An epic fantasy series by Michelle West consisting of six DoorStopper books. Here's the list of titles: The Broken Crown (Book 1) , The Uncrowned King (Book 2), The Shining Court (Book 3), The Sea of Sorrows (Book 4), The Riven Shield (Book 5), and The Sun Sword (Book 6).
And I Must Scream: The rituals that make the Kovaschaii assassins so powerful, and their link to the Lady, goddess of death, means their souls cannot escape their bodies until freed. Only other Kovaschaii know and can perform the ritual.
Kallandras is the only Kovaschaii traitor ever, and he went into it knowing this would be his fate.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Standard among the Kialli. Close to it among the Annagarians. A clever assassination and usurpation of power is more admired than hated.
Being tortured after showing unrelated prodromal psychosis and then having a psychotic break made Anya willing to work for a demon. It's hard to know if her mind works well enough to understand good and evil, or even the fact that people don't like being slaughtered.
Bodyguard Betrayal: Virtually unheard of among the oathsworn Toran and Tyran bodyguards of the high clans. Also the ace that Alesso plays to kill assassinate the Tyr'agar
Broken Bird: Diora after her husband and wives get killed as part of Alesso di'Marente's and Sendari's plan to wipe out the Leonne family and replace them with a strong leader
Anya also counts.
Cassandra Truth: Averted by the seer-born in general and Evayne in particular. She can't even give full prophecies, just urgent instructions. Nobody likes them, and nobody likes seeing a Harbinger of Impending Doom. Almost everyone does what she says even when they hate her for it.
Calling the Old Man Out: Teresa calls out Sendari for expecting Diora to not resent him for killing her wives, killing her husband and destroying her happiness.
Chekhov's Gunman: The healer who saves Lissa's life at the start of the first book.
Combat Pragmatist: The Ospreys were created to be this. They can commit necessary atrocities and spare the scruples of the rest of the Essalieyanese forces.
Compelling Voice: The bard-born of the Empire. In the Dominion, it's grounds for execution. Teresa and her niece Diora both have powerful voices, and they take great pains to hide it.
Cool Sword : The titular Sun Sword. Only the true ruler of the Dominion of Annagar can draw it from its sheath and wield it without being consumed by fire.
Culture Clash: Between the Empire in the north and the Dominion in the South. Also between the Voyani and the clansmen.
Deadpan Snarker: Avandar to Jewel. Alina di'Lamberto also qualifies by the standards of the clansmen. It's the reason she's sent North as a hostage.
Deadly Decadent Court: The Shining Court of the Kialli is most definitely this, mostly minus the decadence. The Tor Leonne comes close, and the deadliness is again greater than the decadence.
Deal with the Devil: Alesso enters into this with the Kialli of the Shining Court. He knows full well that demons have Chronic Backstabbing Disorder and that they're using him for their own ends. He just tries to use them for his ends at the same time.
Also common within the Ten, the major Houses of Essalieyan. The actual royal court has provisions in place to limit the damage done by House wars.
Also the very beginning of the first book, in which Askeyia is kidnapped and raped. Notable in that her kidnapping is explicitly because as healer-born she, unlike everyone else, can survive long enough to die in childbirth rather than before childbirth.
Death God: Two. Mandaros is the god of the dead and the Lord of Judgment. The Lady is the god of death in the sense of dying. The former gets prayers. The latter, unsurprisingly, gets little worship except from an order of religious assassins.
Death Seeker: Avandar has been at it for a staggeringly long time. He's also a Type I immortal, arrogant, and immensely powerful.
Also, in a very unusual version, Aidan and Valedan defrost Sir Anton di'Guivera into feeling affection again instead of just a need for retribution.
Human warmth returns. Romantic hangups are not substantially abated.
The Ditz: Serra Fiona and Serra Marlena, especially when compared to the other clanswomen in the books
Marlena is truly The Ditz, too everyone's varied amusement and disgust. Fiona is not; she's just no match for Sendari's previous wife. This is intentional, as he's afraid to risk falling in love again.
Door Stopper : The books each range from 687 pages to 957 pages
Emotionless Girl: Diora pretends to be this after her wives and her husband get killed as part of her father and Alesso di'Marente's plan to rule Annagar to keep herself safe and not fall under suspicion until she has the perfect chance to reveal her true feelings. Also mistaken as this by Margret in Sea of Sorrows.
Emotions vs. Stoicism: A bone of contention between Voyani women and clanswomen, especially between Margret and Diora in Sea of Sorrows
Evil Empire: Subverted. The Empire of Essalieyan is not evil at all. It's certainly a much nicer place than the Dominion, and while it has
Hypercompetent Sidekick: The point of the domicis. They are hired, for a period or forever, to be perfect assistants and aides. They do it for various reasons and with various skillsets that must match with their clients' needs.
Improbable Weapon User: The Kovaschaii use unusual, but not improbable, blades. Kallandras takes to wielding a pair of demons reshaped into blades.
Also subverted by the Kialli. Since they have to force the world to give them a form, they are only as beautiful as they care to be (not all care much about human aesthetics) and as they can force from the elements (not all have the skill to appear as anything but monsters)
Iron Lady: The Voyani matriarchs tend to be this out of necessity since they have to lead their clans in the hostile and misogynist Dominion of Annagar
The Kalakar also counts as this in spades.
Kuudere: Teresa, Diora, and generally most clanswomen belonging to powerful families who aren't stupid tend to be this character type.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: When the mages came for Anya. If they had let her lover come to the capital with her, she wouldn't have been running away where there was no one in the know to help her with the whole going-crazy-while-developing-powers thing, and the demons wouldn't have found her. But they just had to go all "She'll have no use for you once she's a powerful mage!" on them, thereby provoking them into running away together.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Kallandras betrayed the Brotherhood, the assassins who are his only family, who he loves, to save the world. Not because he particularly loves the world, but because he loves them and they're saved in the process. His reward? They hate him, and when he dies none will come to release his soul from his body. He volunteers for And I Must Scream knowing this will happen.
And Sir Anton di'Guivera for Aidan, somewhat. Aidan's father isn't dead, just broken. Even when he gets better, Aidan still looks up to Anton, who in turn takes Aidan under his wing.
Person of Mass Destruction: Powerful mages qualify. Anya and Avandar/Viandaran are the ones who can wreak cataclysmic destruction with ease.
The Plan: Probably what Isladar is up to, although it's not entirely clear.
Pimped-Out Dress: Diora wears an elaborate, pimped-out sari twice. The first time is when she marries the Tyr's heir. The second time she wears one as the Lord's consort.
Poor Communication Kills: This and Culture Clash led to the death of Mareo's eldest son in the backstory. The Essalieyanese tried to offer him a way to spare his own life and accidentally forced him into suicidal battle. Neither side realizes that the other had no desire for that outcome.
Really 700 Years Old: Most non-humans fit this. They tend to be older than any of the countries that exist. Or, for that matter, any of the countries that any human has ever heard of.
Avandar Gallais, previously Viandaran the Warlord of the Cities of Man
Meralonne APhaniel probably isn't just a human old man. It's not clear what he is, but he's recognized and respected by demons, elemental forces, and immortals.
Averted by the god-born. You might expect them to live long lives, but you'd be wrong. Divine blood burns brightly, and it burns fast.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ellora AKalakar, the Kestrel, and Devran ABerrilya, the Hawk. Notably, they can't stand each other and can't work together, and Bruce Allen, the Eagle and the third commander of the Empire's forces, has to carefully manage them.
Rightful King Returns: Valedan spends the series trying to do this. As the son of the Tyr'agar's least-wanted concubine, raised entirely in a hated foreign country, going up against the usurper who's a respected war hero with those same hated enemies supporting him, he has a tough time winning over the Annagarians.
This also plays into Margret's return to the Tor Arkosa.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: The odd system of Essalieyan accomplishes this. The kings are the sons of Cormaris, Lord of Wisdom, and Reymaris, Lord of Justice. They marry queens, and then the two gods beget sons on the queens who will be the new Wisdom-born and Justice-born kings. The result is a rather effective court ruled, well, wisely and justly.
Also Princess Mirialyn, a rare daughter of the Wisdom-born king rather than his father. Having no divine parentage, she can't inherit, but she still effectively defends the capital and represents the Twin Kings' authority.
And Valedan spends a long time trying to prove he can do things when royalty alone just isn't enough to win allies.
Shaggy Dog Story: The second book is all about Valedan trying to prove that he is worthy of kingship by some kind of skill, not just by birth. Then at the end he disqualifies himself when a demon erupts in the middle of the last challenge. Winning wasn't really the point; proving that he was badass enough to fight a demon works better anyway.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Subverted and played straight with Diora. Because she is the Flower of the Dominion, the son of the Tyr'agar, ruler of the Dominion, marries her. Because the Tyr'agar is weak, he and all his family are killed except Diora, who is protected by her father. Because she is the Flower of the Dominion, not just an ordinary Serra, she is able to use herself as a weapon against the usurping Tyr. Diora's beauty determines the course of her life.
Spare To The Throne: Valedan. He was only declared a legitimate son in the first place so his father could send him and his mother north as hostages.
Supernatural Gold Eyes: The most obvious trait of the god-born. In the Dominion, gold-eyed babies are killed at birth. Even in Essalieyan, where the god-born are cherished, Kiriel hides her eyes to avoid awkward questions about just which god is her parent.
Tournament Arc: The primary plot of The Uncrowned King is centered around this.
It's also something of a Shaggy Dog Story. Valedan disqualifies himself from the final challenge in the process of fighting a demon. Ultimately, he doesn't care about winning; his purpose was prove himself worthy, and he does so without even finishing the tournament.
Unstuck in Time: Evayne a'Nolan volunteered to be sent to specific times when she is necessary, without knowing where or when she will be from one step to the next, in order to save the world. It's a miserable job, but the force that directs her seems aware enough to send her to places to rest and heal and recuperate when she is at her breaking points.
With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Inverted with Anya. She's the most powerful human mage to live for ages. She's utterly insane. She went mad and developed her powers at the same time, but it's unclear if they're linked or not.
The maker-born in general are sane and useful, widely regarded as having the most day-to-day valuable gift by birth except maybe the healer-born. The Artisans, the greatest among them, are stark raving insane.
World's Most Beautiful Woman: Diora. She spends most of the series using her beauty, or rather her reputation for being the Flower of the Dominion, as a weapon against her enemies.