Magic Kingdom for Sale — SOLD! (1986): After the death of his wife, Chicago attorney Ben Holiday purchases a magical kingdom from a Christmas catalog for one million dollars. When he gets there, he finds it is in shambles. The court wizard can't make his magic work, the royal scribe is a talking dog, and the King's living castle is dying. Worse yet, Ben's vassals refuse to acknowledge him as King, and a dragon is raiding the countryside. Ben has his work cut out for him, and he has to do it without the aid of The Paladin, the king's legendary champion!
The Black Unicorn (1987): The evil wizard Meeks returns to Landover and magically steals Ben's identity, and giving Ben the appearance of a peasant. Ben wanders Landover in search of a way to break the spell, while also looking for the missing Willow.
Wizard at Large (1988): Questor Thews tries to transform Abernathy back into a man, but his spell goes awry, transporting Abernathy (and Ben's medallion of kingship) to Earth. Ben and Willow travel to Earth to rescue Abernathy. Meanwhile, an evil Genie in a Bottle is causing trouble in Landover— especially when the witch Nightshade gets her hands on it.
The Tangle Box (1994): Ben, Nightshade, and Strabo are all trapped, with no memories of themselves, inside the magical Tangle Box by an evil spirit who plots to hand control of Landover to the demons.
Witches Brew (1995): Ben must find his daughter, who has been kidnapped by Nightshade, as well as defend his right to the Kingship of Landover in a series of duels against a challenger's magical champions. Meanwhile, Questor and Abernathy are trapped on Earth, and must find a way to return to Landover.
A Princess of Landover (2009): After running afoul of the rules one too many times at her Earth boarding school, a teenage Mistaya comes home to Landover, only to run away when she believes her father is going to send her back and generally control her life without her input. This leads her in roundabout fashion to the ominous Royal Library of Libiris, a meeting with a cute pageboy who is more than what he seems, and a plot by an Evil Sorcerer to yet again allow the demons of Abaddon into Landover.
This series provides examples of:
Abhorrent Admirer: In A Princess of Landover, Mistaya is proposed to by the odious Lord Laphroig, who has been nicknamed "The Frog" for his habit of darting his tongue out of his lips when nervous and his squat body. Besides being ugly, Laphroig's wives and children have a habit of dying from "mysterious illnesses". Correctly, Mistaya assumes Laphroig only wishes to marry her in order to have access to Landover's throne.
Amnesia Episode: The central plot of "The Tangle Box" novel, where King Ben, evil sorceress Nightshade, and dragon Strabo are all trapped in the titular box and stripped of their memories. Made awkward because Amnesia-Ben and Amnesia-Nightshade start to fall in love, when they are normally very bitter enemies.
What happened to Abernathy in Backstory, courtesy of a Magic Misfire from Questor (to protect him from Michel Ard Rhi). End result is a scribe who is a soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, luckily still retaining human hands and the ability to speak.
Nightshade gets trapped in her crow form at the end of Witches Brew.
The Gorse's plan to get rid of Ben, Nightshade, and Strabo (based as it was on each of them refusing to trust the others yet also unwilling to let some mysterious great power fall into the hands of one of the others), then distracting everyone with mind's eye crystals while it prepared to release the demons of Abaddon, based on the idea that mortals are easily seduced and corrupted by their own greed and longings.
The Big Bad: Meeks in the first two books; Nightshade begins taking on this role in the later ones, although the Gorse and Crabbit edge her out or temporarily replace her.
Big Bad Duumvirate: Meeks and The Iron Mark in the first book, Crabbit and Laphroig in the sixth.
Big Damn Heroes: Strabo, so many times. He's strongarmed into breaking Ben's friends out of Abaddon in the first book by Ben's use of Io Dust and frees Ben, Abernathy and Willow from Michel Ard Rhi in the third when Questor defeats him in a Wizard Duel. After a whole lot of Character Development, he saves Ben from The Wurm on his own initiative in Witches Brew. Because nothing quite says Big Damn Heroes like forty feet of flying lizard to the rescue. Mistaya also tricks him into rescuing her at the last minute in Princess.
Big Good: The closest Landover comes to one of these is the Earth Mother—and while it is true she's much more neutral than most examples of this trope, she does seem to have both concern and even affection for Willow (and eventually Mistaya), and approves of her relationship with Ben and Ben's kingship, so that she acts in their best interests and offers them advice and even the assistance of the mudpuppy Haltwhistle, which often turns out to be the key to saving the day.
Bilingual Backfire: In the first book, Ben is negotiating with the leader of a tribe of dangerous and brutal crag trolls, using his court wizard Questor Thews as a translator. When negotiations go badly, he's forced to threaten to summon the king's champion, the Paladin, to defend his party. When Questor voices doubt about this, Ben angrily insists that a bluff is their only chance to escape at this stage—and Questor notices that although the troll leader doesn't speak Landoverian, he apparently understands it. And then things get bad.
The Bluebeard: Lord Laphroig. Like Henry VIII, it was in order to produce a male heir. (And then he killed the heir and the mother when he found a better match in the daughter of the king.)
Butt-Monkey: The G'home Gnomes in general, but Poggwydd and his friend Shoopdiesel take the cake in Princess. Also, Cordstick.
Call to Adventure: in the form of an advertisement in a catalog of bizarre items geared toward the rich.
Jumped at the Call: Ben assumes the ad is a hoax, but is depressed and bored enough with his life that he answers it anyway.
Cats Are Contrary: Edgewood Dirk. Lampshaded by Brooks when he quotes the scene with the cat from The Last Unicorn as the epigraph to book 2. And while Dirk does assist Ben, Willow, and Mistaya, he is neutral, not good, and certainly never very polite or good-natured. Some of this is due to his fairy nature, of course, but...
Chain of Deals: Ben's task in the first book is sort of like this. To earn the River Master's allegiance, he must first secure the lords of the Greensward. To get them to acknowledge him, he must get Strabo to stop raiding their lands.
The Chessmaster: Edgewood Dirk in A Princess of Landover. After Princess Mistaya gets expelled from school, her father King Benjamin decides to send her to Libiris, a place she is so desperate not to go that she runs away from home instead. Along the way, she meets Edgewood Dirk, who, for reasons of his own, offers to help hide her from her father. He explains to her, the only way to hide her from the King, who, after all, has a magic device that lets him scry on almost any place within the kingdom, is for her to go to the absolutely last place where her father would think to look for her: Libiris—where, it turns out, Dirk wanted her to go for those aforementioned reasons of his own.
The Chosen One: A subversion: after several dozen failed kings, Ben is the only one who can summon the Paladin. This is not, however, because Ben is the chosen one. He is able to succeed where his predecessors failed not because he is the chosen one, but primarily because he was just too stubborn to give up, which was partly because he had nothing to lose. In theory, however, there might have been any number of people who could have succeeded in Ben's place. The problem was that Meeks was deliberately selecting men he was confident would give up quite readily. And, as Questor finally admits to Ben, the few previous ones who didn't give up, well, he finally figured out that Meeks was making sure that even if the Mark didn't kill them, they'd still meet a nasty fate by...other means.
Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Kallendbor is constantly attempting to undermine Ben. In Witches' Brew, it culminates in him allying with Nightshade to destroy him.
Combat by Champion: In Witches Brew, the fictitious King Rydall of Marnhull challenges Ben and the Paladin to defeat 7 of his champions in order to determine whether Marnhull's armies will take over Landover. In reality, Rydall is an agent of Nightshade, and his champions are monsters created by her and Ben's daughter Mistaya, who believes she is helping her father. Only five of the champions ever appear: they include a giant who gains strength from touching the soil, a demonic entity that mimics the Paladin, an immense mechanical man, the Wurm, and the zombified Ardsheal.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: In the first book, Ben, through use of Io Dust, forces Nightshade to transform into a raven and fly into the Fairy Mists...from which she had been exiled. Best not to think what the fairies did to her for violating that, but it's no surprise she swears Revenge on Ben and he comes to regret this moment several times. (Even if it was in retaliation for her sending his friends to Hell Abaddon.)
Book three has one too, in the form of Questor's last bequest to Michel Ard Rhi: giving him back his conscience.
Cuckoo Nest: One of the books has Ben being told that all of his fantastical adventures were a hallucination and that he is crazy. It's presented as kind of a "last temptation" kind of thing, but you never know...
Dark Is Not Evil: The black unicorn. Crabbit also plays with this during his initial meeting with Mistaya, to the point the reader isn't at first sure he's really bad. Of course, the fact Meeks wanted him out of the way and so convinced the old king to assign him the position of Royal Librarian should tell you something.
Dark Is Evil: The demons, Nightshade, The Gorse, The Darkling, pick your poison.
Dark Secret: For a long time, the Paladin's true nature is this for Ben. Eventually he is forced to reveal it to his friends.
Deadpan Snarker: Both Abernathy and Strabo. Even Crabbit gets in a few good ones.
Strabo: "Marnhull"? Hmph. Sounds like a nut.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: Between Landover and the real world. Ben reflects on this in Wizard at Large when comparing his previous life as a lawyer to his current life as King of Landover. In Princess, although Mistaya's attitude certainly doesn't help, this trope does contribute to her problems at the boarding school.
Demon Lords And Arch Devils: The Iron Mark is the Large and in ChargeBlack Knight who leads the demons in the first book. He has a claim on Landover's throne, and challenges all would-be kings to defeat him in single combat. In the fourth book we are told that there is a new Mark, although we only meet him briefly. The Gorse, as an evil, exiled fairy of tremendous power may also count.
Disproportionate Retribution: So, Nightshade. While you and Ben were both scared, lost in the Labyrinth, suffering from amnesia, and trapped in the personas of the Lady and the Knight respectively, you fell for one another and had a brief, fully consensual relationship. Which you initiated. And because of this you vow to destroy everything he holds dear, despite his choosing not to pursue the relationship after you were freed? Jeez, you uh, may want to see a therapist or something.
Reading her remarks to Willow after being released from the Tangle Box, it's precisely because he chose to not continue a relationship with her. There she had him, and, possibly for the first time in who knows how many centuries, she was happy. Plus, as per Strabo's remarks, the one thing that can weaken her magic is feeling the softer, gentler emotions. Her one true fear.
Down the Rabbit Hole: Magic Kingdom for Sale — SOLD! takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to this trope. Ben learns about a magic kingdom via a real estate ad. Rather than a rabbit hole, he has to wander headlong into a train tunnel to get there.
The Dragon: Rydall/ Kallendbor to Nightshade in Witches Brew.
The Dreaded: The Ardsheal, for Willow. In her childhood, her father the River Master summoned several to catch a shapeshifting demon, and they killed her sister by mistake. She's been terrified of them ever since. In Witches Brew, the River Master summons one for her and Ben's protection. She urges Ben to accept it because it would be a great insult to refuse, but it still frightens her. For good reason, as it turns out.
Duel to the Death: Between the Iron Mark and the Paladin in order to resolve the issue of Landover's kingship. As it is instigated entirely at the Mark's insistence, it doesn't count as Trial by Combat.
Eldritch Abomination: In many ways, the fairies seem like this—although it's never stated that trying to understand them would break mortal minds, they arebeyond mortal understanding, as well as incredibly ancient and mysterious. They certainly have no love for mortals. However, while none (save the Gorse) are actively harmful to humans, some actually do seem to care what happens to them, or perhaps just to the multiverse in general, and thus choose to step in and interfere to set things right—which suggests that if the fairies are Eldritch Abominations, they aren't evil ones.
Enemy Mine: The premise of The Tangle Box, is that an amnesiac Nightshade, Strabo, and Ben are forced to work together. Following their recovery of their memories and the escape from the box, Nightshade hates Ben all the more. Strabo, on the other hand, loses a lot of the enmity he'd formerly borne the King, and is far more civil to him in his subsequent appearances.
Everything's Better with Monkeys: The kobolds Bunion and Parsnip. Parsnip is the castle chef, Bunion is the court runner, and also doubles as Ben's personal bodyguard.
Subverted with the Throg Monkeys of Princess, which are mean-tempered, unnerving, voyeuristic, and seemingly lazy and which turn out to be helping Crabbit free the demons of Abaddon.
Eviler Than Thou: Crabbit and Laphroig have no difficulty putting aside their differences to help each other get what they want, particularly when one of their goals (getting Ben off the throne) coincide, but each is also determined to be the true power in the end and are quite ready to double-cross, betray, and backstab each other. This at least partly factors into their defeat.
Evil Is Not a Toy: In The Tangle Box, Horris Kew and Biggar release the Gorse from its prison, and it enslaves them with the intent to send them down the Box when they are no longer useful.
Evil Library of Ominousness/Spooky Silent Library: Libiris. Granted, it's not entirely its fault, what with the Tarnish, its lovely caretaker, and the demons trying to come in through its walls, but its initial design is not conducive to making would-be readers want to spend many hours within. But then its designer was Meeks...
The Fair Folk: The series runs the gamut from the fairies of the mists, who, while more or less benevolent, are also Eldritch Abominations, to the fairies who actually live within the Kingdom itself, who in turn range from Willow's mother, a wild, amoral free spirit, to Willow's father, who is sort of lawful goodish with serious jerkass tendencies, to Willow herself, who is clearly good and benevolent. Oh, and then there's Nightshade.
Fisher King: Something of this comes through in the connection between the palace Sterling Silver and the kings of Landover—since after being left abandoned, without a proper ruler on the throne, she ends up suffering from the Tarnish, an effect which not only turns her into "Castle Dracula" as Ben puts it, but spreads out into the countryside, killing the Bonnie Blues and generally poisoning the land. It fades and she is restored to her former glory when all the threats to Landover are ended or neutralized and Ben has proven his worthiness for the throne.
The Lancer: Questor Thews, despite his Inept Mage status is usually the one who can be counted on to take command when Ben isn't there, and is easily his closest advisor. Has some aspects of The Smart Guy as well.
The Big Guy: Bunion. Court Runner, Ben's bodyguard, and just happens to be extremely strong, and very, very durable. All this despite his small stature.
The Smart Guy: Abernathy, the Court Scribe. He's extremely bright, as well as calm, pragmatic, and by Landoverian standards, relatively cynical. Knows a lot about the country's history and places, and provides a more realistic counterpoint to Ben's idealism and Questor's enthusiasm. Has some characteristics of The Lancer as well.
Friend or Idol Decision: In The Black Unicorn, Abernathy is faced with one of these—whether to destroy the books of magic in order to save Ben and Landover from Meeks and free all the unicorns, or preserve them so that Questor can use them to change him back. He chooses his friends and kingdom.
The very first book sets up a situation where each thing Ben learns about the supposedly wonderful fantasy of ruling a magical kingdom is worse than the last. His only loyal followers are an Inept Mage, a Talking Animal scribe, and two monkeys; the castle and land are dying thanks to there being no true king for so long; none of the people will follow him; a dragon is laying waste to the countryside, which he must put a stop to if he wants the lords' allegiance, which he in turn needs if he wants the River Master's; the Paladin has seemingly deserted the kingdom; Nightshade is plotting to take over; oh, and the Iron Mark has sworn the king to a Duel to the Death.
However, each subsequent book seems to like piling on the complications in the same way. In The Black Unicorn, the Bad Dreams everyone suffers ends up allowing Meeks back into Landover, who switches places with Ben, seemingly steals the medallion, and exiles him with no one believing who he is or recognizing him except Nightshade and Strabo; meanwhile Meeks has the books of magic and is manipulating Willow into bringing the black unicorn to him so he can enslave it once again.
In Wizard At Large, Questor accidentally sends Abernathy to Earth, to the collection of the one man who hates and likes torturing him more than any other; Ben and Willow go to rescue him, since he has the medallion with him, only to be stuck on Earth too long so that Willow starts dying fromnot being able to go through her change, arrested by the cops at Ard Rhi's behest, and put on trial; while back in Landover the Darkling which was switched with Abernathy ends up in a host of unscrupulous hands causing all sorts of trouble before finally reaching Nightshade.
And in The Tangle Box, Horris Kew accidentally unleashing the Gorse not only gets Ben, Nightshade, and Strabo imprisoned and amnesiac together, it lets the Gorse mislead and manipulate the people through the mind's eye crystals, then prepare to unleash the demons of Abaddon.
Only Witches' Brew and Princess of Landover seem to avoid this. The whole plot with Rydall and Mistaya's kidnapping pretty much happens all at once, with Questor and Abernathy's later disappearance just seeming to be a minor side issue until their Big Damn Heroes moment. And both Crabbit's plan at Libiris and Laphroig's intentions for Mistaya are revealed gradually (rather than one horrible thing after another early on) and have nothing to do with each other until the Villain Team-Up near the end.
He was never fully a Heel, and he never fully becomes a Face, but Strabo the dragon as well. He progresses from incredibly antagonistic to Ben in Books 1, 2, and 3, before becoming a rather wary almost-ally after Book 4.
Heroic Sacrifice: Questor Thews attempts one at the end of book 5. Luckily Mistaya saves him.
High Turnover Rate: Landover had several dozen kings in the twenty years between the old King's death and Ben's arrival.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Aside from having been the one to make Ben king in the first place, in the end Meeks's defeat comes about because of the very one he had manipulated Questor into putting under a Baleful Polymorph. Not to mention Abernathy wouldn't have been in a position to choose whether to help destroy the books if Meeks hadn't sent a dream to Questor to retrieve them...which he did because he wanted to change Abernathy back.
Hot Witch: Nightshade. The first thing that King Benjamin notes about her when they first meet is that "what[ever] artist had created the witch, whether god or devil, [had put] some thought...into the sculpting. Nightshade was a striking woman." Note that Nightshade is also a seriously evil Wicked Witch, and even though she is perfectly willing to pretend to be someone's friend in order to manipulate that person, she never attempts to be seductive or otherwise use her beauty as a tool of manipulation.
Hurting Hero: Ben at first, who is grieving the untimely death of his wife. Much of the first book is him learning to let go and love Willow.
Idiosyncratic Chapter Naming: Most of the books give one-word names to the chapters, or at most a short phrase. Some of these are nice bits of prophetic Foreshadowing, some viewable as such through Fridge Brilliance hindsight, others are obscure. Wizard At Large takes this to an art form, with such seemingly innocuous titles as "Sneeze" and "Bottle", hilarious ones like "Itch" and "Dragon at the Bar", and critically important ones like "Stopper". One of the best overall in the series, however, would be the last chapter of The Black Unicorn: "Legend".
Implacable Man: The Ardsheals are magically created Implacable Men who shrug off most weapons with ease, and don't stop coming until they're dead. The Paladin also has aspects of this. So when the two of them go head to head, the results are pretty destructive.
Inept Mage: Questor Thews, though he gets better. While his initial transformation (and inability to reverse it) of Abernathy is the one most often brought up, his mistake in book 3 takes the cake: by accidentally breathing in the magic spell dust, he sneezes...which somehow turns a transformation spell into a transposition spell, switching Abernathy for the Darkling's bottle.
Jailbait Wait: While it was all one-sided, at least at first, there is something mildly disturbing about Elizabeth's feelings for Abernathy, particularly since they began when she was quite young and he was still a dog, even if she did wait until they met again (and she was of legal age) to pursue it...
The Juggernaut: The Killer Robot (Talos) in Witches Brew. The chapter is titled Juggernaut for crying out loud. It's capable of ripping through castle walls, and its iron hide gives it Nigh-Invulnerability to boot. The battle between it and the Ardsheal is pretty epic.
The faerie mists. By default appears as an endless fog-filled forest. In truth, reality is so soft in the mists that it will reconstruct iself around you, conjuring your basest fears or desires so strongly that most cannot keep their mind long enough to escape.
The mind's-eye crystals in Tangle Box. They show people what they most want to see. Those who bought one gradually became addicted and spent hours gazing into them.
The tangle box itself, intended as a prison for the Gorse, contains both a section of faerie mist, and other enchantments to seal memories and reinforce the illusion.
In the same book, the faeries offer one outright to Willow and her inbound child - to stay in the mists in an imagined paradise, forever. When she declines, they are either put out enough to almost trap her in a worse one, or make her deperate enough to reach Ben and break him out of his own. Their motives are as clear as the mists.
Lovable Coward: The G'home Gnomes are filthy, sneaky, fearful thieves who have a reputation for eating people's pets. After Ben shows them mercy, they turn out to be some of his most loyal subjects.
Magical Girlfriend: Willow is not only protagonist Ben's ideal woman (and a green-skinned forest babe), she's also essentially destined to "belong" to him. Cue "I'm not worthy" monologues and skeptic waiting for the catch.
Manipulative Bastard: Meeks. One of the very first things revealed about him, once Ben is in Landover and learns the full story, is that the whole reason Questor was The Mole for him was because Meeks had promised to teach him the magic he needed to restore Abernathy if he helped him...but the whole reason Abernathy was in that situation in the first place was because Questor was trying to save the scribe from the torments of Michel Ard Rhi, which had been encouraged by...Meeks. His scheme in The Black Unicorn is also quite convoluted, diabolical, and clever.
Mathematician's Answer: It is possible to compel Nightshade to answer you truthfully. Good luck compelling her to do so helpfully.
Mixed Ancestry: Willow, born of two different kinds of faerie, whose status complicates both her relationship to Ben Holiday, and later their child's gestation and birth — as the child of a wood nymph, she has to spend part of the time as a tree.
The Mole: Questor at first, albeit under duress. He eventually turns on Meeks and joins Ben for good.
Multiversal Conqueror: In Witches Brew, Rydall of Marnhull claims to be one of these, planning to make Landover his next conquest. Turns out he's actually a local nobleman, working with Nightshade to overthrow Ben.
Neutral No Longer: Nightshade was always evil, but was not actively opposed to King Benjamin at first. In fact, they first met when Ben insisted on going to meet her, over the strong objections of all his friends, in hopes of recruiting her to his side against the Iron Mark, the Big Bad of the first book. Questor, Ben's court wizard, pointed out to him that this was a terrible idea and that even the last real king of Landover had wanted nothing to do with Nightshade, but there was nothing to indicate that Nightshade had ever been in open conflict with the kings of Landover. Ben's meeting with her, however, did not go well: Nightshade banished Ben's friends to Abaddon, home of the demons, so Ben retaliated by banishing her to the Mists, which was much the same thing for her. After that, Nightshade would remain one of Ben's enemies.
Our Demons Are Different: Evil fairy beings, exiled from the Mists and sent to dwell in Abaddon, a realm of fire, chaos and despair. They're not happy about this, they want back into the Mists, and unfortunately, Landover is the only route they know of.
Our Dragons Are Different: Strabo is a huge, black scaled, Affably EvilChaotic NeutralDeadpan Snarker, with a love of fine singing and eating other people's cows. He's very bright, very dangerous, and verylonely. He more or less straddles the line between the classic monster dragon, and the friendly, misunderstood dragons prevalent in modern literature. As the series progresses he becomes less and less antagonistic towards Ben, eventually becoming a flying Big Damn Heroes moment.
Our Elves Are Better: Some of this comes through in the River Master's contempt for Ben, though it seems more directly related to the long line of failed kings than to humans in general. Mostly. Eventually, he gets better, in large part thanks to Mistaya.
Our Gnomes Are Weirder: The G'Home Gnomes. They're short, filthy, hairy and greedy humanoids with a taste for cats and dogs. They also turn out to be some of Ben's most loyal subjects.
The Pawn: Villains in this series are very fond of this trope. Every king who has purchased Landover since Meeks and Michel Ard Rhi began their scheme has been a pawn of the wizard's; after Ben proves beyond manipulation and actually succeeds in becoming a true and successful king, Meeks then returns to regain the books of magic, which requires him to make pawns of both Willow and Questor. Horris Kew is very much a pawn of the Gorse's (until the end, that is), and Nightshade's revenge scheme makes pawns of both Mistaya and Kallendbor.
Plant Person: Willow is a woman who periodically transforms into a tree (no points for guessing what variety of tree). Even in humanoid form, she has green skin and hair and absorbs sunlight for energy. When she and Benjamin have a daughter, said daughter initially takes the form of a seed who must be planted in soil. Once she is finally born, however, she is much more human, but still has a magical connection to plant-life.
The Power of Hate: Nightshade's entire personality in a nutshell. Her magic may be based on it, in fact.
Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Invoked by Meeks in book 2, since he needs the unwitting assistance of the heroes to get back to Landover and prevent the escape of the unicorns. Ben's dream is a pure fabrication, a vision of impending doom for his best friend Miles Bennett designed to make him go racing back to Earth and thus give Meeks the opportunity to cross back to Landover with him. Questor's dream is straightforward and accurate (save for leaving out the rather dangerous Threshold Guardians at the fortress), as it is meant to simply recover the books of magic. Willow's dream, however, is a twisting of the truth, meant to frighten her into capturing the "evil" black unicorn and bring it to Meeks. Thanks to the fairies, however, Willow's dreams become genuinely psychic, gradually changing to reflect reality and persuade her to help rather than lure the black unicorn.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: Nightshade's eyes turn red when she is at her angriest. The bad news? They're normally red.
Retcon: The existence of Libiris and Crabbit, why he was not around in the previous books (Meeks wanting him out of the way, his fear of Meeks), why Questor and Abernathy never mentioned him until now.
Right for the Wrong Reasons: In the first book, Ben is initially convinced that the advert to purchase a magic kingdom is a scam for the obvious reason. He eventually learns that it is a scam — not because the kingdom doesn't exist, but because it's beset by enemies and what he's bought is less "permanent vacation to fairyland" and more "full time job that will kill him if he doesn't do it exactly right". Each time the seller simply waits for the new king to be killed and puts it back on the market.
Running Gag: The G'home Gnomes, constantly protesting their innocence when it comes to thievery and eating pets, and insisting they are a poor helpless race of woobies persecuted by the rest of Landover, unfairly targeted when they are quite innocent of all charges. The act fools no one.
Sand Worm: The Wurm that Nightshade sends after Ben in Witches Brew. To quote Strabo it's "an ordinary worm turned predator by magic. Expose it to water, and it grows to the size you see now." Whether The Paladin could have killed it is really up in the air. Strabo, on the other hand, makes quick work of it.
Second Love: Ben is devastated by the loss of his wife which kicks off the depression and restlessness that leads him to purchase Landover. In fairy lore, the first man a sylph lays on eyes on will be her true love, and Ben is the man Willow meets. He has a devil of a time moving on from his first wife's death, never mind accepting Willow's fairytale attitude towards their future. Willow's loyal persistence eventually defeats Ben's brooding despair.
Secret Handshake: In A Princess of Landover, the two G'home Gnomes have an elaborate secret handshake so that no one else can pretend to be them (leading Mistaya to wonder why anyone would wantto be them).
Secret Identity: Thom had to assume one, to avoid being eliminated by his power-hungry brother.
Sequel Hook: Nightshade vanishing from the Zoo at the end of A Princess of Landover.
Sheathe Your Sword: In Witches Brew, one of the champions sent by Lord Rydall, the fake Big Bad of the book, is a knight resembling the Paladin. The Paladin fights the knight but finds his opponent can perfectly match him blow for blow. The knight is only defeated when the Paladin sheathes his weapon and disappears, causing his doppelganger to do the same.
Spanner in the Works: Usually, the fairies. It's them giving Ben Io Dust that allows him to get rid of Nightshade, rescue his friends from Abaddon, and compel Strabo to end his depredations (which through a Chain of Deals earns him the loyalty of everyone else in Landover). It's them sending Edgewood Dirk to Ben, and altering Willow's dreams, that enables Meeks' defeat and the release of the unicorns. And it's Dirk helping Willow in her quest to find the three soils that undoes the Gorse's plan, since in the process she is able to use the fairy mists to enter the Tangle Box and provide the jolt needed to bring Ben back to himself (though Horris Kew also acts as a spanner), and his assistance to Mistaya helps her return Libiris's books and seal the demons away, thus undermining Crabbit's scheme. The only time the fairies don't act as this is in Witches' Brew, where it's Questor and Abernathy returning from Earth that brings down Nightshade's scheme, and in Wizard at Large where the spanner is Questor riding Strabo to Earth to cut the knot.
Soul Jar: It turns out the books of magic are a variant of this: one contains the bodies of all the unicorns, preserved as drawings, while the other contains all their souls which collectively manifest as the black unicorn whenever they escape. It is this separation which allowed Meeks and all the wizards before him to control and draw upon the magic within them.
Speak of the Devil: Variation. Early in Princess Strabo tells Mistaya that if she ever uses his image again without his permission, he will appear to read her the riot act. She then does so during her Shotgun Wedding...thus summoning the real Strabo to free her and take out the villains, once the situation is explained.
Spoiled Brat: Some of Mistaya's characterization partakes of this. Luckily, she gets better.
Summon Everyman Hero: Played with in the first book, where the everyman hero is summoned by the genre blind villain with the expectation of being useless as a hero, complete with a job interview designed to ensure uselessness. The hero is just the latest in a long line of summoned everymen who were until then as useless as expected.
More "fairies are bastards". Early on in the series, rumor had it that it had been a human lover who had broken her heart, but in Witches Brew Nightshade confided to Mistaya that she had fallen in love with a true fairy. After revealing the truth of her half-human heritage to him she was instantly rejected, then exiled from the Mists on threat of death.
Crabbit: You do live in a fairy-tale world, don't you, Princess? All you see is what you want to see. If you don't want to think about something or face up to something, it simply doesn't exist for you. Goodness. But this is the real world, not some make-believe story in which you are the heroine. So perhaps you ought to rethink your situation before you start making threats.
Unicorns Are Sacred: Utterly, and justifiably, played straight, even (and especially) the black unicorn. What Meeks and the wizards before him did to them shows exactly how corrupt and wicked human magic-users were before Questor came along (although the act is repugnant enough it would likely still be an In-UniverseMoral Event Horizon even were unicorns not involved).
Villain with Good Publicity: What Meeks was in Landover for a very long time (the old king didn't even suspect his true evil), and what Michel Ard Rhi set himself up as on Earth, complete with the ability to gain power and influence with the government, the police force, and the courts. Luckily good publicity doesn't matter when a dragon appears over the skies of Seattle. Laphroig is one too, more's the pity; even once Ben uncovers circumstantial evidence that he murdered his brothers and wives, he can't pin anything on him until he does something for which he can have his title stripped and be put on trial.
Xanatos Gambit: Nightshade's complex Revenge scheme involving Mistaya and Kallendbor. No matter whether the monsters kill Ben or he defeats them and is killed by a poison-brooch wearing Mistaya, her revenge is completed.
Alternative Title(s):Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold, The Black Unicorn, Wizard At Large, The Tangle Box, Witches Brew, A Princess Of Landover