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.
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.
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.
Chess Motifs: "In chess, someone has to take the black pieces."
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: 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 ordinary bastard, in both senses of the word.
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."
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).
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."
Epiphanic Prison: The Labyrinth of Dreams, the last test the protagonists face, works only if you believe in the illusions.
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.
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 guy 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. Roofie-colada, anyone?
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 white-washing thieves, assassins, and other criminals, who were more or less just grey.
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...
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 Personal: 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.
Lawful Stupid, Chaotic Stupid: The main problem with the premise is that it depends heavily on Lawful Stupid 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.
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.
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 turned it into a horrible theocratic 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.