Follow TV Tropes

Following

Creator / Ursula Vernon

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ursula_vernon.jpg
Ursula Vernon (born May 28, 1977) is a Hugo, Nebula and Lodestar award-winning American fantasy/sci-fi artist and writer. Creator of the Biting Pear of Salamanca. She has a fairly considerable Internet following, and has created a number of webcomics, including the very notable Digger. Her artwork can be seen here. She is also on Tumblr (personal, kid-friendly) and Twitter.

Following the success of her children's series Dragonbreath, her subsequent books for adults have been published under the pseudonym "T. Kingfisher" to reduce the odds of them falling into the hands of her junior fanbase. She has also published a variety of short stories in online magazines such as Strange Horizons, Uncanny and Apex Magazine.

She once fought Neil Gaiman to get to free nachos, leaving him weeping on the floor, covered in guacamole.


    Her works include: 

Online works:

Print works:

  • Black Dogs
  • Castle Hangnail
  • Dragonbreath
  • Nurk
  • Hamster Princess

Ebooks (as T. Kingfisher):

  • Nine Goblins (2013) (a sort-of prequel to Elf vs. Orc)
  • Toad Words and Other Stories (2014)
  • The Seventh Bride (2015) (Re-released in print)
  • Bryony and Roses (2015)
  • The Raven and the Reindeer (2016)
  • Summer in Orcus (2017)
  • Jackalope Wives and Other Stories (2017)
  • The Halcyon Fairy Book (2017)
  • Clocktaur War duology (2017-2018)
  • Swordheart (2018)
  • Minor Mage (2019)
  • The Twisted Ones (2019)
  • Paladin's Grace (2020) and sequels
  • A Wizard's Guide To Defensive Baking (2020)
  • The Hollow Places (2020)
  • Nettle & Bone (2022)
  • What Moves the Dead (2022)
  • Illuminations (2022)
  • A House With Good Bones (2023)

Works by Ursula Vernon with their own trope pages include:

Literature

Podcasts

Webcomics

Other works by Ursula Vernon contain examples of:

  • Alternative Calendar: Illuminations is set in a Europe that has adopted the French Republican Calendar. It is currently Year 65.
  • Animorphism:
  • Artistic License Geography: Some of her fairy tale retellings, while being set in the default medievalish Europeanish setting for fairy tales, include North American bird or plant species, because the author is a gardener and a birdwatcher, and includes details from her own experience. Examples include some of the plants mentioned in Bryony and Roses, and the enchanted bird in "The Dryad's Shoes".
  • Author Appeal: Almost all of her protagonists have at least some knowledge of horticulture, and many are avid gardeners. In Bryony and Roses in particular, the heroine is chosen specifically because of her gardening expertise.
  • Because You Can Cope: In "Godmother", a Fairy Godmother is confronted by a young princess who has just survived a harrowing adventure without any magical assistance, and demands to know why she didn't get any when other princesses in less dire circumstances did. The Godmother answers that she can't help everyone, so she helps the ones who are the least tough. She's lying—or, at least, not telling the whole truth.
  • Boring, but Practical: In Nettle & Bone, Marra's fairy godmother Agnes gave her and her two older sisters the gift of health. Marra's at first outraged that Agnes didn't give them something with more immediate oomph, such as a blessing that would've protected her sisters from marrying the abusive Big Bad prince. But being healthy, as Agnes points out, is pretty much always useful and doesn't have nasty side effects or unintended consequences. By contrast, the far more grand and exciting-sounding blessing the godmother of the Northern Kingdom gives is actually a curse and is the reason all its kings die young.
  • Chinese Laborer: In "The Tomato Thief", Anna and her family are descended from Chinese laborers who worked on the Transcontinental Railway, and have certain benefits from that heritage because the Railway has become a Genius Loci that's only willing to deal with the humans (or their descendants) who actually toiled and shed blood to build it, much to the frustration of the rich white humans who thought it belonged to them.
  • Cinderella Plot: "The Dryad's Shoes".
  • Domestic Abuse:
    • In the "Tam Lin" retelling "Let Pass the Horses Black", Janet is a domestic abuse survivor, which means she has experience taking pain unflinchingly that stands her in good stead in the Elf Queen's trials. Specifically, she suffered abuse at the hands of the Tam Lin character—it turns out at the end that she's only rescuing him as a necessary step toward achieving her real desire.
    • In Nettle & Bone, Prince Vorling physically and emotionally abuses both his first wife, Damia (whom he is implied to have murdered) and his second wife, Kania.
    • This is also a major part of The Twisted Ones.
  • Expy: Caliban and Brenner from the Clocktaur War duology are dead-on homages to Casavir and Bishop from Neverwinter Nights 2—a broody paladin separated from his order who thinks he can't be with the woman he loves and an unscrupulous killer only along on the trip because he has to be. Brenner even turns on the group at a crucial moment, just like Bishop, although in Brenner's case it's not his fault, or at least not entirely (an earlier reckless decision re: a demon comes back to bite him).
  • Fairy Godmother: The narrator of "Godmother" is a fairy godmother who has been asked to justify how she chooses which little girls to give magical gifts to.
  • Fantasy Contraception: Herbs to control fertility exist in at least some of her settings, but - as with some forms of real world birth control - for some people the side effects are severe. Halla in Swordheart mentions that when she tried them she was sick for days. In Black Dogs the herbs that ferret women use to control their heat - which is actually a serious health concern itself - also leave their fur permanently in winter coloration.
  • Genre Deconstruction: In general it can be assumed that the characters are driving the plot rather than the narrative and a Contrived Coincidence actually was contrived by someone. Characters even occasionally bemoan the fact that This Is Reality because it would be so much simpler otherwise.
    • Books set in the World of the White Rat (specifically the Clocktaur Wars duology and Swordheart) are very clear on the consequences of having to ride a horse all day when you have no prior horse-riding experience. Namely: ouch.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Slate and Halla, the protagonists of the Clocktaur War duology and Swordheart respectively, are both aware that they're not conventionally pretty, while their love interests think they're extremely attractive, but in a subversion, the ladies mostly don't care. (Halla's flirted with regularly, as Sarkiss sees, but she doesn't seem to notice.)
  • Inn Between the Worlds: She briefly wrote and illustrated stories of a brothel between the worlds called The House of Red Fireflies.
  • Makes Just as Much Sense in Context: Many of her works are pretty weird. And often as not, her explanation is "I don't know, either" or "I just paint the things, I don't have to know what they mean".
  • Mantis Mating Meal: Her series of vignettes about animal saints includes Saint Mantid, head of a mantis monastery dedicated to the memory of Saint John the Baptist ("male mantises often choosing celibacy and strongly identifying with those who have been beheaded, for obvious reasons"). One of the miracles attributed to him is "the Reattachment of the Head of Brother Ignatius, who fell victim to carnal sin and later returned to the monastery carrying his severed head in a sack."
  • Mythology Gag: In The Raven and the Reindeer, Gerta attempts to get a prophetic dream of Kay's whereabouts, and instead gets a series of dreams of other young people from various places (and, the narrator says, times). Two of them are recognizable from their descriptions as the protagonists of earlier fairy tale retellings The Seventh Bride and Boar and Apples.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: In The Book Of The Gear, the player character comes across a soot-darkened room with something lying inside on the floor. When they consider going in, their bird companion digs his claws into their neck in warning. They get the sense of something listening, and opt to back off without investigating further.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A dramatic example in Swordheart. After Sarkis rescues Halla from some attackers but loses track of her in the fray, he asks a nearby sex worker if she's seen her. The sex worker repeatedly tells him she hasn't seen anybody, and he keeps asking...until he realizes that a large, armed man covered in blood who wants to find a lone woman comes off as exactly the kind of person that woman should be getting away from. The sex worker is lying to help Halla get away and expects him to hit her for it. He apologizes, impressed by her courage, and goes to look on his own.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Halla is very easily distracted and goes on tangents, asking questions and wondering things out loud at the oddest moments, to the confusion and frustration of many around her. Some of this is just how she is, but she plays it up when she feels threatened and eventually explains that hardly anyone kills stupid women, they might knock her around and scorn her but they'll move on.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: Ursula's trolls, which appear in several otherwise-unrelated works, are all from the same mold, though very different from most other interpretations. Distant relatives of billy goats, they look like a combination of said ungulate with a giant frog; they are playful, friendly, nocturnal, and incidentally carnivorous, though they seem to eat only goats. They have a simple language that consists of variations on the word "Graah!" and can understand, but not replicate, human speech.
  • Prophecy Armor: Harriet the Invincible is about a fairytale princess who gets cursed Sleeping Beauty-style, but unlike Sleeping Beauty her parents tell her about the curse when they figure she's old enough to understand. Upon realizing that she's effectively invulnerable until the birthday in question, Harriet decides to take advantage of it by going out and having adventures.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In Swordheart, when enchanted warrior Sarkis asserts that he's fought dragons, the heroine Halla asks how big they were. He exasperatedly asserts that they were dragon-sized. When she asks how big that is relative to, say, a house, he starts banging his head against the wall.
  • Signature Style: Women (or occasionally men) with very little knowledge of the supernatural or fighting (but some knowledge of gardening) get in far over their head but power through it with good sense and practicality. Expect realistic outcomes, tropes to be played with, and some really weird and evocatively designed critters to be scattered about. There is a high likelihood of encountering an obscure animal.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Her Pokemon Trainer persona is a specialist in Grass Types who will corner you at a party and lecture about the loss of wild Tall Grass.
  • Southern Gothic: Her horror novels, which use the south to the same effect that Stephen King and Lovecraft use New England.
  • Talking Animal:
    • Played with in The Raven and the Reindeer. Gerta meets a talking raven, who tells her that all ravens talk, but not all humans can understand raven language. Later, she encounters a raft of magical otters who can talk in human speech because their mistress felt it was beneath her to learn otter language. In the end, after Gerta loses the ability to hear raven speech, the raven admits that he too can talk in human speech, but keeps quiet about it because it's difficult and he doesn't like doing it.
    • All the characters in Dragonbreath.
  • Themed Tarot Deck: With wombats, but only a few cards were made.
  • Third-Person Person: The gnoles, a sort of badger-like people, always say "a gnole" instead of "I" or "me".
  • Twice-Told Tale: Quite often. The Seventh Bride (Bluebeard), Bryony and Roses (Beauty and the Beast), and The Raven and the Reindeer (The Snow Queen) as well as most of the stories in Toad Words. In the Jackalope Wives collection, "Razorback" is based on "Rawhead and Bloody Bones", "The Dryad's Shoes" is based on the version of Cinderella with a magic tree instead of a fairy godmother, and "Let Pass the Horses Black" is based on "Tam Lin".
  • The 'Verse:
    • There are enough references to shared characters, cultures, and historic events that several of her stories can be inferred to take place in the same world. Particularly Black Dogs, Digger, Gearworld, and The Hidden Almanac. Nurk takes place in the same world as Digger; its protagonist is related to a Digger character.
    • Summer in Orcus explicitly does not share a world with the others, but is probably a part of the same multiverse since Dog Soldiers feature prominently. Especially since they specifically came to this world from another.
    • Her paladin romance novels all occur at in an as-yet-unnamed 'verse, containing the political superpower Anuket City, the paladins of the Dreaming God, and the civic-minded priests of the Rat. Halla's lawyer-priest Zale and their boss Bishop Beartongue from Swordheart show up again in Paladin's Grace. The Clocktaur Wars duology also takes place in that 'verse.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The wackiest. They feature prominently in her art, and crop up frequently in her writing as well. They're usually treated seriously, on their own odd terms. It helps that she studied anthropology in college.
  • Weird West: The Grandma Harken stories, beginning with "Jackalope Wives", are set in a small town in a version of the Southwest where figures from Mexican mythology and Fearsome Critters of American Folklore are real. The second story, "The Tomato Thief", features an immigrant from Slavic Mythology, and a few beings of more recent vintage such as the Gods of the Railway. The short story "Razorback" published in Apex Magazine, is in the same setting.
  • Western Rattlers: "Jackalope Wives", a story set in the Weird West, after the protagonist's grandson accidentally maims a jackalope, the main character goes into the desert to seek help from the Painted People. The Patterned People are giant rattlesnakes who can take the shape of humans and whose bites have supernatural effects, but who sometimes ask for a life in return for their help.

Alternative Title(s): T Kingfisher

Top