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"note 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.
Accidental Misnaming: Mudge can never get the name of Strelakat Mews right. The farther they go in their journey, and the more bitter and cynical the otter becomes, the more obvious it's turned into Malicious Misnaming.
Every title after Hour of the Gate has this, save for Chorus Skating.
The Quasequa Quorum in Moment of the Magician.
Advanced Ancient Acropolis: The Lost City they find in book six is a downplayed version of this, for while there's no actual evidence that they had great or unusual technology, the place is very large and impressive and contains some rather unusual magical artifacts. All that is known about its inhabitants is that, like some ancient or primitive Earth cultures, they seemed to dislike or fear having images of themselves included in their artwork.
Aesop Amnesia/Ignored Epiphany: Invariably, whenever something bad happens to Mudge, he will either forget the lesson he learned from it the next time a similar situation shows up, or he'll have an epiphany and swear to change his ways which he ends up dismissing/abandoning a short time later. Or it will be Played for Laughs and the aesop will be subverted or broken by Mudge Comically Missing the Point about what he was supposed to learn. Example: after having been inflicted with a venereal disease by the perambulator, he swears off bedding a different lady every night: "I guess I'll 'ave to restrict meself to a different lady every other night."
The Alcoholic: Sorbl, Clothahump's replacement famulus after Jon-Tom transforms Pog into a phoenix. Very unfortunate, since he is a very good student in the rare times he's actually sober. On the other hand, his alcoholism actually comes in handy in book five, since he's so used to seeing the world through a distorted, hallucinogenic lens that the permabulator's reality tweaks don't faze him, letting him be the Only Sane Man when things go wonky.
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 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 The Moment of the Magician. All it wanted was companionship that was "new and interesting". In order to coax it to let them leave, Jon-Tom conjures 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. Also, the guinea pig who leads the group of thieves that try to rob Clothahump in Time of the Transference is anything but cute and harmless.
Antiquated Linguistics: For some reason, the magical items which Jon-Tom and the others find in the Lost City all speak in this way. Mocked by Mudge.
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). However, in the first books his advances tend to find no success whatsoever... and after he gets observably better at seduction, various events conspire against his ability to follow this trope. According to his son, Squill, in book seven, the average mink makes him look like a celibate.
Appeal to Ignorance/Shifting The Burden Of Proof: Mudge's argument that exploding pine cones must exist on Earth as well to explain those who disappear in the woods, the lack of evidence of explosions (and some bodies never being found) is explained by the bodies being vaporized, and the only reason Jon-Tom doesn't know about it is the trees are smart enough to only do it when lots of people aren't around to see it.
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.
Back from the Dead: Talea at the end of book two, courtesy of a jaunt into M'nemaxa's plane of existence and a meeting with her soul as a gneechee.
Because You Were Nice to Me: Essentially the reason M'nemaxa helps Jon-Tom at the Jo-Troom Gate—because summoning him (and making him safe to ride) inadvertently shortened his billions-of-years journey, thus inspiring extreme gratitude.
Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jon-Tom and Talea, lampshaded by Mudge when the two meet again in book five and their "heartfelt" reunion is witnessed by Colin.
Bestiality Is Depraved: Played with throughout the series, but especially in the first book. These animals walk upright and are sentient, but Jon-Tom just cannot bring himself to a liaison with them.
Beware My Stinger Tail: The gatekeeper of Polastrindu is an intelligent beaver, whose personal armament includes a spiked metal plate that turns his flat tail into an intimidating weapon.
Big Badass Bird of Prey: Jon-Tom encounters a whole army of these, led and indoctrinated by a giant eagle (actually the Nazi emblem's eagle brought to life).
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.
Clothahump's means of saving Ospenspri from the perturbation which has settled permanently over it in the form of a dark cloud is to seed it...with "Essence of Booze", explaining he needed something both soluble in water and which could "shock" the cloud back to reality. The result is rain that continually changes its flavor to every kind of alcoholic beverage imaginable.
Variation—the cocaine which accidentally gets brought back to the Wizard's World with Jon-Tom and the others in Time of the Transference manages to act as enough of a stimulant/Power-Up to help Tevya overcome his fear of heights. Unusually, this also ends up being a downplayed version of Drugs Are Bad, since the stimulation is strong enough it causes Teyva to overdo it, straining his wings to the point he has to be grounded for several days to heal.
Bug War: The periodic wars against the Plated Folk, much more difficult in that unlike most Bug Wars, the bugs in question are sentient.
Butt Monkey: Mudge certainly thinks that the world (and particularly Clothahump and Jon-Tom) has conspired to make him this starting from his first meeting with Jon-Tom. And he's right to some extent - for five books he gets constantly dragged or outright forced into misadventures he doesn't care about and often accompanied by people who hardly care about him (even Jon-Tom sees him more as a "hired" guide than a friend for a long time), and whenever it is time for someone to be humiliated for comedic purposes on these misadventures that's usually him. On the other hand, as the karmic reward for all that toil, he ends up happily married to the one otter he truly loved (besides himself, that is) and living to old age as a respected and well-off citizen, which certainly beats ruining himself into infirmity and early undignified death with unrestrained drinking and sex, which was outright shown to be his future if he hadn't met Jon-Tom.
Canon Welding: Chorus Skating, the last novel, includes repeated cameo appearances by a dimension-hopping thranx.
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. However, since mice are considered quite sentient in this world and the suggestion of eating any sentient being fills anyone but the most evil with disgust and horror, it's more likely 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, and in the scene where he first meets Sorbl in Day of the Dissonance, the owl a) is horrified at the idea of eating mice and b) specifically mentions going to find some lizards to eat.
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.
Cats Are Mean: Played with. While many felines in the series are bad guys, they tend more to be Mooks than anything else and, as such, are not particularly nasty, merely acting as Punch Clock Villains. There's also Roseroar, who is unequivocally a good guy as well as quite likable and charming, and the smilodon in Song of Spellsinger, while not bothered in the slightest by eating other sentients, didn't mean anything personal by it and was only doing his job in guarding the Grand Veritable. (And he ended up sparing the heroes in gratitude for their ending of his tooth pain). Even Sasheem, the rather cruel and sadistic leopard first mate of Captain Corroboc, is not outright evil and even has a sense of humor, honor, and respect for Jon-Tom and his party. And the jaguar Thornrack from Moment of the Magician, although fairly nasty, is also smart and rather funny at times.
Cats Are Snarkers: Domurmur the lynx, of the Quasequa Quorum, in regards to Markus. For contrast, the Mook Thornrack who heads up Markus's dungeon guards is one to some degree as well.
Subverted in the first book. 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.
Played straight twice in Moment of the Magician, where Mudge has two different opportunities to abandon Jon-Tom (when Gyrnaught kidnaps him and after they're caught by the Plated Folk colony and he manages to escape alone) and both times he comes back for him. Although the second time is partly because the otter fishing company insisted on it.
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 Boomerang: Falameezar. After leaving the group because of being forced to kill a collective "communist" plant that was threatening the heroes, he shows up at the Jo-Troom Gate leading an army of the oppressed mice and rats of the Warmlands. Then in book four he shows up again in the dungeons of Quasequa, where he not only helps convince the geolk to break them free but leads a rampage through the Quorumate against Markus's soldiers.
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.
The geolk, who just seemed like a invokedBig Lipped Alligator Moment, show up in the climax of book four to help Jon-Tom and the others escape from the dungeon.
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.
The Chosen One: Played with but ultimately averted. At first when Clothahump summons Jon-Tom it seems to be an utter mistake, a mix-up caused by Jon-Tom's job title and his state of mind at the time. Later when it turns out he can spellsing, he still has to practice and learn a great deal before he can even be reliable with his magic, let alone save the day—he does manage to stop the Plated Folk invasion, but mostly by accident. As the series progresses, he does learn enough to become a proficient spellsinger and be able to do what he wants, most of the time, as well as combating various threats to the world, but in the end all he wants to be is a singer and husband to Talea. When he discovers the Lost City in book six and learns the One True Sword can be drawn only by a true hero, he actually has hope it's meant for him. It isn't...and he is perfectly fine with that.
Contemptible Cover: Most of the early editions' covers seem to have nothing to do with the actual contents. Talea fares particularly badly on books one and two, and Mudge looks old and gnarled on the latter as well.
Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Mudge won't leave their tree-house, Talea gets him to go (and accompany Jon-Tom to get his duar fixed) by threatening to make him pay the long, outstanding bill he owes her for all the room and board. Thanks to Jon-Tom's legal tutelage, she finds this sort of cutthroat dealing as much delicious, nasty fun as, well, cutting throats.
Cool Old Lady: Memaw, who manages to even whip Mudge into some semblance of civilized behavior.
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.
Deadpan Snarker: Just about everyone gets in on this at some point, even Jon-Tom once he becomes less of a Naïve Newcomer, but the biggest examples are Mudge and Dormas.
Death's Hourglass: Both downplayed and exaggerated at the same time in the case of the Timeful Desert. On the one hand, despite the symbolism inherent in the flowing Sands of Time and unlike most examples of the trope, the desert causes no harm to the living unless one is trapped within it at the time of Conjunction—it only represents the mortality of the living rather than causing it. On the other hand, if the legend is true it's literally a world-level hourglass of sand being turned by some unknown deity or entity and is thus the trope on a macrocosmic scale.
Deep South: Cautious the raccoon seems to hail from here, based on his diction.
Deus ex Machina: At the Battle of the Jo-Troom Gate, Jon-Tom manages to summon M'nemaxa himself. Played with in several manners, however—while it is safe to say that the sight of Jon-Tom swooping down on his back is a big part of what frightens Eejakrat into rushing his formula, thus setting off the nuclear bomb too soon and only wiping out himself and the Empress, in all other respects M'nemaxa doesn't really do anything to help win the day, in fact having to detour back into his own world to protect himself and his riders from the bomb. (The real Deus ex Machina here is that this journey also allows Jon-Tom to capture Talea's soul-gneechee, thus bringing her Back from the Dead.) Also, said summoning is only made possible because Jon-Tom inadvertently gave M'nemaxa a shortcut in his journey—meaning, the time until he finishes it and the universe ends has now been shortened. However, considering this shortcut still only brings the time period to three million years, and it was done to help stop the Plated Folk, most of the Warmlands would probably consider the cost both negligible and justified.
Defiant Captive: Weegee during all of the various captures that happen on the way to Strelakat Mews, when she isn't an outright Damsel out of Distress, but especially when held by the pirates—she doesn't just Show Some Leg, she actually attempts to seduce their captor...and then as soon as they're alone and he's in the middle of doing the deed, she knees him and batters him unconscious with a rock. With her feet.
Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: What the denizens of Pelligrew learn the hard way in the prologue of the first book.
Doppelgänger Attack: Braglob uses this sort of spell to create a whole platoon of Taleas to make Jon-Tom freeze up and thus be left defenseless against their attacks. Unusually, this is also an example of Me's a Crowd since the real Talea is hidden amongst them under a compulsion spell; the only way to Spot the Impostor in this case is when she is first injured without exploding like the other fakes, and then when she not only speaks but does so with Something Only She Would Say.
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 be 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.
Everything Makes a Mushroom: Jon-Tom's final spellsong attack that takes out the demonic spellsingers in book five inexplicably creates a mushroom cloud. (Although to be fair the song in question was the Pointer Sisters' "Neutron Dance.")
Evil Twin: Well, Corroboc was evil too, but the fact his nearly identical brother Kamaulk is much smarter, more cautious, and more sane actually makes him deadlier and thus this trope in comparison as far as Jon-Tom is concerned.
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.
Find the Cure: Most of the third book, Day of the Dissonance, is Jon-Tom on a quest to find a cure for the dying Clothahump.
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.
From Nobody to Nightmare: What happens when a two-bit Stage Magician who had always been the brunt of jokes, abuse, and scorn from family and the public alike, who would never amount to anything in life, and who knew it, ends up in a world where his magic is real and he can use it to turn himself into a tyrant.
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.
Species which lack manipulative appendages (most hoofed mammals, cetaceans) fall more under Civilized Animal, as they don't wear clothing other than the purely-functional (e.g. armor) and move like normal animals.
Ghost Lights: The gneechees which appear whenever Jon-Tom's spellsinging is on track and particularly powerful; they don't cause magic, exactly, but their presence facilitates or enhances it. They normally cannot be seen, not because the characters have No Peripheral Vision but because they actively dodge away whenever you try to look at them directly. They also turn out to be be more true to the trope than they first seem, since when Jon-Tom is in M'nemaxa's plane he discovers each is actually the soul of a deceased person. Because of this, gneechees have different interests and affinities, and so Couvier Coulb must summon particular musically-inclined ones when retuning the broken duar in Time of the Transference.
Giant Spider: The Weavers of Gossameringue. Led by a Grand Webmistress who is naturally a literal Black Widow (although she's friendly enough when having mated/eaten already...).
Glad I Thought of It: Mudge actually acts as if, after having long overstayed his welcome at Jon-Tom and Talea's tree-house, leaving is all his own idea. Talea reacts appropriately.
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.
The Grotesque: The ogres in book six are all this—various species of animals as well as humans, all of great size and with some awful deformity.
When Jon-Tom and his party, having sneaked into Cugluch by Dressing as the Enemy, need to escape the city, Mudge makes a distracting noise, and one guard does go to investigate...but the others stay right where they are, requiring the others to attack and take them out—and even then, one guard was in the bathroom and emerges in time to cause trouble.
In Day of the Dissonance, Jon-Tom tries to trick the Malderpot jailer, a dim-witted porcupine, into letting him have his duar to "brighten a dreary dungeon"...but the guard has been warned he's a spellsinger and only allows it when Jon-Tom is chained through the cell door and a cord is tied to the duar, to be yanked and pull it out of his grip if he tries any dangerous songs.
In Moment of the Magician, Jon-Tom tries to convince the jaguar leader of Markus's guards that they have an appointment with Markus and that he will be in big trouble if he doesn't let them through. Not only does the fellow immediately reveal that Markus is asleep and thus couldn't be meeting anyone, but he mocks Jon-Tom, first by saying "Next I suppose you're going to tell me that this is all a misunderstanding and that it'll easily be straightened out as soon as I take you to the advisor?" and then, after agreeing to let them meet Markus when he awakens, taking them to "the new conference chamber" of the Quorum while he waits (which is just the dungeon cell), guarded by a doorman (jailer), where their evening meal (swill) will soon be served. And later when he is to be taken to Markus, Jon-Tom tries to convince the fellow that he's "just a harmless minstrel" and if he could have his duar back he could convince Markus of the truth; although he visibly hesitates and even debates a bit with one of his soldiers, the guard rules that prisoners can't be allowed to have their possessions back no matter what, and the only way he'll get the duar is if he convinces Markus he's innocent first.
Although eventually the trope is played somewhat straight when a lesser guard is fooled into entering their cell by a collection of bones from dead prisoners and a rather convincing performance from Jon-Tom that the ex-wizard of the city had killed them all by "melting off their flesh".
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 mountainfolk 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.
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 Can't Believe I'm Saying This: After so many adventures with Jon-Tom and experiencing his hit-or-miss spellsinging, Mudge actually declares he'd rather Jon-Tom were a lawyer.
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.
Iconic Item: When Weegee is kidnapped by the pirates in book six, Jon-Tom and Mudge realize they are the same group they met three books earlier when one of their fellow passengers recalls seeing Sasheem's peg-tail.
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 — they generally don't take prisoners, and don't distinguish between military and civilians. Everyone is food.
Many of the Wacky Wayside Tribes also are quite happy to dine on passersby - even the friendly ones!
Inconvenient Summons: When Clothahump summons Mudge to join Jon-Tom for his quest in book four, it's during a big card game when he was just about to win a huge pot (by cheating, of course). The otter is less than happy.
Inept Mage: Jon-Tom's spellsinging is variable, to say the least.
After years of practice and dedication finally turning Jon-Tom into a skilled and (mostly) reliable spellsinger, he is turned into this once again by having to use the substandard suar when his duar is broken.
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 Muddletup 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 (and a cross between pop-culture psychology and nihilistic philosophy) 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.
It's 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.
While the pirates were never particularly likable to begin with, the scene where they have Weegee tied up and hung from a tree branch so they can treat her like a pinata is deliberately cruel and twisted.
Laser-Guided Karma: Whether it was Braglob or the perambulator reading his nature, having Mudge, the resident sexual predator, get turned into (and contract) a venereal disease takes the cake for karmic fates.
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.
Lotus-Eater Machine: In Paths of the Perambulator, the mad wolverine mage turns the Perambulator into one to try and stop the party. It comes precious close to working, too.
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 by Corroboc because he and his crew believed her to be useless and worthless, she ends up inadvertently causing a great deal of trouble for Jon-Tom by getting mugged and taken to the Friends of the Street, then believing The Mole and getting kidnapped and ensorcelled. Lampshaded several times by both Mudge and Roseroar.
Mind Screw: The perambulator not only causes these, it is one—but rather than making those who view it Go Mad from the Revelation, it only causes awe at its incredible complexity and beauty.
The Mirror Shows Your True Self: The One True Mirror in the Lost City acts like this. Cautious and Weegee see themselves just the way they are (although the latter has her beauty emphasized). Mudge is shown just what a decrepit, diseased, dissipated old lecher he'll become if he doesn't change his ways—but isn't fazed by it one bit since he already knew such was his fate but he also knows he can (and will) change it for Weegee. Jon-Tom sees...nothing, as in no image at all. Whether this is because he lacks self-worth, he isn't from that world, he hasn't yet decided where he belongs, or some other reason, is never explained.
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.
Mundane Solution: Jon-Tom, being from Earth, often solves the problems facing him and his friends by means of this rather than his spellsinging. Examples: using Communist philosophy to befriend Falameezar; using psychology to help the depressed fungi of the Muddletup Moors; teaching aerobics to the Enchanted Folk to burn off their fat (and cannibalistic urges); educating the female ogres about gender equality.
My Species Doth Protest Too Much: The Plated Folk wagon driver who helps the group reach the Jo-Troom Gate, and is completely against the invasions and conquests perpetrated by his people. It costs him his life.
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.
Noodle Incident: Whatever Mudge's "worst insult" was that he never got to use on the cage of insults, it was bad enough that, combined with the duar's lingering magic, it actually split the ground open.
Nothing Is Scarier: Whatever Markus sees inside his hat when he summons Death, Jon-Tom's experiences in the mist thereafter, and Markus's fate. ("The whimpering from the throne simply stopped.") Also, the actual "nothing" in the basement of Clothahump's tree in book five.
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 Rick Springfield'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. (It's suggested earlier that the Plated Folk actually stumbled on a neutron bomb plan).
Omnicidal Maniac: Skrritch, Empress of the Plated Folk. She wants nothing less then mass genocide of as many worlds as she can conquer, and treats most of her courtiers and underlings no better then she would treat the warmlanders.
Omniscient Morality License: Clothahump actually pulls this at the end of book six, when he claims that if he hadn't kept knowledge of his hidden gems (instead of the gold they kept asking for) from the thieves, Jon-Tom would not have had to rescue him and ended up breaking his duar, Mudge would never have met Weegee, and Jon-Tom wouldn't have found the Cave-With-No-Name and figured out what world he belonged in. So his deception is justified.
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".
Pint-Sized Powerhouse: The hummingbirds who save Pandro the raven messenger from the "demons" (fighter planes) Markus sends after him.
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.)
Jon-Tom: Are you saying that... that smell... is normal?
Mudge(sniffing): No, no. A mite weak today. Wait til the sun's a bit higher: then it'll be normal.
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.)
Reason You Suck Speech: Mudge gives a rather blistering one to the deposed Quoromate and Oplode when they are less than pleased with the help Clothahump sent them. Of course, true to character, when Jon-Tom thanks him for the defense he immediately blasts him too for dragging him on the quest in the first place.
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.
Rescue Romance: Unsurprisingly due to her young, impressionable age and the circumstances, Folly in book three ends up falling for Jon-Tom after they save her from the pirates and attempts to pursue him romantically for most of the book (even inspiring jealousy from Roseroar, it seems). Thanks to still pining for his One True Love Talea, Jon-Tom rebuffs her by saying they are Just Friends, and she is never seen again after this book. But since in the very last chapter she seems quite intent on getting her way during the journey back to the Bellwoods (she's "getting older every day"), and Talea remains AWOL until book five, it's never made clear what if anything may have happened between them.
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.
The Rival: Zancresta to Clothahump. It's enough to compel the former, after Clothahump's unequivocal success at predicting and thwarting the Plated Folk invasion, into traveling halfway across the world to obtain the medicine that can save the turtle...so that Clothahump will either be forced to acknowledge Zancresta as the better wizard or die when the Evil Sorcerer withholds the cure from him.
Rule of Funny: What generally determines the effects of Jon-Tom magic whenever he's not fighting a Big Bad.
Rule of Three: There are three magical items in the Lost City: a sword, a mirror, and a goblet. (Nicely archetypal too.)
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.
Selfish Evil/Evil Is Petty: invoked Zancresta is so jealous and resentful of Clothathump's prowess and admiration in the warmlands (despite the fact most of this comes from his having helped save the world from the Plated Folk) that he disguises himself as the lowly, servile merchant Jalwar and travels to Crancularn to obtain the medicine the turtle needs...so he can take it back to the Bellwoods, dangle it over Clothahump's bed-ridden form, and taunt him. Also, he would have escaped the Shop of the Aether and Neither with the medicine untouched if he could swallow his Pride and a) pay for the damages and b) be polite and courteous to Snooth instead of mocking and insulting her.
Shaming the Mob: Jon-Tom attempts this with the two prairie dog colonies in book four after stealing their "trophy" to end their pointless war over the hot springs. It doesn't work, only causing them to unite against him, to his great chagrin.
Shaped Like What It Sells: All the shops of the craftspeople in Strelakat Mews are of this sort, either decorated with the sort of products found within or actually shaped like them (although some of this is illusion).
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 Saruman gave the Uruk-Hai new tactics to breach the wall mere Orcs never had managed to breach.
One of the last exchanges of insults between Mudge and the cage trapping them in book five calls to mind a certain Winston Churchill quote:
Cage: If I had to listen to singing like yours much longer, I'd poison you.
Mudge: If I 'ad to listen to you much longer, I'd take it!
Sidetracked by the Analogy: Jon-Tom's rather hilarious argument with himself about whether he was really alive, after the otters save him from the Plated Folk and he's recovered from the Ruze's venom...using the extended metaphor of a court case and legal terminology.
Silly Reason for War: In Moment of the Magician, two tribes of prairie dogs go to war periodically over possession of an ugly statue, which gave the victors exclusive rights to use the nearby hot springs' water. The springs produced enough hot water to meet the needs of both tribes, but their egos were too caught up in the competition to care. That and they just enjoyed the bloodshed.
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.
Sophisticated as Hell: Every so often Clothahump likes to shift out of his usual Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness to emphasize a dire situation, such as when he admits the prospect of going to free the perambulator and face its captor has him "scared shitless" or when the extent of his wizardly wisdom and experience is to pronounce Jon-Tom had "broke[n] the shit" out of the duar.
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.
Strange Secret Entrance: No one knows the way to Crancularn; legend has it that the town moves from place to place, and even requires Jon-Tom obtain a magic map from the village of fairies to find it. It later turns out the town doesn't move, only seems to because those looking for it believe it does; however to find it/be able to see it you still have to want to. Double Subverted, however, since when the heroes later flee the town they see it and its residents change into ghosts and demons, then fade away, though this could have been due to their own expectations, or the fact they were leaving and thus didn't want to find it any more.
Strawman Political: Parodied quite frequently. Start with Jon-Tom (an obvious hippie) and go from there. Probably the crowning example in the series, though, was Falameezar the Marxist dragon - he visited our world for a while and decided that the old dragon trope of hoarding wealth was all wrong, and simply can't understand why the feudal world he inhabits isn't ready to depose its royalty and form a commune. He gets a Big Damn Heroes moment at the end of Hour of the Gate, where he organizes the actual downtrodden, the mice and rats, and leads them into battle against the "Imperialist warmongers!" - aka the Plated Folk.
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.
Swamps Are Evil: Played with with the Wrounipai in book four; there are dangerous encounters (the mime-vines, the Brulumpus, Gyrnaught) but two of them are resolved in rather amusing fashion and involve antagonists that aren't evil at all; there's a Will o' the Wisp, but it turns out to be friendly; and while the swamp itself is described as gloomy, grimy, and depressing, there's also an interesting interlude where Jon-Tom waxes eloquent about nature's wonders due to the upside-down rain and the karst landscape. The only "evil" aspect comes when they discover the Plated Folk colony.
The description of the music which the demon spellsingers in book five use (country music) is this: "It arises from the deepest well of confusion, from the black pits where unpleasant songs of sorrow and despair mix together to form the most depressing soul-suffocating sludge. Our music moans of dark moments and wails of woeful weeping. No living creature is immune. None can ignore its effects...[they] sing of a world in which work led only to poverty, beauty only to heartbreak, and love only to misery and loneliness."
Also, when Colin reveals that the perambulator and its reality warping has traveled to Earth and become stuck in Washington, D.C.: "They'd never notice the difference there anyway."
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.
Town with a Dark Secret: Crancularn—or at least, a bad reputation, since those who know of it also know of the Shop of the Aether and Neither so it's hardly secret. The true nature of the shop and its owner, however...
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. Most of the time Jon-Tom and the others put up with it, albeit with a lot of grumbling and annoyance, but at least once it prompts an enraged tirade from the spellsinger (because he had used implication and omission to suggest he could bring Talea back from the dead so the rest of them could get out of Cugluch safely).
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).
The standard dynamic between Jon-Tom and Mudge. Mudge's idea of an introduction is to stab Jon-Tom in the leg, and Clothahump has to threaten to turn Mudge human to get him to go off with Jon-Tom. But by the end of The Time of the Transference he's bawling his eyes out at the idea of Jon-Tom leaving permanently.
Mudge and Talea as well, as evidenced by how she starts chasing him with a sword when he teases her about which "staff" of Jon-Tom's she should borrow: "I should've split that otter years ago...one of these days I'll feed that foulmouthed otter his works."
Wacky Wayside Tribe: The first two novels are episodic, but still possess a plot. The rest ... not so much. It is particularly prevalent in books three, four, and six. Book three has the fungi of the Muddletup Moors, Corroboc and his pirates, the Hidden Elf Village, the interlude with the bandits and 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. Book four has the prairie dogs of the Duggakurra Hills, Gyrnaught and his flock, the mime-vines, the Brulumpus, and the Plated Folk colony, while book six has the pirates (again), the cannibal village, the Tree-Hunters, 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.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Jon-Tom has the unfortunate habit of claiming this when he's about to go off on a supposedly safe, relaxing journey. It's especially painful by book six.
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. Nor, for that matter, is Folly.
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. They too do receive a few passing references, however.
Picket, Mudge's daughter from Transference, seems to have vanished without trace during the hiatus between it and Son of.
None of Jon-Tom's group is able to draw the One True Sword in the Lost City, so they leave it behind. This would seem to be Foreshadowing or a Chekhov's Gun (the predictions made by the goblet seem to be accurate) but it is never mentioned again. Nor, for that matter, is the goblet which they do take with them.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: 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.
Worthy Opponent: Oddly, despite the tendency toward Trash Talk, pettiness, and You Fool! thinking to be found in Zancresta, he does show a certain respect and admiration toward Jon-Tom's spellsinging while in disguise as Jalwar. A good part of this is likely faked as part of his servant's attitude, particularly the awe he shows when Jon-Tom puts Corroboc and his crew to sleep, but at least some of it might be real to judge from some of his comments at Crancularn and the fact he considered Jon-Tom dangerous enough to bring Charrok along in case he turned out to be too much to handle. It's also possible any worthiness he ascribed to Jon-Tom was extended solely because he believed the spellsinger should be his apprentice instead of Clothahump's, thus taking another victory away from his rival and training such a great magic-user himself.
Would Hurt a Child: The Plated Folk (at least, under Skrritch), as befitting their Always Chaotic Evil role. Their "dry run" is to annihilate a border town and its wall. They briefly discuss keeping the kids "for breeding" but instead slaughter them all - for meat.
Working For A Body Upgrade: Pog wants Clothahump to transform him from bat to falcon. Jon-Tom eventually gives him an even better upgrade, to phoenix.
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.