Literature: The War Gods

The War Gods Series by David Weber, aka the Bahzell series. Heroic Fantasy focusing on Bahzell, Son of the Prince of Hurgrum, member of the Horsestealer Hradani. Set in a world some 1,200 years after the fall of the Empire of Ottovar, the largest empire ever known by the races of man. The Empire fell due to a conspiracy of Dark Wizards who allied themselves with cults of dark gods and caused a multigeneration war that ended in a stalemate. All but one of the White Wizards died or went insane by casting the Strafing across the former empire in order to give a chance for refugee fleets to get more people out of the few ports they still controlled. Now the refugees who escaped to Norfressa have rebuilt and expanded across much of the continent.

The Dark Wizards used many tools, but their shock troops were mind-controlled Hradani. The other races of man never forgot it, even if it wasn't the fault of the Hradani. Some Hradani escaped as well to form their scattered clans, but the Hradani did not forgive the other races for how they were left to dry, and especially how their pleas to the Gods were ignored. A thousand years after the fall the Gods have come back to the Hradani, but many Hradani, especially Bahzell, the chosen of Tomanak, the God of War and Justice, don't want anything to do with them. Too bad the dark gods don't care what they think...

Currently at four books and a novella in the series. David Weber has confirmed a seven book series he considers his Magnum Opus is forthcoming, and will involve a Time Skip. A fifth book and novella for the current generation will eventually come out.

The series consists of:

The seven-book series begins with:

The Mission of Honor library CD contains the first three books and the "Sword Brother" novella. Per Baen's library CD terms of use, the contents of this disc may be freely shared without restriction.

These novels provide examples of:

  • After the End: The Wizard Wars a thousand years ago destroyed the empire of Ottovar, a Magitek empire that was much higher technology than the refugees have even a thousand years later would indicate. Advanced enough there were Time Travel experiments...
  • Amazon Brigade: The Sothoii War Maids. Not all War Maids are soldiers despite the name but their towns are required to provide military levees when called upon so they are all given some degree of combat training upon joining.
  • Anti-Magic: Hradani in the Rage are nearly immune to magic. Only Wencit has been seen able to consistently use magic to restrain them.
  • Apocalypse How: Of the Continental variety, per Wencit when he describes the strafing of Kontovar.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted in many ways, as attention is given to terrain horses can cross as well as practical weight and size limits. Sothoii Warhorses are explicitly magical in their endurance, but weather and other limits still apply to them.
    • More implied for the run of the mill horses, but they are also specifically bred for use as cavalry mounts. Coursers on the other hand, are magical, though there are clear limits as to what they can and can not do.
  • Badass Bookworm: Brandark. Deadly with a sword and capable of keeping up with Bahzell, but when they returned to Bahzell's home city most of the luggage was taken up by books he had bought. Completely self-educated (back home in Navahk, book-learning was considered to be only for wimps), but usually the best-educated person in the room.
  • Berserk Button: Telling a Hradani you're a Wizard needs to be done very carefully unless you want to be dead within seconds.
  • Bond Creatures: Coursers.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: The King of the Sothoii has the power to force marriages in cases of nobles who don't have a male heir. It's seen as a last resort, admittedly hard on only-daughters, but worth it in order to insure that the Kingdom isn't destabilized by having important lands and titles fall into dispute.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Half-Elves have that cultural posturing, but averted by actual elves who are mostly depressed.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Early on, Bahzell tries very hard to pretend he doesn't have this problem.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Trisu, surprising everyone in the room.
    At this moment, what I care about are swords and hands to wield them. I'll worry about whether or not they are "proper" hands later.
  • Cool Horse: Sothoii warhorses and their big cousins Coursers.
  • Cursed with Awesome: The Rage has been slowly turning itself into this over the course of centuries - invoking it deliberately no longer causes the user to lose control of his actions.
  • Daughter of a Whore: Kaeritha's mother was forced into prostitution when her husband died; Kaeritha deeply regrets not being more understanding about this at the time.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Brandark. After being (gently) let down by the Goddess of Music he is told that another of the Gods of Light has a plan for him, but which one has yet to be revealed, leaving Brandark at loose ends.
    • Revealed in 'The Sword of The South' as Korthrala
  • Dual Wielding: A key component of the War Maid fighting style. Also Kaeritha's chosen sword style. Leanna learned from both sources, to devastating effect.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Vaijon sacrifices himself to take down a Devil single-handed in hand-hand combat. To put that into perspective, it took the unique fusion of powers between Bahzell and his Courser co-champion Walsharno to take down the first one (with an enhanced bow-shot) and the third one requires Bahzell, Walsharno AND Vaijon's spirit to kill.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Pro-Dwarves. Elves are nice enough, but are suffering PTSD from the Fall 1,000 years ago. Half-Elves are racist jerks ruling over humans in their lands via the right of their blood. Dwarves instead joined the Empire of the Axe, have representation and are considered the economic heart of the Empire, and have had some successful interbreeding with the humans.
    • Although to be fair, it's not like Half-Elves are inherently jerks. Just Purple Lords. It's implied that there are plenty of half-elves who live outside Bortalik who are probably perfectly nice people.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: The series doesn't have guns, until a short novella has Wencit use magic to summon help from beyond. Bringing a pair of US Marine troops in a LAV gives people who see it ideas.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: After their blood-soaked battle against three devils and a seemingly unstoppable horde of ghouls, the Sothoii cavalry who fought beside the hradani infantry take exception to any racist comments about their former enemies.
    • Any of the loyal Sothoii who fought beside the formerly despised Leeana and the other war-maids in defense of the king. Including the king. To the point where Trisu, who made no secret of his opinion of them before, beats one of his peers unconscious after the man suggested that Trisu, not Leena deserved the credit for saving the king's life.
  • Five Races: Humans, Dwarves, Hradani, Elves, and Halflings; all actually descended from mainline humans but traded the general ability to use magic for different gifts.
    • Dwarves are Stout Short, physically strong and industrious. Also in the process of kicking off their world's version of the Industrial Revolution. The old empire ran on Magitek powered by Wizards, and there's not enough wizards to power everything so they've had to invent new ways to do what they know are possible. They have a racial gift to shape rock and live to be about 500.
    • Elves are Fairy Mystical, immortal and rarely found outside their one city state. They suffer a species wide form of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder from the fall of the empire. All are descended once human warlocks who gave up their powers in exchange for immortality 10,000 years ago. It's implied they were similar to Sorcerers in D&D prior to the change to immortality.
    • Humans are generally Mundane but with elements of High Men as in this setting only humans can become wizards or the psionic Magi. Humans can breed with all the other races, and their hybrids can also be Magi or Wizards. All half humans except for half-elves and half-dwarves are sterile. Word Of God suggests half-human hybrids may have a higher chance to be Magi or Wizards than normal, especially for Wild Wizardry.
    • The hradani and halflings don't fit well into either the Cute or High Men.
      • The hradani can fit in Cute for certain values of cute with their fox-like ears though it conflicts with their current Proud Warrior Race Guy image. They used to be High Men but lost their status after being enslaved and used as shock troops by dark wizards in the back story and only one Wild Wizard and maybe a handful of elves even remember the fact. In many respects they qualify as Orcs. They live for about 200 years and usually start at 7 feet tall along with a higher endurance and strength than humans.
      • The halflings would fit the more traditional Cute role but are generally described as sneaking, lying cowards that no one has any use for. The only exception are the Marfang Islander Halflings who are considered brave to the point of insanity. They are descended from servants and slaves of dark wizards exposed to too much magic. Physically they are similar to Halflings in other series except that they have ivory horns on their head. Their gifts are not described.
    • Also of note in the series are the Half-Elves. They would consider themselves the High Men of the setting but no one else does because they only maintain their uniqueness when breeding with full Elves or other Half-Elves. If they interbred with the far more numerous humans their Elf traits would be swamped by the far more numerous humans and as such they aren't considered a proper race. They are also considered to be Jerks, and run an Empire with the nobility only open to Half-Elves. Live to around 500.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Bahzell and Leeana have several conversations over the course of a few days, then spend the next seven years apart from each other only communicating through the occasional letter, though they both remember the other one with interest. One day after meeting up again, they're effectively married.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Averted, they are quite active, but the good gods spend much of their time running interference on the dark gods akin to ECM, while the evil gods don't cooperate with each other. Also, the gods mostly don't have fine enough control over their power to exercise it directly — it would be like swatting a fly with a nuke. That's one reason why they pick champions to be their conduits.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: At a large scale than usual for this trope. A nation worshiping or not worshiping a given god will not change things very much, but a world being claimed by a given god for their side will increase their power immensely, which they can then use to try to conquer other worlds. Demons and Devils are Champions of Sharna and Krashnark, respectively, from worlds that those gods have already conquered.
  • God Was My Copilot: Averted in many cases, but the Goddess of Music shows up as a beggar woman asking for a share of hospitality at one point...
    • Also played absolutely straight in a short story, where it is revealed to the reader that Wencit of Rum is a god. This explains more than it doesn't.
      • Well, maybe. As pointed out on the WMG page, we don't know whether or not Wencit is a god, and the text may instead be referring to his sword, which may be an artifact known as the Sword of the South. There's quite a few possibilities, and since some of the information available to us comes from various dribs and drabs Weber has let loose, it's hard to say.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Rage was created by Dark Wizards to make the Hradani people more devastating in combat, and reduce the effectiveness of magic on a Raging Hradani. Oh, and now the Hradani utterly hate Dark Wizards and are immune to most magic ...
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Wencit of Rum never shows up until the very end War Maid's Choice, even when characters wish he was around. They never find out that due to his direct intervention behind the scenes the two nuclear-level explosions are never triggered which would have killed thousands, including Leeana, her father, their coursers, the Sothoii king, and destroyed the Sothoii capital, that the main agent of the Dark Gods for the last two books is eliminated, and Leeana is protected from direct magical attack by the Kontovarans due to his threat to utterly destroy their entire continent...twice...if they so much as try.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: It is possible for any two of the species to interbreed although only Elf-Human hybrids (Half-Elves) are common—several of the other matches produce offspring that die young or are infertile, although most of the human population of the Axeman Empire have some Dwarf blood. Half-Elves consider themselves to be the fifth species (since they came about before Halflings); however while breeding with each other and with full Elves preserves both the Human and Elvish traits, the offspring of a Human and Half-Elf will show a significant reduction in the Elvish traits (implied to be related to the spell that made warlocks elves). Finally it is established that only Humans and Half-Humans can be wizards or magi.
    • Hradani-human hybrids are said to be thankfully rare and infertile, because as half-human, they can become wizards, and as a half-Hradani, can access the magic field without tools. Suggesting thats where Wild Wizardry comes from... and includes a girl named Gwynna
  • Hero of Another Story: Wencit of Rum is the most obvious example, he does help out the heroes a lot in the main books but you get the feeling that even when he's off-screen he's busy having adventures and taking care of business.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Bahzell and Brandark, who abandoned his home to follow Bahzell into danger and has steadfastly refused to leave his side since, no matter how many gods or demons show up.
    • Verging on Vitriolic Best Buds on occasion; Brandark almost never stops teasing Bahzell, once to the point where Bahzell's idea of a witty rejoinder is to throw Brandark head-first into an ornamental fish pond. (This takes place directly after one of the most emotional conversations they've ever had; they had to do something to clear away all that soppiness.) Although the song Brandark made is apparently an Ear Worm that inflates Bahzell's accomplishments to Memetic Badass, much to Bahzell's eternal irritation.
  • Healing Hands: Champions of Tomanak and some of the other gods have this ability. The Champion sees how a person's body part is supposed to look, then calls upon his or her God to grant the power to restore it. Not always perfectly - Brandark is healed from the brink of death, but is still missing two fingers.
  • Hobbits—er, Halflings, with two main types; the Marfang Island ones are less numerous, but seen more in the story. They are hard bitten sailors, while the more well-known kind are seen as cowards and thieves. They are all descended from the slaves and servants of the Dark Wizards who were mutated by the magic of the last great war.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Bahzell's wife Leanna is actually quite tall by human standards. It's just that, at 7'9", he's huge by anybody's standards.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Dark Gods revel in it.
  • Implacable Man/Determinator: The 'New' or 'White' Rage turns a hradani into this instead of the The Berserker. When Bahzell combines it with his connection to Tomanak he turns into something more like a force of nature. Turned Up to Eleven when he briefly connects to the world's natural magic field through the bond with his new Sothoii Courser, essentially becoming a Champion of Tomanak version of Wencit.
  • Interspecies Romance: Bahzell and Leeana Hanthafressa get married, somewhat amusingly, it is she who pursues (and ambushes) him.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Bahzell and Kaeritha. Extends to all Champions of Tomanak but Bahzell and Kerry work together more than most.
  • Living Relic: Wencit of Rum, who was there when the Empire of Ottovar fell, and still remembers it fondly, if sorrowfully.
  • Medieval Stasis: The series strives to avoid this at all costs. The Author has said as much as he's tired of fantasy novels being written as luddite sounding. The Empire of Ottovar used Magitek, powered by thousands of Wizards, with most people of noble blood being noble because they were wizards (Emperor Ottovar being the greatest wizard of all time). The Magitek was very advanced, but the Empire was limited to only the continent of Kontovar due to the Dragons forbidding Wizards from colonizing Norfressa after the original Wizard War that founded the Empire. There was gradual advancement, the Warlocks and Witches became the elves, and much research was done (including Time Travel!). After the empire fell, people started trying to rebuild without wizardry, and now the Dwarves are at the cusp of the industrial revolution with Bessemer converters and shock absorbers, but still no steam engines or gunpowder. By the time of the fourth book, they're experimenting with railways, cable cars, and the Norfressan version of the Erie Canal.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Bahzell and Leaena know that their getting together is going to cause problems, but plan on simply dealing with it later, whatever anyone else thinks. Then two gods show up (Tomanak and his sister) and hold an impromptu wedding ceremony for them on the road to indicate that the Gods of Light don't care what anyone else thinks either, because they approve.
  • Nay-Theist: Gods manifest and choose champions all the time, with almost two dozen champions of the God of Justice running around. The Hradani haven't had a single champion since the end of the last wizard war made the entire race into Nay Theists. It's so ingrained that most of the first book is the main character, Bahzell Bahnakson, running from clerics, wizards, and the Gods Themselves rather than being talked into being their champion.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Once it becomes obvious that the Dark doesn't want the Hradani and the Sothoii to come to terms, everyone starts realizing that despite centuries of engrained prejudice, it might actually be a good idea.
  • Noodle Incident: The Lay of Bahzell Bloody-Hand. Mentioned, discussed, and mocked several times, but never explicitly told. Character reactions to it range from amused to infuriated and disgusted.
  • Oblivious Mockery: Baroness Hanatha Bowmaster asks her daughter Leeana if she tried to ford the river, and Leeana says that no one would be stupid enough to try that with the river 20 yards out of its banks. Hanatha admits that she did, though tries to defend herself by saying the river was only 15 yards out of its banks at the time.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In Oath of Swords, while the narrator is watching Bahzell busy fighting Harnak as champion of Tomanak to Harnak's champion of Sharna, Brandark is caught in a melee against four hradani simultaneously — and kills three of the four before going down.
  • Only The Chosen May Ride: The Sothoii Coursers, the descendants of magically altered horses. They are as intelligent as humans as well as being larger, stronger, faster and having more endurance than any natural horse. Some of them will enter into a psychic bond with a human (who are called Windriders). Like the Heralds and their Companions, the Windriders are respected by all Sothoii, and are guaranteed to be honorable (as the Sothoii see it anyway). Coursers won't associate with anyone who isn't.
  • Our Elves Are Better: The first elves were known as warlocks, who functioned something like sorcerers from Dungeons & Dragons. Their magic was ingrained and inheritable, but not as powerful as wizards'. The problems of natural magic-users just cropping up and the fact too many of them could get corrupted by the Dark Gods meant they'd be a long term problem, so Ottovar came up with a spell that converted their use of the natural magical field into life extension. In short, they gave up magic for immortality. As a consequence of this some of the elves have been around for the entire rise and fall of the Empire of Ottovar and are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from their losses during the fall to explain their withdrawal from the world.
    • The Half Elves though, are fully in the realm of Screw You, Elves!.
    • Hradani might qualify as a form of either Dark Elves or Orcs depending on your view. Tall, pointy ears, beautiful, but very well built as opposed to slender. Before the Rage they were considered the most stable of races.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: It's genetic, and they have a psychic/magical gift for working stone, and are integrated in the human kingdoms.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: If Hradani aren't Dark Elves they qualify as Orcs. Ghouls are arguably Orcs or Goblins, being twisted and intelligent trolls, they live to at most 40 due to their regeneration being so high, and being explosive egg laying breeders. They are Tolkien Orcs to Hradani Blizzard Orcs.
  • Patronymic: The hradani use patronymics (Bahzell Bahnakson, Marglyth Bahnaksdaughter). The Sothoii warmaids take matronymics when they join up, using their mother's name plus the suffix "fressa", which translates as "daughter".
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Wencit of Rum, Last of the Council of Ottovar, still has access to the Strafing. While setting up the Strafing killed or drove mad all the other members of the council, but since the spell was finished Wencit can still call it down on a whim. One of the reasons he's always on the move is because he's the single biggest target on the planet because he's the only thing keeping the Kontovarian dark lords from trying more direct invasions. He's not just a one man nuke, he's a one man Strategic Air Command. He's threatened to burn the entire continent of Kontovar down to the bedrock if the Kontovarians ever try attacking Leeana Hanathafressa again ... and melt the bedrock to glass if they still don't get the hint after that.
    • Also, should a Hradani and human interbreed, it's mentioned that it's a good thing the child would be sterile, because the child would have permanent access, through the Hradani lineage, to all the natural magic in the area, a trait currently only Wencit has, and be able to pass that on to the children.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Hradani. Upon the Gods of Light's supposed neglect of a thousand years, they tend to have little use for any god, and being extremely proud of this fact. Unfortunately, those with the inclination are more than willing to make bargains with the Dark Gods, because their rewards tend to be immediate and effective.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Rape is the one crime in Hradani society which being under the Rage does not does not reduce or eliminate the guilt of the perpetrator. Bahzell starts his first adventure by beating a rapist to a pulp.
  • Rebellious Princess: Leeana Bowmaster, later Leeana Hanathafressa, War Maid, Wind Rider and wife of Bahzell Bahnakson.
  • Red Baron: Thanks to Brandark's song The Lay of Bahzell Bloody-Hand (The title of which comes from Bahzell's early habit of starting quests by punching somebody until his knuckles bled), many agents of the Dark Gods refer to Bahzell as "The Bloody-Hand".
  • Redshirt Army: The Hurgrum branch of the Order of Tomanak takes hideous casualties in virtually every battle they fight in. By the end of book four, only one named member of their original membership is still alive. They do, however, tend to give as well as they get.
  • Refused The Call: Bahzell. Oh Bahzell. Spends most of the first book running from it. Then gets downright badass when he accepts.
    Bahzell: (to Tomanak, while a sickeningly powerful demon is charging at him) "All right! If it's wanting me you are, then have me you can!"
  • Royal Brat: Vaijon is more disciplined than the general run of these, but he still has a lot of their more unfortunate qualities before Bahzell beats them out of him. Literally.
  • Sapient Steed: Coursers bond with specific riders and are counted as citizens with their intelligence. They can talk telepathically with their bonded riders and Magi. Tend to be rather on the snarky side.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Bahzell in Oath of Swords. When he and Brandark set out after the party that abducted Zarantha, he took a few minutes to familiarize himself with the individual hoof prints of the horses they were chasing after.
    • Justified in that Bahzell is, after all, a Horse Stealer Hradani.
  • Screw You, Elves!: Half-Elves have most of the stereotype of Elvish behavior, to the point that they run a racist state based on Elven Blood purity. They are also mocked and shunned for this, as most other countries can't stand them. They refer to themselves as the "Purple Lords".
  • Shaggy Dog Story: A subplot about an assassin seeking to murder Trianal and Yurokas while they're on a mission in the Ghoul Moors comes to an abrupt halt when the assassin is killed by a ghoul before he even gets an opportunity to try.
  • Spanner in the Works: This seems to be Leanna's primary calling in life. So far she's derailed two major plots of the Dark Gods as a result of actions she took which had absolutely nothing to do with fighting the Dark.
  • Square Race, Round Class: Bahzell, basically an Orc Paladin.
    • Described, rather bemusedly, in those exact words by Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books, before publication.
  • Summon to Hand: Bahzell's sword, after Tomanak makes him a champion. Also Vaijon's in his final battle.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sir Mathian of The War God's Own (among his other less-than-sterling qualities).
  • Undead Author: The saga of the Battle of Cherhan's Despair is of dubious accuracy because it was composed by someone who wasn't there. After all, the reason that fort is known as Cherhan's Despair is because Cherhan and his men were killed to the last man while defending it.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Dark Wizards developed the Rage and inflicted it on the Hradani, to make their shock troopers more devastating. The Rage is strong enough that the Hradani are a matriarchal society for most important government functions because the women aren't subject to Rage. At one point a Hradani is inches away from killing Wencit, just hearing that he's a Wizard.
    • Wencit then went on to paralyze and break him out of the Rage with magic, something Hradani thought to be impossible.
  • Witch Species: The elves were this prior to the foundation of the old empire of Ottovar. When Ottovar won the wizard wars he rerouted their power. Before this they were useful as magical support. Their power was innate and cast at will, something like the mages but with no training needed.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The elves. In the modern setting, all elves pretty much have PTSD due to living through the Fall of Kontovar. Even back during the days of the Empire of Ottovar, Wencit thinks the elves made a poor choice in trading their magic for immortality, because it gave them all of eternity to reflect on what they had lost.
  • Word Of God: There's plenty, this is David Weber's private Tabletop RPG. Been on the back burner due to poor sales compared to the Best Selling Honor Harrington or Safehold series, so David Weber has said quite a lot.

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