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Characters / Kris Longknife

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Characters of the Kris Longknife universe.

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The United Society

The nation represented by the primary protagonists, an elective constitutional monarchy headquartered on Wardhaven that forms following the dissolution of the Society of Humanity at the end of Mutineer.

    Kris Longknife 

Grand Admiral Her Royal Highness Princess Kristine Anne Longknife, Admiral of the Imperial Order of Steel
The protagonist of the main series. The wealthy daughter of Wardhaven's prime minister and, following the events of Mutineer, the great-granddaughter of its king, she was raised to be her older brother Honovi's campaigner. The main series follows her as she rises through the ranks from a talented but unpolished Ensign Newbie up to a brilliant Four-Star Badass.
  • A-Cup Angst: Kris is tall, wiry, and small-chested, and has significant body-image problems in the early books, between her perennial Unlucky Childhood Friend status and frequent encounters with larger-breasted women. She mostly grows out of this (especially after her Relationship Upgrade with Jack), but notes in Bold that one of the plus-sides of having had a child naturally is that her bust got bigger. On the other hand, it means she can easily disguise herself as a man for undercover work, and Abby can provide her with goodies like exploding falsies without making her look top-heavy.
  • Action Girl: In addition to being a talented naval officer, she leads Wardhaven Marines on a number of surface missions and can fire a rifle with the best of them.
  • Action Mom: She continues her military career, and her assassin-magnet status, during and after her first pregnancy in Unrelenting.
  • The Alcoholic: She started stealing from her parents' liquor cabinet as a child. Great-Grandpa Trouble got her clean and she became a teetotaler as an adult, though she falls Off the Wagon in the first part of Furious. She even gives up coffee during her first pregnancy and discovers she doesn't really need it.
  • Assassin Outclassin': She has to date survived and/or outfought at least one assassination attempt on nearly every planet she's set foot on except Chance, Xanadu, and Pandemonium (and the first and third of those put her in battle outnumbered and outgunned). She's such an assassin magnet it becomes one of the series' Running Gags for somebody to try to shoot her or bomb her at least Once an Episode.
  • Berserk Button: Kris really hates kidnappers, especially those that kidnap children. This is an understandable byproduct of her little brother getting kidnapped and murdered when she was 10.
  • Bodyguard Crush: She ultimately falls in love with and marries Jack Montoya, originally her secret service bodyguard whom she dragooned into the Wardhaven Marine Corps (which became the Royal United Society Marine Corps).
  • Born Lucky: It's actually mentioned in her Greenfeld State Security dossier. Just in the first book, she survives a disguised assassination attempt on her (a kidnapping designed to bait the Navy ship she's serving on into landing troops in a minefield) because a critical part on her dropship fails on reentry, forcing her to manually glide them down several kilometers wide of the target.
  • Brain–Computer Interface: Early in the series, she goes under the knife to have one installed in her brain that lets her communicate wirelessly with Nelly.
  • Bulletproof Vest: By book two she's in the habit of wearing bulletproof lingerie everywhere, sourced by Abby. Good thing too, given she's such an assassin magnet.
  • Chest of Medals: By the later parts of the Planet Looters arc, Kris has earned several of the highest awards for valor from the various human governments of The ’Versenote , as well as three from the two largest Sasquan governments. And, as is brought up in Resolute, most of her other medals have combat "V"s.
  • Combat Pragmatist: She doesn't have any problem whatsoever stabbing a man In the Back.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: She survived her first assassination attempt as a preteen. Her younger brother wasn't as fortunate. Her emotionally distant and perpetually busy father and mother were no help (the latter tried to drug her into being a "proper" girl) and she started stealing from the liquor cabinet. Her great-grandfather got her straightened out and inspired her Navy career.
  • Happily Married: She and Jack get married in Defender.
  • Magnetic Hero: Other people who encounter her sometimes note her ability to wrap more senior officers around her finger through sheer force of will.
  • Meaningful Name: Besides her Awesome Mc Coolname surname (a clue to her Native American ancestry), an ethnic Arab points out in Deserter that a "kris" is a type of dagger.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Kris is depicted and described as a blonde white woman but has significant Native American ancestry, which is a plot point in Among the Kicking Birds.
  • Overranked Soldier: She goes from being an ensign at the start of book one, to a vice admiral at the end of Bold, and has only been on active duty for six years, and is jumped another two grades to grand admiral at the start of Emissary. It is justified—she's just that good and catches a lot of battlefield promotions, and her promotion from lieutenant commander to rear admiral, then to vice admiral, was an acting promotion that she had the clout to make permanent—but she sometimes catches flak from officers who had a more traditional career path and resent her jumping the promotion ladder.
  • Parental Substitute: For her computer, Nelly. After she becomes an Artificial Intelligence, Kris ends up half-mom, half-big sister to her.
  • Passionate Sports Girl: Kris raced orbital skiffs (literally gliders dropped from orbit) competitively as an adolescent, which puts her in good stead in Mutineer when a part fails on her dropship during reentry.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Her family were Blue Bloods, and Kris a Navy officer, before they were royalty.
  • Spaceship Slingshot Stunt: A close variation: in space combat she is scarily proficient at using gravity assists to attack her enemies from unexpected angles. In Emissary she relieves the vice admiral commanding her escort when he refuses to believe her assessment of how the planetary arrangement of the system they're in gives the enemy an advantage.
  • Uncle Pennybags: In the early books Kris frequently uses her trust fund to buy her way out of problems (for example, establishing and funding an NGO to cover relief work on Olympia to get around an Obstructive Bureaucrat holding up government aid).
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: She angsts a bit early on over the number of bridesmaid dresses that are in her closet (Tommy Lien was the most recent one). She also begs off attending Ron Torn's wedding at the end of Audacious after having kissed him a couple times in Resolute.

Kris's portable personal computer since childhood, who becomes fully sapient after incorporating Imported Alien Phlebotinum into herself.
  • Benevolent A.I.: She's completely harmless, at least to people she likes, although it didn't come easily: she has an entire folder in her file directory labeled "Nelly Is Not Allowed to Start a War" (after she tries to have USS Wasp fire on a Greenfeld cruiser after a stray shot aimed at an Iteeche ship nearly hits them).
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: She was an ordinary portable computer at first, but Kris and Aunt Tru became obsessed with upgrading Nelly with the latest gadgets (Kris spent a lot of accrued interest from her trust fund on it). They finally adding a chunk of the destroyed Master Computer from Santa Maria encased in self-organizing gel, which caused Nelly to develop full-blown sapience.
  • Translator Microbes: Give her sufficient time to learn a new language (say, a couple hours listening to unencrypted broadcasts) and she can readily act as a universal translator even of alien tongues.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The series derives a lot of its humor from Nelly's arguments with Kris.

    Jack Montoya 

General Jack Montoya

A Wardhaven Secret Service officer, Jack Montoya is assigned as Kris's security detail in Mutineer. Between books three and four she conscripts him into the Wardhaven Marine Corps (which becomes the Royal United Society Marine Corps), and he continues to guard her. Over the course of the next several books they fall in love, and marry in Defender.

  • Bodyguard Crush: He realizes he's fallen in love with Kris when she's injured in the latest assassination attempt in Undaunted (which wasn't actually aimed at her for once). In Daring she admits she returns his feelings and they become the Official Couple after their reunion in Furious.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: He and Kris after their Relationship Upgrade. After she becomes pregnant unexpectedly in Unrelenting, he even mentions looking up how to make sex comfortable for her later in the pregnancy.
  • Happily Married: To Kris starting in Defender.
  • Henpecked Husband: It's pretty clear between him and Kris which one of them wears the pants, which they openly joke about.
  • Hidden Depths: In the opening of Vicky Peterwald: Dominator he turns out to be pretty good at Irish clog-dancing.
  • Latin Lover: He's a pretty handsome Latino man, and Kris develops a crush on him within a few books of their first meeting.
  • Overranked Soldier: Despite not originally being a military officer, he follows Kris's meteoric rise through the ranks of the Royal Marines.

The Greenfeld Empire

A bloc of planets formed as One Nation Under Copyright holdings of the Smythe-Peterwald company, it transitioned into The Empire under Henry Smythe-Peterwald XII.

    Vicky Peterwald 

Admiral Her Grace the Grand Duchess Victoria Smythe-Peterwald
The unplanned princess of Henry Smythe-Peterwald XII. Kris's onetime would-be assassin, turned lifelong friend.

Introduced in Audacious (after a Sequel Hook mention at the end of Resolute), she attempted to kill Kris several times to avenge her brother Hank. In Intrepid, however, Kris managed to meet Vicky in a social setting (under the supervision of Vicky's CO) and get across to her that she both hadn't killed Hank and had not intended to kill him beyond the exigencies of a Space Battle. After some Character Development, Vicky joined Kris on a few of her exploits, culminating in the Voyage of Discovery, which ended in the battlefield death of her protector, Admiral Georg Krätz.

At this point, Vicky jumped off into her own side series, and was forced to become an Action Survivor and ultimately gather her own fleet to wage a Civil War against her Evil Stepmother to save her entire country.

  • A-Cup Angst: Inverted and played straight. She is very well-endowed but tells Kris at one point that they came in late. Also her large tracts of land give her back problems and get in the way of her physical training.
  • Action Survivor: She learns to be a badass out of sheer necessity after her Evil Stepmother puts a price on her head.
  • Assassin Outclassin': She's catching up to Kris by Dominator: her current record is surviving four assassination attempts in a single day.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Vicky gains the loyalty of the planets that join her in revolting against the Empress in large part due to her efforts at giving them functional economies and working governments as much as by military power.
  • Bi the Way: She likes to use her feminine wiles to manipulate men, but also has a Friends with Benefits relationship with her female bodyguards Kit and Kat, and at one point even invites her male spy chief Mr. Smith into bed with them. She's also mentioned to have tried to convince her husband Manny Artamus to let Kit and Kat into their bed (so far unsuccessfully).
  • Brains and Bondage: Kit and Kat sometimes handcuff her to a chair so she can practice breaking out of the cuffs. They're strongly implied to take advantage of Vicky's helplessness on occasion.
  • Damsel out of Distress: She's kidnapped by bounty hunters twice in her series and escapes mostly by herself both times (the first time by seducing one of the kidnappers and then crushing his throat while riding him).
  • Designer Babies: Averted in an unusual way: her brother is designed, but their mother coincidentally became pregnant naturally by their father around the same time Hank's embryo was implanted, and Vicky was the result.
  • Ethical Slut: After character development. She still loves sex but she stops using it to manipulate others, and eventually enters a long-term relationship with Manny Artamus. She's even willing to be monogamous for him, though she still occasionally tries to talk him into letting her bodyguards/lovers Kit and Kat into their bed.
  • Fiery Redhead: She is an extremely passionate person.
  • Good Feels Good: Vicky realizes this in her own series when she takes action to help the ordinary oppressed and abandoned people of the Greenfeld Empire and feels a sense of accomplishment and of being respected she never received in her previous role as glorified bimbo and future trophy wife.
  • Heel–Face Turn: She goes from an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in Audacious to a tight ally and friend to Kris Longknife. Her improvement comes after she's assigned to a military ship as a very junior officer to discipline her following her actions in a previous book. After doing so, she learns not only to take pride in actually being good at something on her own merits and not because of her wealth, family, looks, or skill in bed, but that she's learning how to be a proper officer, something that Hank lacked and actually caused his death.
  • Hero of Another Story: She has her own series to fill in her offscreen adventures. Kris to date has seventeen full-length novels with herself as main character. Vicky has four (one of which is fully resolved in a Kris Longknife book) plus a short story.
  • ManEater: Pre-character development. She regularly snapped up single young men and used her sexual wiles to charm them into doing her bidding, in bed and out (which usually didn't end well for the men on account of her overprotective male guardians). After she's drafted into the Greenfeld Navy, her first CO, Captain Georg Krätz, puts a stop to this after catching her in a paint closet with a fellow ensign.
  • Meaningful Name: "Victoria", meaning "victory".
  • Overranked Soldier: Lampshaded: Her last legal rank is only lieutenant junior grade (O-2), so even she thinks it's a bit nuts when she gets frocked up to vice admiral during the Civil War. In Dominator she actually refuses to be promoted even further to grand admiral, despite her military advisors noting that monarchs have traditionally held the highest rank in their militaries.
  • Really Gets Around: Sex is probably her favorite pastime.
  • Rebellious Princess: She was expected to do little other than marry well. The unexpected death of her twin brother made her the heir to the throne, however, so her father had her conscripted into the Greenfeld Navy so she'd develop some kind of life skills besides sex. Ultimately she was forced to start a literal rebellion just to survive.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: She's a very attractive redhead who is a significant recurrer in one series and the main character of another.
  • Spanner in the Works: For Greenfeld. In her first appearance she not only failed miserably at killing Kris, but Kris's investigation into the attempts on her life inadvertently led her to uncovering and foiling Greenfeld's coup attempt against the government of New Eden.
  • The Unfavorite: She was a by-blow fraternal twin sister to Henry "Hank" Smythe-Peterwald XIII, and being a woman in a very patriarchal society, was not expected to learn much other than needlework and kama sutra. Hank's death in battle made her heir to the throne, forcing her father to pay more attention to her education.
  • You Killed My Father: She spends Audacious trying to kill Kris to avenge her brother. In Intrepid, Kris finally manages to get across that 1: There was a battle going on at the time, and things like that happen in battles. 2: It was Hank's fault that the battle happened in the first place. 3: Even given both of the above, he would have had a decent chance of surviving had he not been equipped with a defective survival pod (which was suspiciously from a different production run than every other pod on the ship).

    Henry "Hank" Peterwald 

Henry "Hank" Smythe-Peterwald XIII

The son of Henry Peterwald XII and twin brother of Vicky Peterwald. A onetime suitor to Kris Longknife in the first two books, circumstances forced him to become an enemy. He finally ended up on the wrong end of naval guns under her command in Resolute and died... because somebody who wasn't Kris tampered with his Escape Pod.

  • Bling of War/Chest of Medals: In Resolute Kris encounters him in his dress uniform and notes that while he has more medals than she does, none of his have combat "V"s, whereas all of hers save the Wardhaven Defense Medal and Order of the Wounded Lion do, and those two don't need the "V" by definition.
  • Designer Baby: He's said to have been a selectively created embryo, though by sheer happenstance his biological or surrogate mother was also impregnated naturally by his father at about the same time, resulting in Vicky.
  • A Father to His Men: To his credit, he puts himself at personal risk as a commodore to rescue sailors of his that the Chancers have imprisoned. Too bad they're imprisoned on suspicion of rape, which was carried out at the probable behest of Greenfeld State Security in order to create a Pretext for War.
  • Foreshadowing: In hindsight his mysterious death by sabotaged Escape Pod may have been perpetrated by the Bowlingame family that his sister ultimately spends her series fighting.
  • Overranked Soldier: In his final appearance he's made a commodore by order of his father, thereby putting a man completely inexperienced at command or naval combat in charge of a squadron of long-serving veteran officers like Georg Krätz (who do their best to restrain his worst impulses). This of course means the by-now-highly experienced Kris makes a complete fool of him both before and during the inevitable battle.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: He initially presents himself to Kris as a potential suitor suggesting they could end the Longknife-Peterwald feud together, which he compares to Romeo and Juliet. Which probably should have been somewhat of a clue how things were going to end up (and Kris lampshades it, noting she has no intention of dying).
  • Vehicular Sabotage: He dies when Kris lands a hit on his ship's bridge, but that's not what kills him. A defective Escape Pod that was mysteriously from a different production run than any other on the ship did that.

    Georg Krätz 

Admiral Georg Krätz

Introduced in Resolute as Hank Peterwald's flag captain, Georg Krätz returns as Vicky Peterwald's commanding officer from "Kris Longknife's Assassin" until his death in battle in Daring.
  • The Captain: He's a highly professional Father to His Men who does his best to rein in his badly overranked commodore, Hank, then takes Vicky under his wing.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Due to the long peace, he spent twenty years working his way up through the ranks of the Society of Humanity Navy, then the Greenfeld Navy, before gaining captaincy of a light cruiser. However, he's promoted to admiral between books.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: In Resolute he's Just Following Orders, and immediately stops the battle when his CO is incapacitated. In all subsequent appearances he fights alongside Kris and her companions.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He's the first sympathetic Greenfeld officer we're introduced to. As flag captain to Hank, he does his best to rein in his badly overranked commodore's worst impulses. When he takes on Hank's sister Vicky as a junior lieutenant later, he has the clout to bring her up by the short-hairs and instill some real professionalism into her, while acting very much like the father she never had.
  • Sacrificial Lion: In Daring he commands a flotilla of human battleships sent along with Kris Longknife's flotilla of Q-ships to investigate rumors of hostile aliens. He's killed in the opening volleys when they intercept a Planet Looter mothership in the Alwa system, as his battleships are simply too big and slow to evade the enemy Beam Spam.

    Henry Peterwald XII 

His Imperial Majesty Emperor Henry Smythe-Peterwald XII

Father to Hank and Vicky, arch-rival of Ray Longknife, and failed assassin of Kris Longknife several times over.

Initially the CEO of the Smythe-Peterwald company, he's implied to have plotted the collapse of the Society of Humanity. In the wake of that event, the bloc of planets he controls turns first into a fascist One Nation Under Copyright with himself as "First Citizen", then he retitles himself a Germanic-style emperor mostly to one-up King Ray. Which should have been a clue: utterly bewitched by his new wife and distracted by the pleasures of rank, he is ludicrously unaware that his kleptocratic in-laws, the Bowlingames, are running the empire into the ground behind his back and trying to murder his surviving child to ensure her younger half-brother will inherit.

Open war ultimately breaks out between Imperial loyalists, led by Vicky, and the Bowlingames, and Henry is forced to issue an imperial command for a ceasefire and peace talks. This leads to him declaring the entire Bowlingame family outlaws (and Kris Longknife blowing up his empress when she tries to bombard the talks from orbit), only to have them essentially repossess him out of his empire and imprison him in his own capital, to be rescued again by Vicky, who takes over as regent.

  • Bumbling Dad: How Vicky ultimately comes to view him. She realizes he's a bad ruler and a poor father, but she loves him anyway.
  • The Caligula: His vindictiveness and incompetence bring his empire to ruin.
  • The Rival: To King Raymond specifically and to the Longknifes more generally: he's suspected to be behind the kidnapping and murder of Kris's little brother and nearly every assassination attempt on her until Intrepid. The family feud goes back several generations to one of the Longknifes relieving a Smythe-Peterwald of duty for reasons the Peterwalds felt unjustified.

    Manny Artamus 

Manuel Artamus

Vicky Peterwald's Love Interest and eventual prince consort. A common-born industrialist from the planet St. Petersburg, he is instrumental in helping her build a popular following and teaching her to rule, in the process transitioning the Greenfeld Empire to constitutional monarchy.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: He teaches Vicky nearly everything she knows about how to lead a country, not just being its titular ruler.
  • Non-Action Guy: He's just an ordinary civilian with no military training.


The Iteeche Empire

A feudal empire of approximately 2,000 star systems with whom humanity fought a major war 80 years before the start of the main series (the events are covered in the Rita Longknife prequel), then ally with humanity against the Planet Looters, which leads to a Civil War covered in the sequel series when the God-Emperor dies unexpectedly. His underage son's loyalists arrange for Kris to take command of their military to win the war. The Iteeche are an amphibious race with long necks ending in beaks.

    Ron'sum'We'sum'Quin Cap'sum'We 
An Iteeche diplomat who seeks out Kris in Undaunted to get humanity's help against the Planet Looters.

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