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The Whistlers

  • Amazon Brigade: A family of Action Girls—every Whistler, including the boys, is trained to some degree in fighting. There's a mention once of "teams of little girls" loading and aiming rifles when they think someone's about to raid the house. And even more so than the current generation is their grandmothers, who were an Amazon Brigade of soldier-spies.
  • Family of Choice (Implied): Eldest Whistler states that she believes the family is descended from a group like this.
    Eldest Whistler: After looking at my family records, I suspect my family started when a group of women banded together and called themsleves sisters.
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  • Good Pays Better: Jerin's grandmothers were common thieves, until one of them was caught by some military official and argued that thieves would make excellent spies for the government. She succeeded, and after the war, the surviving sisters were knighted. The Whistlers are quite well off when the novel takes place, and while they do have the skills to be excellent thieves, they are firmly on the side of good and government.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: The Whistlers have a family-specific saying, variations on "Catch a shining coin."

    Eldest 

Eldest Whistler

  • Aloof Eldest Sister (Zigzagged): Both played straight and subverted—it comes with being Eldest, but she has softer moments at well, and is intensely loyalty to her family.
  • Big Sister Instinct
  • Call on Me: On his wedding day, she tells her brother that their family will always be there for him if he needs them.
    Eldest: Chin up. Eyes front. Show no fear. You're a Whistler—and your family will always be there if you need us.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: With Cullen—it's the first time Jerin's seen his sister blush.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Ren finds Eldest Whistler almost as striking and beautiful as her brother Jerin.
  • Hand on Womb: Upon their arrival at Jerin's wedding, Cullen is seen doing this to Eldest Whistler.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking (Downplayed): Eldest Whistler, twenty-eight years old, would like to have one child before menopause. Having seen her mothers pregnant she's aware that sometimes they seem miserable, other times they almost glow, and she wants to experience it once.
    Eldest: I'm glad that we're able to afford more than one husband. I'd hate it if I had to wait a whole month for one night of pleasure, and only twelve chances a year to catch a baby. Years go quickly when measured in twelve days. I don't have many years left before my time of change comes.
    Jerin: I didn't think you'd like having babies.
    Eldest: [shrugs] I'd like to have at least one, to see what it was like. Our mothers seemed so miserable pregnant—puking in the morning, bloated up like something dead left in the sun too long, and waddling around like a force-fed goose. [mimics the walk] I don't know why anyone would want to live through it. Yet, at times, it seems like that's when they were the happiest. They'd get that smug, satisfied smile, and practically glow. [reflects a moment, and then nods] I think one baby will be enough to leave me content, more than happy for my sisters to bear the rest.
  • Take a Third Option: In regards to Eldie at the end.

    Jerin 

Jerin Whistler

  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Cira and Jerin, up until the very end.
  • Distressed Dude: Jerin, several times. He's not entirely helpless in these situations, but he'd have been in very bad shape without assistance. On the other hand his resourcefulness and unusual skills seriously impress Cira.
    • Dude Out of Distress: When he's taken captive, his own skills and his initiative are vitally important to effecting his escape.
  • The Dutiful Son: Jerin in spades; he cooks, he cleans, he takes care of his little sisters and he worries about making a good marriage that will benefit his family.
  • Friend to All Children: Jerin is good with kids but doesn't let them walk all over him, even the little princesses, which makes him look that much more suitable as a husband.
  • Long Haired Prettyboy: His hair is long enough to be braided, and he dresses well. Almost all women who are not related to him make at least one comment on how pretty he is. Paying lots of attention to his appearance is part of his culture, but the beautiful face is genetic.
  • Marry for Love: What Jerin really wants is to marry into a family he'll love instead of simply enduring. He gets his wish, falling in love with all the princesses.
  • Promotion to Parent: When his father dies, Jerin steps into the child-nurturing and house-tending role, and does well at it, since he'd been helping and learning from his father all along. The down side is that when they hear he's leaving to be married, his youngest sisters react as if losing another father.
  • Serial Romeo: He falls in love easily and frequently. Luckily for Jerin, all of the women whom he gets attracted to turn out to be the royal princesses.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Prince Alannon passed it down to him.
  • Technical Virgin: Jerin after being seduced by Ren. He has angst over it, worrying if it means his mouth isn't virgin now, or if it's a whole package deal. Deconstructed during an STD scare, when they realize that it could be enough for him to get infected.
  • Tender Tears: Jerin cries several times over the course of the book.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tomgirl And Girly Boy — Jerin and Cullen. Cullen, despite growing among the noble folk is rather wild and contemptuous of the rules. He's bored and longs to do more adventurous things, like riding a horse. Jerin in turn, who's grown up in a farm and got to do such "unladylike" things in his life, is much more proper and calm.
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    Corelle 

Corelle Whistler

"Either Corelle, Heria, or Blush will be Mother Eldest for the younger sisters. You can't make good decisions as an adult if you were never allowed to make any decisions while you were a child. Now is the time for Corelle to learn from her mistakes. [...] Where Corelle leaves, the others follow. We only need to teach her to lead wisely."
Mother Eldest
  • Big Brother Bully: Corelle is nasty toward Jerin in the first chapter—but then she's suffering from teenage hormones for the Boy Next Door. She gets better.
  • Black Sheep: Corelle, of the Whistlers. Handled unusually, because instead of side-line her or throw her out, the elders recognize a strong character under her Jerkassery, decide it's vital for the family's interests, and straighten her up.
  • Jerkass: She gets better later, but her personality remains on the rougher side.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Corelle seems to have a bad case of this. The idea that she will be the Eldest to the younger sisters helps her get better.
  • What Does She See in Him?: None of her siblings can understand what she sees in Balin Brindle, who is fat and ugly like the rest of his family and implied to be sleeping with his mothers, she claims he has beautiful eyes. Her mothers hope that she’ll see there are more worthwhile men than him. Considering her oldest brother is married to the princesses and her older sisters are married to the princesses’ full cousin, she probably will.


The Princesses

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    Ren 

Princess Rennsellaer

  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Odelia and Ren. Odelia is happy-go-lucky and would rather kiss pretty boys than take up any royal duties, while Ren—not so above kissing pretty boys herself—is a The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask.
    Ren: I'm frightened for your life and you're ogling farmers' husbands?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: If Ren hadn’t confronted Kij about Keifer’s lover, The Porters would have been none the wiser, and could have been quietly rounded up after Eldest Whistler’s letter identified them as the culprits.
  • Reluctant Ruler: Played With, she always knew she was to be one of the queens and she seemed to have accepted that, what she didn’t expect was to end up their leader after her older sisters died and Halley ran away.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Ren has a hard time adjusting to being the eldest, and thus the head of her sisters, which is justified because she hadn't been born nor raised to that role.

Halley's section is full of unmarked spoilers, so don't open it if you don't want to see them.

    Halley 

Princess Halley/Cira

  • Bi the Way: Cira mentions that she had a lover once, a beautiful young officer who was a whore's daughter, but after Cira was scarred she couldn't bear to touch her or look at her.
    Cira: I had a lover, a beautiful young officer, whose mother had been a whore. She should have been a whore herself. She was well suited for it; ambitious, heartless, and very talented. She could make you feel like you were about to turn inside out.
    Jerin: What happened to her?
    Cira: This happened to me. After I was scared she couldn't bear to touch me, look me in the face.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Cira and Jerin, up until the very end.
  • Covered with Scars: Cira only has one on her face, but they're all over her back.
  • Dye or Die: To keep the Significant Green-Eyed Redhead thing from letting anyone know she's royal.
  • Exact Words: Cira tells a group of women intending to group together to start a new family of "sisters", which she's been invited to join, that she's "done second in line" and that "some" felt she "was usurping my sister's authority", so she left. Details she's leaving out include that she's Halley, currently the second eldest living princess, behind Ren, that she was the natural leader of her age group among her sisters, and that she was the one who felt she was getting in the way of her current Eldest's authority, since most found it more natural to look to the more dominant Halley for leadership over the less confident Ren.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Cira has an enormous silvery scar on her face that healed well, so it's not raised. She also has similar scars all over her body. In-story she's seen as ambiguous for quite some time, and it turns out that she's the missing princess.
  • Guile Hero
  • I Wished You Were Dead (Zigzagged): Halley said she wished Keifer was dead the moment before a bomb went off in the theater he—and several of her older sisters—were inside of. Zigzagged in that she really did wish he was dead, but felt awful about her sisters getting killed too.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: When Jerin first sees Cira, he's struck first by the scar on her face, then by the fact that it gives her face a degree of character and boldness that it otherwise lacks, and then she lifts his veil:
    Her eyes were green, green and changing as summer wheat, one moment dark as velvet, next light as silk, with long thick dark eyelashes. Gorgeous eyes. How could he have thought her plain with such eyes?

    Odelia 

Princess Odelia

In this remarkable house, instead of lying dead in woods, her charmed younger sister found refuge. It figured. Ren laughed aloud as it occurred to her how typical the event was of Odelia's life.
Ren
  • Damsel in Distress: The first major action Jerin takes is to go out, pick the princess Odelia up out of a river, and carry her home. His sister Heria found her but wasn't big or old enough to carry her so far herself, and sending out the other middle sisters to get her would leave the boys and the littlest girls mostly unprotected, so Jerin went with Heria to protect him.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Odelia feigns being more badly hurt than she actually is out of a hope for Jerin to keep tending her, fantasizing about stealing a kiss from him. She later mentions how good he was at comforting her when she first woke up.
    Ren: Odelia, I can't believe you were beaten half to death, left to drown, and all you're concerned about is the handsome son of poor landed gentry.
    Odelia: I'm still alive. The bruises will heal. Why dwell on the past? The future holds the chance to steal a kiss or two from the prettiest man I've ever seen my whole life. [...] Maybe he'll come check on the poor unconscious princess. Don't tell them I woke up.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Odelia and Ren. Odelia is happy-go-lucky and would rather kiss pretty boys than take up any royal duties, while Ren—not so above kissing pretty boys herself—is a The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask.
    Ren: I'm frightened for your life and you're ogling farmers' husbands?
  • Plot Armor: In-universe, Ren remarks that Odelia seems to have this. She gets beat over the head with an iron rod, very nearly killed and left for dead, then rescued by the grandchildren of knights and their beautiful brother, and Ren says that's about typical of Odelia's luck.

    Trini 

Princess Trini

Ren had no fears that Trini could act as Elder Judge; her sister was quietly stubborn—no one would be able to bully Trini into a decision.
Ren
  • Defrosting Ice Queen
  • Does Not Like Men: For good reason.
  • Holding Hands: What happens when Trini finally warms a bit to Jerin.
  • Never Be Hurt Again: Trini's reluctance to marry again.
  • Rape as Backstory: Keifer was awful to all of them, but the episode with Trini was especially bad.
    Ren: He hit her in the head with a paperweight and, while she was stunned, dragged her to his bed and tied her there. He beat her and—and serviced her, and everything else he could think of to hurt her.
    Odelia: He broke her nose and blackened her eyes. He broke two of her fingers, and burned her on one hip, like a cattle brand, for calling him a cow. He was threatening to cut her face when Eldest showed up.

    Lylia 

Princess Lylia

Lylia had turned sixteen at the beginning of the year and was eager to speak her mind. Unfortunately, her mind was filled with odd notions and sweeping reforms, some of them far from practical.
Ren
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Lylia smuggles her cousin Cullen lewd tintypes and educates him on what she knows. They have a pact that whoever has sex first tells the other everything. Jerin finds Lylia slightly threatening in an exciting way.
    Cullen: We've got a vow that whichever of us has sex first, we'll tell the other everything.
  • Practice Kiss: Cullen and Lylia have tried it, but since they're cousins who were raised together, Cullen cheerfully admits that it was like kissing a sister.
    Cullen: One time, we practiced kissing. [shrugs] But it was like kissing your sister.


The Moorlands

    Cullen 

Cullen Moorland

  • Chivalrous Pervert: Lylia smuggles her cousin Cullen lewd tintypes and educates him on what she knows. They have a pact that whoever has sex first tells the other everything. Cullen is seen as harmless and kind of adorable.
    Cullen: We've got a vow that whichever of us has sex first, we'll tell the other everything.
  • Keet: Cullen is rather excitable.
  • Practice Kiss: Cullen and Lylia have tried it, but since they're cousins who were raised together, Cullen cheerfully admits that it was like kissing a sister.
    Cullen: One time, we practiced kissing. [shrugs] But it was like kissing your sister.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Cullen is exceptionally sheltered even by Queensland standards and cannot wait to cook, clean and take care of his home and wives like other men—also learn to ride.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Cullen is like this.
  • Tomgirl And Girly Boy: Jerin and Cullen. Cullen, despite growing among the noble folk is rather wild and contemptuous of the rules. He's bored and longs to do more adventurous things, like riding a horse. Jerin in turn, who's grown up in a farm and got to do such "unladylike" things in his life, is much more proper and calm.


The Porters

  • Distinguishing Mark/Shared Unusual Trait: Many of the Porters have 11 toes. Having a different father from her siblings, Kij doesn’t Her daughter does.
  • Rich Bitch: The Porter sisters get a lot of status from being the princesses' in-laws. Kij's sister seems to be in the habit of telling everyone their whole family history, lest anyone forget that they are important. Hilarity Ensues when Kij asks Corelle: "Do you know who I am?" to which Corelle replays by repeating everything Kij's sister just told her about the family.

    Kij 

Kij Porter

  • Action Mom: Kij Porter, a mother, a badass and a captain of her own ship. And the Big Bad.
  • Big Bad Friend
  • Entitled to Have You: Kij feels entitled to a second dance (and more flirting) with Jerin because she's a noble. When Corelle comes to fetch him, stating that other women want to dance with him, too, Kij asks her: "Do you know who I am?"—then Corelle shuts her down.
  • Never My Fault: When confronted by Jerin and Cira at the end of the book, Kij claims that all of her own and her family's misdeeds—which at latest count include treason, murder and attempted murder (including members of her own family), piracy, kidnapping, and smuggling—are actually the fault of the royal family, because the Porters lost money and property in the War of the False Eldest.
  • Villainous Incest: Kij and Keifer Porter were culturally brother and sister, genetically full cousins. They had sex and even conceived a daughter before Keifer was killed.

    Keifer 

Keifer Porter

  • Beauty Is Bad: Keifer, who is described as having been very beautiful, but also stupid and cruel.
  • Brainless Beauty: According to pretty much everyone who knew him Keifer was very, very pretty but also very, very stupid.
    Odelia: I've seen dogs smarter than him. But he was beautiful.
Even Kij, who loved him, called him stupid.
Kij: Keifer, dearly as I loved him, was an idiot.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Keifer was assigned to have the older princesses go to a theater so when it caught fire they would be killed. It was specifically chosen so he could duck out the back and escape, but he missed his cue and stayed; Eldest Porter came to fetch him but was killed as well.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: Keifer often withheld sex in conjunction with throwing raging fits in order to get his wives to go along with whatever he wanted. His older wives were madly in love with him, so it tended to work. And he cheated on them anyway.
  • Posthumous Character: Keifer Porter, a right bastard even several years after his death.
  • Villainous Incest: Kij and Keifer Porter were culturally brother and sister, genetically full cousins. They had sex and even conceived a daughter before Keifer was killed.
  • Would Hurt a Child: He was mean to little Cullen.
    Cullen: Keifer? Oh, I hated him. He used to lie to me and make me cry. I was only nine or ten at the time. He told me that my you-know-what would fall off because I ate too many cookies. Then one day he smacked me. I forget why—actually, I'm not sure there was even a reason why—but we didn't come back to the palace again until after he was killed.

    Eldie 

Eldie Porter

  • Cheerful Child
  • Dye or Die: At the end, to help her fit in among the Whistler children, they dye her hair so she looks more like her new adoptive sisters.
  • Happily Adopted: By the Whistlers at the end.
    Eldest: There is redemption for the innocent.
  • Someone to Remember Him By (Implied): The official reason of her existence is that Kij went to a crib to cope with Keifer's death, the day after the bombing. To be born in the right timeframe to make this believable, she must have been conceived very shortly before he died.
    • She also has eleven toes, something only Porter children from Keifer’s father’s line have, not Kij’s.
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