''The Riddle-Master Trilogy'' is a HighFantasy trilogy by Creator/PatriciaAMcKillip with a MoralityKitchenSink. The novels in the trilogy are:

* ''The Riddle-Master of Hed''
* ''Heir of Sea and Fire''
* ''Harpist in the Wind''

The third novel, ''Harpist in the Wind'', was nominated for the HugoAward and the UsefulNotes/WorldFantasyAward, and the series remains one of [=McKillip=]'s most popular works. Several {{Omnibus}} editions have been produced under various names, including ''Riddle of Stars'', ''Quest of Riddlemasters'', and ''The Riddlemaster's Game''.

The series takes place in a world where all wisdom is couched in the form of riddles to be solved. The land is divided into kingdoms whose rulers are magically linked to their realms. This "land-rule" is governed by a mysterious figure known as the High One.

Morgon was a student before his parents died and he became the land-ruler of Hed. He was born with a birth mark of three stars on his forehead which are the subject of prophecy, although he tries to ignore that. When the High One's harpist, Deth, comes to visit during his travels, he informs Morgon that Raederle of An's hand in marriage [[EngagementChallenge was promised to whomever could defeat Peven of Aum in a riddle game]] and that An has been in an uproar ever since Peven told the last person to challenge him that he was too late. Morgon admits that he won Peven's crown in a riddle game and resolves to go with Deth to visit Raederle and offer himself in marriage.

Before they can get very far, their ship is attacked by [[ShapeShifter shape-changers]] who are determined to kill [[TheChosenOne The Starbearer]] aka Morgon. For his very life, Morgon travels with Deth to the High One on Erlenstar Mountain in search of an answer to the riddle of three stars.

The second book follows Raederle of An, Lyra of Herun, and Morgon's sister Tristan as they search for Morgon, Deth, and the High One, who are all now considered missing ever since Morgon reached the High One and fell out of all contact. The third book deals with the growing war against the [[ShapeShifter shape-changers]] and the continuing search for the truth about the High One.

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!!Tropes Used:

* AbusivePrecursors: [[spoiler: The Earth-Masters]].
* ActionGirl: Lyra of Herun, who is herself the leader of the Morgol's all-female guard.
* ActualPacifist: Morgon [[spoiler:until he is betrayed. He is brought back to himself brutally and then broken in half all over again out of necessity.]]
* AerithAndBob: While most names are a bit strange, they still range from the relatively-normal Tristan and Morgon to ''Ghisteslwchlohm''. Of course, there's some cultural differences at work here; Tristan and Morgon are both from Hed, which has the most "normal" names, and while Ghisteslwchlohm's origins are never explained, it's speculated that he's from Herun, where OverlyLongNames are the norm.
* AfterActionHealingDrama: When Morgon is wounded on the plain.
* AfterActionPatchup: When Astrin is attacked on the plain.
* AGodAmI: [[spoiler: Ghisteslwchlohm impersonating the High One. He knows he's not the real deal, but as the most powerful being in the realm, he figures he can make a better go at it than anyone. His ultimate plan was to use Morgon to acquire the land-law of all the realm's kingdoms, becoming the High One in truth]].
* TheAloner: Astrin, Deth, Morgon and Har.
* AmazonBrigade: The Morgol's guard.
* AmplifierArtifact: The twelve-sided crystal Raederle finds that more than does the job for a simple reflection spell.
* AnguishedDeclarationOfLove: [[spoiler: Deth]] to Morgon. (Unusually for this trope, a familial rather than romantic love.)
* AnxietyDreams: Raederle has them before they learn who won the crown.
* {{Arcadia}}: Hed.
* [[ArmorPiercingQuestion Armor-Piercing Statement]]: [[spoiler: "They were promised a man of peace."]]
* BadDreams: Morgon dreams about Deth's harping.
* BecomingTheMask: [[spoiler: Deth]].
* BellyOfTheWhale: Morgon, [[spoiler: during the year in which Ghisteslwchlohm imprisons him. Since the land-rule passes to Eliard, everyone assumes Morgon is dead.]]
* BigGood: The High One. [[spoiler: That's the real one, mind, not Ghisteslwchlohm]]. It turns out that the whole plot was actually [[spoiler: him grooming Morgon to take his place]].
* BigBad: The shape-changers; the one impersonating [[spoiler: Eriel]] is heavily implied to be the mastermind.
** BigBadWannabe: [[spoiler: Ghisteslwchlohm thinks he's got everything under control- and then he runs into the Earth-masters and ends up their mind-controlled puppet]].
** BigBadEnsemble: For most of the trilogy, the shape-changers and Ghisteslwchlohm represent entirely separate threats, sometimes working at cross-purposes.
* BigNo: [[spoiler: Morgon's]] Great Shout at the end of the first book.
* BlowYouAway
* BreakHisHeartToSaveHim: played very effectively by [[spoiler: Deth to Morgon, particularly at Erlenstar Mountain]], though not in a romantic sense.
* BrokenPedestal: Master Ohm/Ghisteslwchlohm and [[spoiler: Deth, for most of the last two books until the whole scope of his plan is revealed]].
* CallToAgriculture: Morgon wants to be a peaceful farmer, not the ChosenOne.
* TheChessmaster: Ghisteslwchlohm is good. The shape-changers are better. [[spoiler: The true High One tops them all]].
* TheChosenOne: Morgon.
* DeadpanSnarker: Deth.
* DeadpersonImpersonation: Multiple times throughout the series.
* DoubleReverseQuadrupleAgent: [[spoiler:Deth: Pretends to be working for the High One, despite actually being the High One himself and working under deep cover for his impersonator, so that he can mentor his successor into success, which requires betraying said successor to the man unknowingly impersonating himself (aka the High One), and faking his own death to impersonate a wizard who was never in fact a wizard but was always him. (Deth why.)]]
* TheDragon: [[spoiler: Ghisteslwchlohm]] ends up forced to play this role to [[spoiler: "Eriel" and the Earth-masters]].
* TheDrifter: Deth
* DysfunctionalFamily: Morgon's family - Morgon, Eliard and Tristan - and Raederle's - currently Mathom, Raederle, Duac and Rood.
** And let's not forget the ruling family of Ymris - Astrin, Heureu, and [[spoiler: Heureu's shape-changer wife]] Eriel.
** The remaining ruling families seem surprisingly well-adjusted, for people who can [[spoiler: live a thousand years, see through walls and turn themselves into trees.]]
* ElementalPowers: Hereditary in humans and highly developed in the Shape-changers. Magic doesn't seem to be limited to one particular element, but some characters specialize.
* ElementalShapeshifter: The Earth-Masters [[spoiler:and Morgon.]]
* ElementsOfNature: Earth, Fire, Water and Wind.
* EngagementChallenge: Raederle has been offered by her father to the man who can defeat Peven in a riddle game. It's been considered unwinnable for centuries before Morgon comes along.
** Note that everybody who hears about the challenge, including Morgon, who won it, thinks it was an incredibly stupid move.
* EverythingsBetterWithPrincesses: Though the word "princess" is never actually used, Raederle, Lyra, and Tristan are all young women of royal extraction who happen to be main characters.
* EvilMentor: Ghisteslwchlohm's standard operating procedure. He does it repeatedly, once in the backstory [[spoiler:when he founded Lungold to control the other wizards, then destroyed it when they started to catch on]], once [[spoiler:in the modern day to Morgon, while posing as Ohm]], and once in a more overarching sense [[spoiler:by posing as the High One.]]
* EvilSorcerer: Ghisteslwchlohm
* {{Expy}}: The author is an explicit fan of ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings'', and while this series is considerably different as a whole, there is one example of this- Ghisteslwchlohm bears a striking resemblance in many respects to Saruman.
** The author is on record that one of the direct inspirations for the series is the "Paths of the Dead" sequence from Return of the King, which influence can be seen in the binding of the dead kings of An in the third book.
* EyesOfGold: All the Morgols of Herun have them; it's a side-effect of the power that lets them see through solid objects.
* FakeKing: [[spoiler: Ghisteslwchlohm]].
* FallenHero: [[spoiler: Morgon in the second book]].
* FearlessFool: Morgon thinks he may be this.
* FieryRedhead: Raederle and her brother Rood.
* {{Fingore}}: Deth is a foremost a harpist even after [[spoiler: his hands are destroyed as punishment by Ghisteslwchilohm]].
* FisherKing: The land-rulers are all benevolent examples. [[spoiler: the Earth-Masters less so]]
* ForcedToWatch: [[spoiler: Deth]], if not by [[spoiler: Ghisteslwchlohm]] then by his own conscience and because there's nothing he can do to [[spoiler: save Morgon, beyond harping]].
* FunctionalMagic: Inherent Gift is pretty common, particularly among land-rulers and their families; the whole world is filled with Wild Magic; Rule Magic has largely disappeared with the wizards [[spoiler: but returns with them]].
* GeometricMagic: Dodecahedrons.
* GhostAmnesia: After winning their riddle game with his life, Morgon reminds Peven of the names of his children.
* [[spoiler: GodWasMyCoPilot: You know the one.]]
* HalfHumanHybrid: [[spoiler: Raederle]]; her family's [[spoiler: Earth-master]] heritage is very pronounced in her.
* HaveYouSeenMyGod: The High One
* HeroicAlbino: Astrin
* HiddenDepths: Several characters, including Morgon, the peaceful farmer-Prince of a remote island, who is the last one anyone (including himself) expects to get caught up in prophecies that will affect all the lands; Raederle, who has inherited more than she knows or wants to know from the mysterious shapeshifters beneath the sea; and the pig-woman of An who Raederle befriends.
* HighFantasy
* ItsNotYouItsMyEnemies: Morgon attempts to tell Raederle this. Fortunately for everyone, she convinces him otherwise.
* ItSucksToBeTheChosenOne: Morgon, full-stop
* KillMeNowOrForeverStayYourHand: [[spoiler: Morgon]] has a literal SwordOverHead scene with [[spoiler: Deth]] at the end of ''Heir of Sea and Fire.''
* KillTheOnesYouLove: It's always been part of the plan that Morgon has to kill [[spoiler: Deth]].
* LanguageOfMagic: Magic is a unique hodgepodge of functional music, language, sympathetic geometry and elemental.
* LoadsAndLoadsOfCharacters: So many there's an index at the end of the book.
* MagicalLand
* MagicMusic: Very much so, the highest example being Morgon's harp, which he can barely play.
* MakeMeWannaShout: When people are emotional, they can give Great Shouts capable of shattering stone. It doesn't seem like something they can weaponize so much as a type of PowerIncontinence, since nobody is ever shown doing it deliberately.
* MeaningfulName: Deth and Rood, who is willing to strip to make a point. Also Yrth [[spoiler: 'earth']] and Raederle [[spoiler: 'riddle', referring to her ancestry]].
* MilkyWhiteEyes: Astrin
* MindRape: For a long time this is [[spoiler: Morgon]]'s life under [[spoiler: Erlenstar Mountain]].
* ModestRoyalty: Many of them, but especially Morgon.
* MoralityKitchenSink
* MusicalAssassin: A shapeshifter nearly suffocates Morgon with a song.
* MyMasterRightOrWrong: Played straight and subverted with [[spoiler: Deth, the High One's harpist]].
* {{Mythopoeia}}
* NatureSpirit: The shape-changers.
* NecessarilyEvil: [[spoiler: Deth, betraying Morgon to Ghisteslwchlohm and then harping to him throughout his imprisonment]]. Justified by success, and [[spoiler: largely forgiven by Morgon himself]].
* NobleFugitive: [[spoiler: The High One]] is nearly murdered by his heir.
* NoPronunciationGuide: Raederle. Ghisteslwchlohm. Many other people in Herun, who tend to go by nicknames to work around this.
* NothingIsScarier: A riddle about a King of Hed who was pursued into his home by a monster and when he finally opened the door nothing was there.
* TheObiWan: Deth
* OffingTheOffspring: The [[spoiler: shape-changers's]] children.
* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: We hear a lot about Morgon finally managing to [[spoiler: turn Ghisteslwchlohm's power against him and escape]]; unfortunately, it's all either secondhand or long after the fact.
* OmniscientMoralityLicense: [[spoiler: Deth]] only does what he must and he's willing to take any punishment for doing what's necessary.
* OnlyOneName
* OurGhostsAreDifferent: The numerous wraiths in An, most obviously.
* OutOfFocus: Morgon is the main character of the first book; in the second, he barely appears, and Raederle is the focus character instead. The third book splits the focus between them.
* OverlyLongName: A Herun tradition, apparently, which is why they all go by shortened versions of their names - e.g. Elrhiarhodan and her daughter Lyraluthuin are El and Lyra to their friends
* PhysicalGod: The High One and the Earth-masters.
* PunnyName: Deth. It's actually short for Tirunedeth, but he is fully cognizant of the pun's potential. [[spoiler: It has a second layer when you meet his son Tirnon, who reveals that his (Deth's) name was originally Tir]].
* PursuedProtagonist: Deth and Morgon.
* RageAgainstTheMentor: amongst others:
-->[[spoiler: Morgon: "I could have broken your harp strings with a thought."]]
-->[[spoiler:Deth: "You did. Several times"]]
* ReallySevenHundredYearsOld: The wizards, shape-changers, and a few of the land-rulers live an indefinitely long time.
* RebelliousPrincess: Raederle of An, Tristan of Hed and Lyra of Herun.
* ReluctantWarrior: Morgon, once circumstances force him out of being an ActualPacifist
* ResignedToTheCall: It takes a few near-death experiences for Morgon to even consider going to the High One and asking ''him'' to figure things out.
* [[LeftJustifiedFantasyMap Right Justified Fantasy Map]]: It seems that human colonization of the High One's realm came from over the Eastern sea, and never extended into the harsh Bad Lands further West.
* RoyalBlood
* RoyalsWhoActuallyDoSomething: Due to the small size of their kingdoms and each land-ruler's psychic connection to his or her own land.
* TheQuietOne: Deth.
* SacredHospitality: Har once cursed a man for failure to extend hospitality.
* SealedEvilInACan: The shape-changers. Sealed Amorality In A Can?
* ShootTheDog: So many times.
* SilentScapegoat: [[spoiler: Deth]].
* SoundtrackDissonance: Because it's all he can do, [[spoiler: Deth plays Morgon his harp while Morgon's being [[MindRape mind raped]]]].
* SpellBook: Of the most obscure and impractical kind. Opening them is the first challenge.
* StandardHeroReward: Lampshaded. When Morgon finds out that a king swore his daughter to anyone who could win a contest he'd just won, he asks how anyone could be so ''stupid'' as to make such a promise. Luckily, there was already some attraction between the two (and it's implied that the king had some ability to see the future and foresee this outcome.)
* StandardRoyalCourt: Inverted, subverted and every other verted. Only An, Ymris and Herun have anything resembling such. Morgon's 'court' includes his pig keeper and is basically just a large farm household.
* SternChase: [[spoiler: Morgon and Deth in the final book]]
* SympatheticMagic
* TakeUpMySword: [[spoiler: Deth]] to Morgon
* ThanatosGambit: [[spoiler: The High One]].
* ThousandYearReign: The High One's succession.
* TreacherousAdvisor: Sort of. Played straight and then subverted.
* UnexpectedSuccessor: [[spoiler: "I realised that the last thing I had been expecting after all those endless, lonely centuries was someone I might love..."]]
* TheUnpronounceable: One of the wizards is actually called "Iff of the Unpronouncable Name"; it turns out his full name has to be ''sung'', not spoken, and even then it took a while to work out the tune.
* WasItAllALie: [[spoiler:A question asked by basically everyone who ever interacted with Deth, after the news that he betrayed Morgon begins to circulate.]]
** [[spoiler:(It wasn't)]]
* WhamLine: At least one per book (with several in the third), but the most obvious is at the very end of the first book, when [[spoiler:Morgon's mentor, Ohm, reveals that he's simultaneously the BigBad, Ghisteslwchlohm, and what people thought was the BigGood, the High One]]:
-->[[spoiler:"I am Ghisteslwchlohm, the Founder of Lungold, and--as you have guessed--its destroyer. I am the High One."]]
* WizardingSchool: Lungold had one [[spoiler:before Ghisteslwchlohm destroyed it.]]
* WizardsLiveLonger: All the wizards are centuries old at least; it's implied that they do die of old age eventually, but exactly how long they last isn't specified. This also holds true for some other magic-users who aren't wizards, like the more powerful land rulers; Har is roughly two thousand years old, and Danan Isig may be even older.
* TheWisePrince: Deth and Morgon.
* WordsCanBreakMyBones: "The Great Shout" is a variation on this - psychic shouting that can do a remarkable amount of damage.
** Or harvest quite a lot of tree nuts.
* WorldsMostBeautifulWoman: Played with, in that Raederle is officially the ''second'' most beautiful woman "in all the Three Portions of An."
* VoluntaryShapeshifting: The shape-changers themselves and anyone with enough natural talent and willpower.
* YouAreInCommandNow: Morgon. Twice.
* ZeroApprovalGambit [[spoiler: Deth aka The High One]]. Also Mathom of An who outrages his lords and his heir by leaving An to search - or so he says - for Morgon, thus allowing the bindings on the ancient and hostile ghosts he holds in check to loosen. He is successful; An arms itself remarkably quickly for war as a result.
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