Literature / Villains by Necessity

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A fantasy novel written by Eve Forward.

Good has not only defeated Evil in the last great war, but continues to hunt down and eradicate all representatives of darkness. While this makes the world a happier, safer place for the common folk, this also puts the protagonist, Sam, out of a job. After all, Sam is an assassin, and since the world's in a state of peace, calm and goodness, there isn't much call for his services.

But wait! There's more: as the forces of Good continue to eradicate Evil, the balance of the world shifts. After Sam and his friend companion often annoying acquaintance Arcie narrowly escape the forces of Good, they stumble across a druid who tells them the ugly truth: if the forces of light continue to overwhelm darkness, the balance will be irreversibly disrupted and the world will be consumed by Good.

As in, cease to exist.

So, they form a Five-Bad Band of Evil Counterparts to Save The World and Set Wrong What Once Went Right. Mostly notable for taking the usual "Evil trying to take over the world" fantasy yarn and turning it on its head. Even if the villains aren't exactly all that evil.


Tropes include:

  • Always Chaotic Evil: Deconstructed with Valerie, whose entire race was wiped out for being "evil." While she at no point denies this, she also had loved ones and a family that were destroyed as a result, and is quick to point out that willingness to believe this trope meant it was okay for the heroes to commit what was essentially genocide.
  • Apocalypse How: Of the Planetary scale; if the forces of light continue to overrun the world, the planet will be consumed by light, wiping out everything on it. While having a spiritual vision, Kaylana sees that such an action would inevitably upset the balance of neighboring worlds and possibly lead to a cascade effect, meaning that it could potentially be on a Multiversal scale as well.
  • The Archmage: Mizzamir, who even has this as his title. He is the most powerful wizard in the world left, and the only surviving Hero left from the Victory of Good against Evil (at least before Sir Pryse is revealed as still alive).
  • Artifact of Doom: Valeriana's medallion is one of the last surviving Hellgates (called Darkgates in the book). A very small one, yes, but a Hellgate nonetheless. Given that, you'd think Sam would know better than to put the damn thing on, but that's part of its evil, tempting power...
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The very premise of the novel, with a small twist: if the world remains precisely balanced too long, it will be locked in stasis for all eternity. Periodic fluctuations in balance are just as vital as making sure neither side gets the upper hand for long.
  • Baleful Polymorph: It's implied that Blackmail's horse is actually his brother, transformed into a horse by Mizzamir.
  • Big Good - Evil Overlord: The book being what it is, Mizzamir blurs the line between these two tropes. He's working for the forces of good and attempting to purge all evil from the world, and will never take the life of an opponent. On the other hand, Mizzamir plays straight a lot of Evil Overlord tropes, constantly spying on foes from a spire of a castle, increasing his powerbase as the world changes, and manipulating his allies for his own ends.
  • Black and White Morality: The heroes suffer from this, and their attempt to only push for the forces of light endangers the world, kicking off the book's plot. Our own group of Villain Protagonists reason that the world is more complex than that, and attempting to categorize things leads to the heroes performing morally dubious actions simply because they're "on the right side."
  • Black Knight: Blackmail.
  • Brainwashed/Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The plainer term for "whitewashing", where a wizard in the service of Good forcibly drives out the evil in a person, leaving the victim in a state best described as Good Is Dumb. Could be considered a form of Mind Rape.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In order to acquire the final key, Sam is forced to give up his self-identity as an assassin. Blackmail helps him restore it just in time to have a final confrontation with Mizzamir.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Well, Mizzamir seems to think it applies, and most everyone he talks to either agrees with him already or does by the time he's through with them (see Brainwashed). Subverted in that Sam refuses to give in and just keeps trying to kill him.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Sam almost never drinks since it could potentially interfere with his job, and he needs to keep his instincts and reflexes honed. As a result, when he does drink he goes down fast, though Arcie just attributes this to Six Landers' innate "fragility".
  • Cessation of Existence: The entire universe will be "sublimated" in a flash of light if the "Good" side isn't stopped.
  • Chess Motifs: "In chess, someone has to take the black pieces."
  • Chest Monster: Called an "Aydaptor", one nearly devours Arcie. Later it's domesticated with a spell into a pet by the adventuring party following them, to its horror.
  • Child by Rape: It turns out that Sam is one, via Mizzamir.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Almost deconstructed.
    • The reason why the druids are all but extinct. Once Good overpowered Evil, the druids were obligated as keepers of the balance to join with the forces of Evil. Unfortunately, they're Stereotypical Evil, and both sides killed the Druids...
    • In the present, the group remark on the stupidity of this trope as a stereotypically villainous act, since adhering to it is what led to evil being mostly wiped out. The villains note how backwards it is to be at the throats of your own allies, even when in a position where you can trust no one. They themselves manage Teeth-Clenched Teamwork to get through the adventure, eventually growing into actual trust.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Played straight and subverted. Sam wears black, Mizzamir wears white. The subversion lies in that Mizzamir is a deluded wizard who only cares about Light and Dark, not right or wrong. Sam is an assassin, but other than that quite a decent fellow.
    • Sam also notes that assassins take this to the logical extreme of wearing black undergarments, the better not to give away one's position if one's outer garments tear on an assignment and, as he puts it, "show a white bunny tail." At the start of the book, Sam has also had his naturally blond hair dyed black for the same reason.
  • Compelling Voice: Kaylana is able to use this power in a limited manner. She has to look in the subject's eyes, and it works better on animals than people. In the latter case it hurts her.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Spectrum Key, used to seal off the main Darkgate, then fragmented and each part hidden in a trial (just in case it's needed, however unlikely).
  • Cruel Mercy: Mizzamir's punishments on his enemies are ultimately this. He does everything but kill people who defy his rule but he'll do just about anything else. His dealings with criminals include Whitewashing, turning them to stone, and turning evil-doers into horses. As pointed out by the villains multiple times, many would prefer anything to what Mizzamir would do to them.
  • Cult of Personality: Mizzamir's home providence of Natodik has one based around him. Wizardry is a popular subject, everyone wears robes that mimic his, and citizens believe he is watching them at all times.
  • Damsel in Distress: Zig-zagged. Finwick believes that Kaylana is being manipulated and misguided by the villains, possibly being held against her will, and resolves to rescue her. By sending a Dragon to abduct her and hold her hostage, requiring the villains to storm the Dragon's keep and save the damsel from the heroes.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Kaylana (and Robin after his Heel–Face Turn) are nominally part of the dark side, despite lacking evil traits. Sam and Arcie aren't particularly bad sorts either, their professions notwithstanding, and Blackmail, for all his Black Knight trappings, proves to be downright noble. The only one of the "villains" who can really be described as "evil" in any way is Valeriana, and even she had children and a husband she loved which also lends her a sympathetic backstory since they were slaughtered by "heroes".
  • Deconstruction: The book's goal in regards to fantasy fiction.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Kaylana. Over the course of the book she slowly warms up under Sam's romantic attention toward her, and at the end she finally laughs at something he says. It's implied they are together after this.
  • Druid: Kaylana, who's the last one left. There used to be thousands more, but they were all killed. Most of their traits are typical, though the book adds that they also believe in keeping the balance between good and evil (to the point of pure stupidity-this is what killed the others).
  • Embarrassing First Name: "Arcie" comes from "R. C.", for Reinhart Corallis, much to Arcie's embarrassment when it's revealed near the end.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: This is the threat the protagonists are trying to stop. Assuming the forces of Good aren't thwarted, the entire world will be "sublimated"-vaporized in a flash of light.
  • Epiphanic Prison: The Labyrinth of Dreams, the last test the protagonists face, works only if you believe in the illusions.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: A running theme throughout the book is that the villains don't really hold personal points against you for any reason as long as you can get results, while the heroes tend to be (at best) patronizing to anything that doesn't quite fall inside their worldview. Our heroes are a Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits of varying races and backgrounds that manage to get along and form friendships. The world's heroes, whoever, have been wiping out evil races, slowly eliminating all dissenting and "disruptive" opinions, and hunting down creatures who they've labeled as evil. Kaylana especially is regularly mocked by the heroes for being a Druid and following a "backward" religion that insists on balance as opposed to good destroying evil.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Arcie's thief-friend Kimi left the Thieves' Guild for love. Also Valerie, easily the evilest person in the entire party, lost her family and entire people to brutal slaughter by the Verdant Company, which is one reason she hates Fenwick so much. Blackmail left the Six Heroes for his brother's sake. Sam's first kill was of his mother's rapist.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Sam. He explicitly states that none of the assassins ever killed an entire family, plus they make their killing quick and painless.
  • Evil Feels Good: An implied effect of Valeriana's medallion.
  • Evil Gloating: Subverted when Blackmail finally gets around to talking; he keeps fighting all the way through his monologue.
  • The Evils of Free Will: In a rare twist, it's said by the "good" guys, who "whitewash" villain's minds to make them good citizens.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: The options facing the world. Ironically, it's the "good" side obliviously pushing the world toward destruction.
  • Evil Weapon: Inverted; Finwick weilds a holy blade called Truelight that exists to cut down evil. Sam actually uses this weapon to cut off Mizzamir's head, reasoning that however truthful or holy you make a sword, it's always going to be a weapon made to kill.
  • Expy: Some good adventurers in the second half of the book bear a strong resemblance to the characters in the Dragonlance Chronicles books.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Blackmail, as far as the Six Heroes are concerned. Also see Heel–Face Turn.
  • Familiar: Valerie's raven Nightshade is hers, doing things such as spy or perform small tasks she orders. She also has genuine affection for him-he's more than just a tool. Good mages also often have them. The downside however is that having a familiar requires a kind of psychic link, so any harm is shared. Sam and Arcie quickly exploit the fact when Valerie takes over the group by holding Nightshade hostage until she gives up her amulet. Later, Nightshade fights some familiars of Good mages, and kills two in one go this way.
  • Feed the Mole: When Robin is found out, everybody starts giving him false info.
  • Five-Bad Band: Our protagonists, who coincidentally form a Villainous Counterpart with the legendary Heroes that saved the world in the great war. Due to the book being what it is, the line between a typical Five-Bad Band and the heroic Five-Man Band winds up rather blurry.
    • Big Bad: Sam, professional assassin and Hitman with a Heart, who keeps the band together and decides on the next course of action, thereby leading a team of villains to unleash unspeakable evil into the world. He's also personally devoted to murdering the archmage Mizzamir, striking from the shadows while he lives in the light.
    • The Dragon: Arcie, a thief who robs everything he can find. Closer to The Lancer than a typical Dragon, being a voice of reason and largely acting as Sam's backup through the adventure.
    • The Evil Genius: Valerie, the sorceress who seeks the death of those who wiped out her people, bringing magical knowledge and ingenuity.
    • The Brute: Blackmail, a perpetually-mute Black Knight who's by far the most physical presence of the group and the best at direct combat.
    • The Dark Chick: Kaylana, who's really only villainous by association and seeks to restore balance to the world rather than cause the world any real harm.
    • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Robin, the Non-Action Guy who's sent to the group by Mizzamir to act as a spy. He eventually has a Heel–Face Turn (depending on your viewpoint) after realizing the villains are right and the world is going to end, on the motivation of not wanting to die.
    • Team Pet: Nightshade, Valerie's familiar. Also for a time Blackmail's horse.
  • Foreshadowing: There are several hints about Blackmail being Sir Pryce and Sam being Mizzamir's son. Blackmail is from Kwartz, Sir Pryce's country, follows the paladin code, and is apparently defeated when a paladin whom he's fighting prays to Sir Pryce for aid. Robin, while looking at a painting depicting the youthful Mizzamir and thinks his features then looks oddly familiar. Because he resembles Sam. Plus the fact that a magical warp reacts to him and he can get a magic mirror to work, which shows he has latent ability inherited from Mizzamir.
  • Gilligan Cut: Quite often. One particular note is when sneaking into Mizzamir's tower, Valerie remarking how odd it is that such a powerful mage has no defense against prowlers. The narrative then cuts to Mizzamir's office, where a proximity alarm is going off, explaining that he would hear it if he weren't attending a magical symposium.
  • Ghibli Hills: Natodik is made up of these, surrounding Mizzamir's shining white tower carved from diamond. The land used to be a harsh desert, but Mizzamir's magic transformed it into an idyllic paradise overflowing with greenery and life. To the villains, having to journey here is the equivalent of walking through Mordor.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Almost deconstructed. After the forces of darkness have been all but entirely wiped out, heroes swarm the world brainwashing evil-doers and driving monsters to extinction. The fact that the world needs evil to exist (and will literally cease to be without it) is something none of them can understand, and the book's group of villain protagonists are forced to fight against them until the end.
  • Good Is Dumb: The common and whitewashed segments of the population.
  • Good Is Not Nice: There's Mizzamir, who let's face it, is pretending to be a hero, even if he won't admit it to himself. There's several other "good" characters who indulge in less savory practices. Among the members of a "good" adventuring party were a woman who quite clearly wouldn't have taken "no" for an answer from Sam, while Fenwick tried to date-rape Kaylana, having dosed her drink with aphrodisiacs.
  • Good Needs Evil: The book's central theme.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Sam, whose father is Mizzamir, the elven archmage.
  • Heel–Face Brainwashing: The effect of "whitewashing" is to turn evil people good by force.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Robin and, before the start of the book, Blackmail, for certain values of "heel" and "face."
  • Hero Antagonist: The side of light is, unknowingly, destroying their world by eradicating every speck of evil in it, to the point that they are annihilating everything that could be qualified as "not-light". This included the druids, who were keepers of balance, and the bards, who were more or less neutral. They then begin whitewashing thieves, assassins, and other criminals, who were more or less just grey.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Played straight in a weird way. Sam has a short sword that he carries with him, but prefers daggers, as he's a villain. None of the other members of the party use swords save Blackmail (who, as it turns out, is actually a fallen hero). Prince Finwick, the hero pursuing our villains, uses a holy sword of truth.
  • Heroic Suicide: The Dark Gate requires a death to open it. Sir Pryse thus kills himself by jumping in, saving the world from destruction.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Kaylana, since she's got both Sam and Fenwick trying to get her attention.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Sam, who is an assassin but a caring, friendly person overall despite this.
  • Human Mom, Non-Human Dad: Sam, whose mother was human and whose father it turns out is an elf.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When the knight in jet-black armor shows up, the protagonists have to come up with a name for him (he declines to give one, or even say anything). They settle on "Blackmail". For extra fun, his real name is Sir Pryse.
    • Not to mention, the names of the Six Lands themselves - Ein, Dous, Trois, Kwart, Seicks...
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Sam has an innate magical ability that manifests in how he throws his daggers. No matter when or where he throws, he always hits someone (even if it's not who he was aiming for). At one point he tosses Blackmail his enormously heavy broadsword in the midst of a battle and it manages to clear the distance to him despite physically being too heavy for him to throw that far.
  • It's Always Spring: Explained as a side effect of Good having such a stranglehold on the world; the characters note that it should by all rights be autumn, but the sun only stays up longer (to the point where Kaylana's attempt to tell time by the sun's position is four hours off) and the flowers only get more abundant.
  • It's for a Book: After suffering through intense Clothing Damage throughout the adventure, Sam is forced to have his Assassin's Guild uniform mended by a tailor. When the conspicuously villainous outfit naturally attracts questions, he claims it's a costume for a play (specifically this world's version of Hamlet).
  • It's Personal:
    • Sam starts the book under the belief that the Assassin's Guild, the closest thing he has to a family, are all abandoning their trade because it's a much less stable business as evil is being wiped out of the world. After finding out exactly what whitewashing actually entails, he realizes they were forced against their will into leaving their old lives behind, and vows to kill Mizzamir for it.
    • Cited as the reason behind Blackmail's final break with the Six Heroes. When his brother turned evil, he asked Mizzamir to be merciful... and Mizzamir turned his brother into a warhorse. It's implied that this is the same warhorse he rode and lovingly cared for until Fenwick's men killed it.
  • Knight Templar: So-called "Good" in a nutshell.
  • Last Of Her Kind: Kaylana and Valeriana.
  • Lawful Stupid: The main problem with the premise is that it depends heavily on this and Stupid Good behavior from the ostensibly "good" antagonists in order to keep them in conflict with the protagonists, who aside from Valeriana really aren't at all evil.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Barigans are stand-ins for hobbits, with Arcie going so far as to lampshade this. On a more parodic level, the Gnifty Gnomes are thinly-disguised Smurfs.
  • Light Is Not Good: The behavior of the side of Light being obvious enough.
  • Living Lie Detector: Kaylana has this talent, presumably due to being a druid. It does have drawbacks, such as lies of omission.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Mizzamir and Sam.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Mizzamir names the novel's world "Chiaroscuro", which is Italian for "light-dark", referring to artwork that features this contrast, and of course the conflict centers on the struggle between the forces of Light and Dark.
    • Blackmail meets the group by saving them from a Dragon of Light who's in the process of attacking them. The dragon's name? Lumathix, which literally means "light-toucher."
  • Mirror Match: The final Test the group has this as an obstacle, forcing Sam to battle against a copy of himself in order to claim the final keystone.
  • Mind Rape: Mizzamir did this to Sam's mother, to cover up his physically raping her. It left her permanently mentally damaged.
  • The Mole / The Infiltration: Robin, who's been sent to join the heroes as a spy for Mizzamir.
  • Murder, Inc.: The assassins guild Sam used to be a member of.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Sam, during the climax. Mizzamir raped his mother, conceiving him and indirectly putting Sam on the path to becoming an assassin. This leads to Mizzamir's death at his hand in the end.
  • The Needless: One of the many things about Blackmail that raises questions from the rest of the group. He never sleeps, never eats, never tires.
  • Neutrality Backlash: The druids tried to keep both sides in the war between good and evil from winning, as they knew that either side achieving absolute victory would be a disaster. This got them declared an enemy by both sides. By the start of the story (a century after the Victory), Kaylana was the only druid still alive.
  • The Night That Never Ends: Inverted. As the forces of light continue to spread unchecked through the world, it moves closer and closer to endless day. By the end of the book, the world is sunny and bright in spite of it being eleven at night.
  • Non-Action Guy: Robin is really pretty useless in most combat scenarios, and tends to react to trouble by either running away or panicking.
  • Offstage Villainy: Not one of the villain protagonists does anything really evil in the story, thus allowing us to sympathize with them. Anything like that is only mentioned as part of their past (for instance Sam's apparently assassinated dozens of people).
  • Pet the Dog: The group all have moments and relationships that keep them from being entirely evil people. The most obvious and present is Blackmail's sincere and touching love for his horse, to the point of nearly hitting a Despair Event Horizon when it dies.
  • Plot Coupon: The fragments of the Spectrum Key.
  • Poison Is Evil: Our protagonist, Sam, is an assassin with a vast knowledge of toxins and poisons, which he carries plenty of at all times, having spent years building up immunities to them. He also readily employs Poisoned Weapons and owns a Poison Ring.
  • Poison Ring: Sam owns one, which he uses to store allergy medication in.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Robin spends most of the adventure confused why the group doesn't act like a stereotypical cutthroat band, and expecting them to backstab one another at any moment. The group realize talking to him that good and evil aren't black and white, and that being evil hardly means you need to kill your friends for no reason. Kaylana points out that had they behaved that way, the party wouldn't've lasted five minutes.
  • Professional Killer: Sam, though he isn't that bad of a person. There used to be an entire guild of them in his home city.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The desert plainsmen of Ki'kartha. They've become more understanding and less hostile in recent years, in the sense that they now arrest trespassers in their land and hand them over to nearby civilized authorities rather than casually kill them as soon as they're found.
  • Punny Name: Blackmail, named after his black armor, and Sir Pryse.
  • The Quiet One: Blackmail never talks, choosing to communicate with the group through gestures, if that.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The protagonists, who are a black knight, an evil sorceress, a druid, a thief and assassin.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Sam believes this, after walking in on his mother after she'd been raped by a drunk. He killed the man, and has killed other rapists since "off the books".
  • Really 700 Years Old: Kaylana, who was a child during the last war between Good and Evil... over a hundred and fifty years ago. Blackmail tops her by being one of the heroes who FOUGHT in the war 150 years ago. In the present all he has is a bit of grey hair. He says his armor is enchanted, implying its magic kept him alive.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Blackmail reveals his true identity as Sir Pryse, he launches into one at Mizzamir, pointing out that his self-righteous attempt to change the world to fit his image has only endangered it, and that light and virtue are meaningless if one doesn't have the ability to choose it for themselves.
  • The Reveal: Blackmail is Sir Pryse, one of the Six Heroes.
  • Saving the World: From the forces of so-called Good, no less.
  • Shadow Walker: Sam, which turns out to be very useful in his work. This involves traveling into a shadow world which is entered or exited through shadows, though it doesn't appear to make travel any faster, just easier getting into otherwise inaccessible places. It's stated there used to be others-apparently they all went into the shadow world one by one, though, and never returned... Naturally, the assassins decided it was best to stop teaching it after that. It seems this was due to being addictive magic, since Sam grows more and more unable to stand being in the normal world after he starts using it.
  • Shout-Out: At one point Sam attempts to play off his assassin's garb as the costume for a play, "The Tragedy of Oswald, Prince of Volinar." Sam describes the plot as "the one where the fellow's uncle kills his father and marries his mother".
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Robin.
  • Soul Jar: The heart stone acts as a variant of this. It's also a subversion as Sam is a hell of a lot more vulnerable having his gift locked away in the thing.
  • Stalker With a Crush: Fenwick.
  • Sticky Fingers: Arcie is the former leader of the (now defunct) Thieves Guild and pockets everything he comes across, even if they happen to be owned by his traveling companions.
  • Stupid Neutral: The druids. First in the backstory they switched sides once the balance tipped in favor of the Light. Naturally the forces of Light killed them as traitors. The Dark meanwhile viewed them as spies for having so recently fought on the side of Light, and killed them as well. Kaylana, the last druid, learned nothing after this, telling her "dark" comrades that she'd turn on them if the Dark ever started winning. What a way to inspire trust...
  • Sugar Apocalypse:
    • Turns out that wickedness and evil are needed in the world, otherwise a cosmos of nothing but virtue and innocence will be wiped out in a great blinding light, essentially this trope.
    • On a smaller scale, the protagonists at one point find a village of Gnifty Gnomes; tiny, disgustingly cute little critters who only want to play games and sing songs. After our villains narrowly escape their proposed party, Blackmail gallantly chops down a tree that crushes their village, wiping them out.
  • Sugar Bowl: The world is slowly turning into this, with the brainless whitewashed populace only growing, the sun staying out for longer, and the night becoming brighter. The villains notice several times on their travels how sickeningly wholesome and sweet many of the landscapes they traverse are. It's taken Up to Eleven toward the end of the book as the world inches closer and closer to the end. The world has literally no shadows, even inside of people's mouths, and even the black clothing of our protagonists become bright, cheery colors. Nightshade, a raven, turns a bright blue.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Sam, courtesy of Valeriana's medallion.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Mizzamir plays the Palantir Ploy throughout the book. It seems to work perfectly at first, but the presence of both Kaylana and Valeriana in the group causes it to only give him some vague glimpses of the protagonist's progress. Later, the protagonists get ahold of a magic mirror which allows them to remotely view Mizzamir, conveniently revealing that Robin in his spy.
  • Taken for Granite: Mizzamir inflicts this on Sam after a brief encounter, planning to come back and Whitewash him once he recovers from an injury. Valerie remarks that this is likely standard procedure for Mizzamir; transform criminals to stone, then leave them there until he decides what's to be done with them.
  • Take That!: To the Smurfs, and perhaps the fantasy genre overall.
  • Tautological Templar: The side of Good is actually pretty damned evil. Not only is the world becoming "mystically unbalanced" by their actions but they've become a horrible dictatorship and most of them still insist that they are Good and all who oppose them are Evil.
    • As it's put at one point-they know nothing of right or wrong, only Good and Evil.
  • Thieves' Cant: Arcie and Sam speak in rogues' cant multiple times throughout the book.
  • Thieves' Guild: Arcie was once guildmaster of one, and most cities apparently had them, although some only had competing independent gangs.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Zig-zagged. Fenwick tries to kill Sam by throwing his sword at him, and misses - the sword wasn't balanced for use as a projectile, and Fenwick wasn't trained in throwing weapons. Then Sam takes the sword and throws it back at the 'heroes', hitting his target - Sam has trained in throwing unbalanced swords, and has magically enhanced throwing skills on top of that.
  • True Companions: By the end of the book, the main characters.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Or at least the Good crowd thinks it does, if it's even occurred to them that not everything they do is automatically right in the first place.
  • Villain Protagonist: Sam, Arcie and Valeriana, though the latter two aren't as villainous.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Kaylana turns into a horse at one point as a disguise. Fenwick, thinking she's a real horse, tries to ride off on her. She bucks him off.
  • Warrior Prince: Fenwick, one of the heroes, is a proud knightly prince and a champion for the forces of light.
  • Weird Trade Union: Assassins and thieves organized themselves into guilds in most cities. Sam (assassin) and Arcie (thief) had both been members of their respective guilds, with the latter a guildmaster.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Mizzamir. Though on the surface he is a kindly elven mage, he's also got no problem with brainwashing villains into becoming good. Also it's eventually revealed he once committed rape and confused the victim's mind so she couldn't tell anyone, to protect his good name and reputation.

Alternative Title(s): Villains By Necessity

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/VillainsByNecessity