The Spellsinger series is a fantasy series written by Alan Dean Foster.In the first book, Spellsinger, the hero Jonathan Thomas Meriweather, also known as Jon-Tom, is a prelaw student with pretentions to rock stardom, who is innocently smoking pot when he's abruptly transported from the University of California at Los Angeles to a weird world in which animals talk, wear clothing, and live alongside humans by the turtle wizard Clothahump, who was searching for a great wizardly "En'geeniar" (meaning an engineer, as he was under the impression that this is the name our world gives to wizards). Unfortunately, he caught Jon-Tom, who works part-time as a janitor and on his pay stubs is called a "sanitation engineer"*
and his mind was "the most receptive" at the moment, which might have had to do with that joint he smoked
.It all works out for the best, though, as Jon-Tom soon discovers that in the magical world he has the power of a spellsinger: a wizard who can make powerful magic through music. Using this new-found power, he and a cast of creatures set out to do battle with the evil anthropomorphic insects known as the Plated Folk.
Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Accidentally applied to a village full of wading birds in Chorus Skating, when Jon-Tom magically re-grows their lost feathers by revising the lyrics of songs about custom auto paint jobs. Luckily, the altered birds get a real kick out of their new makeovers.
Amplifier Artifact: Jon-Tom's dual-necked, guitar-like duar is sometimes this, sometimes not. In the first few novels, it's implied that duars are fairly common instruments in the series' Alternate Universe setting (in the first book, Jon-Tom picks his up from a sack of musical instruments dropped by by a fleeing merchant, and his companions act as if it's a common item), and it merely functions as a focal point for his latent magical powers. In later novels, however, it's indicated that the magic comes from the duar itself, which has been retconned into a rare and valuable item, and Jon-Tom's facility with it is more practice than anything else. Considering some of the world-shaking effects Jon-Tom achieves with his duar in the first few books, however, it's conceivable that the instrument became magically-empowered as a result of these events. At least one of his feats, the summoning of M'nemaxa, can be performed only once in a wizard's lifetime, which would explain why he can't just repeat the process to enchant another duar.
And Call Him George: The Brulumpus, a sort of sentient swamp from Chorus Skating. All it wanted was companionship that was "new and interesting". In order to coax it to let them leave, Jon-Tom conjurs up a variety of objects from his own world such as a grandfather clock or a flea circus to entertain it, and eventually it is overcome by...TV commercials.
And I Must Scream: Jon-Tom when he's captured by the underwater Plated Folk colony in the fourth book. His captors need to carry him back alive and whole to their homeland to answer for his crimes, but they don't dare give him the slightest chance to work his magic. Enter "TheRuze"...
Subversions do exist, however. The Weavers of Gossameringue, despite their fearsome appearance, turn out to be loyal and dependable allies; Colin the koala, far from being somnolent, lethargic, and slow of mind is a Badass warrior and runecaster; and Dormas the hinny, while a bit stubborn, is also one of the calmest and most sensible members of the party.
Anything That Moves: If it's female and a mammal, Mudge will almost certainly make a pass at it (though he's a bit more hesitant than usual with regards to Roseroar, due to fear of angering her). According to his son, Squill, in book seven, the average mink makes him look like a celibate.
Arboreal Abode: The turtle wizard Clothahump's home is inside a massive oak tree.
Awful Truth: In the Son of Spellsinger, the Grand Veritable is a magical, sentient lie detector that can not stop declaring the truth. Fun ensues as it wrecks relationships across the Bellwoods.
Bizarre Instrument: Jon-Tom's duar is a double-necked guitar in which the two sets of strings cross over one another. When used for spellsinging, some of its strings start fading in and out, as if crossing into another dimension.
Bug War: The periodic wars against the Plated Folk, much more difficult in that unlike most Bug Wars, the bugs in question are sentient.
Although there was one brief scene where an owl (Clothahump's drunken assistant Sorbl) is seen quickly gulping down a mouse; whether or not it was someone's father was never addressed.
Likely a continuity error when he just wasn't thinking, as mice are considered quite sentient and the suggestion of eating any sentient being fills anyone but the most evil with disgust and horror. So 'well the owl ought to be eating a mouse because owls eat mice' and totally forgetting he wrote mice as sentient and far larger than the non-sentient variety.
Or maybe Jon-Tom only caught a glimpse of something mouse-sized with a long tail in the frying pan, and subconsciously assumed it was a mouse for the same reason. In which case, it was probably a small long-tailed lizard. Indeed, a mouse from the Warmlands would probably be much too big for Sorbl to swallow.
Son of Spellsinger suggests that even the now-civilized Warmlander carnivores used to prey on the others, but gave that up around the dawn of history, at the same time they started walking upright. Throughout the series, many Wacky Wayside Tribe encounters involve throwbacks that have backslid into such cannibalism.
Son of Spellsinger also averts this, in the form of a very feral smilodon as the Guardian of the Grand Veritable. There isn't the least bit of Carnivore Confusion about him. They turn him into an Androcles Lion by repairing his rotting sabertooth with spellsinging. He's so overjoyed to be free of pain he lets them have the Veritable and the giant golden stand it came with.
Guardian:I don't discriminate between idiots and geniuses. They all taste the same going down.
Changed My Mind, Kid: Subverted. The morning after Clothahump summons M'nemaxa, it appears as if Mudge has abandoned them...only for him to reappear having hunted down some breakfast for the party. However, it isn't that after planning to abandon them to save his own skin, he changed his mind out of altruism, friendship, or in consideration of the money the turtle was paying him—he simply knew better than to leave since Clothahump would curse him if he did. And he was right.
Changing of the Guard: Subverted. The 7th book hands off the story to Jon-Tom's son and Mudge's kids, but the original duo take back the spotlight for the 8th and final novel.
The Charmer/The Casanova: Caz acts more like the former, though according to Talea he's the latter. He does his womanizing by virtue of his impeccable taste, sense of style and dress, and gentlemanly manners. Amusingly, he's a rabbit. Also amusingly, the first female he tries his act on on-screen is Flor and it fails utterly. (This may be what eventuallycauses him to fall for her...but she reciprocates in the end, so perhaps she wasn't as proof against his charm as she appeared.)
Chekhov's Gun: The large amount of money that Jon-Tom wins by gambling in the first book is used to pay a boatman to take them into Plated Folk lands when no one else has any money.
Children Are Innocent: Both played straight and averted. Early on in Lynchbany Jon-Tom watches some furry children playing, only to be horrified when it turns into actual fighting with a fair amount of bloodiness and ferocity. In Polastrindu, however, just before speaking to the town council, he observes the people of the city in order to remind himself of the peaceful, innocent people who will die if they don't succeed in their quest, and among them are some cute, friendly children he is easily able to imagine as human.
Contemptible Cover: Most of the early editions' covers seem to have nothing to do with the actual contents.
Cosmic Horror: M'nemaxa. Also, Massawrath, Mother of Nightmares, but she lives under a mountain.
Crapsack World: Between The Dung Ages setting and the Fantastic Racism which seems to prevail in the Warmlands, Jon-Tom is understandably upset about the world he's ended up in once he accepts it as real. Considering during his first visit to Lynchbany "he'd nearly being assaulted by a beggar, had taken part in a distressingly violent riot, and...serv[ed] as an accessory to assault, robbery, and possibly murder", followed immediately by being thrown out of Thieves' Hall for insulting the honor of a female wolf he'd won in a game of chance, he could be forgiven for not wanting to stay in this world any longer, or even for wondering why he should bother to help save it. (And so might the reader.)
I guess I just thought things would be different here, as far as that kind of thing goes. I was imagining a world that doesn't exist.
Jon-Tom: I want to see some of the goodness, the kindness that this world should have.
Mudge: Should 'ave? By who's determination?
What could he say? By rights of legend. What legend? By logic?
In the end, though, it becomes clear Jon-Tom does come to see value, hope, and goodness in this world, since he not only fights to defend it from the Plated Folk but various threats which crop up including the cosmic perambulator, and ends up forging many bonds and relationships in the Warmlands, to the point of having a wife and children and, when the opportunity comes to return to Earth, choosing to stay. So by the end of the series his view has shifted to that of A World Half Full.
Creepy Cleanliness: The extremely neat and clean orphanage run by the Friends of the Street in Snarken appears to be on the up and up until Mudge points out that with so many orphans present it should be more dirty. The protagonists investigate and discover that the operators are puritanical religious fanatics who regularly beat the orphans, as well as neuter them to make them more docile and less likely to make messes.
Jon-Tom. A modern human in an alternate, medieval-equivalent universe filled with Talking Animals, who is pretty much useless in a fight, at least in the first few books...except for his spellsinging, which is the ultimate wild card and capable of doing anything he can sing about. The only trouble is that 1.) he has to know the right song, 2.) sometimes nothing happens, and 3.) even he's not sure what's going to happen when he starts. It's done everything from switching the entire party's genders, to changing a wizard's apprentice into a phoenix, to summoning a god.
The otter tribe in general are like this - they can barely keep a serious thought in their heads and are always brawling with one another, but heaven help you if you directly attack one of them, or their friends.
Dirty Coward: Mudge likes to pretend he's one of these, probably so that others won't expect anything from him. The degree of competence he reveals when his help is truly needed makes him more of a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass.
Roseroar. Although when dealing with Corroboc at the end of the third book she doesn't even bother with her swords. She doesn't actually eat him, but uses her claws to dismember him faster then he can draw his sword.
Corroboc himself could allegedly throw four knives at once: one with each wing, one with his beak, and one with his good foot while perching on his peg leg. It doesn't do him the slightest bit of good against an enraged Roseroar.
The Dung Ages: Let's just say this is a medieval-style world that actually gets the unsanitary, unsavory, and extremely harsh nature of the time period right, but also without going too far in that depiction or peopling it with nothing but Medieval Morons. Jon-Tom's first visit to Lynchbany, which highlights the different strata of society, does not shy away from the river as community sewer or the nature of the "nightsoil" slops which would he poured out of upper-story windows, and includes such things as a strip show, corruption, and street robbery, exemplifies this.
Even Evil Has Standards: A twisted version thanks to Values Dissonance, but many of the Plated Folk generals are disturbed by and afraid of the "Font of Evil" Eejakrat has conjured...because it kills from a distance, and across worlds.
Exact Words: The "(sanitation) engineer" mix-up which brings Jon-Tom to the Warmlands.
Fantastic Racism: Rats and mice are treated as inferior and have to cope with jobs like janitor, though they get a Crowning Moment of Awesome during the Battle of the Jo-Troom Gate when Falameezar rallies them to drive back the Plated Folk, which boosts them into near-respectability from then on. In general in fact there seems to be suspicion and distrust between a number of species (see Mudge's view of ferrets), not to mention the view of some humans toward the furries, and of course that of the Plated Folk toward the warmbloods.
Fantasy World Map: Every book provides one. For the first two only a small subsection is shown relevant to each book's plot (with a zoomed-in view of the Bellwoods for the first); after that a full-sized world map is provided, identical in each book, again with subsections added for that book's plot.
Feather Fingers: The birds, to the extent that they can play stringed instruments and use weapons with specially-designed hollow grips.
Fiery Redhead: Talea. Her hair is explicitly described as not the usual red-orange but "flashing crimson that looked...like kinky blood"...and the first thing she does after meeting Jon-Tom is insult him, tell him to shut up, and instantly draw a knife on him despite him being a good head-and-shoulders taller than she is.
First Girl Wins: Talea. She's the first human Jon-Tom meets, and the first female as well; despite his summoning of Flor, it's Talea he falls for while Flor ends up with Caz, and no matter how many other females he meets in his journeys, he always comes back to her. They eventually wed and have children.
Flowery Insults: In Paths of the Perambulator, the group are trapped in a magical cage made of "gratuitous insults". Both Clothahump and Caz are also prone to these.
Flying Postman: A bird postman (postbird?) is the second animal (Mudge is the first) Jon-Tom meets.
Foreign Queasine: Averted; even once he finds out his first real meal in the Warmlands is snake, Jon-Tom doesn't have any problem with it. "Why be squeamish in the face of good taste? Meat was meat."
Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Eventually retconned: in the first book, Jon-tom is informed that most hoofed mammals aren't intelligent, but later books show these quadrupedal warmlanders talking and using tools designed to be grasped with lips.
Functional Magic: Indeed, their wizard's speech is our technical language, and mention is made of working with transuranic elements. If Clothahump had succeeded in capturing a real engineer, he'd have been pretty powerful.
Funetik Aksent: For a number of Talking Animal characters, including Mudge's rural-British speech and Roseroar's Southern drawl. Colin's accent is described in a way that brings to mind John Wayne.
Funny Animal: The world is entirely populated by these, the vast majority being walking, talking, and clothes-wearing but otherwise looking like their animal counterparts. Very much a Furry Fandom world.
God Save Us From The Queen: Empress Skrritch of the Plated Folk. As vile, vain, and vicious as can be, she's Always Chaotic Evil, regularly eats her attendants (being a Praying Mantis) and because she is possessed of the unwavering belief that she and her people are superior and more deserving of power and lands than the Warmlanders. She constantly forces her tribe into futile warfare with them, something that many of the Plated Folk don't like (but don't dare voice). She is even determined to not only conquer, enslave, and feed upon the Warmlands with impunity, but other worlds as well. When she's killed in the nuclear blast at the end of Hour of the Gate, the rest of the Plated army promptly surrenders...though, in the following books, a few still lurk and wait for warmlanders to capture.
Grail In The Garbage: After being thrown out of Thieves' Hall, Jon-Tom just so happens to find a collection of trading goods that had been lost by or stolen from some traveler...containing the magical duar he carries for the rest of the series.
Groin Attack: Mudge does this in the first book during a fight.
Hair-Raising Hare: In the seventh book, there is a group of rabbits who are so sick of being regarded as cute and harmless that they went insane and started messing around with The Dark Arts / Mad Science in order to take over the world.
Heel Face Revolving Door: The Plated Folk army at the end of the second book, having surrendered, finally begin to talk with the Warmlanders rather then fight. The two sides seem well on their way to mutual understanding, but by the fourth book, the Plated Folk are back to being Always Chaotic Evil.
Hellish Horse: M'nemaxa. He takes on the appearance of a giant equine literally made of fire. Played with in that, while hardly a force for good, neither is he evil—more a case of a neutral Eldritch Abomination that can't be bothered to notice mere mortals, being neither aware of nor caring what his presence does to them.
The spider folk of Gossameringue and the owl/lemur town of Ironcloud. Rather like the elves and Rohirrim in the Lord of the Rings, both send late war parties to help defend the Jo-Troom Gate, and combined prove decisive.
A more literal one in the third book. With fat man-eating elves.
Crancularn is an odd case, as at first it appears to be a completely normal town, one which just happens to be hard to find because it's the way you get there that is hidden. But when Jon-Tom and his party flee, its citizens take on the weirdly distorted forms of beasts and demons, and then the whole town fades away into nothing. Whether this was its true form or an effect created by the genie to scare them into never returning isn't known.
Hive Caste System: Averted; the social ranks of the Plated Folk are determined by what species of insect they are, rather than what caste within a species.
Hollywood Tactics: Subverted in the second book when the heroes find the Plated Folk are fighting with intelligenttactics, which are supplied by a military computer from Earth. This is an Oh Crap moment by Clothahump who notes that magic items or great beasts he can counter, but there is no simple way to deal with what an enemy knows. Also see Shout Out below.
Hordes From The East: The Plated Folk are most certainly a horde; the Greendowns where they dwell are to the east; and they periodically invade and try to conquer the Warmlands as such hordes are wont to do.
Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Talea is actually fairly tall for a human in her native land, but she's a good foot shorter than Jon-Tom.
Humanity Ensues: Clothahump threatens Mudge with it when the otter initially refuses to help Jon-Tom. Also happens to Jon-Tom's group in Perambulator.
I Choose To Stay: At the end of the sixth book, Jon-Tom finds a stable portal to return to his home dimension, but he's grown so comfortable in the fantasy world, he returns home on a tentative basis and decides to return to the fantasy for good, taking as many goodies from Earth such as songbooks as he can with him.
I'm a Humanitarian: One of the more disturbing aspects of the Plated Folk's culture, and why their Bug War is such a frightening prospect.
Caz: Will you never lift your thoughts from the gutter, friend Mudge?
Mudge: I like it in the gutter. 'Tis warm and friendly down there, and you meet up with all manner o' interestin' folk.
Inept Mage: Jon-Tom's spellsinging is variable, to say the least.
Inevitable Waterfall: Four waterfalls actually, at the Helldrink in the second book. Unlike most examples of the trope, Helldrink is quite lethal to anyone foolish enough to get that far, and only some VERY fast work by Clothahump saves the party.
In the Doldrums: The Muddletop Moors in The Day of the Dissonance. It's overcast all the time, food is tasteless and anyone traveling through it gets so bored and depressed that they just lie down and die. It turns out that the depression is caused by the telepathic broadcasts of the intelligent giant fungi who live there. But of course, Jon Tom provided some magical entertainment to the fungi and passed through the moors safely.
Interspecies Romance: Normal in the warmlands to the point that Jon-Tom gives offense by refusing the advances of a lupine female.
Roseroar briefly muses about a dalliance with Jon-Tom but quickly decides he's much too fragile. (At least, that's what she tells herself to keep her obvious jealousy under control.)
Flor is infatuated with Caz, a rabbit. Much to Jon-Tom's chagrin, they end up a couple at the end.
Pog the bat is in love with a falcon. Jon-Tom turns him into a most magnificent phoenix in the end, but whether he gets the girl is left up to the reader.
Its The Journey That Counts: Despite the fact The Day of the Dissonance ends up being a Shaggy Dog Story, it can be said much was learned and accomplished along the way that never would have been if they hadn't gone on the trip, ranging from eliminating Corroboc and saving Folly, to exposing the truth about the Friends of the Street, to helping the fairies so they would no longer eat travelers, to eliminating the evil wizard Zancresta. Jon-Tom, naturally, is not amused by the lesson, however.
Lions and Tigers and Humans... Oh, My!: Pretty much the whole series is based on this trope; the lions and tigers all talk, are sentient, and many will happily tear you limb from limb if you get on their wrong side. Almost every species of warm-blooded mammal in the Wizard's World (and even others such as arachnids and arthropods) are sentient, intelligent, talking beasts who wear clothes and have complex cultures just like humanity does. (Except all reptiles but turtles, and the hooved mammals—until a Retcon after the first two books.) The world also, however, possesses humans; interestingly, they are much shorter than the average Earth human, while the furries are much larger than their non-sentient Earth counterparts, allowing for a more seamless blending of the species and compatibility (of allkinds) between them. Explained by divergent evolution between this world and Earth (specifically identified by Clothahump as linking manual dexterity to sentience).
Loads and Loads of Races: Possibly the record-holder for this, as every species of mammal, bird, amphibian or turtle known to Earth is a sentient race. Also an unspecified number of insects and spiders, plus assorted mythical creatures and unique creations.
Loveable Rogue: Played with with Mudge, for a certain definition of "loveable". Yes, he's as cute as any otter, but he's also a gambling, hard-drinking, harder-wenching bastard who's hello to Jon-Tom is to stab him with a rapier.
Magicians Are Wizards: Markle Kratzmeier Markus the Ineluctable, a two-bit Stage Magician on Earth who finds his tricks work for real after he gets into the Spellsinger world.
Magic Music: Any song Jon-Tom plays and sings with his magical duar will create spells. The effects vary greatly depending on what song/poem he chooses, his concentration, and Rule of Funny.
Meaningful Name/Stealth Pun: M'nemaxa's name, when Jon-Tom sounds it out, sounds like "Omni-maxa". M'nemaxa is described by Clothahump as the supreme gestalt embodiment of all beings, and "omni" means "all", while "max" means "most" or "greatest".
Also Folly from book three. Not only was the name given to her because her family (and everyone else) believed her to be useless and worthless, she ends up inadvertently causing a great deal of trouble for Jon-Tom by believing The Mole, then getting kidnapped and ensorcelled.
The Monolith: In Chorus Skating, two huge black rectangular objects appear on the beach when Jon-Tom is about to have his final sing-off battle with the villain. True to this trope, they were indeed sent by a mysterious alien from another level of reality ... as amplifiers to give Jon-Tom's duar a much-needed and decisive boost.
No More for Me: As soon as Jon-Tom arrives in the Bellwoods and encounters Mudge, he tosses aside his joint and swears never to smoke again, at least not unless he knows for sure what's in a particular cut.
Non-Mammal Mammaries: Considering the moments, when Jon-Tom was unable to recognize that the animal before him is female, before hearing her voice/paying attention to her makeup, this is decisively averted.
Now Do It Again Backwards: At one point in book five, when one of the perambulator's reality tweaks causes all the animal members of the party to turn into humans, Jon-Tom proceeds to change them back by singing Bruce Springsteen's "Human Touch"...backwards. Unfortunately for him, this also causes him to turn into a howler monkey; he considers singing the song forwards again to restore himself, but has to pick something else so as to protect his friends.
Nuke 'em: Apparently a last resort of the Plated Folk in the second book's final battle. It's actually a very clean bomb, as there is nothing described about the radiation affecting anyone.
One Head Taller: Jon-Tom (over six feet tall) and pretty much any human in the other world (even the males top out at five-and-a-half).
Orphanage of Fear: The Friends of the Street in Snarken. Considered a great place with well behaved kids, albeit unnervingly quiet, it is eventually discovered by Jon-Tom to be horrific beneath its happy appearance: the food is great and healthy, but every child is required to be "perfect" with any misbehavior a cause for whipping, and all kids have their sexual organs (castration, etc) removed because sex isn't "perfect".
Mudge accuses Jon-Tom of having one and insists on shortening it. Ironic since he knows someone named "Caspar di Lorca di l'Omollia di los Enansas Giterxos", but then he shortens that to Caz.
The hummingbird Councilor in Polastrindu is named Millevoddevareen.
Pirate Parrot: Played with in the case of Corroboc and Kamaulk. The parrots are the pirates, and incredibly nasty.
Place of Power: The Glade of Triane (and three other locations around the world).
Playful Otter: Invoked in the truism "one otter can focus on something serious for a while, but two or more otters is a permanent party."
Police Brutality: Played with—the cops themselves are not brutal, nor do they do anything particularly out-of-line to keep the peace or bring in perps...but rather than using tear gas, they do fumigate those criminals and lawbreakers they arrest...because they're skunks.
The Power of Rock: Literally—the music Jon-Tom plays with his duar creates magical spells of varying effect.
And then book five has a whole band of Magic Music-playing demons Jon-Tom has to fight—and he actually destroys them with a particularly powerful song (musically, not just magically).
Reality Ensues: What do you get when you take a bunch of animal species, give them human mannerisms and sentience but retain their natural instincts and abilities, and then put them all close together in cramped civilized quarters? The...aromatic musk of Lynchbany Towne. (And it's even worse in the summer, at high noon.)
On the other hand Talea strongly implies that, even if the spirit (and flesh) is willing, Mudge doesn't get around nearly as much as he claims he does. This comment might seem motivated by either jealousy or a desire to insult a disgusting habit, except it is stated in the context of her warning Flor to avoid Caz because "unlike Mudge, who's a talker, this one's a doer". (I.e., if Mudge really did get around and she was just trying to insult him, surely she'd have warned Flor away from the otter too.)
Removable Shell: Played with. Clothahump doesn't have a removable shell, but he has enchanted his plastron to install transdimensional cabinet drawers in his chest.
Retcon: In the first book, Jon-Tom is told that hoofed mammals aren't intelligent, but later books have him converse with talking camels and horses, and hire a talking hinny to accompany his group.
Rhino Rampage: In Son of Spellsinger, the young travelers recruit an alcoholic rhino as both transport and bodyguard. When he's not drunk off his feet, he's an armor-wearing Bad Ass.
Right Behind Me: Clothahump manages to pull this on Mudge and Jon-Tom in their very first meeting.
Rule of Funny: What generally determines the effects of Jon-Tom magic whenever he's not fighting a Big Bad.
Sapient Cetaceans: In a world where every species of mammal or bird is intelligent, dolphins are essentially a bunch of slackers, whose only interest in land-goers is the chance to swap dirty jokes.
Seen It All: After their encounter with the Queen of Nightmares in book two, the main cast is simply not scared of anything, since they've basically stared into the face of the anthropomorphic personification of fear itself.
Shout Out: A huge one to Lord of the Rings in The Hour of the Gate.The Plated Folk blow up the Jo-Troom Gate exactly like the Uruk-Hai blew up the outer wall in Helm's Deep - with high explosives. More generally, they had acquired a military computer, and were using it to vastly improve their tactics, much as Saurman gave the Uruk-Hai new tactics to breach the wall mere Orcs never had managed to breach.
Simple Staff: Jon-Tom's backup weapon when he's unable to use his spellsinging. Justified due to his lack of weapons training and long reach compared to almost everyone/thing else. A series of four or five "decorative" studs on the staff release a concealed spearpoint from the butt end of said "simple" staff, however...
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Downplayed, and realistically done—Flor's beauty makes everyone discount her mind and other talents, seeing her only as a woman and sex object and refusing to take her seriously; she's forced to be a cheerleader and go into acting because that's the only things anyone thinks someone who looks like her would be good at, when all she wanted to do was be an astronaut.
Son of an Ape: Used frequently by Mudge in reference to Jon-Tom. Also on one occasion by Dormas the hinny. Given that monkeys in Mudge and Dorcas's world are fully sentient and civilized, the implication may have been that Jon-Tom is foolish or frivolous rather than primitive.
Spoiled by the Format: invoked After numerous mishaps and misadventures in and around Lynchbany, Jon-Tom goes back to Clothahump's Tree, planning to try using his newfound spellsinging combined with the wizard's magic to send him home and exchange a real engineer. This event happens...with about half of the book still left to go, guaranteeing the attempt is going to be a failure. The way it fails, however, and what the result of it is, are still rather unexpected.
Strong As They Need To Be: Jon-Tom is almost an Anthropomorphic Personification of this trope. The results of his spellsinging are not very predictable and range from cosmically powerful to hilariously pathetic. But in the final confrontations and other important moments it always works perfectly, or far better than expected.
Stubborn Mule: Dormas is less stubborn than most examples of this trope, but she still has her moments.
Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Subversion: The villain in the fifth book harnesses a transcendental creature, the perambulator, and Clothahump assumes he intends to destroy the world with it as a grandiose form of suicide. As it turns out, though, Braglob did it For the Evulz (and so the whole world would be mad like him) and had no specific plans for the thing at all.
Summon Everyman Hero: Quintessential example in Jon-Tom being summoned by Clothahump. That he turned out to be a magician after all, which is what Clothahump expected an "engineer" to be, suggests it's not just Jon-Tom whose magic brings what's needed rather than what's expected.
Tempting Fate: Bringing the communist dragon Falameezar...into a rich city of soldiers, merchants, and other greedy capitalists sure to brag about their riches or simply say the wrong thing.
There's No Place Like Home: Jon-Tom spends most of the series desperately wishing to return to his home dimension. When he finally can, he decides to take some of what he considers the best bits of it and return to his friends and love interest in his adopted dimension.
The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: Although initially the combination of finding himself in a far too realistic Crapsack World of mostly furries and the inability of the one who summoned him to send him back home makes Jon-Tom terrified and desperate to escape, once he discovers the duar and his spellsinging talents, and then finds out just what the threat Clothahump called him to stop is, he immediately knuckles under to try and help. Throughout each of the subsequent books he becomes more and more adapted to his new home, as well as developing his spellsinging talents, until by the time he finds a way home again he not only isn't sure he wants to leave, but after visiting Earth, reassuring family and friends, and making arrangements for his continued absence he goes right back with various Earth goodies (including, naturally, plenty of music).
Flores Quintera is an even stronger example, since the chance to escape misogyny and assumptions about her intellect and goals in life, plus live out her secret fantasies, causes her to prefer the Wizard's World to home and to fit in immediately.
Token Human: Although minor human characters appear (such as Folly in book three), the series sports only two (three, if you count the Son of Spellsinger) major human characters, including The Hero Jon Tom. All others are anthropomorphic animals.
To Serve Man: Played straight with the cannibal fairies; inverted with Kamaulk, who's mistaken for a chicken and eaten by homeless men from our own Earth.
Trapped in Another World: Jon-Tom is stuck in this world of talking animals since Clothahump summoned him but doesn't know how to send him back, or can't, depending on the novel. Eventually he does find a way home, but by then he doesn't want to leave.
Tribal Carry: When the Ogres capture Jon-Tom and his friends.
Trickster Mentor: Although Clothahump does his best to save the world, when it needs saving, otherwise he's quite a dick, not above tricking Jon-Tom into going on highly dangerous quests because he feels like it. Unlike many fantasy mentors, though, he's at least aware of his own dickishness, even if he does justify it as necessary to save the world.
True Beauty Is On The Inside: Deconstructed with Pog. Despondent that a beautiful woman he loves won't even give him the time of day, he is told by Jon-Tom, "She should see you for what you are on the inside"—only for the bat to point out that in Real Life, looks do count. They are part of who you are. It might not be the most important, but they still are something. Not to mention that one of the reasons he wants her in the first place is for her looks, so it would be a Double Standard if he wanted her to ignore his ugliness. The fact that he ends up being transformed into a beautiful phoenix by Jon-Tom could be seen as either part of the cynical deconstruction (that only such a change could make him worthy in Uleimee's eyes) or playing the trope straight after all by making Pog's outer appearance resemble his good, if gruff, heart.
Tsundere: Talea. In Jon-Tom's words, she is like "clove and pepper" and her words are "like firecrackers". Yet she also has a softer, caring side revealed over time as she begins falling for him, and she possesses Hidden Depths (when asked what the most common trait of humanity is by Falameezar, she says "Love").
She was no less beautiful for their argument, but it had become the beauty of a rose sealed in glass. Delicacy and attractiveness were still there, but there was no fragrance, and both were untouchable.
Turtle Power: Clothahump—greatest wizard in the world (and on several occasions he proves it), and he's a turtle.
Unfazed Everyman: Jon-Tom, owing to his being a stoner, takes most of the weird medieval world in stride once he gets used to it.
Vagueness Is Coming: Justified—Clothahump's divinations have not told him what or who the threat to the Warmlands is, so he has no choice but to describe the crisis in vague terms. This is rectified once he is able to learn more information, though he still isn't able to figure out just what the danger is, even after infiltrating Cugluch, until practically the last minute during the battle (and it still takes Jon-Tom to actually identify it).
Wacky Wayside Tribe: The first few novels are episodic, but still possess a plot. Later ones ... not so much. It is particularly prevalent in books three and six; the former has the fungi of the Muddletop Moors, Corraboc and his pirates, the Hidden Elf Village, the interlude with the virgin from Crestleware, and the town of Redrock they had to hole up in to be safe from the moving sands of the Timeful Desert, while book six has the pirates (again), the cannibal village, the Tree-Hunters and the Lost City, and the Ogre village. (Even one of the characters complains about the monotony.) Book five also has a literal one with the tribe that Jon-Tom and the others find in the northern forests which has captured Colin. The attack by the Mimpa in Hour of the Gate could also be considered this, since the only purpose it served in the plot was to separate the party from Falameezar until his Big Damn Heroes moment at the Jo-Troom Gate.
We ARE Struggling Together: One of the big reasons the warmlands are in such danger from the Plated Folk invasion—they are "divided and independent" while the Plated Folk "possess a unity of purpose under their ultimate leader". Centuries of complacency have made matters worse, so that when Clothahump tries to warn everyone and gather them together to make a stand, at first no one will listen or even believe him.
We Can Rule Together: The Plated Folk made this offer to the humans of Polastrindu to get their aid against the other animals. They in turn offer it to Jon-Tom.
In the fourth book, Oplode's apprentice Flute is never mentioned again after hiring a messenger to contact Clothahump and his ultimate fate remains unknown.
Similarly, Drom and Roseroar indicate a desire to return to the Bellwoods with Jon-Tom and Mudge at the end of the third book, as did the group of otters from the fourth, but aside from a few passing references to Roseroar, none of them are ever seen or mentioned again.
The fate of Flor and Caz from the first two books is also left unstated, though you'd think Jon-Tom would want to inform the former about the gateway home that he eventually discovers.
Prickett, Mudge's daughter from Transference, seems to have vanished without trace during the hiatus between it and Son of.
What Measure Is A Nonhuman: Very firmly addressed, deconstructed, and eventually subverted. Upon first finding himself in the Warmlands, Jon-Tom believes the place to be a Crapsack World, is horrified by the Fantastic Racism and The Dung Ages setting, and even suffers from some prejudice toward the Interspecies Romance common to the world, as well as being personally squicked himself by such things as an ermine stripper and a female wolf he's expected to take to bed after winning her in a game. It gets to the point that, even though he goes along with Clothahump and the others to help save the world, he finds himself resenting Caz for being The Rival to him for Flor's affections simply because he's "an oversized hare" who shouldn't even be a possibility due to the notion being "repugnant".
And when he encounters the human La Résistance of Polastrindu that is working with the Plated Folk to bring down the animals and establish themselves as the "rightful" rulers, he is actually tempted to join them—since even as he denies the fact animals on Earth are not sentient has anything to do with the clearly sentient and intelligent animals of the Warmlands, he finds himself wondering what he even owes this world he was brought to against his will. In the end, however, when the others come to his rescue and thus remind him of their loyalty and friendship, he rejects the offer, is made physically ill at the thought of his near-betrayal, and declares that Mudge, Caz, and Pog were "more 'human' than the so-called humans who'd kept him prisoner"...and that if he'd been tempted it was because he was "only human": "Maybe if I work real hard, I can manage to overcome that."
The future books make it clear he has, in fact, come to see the animals of the Warmlands as perfectly equal to humans and worthy of respect and defense, and he even considers their animal selves to be natural, since he finds it as wrong and unsettling when his companions get turned into humans in book five as they do.
What You Are in the Dark: Jon-Tom has such a moment in Polastrindu when he is tempted by the human La Résistance to turn against his companions. Thanks to a timely rescue, he passes the test...which is a good thing since it turns out he wasn't actually alone with the villains, with no one the wiser about his actions and choices...since Talea was listening in from the ceiling crawl space.
You Can't Go Home Again: Averted in that in The Time of the Transference, Jon-Tom discovers a passage that allowed him to go back. He did go back to his own world, but returned to Clothahump's, because he liked it there better.
The last two books suggest he's made the trip back and forth a few more times, to sample our world's new music and stay in touch with his parents.
You Keep Using That Word: "Arboreal" is used as if it means "flying" or "winged"; its actual definition means "lives/travels in trees".
Your Mom: The wolverine in the Bar Brawl at the Pearl Possum uses a variation of this to insult Jon-Tom's singing.
Your Universe or Mine?: In The Time of the Transference, Jon-Tom must choose between returning to our world and remaining in the warmlands—where he not only has friends and magical abilities, but a wife, Talea.
Zerg Rush: The Plated Folk's preferred method of attack, rather appropriately as they are all insects. In The Hour of the Gate, they actually use a Zerg Rush as a feint to cover their real tactics: explode the Jo-Troom Gate from underneath and drop paratroopers behind the wall to catch the Warmlanders in a pincer.