WARNING: Spoilers for each book will be UNMARKED in the sections of their sequels.
Spoilers for all books will be hidden within the Protagonists and Old Gods sections .
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- Acquired Poison Immunity: If by "acquired" you mean "a gift from her Father". Ismae is immune to all toxins and poisons, full stop. If the poison is exceptionally strong, she may feel some tingling, but that is the extent of the effect that poison will have on her.
- Action Girl
- Curiosity Causes Conversion: Her confusion about and desire to understand Duval's kindness rather than dismissing it entirely as an act, which she was essentially instructed to do, is what causes her to eventually reject the convent's conviction that Duval is a traitor. It is ultimately what leads to her realization that Crunard is the traitor.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Death's Daughter, an assassin, and a Master Poisoner, yet Ismae is unquestionably a good person.
- Improbable Antidote: Ironically enough.
- Does Not Like Men: A very mild example. Before being sent to the convent, the only things she ever experienced from men were ridicule, cruelty, pain, fear, and hatred. After arriving at the convent, she went for years without seeing a man, so there was never a chance for her notions of the nature of men to be changed. It's part of the reason she was so utterly distrustful of Duval and why she repeatedly flinched away from him — she'd never experienced kindness from any man, and so she fully expected his kindness to be an act.
- Femme Fatale: Subverted. She was trained to be this, but in truth, she ended up skipping most of the lessons — on top of that, she's a virgin, and has "only the vaguest idea of how a woman lies with a man". Duval even calls her out on it, asking her wryly how the convent expects her to coax any secrets out of him if she flinches every time he touches her.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Justified in the once instance where she made an near-impossible shot with her crossbow: Mortain guided her hand.
- In Love with the Mark: It was implicitly understood that if Duval was proven to be a traitor, she was to kill him. When she is eventually ordered to do just that, she refuses. Not only because she knows that Duval is more or less the only person who hasn't betrayed Anne in some way, but also because... well:Is this His mercy, then? That I will not have to slay Duval with my own hand because he is already dying from poison? ... Perhaps Mortain knew I could not kill him even if he bore the marque. I cannot kill the only man I have found it in my heart to love.'
- Master Poisoner: Her immunity to poisons made her a perfect candidate, and she took to the craft with great enthusiasm.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: As noted when she gets dressed up before being formally introduced to the court.
- What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Her reaction to her realization that she's falling in love with Duval? Panic. And then a desperate prayer to Mortain that it isn't true.
- Action Girl: With hints of Dark Action Girl. Sybella enjoys her work.
- Broken Bird: Poor Sybella. She's so, so broken.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Especially impressive considering her father is Death. When Mortain appears to her, she demands to know why he was never there when she needed him. Asking that of a god might seem a little bit self-centred, but considering her hellish upbringing and everything she's gone through, it comes off as a perfectly valid inquiry.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Much darker than Ismae, both in personality and methods, but still a good person. Certainly much better than she gives herself credit for.
- BrotherSister Incest: Her eldest half-brother, Pierre, molested her as a child. Sybella used Julian, her other half-brother (Pierre's full brother) as a shield, though that ended up being an incestuous relationship as well. This is ultimately subverted when she finds out that she is the Daughter of Mortain, not D'Albret. As she is the only daughter of D'Albret's fifth wife, none of her "siblings" share so much as a drop of blood with her.
- Not Blood Siblings: At the time Dark Triumph, Julian is still in a sexual relationship with her — however, Sybella is now aware that he's not actually her brother, and it's all that keeps her from losing her sanity every time he touches her. To be fair to Julian, he never meant to hurt Sybella — he's just as psychologically messed up as Sybella, and saw it as love rather than cruelty. He also believed that it was fully consensual, whereas Sybella felt as though she couldn't say no because she believed that he would no longer protect her if she refused him. When Sybella finally reveals this to him, he's stunned — but ultimately does choose to protect her as a brother rather than a lover, even though it costs him his life.
- Femme Fatale: One of Sybella's greatest weapons is her ability to use her sex appeal against men.
- Trauma Conga Line: Her entire life has consisted of nothing but this.
- Urban Legend Love Life: Claims to have slept with "dozens" of men in an attempt to drive Beast away. She later admits that she's only slept with five men, and two of those were because she had to.
- The Ace: Specifically stated to be the most talented novitiate at the convent. Unfortunately for Annith, this is exactly why they want her to be the new Seer — and thus stay within the convent walls for the rest of her life.
- Action Girl: Noted to be a better fighter than Ismae, who is certainly no slouch.
- Nice Girl
First appearing in Grave Mercy
Abbess of the Convent of Saint Mortain
- Manipulative Bitch: And how. While not as obvious in Grave Mercy, she really shows her true colours in Dark Triumph with Sybella.
- Further detailed in "Mortal Heart" when she reveals why she chose Annith to be the new Seer. She tells Annith that she is her mother and Crunard her father. She gave birth to Annith and shipped her to the convent, and she arrived a few months later so no one would suspect their relation. However, she is much nicer to Annith growing up, and some of the nuns — including the former abbess, Dragonette — begin to suspect their relationship. Etienne takes Annith on a picnic one day, and she allows her to pick mushrooms for dinner. Annith assumes that the mushrooms are not poisonous when they really are, and the former abbess and several of the suspecting nuns are killed once Etienne mixes the mushrooms in with their stew. The new abbess confessed to poisoning the current Seer prior to the beginning of the novel because she, too, was growing suspicious of the abbess.
- No Name Given: Averted once. Her name is Etienne de Froissard.
Count Alain D'Albret
- All There in the Manual: The only mention of his given name is in the Dramatis Personae section at the beginning of the novel.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Julian stands up to defend Sybella, d'Albret assumption is that Julian simply can't stand for anyone else to touch her. When Julian denies that that is the reason for his objection to d'Albret's threat to "marry" and rape Sybella into pregnancy, d'Albret instead offers Julian the chance to do so instead despite the fact that it's clear that Julian's aim is to protect Sybella, not hurt her.
- Fat Bastard: Though it's stated that he's a dangerous man in a fight nonetheless.
- Fate Worse than Death: At the end of Dark Triumph, it is revealed that the Count's soul will be barred from the Underworld and left to wander the Earth for all eternity.
- Kick the Dog: It's the only thing he ever does.
Duchess Anne of Brittany
- Distressed Damsel: Ismae refers to her as one since she is surrounded by enemies on all sides.
- Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: Her full title? Anne, Duchess of Brittany, Countess of Nantes, Countess of Montfort, and Countess of Richmont.
- Wise Beyond Their Years: You would be forgiven for not realizing that she's only twelve.
- The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Constantly, though she's far from being an Ice Queen.
Madame Antoinette Hivern ("The French Whore")
- Face Death with Dignity: She takes Ismae's poisoning of her with remarkable grace, with her only real concern being whether or not it will be painful. It's only when François' life is threatened that she (understandably) panics.
- Hidden Depths: There is much more to Hivern than simply a pretty face and a manipulative mind. As Ismae finds out when sent to assassinate her.
- Mama Bear: She may be on the outs with Duval, but she does love her son. She fiercely protected her children while they grew up, and even as adults she does what she can to protect them. And when Ismae tells Hivern that she is being poisoned, Hivern's response is only to beg Ismae to spare François. When Ismae proposes a plan that could save her and François, she tells Ismae that she will swear anything if it keeps her son alive.
- Manipulative Bitch: While Duval is innocent of any treason, she is plotting to have her son François ascend to power in Anne's place, as she believes that the duchy needs a strong ruler to hold it rather than a little girl.
- The Mistress: First to the aging king, and then to the Duke. She bore the Duke five children, though we only meet two of them within the series: Gavriel Duval and François Avaugour.
- Not So Different: She says this to Ismae when Ismae tries to claim that they both had the same chances, but chose very different paths in life—Hivern asks Ismae what she would have done, had she been in Hivern's place. The fact that Hivern is right is what drives Ismae to find a way to save her life.
"Beast" (Sir Benebic of Waroch)
- Animal Motif: He's stated more than once to have eyes like a wolf.
- Badass in Distress: After being captured by D'Albret.
- Beast and Beauty: Platonically, he is this with de Lornay. Beast is described as being quite possibly the ugliest man Ismae has ever seen, his face made worse by being covered with scars — and immediately after, de Lornay walks in, and he's described as being downright angelic in his beauty. In a romantic sense, he becomes this with Sybella in Dark Triumph. Bonus points for being actually known as Beast.
- The Berserker: Referred to as his "battle rage", when he gets into a serious fight... well. Let's just say he earned the name 'Beast'.
- Blood Knight: Beast is the most loyal friend you could ask for, and a rather kind and gentle man with his friends. But make no mistake: he loves battle. And he enjoys killing those who deserve it.
- Child by Rape
- Dead Big Sister: Part of the reason he hates D'Albret so much. Beast's sister, Alise, was D'Albret's sixth wife. D'Albret murdered her.
- Icy Blue Eyes
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Well, not only known as Beast, but it's what everyone calls him, and he's known best by that name.
Fedric, Duke of Nemours
- Always Second Best: It's mentioned at one point that Duval outstripped François in pretty much every area, though François doesn't appear to resent Duval for it. If anything, he misses his relationship with Duval terribly.
Madame Françoise Dinan
- All There in the Manual: The only mention of her given name is in the Dramatis Personae section at the beginning of the novel.
Viscount Gavriel Duval
- Aloof Big Brother: To François, though that was not always the case. François admits that he misses their relationship; after Anne was born, Gavriel devoted himself fully to her, leaving François behind.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Duval is unquestionably a good and kind man. But he is a master of Xanatos Speed Chess, excellent in a fight, and ferociously protective of the people he loves.
- Big Brother Instinct: He is unwaveringly loyal to Anne, and fully determined to see her safely crowned and wed even if he has to do it single-handedly.
- The Chessmaster: His political maneuverings to make sure Anne is crowned duchness and gains a marriage to a decent man are nothing short of brilliant.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: He's constantly forced to play this, and he plays it well. Crunard even notes that Duval was the only person who continually managed to mess up Crunard's schemes — and that Duval would have succeeded in single-handedly giving his sister both the duchy and the means to keep it had Crunard not constantly been working against him.
- Determinator: Every damn time he makes some progress, the unknown traitor manages to foil his plans. Duval's reaction to this is to try harder.
- Heroic Bastard: The son of the late Duke and his mistress, Hivern.
- Inter-Class Romance: With Ismae. She's as lowborn as it's possible to be — raised as the daughter of a turnip farmer — whereas Duval is specifically stated to be royalty despite being a bastard. Of course, Duval notes that by being the daughter of one of the Old Gods, her lineage is in a class as untouchable by nobility as nobility is to the commoners.
- Last-Name Basis: Only his immediate family (Hivern, Anne, Isabeau, and François) ever call him by his first name. Everyone else, including Beast and De Lornay, who are his closest and most trusted friends, call him Duval. Even after he and Ismae start a romantic relationship, she continues to call him Duval, though he does sign his letters to her with his first name.
- Nice Guy: Which takes Ismae completely off-guard. For the first half of the book, she's constantly trying to stop herself from trusting him because she's so certain that it's an act.
- Properly Paranoid: Duval considers pretty much every single person besides Beast, de Lornay, and (eventually) Ismae to be untrustworthy to some degree. He is almost entirely correct in this assessment.
- Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: His duty to Saint Camulos, the patron saint of battle/war, demands that he stand and fight no matter what — he's called an oathbreaker by some because he once turned his back on a fight and ran. When Anne was five years old, the French were coming to kidnap her. Everyone was standing around arguing about what to do — Duval instead ran to Anne and Isabeau's room, smuggled them out of the nursery, and fled the palace on a horse. He turned his back on the fight, but it was out of love, not cowardice, and his actions were the only reason that Anne was not kidnapped by the French.
- Son of a Whore: While she's not actually a whore, the only thing the convent calls Hivern is "the French Whore", leading to an awkward moment when Ismae refers to her that way before Duval tells her that the French Whore is his mother.
- Spanner in the Works: To Crunard. While Duval is certainly not The Ditz or an idiot, he was completely unaware that Crunard was in any way working against him.
- The Strategist: You'd better believe it. Quite simply, if Anne wasn't able to take the throne, Duval would be a phenomenal second choice.
Viscount (Chancellor) Maurice Crunard
Sir Raoul de Lornay
- All There in the Manual: The only mention of his given name is in the Dramatis Personae section at the beginning of the novel.
- Almost Dead Guy: Lingers long enough after being grievously wounded to have a last conversation with Ismae.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He rides into battle to buy Anne time to escape D'Albret, knowing that his chances of survival are pretty much nil. While he survives long enough for Ismae to reach him, his wounds are fatal, and she grants him a Mercy Kill at his request.
- Jerkass: He make it clear that he is not fond of Ismae, though the narrative does not vilify him for this.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: De Lornay is not a bad person. He's a loyal friend, a loyal knight, a good and brave man, and he was unkind toward Ismae because he believed that she would hurt Duval, whether by killing him or breaking his heart.
- Mercy Kill: He requests this from Ismae, as his wounds are fatal, but it will take hours before he dies. She grants him not only a merciful death, but a merciful passage into the afterlife — normally, souls linger with their bodies for three days, but Ismae uses her misericorde to send him immediately into the arms of his patron saint.
- Pretty Boy: Very. Ismae describes him as being downright angelic in his beauty, and serving maids start trailing him the instant he walks into a tavern.
First appearing in Dark Triumph
- BrotherSister Incest: With Sybella. Subverted in that they're Not Blood Siblings, what with having different mothers and Sybella being Death's daughter.
- Heroic Sacrifice: At the end of Dark Triumph, he dies to save Sybella from D'Albret.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Yes, Julian has many issues, but he is specifically described by Sybella as being the kindest of those who serve D'Albret. And he truly does love Sybella, giving his life to protect her.
- Love Redeems: Platonic Love Redeems. It's only when he puts aside his desire to be Sybella's lover in favour of being her brother, as she wishes him to be, that he completely redeems himself.
- Redemption Equals Death/Death Equals Redemption: Both tropes apply to his sacrifice.
- BrotherSister Incest: He molests Sybella when she is nine years old; she responds by using Julian as a shield; although that eventually turns out the same way, at least Julian is comparatively kind.
- Kick the Dog: His response to his own people attempting to block his troops? He has his men slaughter them all.
- Like Father, Like Son: He's a carbon copy of his father.
First appearing in Mortal Heart
The Nine Saints
The Old Gods
AmournaPatron saint of love
- The Power of Love: She represents the optimistic side of love.
ArduinnaPatron saint of love
- Green-Eyed Monster: Being one of the darker aspects of love, this is her domain.
- Knight Templar Big Sister: Her reaction to her sister, Amourna, falling in love with Mortain? She shoots Mortain through the heart.
- Love Hurts: The side of love she represents.
BrigantiaPatron saint of wisdom
Dea MatronaThe dark mother
CamulosPatron saint of war, battles, and soldiers
CissoniusPatron saint of crossroads and travelers
MerPatron saint of the ocean and sailors
MortainPatron saint of death
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: When He appears to Ismae and Sybella. As Ismae says of His appearance, "In the flesh, or such flesh as the saints will wear".
- Black Cloak: He appears to wear one when He speaks with Ismae and Sybella.
- Dark Is Not Evil
- Deus ex Machina: He intervenes in several cases, most notably when he allows Ismae to make an impossible shot with her crossbow to save Anne's life. Sometimes he's subtle about it, other times not so much.
- Disappeared Dad: One of the more justified examples, what with Him being a god and all. He does personally speak to Ismae and Sybella, both times in the waking world and in the flesh (so to speak) rather than simply through a vision or a dream.
- Good Father: While He's mostly a Disappeared Dad, as He has a rather important job, He truly loves all of His daughters, and He doesn't expect them to blindly serve Him. Indeed, the only thing He asks of His daughters is that they live, fully and truly. Both Ismae and Sybella initially feared His wrath, but upon meeting Him, they felt only love and grace — He even assures Sybella, when she fears that He will punish her for killing those without marques and/or for enjoying the act of killing, that He would no more punish her for plucking flowers from His garden than He would punish her for breathing.
- Don't Fear the Reaper
- The Grim Reaper
- Marked to Die: Those whom He wishes to die have a "marque" somewhere on their bodies, appearing as a sort of black "smudge". As it turns out, the marques are more complicated than that, and can even disappear if certain actions are taken.