Literature / The Halfblood Chronicles

The Halfblood Chronicles, sometimes called the Elvenbane Trilogy, is a series of Fantasy novels by Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton. They take place on a world in which humans are slaves to the cruel and sadistic elven race, and a race of shapeshifting dragons watch warily from the remote deserts.

The heroine of the first and second books is Shana (no relation to a certain Flame Haze), a girl born from a human concubine and an elven lord, a combination that is considered extremely dangerous since such a cross can access both human and elven magics in equal measure. Her mother escaped the death sentence such a pregnancy carries by escaping into the desert, but ultimately died there giving birth to her. Shana was adopted by Alara, a dragon shaman.

The dragons enjoy playing cruel pranks on the elves utilizing their shapeshifting, and one of them is the prophecy of the Elvenbane, a half-elf child who will bring the downfall of the elven race. When Shana is set adrift in the world, it seems that this prophecy might have more weight than the dragons ever believed, if only because the elves are determined to make it self-fulfilling.

The trilogy consists of The Elvenbane, Elvenblood, and Elvenborn.

Not to be confused with that kind of half-blood. Nor that one.

These books provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: Shana.
  • Affably Evil: Lord Dyran is a borderline case; see Pragmatic Villainy.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Myre for Alara.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Each Elvenlord holds their position because they have enough magic to take and keep it.
  • Author Existence Failure: Author Andre Norton died before the fourth book, Elvenbred, was completed. As co-writer Mercedes Lackey is still alive (and writing) there is some hope the fourth book will eventually be published. Considering we learn at the end of the third book that the elves were fleeing big nasty elf/snake critters, and these things just found the portal to the world the elves fled to, along with one of the elves...
  • Bishōnen: All elf males to some degree, but especially Valyn.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: It never occurs to Valyn to tell Shana the reason he can't return her crush is that he's figured out they're probably half-siblings. As Mero says, elflords are really bad at honesty.
  • Defector from Decadence: Valyn is a case study. The son and chosen heir of one of the most powerful Elven Lords, and having no family tradition of "heresy", he got it into his head that humans are for lack of a better term people all on his own. Later on, Keman, Alara, and half-a-dozen other dragons do this when their Lair refuses to get involved in the halfbloods' problems.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alara is a single mother. Dragons apparently aren't big on monogamy.
    • Until the later books get aggressive about pairing off characters, anyway.
  • Divide and Conquer: This is how the elves took down the last halfblood rebellion.
  • Dragon Rider: The dragons allow themselves to be used this way by the resistance.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The state of the war before Shana got involved. The elder wizards were just as bad as the Elvenlords, even if they couldn't be as blatant about it. Once Shana took the lead, however, La Résistance underwent a Conspiracy Redemption.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Elven males and females are trained differently; males train in big, powerful magics and scorn the weak "female arts," while females learn to use small amounts of power with utmost control and finesse. However, this is a matter of culture and training, not actual physical differences; one female Elvenlord is every bit as powerful as her male counterparts, and Lord Dyran became the most powerful elf of all by mastering both styles of magic.
  • Genocide Backfire: The elves kill every halfblood they get their hands on, especially children and the unborn. Unfortunately for them, this directly led to Shana being raised by dragons, stirring up the remaining halfbloods to action, and bringing the dragons into the war.
  • Gladiator Games: Conflicts between elvenlords are dealt with by having their human gladiators fight each other.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Shana and all other known halfbloods, pretty much by definition.
  • Hybrid Power: All halfbloods have the magic ability of elves and the Psychic Powers of humans.
  • Immortality Begins at 20: The elves age at the same rate as humans up until they are physically adults, then age extremely slowly, living about 1,000 years.
  • Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality: Male elves usually have far more magical power than females, but as it turns out, weak females have a lot more control, allowing them to do a wide variety of useful things by using very little magic to alter their surroundings, like plants (food/shelter), animals (taming/control), minds (rewriting memories), themselves (minor shapeshifting), and enemies (stopping hearts). Not as flashy as giant illusions, fireballs, earthquakes, and so forth, but it gets the job done.
    • It's implied that much of this is cultural and limited to the upper classes - noblewomen are trained in control but not for "raw power", and many Lords scorn the "weak" female arts. There are exceptions: Elflord Dyran was a dangerous enemy because he was skilled in both styles, there is a female elf "Lord" who is as strong as any of her peers, and there is also an underclass of elves who have very weak magic, male and female alike.
  • Lamarck Was Right: Kind of weirdly implied-then-averted-maybe. In the third book, Kyrtian states that the current dichotomy between powerful and non-powerful elves is due to the current powerful holding back in the major teamwork magic used to escape their original Crapsack World. This occurred several hundred years ago, and the same dynamics are still in place, leading one to think that Lamarck Was Right — then you remember that, depending on which particular house is being referred to, the current ruling generation of elves is in many cases the same one that came through the portal.
  • La Résistance: The halfbloods and dragons form one to fight the elven lords.
  • Ley Line: Present everywhere in the world, although only humans and dragons can tap into them for magical power.
  • Meaningful Name: Lashana is Elvish for Orphan. Blame Keman, his mother was busy giving birth.
  • More Than Mind Control: In Elvenborn, this is Aelmarkin's favorite past time. He picks his favorite concubine, deliberately picked to be easily duped and manipulated, and tricks them into believing that he is eternally kind, loving, and right... and then uses that belief to deliberately destroy their self-esteem and mental faculties, until they're anorexic-bulimics starving and purging themselves in a desperate attempt to be 'beautiful' even as he pretends to be concerned for their well-being and asking them to eat more. If he's feeling particularly generous, when they're near death he'll memory-wipe them and have them retrained as normal concubines again.
  • No Woman's Land: Most of the Elven Lords treat their wives and daughters better than their human slaves... somewhat... usually....
  • Oblivious Adoption: It takes Shana a while to understand that she really isn't a dragon (which, since they can shapeshift into anything is not as silly as it sounds - especially since at the time she didn't even know elves or humans still existed). Her adoptive brother Keman also thought she was a ModeLocked dragon.
  • Offing the Offspring: When elflord Dyran's heir Valyn joins the half-bloods, Dyran decides that heirs can be replaced. Valyn has just enough warning to take Dyran with him.
    Lord Dyran: I bred one son, I can breed another.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They are shapeshifting dragons who use weather magic.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Extremely long-lived, but not immortal, the elves have powerful magic and are actually from another world where they were nearly wiped out in a long war with another faction. This is also a deconstruction, as since Elves are Better, they have no difficulty with enslaving the human race and murdering halfbreeds and magic-capable humans.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Lord Dyran doesn't stop along the road to kick dogs. This is entirely for ruthless reasons, however; he gives slaves and lower-class elves opportunities for advancement and rewards, because it makes them more loyal and useful (and incidentally makes them compete against each other for his favor, strengthening his organization). Similarly, he refuses to engage in unproductive misogyny and uses whatever tools are available to him. Do not mistake him for a Noble Demon, though, as his son found out firsthand.
  • Psychic Powers: The "magic" of the humans, which is typically telepathy and telekinesis.
  • Raised by Wolves: Shana doesn't really understand either human or elven society all that well, due to spending her first 16 years among dragons.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: A wizard decides that the rebellion against the elven overlords is doomed to failure and attempts to buy his survival by offering his services and his knowledge of the rebels' secrets to an elvenlord. The elvenlord smiles encouragingly, listens to him carefully... then tortures him to be sure he wasn't lying and finally reduces the man to ashes when he's done.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Pretty much any elf that doesn't look younger than 18. Lord Dyran alone is many centuries old despite appearing to be in the prime of his life.
  • Reverse Mole: General Kyrtian V'dyll Lord Prastaran by the end of Elvenborn.
  • Screw You, Elves!: Pretty much the basis of the entire trilogy.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Even the dragons don't all know who made up the Elvenbane prophecy, possibly of whole cloth. The elves' paranoia leads them to hunt down and slaughter all halfbloods on sight (or before sight, if they can get them en utero), which in turns causes the halfbloods to hate and eventually go to war with them.
    • Alara reflects on this early in Elvenbane, mentally snarking that, 'there's nothing like a life of luxury to make thoughts of revolution melt like snow in the sun.'
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Averted, the dragon shift their excess mass to another dimension they call the Out. They cannot assume a form larger than themselves and they can only shift so much mass depending on individual ability.
  • She Is the King: One female elf holds the title of Elvenlord. The title's traditionally masculine, and elf women are not supposed to be Lords because they're not supposed to know the greater magics of elven men. The exception is able to call herself Lord because Asskicking Equals Authority, which trumps all other concerns.
  • Sssssnaketalk: Lampshaded by Keman, who speaks this way when first introduced because that's what's expected from a dragon.
  • Shoutout: A history book mentions three sisters who attempted to find a tripartite talisman to use against the elves; this is presumably a shout-out to Black Trillium, which Norton cowrote.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The estates of House Prastaran, at least by the standards of the bulk of Elvenkind.
  • The Unfavorite:
    • Sheyrena an Treves gets this from both parents to a degree. Her father Lord Tylar is openly emotionally abusive towards her and considers her brother Lorryn his prized possession because she is female. Her mother Viridina fusses over Lorryn and is borderline neglectful towards her because Rena is a full blooded elf, and most of her attention is focused on making sure nobody finds out the girl's (half-)brother is not.
    • Shana's foster sister Myrenateli claims to be this; but it was hard for the shaman Alamarana not to be disappointed in a daughter that was blatantly selfish, lazy, malicious, and somewhat stupid.
  • Unicorn: They're beautiful, but also carnivorous, extremely aggressive, and really, really stupid. They're what happens when an elf designs a warsteed. Ironically enough, they proved impossible for the (male) elf soldiers to control, attacking their riders as readily as their enemies. It takes Sheyrena, the 'small-magic' female who has actual practice in things other than flower-sculpting, messing with their heads before they're actually useful (and even then it's only for certain definitions of useful; they can't be controlled, only allowing Rena and Lorryn to sit on their backs while they go wherever they were planning to go anyway, and Rena implies that if a fight started their instincts would reassert themselves and they'd be more dangerous to the riders than to the enemy).

Alternative Title(s): The Elvenbane