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- "Elua cared naught for mortal politics, nor did Kushiel."
The main villainess of the series. Melisande is ambitious, sadistic, and utterly lacking in any sort of conscience. Her great ambition is to be queen, and so she concocts several Machiavellian plots to help her achieve this. She becomes a patron of Phèdre's, and Phèdre falls in love with her. Phèdre, as an anguisette, is the perfect outlet for her sadistic desires.
Imriel is her son.
Tropes applying to Melisande:
- Abusive Parents: Her father Casimar isn't openly stated to have abused her, but it's probable given his spiteful personality. It is said that Casimar's actions helped mold Melisande into the woman she is in the Phedre and Imriel books, and she'd resolved long ago to not be like him when it came to taking petty revenge on other people and instigating pointless cruelty.
- Affably Evil: Though she is the main antagonist of the first trilogy and poses a huge danger to Phedre and Terre D'Ange, she is cool and collected and acts cordially to most people (even her enemies) even at the worst of times.
- Arch-Enemy: Of Phedre no Delaunay.
- Beauty Is Bad: Melisande is considered one of the most beautiful women in Terre D'Ange; she also has one of the coldest hearts in the series.
- Benevolent Boss: How she is viewed by the Maignard clan, who she helped bring out of poverty in exchange for their loyalty to her. The first thing she promised them when she asked for their loyalty was that she would never do anything out of spite, and as far as they know, she hasn't.
- Big Bad: Of the first two books of the first trilogy.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: She is the most beautiful woman in Terre D'Ange, and is a deadly traitor. Phedre describes her as having "a mind as subtle as Delaunay's, but a far colder heart".
- Black Widow: Averted. Melisande is rumored to have killed the men she married, but really, she just made a habit of marrying very old men so she could wait and inherit their money when they died.
- Break the Haughty: Imriel's ordeal takes a huge toll on her, and she is a much humbler and (only slightly more) compassionate person afterward.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Later in the series, Melisande starts claiming that she always keeps her promises. Like many things she says, this statement should be taken with a pinch of salt.
- The Corrupter: She excels at manipulating powerful people around her into committing treason.
- Depraved Bisexual: As a member of House Shahrizai, this is a given. However, Melisande takes this trope Up to Eleven, going to such lengths during assignations with Phedre that Phedre's other patrons wouldn't dream of. She is the only one to use flechettes on Phedre. Shortly before selling Phedre and Joscelin to the Skaldi, she tortures Phedre in an attempt to find out what Rousse's message to Delaunay was, in such a way that Phedre is heartsick and numb afterwards.
- Easily Forgiven: Subverted. While Phedre and Imriel understand her reasons behind committing high treason not once but twice (and manipulating others into doing the same), the magnitude of her crimes and the effect they've had on her victims even years after the fact makes it impossible to forgive her.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: There is no one Melisande loves more than her son Imriel. As Imriel sees in Kushiel's Mercy, he is her sole weakness, and she can be hurt through him.
- Even Evil Has Standards: She won't stoop to blasphemy and claims to always keep her promises (though both statements should be taken with a grain of salt and then some. Also, she really loves her son.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Melisande's traitoress status doesn't stop Phedre from being attracted to her. It doesn't help that she's also a very skilled lover.
- Evil Plan: Most of her plots can be categorized as this.
- For the Evulz: When Phèdre asks her why she did it, she replies, "Because I could."
- It's a little bit more complicated than that. Melisande describes herself as being incapable of caring about the pieces in her games, while simultaneously loving the games she plays. Why does she play? She's D'Angeline.
- Freudian Excuse: It's a minor excuse, but in the second trilogy she appears to have some remorse for her actions and its suggested-that the reason she is the way she is-is because of her father Casimar.
- Girls Love: With Phèdre.
- HeelFace Turn: Debatable, but she does appear to have some remorse for her actions later on in the series. And she does help save Terre d'Ange in Mercy.
- In the Blood: It's implied that her father's method of raising her deeply affected her character. As seen above its a minor excuse.
- Jedi Truth: Melisande claims she'd never commit blasphemy personally, but looks the other way when Marie-Celeste corrupts the Serenissiman priestesses. She's also forbidden by Kushieline doctrine to kill the bearer of Kushiel's Dart, but has no problem sending Phèdre into dangerous situations where she'd be indirectly responsible for her death.
- Just Between You and Me: Explored with her. For Melisande, it's really all about the scheming, manipulation, and Magnificent Bastardry. She does it very well, and she wants someone to see and appreciate that. Delaunay was a similarly-skilled schemer, if rather more heroic. He and Phèdre are the only people Melisande believes might fully appreciate her plots. To her, the game is more important than the outcome, and playing well is more important than winning. And so for this reason, she sometimes divulges small portions of information regarding to her schemes to Delaunay, and later Phèdre.Phèdre: [to Delaunay] Every artist craves an audience, my lord, and she has chosen you. Whatever is to occur, it is her desire that you know she is its architect.
- Karma Houdini: Manages to escape all punishment, and gets to live out her days in a villa on a Mediterranean isle. Although it is implied that Imriel's torture at the Mahrkagir's hands is Kushiel's punishment for her.
- Lack of Empathy: Has a distinct lack of empathy, which she's begun to take notice of during the time she's spent in Cythera.
- Lady Macbeth: Melisande manipulates both Isidore d'Aiglemort and Prince Benedicte into committing treason in order to further her own ambitions.
- Likable Villain: A large portion of the fandom loves her despite her actions. In Kushiel's Avatar and the Imriel trilogy, she is painted in a more sympathetic light, and understandable reasons are given for her crimes.
- Loophole Abuse: See the Jedi Truth section.
- Mama Bear: Do not attempt to harm her son. There will be serious consequences if you do.
- Nerves of Steel: She never seems to lose her cool, even when confronted with accusations of treason and execution. The only time she really loses it is when Ysandre calls her out on her actions and accuses her of not knowing how to love.
- Pet the Dog: She loves her son more than anything else. Imriel later sees that he is her main weakness, and that her enemies would be able to hurt her by hurting him.
- The Quisling: Collaborated with Waldemar Selig to orchestrate the Skaldi invasion. If it had succeeded, she would've married Selig and ruled as Queen over a united Terre d'Ange/Skaldia.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Like all Shahrizai.
- Sadist: Naturally. She revels in Phedre's humiliation and pain during their assignation on the Longest Night, and finds pleasure in watching Suriah squirming in Baudoin's arms during Baudoin's party in Cereus House. However, even she has lines she would never cross.
- Sex Is Violence: That's how she likes it.
- The Unfettered: She will do almost anything to bring her long-term plans into frutition, even betraying former friends and her own country into the hands of the Skaldi. The only thing she won't stoop to is blasphemy and spite.
- Villain Has a Point: It's hard not to agree with Melisande even a little bit when she explains some of her reasoning behind her machinations.
- Villain with Good Publicity: In the beginning of the series, she is in good graces with her peers and at Court, is so popular that songs have been written about her beauty, and is the adored lover of Baudoin. No one except Delaunay and his allies suspects that she may be involved in any political machinations, and even they don't realise how deep her treachery runs until it is too late.
- World's Most Beautiful Woman: Not explicitly described as such, but she's described as being extremely beautiful, even for someone from Terre D'Ange.
Persia ShahrizaiA kinswoman of Melisande who betrays her but later aids her in escaping Troyes-le-Mont. She is the sister of Marmion.
Marmion ShahrizaiBrother of Persia,
Imriel's other foil, Mavros is a Shahrizai, and is utterly unapologetic of this fact, and the ramifications and desires that come with it. While Imriel's past experiences initially cause difficulties with their relationship, as he becomes more comfortable with his sexuality, they bond. Mavros eventually fills a roll somewhere between Imriel's at-home Lancer, and a big brother figure, providing advice and support about both politics and relations. He has a rather one-sided infatuation with Sidonie's lady-in-waiting.
Tropes applying to Mavros:
- Bi the Way: Like most D'Angelines, Mavros is seen to be attracted to men as well as women. Being a Shahrizai, he doesn't try to hide it.
- Depraved Bisexual: While not malicious, Mavros is a Shahrizai.
- Secret Keeper: He is one of the few peers who know about Imriel's affair with Sidonie before it is made public, but never reveals anything about it to others as Court or even the Queen. He also plays a major role in aiding Sidonie and Imriel in conducting their affair in secret, and voices his and his House's full support of their relationship (as the Shahrizai always support those of their own family).
- Token Depraved Teammate: Is, easily, the kinkiest member of Imriel's immediate circle of friends at court. He rather delights in this.
A close friend of Prince Thierry. He declines to join Thierry on his first expedition to Terra Nova, but insists on going with Moirin to find him when he learns that Thierry's alive. Moirin is initially wary of him, though she eventually comes to like and respect him after their experiences in Terra Nova.
Tropes applying to Balthasar:
- Agent Peacock: Despite appearances, he's a skilled swordsman.
- Depraved Bisexual: He is a Shahrizai, after all
- Fire-Forged Friends: He and Moirin
- Hidden Depths: Moirin initially sees him as a idle pretty boy, but comes to like and respect him when she sees the depths of his loyalty and courage.
- Idle Rich: Moirin's initial impression of him. She learns there's much more to him than that.
- I'm Not Hungry: Refuses to eat bugs, even when there's nothing else available.
- I Will Find You: He's determined to find Thierry.
- I Will Only Slow You Down: Tells the others to leave him behind when he becomes so ill from malaria that he can barely stand.
- Must Make Amends: He feels guilty for not accompanying Thierry on his voyage and insists on making amends by leading Moirin's expedition to find him.
- The So-Called Coward: Describes himself as a coward numerous times, but as the journey goes on it becomes clear that he's not a coward at all.
- The Team Benefactor: Organizes and finances the expedition to find Thierry.