Literature / Rachel Griffin

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"Once there was a world that seemed at first glance much like other worlds you may have lived in or read about,

but it wasn't..."

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is a 2013 YA novel by L Jagi Lamplighter (author of the Prospero's Daughter trilogy), followed by The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel. These are the first in a projected series of novels about the eponymous heroine's adventures at school and beyond. Although they have been delayed by a switch in publishers, the third is to be Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.

Thirteen year old Rachel Griffin has been attending the Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts (a school of magic like no other) for two days before she discovers hints of a world-shattering—or world ending—secret unknown to any of the Wise; meets a princess and a dragon-slaying hero, and saves her friend from being murdered. On day three...

It is set in an Alternate History: it appears to be our world, but with magic (a la Dresden Files or Harry Potter), but it soon develops that this is a world where monotheism was a brief historical anomaly. Nonetheless, there are just enough hints of things being awry that we can suspect it is indeed our world, altered. As when Rachel sees a statue of a human with bird wings and is baffled by what it could represent — obviously not a fairy, since the wings are not butterfly ones.


The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Magdalene Chase's. They are actually her aunt and uncle, which partly explains it.
  • Academy of Adventure: So much.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Rachel realizes that she and Vladimir von Dread are the only people truly interested in saving the multiverse from ultimate destruction.
  • Adults Are Useless: the adults in the school are useful for helping you get to the infirmary after you've been Baleful Polymorphed by bullies, but not for helping you get rid of an invisible wraith feeding on one of the students, and they are all prone to giving stupid orders to the heroes, such as "stay here quietly while we fight off the bad guys."
    • In The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel, none of the adults are willing to share information, and are alternately demanding whatever Rachel and her friends do know, and completely dismissing them.
    • Gaius gives as reason for his loyalty to von Dread that he is less incompetent and more interested in the wellbeing of the students than any of the teachers.
  • Ain't No Rule: Against having your friends hit you to get you into the infirmary.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In the second book, Rachel finds herself feeling torn between attraction to Gaius, who fits the bill of a conventional high-school bad boy, and Vlad, who is LITERALLY DOCTOR DOOM.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Zoe and Joy to Sigfried.
  • Alpha Bitch: Possibly deconstructed. Nastasia shows a very mild, Proper Lady-infused take on this, by being the (unwilling) head of a devoted (one-girl) Girl Posse, who is silently jealous of Rachel's accomplishments.
  • Amazon Chaser: Sigfried asks Valerie out immediately after she demonstrates the correct way to wear and draw a Bowie knife.
    • Gaius is also extremely impressed when he learns about Rachel recovering from a broomstick crash and paralyzing her opponent on the way down.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Due to being the first book in a series, Unexpected Enlightenment ends rather abruptly, with several secondary plots only partially resolved. The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel continues immediately after.
  • Apocalypse How: Book one hints at a Class 5 or 6—planetary extinction or destruction. Book two implies a danger of Class Z, omniversal annihilation.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: In the Knights of Walpurgis, Rachel notes that a lot of the members come from good — noble — Blue Blooded families with dicey reputations.
  • Arranged Marriage: Nastasia expects one, with perfect equanimity.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses
  • Baleful Polymorph: Vladimir von Dread turns Gaius Valiant into a sheep. Temporarily.
  • Betty and Veronica: No sooner than Rachel starts to date Gaius than she starts to notice how attractive Vladimir is, despite being arrogant and dictatorial.
  • Big Good: Vladimir von Dread appears to be.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: the jumbo jet seems to be one, although it may be expounded in another book.
  • Big Man on Campus: Vladimir Von Dread, Gaius Valiant.
  • Big Damn Heroes: the princess's visions send the characters out of these to save lives.
  • Blood Magic: Thaumaturgy requires animal sacrifice.
  • Blue Blood: Rachel. She is, indeed, as close to the royals as she could be without having royal blood.
  • Broken Pedestal: Rachel's grandparents: her grandmother was a Vestal Virgin who broke her vows, and her grandfather enabled it.
  • The Cavalry: the Wisecraft officers in book 2.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: When the wraith, which Rachel can see but Sigfried can't, attacks Rachel, she reports the fact calmly and tries describe its position.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: the "vampire hunter wannabe" club is mentioned by Gaius in a throwaway line, one and a half chapters before the heroes encounter a wraith feeding on a fellow student. Jonah Strega is also namedropped ominously several times before he comes on stage.
  • The Chosen One: Joy and Nastasia are (perhaps) the subjects of a prophecy.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: People's belief that the universe is a stable, logical place is part of the Wall that protects the universe from dissolution.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Princess Nastasia believes that her father, the King of Magical Australia is quite insane. Her brother insists that she's mistaken and all their father's Caligula-ish pronunciations (making monopoly money the official currency, denouncing kookaburras as foreign spies) as merely his outrageous sense of humor.
  • Comically Missing the Point
  • Commonality Connection: Both Gaius and Rachel got to start the school a year early.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Nastasia's father, the king of Magical Australia, is described as an extreme example of this by his children. Rachel, when she gets a chance to observe him, thinks that he is instead someone with a very twisted sense of humor.
  • Cuteness Overload: Siegfried suffers one after seeing Rachel and Nastasia dancing a jig of joy.
  • Distressed Dude: The princess's vision showed Vladimir von Dread, Gaius Valiant, and William Locke intervening against the villains, and the Big Damn Heroes moment is to save them. Giving a very disorienting moment for Gaius when he's told of his unwitting peril — he has to collect his wits to thank
  • Disappeared Dad: Valerie Foxx's father, a detective, vanished before the series begins. The second book reveals that he had been seen talking to the Big Bad the day before.
  • Dragon Hoard: Sigfried and Lucky "inherited" one after the decease of its previous owner. As per the trope, they also sleep on it.
  • Driving Question:
    • The Unexpected Enlightenment: Who or what is the Raven? What does the winged statue in the forest represent? (And for the reader: what happened to monotheism?.
    • The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel: How many worlds are there? How are people drawn or transferred between them? Who is causing them to be destroyed?
  • Enemy Mine: In the princess's vision of the Saracen knights and paladins — foes in the Matter of France — standing against the threat to their world. They stand in two groups, with an ogre between them.
  • Every Girl Is Cuter with Hair Decs: Rachel wears a polka-dot hairbow, Sakura Suzuki wears bells on her ponytails.
  • Evil Is Sexy: In-universe for Vladimir Von Dread.
  • Epic Hail
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Justified, as the heroes are using magic to assist them.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The Unexpected Enlightenment takes place over the first five days of Rachel's first school year. And the series is currently planned to last until she graduates.
  • Expy: According to the author, the series is based on a Massive Multiplayer Crossover role-playing game created and played by her family, and the finished story contains non-public domain characters with the "serial-numbers filed off." Hints are given by the princess's visions. Exploration of those hints and other clues currently available (as of book 2) can be found in Rachel Griffin.
    • Siegfried Smith, the famous orphan who is brand-new to the magical world, was originally based on Harry Potter.
    • Rachel herself, while a native of her world, was created for the original game because the authoress wanted a player character based on Hermione, according to Word of God.
  • Fainting Seer: Nastasia.
    • Xandra Harris, also known as "Flops Over Dead Chick" is acerbically happy to see this happening to someone else, for once.
  • Fangirl: Joy for Nastasia.
  • Famed In-Story: Sigfried Smith is an in-universe celebrity for having killed a dragon and taken its hoard. He also saved Roanoke campus from a flying, flaming skunk.
  • Female Gaze: Rachel falls into the tween version of this occasionally.
  • Fighting from the Inside: People under a geas can usually do this. However, a new kind of geas has been invented in which the geassed person may not be aware of their compulsions, and thus unable to fight back.
  • Flying Broomstick: Rachel owns "Vroomie," a hand-made steeplechaser. "Bristleless" Flycycles are also mentioned.
  • Generation Xerox: There are an awful lot of "John" and "Wendy" Darlings, all related to the famous original family.
    • An eavesdropped conversation between Agent Darling and his high-school son reveals that the father hopes his son will take after him in seeking out adventure, even giving him his old Tarnhelm.
  • Genius Loci: Idunn's daughter, the titular Elf of the second book.
  • Glomp: Joy does this to the too-gracious-to-decline Nastasia at every opportunity. A line from Sakura Suzuki suggests she does it to everybody.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: The colors of the Eternal Flame, which is guarded by the Vestal Virgin and harms only the wicked.
  • Go Through Me
  • Good Is Not Nice: Vladimir's strong determination to help those who need it does not mitigate his pride.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: the Raven.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Gaius. She had, after all, just met him and was rather younger at an age where a few years is significant.
  • He's Just Hiding: In-Universe. Enoch Smythwick, the student who had seemingly made a Heroic Sacrifice in the previous book, is revealed to have survived but been concealed in case of further reprisals. At least, that was what had happened after the Reality Warper was done with it. . . .
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Heroic Willpower: Valerie and Magdalene both try to fight off their geases.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Nastasia sees them threatening a world in a vision.
  • Human Sacrifice: the spell that draws people out of their own worlds requires this.
  • First-Name Basis: Rachel asks if she can call von Dread, "Vlad."
  • Forgot I Could Fly: In the climax of The Raven, the Elf, and Rachel, Sigfried starts to charge into battle with his Bowie knife, then stops and remembers he knows magic.
  • I Can Still Fight
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most of the chapters follow the template The (adjective) (noun) of (something). Like "The Unexpected Benefits of Remembering" or "The Awkward Rescue of Valerie Foxx".
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: Lucky, Sigfried's familiar and sidekick.
  • Impact Silhouette: In a brick wall and through two hundred feet of earth—not normally survivable even for a wizard.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Valerie Foxx, Fearless Girl Reporter!
  • Innocent Inaccurate: Lucky, a juvenile dragon, describes one character as "petting" another; his similarly juvenile master misses the implications as well.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Magdalene Chase's parents (actually her aunt and uncle) punish her for being useless to them for a rite of child sacrifice, because the victim must be loved by her parents.
  • In Spite of a Nail: The absence of monotheism has not perturbed history much. Perhaps justified by the way history is being altered, in universe.
  • Kid Hero: Sigfried Smith, dragonslayer, is an in-universe version of this.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Nastasia sees two bands of them in one vision; since a third party calls them "paladins" and "Saracens" presumably they come from the Matter of France.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Peter to Rachel, when he learns of Gaius. Vladimir von Dread also has shades of this, when he orders Gaius to leave Rachel alone.
  • Lady and Knight: Sigfried swears fealty to, and is "knighted" by Nastasia.
  • The Lady's Favor
  • Large and in Charge: Vladimir von Dread is the tallest of the cast, and certainly believes himself to be in charge.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Almost everyone has had their memories tampered with. —To remove traces of the other universes.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Rachel and Siegfried.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Try keeping track of all the students.
  • Lonely Doll Girl: Magdalene Chase. Not so much lonely as bullied and helpless.
  • Magic Mirror: Siegfried has an amulet that functions somewhat like this, allowing him to see in all directions and through walls.
  • Magic Music: Nastasia uses a violin, Sigfried a trumpet. Another character uses bagpipes.
    • Magical Flautist: Rachel initially uses a flute, but soon learns to simply whistle the notes to her spells.
  • Magic Versus Science: they conflict. Unusally, research is going on to overcome the limitation.
  • The Masquerade: discussed and examined. It takes one of the protagonists to ask the obvious question: if the World of the Wise uses obscurations and Laser-Guided Amnesia to hide from the mundane world, what protects the same thing from happening to them?
  • January-May Romance: Between Rachel (13, but looks younger) and Gaius (16).
  • Mind-Control Eyes
  • Motor Mouth: Sigfriend Smith.
  • Morality Chain: Mortimer Egg's family.
  • The Mourning After: Rachel is certain that if Gaius is trapped in animal form, she will never ever get over him.
  • Never Was This Universe: Lots of history differs. Until we realize a Reality Warper is on the job.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Vladimir Von Dread (which is lampshaded: another character remarks she's always thought it was pronounced "Dreed"). Dr. Mordeau.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Sterling example: Rachel knows the keyword to bind Azrael, the demon possessing Mortimer Egg. When she tries to tell her sister Laurel this, Laurel turns around and jinxes her voice so Rachel can't distract her from the fight.
  • The Oathbreaker: Those who walk the Dark Path were greatly strengthened when a Vestal Virgin broke her vows.
  • Orphanage of Fear: Siggy lived in one.
  • Parental Favoritism: The Griffins. Rachel was her grandfather's favorite, older sister Sandra her father's.
  • Poke in the Third Eye
  • Powered By A Beloved Child: one spell needs human sacrifice — and not only that, those offering the human must love this person enough for the spell to work. It has been successfully cast.
  • The Power of Rock: Finn MacDannan combines it with Magic Music.
  • Power Trio:
  • Punny Name: Penny Royal, girl detective.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Valerie while trying to throw off the geas. Overlaps with Deadly Nosebleed, as she passes out from blood loss soon after being found.
  • Running Gag: Siefried's flying, flaming skunk seems to be turning into one.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Siegfried punches the looking glass when Valerie is questioned under a truth spell.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Rachel, who has perfect recall, recieves a gift that prevents her memory/mind from being tampered with at all, rendering her completely immune from Obscurations—and geasses.
  • Royal Blood: Royalty has significant ties to magic.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Romanovs, apparently. Nastasia's older brother Ivan is a member of the student secret service.
  • Sailor's Ponytail: Gaius sports one.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: Sigfried refuses to trust what the Wise tell them. If the Wise tampered with the Unwary, they could likewise be tampered with.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: In the princess's vision, Vladimir von Dread, Gaius Valiant, and William Locke break into the room where Dr. Moreau is geasing students to kill other students, but are killed almost at once.
  • Split Personality: Juma O'Malley's mother has a Superpowered Evil Side, Serena—who is The Dragon to the Big Bad.
  • Shipper on Deck: Rachel ships Prince Ivan of Magical Australia/Her sister Laurel; but over the course of the second book, stops shipping Nastasia/Vladimir Von Dread.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Lucky.
  • Stock Unsolved Mysteries: Takes place on Roanoke Island
  • Super Window Jump: When Rachel can't open a window with magic and is forced to crash through it.
  • Tricked Out Time: The Raven uses this once to change something as minimal as possible.
  • Weird Aside
  • Wham Line:
    • In Unexpected Enlightenment:
    Through the woods leading to the Infirmary, a little porcelain doll walked of its own accord, dragging the unconscious Magdalene Chase.
    • In The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel:
    "I know a twenty-first. All who seek to remember should cherish it."
  • Whip It Good: A magical whip is used offensively, with deadly results.
  • Wizarding School
  • World Tree: —is located just off of the Roanoake Campus grounds.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Sigfried is a true knight, has studied the topic extensively, and will not hit girls. Even if they deserve it.
  • Villainous Vidows Peak: Dr. Mordeau.
  • Virgin Power: The Vestal Virgins must preserve the Eternal Flame.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Starkadders, princes of Magical Romania, can turn into wolves.
  • The Von Trope Family: Vladimir Von Dread, prince of Bavaria, president of the Knights of Walpurgis dueling club.
  • Vow of Celibacy: It turns out that the title character's grandmother was under vows but broke them. This has an actual negative effect due to Virgin Power, and causes something of a Broken Pedestal.
  • You Can Barely Stand
  • Your Worst Nightmare

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