Speculative Fiction / Planetary Romance trilogy written by Meredith Ann Pierce in the 1980s. The backstory is that long ago, humans terraformed the Moon, but eventually things got out of their control and they returned to Earth (known as Oceanus), leaving behind a race of people who are similar to humans but adapted to live in the low-heat, low-oxygen environment. The humans who originally colonized the Moon are viewed as legendary, almost godlike figures called the Ancients.In the main body of the trilogy, a young slave girl named Aeriel sets out to rescue her mistress when she is kidnapped by a darkangel (a creature akin to a handsome, ruthless, winged, soul-drinking vampire). Although she soon finds that her mistress is beyond saving and she is pressed into service as a maidservant for the previous thirteen wraithlike “brides” of the darkangel, she discovers she has one year in which to stop the darkangel from claiming his fourteenth bride and destroying her land forever. But it isn’t only the darkangel at work; there are forces far beyond any mortal’s comprehension at war, and Aeriel eventually finds herself at the center of it all, complete with an ancient prophecy and a star-crossed love.Titles in the trilogy:
And Now You Must Marry Me: The darkangel decides Aeriel is beautiful enough to warrant becoming his fourteenth and final bride, or else that it’s just not worth the trouble of kidnapping anyone else. Subverted when Aeriel goes along with it and eventually falls in love with him when he is restored to human form.
Less climactically, the suzerain of Orm, who hypnotizes Aeriel into apathy to gain her consent, and then bricks her into a wall when she refuses his advances.
Action Girl: Aeriel learns to fight hand-to-hand from the chieftess Orroto-to; Erin receives her sword from Aeriel; and they along with Syllva (who shoots down one of the darkangels) and Sabr the bandit queen lead the Westron and Istern armies against the White Witch. Bernalon, Marelon, and Elverlon are female as well.
Amazing Technicolor Population: People can have white (not pale beige), black (not dark brown), copper, amber, blue, green, teal, purple, and mauve skin.
Because You Were Nice to Me: This is the most important aspect to Aeriel's character, to the point of it being the trilogy's Central Theme. Absolutely every victory she has comes as a direct result of her kindness to others.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Subverted – much of the "exotic" vocabulary, like lorelei, syndic, satrap, suzerain, rani, are seldom-used but legit English terms, often loanwords.
Chained to a Rock / Fed to the Beast: This was to be Erin’s fate, in order for the villagers to placate their local darkangel, until she was rescued by Aeriel. Fed to the Beast is subverted in that they thought the darkangel wanted to marry the girl, not eat her.
Downer Ending: The ending of the last book. Aeriel is eternally set apart from everyone except Erin and forced to spend her life repairing the universe instead of ruling beside Irrylath, with whom she’s finally celebrated her long-awaited wedding night only hours previously.
Bittersweet Ending depending on one's opinion of various other characters and how healthy their relationships were. In a post-Twilight world, is it such a bad thing for the girl to NOT end up with the vampire she loved self-destructively? Instead, she has Erin, who loves her freely.
Fish People: The lorelei has gills and webbed fingers. (Perhaps because she's going to Oceanus?) She lives in a sinister lake and keeps a variety of aquatic abominations in it, including dragons and a talking "mudlick".
Friend Versus Lover: Erin and Irrylath despise one another so much they come to blows of their Cool Swords over it. Erin thinks Irrylath doesn't deserve Aeriel's obsessive love of him; he thinks she's a traitor in a moment of paranoia.
Green Eyes: Aeriel's eyes are originally described as "fig-green,” once as “emerald,” and later as "peridot.” After Aeriel’s travels in the second book, they are widely regarded as a symbol of her supposed magic powers.
Her green eyes and fair skin also give her a strong resemblance to the White Witch (they seem to be the only two white people in the world.) She doesn't know it until the end of the story, but it's one of the reasons Irrylath is uncomfortable with her.
Hero of Another Story: Irrylath's adventures travelling across Westernesse in pursuit of Aeriel in A Gathering of Gargoyles, including shipwreck and a bandit queen who turns out to be his cousin, which he mentions only briefly. Meanwhile, the duarough is also busy offscreen, collecting two of the gargoyles in Gathering, and liberating the duaroughs in Pearl.
I Gave My Word: Irrylath honors his promise to the avarclon, even though for all he knows it might result in his immediate death and it does contribute to his being forever separated from Aeriel.
It Was with You All Along: The answers to the riddle-rimes, usually. Especially in A Gathering of Gargoyles – Aeriel is the princess, the tree is the apricok tree in Bern, the wand given wings is her heron-headed walking stick, the lons are the gargoyles, and the arrows are the pins in their collars – justified in that the book's quest plot is about going to ask an oracle for a solution, not actively trying to solve the puzzle. The wording and emphasis of the rimes are changed subtly after the true interpretation becomes clear.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: After Aeriel accepts that she will have to take up Ravenna’s legacy and live apart from the rest of humanity, she tells Irrylath to marry Sabr because she thinks Irrylath likes her and she will make him a good queen, even though she hates her.
Impossible Task: Aeriel is required to spin clothing on an empty distaff for the wraiths, who are too frail to bear the weight of any kind of fabric. Aeriel succeeds when she develops enough empathy for the wraiths that she can spin them thread made out of her compassion.
Kissing Cousins: A love triangle in which all three of the participants are cousins: Sabr is Irrylath's cousin on his father's side, and Aeriel is his cousin on his mother's side. None of them consider this to be any sort of bar to their romance.
Matriarchy: Isternes. Every country Aeriel sees has a different form of government; Esternesse is ruled by the Lady, Syllva, who regrets only having seven sons and would prefer to pass her power to her sister's daughter. The soldiers and priests are women, and the men wear veils.
Mayfly-December Romance: Aeriel and Irrylath, after Ravenna replaces her mortally-injured body with a far longer-lasting model.
Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Well, except for turning to stone in sunlight. And the fact that it’s spelled “duarough". They're a race bio-engineered to be the technicians of the underground terraforming equipment that keeps the world habitable...which apparently means you should be short, blunt, and braidy.
Passing the Torch: Ravenna, being herself mostly dead and unable to heal the world of the wrongs done by the Witch, passes her torch (or pearl, as it were) to Aeriel, which might be a good thing for the world but is effectively a Diabolus ex Machina for Ariel.
Precursors: The Ancients, also known to Aeriel as the Unknown-Nameless Ones, who brought the world and its peoples to life before jetting back to Oceanus for a nuclear war, leaving behind a single scientist to try to make the world self-sufficient. Plot-related artifacts the Ancients left lying around include the Edge Adamantine, the heron, the Torches on the pilgrimage route, and the Feasting Stone.
Servant Race: the duaroughs are largely this to the Ancients. Subverted by Oriencor when she actually enslaves some and turns them against the Ancients’ purpose, even though she is half-Ancient herself.
Scheherezade Gambit: In book one, Aeriel prevents the darkangel from killing small animals (and possibly her) for amusement by telling him stories. Her final story is of Dirna and Irrylath.
Shotacon: The lorelei raises potential darkangels as her lovers.
Soul Jar: The darkangel drank his brides' blood but collected their souls in vials for the lorelei. Getting them back so they can die properly is the wraiths' main preoccupation. The lorelei's palace is also a freezer full of souls, who ascend to heaven after its destruction. And Ravenna transfers a copy of herself into the pearl of the soul of the world.
Soulless Shell: Most of the Witch's minions, including the full darkangels. Contrast the characters whose souls have artificial bodies, like the Avarclon, Melkior, and Aeriel.
Star-Crossed Lovers: Aeriel and Irrylath, to heart-wringing effect by the end of the last book.
Stockholm Syndrome: Aeriel leans towards this in her time of service to the darkangel. However, it's important to note that her initial adoration of the darkangel's beauty is eventually broken once she returns from the desert. It's a crucial plot-point that she's able to operate outside his thrall.
Tears of Blood: Syllva is said to have wept these when she thought her son had drowned.
Teleporters and Transporters: The Feasting Stone in the temple of Orm is an artifact of the Ancients that transports offerings to them in their far-off cities by first disintegrating them. It apparently hasn't weathered the centuries too well though, as it disintegrates them very, very slowly.
Unobtainium: Water, oddly enough. The lorelei needs the world's water in order to make rocket fuel. The lunar 'water' also contains a third element that keeps it liquid in low temperatures, which Aeriel serves to the darkangel as a wedding toast. There's also "Ancients' silver", the Fantasy Metal needed to make darkangel-killing arrowheads.
Souls are pretty important too, in that they exist independently of the physical vessels they power, and the White Witch drinks them like they're protein shakes.
Walking Wasteland: Full darkangels. The smarter ones move around their territory to avoid destroying it beyond habitability.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The suzerain of Pirs has a pretty significant role to play in the second book, but after Aeriel escapes him he's never seen or mentioned again. His fate remains entirely unknown.