Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series encompasses three trilogies, told from first-person perspective by one character in each. It lies somewhere between Alternate History and fantasy, using recognizable names for real-world places, events, and occasionally people.The first trilogy, beginning with Kushiel's Dart, continuing with Kushiel's Chosen, and ending with Kushiel's Avatar, follows the exploits of Phèdre, a woman with a red mote in her eye which marks her as an anguissette, one who experiences pain as pleasure. This talent means she draws a high price, as prostitution is a highly valued and respected profession in her home country. Added to this, she is trained in espionage, escape, and other things by her bondholder, with intent to use her as a weapon to stabilize the realm. Over the span of three books, Phèdre goes from girl to adult, and winds up deeply involved in the politics of the realm and the divine, thanks in part to her... unique talents, both as courtesan and spy.The second trilogy begins with Kushiel's Scion, continues with Kushiel's Justice, and ends with Kushiel's Mercy. It follows Phèdre's adopted son, Imriel: who happens to be the biological son of one of the realm's most infamous traitors. The books follow his coming of age, and his struggle to live up to his adoptive parents while putting aside the reputation in his blood.The third trilogy takes place a century after the second trilogy ends, and follows the adventures of the druid Moirin from the land of Alba. A descendant of the Maghuin Dhonn from the second trilogy, Moirin must learn to deal with the consequences her ancestor's actions foisted on her people, master her magical powers, and learn about her half-D'Angeline heritage. The first book, Naamah's Kiss, came out in 2009, Naamah's Curse in 2010, and Naamah's Blessing in June 2011.All nine books are interesting stories without the sex. Kushiel's Legacy is widely lauded by reviewers for having complex societies, likable characters, and a continuous onslaught of politics and intrigue which blend seamlessly with the sex.In 2010, the short story "You, and You Alone," part of the Songs of Love and Death anthology, told Phèdre's mentor Anafiel's backstory.Now has a Character Sheet!
Kushiel's Legacy provides examples of:
Affably Evil: Melisande may be the villainess, but she's also exceedingly beautiful, charming, and clever, and might have gotten away with a lot more if she wasn't half in love with Phèdre. Melisande is arguably more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist than truly evil—she's still following the prime D'Angeline tenet of "Love as thou wilt." It's just that she happens to love manipulation, magnificent bastardry. There's also a subtext that strongly implies that it was all part of the plans of the Gods to prevent the destruction of the world.
Aloof Big Brother: Ganelon de la Courcel to his much younger siblings Lyonette and Benedicte.
Always Someone Better: The ancient Hellenes are this to D'Angelines. In the second half of Chosen, Phèdre travels to the island of Kriti and gushes about everything she sees there. This is interesting because-this one exception aside-she (and most D'Angelines) tend to look down on non-D'Angelines.
Ancient Tradition: The Midwinter Masque has its origins in a celebration that long predates the coming of Elua. Elua liked it so much he insisted the tradition be maintained.
Anguished Declaration of Love: Joscelin has a hard time admitting his love for Phèdre. It takes him two full books to finally decide he'll put up with her no matter what.
Arranged Marriage: Most marriages in the series, as the major characters are nobility. Played with in that marriages cannot be carried out without the consent of the betrothed, as this is against the teachings of Elua. Still, politics plays a part. Children of House Courcel in particular can expect to be married for political reasons.
Ars Goetia: The spirits summoned in Naamah's Kiss all come from here.
As You Wish: In Kushiel's Mercy, even though Sidonie's under the influence of Fake Memories wiping out the memory of her boyfriend Imriel, and Imriel himself is a Manchurian Agent, the use of the word "always" when it comes up in conversation always (har) triggers something for them, which they eventually figure out.
Author Appeal: Terre d'Ange is a society who worships love and believes that prostitution is a sacred calling. Everyone is Bi and the books feature a lot of BDSM. Oddly, this seems to be the only real fetish as such that anyone practises: there's vanilla sex and bondage, but no foot fetishism or cross-dressing. Of course since the book is told from the perspective of Phèdre, she might not encounter too many fetishes outside of BDSM, since that's her specialty.
Batman Gambit: It's heavily implied that the first 2/3rds of Kushiel's Avatar is part of Kushiel's plan to punish Melisande and kill the Mahrkagir. The former Punisher of God does not putz around.
It is also implied that everything in the two previous books were purely to prepare Phèdre for the events of the third. This starts with her birth which may coincide with the ascent of the Mahrkagir.
Bawdy Song: "Phèdre's Boys" have made up a few songs about her. An example? "Man or Women/We don't care/Give us Twins/We'll take the pair!"
The Beard: Allegra Stregazza for her husband Ricciardo
Bears Are Bad News: The shapeshifting Maghuin Dhonn bear-witches. Which leads, in fairly short order, to the removal of said shape-shifting powers.
The Beautiful Elite: Almost everyone in Terre d'Ange is supposed to be beautiful, though some are exceptionally so. This is somewhat justified as the people of Terre d'Ange are distantly descended from fallen angels who intermarried with humans.
Better to Die Than Be Killed: A Cassiline technique called Terminus is built around this trope. If things are looking particularly grim for a Cassiline and their charge the Cassiline will use their daggers to kill both of them.
Supposedly, this has never actually been done, although Joscelin was preparing to do it near then end of the first book when Phèdre was being skinned alive.
Betty and Veronica: Imriel is torn between his dutiful love for gentle brunette wife Dorelei, and his socially inappropriate and fairly kinky attachment to glamorous, feisty blonde heiress Sidonie, a Defrosting Ice Queen.
Big Damn Heroes: The biggest Big Damn Heroes moment in the series is when Barquiel L'Envers charges out of Troyes-le-Mont to rescue Phèdre and Joscelin, just as Joscelin is about to perform a Mercy Kill on himself and Phèdre to save them from Waldemar Selig.
Also, the Albans arriving along with Isidore d'Aiglemort's armies to break the siege of Troyes-le-Mont & defeat the Skaldi.
Big Screwed-Up Family: The Courcel, Stregazza, L'Envers, Trevalion, Shahrizai family tree. Lampshaded when Phèdre takes Imriel to meet Severio Stregezza and reflects that he is one of the few people in Imriel's family who isn't guilty of some version of murder or treason.
Bilingual Bonus: Languisement, the poetic word in D'Angeline for fellatio (and typically the start of a sex scene), is one letter away from languissement, meaning "yearning" in French. Make of it what you will...
Bittersweet Ending: The first trilogy ends with Phèdre freeing Hyacinthe, but he's decided he wants to go to Alba to be with Sibeal. Phèdre responds by throwing the biggest going away party that the City of Elua has ever seen.
Black Widow: Averted. Melisande is rumored to have killed the men she married, but really, she just made a habit of marrying very old men so she just had to wait and then take their money when they died.
Blessed with Suck/Cursed with Awesome: Kushiel's Dart itself, depending on the situation. Phèdre has very conflicting feelings about being an anguissette. It makes her experience pain as pleasure, which sounds convenient on the surface, but can actually be very complicated. On the one hand, it means she's almost impossible to torture. On the other hand, Phèdre is sometimes frightened by her own needs and desires and doesn't like that she takes pleasure from pain, cruelty, and humiliation.
Bring News Back: Happens in Dart when Phèdre and Joscelin flee Skaldia in the dead of winter in order to warn Ysandre of the impending invasion. Also, Phèdre spends the entire second half of Chosentrying to warn Terre d'Ange of Melisande's plan.
Brown Note: When Phèdre learns the "Name of God", a powerful word that contains within it the secrets of the nature of the entire world and uses it to compel an Angel to break a curse over Hyacinthe. Carey cheats in order to avoid printing the Name. Whenever it is spoken, it appears as "____________"..
Bury Your Gays: Despite the series taking place in a society where homosexual love is celebrated alongside heterosexual love, gay characters either die, like Alcuin, Roland, and Delaunay or live in the closet/straight marriages of convinence like Lucius and Ricchardo, though neither are from Terre d'Ange and would be disinherited/slandered for being gay. The one gay relationship that lasts happens in the Offstage Waiting Room with Ti-Phillipe and Hughes. This tends to spark off a lot of debate in the fanbase.
Camp Follower: It's mentioned in Kiss that there are plenty of women on board the great ship the Ch'in Emperor sent to fetch Master Lo Feng. Who are only along to keep the sailors and soldiers from being too lonely.
Cast from Hit Points: What Moirin does if she uses her powers for something other than their original purpose.
Celibate Hero: Joscelin is a Warrior Monk, raised from age ten to be the "perfect companion." Part of their final vows is indeed a vow of celibacy. Breaks his vow later in the books, is outcast, but still gets his respect.
Chekhov's Gun: The Companion's Star Ysandre gives to Phèdre at the end of Chosen, which entitles her to one boon. It finally pays off in Avatar when Phèdre uses it to force Ysandre to let her and Joscelin adopt Imriel
Also, the password of House L'Envers.
Chekhov's Skill: Surprisingly enough Joscelin's ability to fish becomes important in Avatar.
There's also Phèdre's Cruithne and Skaldic language lessons, which come in handy in Dart.
In the Naamah trilogy, the language of ants. Oh dear god.
The Chessmaster: Melisande and, to a lesser extent, Anafiel. Phèdre inherits this from the both of them, and is incredibly clever when god-ordained lust isn't turning her brain to mush around Melisande.
Child by Rape: Bao. Also Kamala, daughter of the bodhisattva Laysa by the Falconer Tarik Khaga, a warlord who kidnapped her and many other women to join his harem.
Hyacinthe. His mother was raped by a patron of Bryony House.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Melisande betrays everyone she partners with, and people keep teaming up with her anyway because she's that beautiful, that smart, and her plans are that good.
Conspicuously Public Assassination: Justified The traitors hire mercenaries to start a riot in a crowded temple during the largest celebration of the year. That way, the assassination would just look like an accident amidst the pandemonium. Really, what do you expect of a plan backed by Melisande?
Cool Uncle: Joscelin is this to his siblings' children, who think that having a hero of the realm for an uncle is pretty much the neatest thing ever.
Could Have Avoided This Plot: Almost as soon as he sets foot on Alba in Justice Imriel is stalked and harassed by the Maghuin Dhonn. They keep mentioning they are trying to prevent a future disaster, but instead of just talking to Imriel they stalk and bind him with magic. When they eventually reveal that the disaster would be Imriel's son killing off the Mahguin Dhonn and becoming a conqueror due to his and his father's hatred for them. Imriel was understandably not impressed and immediately called them out as idiots for not just talking to him.
Culture Clash: Most notable between Terre d'Ange and Alba, which are politically united by Ysandre and Drustan's marriage, but completely different culturally.
There is lesser, but still significant culture clash between Terre d'Ange and Caerdicca Unitas. Both recognize the other as civilized, but odd.
Daughter of a Whore: Played with in Phèdre, who is indeed the child of a sex worker and one of her customers, raised in a brothel, and called "a whore's unwanted get," who then became a prostitute. Only her parents married before having her and they left her to foster in a brothel, which wasn't their original intention.
Demonic Possession: Almost(?) happens to Raphael. What everyone thinks happened to Snow Tiger.
It did happen to Imriel's friend Lucius, when his jerkass ancestor, Gallus took over his body.
Depraved Bisexual: Melisande to the extreme. Then again, everyone in Terre d'Ange is bi, so there were bound to be some evil people thrown in the mix. Aversions: Phèdre, Alcuin, and Delaunay.
Despair Event Horizon: The Mahrkagir is an expert at pushing people over it. Many women in his zenana have crossed it, and some starve themselves to death as a result. Phèdre and Joscelin come close to hitting it during their time in Darsanga, but never actually do.
In Naamah's Blessing, Jehanne's death, followed by (overly hasty) news of his son's death, push King Daniel over this. He drowns himself in the river.
Determinator: Several. Joscelin and Phèdre both have this in spades, and Moirin shows tons of it when chasing Bao. Jacqueline Carey likes her women strong-willed.
Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal: Along with irresistible angelic gifts, there is the matter of Moirin, Snow Tiger, and the dragon. Not perceived as okay exactly, but certainly not held up as a terrible evil.
Although the Master of the Straits is the product of precisely this form of rape. When nobody will seek pardon for him, he places a curse on his own son and refuses to lift it until he is himself pardoned.
Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female: Averted, mostly. Phèdre informs the reader that rape is an unforgivable act of treason in her culture. Yet when Melisande drugs her and commits sex acts that could arguably be rape before selling her into slavery this act is never considered rape despite a cultural understanding that both men and women can be sexually dominant and powerful. It becomes gray since Phèdre is a professional submissive, and was under contract to Melisande. Melisande did honor the letter of the contract, including the safe word, and knew damn well Phèdre was a trained spy, working for her enemy, and Phèdre does obviously views what happened as a violation despite no using her safeword, but she also doesn't brush it off because of Melisande's gender.
Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Both played straight and averted depending on who the protagonist is. In Naamah's Kiss, Moirin more than once jumps on a man who is saying no (both times because she's a bit under the influence herself, but still) and compels him to go along with it. However, when Imriel is assaulted by a woman (ironically, of the same people as Moirin) who tries to compel him to respond to her desire, this is held up as an abomination.
Moirin comes from Alba-the culture is different in Terre d'Ange, which views rape as heresy.
Dramatis Personae: Each book in the series has Loads and Loads of Characters and therefore have a dramatis personae that can go on for pages and pages. Averted most recently in the soft cover edition of Namaah's Kiss, a few pages of praise for the past books, the usual title pages, and the ever present map, then it jumps straight into chapter one with no preamble.
Dreaming of Things to Come: Women of Necthana's line are particularly talented in this. Drustan's mother and sisters all receive true dreams, and bear woad tattoos denoting this.
Alais can receive dreams of the future. But she doesn't always interpret them correctly.
Moirin gets this, in a way, when she talks to the spirit of Jehanne in her dreams.
Hyacinthe and his mother both speak the dromonde which is a similar talent to true dreaming.
Dungeon Bypass: In Scion the Duke of Valpetra eventually got fed up trying to siege Lucca the traditional way that he dammed a river and diverted it to knock down a wall and flood the city.
Earn Your Happy Ending: Pretty much every main character in the series has a long, hard journey to get to the end with the major conflicts resolved.
Earth Drift: Dart has little more than divine lineage to elevate itself above historical fiction. Naamah's Trilogy, in contrast, begins with a character who can turn herself invisible, and takes a pit stop at summoning demons from the Ars Goetia before running off to Chinese dragons.
Epic Flail: Tahmuras, The Dragon in Kushiel's Avatar wields one. He comes closest out of anyone in the entire six-book series to besting Joscelin.
Eternal Sexual Freedom: The motto of Elua is "Love as thou wilt", and most D'Angelines are more than happy to follow it. Educated and successful Servants of Naamah often have political power and are treated with as much respect as a Companion in Firefly—if not more. However, Terre d'Ange also has age of consent laws and extremely harsh punishments against rape (It's not just a crime; it's heresy), while one of the gifts the women were given by their fertility goddess Eisheth is that they will only become pregnant after requesting it from her, though issues of sexually-transmitted infections are not touched on. It's also noted that having sexual freedom doesn't necessarily make choices of the heart easier. In some cases, they're actually harder. Definitely one of the more intelligent examples of this trope.
Even Evil Has Standards: It would seem logical that such an intelligent woman as Melisande would just kill Phèdre instead of letting her live to cause trouble. However, for her to kill Phèdre would be blasphemous, and she won't do it.
Even the Girls Want Her: Many of the women in the series count. Melisande, Phèdre, Moirin, Snow Tiger, Nicola L'Envers y Aragon, and Queen Jehanne to name some.
Even the Guys Want Him: Alcuin and Delaunay are both bisexual Yaoi Guys with more notable male lovers than female ones. Averted with Joscelin when he and Phèdre are sold into slavery. The Skaldi women find him, um, desirable, but the Skaldi men thinks he's a pretty-boy with no beard. At least, they acknowledge his "manliness" when he kills one of their own in a sanctioned duel.
Everybody Has Lots of Sex: It's the norm of D'Angeline society. It's considered rather strange if you don't, which is part of why the Cassiline Brotherhood is seen as overly strict and austere.
Everyone Is Bi: In Terre d'Ange? Yes. Yes, they are, apparently. But also averted in places like Caerdicca Unitas, where the inhabitants are quite prudish about sex and such.
Evil Matriarch: Lyonette de Trevalion is the mastermind behind her family's attempt at treason.
Evil Uncle: Subverted and played straight in the royal family.
Barquiel L'Envers appears to be this. Phèdre is very suspicious of him in Chosen, and easily believes the real traitors' attempts to frame him for Melisande's escape. However, he is in fact staunchly loyal to his niece Ysandre and works to secure her throne, making him a subversion.
Played straight with Benedicte de la Courcel, Ysandre's great-uncle.
Extreme Doormat: Phèdre isn't this, but she acts like it when working in her professional capacity to satisfy the unique tastes of her clients. More than one enemy, up to and including a God of Evil, has failed to recognize the difference until it was too late.
The Fair Folk: The second trilogy introduces a human tribe of the Fantasy Counterpart Cultures Alba and Eire, who are described very like the Fair Folk: an old people who live in the wild, untamed areas, powerfully magical, and not malicious but adhering to a different moral standard. Some characters fear them and refuse to speak of them, while others welcome bargaining with them. Their Voluntary Shapeshifting and sympathetic magic play a vital role in the plot.
Fallen Angel: Elua's Companions, Rahab from the first trilogy, and the spirits in Naamah's Kiss.
Fantasy Contraception: The gift of the fertility goddess Eisheth to D'Angeline women-they can only become pregnant if they light a candle and pray to her for it. She may or may not then grant this request.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Basically every single location is some version of this. Terre d'Ange is France down to the language, and various other parallels; in one particularly egregious example, the Venice-counterpart is named "La Serenissima", a nickname by which the real city is sometimes called.
Girls Love: Amarante, the daughter of the head priestess of the goddess of prostitutes, was hired to teach Sidonie, the crown princess, of the realm the "arts of the bedchamber."
Phèdre winds up in this position, occasionally. Her relationship with Nicola L'Envers is pretty much friends with benefits. And her relationship with Melisande is... complicated.
Moirin has a number of female lovers. Including Jehanne, Snow Tiger, and the Rani Amitra.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Perhaps an explanation for the lengthy sections between Moirin and Jehanne and Moirin and Snow Tiger. Also the celestial Dragon in Snow Tiger is either of this opinion or a Yuri Fan. His comment when Snow Tiger decides that she's not too different from D'Angelines.
Good Parents: Actually more than the other kind for a fantasy of this nature. In paricular, Ysandre and Drustan are wonderful with their children.
Good People Have Good Sex: But S&M is subsumed under this umbrella and Imriel needs to accept and explore his sadistic side in order to accept his sexuality. Basically, especially in Terre d'Ange, the only "bad sex" is rape. If it's consensual and nobody dies and everyone has fun, it's good for D'Angelines!
Government in Exile: Drustan and his mother and sisters are hiding out with the Dalriada, due to his cousin, the old Cruarch's son, seizing power.
Graceful Loser: When Phèdre appears to testify against Melisande, Melisande quickly gives in, knowing she is beaten... and then subverted when she breaks out of prison that night.
Green Thumb: Moirin's power through Anael's line let's her talk to plants and make them grow.
Green Eyes: Moirin's eyes are often mentioned to be jade-green and she is regularly called a bear-witch. Her ability to talk to plants fits in the nature aspect nicely.
Heir Club for Men: After Rolande dies, there is some of this problem in Terre d'Ange. Ysandre can inherit, and is next in line for the throne, but some people prefer to support her cousin Baudoin de Trevalion simply because he's a man.
Hero of Another Story: A few examples, but most prominently Micah Ben Ximon and the Yeshuite pilgrims from Kushiel's Chosen, who later reappear in Kushiel's Justice. Not to mention the result in Naamah's Curse...
Heroic Seductress: A lot of problems in the first trilogy are solved by having Phèdre find the right person to sleep with. This ranges from seducing an on-the-fence admiral to infiltrating the harem of a horrific dictator.
Hidden Depths: The first time Phèdre really gets to see Ysandre, she notices that while the Dauphine is very young, she is also the perfect example of Cereus House's beauty with inner steel.
Hidden in Plain Sight: Melisande's plan to escape into La Serenissima in Kushiel's Chosen relied on this trope. Her looks were too striking that any body looking for her would have an easy time spotting her. She decided to walk out in the open as Prince Benedicte's new D'Angeline wife who wore a veil because of her faith in the goddess Asherat.
High-Class Call Girl: Phèdre definitely qualifies at this through the first book and first half of the second book.
Honor Before Reason: Joscelin does this a lot, especially where his Cassiline vows are concerned—however, Phèdre knocks this out of him eventually.
Phèdre has shades of this as well, given that she's willing to give herself up to a madman's seraglio because of an oath she gave her greatest enemy and her devotion to her gods.
Hunting Accident: Happens in the backstory of Kushiel's Dart, albeit not with a weapon - before a hunt, the saddle on the horse Dauphin's fiancée, Edmée de Rocaille, was to ride was tampered with, and she had a fatal fall.
I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Phèdre is an anguissette and cursed to feel pain and pleasure as one. Any bit of pain will register as pleasure for her. So when she had to get her marque worked on in Dart she was reduced to an orgasm laden mess. The guy doing the job even complains about how annoying it is to work on someone who is constantly writhing in ecstasy while he's trying to apply the tattoo, just like his grandfather (who did the last anguissette's marque) told him.
This happens again in Chosen when Favrielle accidentally sticks Phèdre with a pin, causing Phèdre to have quite the reaction that actually renders Favrielle of all people speechless.
Phèdre's mother sells her to Cereus House, and is forced to basically deny that Phèdre is her child. Liliane doesn't say these words, but she does push Phèdre at the Dowayne in a way that says she's disowning her.
Hyacinthe finally finds his people, and meets his grandfather. However, when he speaks the dromonde which is strictly taboo for Tsingani men, his grandfather declares him and his mother dead and everyone begins to mourn with Hyacinthe still standing right there.
IKEA Erotica: Becomes a characterization point. Imriel is not comfortable with his sexuality. Phèdre is very comfortable with hers.
In the Blood: Imriel is the son of the biggest traitors to his country, and despite him being a good-hearted person (and raised by other good-hearted people), many people suspect that someday he might take after his mother. Later on, a group of The Fair Folk have a psychic prediction that Imriel's son would take after his mother and destroy their nation, and so they kill his pregnant wife to make sure this doesn't happen.
Almost every character has a significant level of their personality determined by their ancestry. This is justified, though, since the progenitors of the D'Angelines were angelic embodiments of various traits. It's not as explicit with other nationalities, but by and large every deity is assumed to be (or was once) a physical presence in the world, so their people could have their traits written literally into their genome.
In-Universe Catharsis: In Kushiel's Dart, Phèdre goes to the temple of Kushiel to atone for her role in the death of her master and the things she had to do when a captive of the Skaldi. Kushiel himself is said to be the patron of a very harsh mercy, attended by masked priests and priestesses who inflict painful rituals on those who come seeking atonement.
Incest Is Relative: A mild example that's only mentioned directly once, but Sidonie is Imriel's first cousin (twice removed: since his father was the Queen's great-uncle (the brother of the Queen's grandfather), then Imriel is first cousins to the dead Prince Rolande, first cousins once removed to Queen Ysandre, and first cousins twice removed to Sidonie. They are "first cousins", albeit with a couple of "removes" tossed in.) They're close in age, but his father was her mother the Queen's great-uncle who sired him to have a "pure"-blooded heir to the throne because Sidonie's father is the Cruarch of Alba, a dirty barbarian foreigner in his view, and thus made her unfit to rule. The objection to their relationship isn't based on them being related, though, but fear that Imriel will be like his parents, both duplicitous traitors.
Jedi Truth: A few times, but especially with Melisande.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joscelin and Bao both. However, once Phèdre takes the stick out of Joscelin's ass, and Moirin smoothes off Bao's rough edges, this disappears.
Karma Houdini: Melisande Shahrizai for the most part; she's just too good at Xanatos Speed Chess for karma to catch up to her. She escapes punishment, but she doesn't get her son.
Kissing Cousins: Sidonie and Imriel, with a good bit more than kissing going on. They are a bit more distantly related than first cousins, though.
Lady in Red: Phèdre sometimes does this on assignations to play up her unique role as an anguissette. Even when she wears other colors, at least in Dart she also wears a cloak a color D'Angelines call "sangoire" a red so deep it is almost black (indeed, the word is a portmanteau of the French words for "blood" and "black.")
During her very first assignation with Childric d'Essoms, Phèdre dresses in a red gown.
The Midwinter Masque in Kushiel's Chosen, which she plays up by wearing a gown that exposes her entire back, letting all the peerage of Terre d'Ange know that she is returning to Naamah's Service.
Let's Get Dangerous: The Cassiline Brotherhood are sworn only to get their swords out to kill (normally, they use daggers and vambraces). You'd better believe that when they do, things are going to get VERY dangerous. Especially if it's Joscelin, and doubly especially if Phèdre is in peril.
Libation for the Dead: Traditional in Alba. Drustan does the honors most of the time.* Like Brother and Sister: Imriel and Alais: but in this case it really is like that, no romantic undertones at all. (Well, as far as this series goes, anyway.)
Like Brother and Sister: Anafiel Delaunay and Edmée de Rocaille. Phèdre and Hyacinthe are a lot like this as well, though their feelings aren't entirely platonic.
Imriel and Alais in the second trilogy.
Lineage Comes from the Father: Played with; Terre d'Ange's monarchy passes patrilineally, but the king only has one granddaughter, who proceeds to have two daughters of her own. Meanwhile, in Alba, inheritance passes from uncle to nephew, although this is later revealed to be motivated by the male rulers not trusting that their wives' sons are actually theirs, and preserving the lineage through their sisters. Meanwhile Imriel's significant lineage comes from both sides of his family.
Long Hair Is Feminine: Averted. D'Angeline men typically have long hair and it isn't considered feminine. Played straight in other countries where Joscelin is considered girly for having long hair.
Loophole Abuse: The spirits in Naamah's Kiss do this to avoid giving usable answers to their summoners, as they really dislike being under any human's control.
Moirin does this as well to let Jehanne know about her promise to Raphael and get help to get out of it.
Love at First Punch: Well, she never actually hits him, but Sidonie's snarkiness is one of the first things that attracts Imriel to her.
The verbal version of this is also a big factor in Moirin and Bao's attraction.
Love Hurts: The later half of Scion, and most of Justice, deal with Imriel and this. Not to mention Phèdre and Joscelin's rocky start in Dart and Chosen.
Also shows up in the Naamah series. Could be considered an underlying theme of the universe.
Love Ruins the Realm: One of the prime arguments against Imriel and Sidonie's relationship in the second trilogy. (No one is really bothered about them being relatives: Terre d'Ange is that kind of place. They aren't that closely related, anyway... Sidonie is his grand-niece; it's a complicated family.)
Comes roaring into play in the Naamah trilogy. If Daniel and Jehanne didn't love each other quite so much, Jehanne's death probably wouldn't have crushed her husband's spirit so much—which ends up causing many of the conflicts in Naamah's Blessing.
Averted in Dart: Queen Ysandre of Terre d'Ange and Cruarch (King) Drustan of Alba fall in love. Their alliance crushes the invading Skaldi and brings peace to both countries.
The Magnificent: Alais is known as Alais the Wise in the third trilogy. Many Skaldi have one after their name. There's a lampshade hanging when Phèdre wonders what Harald the Beardless would be called when he's old enough to grow a beard.
Mama Bear: Phèdre becomes one to Imriel after she finds him, to the point that she strong-arms the queen into letting her adopt him.
While Imriel very much has his doubts, Melisande would do anything for him.
Man in White: Imriel, attending the Midwinter Masquerade as Baldur, the Skaldic god of light. This unfortunately makes people ask questions since it both echoes the role of the Sun Prince and because of his mother's role in the Skaldi invasion twenty years previous.
Also, Phèdre and Joscelin's first time is an inversion. Phèdre's not a virgin, but Joscelin is.
The Masochism Tango: Phèdre and Joscelin's relationship to a T at first. However, it tones down eventually, once Joscelin loosens up, and Phèdre stops getting yanked around by Melisande every three seconds.
Masquerade Ball: Terre d'Ange celebrates the winter solstice by having masked balls and celebrations. Typically Phèdre attends in a Pimped-Out Dress of some sort.
Master Swordsman: Several, most notably Joscelin. It's noted in Kushiel's Chosen that he's better than even the most practiced of the Cassiline Brothers for a very good reason—he's fought for his life many more times than they have.
Meaningful Echo: Kinda. After the second book Melisande's reply to Phèdre's accusation of treason gets said in one form or another at least once per book. It's usually mentioned that Melisande said it first.
Melisande: Elua cared naught for mortal politics, nor did Kushiel.
Notable one in Scion
Sidonie: It's not that simple!
Imriel: No, it's not. Mayhap if we obeyed Blessed Elua's precept, it would be. Elua cared naught for thrones or mortal politics.
Even the third trilogy continues the trend
Jehanne: Elua bids us to love as we will. And I do. Why isn't that enough? Why does it have to be so damned complicated.
Moirin: We're the ones who make it that way. Blessed Elua cared naught for crowns or thrones.
And Jehanne, in a way, given that she's Moirin's sexual mentor.
Middle Child Syndrome: Joscelin admits that this is the case of noble families who end up pledging a son to the Cassilines. The eldest stay because they are the heir to the domain. The youngest stay to comfort their mothers. It's then a middle son who ends up being pledged to the order.
Million-to-One Chance: Phèdre nó Delaunay is very frequently told (or admits herself) that her plans are madness and suicide. Yet, with the exception of a few Unwitting Pawn moments, they always work.
Multi-Melee Master: Joscelin, and by exension, all Cassilines. They dual-wield daggers when they're not trying to kill you—and a two-handed sword for when they absolutely, positively must send someone back to their maker. Preferably in pieces.
Mundane Made Awesome: Just learning the Name of God causes the room to rumble and make you feel like your head's going to explode. Phèdre fainted when first hearing it. Calling on the power of the Maghuin Dhonn to drive out a fallen angel from a room almost causes earthquakes.
My Greatest Failure: Backstory that transformed Delaunay from being a Crown Prince's consort to the man known as Whoremaster of Spies.
This also applies to Lo Feng, his failure to raise his biological son right is what later allows Snow Tiger to be possessed by the celestial Dragon and the creation of Divine Thunder (cannons)
Nature Adores a Virgin: Ysandre is rare among D'Angelines in that she was not allowed to have sex before marriage in case she married a foreigner, and pretty much all other countries around Terre d'Ange require the bride to be a virgin.
Noodle Incident: In Dart when Phèdre first meets Melisande, Delaunay keeps Melisande silent about his second pupil by reminding her "Do you want Cousin Ogier to know why his son cancelled his wedding at the last moment?" This is never spoken of again. We don't even get to find out who this Cousin Ogier is.
Not Hyperbole: The Mahrkagir's iron rod is, in fact, just that.It's iron and spiked and covered with the dried blood of the women he's raped with it.
"Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Subverted. Several times, Phèdre has been placed in situations where she has been forced into sex with another person. She mentions the worst part of the experience is always the humiliation of enjoying it.
Not Worth Killing: Inverted. Instead of killing Phèdre, Melisande continuously deals her more merciful punishments, like selling her to slavery, trapping her in the worst prison in the world, etc. because legend has it that a descendent of Kushiel who kills a bearer of Kushiel's Dart suffers ten-thousand years of torment in the afterlife. This is a smart decision in a world where gods and angels are proven to exist. Rather than not being worth killing, Phèdre is too valuable to kill. That, and the fact that Melisande just finds her too much fun as a sex slave.
Omniglot: Phèdre picks up 13 languages over the first three books, most of which she learned while traveling. Imriel can speak almost that many. Justified in that once you've picked up three or four languages, the rest become somewhat easier—especially if you're dealing with "Romance languages" that have similar pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.
Older Sidekick: Imriel seems to get a new one in every book to help him out.
One-Hit Kill: The main power of the Aka Magi, who can kill with a glance. Because of how ridiculously powerful that is it only took a small number of them to kill Khebbel-im-Akkad's entire invading army.
Pet the Dog: The Mahrkagir literally has a dog statue which he gives to Phèdre because he loves her. Also Melisande's love for Imriel.
Pimped-Out Dress/Costume Porn: Phèdre spends a while waxing lyrical about her dress before every fete, ball, masque or other special occasion. The red and black dress for her first assignation comes to mind. When she anounces that her return to being a servant of Naamah she wears a gown with a low back that shows her tattoo, to show she means business. Phèdre gets really dressed up on the night she plans to kill the Mahrkagir with her hair-pin.
Other characters get to wear these as well, especially in the books that don't have Phèdre as a main character.
Plot Tailored to the Party: Phèdre is able to solve a lot of problems by having sex with people, but equally, if not more important, are her skills as a clever spy, linguist, and diplomat.
Polar Opposite Twins: Eamonn and Grainne mac Conor. The brother digs in his heels and plays it safe while the sister runs headlong at challenges.
The Power of Love: Might as well be a physical force equal to gravity in this series.
It does get twisted from time to time. For example the source of the Aka Magi's powers over death comes from them sacrificing and eating the heart of a person they truly love. This is also the key to why the Mahrkagir is vulnerable to Phèdre. He loves her, and if he performs the ritual sacrifice, he will unleash the full fury of his God. The fact he wants to do this is the only thing that allows Phèdre to get him alone long enough to kill him.
Pregnant Badass: Grainne rode into battle against the Skaldi while pregnant with her son Eamonn. Ysandre in particular finds this fascinating and horrifying.
Proud Warrior Race: This defines no less than three of the nations that are not Terre d'Ange: The Eiran, the Albans, and the Skaldi.
In Terre d'Ange, the Camaelines are credited with only being to think with their swords before one of their leaders turns out to be Melisande's traitor. The Skaldi, meanwhile, are never credited with thinking, swords or otherwise. Then, their leader also turns out to be working with Melisande. Hmm, notice a pattern here?
Proud Warrior Race Guy: Drustan and Eamonn fit this trope although both are very clever and thoughful men. It's more about how other people preceive them as being couth or uncultured.
Waldemar Selig tries to avert this. He dreams of ruling over a sophisticated empire, but the Skaldi care too much for fighting and drinking to pose a threat to Terre d'Ange, until he unites them under one kingdom. But even he loses his head in the heat of battle at Troyes-le-Mont...
Psycho Serum: Imriel gets a surprise dose of this in Kushiel's Mercy. Ironically, being flat out of his head for a month turns out to be the best thing for him, given the situation that he's in. Being mad for a month was part of his mother's plan to make him immune to the spell being cast on everyone else in the city.
Purple Eyes: Ysandre, Alais and those from House L'Envers.
Purple Prose: Justified. Phèdre's an active courtesan-spy trained to observe details and appreciate beauty, so it makes sense that her inner dialogue would contain lots of description. Fortunately, Carey's prose style, while detailed, is rarely unintelligible, and anyone who's above an 8th-grade reading level should be able to undertstand it. Imriel uses his infiltration skills less, and so his POV is less detailed. And Moirin, who spends the first 15 years of her life in the wilderness and finds the D'Angeline pre-occupation with looks silly has even less description than Imriel's.
The Quest: Even though the first trilogy is mostly political in nature, each book centers around one or more quests that require the protagonists to travel far from home.
Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Phèdre nó Delaunay and Melisande Shahrizai. Phèdre describes her skin as being "a perfectly acceptable shade of ivory" and her hair as "sable-in-shadows." Melisande is described as having alabaster skin and hair so black that it gleams blue under light. Being D'Angeline they are automatically beautiful, but even among D'Angelines Phèdre is a highly desired courtesan and Melisande is regarded as being one of the most beautiful women alive. The kind of beautiful that inspires people to write poetry about her.
Red Light District: Night's Doorstep is where you go when you want some company but can't possibly afford the Night Court.
Redemption Equals Death: In Kushiel's Dart, Isidore d'Aiglemort goes on a suicide mission to avoid being remembered as a traitor (and foil the plans of Chess Master, Melisande).
Rescue Romance: Subverted. Imriel attempts to save Sidonie from a boar, but it turns out to be just a deer.
Reversed both ways with Joscelin and Phèdre. Joscelin's one of the best fighters in the series and saves Phèdre countless times, but his Cassiline arrogance and idealism couldn't mentally prepare him for the harsh realities of Skaldic slavery. He would have starved himself out of humiliation if Phèdre hadn't snapped him out of it. And while Joscelin's not dumb, he's not Delaunay-trained either. Phèdre's observation and subterfuge skills are key to many of their plans.
Royal Blood: Very important, to the point that those of the royal line are called Princes and Princesses of the Blood.
Royal Brat: Mostly averted with Imriel—who was raised in an orphanage for most of his life—and played mostly straight Jehanne's daughter. In the latter case, she mostly just needs people who know how to handle her.
Sacred Scripture: As the worshippers of Namaah consider sex an act of worship, the Trois Milles Joies (an in-universe version of the Kama Sutra) may be considered one.
Screw Destiny: Phèdre's reaction to Hyacinthe's fate in the first trilogy. Succeeds, of course. Joscelin after deciding he can't live without Phèdre in Chosen.
Scream Discretion Shot: Kushiel's Dart has a scene where Phèdre is drugged and then tortured by Melisande Shahrizai. Described by Phèdre as not being rape because Melisande would have heeded the signale. We only hear Phèdre's very short and non-explicit summary of it.
Secret Relationship: Sidonie and Imriel are like this when they actually hook up. It doesn't last long though.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Zigzags in the case of Imriel and the Maghuin Dhonn. They foresee the possibility of a terrible future, and at first all their attempts to avert it make it more likely and worse. However, in the end, they do manage to change the course of fate... but at a terrible price.
Semi-Divine: The D'Angeline people are like this; descended from God's son and his angelic companions.
Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Patrons pay extra to take the virginity of a new courtesan. And it's typically part of an aristocrat's 16th birthday celebration for them to visit the Night Court for the first time.
Sex God: Any of Terre d'Ange's courtesan, due to the glorification of prostitution as sacred. Special mention goes to Phèdre.
Taken very literally in the case of Naamah, though she's more of a Sex Angel than a Sex God.
Sexy Backless Outfit: Phèdre wears such a gown in Chosen. All courtesans from the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers must earn their marque, a tattoo covering the entire back, in order to complete their debt of servitude towards their House. It's considered unseemly for an adept to bare her back in public before her marque is complete. After the marque is completed, baring it is considered a declaration that he or she is taking offers.
Sheltered Aristocrat: This is played with in the series. Phèdre and the aristocrats she contends with tend to be intelligent, well-educated, and extremely cunning in high society and politics. Very few people are as naive as this trope. However when faced with people who are not as well off, they genuinely don't understand what daily life is like for the masses.
This is averted with Imriel, who grew up as a goat-herd orphan (and was then horribly abused), and thus tends to have a balanced view of upper and lower-class life, not to mention a deeper understanding than most of how dangerous the world is.
Alban and Skaldi aristocrats also tend to avert this, due to life generally being harder and closer to the earth in these countries.
Sibling Yin-Yang: Sidonie and Alais. Sidonie resembles their D'Angeline mother, she is blonde, fair-skinned, cool to the point of being perceived as an Ice Queen. Alais resembles their Cruithne father, she is brown-skinned, dark-haired, spirited, and considered to be not as well-mannered.
Siege Engines: The Skaldi build siege towers for use during the siege of Troyes-le-Mont.
Most recently the 'Divine Thunder' (cannons) seen in Kiss.
Silk Hiding Steel: This is the canon of Cereus House, pale, fragile beauty with inner steel. Phèdre notes that this also perfectly describes Ysandre de la Courcel.
Silver Fox: Cecilie Laveau-Perrin, a former Cereus adept. She is in her fifties when Phèdre meets her, and is commonly believed to be just as lovely as she was in her youth, partly because her pale Cereus-canon hair has gone platinum.
Slap-Slap-Kiss: Moirin and Bao bicker with each other right up until the point where they start having incredible sex.
The Sleepless: Lucius when he was being possessed by Gallus. Imriel eventually challenged him to a duel just so his friend could rest for a night.
Stalker with a Test Tube: Imriel gets stalked/harassed in various ways by a Maghuin Dhonn witch, who at one point thinks she can Screw Destiny by getting pregnant with Imriel's child. Boy, does he not want to.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Joscelin and Phèdre are presented as this at first, as are Sidonie and Imriel. Moirin and Bao seem to be setting up for this as well
Anafiel Delaunay and Prince Rolande; it's the theme of the anthology where the short story was published.
Straight for the Commander: At the climax of Kushiel's DartIsidore d'Aiglemort leads his army on a cavalry charge against the Skaldi, aiming to get to Waldemar Selig and kill him. They end up in a Mutual Kill.
Taking You with Me: Gallus, not to another person but to a flood when he returns to the underworld after protecting Lucca.
Throwing Your Sword Always Works: It's a dagger, but in Kushiel's Chosen, Joscelin makes a dagger throw that disrupts the aim of an enemy on the other end of a large temple filled with fighting men. Phèdre comments that she thought the throw was impossible.
Time Skip: The books mainly continue where the last one left off, but there's a ten year jump between Chosen and Avatar and a hundred year jump before the third trilogy. There's also little time skips during the books when the characters are traveling or nothing important is happening.
Too Kinky to Torture: Phèdre. Early on in Dart she is burned with a red hot poker. She states that "There was no pleasure in it, at least not one who was not an anguissette would understand." Of course, there are lines even for that: she derives no pleasure from being skinned, for example. Still, she says late in the first book that she cannot be forced to tell secrets through torture. This appears to be true. However, she pretty much hits her limit in Darsanga with "the rod."
Troubled, but Cute: Imriel, according to others in the book. Sometimes when reading, it's far too easy to imagine him in a James Dean type get up.
Played straight with Isidore d'Aiglemort, also known as Kilberhaar (silver hair).
Wife Husbandry: Variation. Delaunay adopts Phèdre and Alcuin with the plan that he wants them to work as spies/courtesans and believes that the kids see him as a mentor/boss figure. Instead both of them fall in love with him. Alcuin waits until he's free and legal to make his move.
Winds of Destiny, Change: How the Aka Magi explain their power to kill with a glance. Everybody is just a step a death at any moment, they could have a heart attack, they could trip and break their neck, a clot could form in their brain or any other hundreds of other accidents. All the Aka Magi do is give fate that little push.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Snow Tiger is strong enough to casually bend steel bars, but if she sees her own reflection, even in someone else's eyes, she goes on a killing spree. Though, technically, it's not her. It's the dragon bound up inside her head, which can't stand to see itself in the wrong body.
Woman in Black: Melisande at the Midwinter Masque for the peerage of Kusheth. She wears rich black velvet as a stark contrast to Phèdre's sheer white gauze.
Woman in White: Phèdre does this at least three times over the series at Midwinter Masques.
At Cereus House's celebration when she is ten years old, she and the other Cereus fosterlings are dressed in white as part of the winter theme that Cereus House always has. Prince Baudoin singles her out as joy-bearer and kisses her for luck.
At the masque for the peerage of Kusheth, Phèdre is dressed in nothing but white gauze and diamonds and put on a leash. It causes quite the stir at the party that she's showed up practically naked.
One masque that she attends with Imriel has the whole Montrève household dressed in white as Skaldic gods. Because everyone else is dressed in bright colors, they definitely stand out.
Women's Mysteries: The rite of fertility that women undergo to get pregnant is closed off to men. It's actually pretty simple-they just pray for the goddess Eisheth to let them conceive while lighting a candle (though she doesn't always grant it).
Would Hurt a Child: The Mahrkagir, full stop, which leads to some nasty nightmares for Imriel. It's implied he raped Imriel, as the women in his zenana, including Phèdre, definitely were. .
Xanatos Gambit: Melisande always has backup plans, and even when she loses her bids for power she comes away with at least some degree of victory. However the game plays out, she gets something out of the results.