: In Mélusine, Mildmay warns Ginevra not to use her real name when they go to meet Vey Coruscant. At one point she says his name out loud, but at the time she only knew him by an alias.
Shannon. While he can be a nasty person, he is also extremely sheltered and naive.
Ginevra. Poor girl never had any sense of how much danger she was in.
Insistent Terminology: Thaumaturgical architecture is not architectural thaumaturgy! The heart of a labyrinth isn't the same as the center of one!
It Gets Easier: Subverted, as time goes on, it gets more and more difficult for Mildmay to murder, until he refuses to do it at all, for any reason. Like most of the things in the books, this reaps terrible consequences.
Last Name Basis: No one uses Corbie's first name. Probably because it leads to being kicked in the shin.
Lighter and Softer: Corambis, while still very dark, is a freaking carnival ride compared to the rest of the series.
Loads and Loads of Characters: There are at least 50 characters who play a significant part in the plot and that's just from the first two books. Confusing is an understatement.
Long Lost Sibling: Invoked when Mildmay and Felix meet and realize that they share the same mother.
Lovable Rogue: Subverted with Mildmay, who goes out of his way time and time again to explain to the reader why what he did was not okay. Most readers tend to love him anyway.
A Magic Contract Comes With A Kiss: When Felix puts the binding-by-forms on Mildmay, it's sealed with a kiss—which he doesn't warn Mildmay about first. When Mildmay reacts with shock, Felix just tells him he would probably prefer it to the alternative.
Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: It's entirely possible that Shannon isn't biologically a Teverius, but he's legally one and the family's sticking to that.
Also, while Felix and Mildmay are certain that they have the same mother, Mildmay firmly states that there's no possible way they share a father. Justified since Methony was a whore and they were born six years apart on different continents.
A Man Is Not a Virgin: Strongly implied to be averted with Thamuris and Julian. Otherwise played straight by most of the cast.
Manipulative Bastard: Malkar and Kolkhis both. And Felix counts, too. And Mehitabel. And Mavortian. And Lorenzo, probably. And Shannon. And...
Mismatched Eyes: Felix has one yellow eye and one (nearly-blind) blue eye, which is blue because of a congenital defect.
Modest Royalty: Stephen and Victoria, who detest pomp in all its forms. Shannon doesn't share this trait.
Morality Pet: Corbie often plays this role for Felix since for some reason, unlike with Mildmay, he constantly reminds himself that she deserves better than his usual behavior.
More than Mind Control: worked on Felix by the Big Bad Malkar, and on Mildmay by Kolkhis, they spend most of the series trying to escape it and rebuild themselves, even after the people who'd been controlling them weren't a regular fixture in their lives (outside of their own constant thoughts, memories and nightmares).
Mundane Made Awesome: Mildmay's absolutely epic line about helping the cook on the Morskaiakrov: "When it comes to scrubbing potatoes, I don't fuck around."
My God, What Have I Done?: Felix struggles hugely with the knowledge that he forced Mildmay to kill again, and sent him straight into Malkar's tortuous clutches. He says it himself: "What I did to him could not possibly be described as anything other than rape." Interestingly enough, though, he still orders Mildmay to kill again later. Oh, Felix.
Mysterious Past: We are never told what, exactly, happened to many characters that made them so traumatized and/or evil.
Overly-Long Name: Once again, Mild-may-your-sufferings-be-at-the-hands-of-the-wicked. No wonder his Keeper insisted on shortening it.
Also, the prostitute in Pharaohlight that Mildmay mentions in passing: Fly-from-fornication-and-blasphemy.
"She went by Butterfly, which went down a whole lot better with her tricks."
Parental Abandonment: Felix and Mildmay's mother, Methony, sold them at the ages of four and three, respectively, to their incredibly sadistic Keepers. They never find out who their fathers even were. Not that they care.
Parental Incest: Diokletian lusts after Felix because Felix reminds him of the woman he loved, who happens to have been Felix's mother. Which means there's a definite chance of Diokletian being Felix's father. Oddly, this bothers Diokletian a lot more than it bothers Felix, who doesn't seem to have an issue with incest.
Kolkhis and Mildmay, though they are not blood related, considering that Kolkhis raised him from the time he was three, and began sleeping with him when he was fourteen.
Parental Neglect: Kay had a much less traumatic childhood. His mother simply wasn't interested in actually being a mother.
People of Hair Color: The Troians are the most obvious example; being a redhead means you're somehow related to Troians (or, occasionally, Corambins), no question.
Felix and Mildmay do not grow facial hair due to their Troian ancestry.
The Plan: The plot to put Shannon Teverius on the throne, as formulated by Vey Coruscant, Kolkhis, and a spattering of the Polydorii.
Platonic Prostitution: When they first meet, Felix pays Corbie a considerable amount of money to learn about Bernatha. Corbie is stunned.
Power Tattoo: Cabaline wizards are tattooed from elbow to knuckle to show they have magic and status.
Professional Killer: Mildmay is a deconstruction of this. He's neither well-dressed, nor educated, and all the money he got for his jobs never touched his hands. He was the most terrifying and capable assassin in the city, though, and he takes excruciating pains to keep that fact under wraps, because he's ashamed, and because it's dangerous to let that information float around in the breeze.
Properly Paranoid: A variant. Mildmay refuses to allow strangers to walk behind him for fear of being stabbed in the back, gets jumpy when he can't see everyone around him, surveys each room he enters for escapes and weapons, and has to keep himself from attacking people who sneak up on him. Felix hates it when people walk on the side of him that has his blind eye.
The Quiet One: Mildmay. In fact, whenever he says more than around two sentences in a row, there's a 50-50 chance that the character he's speaking to is going to make a (usually snide) comment about his sudden loquaciousness.
Rape as Backstory: Felix, Mildmay, and Mehitabel, in different ways.* Rape as Drama: There is at least one rape or implied rape every book. Most of the criticism for the series comes down to how this trope is handled.
Really Gets Around: Felix. Gideon comments (accurately) that Felix doesn't even know the names of all the men he's slept with in the past two months.
Mehitabel also qualifies. Aside from Lord Stephen, who she sleeps with out of necessity, her list of lovers also includes Mildmay, Hallam Bellamy, Jeremias Tantony, Drin Baillie, Lionel Verlalius, Barnabas and Harcourt Malanius, Arthur Lelius, Rudolph Novadius, Antony Lemerius, and Peter Jessamyn. That we know of.
Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Again, one could categorize Felix and Mildmay into these roles, being a genius bookworm aristocrat and a street-smart ex-assassin respectively, but on a closer look Mildmay is more sensitive and kind-hearted as opposed to Felix's ruthless cruelty.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Felix. Dear God, Feeeeliiiiiiix. And most other wizards, to an extent. Every pages, Felix would use some new, incredibly obscure word.
Sex Equals Love Averted. It's rare for there to be any loving sex in the series.
Mildmay: "Sex don't have to be about love. Most times in my experience it ain't."
Shout Out: The author seems to love referencing literary works for geographical names (and occasionally characters). This can be extremely disorienting for some people wondering when the significance of places called Britomart and Gilgamesh will kick in. (Hint: Never.)
The beginning line of The Mirador is a shout-out to Charles Dickens.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Felix is beautiful, arrogant, well-educated, and useless at anything that's not academia. Mildmay is scarred, has serious confidence issues, looks and talks like a thug, and academically stunted but terribly world-wise and clever.
Stephen Teverius and Vicky Teveria are cold, ruthless, and savvy in the ways of the court, while their younger half-brother Shannon is spoilt, naive and hotheaded.
Mavortian and Bernard. The former is an aristocratic wizard with crippled, nearly useless, legs. The latter is his (strongly implied to be) lowborn half-brother and hired muscle.
Single Issue Psychology: Painfully, painfully averted. Life in general would be so much easier for Mildmay and Felix if all their defense mechanisms and dysfunctions could be traced back to one thing, but they can't.
Sliding Scaleof Idealism Vs Cynicism: The series falls pretty evenly down the middle of the scale; despite the horrific abuses that happen to the characters, it still seems to believe that people can heal, and do good things if they put their mind to it.
Smarter Than You Look: Mildmay is a shining example of this. People tend to think that because his speech is slurred, his mind is slow. In fact he's a better judge of character than just about everybody and is usually well aware of what people are trying to do when they think they're being clever.
Squishy Wizard: Pretty much every wizard in the story, in keeping with the image of magic as something akin to a scholarly field. Felix in particular is physically hopeless. He can't swim, he can't fight, he can't dance, he could get lost in a teacup and he's clumsy as a drunk: our hero.
Stepford Smiler: Felix, Mildmay, and Mehitabel all seem good enough to get by on when viewed from the outside. Inside is a completely different story.
The Stoic: Mildmay again. It becomes clear that it's because his parental figure loved to try and get a rise out of him to embarrass him, and eventually Mildmay just figured out how to keep himself from reacting, to the point that he no longer remembers how to react to anything mundane.
Straight Gay: Kay. Murtagh. Heck, most of the gay characters besides Felix and Shannon.
Student Teacher Romance: Mildmay believes Corbie has a huge crush on Felix, and the reason Corbie sleeps with him is because Felix is gay and thus off limits.
Talking in Your Dreams: Felix meets with Thamuris and Diokletian in his dreams through magic— oneiromancy. Sendings, meanwhile, are a related but more malevolent version of this.
Tearjerker: Let's see, shall we? Basically anything involving Felix or Mildmay's childhoods, but especially Joline and Zephyr (who, as Mildmay says, "never did anything to hurt nobody"), and Gideon's death and Felix's reaction. Also everything with Mehitabel and Hallam, and the implication that Gerrard never loved Kay and may have mocked him with his wife.
Technical Pacifist: Mildmay. As of the ending of The Mirador, Mildmay has decided not to kill anymore, but that sure as hell won't stop him from kicking your ass six ways to Dimanche, especially if you even think about harming Felix. But no killing!
There Are No Therapists: Justified in that the story takes place in societies with roughly Renaissance/Industrial Revolution-era technology and societal mores; therapists just plain don't exist. And it's not like our boys open up to anyone anyway; it's nearly a miracle they can admit their plethora of issues to themselves.
Thieves' Guild: Subverted and averted directly by Mildmay telling Simon, "There ain't no assassin's guild. Never has been."
Averted also with the kept thief system, which is not at all organized. There are people you don't want to piss off, but it's not because there's a hierarchy.
This Is Reality: Mildmay comments on how some people, like Mavortian, constantly seem to "think they are in a story" when in reality, nothing ever works like it does in the stories.
Title Drop: The title of the series is the (translated) title of a book in the books.
Token Minority/Token White: Played with. Most people in Marathat and the surrounding countries are brown-skinned, dark-eyed and dark-haired, meaning Felix and Mildmay with their pale complexions and red hair look exceedingly odd and out of place. Shannon being blue-eyed and blond also stands out.
Trauma Induced Amnesia: Mildmay. From what is known about Malkar, and from what Felix tells us about him, it's heavily implied that Mildmay suffered sexual, psychological, and physical torture at his hands. But even when Mildmay does remember, he refuses to talk or even think about it: Mildmay is a first-person narrator in every book, and by the fourth book remembers what happens, but we, the readers, never find out and it's still kept ambiguous.
Tyke Bomb: Mildmay's skills as a cat burglar were trained into him starting around the age of three when his Keeper bought him from his mother. His training as an assassin started when he was fourteen, and as an older teenager Mildmay the Fox was known through the lower city as one of the most skilled and dangerous killers around (two different and powerful wizards, three men in three different districts in three different ways in one night) and he was still entirely subservient to his keeper, Kolkhis, until he ran away at seventeen.
Un-Equal Rites: There are different schools of magic in each country, so a lot of the rivalry is tied up with politics. Most wizards don't study other schools of magic for this reason, even though they would probably be capable of more than one type of spells. Also, wizards visiting another country have to be very careful what they do—for example, in Mélusine it's considered heresy to cast a spell of any kind on a person.
Unreliable Narrator: Mildmay and Felix both tell the truth as they see it, but that doesn't mean their truths are the same. This phenomena is actually lampshaded in Corambis.
However, this comes up most notably with Shannon: note how Shannon is a terrible prick in Felix and Mildmay's narration... but a self-aware, kind and remorseful guy in Mehitabel's.
Upper Class Wit: Felix especially, but in general it doesn't seem as if the wizards of the Mirador do much more than bicker and gossip amongst themselves and attend parties.
Urban Segregation: There's the poor, run-down and dangerous Lower City, which is separated from the fairly well-to-do rest of the city, which is separated again from the towering and imposing Mirador where the Cabaline wizards and aristocracy live/visit.
Weasel Words: Mavortian von Heber does this constantly, to the point where Mildmay actually calls him out on it, literally telling him, "them's weasel words." Inverted when, just afterward, Mildmay notes that kind of talk 'sounds great in stories', but in real life you have to watch the guy who's doing it very carefully regardless of what you said, or you'll get fucked over.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Thaddeus, while not a villain, is definitely not sympathetic to the protagonists. He is fully invested in opposing the Bastion and Eusebians, putting him in direct conflict with Felix when he takes up with Gideon. It drives him to making poor choices and snap judgements.
What the Hell, Hero?: Mehitabel often calls out Felix on his abhorrent treatment of Mildmay. Felix... keeps on keeping on.
When She Smiles: Corbie is a pretty enough girl, but Felix says she's absolutely lovely when she smiles.
The same can be said about Mildmay's 'not-smile' (he avoids smiling because it does weird things to his scar), which is said to light up his face. The first instance of this is the first time Felix finds him beautiful and thus begins the awkward incestuous crush.
Will They or Won't They?: Kind-of, due to Felix's lust for Mildmay. They don't. Also with Mildmay and Mehitabel... They do. But are they in love? Uh...note (it should also be noted that in early drafts of the books, Mehitabel and Mildmay get married). And then again with Mildmay and Kay they don't, and then with Kay and Felix they don't.note But, again, in earlier drafts of the books? They totally do.
Wise Beyond Their Years: Everyone with a traumatic past. Which is all of the POV characters. None of which are over thirty.
Wizarding School: The Gardens of Nephele in Troia and the Grevillian Institute in Corambis. All other references to schools of magic in the series—Cabalines, Eusebians, etc.—have to do with schools of thought, not the actual training of wizards.
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Averted. Mildmay comments to Mehitabel that he wouldn't have any problem with hitting a woman who "deserves it". However, he does instantly apologize for saying it. Felix also mentions, several times, wanting to strike some woman or other for being flip. (Of course, Felix wants to strike everyone, so...)
Younger Than They Look: Due to his scar and his emotionless expression, Mildmay is consistently taken for being much older than he is. By the time Mélusine starts, he's a little over 19; when they meet, Felix thinks he's much older than that. And throughout the series, Felix often makes comments to himself about how young Mildmay actually is.