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YMMV: Tortal L Universe
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Sarai Balitang invites a lot of it. Would she have still eloped if she'd known about the raka rebellion? Or had she actually figured it out on her own? It gets even murkier when you consider that Pierce originally planned to have her be killed after speaking her mind one too many times, and claims to not have changed her characterization at all during revisions.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: The fight with Claw, the would-be leader of the Court of the Rogue, and the revelation of his identity, is played this way. It might have been more dramatic if Alanna had been involved, but she was rather busy with the Big Bad at the time.
    • Blayce the Gallan turns out to be a weak, pathetic man who is easily dispatched, which Kel even views as this in-universe. Though just beforehand, she does get to have a suitably epic battle against The Dragon Stenmun.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • The creepy romance between Bronau and Sarai in Trickster's Choice definitely feels like an acknowledgement of the issues people had with the series' previous major romances, with Pierce saying she gets why people had problems with them.
    • In Bloodhound, Dale is getting very flirty and handsy with Beka. When she protests, he drops it immediately and sincerely tells her that he'll stop if she's not enjoying it, but she says that she likes it, making it clear that their Slap-Slap-Kiss is a consensual game they're playing.
    • Trickster's Choice got a lot of criticism for Aly being a Mighty Whitey, so Queen goes a bit out of its way to make clear that she's only a very small piece of a rebellion that literal generations of work from the raka have gone into.
    • The tendency for May-December Romance gets another hit in Terrier, when Beka chastises Rosto for flirting with her because he's so much older.
  • Anvilicious: The feminist subtext usually does not derail the narrative. Usually. But when it does...
    • Given that most of the books were written in a time when feminism was less accepted, this may be a Justified Trope.
  • Broken Base: Tunstall's betrayal in Mastiff. The fans of it like the well hidden bits of foreshadowing that there's a traitor in the group, but others say it wrecks his character by having a very weak and unbelievable motivation that involves a huge departure from his earlier characterization as a Nice Guy.
  • Complete Monster: Most of the villains in this series have the potential for this, but the following fiends are especially despicable:
    • Roger, post-resurrection, with Word of God explaining that while he'd never been a nice guy, 8 months buried alive drove him "apocalyptically crazy."
      • Even before then, he was a selfish bastard who tried to kill his uncle, aunt and nephew for power and treated everyone as a disposable pawn. Pierce even stated that the reason he's so bad is due to his inability to confront the evil of his actions.
    • Blayce the Gallan from Protector Of The Small is even worse, given that he's using the souls of children to power his machines. When he tries to defend himself by stating that he didn't choose to be a natural necromancer, Keladry calls him out on his bullshit, knowing that he enjoys the act. The inhabitants of the village nearby had their own children stolen away, were punished for trying to rescue them (by being flayed and left tied to a wall until they died), and even give a description of Blayce's actions that invokes borderline paedophilia (in the sense of preying on the most small, the most innocent of people). Given this 0% Approval Rating he (and by extension, the greedy King Maggur) has, he's easily one of the Tortall series' most depraved villains.
      • The men under Blayce aren't much better, either. Though they aren't as perverse as him, they are still willing to use their own people (Blayce is a foreigner) as tools, don't care so long as they get payed, and Stenmun justifies himself by arguing that children of commoners get picked off anyway and that Blayce treats them "well"... before abusing their souls in death (oh, and they get paid well for their service). Kel is disgusted on all counts, to the point of leaving Blayce, Stenmun and the men serving them to the Stormwings, because in her mind, they deserve to have their bodies ravaged after death.
    • Vinson becomes this by Squire, having secretly raped several women without remorse (this after attacking Lalasa previously. If there's any doubt, consider how the Chamber of the Ordeal torments him from that point on, driving him to a Villainous Breakdown and confession which leads to his immediate arrest.
    • Pearl Skinner, the Big Bad of Bloodhound. She uses her surname as her signature method of dealing with her enemies (starting with her own family). She's thoroughly selfish, ruling mostly by brute force and refusing to stockpile grain for poor folk to buy in winter, one of the Rogue's unspoken duties. She's the woman behind the colemongering operation which they find out about halfway through because she soaks the market in counterfeit money indiscriminately, driving up prices and getting people caught in the brutal anti-counterfeit laws. She does this with a free hand because she threatened the Lord Provost's wife and children. And when the Dogs start to uncover hard evidence of her operations, Pearl has her accomplices—one of them a childhood friend—brutally killed. Beka's rather irritated at Pearl's genuine affection for dogs because she's so reprehensible in every other way.
    • The villains of Mastiff use magic to horrifically slaughter an estate of people, kidnap a little kid, drown a boat full of kidnapped slaves and their owners—using magic to ensure that there was no escape—, strangle a young slave girl because she spoke to one of the investigators sent after them, try to launch a full blown Coup d'état with the good King's Brother acting as their figurehead leader, and all because the King wanted to tax the nation's magicians in order to ease the pressures placed on the lower class.
    • Imajane and Rubinyan from the Trickster duet. They had the nerve to pretend to sympathise with Winnamine over her fears of something bad happening to her son, after they ordered the storm that killed him.
  • Continuity Lock-Out: Averted, when outside of each series itself. Obviously you can't read any quartet from book 3, but each series can stand alone easily.
  • Designated Protagonist Syndrome: Aly is sometimes accused of being superfluous to the story of the Trickster books, with Dove making more sense as the protagonist. Which gets into quite the Unfortunate Implications when you factor in that she's a white character taking the hero spot from a dark-skinned character.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Despite being an uncompromisingly misogynistic asshole who even threatens that he'll try to kill Keladry once they're both knights, Joren has a lot of fans. Even fans who ship him and Kel. (For bonus points, his physical description is actually similar to Draco's: delicate good looks and white-blond hair.)
    • It's probably helped by Lioness having featured a very '80s case of Stalking Is Love.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Duke Roger, full-stop. Delia of Eldorne tries to be this but usually fails thanks to her bitchiness and petulance.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: Mastiff. The whole Corus crew disappearing? Tunstall going traitor? Beka not ending up with Rosto? It never happened!
  • Fan Dumb: The contingent of fans who describe Alanna as a slut. Having three sincerely-felt, monogamous relationships at distinctly different times, without cheating, does not make someone a slut.
  • Fan Nickname: To be honest, the only place you're likely to see Aly's books actually referred to as Daughter of the Lioness is on TV Tropes. Everyone just calls them the "Trickster books" or "Trickster duet."
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Averted with Alanna's childhood friend George Cooper, who Pierce decided was better for Alanna after she sunk the ship of Alanna/Jonathan in The Woman Who Rides Like A Man.
    • Played straight with Beka and Rosto, as she ends up marrying Farmer, who didn't appear in the first two books.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • Neal laying a magic on Alvik the innkeeper in Lady Knight, admittedly with the best of intentions (keeping him from abusing his servants) but taking full advantage of Screw the Rules, I Have Connections! because it's highly illegal. In Bloodhound, commoner Beka is magicked by Sir Lionel of Trebond, and she's apoplectic with rage over the violation of being magicked almost as much as the fact that he's doing it to have her "disappeared".
    • Goodwin's warning to Tunstall not to get involved with nobility. Mastiff sees him betraying the realm so he can feel worth of Lady Sabine, although Lady Sabine herself said there was no need for it.
    • In Squire, Jon mentions how the kingdom's various groups would rebel against him if he tried to make too many changes too quickly and says he'll leave it to Kel's imagination as to what the mages would do. We find out what they did do once in Mastiff, and it is not pretty.
  • Heartwarming In Hindsight: Kel disobeys direct orders in Lady Knight, as do many of her friends, with the assumption that they'll be executed on Traitor's Hill. In Mastiff, we find out that the typical traitor is drawn, quartered, and hanged—just being decapitated is getting off lightly. That Keladry and her yearmates don't even hesitate to rescue her refugees anyway speaks volumes.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In the first chapter of Trickster's Choice, Daine is pregnant with a shapeshifting baby, which forces her to shift along with it so it doesn't rip her apart. Too bad someone else didn't have that ability.
  • Holy Shit Quotient: The climax of "Nawat." The conflict revolves around Nawat (and his warriors) being shunned by crows for becoming too human, and very concerned that they have do prove they're real crows through practices like "culling" disabled offspring. When Nawat realizes his daughter has dwarfism, he actually gets to the point of holding her out the window before changing his mind.
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships: Kel, since she has a few crushes but no overall romance arc. Kel/Neal and Kel/Dom are both pretty popular.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Duke Roger. While plotting to regain the throne, he managed to portray himself as the Cool Uncle while making several creditable attempts to kill off Jon (and then "Alan") and used a fairly simple but highly effective magic construct to keep anyone from suspecting.
    • Aly spends much of the series lying to everyone about everything. Still a heroic character, though.
    • Ozorne. In Emperor Mage he tells Daine, cool as you please, that he plans to have her teacher executed while she's succumbing to the drug he slipped into her drink so he can abduct her and use her disappearance to set off a war. And after she'd been nice enough to take care of his birds! He even turns his forced Stormwing transformation into an advantage.
    • Joren is another. And in Lady Knight, Kel is disappointed when Blayce turns out not to be this, but rather a scrawny, inept, vulgar little man.
  • Mary Sue:
    • Tortall's protagonists tend to attract this in general thanks to their Cosmic Plaything status and magic powers, although in most cases Tropes Are Not Bad—it's justified in the name of plot development, and the knee-jerk cry of "Sue!" doesn't always hold up to examination (Alanna's Purple Eyes and magic, for example, are offset by her temper being a genuine flaw and being specifically average in looks, and Daine's refusal to be a Purity Sue).
    • Interestingly, Alanna alludes to the idea in-universe when explains why Kel is a more valuable role model to the girls of Tortall: Alanna, being god-touched and powerfully Gifted, is seen as a "once-in-a-century" hero whose achievements couldn't possibly be matched by an ordinary person. Kel, as a Badass Normal, is much more accessible to girls who want to be knights—even though Alanna's most prominent trait is being a stubborn Determinator, that's not the one people talk about.
    • Aly does provide an unusually straight example. She sails through her whole story with hardly any real challenge, up against a group of completely incompetent villains, and even on the rare occasion when something does go wrong, it ultimately makes things easier for her, ie Sarai running away when Dove would make a much better queen anyway, and Dunevon's ship sinking, which saves her from having to decide what to do with him after his family is overthrown.
  • Memetic Mutation: Calling the Provost's Dog trilogy "the doggy books."
  • Moral Event Horizon: Imajane and Rubinyan have Dunevon and Elsren assassinated. Granted, Kyprioth gave them the idea, but they went through with it all on their own.
  • Narm: It can be pretty hard to take Blayce seriously when you find out Pierce based his appearance on Woody Allen.
    • Aly's capture in the first chapter of Trickster's Choice is portrayed in such a detached, rushed fashion that it's more likely to jar a laugh out of you than shock.
    • Aly suggesting the Balitangs deal with a group of robbers by sneaking up behind them, which everyone reacts to like it's an utterly brilliant idea no one else could have possibly thought of.
    • The Provost Dogs take their name a bit too far, coming up with a dog-related term for almost everything they do.
    • The villains' motives in Mastiff sound like talking points from Fox News. Maybe it's a case of Values Dissonance, but it's hard to justify that many people willing to commit high treason over a sales tax.
  • Never Live It Down: The major romance of The Immortals between Daine and Numair. Who hook up when they're 16 and 30 respectively. Plus Numair had been Daine's teacher not long before. Song of the Lioness was able to get away with a similar age gap marriage both because it didn't become official until both were adults, plus people weren't on the lookout for this sort of thing as much in the '80s. By the time Daine and Numair got together it was 1996, and times had changed enough for many people to have a problem with it. He also steals a lock of her hair after Emperor Mage to use as a focus, which even people who support the pairing tend to find creepy.
  • Relationship Writing Fumble: The idea with Aly and Nawat is supposed to be that Nawat's early flirtations are just regular crow ideas about sex, and he has to develop into a true human before he's worthy to be with Aly. Trouble is, every single bit of that development happens offpage, and when he finally returns we just have to take the narration's word for it, with no evidence in his behavior. Plus, Aly is very abruptly pregnant in the epilogue, when she spent the entire two books insisting to him that she didn't want kids. Luckily, the novella "Nawat" is told from his point of view and goes a long way to rectifying this.
  • Romantic Plot Tumor: Alanna's relationships with Jon, George, and Liam. Thanks to the short length of her books, there's not a lot of reader time between them, and some fans just get fed up with having to run over another romantic speedbump when they'd rather read about the actual main plot and exciting adventures. (The Values Dissonance mentioned below doesn't help.)
    • In Bloodhound, Beka has a lot of UST and romantic bickering with Dale Rowan, which some people find far less interesting than the exciting undercover investigation she's taking part in.
  • Shocking Swerve: Tunstall's Face-Heel Turn in Mastiff. It does work well within the book itself as there's lots of subtle foreshadowing to it, but several fans cried foul given what we'd seen in the first two books.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: Women are people who should be able to pursue their dreams and desires (including romantic and sexual ones) without being shamed or forced to hide who they are. Also, Real Women Never Wear Dresses is a bullshit idea—mothers and seamstresses and Proper Ladies aren't automatically weak or shallow just for being traditionally feminine. These points come up in various ways in every series with varying levels of force
  • Squick: Aly and Nawat, for some people. Daine and Numair, for others. 14 year age gap and relative social status is often quoted as the reason.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Beka and Farmer are a Type 3, and possibly a Type 2 as well, depending on one's interpretation. About 400 pages of no romantic hints... and then suddenly she notices what broad shoulders he has. And then they're declaring their love for each other and promising marriage while they're in a jail cell, after being tortured, and at a time when Beka still doesn't know for sure who the group traitor is.
  • Straw Misogynist: Joren. On the one hand, he's really over the top with his hatred of Kel and it's his chief feature. On the other hand, there are plenty of men in Real Life who share his toxic opinions about women and poor people, and if you're a woman trying to do something they deem unfeminine, that's all you're going to see.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Onua in "The Immortals." In book one she's a major character and becomes one of Daine's best friends, and has an interesting backstory of being left to die by her abusive husband. Then she's completely absent from books two and three and only makes a fleeting appearance in book four, thanks to the story moving in a direction that made it awkward to include her.
    • All of Terrier's supporting cast. They're all set up as important, being Beka's fellow Dogs and a few Dating Catwoman situations with her criminal friends, along with Rosto becoming Rogue at the end. But in the next two books, Beka hardly spends any time at all in Corus, meaning that only she and Goodwin do much that's relevant to the plot (in Bloodhound) and Mastiff has hardly anyone from the original crew.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: In Alanna: The First Adventure, she got her Cool Sword from a place where the Old Ones used to live. The Old Ones were never even mentioned again, in any of the novels.
  • Too Cool to Live: Rikash Moonsword from The Immortals.
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • The fact that Lalasa is a lesbian and was previously abused comes off as Rape and Switch to some fans.
    • The fact that Alexander of Tirragen is noted to be the only one of Jonathan's clique who is dark-skinned (specifically, Arabic-looking), and he later goes on to become The Dragon to Duke Roger is...interesting.
    • Word of God says that Duke Roger and Thom were originally meant to be gay lovers. It's problematic that the only gay/bi characters in the Alanna books are the main villain and his eventual sidekick. This issue goes away when Lalasa/Tian appears in Page, the second book of the Protector of the Small quartet.
    • White-skinned Aly being the only one able to catalyze the resistance movement of the dark-skinned raka smacks of Mighty Whitey. And for that matter, so does her mother and King Jonathan being the only ones able to defeat the Ysandir after centuries of them bothering the black-skinned Bazhir. Possibly justified in Aly's case due to her father's training of her, which no one else in the resistance movement could possibly have had. They do mention many times that the resistance would have gone ahead without her — she just made it more effective and likely to succeed. Also in Alanna's, what with her being God-touched and all.
      • It's also mentioned both times as the gods invoking Token White... if Aly hadn't been a vital and well-known part of the resistance, the other whites would have gotten far worse treatment after the rebellion. Alanna and Jon get help slaying the Ysandir because it was the only chance they had of getting the Bazhir to trust them.
      • Even worse, there's a scene where Aly goes undercover in brownface, and when some of the locals call her out on it, her response is to beat them up.
    • A minor character named Peliwin in Lady Knight is shown to be The Tease who likes that two men are fighting over her and is thoroughly scolded by Kel for it. Later, it's strongly implied that she was raped by enemy soldiers, or at least singled out for special mistreatment. Neither Kel nor the text draws a line between the two things, but these two scenes are also the only times we see Peliwin. Since it would be a "lesson" in many, many other stories, some fans think that Pierce should have made it explicit that this was not Laser-Guided Karma.
    • The fact that almost all the male love interests are Dogged Nice Guys, i.e., they are "persistent"note  in their attempts to gain the lead's affection. A lot of their actions (Rosto and his grabbing, George and his stalking) are clearly out of bounds, but if the relationship fails to take root it's almost always for a reason other than the guy's pushy behavior.
    • Numair and Daine hooking up while he's 30 and she's 16, plus Daine was Numair's student several years ago, and he stole a lock of her hair while she was sleeping (for practical purposes, but it's still stated that he did this despite knowing she would never agree to it).
    • George's early wooing of Alanna consists of behavior the text itself explicitly describes as "stalking." Among his more "charming" moments are agreeing to give Alanna all the space she wants and then immediately forcing a kiss on her, and slipping a drug in her drink (so she'll be rested before her knighthood trials, but given his earlier actions it can be pretty uncomfortable). Pierce has since said that she regrets writing the relationship like this, as it was standard romantic writing in the '80s, and it's the part of the franchise she would most want to go back and change.
    • From Nawat's first meeting with Aly, he's after sex with her, including grabbing her breast in one early meeting. Some of it can be excused by his not understanding human customs, but he never changes, and their relationship becoming official can also easily come off as his taking advantage of her compromised emotional state following the sinking of Dunevon's boat. Plus, Nawat flatly ignores Aly telling him she doesn't want to have sex in a bit that could have come straight from the above-mentioned Alanna/George courtship. And our very last glimpse of them (not counting the novella "Nawat") is him not taking no for an answer again.
      • This relationship also suffers from Offscreen Inertia: Nawat spends the whole first book pestering Aly for sex, and is then offpage for most of the second book, so when he comes back and they immediately have sex, it just looks like he finally badgered her into it no matter how much the narration talks about how much he's changed to be worthy of her.
  • The Untwist: In Provost's Dog, Pounce is the same being as Faithful from Song of the Lioness. It's glaringly obvious from the first time a cat with purple eyes is mentioned, yet for some reason Pierce took until book three to confirm it.
    • In Protector of the Small, Alanna is the one sending Kel all her gear. Some fans were actually surprised to realize this was even supposed to be a twist.
  • Values Dissonance: Pierce has admitted that these days, George telling a teenaged Alanna that they're obvious soul mates and destined to be together comes off as far creepier than it did in the '80s. It also doesn't help that Alanna herself thinks of his actions as "stalking" and he drugs her at one point.
    • She got hit harder by it after hooking up 16-year-old Daine and 30-year-old Numair in the final book of The Immortals. By the time this book came out, the Squick reaction was fully in force, and resulted in such a backlash that Protector of the Small gives its heroine no major love interest at all, with only a few age-appropriate crushes that mostly don't go anywhere.
  • Wangst: Aly whining about Nawat being sent away to serve a more useful purpose, despite Nawat himself clearly being unhappy where he was and wanting to be more useful. Though she does realize how ridiculous it is.
  • Writer on Board: The first quartet can get preachy sometimes, on the subjects of both gender roles and religion.

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