The Mithgar books by Dennis L. McKiernan are a series of books with an interesting backstory: the first ones written (the Silver Call Duology) were meant to be sequels to The Lord of the Rings. After figuring out that publishing this would be illegal, it was necessary to file the numbers off the Tolkien bits, which meant inventing a replacement backstory for the setting. That backstory eventually developed into a much longer and more involved tale, and was released as the The Iron Tower Trilogy. The rest of the books from the Mithgar series get much more original as time goes on, but for some readers it's still hard to shake the facts of its origin.Though the series was dormant for some time following the release of Silver Wolf, Black Falcon (effectively the Grand Finale) in 2000 (not counting a short story collection and City of Jade, a novel only about half the length of normal), another Doorstopper called Stolen Crown is forthcoming, and will be released in January 2014.
This series provides examples of:
Action Girl: Plenty, but most notably Elyn from Dragondoom and Aiko from The Dragonstone, who is basically Mulan.
Anachronic Order: Many of the later books start in the middle of action, then jump back to show the heroes first meeting, then intersperse development from different periods until it all comes together and starts flowing on to the climax. Each chapter starts with a time-and-location stamp to help you keep track.
Always Chaotic Evil: Apparently all of the evil minion races under Modru. Whether they're like this because they were created for evil by Gyphon, or because they've lived under his and his minions' tyranny for so long that any good has been beaten out of them is unclear.
Bald of Evil: All Black Mages with the exception of Stoke (who has long black hair) and possibly Modru (who wears a mask all the time, so its hard to say).
Big Bad: Gyphon for the whole series, though he usually works indirectly through others and rarely appears in person. Most individual books/subseries therefore have their own, with Gyphon's background plotting tying the Myth Arc together:
Cast from Hit Points: Spells are fueled by the wizard's own life energy, except in the case of Dark Wizards who steal it from someone else. This energy will slowly regenerate with rest - centuries of rest. In most time periods wizards are little more than myth because they're all holed up hibernating.
Con Lang: The author tries to do this for the languages of the dwarves and elves, but it's just a direct word-for-word translation.
Cryptic Background Reference: The author loves making these, which he terms "Red Slippers". He'll usually insert them for flavor, then end up picking them up at a later date for use in a novel or short story. The biggest is probably the War of the Usurper, which is mentioned constantly but never elaborated on- until Stolen Crown comes out.
Distressed Damsel: Princess Laurelin of Riamon in the first trilogy. She does at least make some attempts at planning her own escape, but achieves nothing.
Darkest Hour: Happens in the third book of the first trilogy when Modru completely shrouds the light of the sun.
The Dragon: All the major Black Mages want to be this to Gyphon; Modru succeeded in taking the title and held it for several milennia. After he died, Ydral took over the role.
Doorstopper: Almost all of the books, with the exception of City of Jade.
Elite Mooks: Rucks are the standard mooks, with more powerful Spawn like Hloks, Ghuls, and Trolls taking this position.
Expansion Pack World: The world has gotten a lot bigger than its roots. McKiernan is generally good about dropping a tiny hint in one book in order to pick it up and flesh it out in the next.
Expy: The Iron Tower trilogy has many of characters from The Lord of the Rings (not unexpected, considering the series' origins). From a broader perspective, this is most obvious with the main villains- Gyphon is an expy of Morgoth, and Modru of Sauron.
Five Races: Essentially, like Tolkien: the dwarves, the elves, the humans, the warrows, and the Utruni stone giants (which seem to parallel the ents as an elemental species).
A lot more races work their way in as the series goes on, particularly the Pysks (pixies) and other Hidden Ones and the wizards (which as in Tolkien are a separate species).
Grand Finale: Silver Wolf, Black Falcon. Though Red Slippers and City of Jade were published later, Silver Wolf was where the Myth Arc got quite definitively wrapped up.
God of Evil: Gyphon, who is basically Morgoth in terms of his role in the cosmology, but with a different backstory. A couple of other Gods of Evil are namedropped occasionally, but never but in direct appearances.
At one point a character states that all the gods of evil are just Gyphon in different guises. Including a thinly-disguised Old Testament God.
Heinz Hybrid: Bair is the most obvious example- he's part human, part elf, part Mage, part Spawn (which type is unclear), and part demon. Baron Stoke is a less extreme example- his mother was human, his father half-Mage and half-demon.
Hobbits: The Warrows of the Boskydells were naturally a complete copy of the Tolkienian hobbits to begin with, although they developed a slightly more martial flavor. Their homeland is much better defended than the Shires, and there have been a number of notable Warrow heroes.
Loophole Abuse: No dragon will ever be killed by the hand of a man. Therefore, the two heroes who set out to kill a dragon are a dwarf and a woman. (There's also the one man who basically maneuvers the dragon into being killed by a god.)
Malignant Plot Tumor: An Evil Sorcerer with yellow eyes cameos or is mentioned in numerous books throughout the series. His name is Ydral, and he turns out to be the main villain of Silver Wolf, Black Falcon and probably the third most overall significant villain of the entire setting, with Gyphon being the first and Modru the second.
Mayfly-December Romance: Elves are immortal, as are a number of other magical races. Humans, dwarves, and warrows are not. Combining these tends to end badly. Subverted when the 'human' in one pairing is first frozen for centuries and then revived, and then turns out to have sufficient non-human blood to be actually immortal after all.
Medieval Stasis: Nothing ever changes in the six eras (each of which comprises a few thousand years), technologically or politically. Except for the sinking of Atala and the Hel's Crucible at the end of the War of the Ban, both of which happens in the Second Era.
Just as the orcs and so on from the Lower Plane are always evil, short-lived, mostly mindless, and so on, the elves from the Higher Plane are always good, immortal, and brilliant.
Our Ghouls Are Creepier: The Ghuls, who superficially resemble Ringwraiths (but are much weaker and much more common, and are a race in their own right rather than undead humans). They basically look like gaunt, pale humans that are all but impervious to harm, barring a handful of Achilles Heels; they like to ride on Helsteeds and are usually the field commanders of the Spawn. It's sometimes hinted that they're actually a very weak form of demon, unrelated to the ordinary Spawn.
Our Orcs Are Different: The Rucks and Hloks, pretty much the typical Tolkienian type. Rucks are small, goblin-like creatures; Hloks, their larger, stronger, and more intelligent cousins, are more like the Uruk-hai. It's not uncommon for a force of mooks to consist of a bunch of Rucks backed up by a handful of Hloks, possibly with a Ghul in command.
Single Line of Descent: Played with in the Baron Stoke plot arc. A pair of Warrows, Tomlin and Petal, join a group of adventurers hunting Stoke, but he and one of the heroes end up trapped in a glacier and won't be freed for centuries. The elves in the party will still be alive, but the Warrows obviously will not. They get married and pass their lore and quest items down the generations, hers to her firstborn daughter and then her firstborn daughter and so on, his to his firstborn son and so on. When the destined time finally rolls around, we end up with Gwylly and Faeril, who look just like Tomlin and Petal, but are no longer closely related. So they meet up, fall in love, and continue the quest, just like their ancestors. Then one of them dies, breaking the line of firstborns.
Tragic Bromance / Unstoppable Rage: A common trope here, especially in the early books. Someone dies in battle, someone who cares about that person is filled with rage and superhuman strength, enabling them to destroy the enemy before quickly burning out.
Witch Species: Mages are their own distinct race; they resemble a cross between humans and elves and while they age (especially when doing magic) they can go into special trances that let them regain lost youth. Though other races have certain mystical abilities, Mages (and hybrids like Stoke and Ydral with some Mage blood) are the only ones who cast formal spells.
Wizards Live Longer: Justified; Mages are a nonhuman race who only age as a consequence of spellcasting (and youth lost this way can be recovered with hibernation), making them effectively immortal if they pace themselves.
World Building: The world of Mithgar (which apparently means "middle world") is the primary setting of the series. Other worlds, such as Adonar (homeworld of the elves), Neddra (homeworld of the Spawn), Vadaria (home of mages), and Feyer (home of the Hidden Ones) are mentioned often and occasionally visited. The Dragonworld is mentioned occasionally, but never seen, and a homeworld of demons is alluded to.