A series of fantasy novels for young adults by author Hilari Bell. The books focus on the Odd Couple of Sir Michael, a Knight Errant, and his squire, Fisk (a former conman). The two start out very much on the opposite ends of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism (guess who is at which end). They travel together through a made-up country that sounds remarkably like Western Europe at the tail-end of the medieval ages, where feudalism is losing hold and industry and the middle class are starting to take over. All this however just minus the Catholic Church (or really any religion of any kind) but with lots of magic around that can kill you!The two leads mostly play Nancy Drew to several mysteries they happen to stumble upon in their travels. Michael is all for figuring them out and helping people, while Fisk just wants them to get through things alive and preferably not imprisoned.Books already released:
The Last Knight
A fifth book called Scholar's Plot and a currently untitled sixth book are planned.
Adult Fear: There is a scientist gathering mentally impaired children and running magic experiments on them
All Crimes Are Equal: No matter what you did, if you can't meet the conditions set by whoever redeems you, you can be marked.
All Is Well That Ends Well: Most blatant in Player's Ruse, where Michael declares his plan to catch the wreckers a success in spite of having come within inches of dying during the whole fiasco. Fisk is not amused.
Amateur Sleuth: Though unlike most examples they seem to be capable of not encountering crime everywhere they go.
Amusing Injuries: Pretty much everything that happens to Michael while he's destroying magica plants to try and contact a savant who only comes when there's trouble.
Aura Vision: Michael's ability to see magica in other objects.
Bad-Guy Bar: In Rogue's Home. Fisk is on good terms with the people there.
Bad Liar: Michael, whenever he actually does lie. His reputation as a terrible liar makes it all the more convincing on the rare occasion where he manages not to tip his hand.
Bad Moon Rising: The unnamed planet they are on has two moons: the Creature Moon (it's gold) and the Green Moon (yep, it's green). They are both heavily tied to the dangerously chaotic magic (Creature animal, Green plants) that inhabits the place.
Children Are Special: In a twisted version of the trope, only children are known to use full fledged magic because only the mentally impaired can be born with any magic in the first place, and they rarely, if ever, live to adulthood. Since he obtained his magic artificially, Michael is an exception to this rule.
Clear Their Name: Fisk is called home in Rogue's Home to prove his brother-in-law is innocent.
Compelling Voice: By the fourth book, Michael has discovered that when he combines his enhancement magic with his animal handling Gift he can make it work on people. He deliberately doesn't see how far he can go with this, but implies that he could essentially force a woman to trust him if he so desired.
Contrived Coincidence: After asking around town about Hackle for a few days, the stable boy who just happens to be near by that Fisk just happens to point to when saying they may as well have asked him turns out to have the only person with information on Hackle.
Cursed with Awesome: Michael after the first book. He spends a lot of time bemoaning how terrible it is to be able to see magic in plants, give himself and others super strength, and effectively fly. And as Fisk points out, every time his magic shows up it saves his life, so he doesn't have much to complain about.
Dark and Troubled Past: Fisk losing both his parents at a young age and having to turn to crime in order to help support his sisters. For bonus points, his master betrays him and his brother in law more or less banishes him for being involved in crime.
The legal system is actually a little broken. If you get into a bar fight and somebody redeems you, but you refuse to do what they say in order to repay your debt, you can be tattooed as a permanently unredeemed criminal and be forever outside the law.
Distressed Dude: Despite being the knight, Michael is the most likely character to need being rescued.
Both Michael and Fisk simultaneously play this role in Thief's War, with Roseman holding them hostage against one another, and them needing to subtly make it possible for one another to get the help they need to be free of him.
Dude, Where's My Reward?: Both Rogue's Home and Player's Ruse end with the two getting nothing for their help. Technically, they do get a reward for stopping the wreckers, but Michael gives it away before Fisk finds out.
Enforced Method Acting: Fisk manages to make Michael appear genuinely freaked out by the sacrifice the two are faking as part of an escape by indicating, without having warned him first, that he's going to be castrated.
Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Michael's dad is no more on board with the knight errant idea than Fisk is in the first book, and goes to much further lengths than his son's squire to try and discourage the career.
Fear Is the Appropriate Response: In Player's Ruse, when a band of men with swords start towards Michael, he mentions that Fisk has been trying to teach him that there are times to run, and that this seems like one of them.
Fearless Fool: Michael, in the first book. The next two include mention of Fisk teaching him self preservation whenever he has the sense to run.
Fiery Coverup: All the fires in Rogue's Home are to destroy financial records without drawing attention specifically to the building they're in.
Gambit Roulette: When Michael and Fisk are separated in Thief's War, they mostly have to trust that the other will know what to do from the vague messages they manage to send one another. Their ability to convey their plans and get important tools to the proper plays also relies in part on a group of children whose thought processes are clouded with lust for revenge, and Fisk has the added burden of needing to single out men under Roseman who follow out of fear instead of loyalty, and trusting them to do what he needs as well.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: The scar on Michael's face is used to identify him (as a suspect) multiple times in Rogue's Home. The flog scars on his back are used to convince anyone who sees him that he's a horrible criminal.
Idiot Ball: As soon as Michael and Fisk arrive in Tallowsport, Fisk starts sending as many messages out as he can to let Jack know they're there. This despite him knowing that Jack wants to use him, doubts that they're a threat, and has assured them that his employer completely runs the town, which they are quick to learn he was right about. Predictably, this ends with the Arc Villain knowing exactly who he is dealing with and easily tracking down and capturing the two.
Just Think of the Potential: Ceciel has grand plans to make the world a better place with human magic, while Michael is able to think of the obvious problems that could come with criminals getting such power as well.
Love Triangle: Though Michael worries one will arise between him, Fisk, and Rosamund, it instead occurs with the actor Rudy his rival in love.
Mad Scientist: Lady Ceciel turns out to be one in The Last Knight.
Magic Enhancement: Most objects the possess magic merely have enhanced properties as a result.
Magic Is Mental: Inverted. According to academic theory, magic and intelligence are incapable of coexisting, explaining why it is only found naturally in animals and humans born with mental disabilities, as well as why Michael's magic triggers when he's in a state of panic, but not when he tries to will it to work.
My God, What Have I Done?: When he can't trust anyone else not to be cowed into letting him go, Michael leaves Roseman at the mercy of a gang of teens and children that he orphaned. They violently murder him while Michael is gone, and Michael feels at fault for them bloodying their hands.
Mystery Magnet: To Fisk's constant consternation they always seem to innocently run into some kind of deadly mystery that Michael insists they should help solve. Usually results in one or both of them being framed and/or getting thrown into jail.
Naked People Trapped Outside: In Player's Ruse Michael sneaks out of camp in the middle of the night in only a shirt trying to figure out where someone is going, and ends up chased around and having to slowly make his way home. He doesn't get back until everyone is up.
Nay-Theist: Everyone is a firm believer in the Creature and Moon Gods, but as these gods only look out for plants and animals and smite anyone who harms the things they grant magic to, humans are more interested in minimizing interaction with these deities than practicing any sort of worship.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Trying to save a 'kidnapped' woman gets Michael arrested, taking the fall for another man gets him flogged, letting Fisk escape Ceceil's guards gets him experimented on, refusing to arrest an innocent woman gets him marked unredeemed, stopping a man from beating a young boy gets him arrested-again, helping to put out a fire gets him chased by a mob, helping arrest a murderer gets him kicked out of town, and trying to save a man who's falling gets him accused of murder. As Fisk says, heroism is vastly overrated.
No-Nonsense Nemesis: When Worthington is lured out by Nettie's Ma he decides it would be a better use of his time to go catch the people he realizes have broken into his home than chase an old woman, much less listen to her gloating.
Roseman takes this trope even further. He avoids all the common failing points of a villain and covers his trail so perfectly that even when the entire countryside knows he's crooked, it's hard to get any solid evidence against him.
Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Growing up in a wealthy family has left Michael with such a crippling inability to handle money wisely that even after at least two years of Perpetual Poverty he's still an easy target for anyone trying to get more than their service is worth.
The Runaway: After he got fed up with arguing with his father over what to do with his life, Michael just slipped away one night with a small sum of money, took one of the horses that was least likely to be missed, and went off to play knight errant.
Running Gag: What's the difference between X and a bandit?
If Fisk, townsman that he is, uses a metaphor relating something to a countryside activity, it will likely include a misconception that Michael will silently let slide.
Save the Villain: Fisk elects to free Jack Banister while everyone is focused on the negotiations at the end of Thief's War. Michael, who was gunning for him with the same, if not greater intensity than he was Roseman, is not pleased when he learns that Fisk used him as a diversion to this end.
Stealth Insult: After claiming if they're clever enough one will never have to work hard, Fisk asks an unpleasant servant if she's a hard worker. She doesn't catch on until after insisting that she is.
Sticky Fingers: As a former pickpocket and conman, Fisk has this problem. No matter where Michael stashes his purse on his person Fisk always ends up with it. In the end, Michael just gives up and lets Fisk handle the money since he's a better with it anyway.
Tattooed Crook: Played straight with Michael from the second book onward. People in the books are tattooed with chains on their wrists if they are permanently unable to repay their debts (usually because they killed someone but for some reason was spared from hanging). Michael didn't kill anyone, he just refused to fulfill a contract he was forced to make with his father that would have resulted in him losing his freedom for the rest of his life.
That Liar Lies: Michael is not amused when he learns Fisk was lying to him about being unable to fight.
There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Used by Fisk when he's trying to explain that Michael's father is a climber, though he amends himself and says that there are probably over thirty different types of noblemen alone.
And used by Michael when describing how difficult it is for a unredeamed man to work odd jobs near the beginning of the second one.
Time Skip: Roughly a year and a half passes between Rogue's Home and Player's Ruse.
Too Dumb to Live: It's hard to believe Michael actually survived his first year of travel without Fisk, since he seems to think that constantly seeking out killers and knowingly walking into traps are very good ideas.
Tough Love: A nicer way of looking at Baron Seven Oak's choice to have his youngest son marked permanently unredeemed, as he supposedly did this to try and 'do the right thing for Michael' and drastically limit his options so that he'd have to become the estate steward.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: Michael used to be one of these but he finally decided there was nothing he could do to gain his father's respect so he just decided to do what he wanted. His father is still a bit of a sore spot for him though especially since he was one of the main reasons Michael ends up marked unredeemed.