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Esther Friesner (also known as Esther M. Friesner) is a fantasy author best known for her humorous works, though she spans the Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness. Friesner was named Outstanding New Fantasy Writer by Romantic Times in 1986. She won the Skylark Award in 1994. She has been nominated a number of times for the Hugo Award and Nebula Award, winning the Nebula Award for Best Short Story in 1995 and 1996 for, respectively, "Death and the Librarian" and "A Birth Day". She has also edited a large number of anthologies, perhaps most famously the Chicks in Chainmail series.

She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, two rambunctious cats, and a fluctuating population of hamsters.

Her website can be found here.

    Her books include: 
  • Chronicles of the Twelve Kingdoms
    • Mustapha and His Wise Dog, 1985
    • Spells of Mortal Weaving, 1986
    • The Witchwood Cradle, 1987
    • The Water King's Laughter, 1989
  • Demons Trilogy
    • Here Be Demons, 1988
    • Demon Blues, 1989
    • Hooray For Hellywood, 1990
  • New York by Knight Trilogy
    • New York by Knight, 1986
    • Elf Defense, 1988
    • Sphynxes Wild, 1989
  • Leeside Trilogy
    • Gnome Man's Land, 1991
    • Harpy High, 1991
    • Unicorn U, 1992
  • Majyk Trilogy
    • Majyk by Accident, 1993
    • Majyk by Hook Or Crook, 1994
    • Majyk by Design, 1995
  • Becca of Wiserways
    • The Psalms Of Herod, 1996
    • The Sword Of Mary, 1996

Expanded Universe novels

The Historical Fiction series Princesses of Myth [1]note 

  • Nobody's Princess, 2007
  • Nobody's Prize, 2008
  • Sphinx's Princess, 2009
  • Sphinx's Queen, 2010
  • Spirit's Princess, 2012
  • Spirit's Chosen, 2013
  • Deception's Princess, 2014
  • Deception's Pawn, 2015

Non-series novels

  • Harlot's Ruse, 1986
  • The Silver Mountain, 1986
  • Druid's Blood, 1988
  • Yesterday We Saw Mermaids, 1992
  • Split Heirs (with Lawrence Watt-Evans), 1993
  • Wishing Season, 1993
  • The Sherwood Game, 1995
  • Child of the Eagle, 1996
  • Playing with Fire, 1997
  • E.Godz (with Robert Asprin), 2003
  • Temping Fate, 2006
  • Threads and Flames, 2010

Short Story Collections

  • It's Been Fun
  • Up The Wall & Other Tales of King Arthur and His Knights
  • Death and the Librarian and Other Stories

Anthologies edited

  • Alien Pregnant by Elvis!
  • Chicks in Chainmail
    • Chicks in Chainmail
    • Did You Say Chicks?!
    • Chicks 'n Chained Males
    • The Chick is in the Mail
    • Turn the Other Chick
  • Witches
    • Witch Way to the Mall
    • Strip Maul
  • Vampires
    • Blood Muse
    • Fangs for the Mammaries

Works with their own trope pages include:

Other works contain examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Becca eventually becomes this in The Sword of Mary.
    • In The Princesses Of Myth, Helen manages to convince her swordsmaster to train her as well as her brothers, and Nefertiti is a skilled archer and rider. Subverted with Maeve, who learns a bit of sword-wielding but stops after it has terrible consequences for her trainer, and decides to focus instead on becoming a politician.
  • After the End: Implied to be the setting of the Becca of Wiserways books.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: In Unicorn U the gods of evil decide to congregate in Poughkeepsie, New York.
  • Alternate Universe: Several examples.
  • And I Must Scream: As Loki rips the ancestral spirit Yang apart in Unicorn U., he also renders Yang's mother Jadwiga unable to vocalize any of her grief - the tears flow, but her screams are silent until the very end, when Loki restores her voice for the amusement value.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Lord Palamon, the elfish ruler of the Fey in the Gnome Man's Land trilogy, gets easily carried off on whims. He also has the awesome magical power needed to make those whims real and enforce them on his direct realm whether it's tacky-and-tasteless or a more restrained Tolkien theme.
  • Awful Truth: The soldier who killed Maeve's friend in an honor duel reveals it wasn't a petty murder, but an assassination, when Maeve questions him at the end of the story. Because the bodyguard had let Maeve endanger herself, the king ordered the soldier to kill the boy, or he would have someone less experienced do it, and take the princess's hate. In fact, the soldier has been having nightmares about it for assassinating an innocent child and would be given a painful death in turn if Maeve confronted her father about it; he wearily tells Maeve she can go ahead and ask since death may be better than living with the guilt. She decides instead to forgive the soldier, and tell him his victim does too. Then she requests that her father let her go into fostering, so she can get as far away from him as possible.
  • Bat Signal: In Unicorn U., Faustus and Mr. Feidelstein send a Horus-signal into the sky of the Egyptian underworld to summon help against Set. It turns out to be unnecessary, since by the time Horus arrives, the heroes have defeated Set and dumped his body into the river.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: In Gnome Man's Land, Teleri turns Tim into a frog when he tries feeding her a line of BS. After she turns him back, he discovers to his discomfort that Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Achieved by Lord Palamon, of all people, in Harpy High. He arrives just in time to shoot down Baba Yaga's cottage with a longbow, crushing the witch underneath, under the mistaken impression that he was slaying a Nazg├╗l.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: As the Leeside books declare, when Yang pillages, EVERYONE pillages!
  • Broken Pedestal: In Deception's Princess, Maeve knows that her father is controlling and not good at keeping his promises. Even so, she loves him. That doesn't last when she nearly gets injured on her bodyguard's watch trying to stop a dog from attacking; she finds out as a teenager years later that her father got her bodyguard and best friend executed as punishment, using a common commander to do the job. Even worse, Maeve doesn't want to believe it's true but puts the pieces together and realizes it must be. She can't bear to look the king in the face after that.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: In Unicorn U., the Mongol ancestral spirit Yang attacks Loki and actually succeeds in subduing the Fenris Wolf ... but a moment's gloating costs him badly as Loki picks him up and rips him to shreds.
  • Bridezilla:
    • The Wedding of Wylda Serene starts with the narrator talking about his sister's bridezilla antics, which eventually leads to her being forced to ask one of the decorators to be a bridesmaid, thus kicking off the backstory. People later start to suspect that the title character is like this because she insists on having the wedding at the Club, but it later turns out that she was put up to it by her mother, who insisted that Wylda get the wedding that she never did.
    • Illiana's sister Dyllin becomes this in Temping Fate when she gets engaged. Their parents stress out over the arrangements that Dyllin demand because the wedding has to be perfect. She does apologize when Iliana calls her out for it and tries to be better. Everyone forgives her on learning that Apollo had bewitched her into loving him and that affected her personality drastically. With that said, her parents wince on seeing the bill after Dyllin calls off the wedding.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: In the Gnome Man's Land series, the father of the main character went out for a Sunday Times and never came back. It was later revealed that he'd spent the six years he'd been gone as the Champion of the Fey.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: When Neil Fitzsimmons sasses off to Teleri in Gnome Man's Land, she makes him literally able to "watch his ass" - by magically rotating his head 180 degrees.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive - in The Sherwood Game.
  • Deconstruction
  • Demythification: Downplayed in the Princesses of Myth series. Most of the myths and supernatural occurrences, particularly in the Helen of Troy series, are given more mundane explanations, but at the same time the Oracle of Delphi as as powerful as she says she is, although she admits that this is rare and many past Oracles have been Phony Psychics. How much magic happens vs reality varies on the character, with Himiko's duology being explicitly fantastic while Maeve's has no unambiguous supernatural elements at all.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: The Protagonist of "The Beau and the Beast" is supposed to be sacrificed to Lord Cthulhu but instead they run away to Gretna Green to get married.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal: Defied in the climax of Temping Fate. On the day of her wedding, everyone finds out that Dyllin's would-be-husband was Apollo in disguise and he charmed her. Thanks to the Big Bad attacking, it breaks the spell. Dyllin regains her mind and then calls out Apollo for bewitching and lying to her. Dyllin even asks if he was ever going to tell her or pose as a mortal for the rest of their marriage. She then calls off the wedding, though Apollo protests that he really liked her.
  • Dungeon Bypass: In Elf Defense, our heroes are stuck in a magical semi-sentient hedgemaze, which has just separated the college professor being pursued by a dragon from the elven prince who actually knows how to fight a dragon. No problem: the Welsh au pair calmly picks up a sword and proceeds to chop her way through the first hedge in the way. The maze, not being stupid, immediately opens a clear path for her.
  • Extra-Dimensional Shortcut: In the Leeside books, the web paths of Faerie can offer a rapid shortcut between real-world locations ... although for mortals, there's also the risk of turning to dust when they emerge, since time in the Faerie realm is unreliable unless you're being guided by Fae royalty.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: A man offered his four-year-old daughter to the dragon in New York By Knight, which proved to be a bad idea. This dragon was far more traditional about its sacrifices.
  • Fantastic Fragility: In Elf Defense, an elf explains that "only the Infinite is infinite" — which means anything not the Infinite has to have a weakness. (Specifically in this case, an elven vulnerability to Latin.)
  • Fashion-Based Relationship Cue: In The Sword of Mary, Becca is tricked into wearing a paper flower that indicates she's a lesbian, potentially getting her in trouble with the law. Different flower colors indicate different interests at an underground bar.
  • Fate Worse than Death: When the ancestral spirit Yang attempts a counterattack on Loki, Loki responds by literally ripping his soul to shreds and tossing the scattered pieces into the underworld. It takes the intervention of another deity to allow his friends to reassemble him later.
  • Forbidden Zone: Becca of Wiserways series.
  • Foreshadowing: At the start of Gnome Man's Land, the banshee Teleri is bewailing the coming death of "the Desmond," to the consternation of Tim Desmond - the last male of the Desmond line - who happens to be in the middle of a babysitting job. It turns out that Tim's dad is still alive in the Leeside as a Champion of the Fey, and at the end of the novel, he gives his life to save his son.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Happens to two of the protagonists of Harpy High; since one of them has a physically abusive father, the other one acquires a little more understanding than he wanted.
  • Freeing the Genie: In Wishing Season
  • Gay Bar Reveal: In Demon Blues, one of the straight characters stumbles into a gay bar crying about the girl he can't get, proceeds to get so drunk he doesn't catch on, and when the bartender is worried about him, gets taken home by a chivalrous time-traveling Richard The Lion Heart. He pieces it all together the next morning.
  • Good Old Ways: Becca of Wiserways.
  • Guardian Entity: In the Gnome Man's Land trilogy, the obnoxious Yang is a Mongol ancestral spirit dedicated to protecting his descendant T'ing Hau Kaplan.
  • Hidden Depths: School bully Neil Fitzsimmons of the Gnome Man's Land series turns out to have enough poetry in him to attract the attentions of a leanan sidhe (a vampire that literally sucks the soul of versifiers). Once he cleans up his act, he turns out to be a pretty good student, too.
  • Historical Fantasy:
    • Child of the Eagle. Venus appears to Marcus Brutus and convinces him to thwart the assassination of Julius Caesar.
    • Yesterday We Saw Mermaids is set in 1492, with a plot connected to Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the new world.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Megan, the protagonist of Harlot's Ruse.
  • House Fey: In the Gnome Man's Land series, Tim Desmond's mother's Russian ancestry causes a bannik (a household domestic sprite) to move in, which ends up driving her crazy with its obsessive cleanliness.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The fey of Gnome Man's Land are horrified at the thought of a human who would kidnap, abuse and murder children. When his identity is finally revealed, there's enough magic around for him to spontaneously transform into the monster he's made himself into.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: The first time Tim meets Lord Palamon's court in Gnome Man's Land, they're dressed like a Lounge Lizard's dream, complete with naked nymphets and a pimped-out Thunderbird.
  • In Spite of a Nail: In Druid's Blood, magic works, so powerfully that the Druids stopped the Roman invasion and (presumably) any later invasions and kept Britain Celtic, but by the 19th Century London and the British look pretty much the same apart from details — teleported scrolls instead of telegrams, Beltane fires in Trafalgar Square (they did fight Napoleon, he was a Gaulish Druid), Queen Victoria as a witch, etc. But this is strictly Rule of Funny, since the point is to set a Sherlock Holmes adventure in a Celtic fantasy world.
  • Jackass Genie: in Wishing Season
  • Jewish Complaining: In Gnome Man's Land, a dybbuk possesses Tim's best friend Larry and begins a long string of complaints about his eating habits - especially after discovering that he'll suck down non-kosher cheeseburgers but won't eat even one morsel for her...
  • Land of Faerie: In the Leeside books, the Faerie realm of Lord Palamon is a classic example, complete with secret entrances, Elfish inhabitants, a (nominal) ruler, and an unreliable flow of time compared to the mortal world.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Towards the end of Harpy High, the main character's mother starts dating Dr. Faustus and drawing a comic strip called Mr. Mephisto which, in the words of the main character's best friend, is about "this wizard and this demon and they go around with this fat orange kitten that thinks all these funny things and eats lasagna and—"
  • The Magic Goes Away:
    • In Yesterday We Saw Mermaids, the magical creatures of the world hid out in the New World to avoid Christian Europe's crusades against the supernatural. When Christopher Columbus arrives, ready to start colonising and oppressing, they all scatter to other, more secret hiding places.
    • Also how the Leeside came to be in the ''Gnome Man's Land" trilogy - mass human disbelief banished magic from the world by forcing the creatures of myth and legend into a prison dimension, except for a few that had just enough human blood to stick around.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Princesses of Myth. Most of the magical or supernatural encounters in the series are wholly believed by the characters but can be dismissed as superstition, coincidence, or All Just a Dream. Sometimes subverted when it lands on one side or another, with the characters demythifying certain stories, or Himiko having actual shamanistic powers that she uses to stop an earthquake.
  • Naked on Arrival: In the first chapter of Gnome Man's Land, Tim's family banshee arrives buck naked. In the midst of his babysitting job. It's a few chapters before she stays clothed for keeps.
  • No Name Given: An important character in Yesterday We Saw Mermaids is referred to as "the little Jewess", because the viewpoint character never gets a chance to ask her name.
  • The Nudifier: The dragon from New York By Knight causes the intended victim's clothes to vanish in order for her to be properly presented as an offering.
  • One-Paragraph Chapter: The first ten chapters of Yesterday We Saw Mermaids chronicle a long sea voyage on a ship where most of the passengers don't get along. Chapter 11 consists of a single word:
  • Only I Can Kill Him: In The Sherwood Game, a programmer creates a VR Robin Hood game, and creates a specific rule that his character is the only one who can kill the Sheriff of Nottingham. He comes to regret this when he has to play the game with the safeties off.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Demon Trilogy.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Demon Trilogy.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Yaroslav of Harpy High is an incompetent vampire who takes several minutes to transform into a bat or mist, wears a Batman T-shirt, is unfazed by sunlight, and has the cutest head of blond curly hair since Shirley Temple. This is subverted when the witch Baba Yaga takes him prisoner and begins to transform him into a more stereotypical form.
  • Pantheon Sitcom: Temping Fate has gods and anthropomorphic personifications (e.g. the Fates) like this, with rebellious teenage demigods, curmudgeonly elder gods, and so on.
  • Phantom Zone: The Leeside, in Gnome Man's Land and its sequels, where the creatures of magic were imprisoned for centuries by mankind's collective disbelief.
  • Poke the Poodle: In Demon Blues, the hero is a college kid who for various reasons (like trying to rescue his roommate and impress his succubus girlfriend) is looking to acquire demonic magical power, which can only be earned through acts of evil. So he spends much of the book hunting for evil to do that won't, you know, hurt anybody...
  • The Power of Rock: In Unicorn U., the apocalypse is averted with the power of samba.
  • Prince and Pauper: Parodied and subverted all to heck in Split Heirs, in which there are two paupers and the prince is actually a girl raised as a boy.
  • Pun-Based Title: New York by Knight, Elf Defense Hooray for Hellywood, Split Heirs
  • Raised as the Opposite Gender: Split Heirs tells the story of a queen who gives birth to triplets, two boys and a girl. However, her husband's people have the belief that multiple births stem from infidelity, so she asks her loyal retainer to take away the daughter and youngest son to be raised elsewhere, so the king would never find out about the triplets' birth. Alas, the retainer messes up, and take the two boys instead. By the time the queen discovers the mistake, it is too late, and she is forced to raise her daughter as a prince, and heir to the throne.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx
    • The riddle is the reason that the members of the Club in The Wedding of Wylda Serene accepted the sphinx that one of their members brought, figuring that everyone knew the answer, so no one would get eaten. Then she learned some new ones...
    • In Sphynxes Wild, the sphinx—currently operating as a Greek heiress in Atlantic City—is the villain, and not until the hero finally answers her new riddle can she be defeated.
  • Robin Hood: The Sherwood Game is about a Cyberspace game featuring the Robin Hood characters; it gets complicated when Instant A.I.: Just Add Water! kicks in. (Though things don't get really bad until the Corrupt Corporate Executive shows up.)
  • Sequel Escalation: The longer the Leeside hole exists, the more it gets stretched out, and the bigger the threats become. In Gnome Man's Land, Tim has to deal with domestic spirits and the creatures of Faerie. In Harpy High, the escapees are now monsters such as vampires, oni, and Baba Yaga. By Unicorn U., Tim has to face off with actual gods of chaos and destruction.
  • Sex Bot: The RobinHood program in The Sherwood Game gets downloaded into a pleasure android.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: The banshee Teleri thinks nothing of going around in the buff, even though she knows it might give Tim thoughts. The way she sees it, he's entitled to some pleasant last moments.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Maeve's bodyguard and weapons instructor, plans to save money to start a family with his wife. He dies in a duel, and his wife dies having their baby. Maeve refuses to forgive his killer for that.
  • Shout-Out: The title characters of Death and the Librarian were inspired by some Discworld figurines she had on her desk (though the story has nothing to do with Discworld).
  • Sinister Minister: Played for comedy in Hooray for Hellywood, televangelist "Sometime" Joseph Lee is in fact the demon Raleel.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: From the very funny, pun-laden Majyk series to the post-apocalyptic Crapsack World of Becca of Wiserways.
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: In Gnome Man's Land, the Leeside escapees are faerie beings and domestic spirits, and the most dangerous evil proves to be a human child-stealer transformed into a monstrous shape to match his soul. In Harpy High, the true monsters begin to escape with the Russian witch Baba Yaga as a genuine Big Bad. By the time the trilogy reaches Unicorn U., the gods of chaos and destruction have emerged from the Leeside, led by Loki, who makes Baba Yaga look like a fairy tale.
  • Sterility Plague: In Becca of Wiserways, some sort of unspecified Depopulation Bomb in the past has made it so that women only get their periods once per year.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Maeve as a preteen tries to stop a wild dog from attacking her family, using the fighting lessons her bodyguard gave her. She expects to get some respect for at least having the skill. Her father instead berates her for doing something so dangerous and her bodyguard for giving her the lessons in the first place. While he may have had a point, executing the bodyguard using a soldier as a patsy just reeks of a power play, especially when Maeve learns about it.
    • Maeve gets into a Star-Crossed Lovers type romance with Odran, even planning to run away with him at one point. When they actually get to live together for a short while, they realize that even if they love each other, they are incompatible as a couple, for the exact same reasons that they couldn't be together in the first place.
    • In Temping Fate, it's acknowledged that the Greek gods are better than they were in their heyday, but they are still Jerkass Gods by modern standards. Also, if they screw you over, you have every right to call them out. Apollo really did like Dyllin, which was why he courted her in mortal guise, but he also bewitched her into loving him. There is also a power imbalance in that she was a temp and he was ostensibly one of her employees. The spell wears off at the wedding, and Dyllin calls him out for lying to her and messing with her mind.
  • Talking Animal: A magically-talking cat in Wishing Season
  • Teenage Wasteland: Becca of Wiserways encounters one.
  • Urban Fantasy: The New York By Knight trilogy, Demon Trilogy and Gnome Man's Land Trilogy, The Sherwood Game
  • Villain Over for Dinner: In Elf Defense, protagonist divorce lawyer Sandra Horowitz finds her mother having lunch with elven king Kelerison (whose ex-wife she's representing), who immediately has worked up all of her mom's Jewish Mother guilt against her.
  • Wedding Smashers: The climax of Temping Fate happens at Dyllin's wedding. It's also where the guests and she learn that her fiance was actually Apollo in disguise, when the Big Bad unmasks him, leaves him naked, and storms the ceremonies.
  • Wishing for More Wishes: Played with in Wishing Season. It is standard for a genie to say that wishing for more wishes isn't allowed in his or her preamble, but Brilliant, but Lazy Student Genie Khalid forgets on his first time out, and is enslaved by a mortal for several years till he is rescued.
  • Wishplosion: In the second half of Wishing Season, a Jinn will be free to wreak havoc as soon as the hero uses his half-wish (he only gets half of what is stated in the wish), so he wishes for the Jinn to be free. This ends up with the Jinn being free of the spell that made him grant wishes, but married to a very nagging demoness.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Elf Defense includes among its minor characters a classic Tolkien/Shakespeare-style elf maiden whose speech is unexpectedly punctuated with the occasional bit of Yiddish. When called on it, she abashedly admits to dating a dybbuk (a possessing demon of Jewish myth).
    • Also used by the dybbuk in Gnome Man's Land, as well as the Feidelsteins and Ben Kipnis in Unicorn U.
  • Young Future Famous People: The Princesses of Myth series, about historical or semihistorical (or straight-up mythical) princesses during their childhood and young adulthood. So far she has taken on Helen of Troy, Nefertiti of Egypt, Himiko of Yamatai/Japan, and Maeve of Connacht/Ireland.

Alternative Title(s): Esther M Friesner