The ''Spiral Arm'' is a SpaceOpera series by MichaelFlynn, consisting thus far of

* ''The January Dancer''
* ''Up Jim River''
* ''In the Lion's Mouth''
* ''On the Razor's Edge''

They take place in a far-future galaxy, caught between the League on one side, and the Confederacy on the other, of a starless rift, in a great game of intrigue and adventure.

The setting is further in the future of his previous Firestar series, a near future SF novel set about private space travel being financed by a female industrialist. Earth attained an advanced civilization with AI and nanotechnology, and underwent periods of successive Chinese and Indian world hegemony(known to the far future people as Zhogwo, a corruption of the Chinese term Zhonguo for Middle Kingdom and Tantamiz, a Tamil term for their language respectively).

Wormhole variants called Krasnikov tubes and sublight seedships were used for interstellar colonization and an Earth ruled interstellar empire called the Commonwealth was founded and most nations on Earth founded colonies, which were oppressed and called the "Lesser Worlds". Evidence of an ancient empire of silicon based alien life called the People of Sand and Iron was discovered and used by the Chinese and Indian regimes in the Commonwealth to justify oppressing the colony worlds as a defense measure against an alien threat.

The colony on Tau Ceti, now referred to in the contemporary language as Dao Chetty, revolted and founded a totalitarian regime called the Confederation of Centralized Worlds ruled by a secretive elite nomenklatura called Those of Name and destroyed the Commonwealth, and initiated a forced population transfer called the Cleansing against their former oppressors on Earth. The Cleansing included deliberately mixing nationalities to stifle revolt among the deportees through linguistic and cultural conflict. AI and nanotechnology were lost during this period.

Eventually, after a period of interregnum, a new interstellar age comes about with the United League of the Periphery, a series of colony worlds ruled by the Ardry monarchy and supported by their Hound secret agents in rivalry with the Confederation.

Fallen colonies exist at the edge called the Wild, with such worlds as Oram and Enjrun existing in savagery and independent planets such as Cynthia and Gladiola vying for power with the larger interstellar nations.

Worlds have formed their own cultures and ethnicities and Terrans, the deported Earth people live in segregated ghettoes on various worlds called Terran Corners. Science, much of it lost with the Cleansing, has devolved to a syncretic religion that worships Newton, Einstein, Maxwell and Schroedinger as literal gods to be prayed to and the universe is in a kind of transhuman medieval stasis.

The novels focus on intrigue between these groups, various individuals and the search for prehuman artifacts of the People of Sand and Iron.

NeedsABetterDescription

!!Tropes included in these works:
* AirVentPassageway: Graceful Bintsaif suspects that Ravn Olafsdottr and Mearana used one to escape Bridget ban's mansion, but Bridget ban dismisses the idea and figures out they escaped by other means.
* AlienGeometries: Some of the artifacts of the people of sand and iron exhibit this, most notably the Ouroboros Circuit. At first glance, it looks like a wreath of tangled wires; but if you try and trace the wires with your eyes, and you'll find yourself staring into hyperspace.
* AndThatLittleGirlWasMe: As the scarred man tells the story of January's Dancer to Mearana the harpist, it is eventually revealed that one of the characters is actually him before he acquired his scars: [[spoiler:he was Donovan, aka the Fudir]].
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: Arson, rebellion and leaving your licensed township.
* ArtifactOfDoom: January's Dancer is believed to be the Twisting Scepter of King Stonewall, an ancient prehuman weapon of incredible power. As the scarred man tells Mearana his story about it, she realizes that everyone who comes into possession of the Dancer dies soon after. [[spoiler:It's revealed at the end that people aren't using the Dancer, it's using them: it isn't King Stonewall's scepter, but King Stonewall himself]].
* BadDreams: Discussed in ''January Dancer''
* BattleInTheCenterOfTheMind: The scarred man fights one in ''Up Jim River''. [[spoiler:Nine of his fragmented personalities team up in his mind to destroy the tenth, "Nothing", a suicidal personality which is trying to kill him]].
* BigDumbObject: The underground treasuries.
* BlackBox: Much of the technology humanity uses is no longer understood, and in fact believed to be so far beyond human understanding that it could only have been crafted by Gods. A distinction is explicitly drawn between "science" and "engineering". "Science", the understanding of how technologies work, is considered religiously mystical and beyond human understanding; the most that men can aspire to is "engineering", creating working reproductions of existing technology.
-->'''Tina Zhi''': It is Technical. It can be imitated, but not understood.
* BlessedWithSuck: You find a marvelous array of treasures -- that you can't remove.
* BodyguardBetrayal: Paul Feeley, the Radiant Name, refuses to allow his Protectors to retreat when his residence comes under fire because he is defended by his [[DeflectorShields sparkle armor]], disregarding the fact that the Protectors are not similarly equipped. Disgusted by the Radiant Name's disregard for the lives of those who serve him, his captain-Protector orders the retreat and then kills his master himself.
* BottledHeroicResolve: Booster
* ButterflyOfDeathAndRebirth: Used metaphorically
* BuyThemOff: Werguild is offered, after a civil war.
* {{Cincinnatus}}: Cited in an argument, with UsefulNotes/GeorgeWashington and two more names.
* TheCityNarrows: Terran Corner on Jehovah
* {{Cliffhanger}}: ''Up Jim River'' and ''In the Lion's Mouth''
* CompellingVoice: What the Dancer gives
* CoolMask: The Secret Name wears a golden mask with the semblance of the sun.
* CorruptBureaucrat: On one planet, a country revolts from a honest administration.
* {{Cyborg}}: Domino Tight is transformed into a powerful combat cyborg by the Technical Name.
* DaddyHadAGoodReasonForAbandoningYou: Sometimes you really have to deal with something dangerous.
* DarkSkinnedBlonde: The planet Alabaster's PhenotypeStereotype
* DisappearedDad: the harper was raised by her mother alone.
* DoomedMoralVictor: Discussed in a subverted form.
* DramaticThunder: When the storm first strikes.
* DrivenToSuicide: There are a couple of examples during the civil war in the Lion's Mouth. Shadow Prime, the mentor of all Shadows, is driven to despair by the sight of his students divided and slaughtering one another; and Kelly Stapellaufer, whose infidelity provided a pretext for the beginning of the civil war, kills both her lovers and then herself.
* DrowningMySorrows: When Mearna first meets the scarred man, he spends so much time at the bar on Jehovah drowning his past traumas in drink that he practically lives there.
* DueToTheDead: Ravn promises a proper burial to Donovan.
* DysfunctionalFamily: The Hounds are somewhat likely this, according to noe.
* TheExile: Fa Li, according to those at court
* FamedInStory: The civil war was immortalized in song before it was four weeks old.
* FearlessFool: The Brute
* FeudalFuture: The Ardry -- or king.
* FireForgedFriends: In the civil war.
* FisherKing: The emperor of the morning dew really hates that his subjects believe this. After all, if the land's behavior reflects the emperor's will, then everything bad that happens must be the emperor's fault. And since the planet is ravaged by frequent earthquakes, there's always some new disaster to blame on the emperor.
* {{Flashback}}: Many of returning memories for Donovan
* FriendlyEnemy: After a civil war, the two sides often join to sing of the various exploits.
* FriendOrFoe: A problem with an undercover war.
* FrogsAndToads: The "Frog Prince" can jump
* FullCircleRevolution: Discussed in a subverted form.
* GoodSamaritan: An undercover Hound helps Domino Tight by giving him "booster" after an ambush, risking his own cover by using League medical equipment in Confederate territory, for no reason other than basic decency.
* GreenEyedMonster: Bridget is furious when she hears another woman seduced Donovan.
* GreenEyes: One of the first things noted about the woman in the opening of ''January Dancer''. Before her name, even.
* HappinessInSlavery: Podiin, a servant of Gidula who begs not to be freed.
* HarmlessLadyDisguise: Hugh uses it.
* HatesEveryoneEqually: Donovan considers this to be a positive quality of Jehovans.
-->''Jehovans did not like Terrans, but Jehovans did not like anyone; and as long as they did not dislike Terrans more than anyone else, Donovan counted that as warm embrace.''
* [[MistreatmentInducedBetrayal Help Face Turn]]: Do not ignore that you have armor and your men dont'
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: A danger of repression
* HonoraryUncle: Does not make a man less dangerous.
* HonorBeforeReason: Burning down your own ammunition factory to keep guns out of the war.
* IGaveMyWord: Hugh's motive for returning to New Eireann.
* IHaveManyNames: The narrator introduces the scarred man with observations about how many names he has, and he is not the only character to have a lot. Many of the important characters have at least two, their birth-name and their office-name. Some of the characters have also changed names, used aliases, and accumulated titles, resulting in a truly impressive number of appellations. For instance, there is Ringbao della Costa, aka Ludovic IX Krauzer, aka Slim, aka Little Hugh O'Carroll, aka the Ghost of Ardow, aka Rinty.
* IKnowYouKnowIKnow: Is a good reason to confide in your enemy.
* IOweYouMyLife: Donovan saves Billy Chins from a lynch mob on Harpaloon. Afterwards, Billy insists that by the custom of atangku, Billy's life now belongs to Donovan and he is obligated to become Donovan's servant.
* InHarmsWay: Brute's opinion
* InUniverseCatharsis: A drug used for a vision quest has substantial effects on Donovan.
* InvisibilityCloak: One of the Seven Wonders of lost technology from the time of the Commonwealth is a high-tech invisibility cloak. The existence of the cloaks are kept secret, and they are used only by Those of Name.
* ItIsDehumanizing: When Khembold Darling and Number Two decide that Mearana has [[YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness outlived her usefulness]], they switch to calling her "it".
* ItWasAGift: The harper's necklace
* JackOfAllTrades: Black Shuck is a Hound of the Ardry who is highly esteemed for his skill in a great many different areas; he is said to be best at nothing, but second-best at absolutely everything.
* KillTheOnesYouLove: Gidula views affection as a weakness, and personally kills anyone he begins to feel affection for in order to free himself from that weakness. He killed his wife, infant child, and number one minion for this reason, and attempts to kill Ravn Olafsdottr as well.
* KingInTheMountain: Hugh escapes and promises to return
* LaResistance: The Loyalists
* LastKiss: In memory, Donovan could not wait for one.
* LivingLegend: Zorba
* LostTechnology: The technology of the ancient Commonwealth, much of which was lost in the Purges that unsettled humanity from Terra and scattered it across the stars. Some remaining Commonwealth technologies are known as the "Seven Wonders" and are carefully controlled.
* LukeIAmYourFather[=/=]LukeYouAreMyFather: Both in a fraught scene
* MacGuffin: Discussed
* MagpiesAsPortents (''One for Sorrow, Two for Joy'' nursery rhyme): Invoked
* MamaBear: Bridget, about Mearana
* TheManBehindTheMan
* ManlyTears: Pyati defends his, revealing a death.
* MeaningfulRename: Dubbing Five "Pyati"
* MexicanStandoff: One occurs between Donovan and Ekadrina Seanmazy during the battle on Yuts'ga.
-->'''Donovan''': This is what Terrans call a 'Mexican Standoff'.
-->'''Ekadrina''': Mexican. Ack. And how do 'dese 'standoffs' end?
-->'''Donovan''': Badly, usually.
* MissingMom: Mearana the harpist's motivation in ''Up Jim River'' is to locate her mother, who disappeared a year ago.
* MistakenIdentity: [[spoiler:Most everyone believes that the scarred man's original identity is Geshler Padaborn, rebel leader of Padaborn's Rising. When the scarred man fully regains his memory, he realizes that he isn't Padaborn]].
* MookHorrorShow: During the infiltration of the Gayshot Bo, the narrative briefly switches to the perspective of the Magpies getting picked off one by one by the heroes.
-->''Magpie Seven Bhatvik had thought himself third from the rear, but when he glanced over his shoulder on the stairwell he saw no one behind him. This was not a good thing to see, and he shivered a bit with unreasoning fear.''
* MoreHeroThanThou: Issa insisted on staying and covering his retreat.
* TheMutiny: Brought down one maxraj -- Donovan reflects on the analogy
* NeverBringAKnifeToAGunFight: An attempt to avert it by burning down the ammunition factory means
* NeverSpeakIllOfTheDead: Red Sweeney sold out Little Hugh O'Carroll before dying. When Little Hugh reminisces fondly about their past friendship, the Fudir decides not to tell him of Red Sweeney's treachery.
* TheNondescript: Greystroke
* {{Oireland}}: A country puts it on for the tourist trade.
** FightingIrish: As a consequence
* OldFlameFizzle: Despite FireForgedFriends
* OneGenderRace: The inhabitants of the planet Boldly Go are all female; in fact, it is illegal for any man to set foot on the world.
* OntologicalMystery: Given the Dancer's powers, how can you know what really is happening?
* OppositesAttract
* {{Ouroboros}}: The Ouroboros Circuit
* PatronSaint: Cecelia and Jude are invoked.
* ThePlan: Retrieving Donovan
* PoliticalCorrectnessGoneMad
* {{Precursors}}: The "people of sand and iron", also known as the prehumans, who disappeared before humanity reached the stars and left many artifacts behind. [[spoiler:Only they didn't actually disappear; they fought a war against Terra, and afterwards King Stonewall used his power of mind control to make humanity believe that the prehumans were ancient legends. However, some knowledge of the prehumans survived in folktales, and the prehumans themselves still live in the Rift and ambush travelers]].
* ProudWarriorRace
* TheQuest: Discussed. Also invoked
* RammingAlwaysWorks: When his fleet is destroyed, the Molnar attempts to ram ''Hot Gates'' with his ship. However, Fir Li is expecting the tactic and had prepared for it beforehand, allowing him to successfully evade.
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: Tina Zhi has used one of the Seven Vestiges to extend her lifespan. It is not clear exactly how old she is, but it is many times a normal human lifespan.
* ReassignedToAntarctica: Many in the League view Fir Li's assignment to the edge of the Rift as this. Fir Li, however, is quite happy with the posting; it is exactly the duty he wanted.
* TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized: Jumdar's characterization of the Loyalists.
* RewardedAsATraitorDeserves: Red Sweeney sells out Little Hugh, and receives three bullets as a reward. The Fudir thinks that he was a fool for expecting any other payment.
* RuleOfThree: ''On Razor's Edge'' opens with the observation that it started with three
* SacredHospitality: The Terran custom of offering bread and salt. Once it has been given, no harm may be offered to a guest.
* SealedEvilInACan: King Stonewall, a great and terrible prehuman king who was defeated and imprisoned by his rivals. [[spoiler:He is the Twisting Stone, January's Dancer]].
* SevenDeadlySins: Donovan notes that the entertainment center in Ravn Olafsdottr's stolen monoship caters to at least five of them.
* ShellShockedVeteran: Discussed in ''January Dancer''
* ShoutOut: Dozens
* SiliconBasedLife: The prehuman {{Precursors}}, hence their nickname "the people of sand and iron".
* [[SoftWater Soft Gas]]: When you hit a star at speed -- it's not true.
* SpaceIsAnOcean: Played with.
* SpacePirates: The Cynthians are notorious as space pirates, living by the philosophy "the strong take what they can, the weak suffer what they must".
* SpeakOfTheDevil: Tina Zhi teleports to Domino Tight's location whenever he speaks her name twice. He also warns other people not to speak her name in his presence, as he's not certain whether that can attract her attention as well.
* SplitPersonality: The scarred man, first hinted at when he keeps switching between "I" and "we" when referring to himself. [[spoiler:He began with two personalities, "Donovan" and "The Fudir", which was useful for going undercover and allowed him to resist the Dancer's mind control. However, Those of Name subsequently divided his mind to give him eight more -- "The Brute", "The Sleuth", "The Pedant", "The Inner Child", "The Silky Voice", "Nothing", "Pollyanna", and "The Young Man" -- and the internal disarray drove him insane for years]].
* SternChase: And a stern chase is a long chase.
* StealthHiBye: A specialty of Greystroke. A RunningGag involves characters wondering where he is only for him to reveal that he is sitting next to him. At one point, he and Little Hugh are riding in a car together, and Little Hugh keeps checking to make sure Greystroke hasn't somehow vanished.
* AStormIsComing: Drives them off the planet
* TheStoryteller: The scarred man in ''January Dancer'' -- the ministrel sought him out for it.
* TakingTheBullet: Sofwari jumps in front of four bullets meant for Mearana.
* TalkativeLoon: The scarred man is regarded as one in the bar in Jehovah were Mearana seeks him out, as he sits alone and constantly mumbles to himself as he drinks. By the time Ravn Olafsdottr brings him to the Lion's Mouth, his mental health has improved, but he deliberately continues to act out his former talkative loon traits as a form of ObfuscatingStupidity.
* TapOnTheHead: the dangers are hinted at but not used.
* TearsOfJoy: Podiin, when Gidula promises not to free him.
* ThereAreNoCoincidences: thought of a murder
* ThereIsAnother: The scarred man initially believes that he is unique, but later learns that there were several others who had their minds divided by Those of Name. [[spoiler:There were five, the five leaders of Padaborn's Rising. Of the others, two died, one went insane and had to be mercy-killed, and the final one became the Secret Name]].
* TheTourney: A descendent is practiced among the Shadows.
* UnexpectedSuccessor: Hugh on New Eireann, due to being the only one not present at a bombing meant to take out the leadership. Ironically, the reason he wasn't there was because he honestly had no interest in becoming leader.
* UngovernableGalaxy: It's hard to impossible to control even a planet, let alone large stretches.
* UsedFuture: Owing to MindControl, war, and other problems, much of the future has been used
* {{Ventriloquism}}: One of Mearana the harpist's talents is throwing her voice, which she occasionally uses to deceive adversaries.
* WanderingMinstrel: In the opening of ''January Dancer'', a woman shows up at the bar, and plays for her food, without asking.
* WarRefugees: One Hound thinks he may have aided one of these.
* WouldNotShootACivilian: One failure draws down opprobrium
* WrongGenreSavvy: Manlius thinks life is romantic, albeit a tragic romance
* YouAreInCommandNow: Hugh
* YouShallNotPass: Many rear guards near the end of the war on New Eireann
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