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Fifth book in The Nine Lives Of Michal Piech cycle. Originally one volume but evolved into two separate books.

Michal has left Achawa for the small village of Nowozyce. On encountering its denizens, his natural instinct for getting into, and causing, trouble, makes the local noble family fearful of him. Not wanting to be identified for who he really is, he tries to settle down - but between a squire anxious to disprove his identity but deeply in love with him, and the predatory Siedlecki, who carries on his campaign against him from the previous book, a quiet life is beyond reach. Meanwhile, Siedlecki confronts an old argument from the aftermath of the Lenkish War that threatens to undermine his plans.


  • Aerith and Bob - Discussed Trope.
    • Siedlecki, Marta Zakowska and Karol Friszmann despair that peasants and the lower classes are beginning to give their children fancier names than they used to. Babies are frequently named for notorious criminals; both Ambrozy (Ambrose) and Ksawery (Xavier) are names which follow this pattern, and it is mentioned that a new crop of children are being named Aushra (which in fact means 'dawn'). Ksawery's wife is named Konstanta (Constance), though this is a common Krovot name and Konstanta is vostochna anyway. Marta threatens to change Michal's name, for other reasons, which leads to this particular discussion; even Zakowski threatens Michal with this after the initial trouble.
    • Marta instructs Urszula always to have a 'Jan' and a 'Pawel' for servants; we find out their much more mellifluous names a bit later, echoing Real Life (and Upstairs Downstairs - it was a particularly Edwardian practice), where servants' names were regularly changed from something more exotic to something plain in keeping with their station. Jerzy Zakowski's father Alfons did change the name of his peasants and coolies, though seems to have left Ludovik Filemonovich Valeriyev alone.
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    • Overlaps with My Nayme Is with the priests Kryspyn and Seweryn; although both were chosen as more exotic names deliberately, both follow the normal Polish orthography. Seweryn is also a Shout-Out to the academic and historian of the communist parties, Seweryn Bialer, and actually means 'stern' or 'severe', also making it a Meaningful Name given the context in which religion is used in the book.
  • All Girls Like Ponies -
    • A male example is Siedlecki, who projects an equine obsession, particularly with the lineage of his own horse, which was Parsik's mother, and a fixation on geldings, or how that concept could be applied to human beings. It rubs off on others in the context of Michal wanting to change his clothes before giving evidence at the inquest:
      Friszmann: A set of fine horseshoes on a mule does not make it a general's stallion.
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    • Played very straight with Danuta and Parsik, with a Take That! to dressage in there too.
  • Arbitrarily Large Bank Account - averted, unlike in some other books. Both Friszmann and Zakowski appear to be wealthy, but both have large houses they can't afford to use half of, and there is some anguish when the coolies' misbehaviour diminishes Zakowski's ability to find buyers for the estate produce. The canny Zakowski has, however, squirrelled away money in property in the cities - to be left to 'whoever makes me happiest', potentially of course Michal - and views preferment in the Service as a way of adding to his fortune. He still has no particular money worries and the ability to spend a lot of time in town at complete leisure.
  • Arranged Marriage - Urszula and Danuta are both in the process of being married off. Despite being on the wrong side of sixteen, Danuta seems to warm to Siedlecki, particularly when he starts to shower her with gifts and affection. Urszula is determined to get on with Zakowski; she didn't see herself as lady of the manor but makes do.
  • As You Know - Marta to Zakowski about peasant justice. Semi-justified in that she and her son have different interpretations of what 'indecency' should be prosecuted and what should not - Michal kissed Kasia in full view of most of the coolies. She uses it to make a passive-aggressive attack on his own licentious behaviour:
    Zakowski: But there is no law against it, Mamma...
    Marta: There is no law against it in town. Otherwise you yourself would have been condemned to a labour camp years ago.
  • The Beard - Urszula, forced into marrying Zakowski to safeguard the future of the estate and 'disprove' his homosexuality. Even when they announce their engagement, everyone is embarrassed for them rather than happy.
  • Bi the Way - the only way Migdalecki can suitably explain why he was with Michal in the bushes when Horsebones is killed. His apparent enthusiasm for propositioning the estate workers, and seemingly turning Michal's head when Zakowski 'saw him first', gets him into rather a spot of bother...
  • Blue Blood - the idea of the nobility that one of them would be instantly recognisable even in labourer's clothing is deconstructed. Most of the characters that are either squires or their relatives (Migdalecki and Siedlecki are both younger sons of squires and, thanks to primogeniture, have to find another occupation to supplement their private incomes). Most people dismiss Michal's claimed identity because a gentleman, particularly one who is the heir to an estate like the Piechowie's, would not be as uncouth as Michal has become. At this stage it is entirely convenient for Michal to continue his masquerade, but it says a lot that a professed friend, Migdalecki, would think the same way as more ambivalent protagonists such as Zakowski and his mother.
  • Bromance - with a largely male cast, several examples are hinted at:
    • The misinterpretation of Michal's friendship with Branko gets rather lurid at points.
    • Lisak and his sidekick Wojciech have this relationship in mythology; the Allemundisch versions explicitly name them lovers but the Slovians believe in a platonic interpretation.
    • Siedlecki and Friszmann start off friendly and with a common cause, but their relationship becomes a little strained over the issue of Lyubov, arising from the difference between the town sophisticate being more pragmatic and progressive (in a proto-fascist kind of way) than the reactionary country yeoman.
    • Zakowski and Migdalecki have a good relationship, and confide in each other. Migdalecki exploits his friendship with Zakowski to get close to Michal in order to warn him about what is going on, but it is implied early on that they have been good mates for years, and despite some arguments, there is a completely platonic bond between them.
  • Busman's Holiday - Siedlecki is supposed to be on holiday in Nowozyce, but still pursues his political agenda - or is really using the excuse of having known Friszmann's wife in order to pay him a visit at this particular time.
  • Busman's Vocabulary - Siedlecki is intensely fond of military references, and his language is coarser in private to match his campaign background. He also displays a knowledge of lower-rank slang, particularly when he calls Parsik "army surplus", comparing him to discarded greatcoats sold off by demobbed soldiers after the war.
  • But You Screw One Cow -
    • Michal's cynical belief as to where the name Krovotka originates. The Krovot words for blood - krov - and the word for cow - krova - are distressingly similar. Pea Soup himself uses the word cowshagger to refer to the Krovots as a racist insult.
    • The vostochni are reputed to be practitioners of this. They apparently prefer donkeys (Michal was even insulted over it eight hundred miles away in Ludlin) but Pea Soup asks Michal and Branko what their personal preferences are which precipitates the fatal fight.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp" -
    • Bicycles are called velocipedes by Friszmann.
    • The sauna is called a laznia. The Polish word for bathroom, lazienka, is derived from that root word. The Finnish word sauna seemed too modern to use and the Russian word banya ethnically inappropriate. So an alternative was found.
    • A new catch-all word for waterborne diseases, encompassing everything from cholera to mild 'runs', is coined - waterplague. The Salvats do use cholera as a swearword (established in Ludlin), but waterplague is any disease that produces diarrhoea or similar symptoms associated with contaminated water.
    • Feather-bolster refers to a woman actively encouraging men to sleep with her, be she a prostitute or someone willingly going with a foreign army rather than coerced into concubinage. It has been used before by Silnov and Seymour to refer to their prostitute scooped from the Swellwater workhouse, where she was used to entice Seymour to fund repairs to their roofs.
    • The local magistrate's court may have absolute local power, but anything above it refers to it as a pigsty court.
    • Zygolo (pronounced with a soft 'zh' sound at the beginning, as in Brezhnev) was used once before to describe a male prostitute but here it becomes a standard word, as is the standard Polish use, rather than being synonymous with the word gigolo as a word for a male escort.
  • Camp Follower - Siedlecki's disgust for them has an impact on what he demands of Danuta regarding retaining her 'rational dress' when all around her are urging her to dress more prettily for her influential suitor, which may or may not be a Honey Trap from Marta to get him into a compromising position before she reaches sixteen and is legally able to marry him.
  • Christianity Is Catholic - yes, they are in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of a Catholic society. No, it's not Catholicism. Whilst the church of Lisak bears more than a passing resemblance, the most telling difference is that the Nowozycki priest Father Seweryn is married. The church of Minerva is also responsible for much of the high church trappings tacked onto the otherwise pagan religion of the lisachni.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority - This is part of Siedlecki's plan: make Michal feel that he is a rebel around whom people will rally against the rather vindictive magistrate and haphazardly-governing squire, with the intention of having him harshly sentenced for something minor in accordance with the prevailing jurisprudence increasingly bypassing the proper courts. The opportunities, however, are scant for true rebellion, and Michal resists the bait, preferring more to focus on the welfare of others rather than making a political statement, or taking up the causes of individuals such as Radek, rather than start the class war of which Zakowski is terrified. Like a paraffin-soaked coat it is nigh impossible for the events of the book to set him alight, particularly due to the fact that the trial of Horsebones' supposed killers is so ambiguous and unlikely to end in an actual conviction for murder though he does come into contact with communist ideals and starts his own passive rebellion against local authority when he is excommunicated for something he didn't do.
  • Courtly Love - As it stands, Michal's relationship with Kasia fits this, though perhaps given a chance it might have been consummated.
  • Courtroom Episode - the first book to go into extreme detail over Insulan legal process, including the various levels of court, from a country magistrate's front office, to a small-town courthouse, to a city court. (Previous books showed part of the investigation and trial processes but not the actual mechanics in place.)
  • Crusading Lawyer - Michal, though, in a twist on the trope, in his role as a witness, first identifying that Radek's hare couldn't have been poached the night before it was found, and then after being one of the four beaters when Horsebones is killed. He has a nebulous sense of injustice, fuelled by Branko as part of his ploy, but he was a poor lawyer before his disappearance, so he is always somewhat hampered by letting his sense of justice get away from the strict Rules Lawyer nature of Insulan common law.
  • Cure Your Gays - what most of his associates want to do to Zakowski. Homosexuality is seen as something abnormal but not stigmatised, and in fact in some circles it is permissible for a man to make advances to his servants or to male prostitutes, though slightly less acceptable for him to remain unmarried and enter a monogamous relationship with someone of equal social status. However, Zakowski, as the squire who needs to procreate in order to continue the succession, his idea of setting up home and granting privilege and property to a coolie such as Michal is anathema to most of the people around him. Hence Marta in particular believes any marriage is better than none, and will soon distract his attention from unsuitable people - and sets up Urszula as an approved mate.
  • Defiled Forever -
    • Lyubov, unable to return to her parents after being abducted by the Lenks to be used as a concubine. Friszmann is disturbed when he learns of her past and considers ordering Danuta to send her away after she marries Siedlecki - nothing is done for another book or two yet.
    • Kasia Osiatynska plays with this trope when she pre-empted rejection but at least Kominek, the father of her child, solves her problems...and creates more into the bargain.
  • Driven to Suicide - Radek can't even find a strong branch from which to hang himself. He initially lies to Michal that he is trying to walk to Karmino but admits the truth to Dr Motylecki.
  • Eating the Eye Candy - Zakowski regarding Michal, particularly in an earlier draft but subtly throughout the novel. For instance, at Radek's flogging he orders Michal to help take him back to the lock-up, and indulges his paternalist care for him by warning him not to get into such trouble. He also goes to the coolie settlement himself to advise Ludo and Michal of a new arrival, ostensibly to find out Michal's opinion on communism (lukewarm at best), when he usually just sends Chojnacki alone.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance -
    • Zakowski to most modern readers. He truly believes in the social pecking order but tries to make things right through that lens rather than just abusing his peasants and coolies. He hasn't really had any exposure to other opinions and no need to come to any sort of epiphany. As a meta-idea, it was a reaction against heroes and heroines in fantasy novels whose modern social beliefs sit so jarringly at odds with the beliefs of their society, as discussed on the trope page.
    • Michal's frustrations don't automatically lead to revolutionary tendencies. When he does stick up for rights, it's his own he's more concerned about rather than everyone else's at the same time. He justifies his situation by accepting how much Zakowski paid for him and originally assumes a deal might be done with Barwinski to make his own situation a little more comfortable rather than bothering about the fifty or so others who live in semi-serfdom. Even when goaded into it by Branko, his anger explodes in the wrong places at the wrong times, making him look more like he is throwing tantrums against petty bureaucracy than suddenly articulating revolutionary sentiments; his outburst at being excommunicated is selfish and crude enough to disrupt the careful friendship he has been building with Ludo. However much he wanted to fight for justice as a lawyer, when it comes down to it, he thinks more of people's welfare than their rights, partly because he was in Zakowski's position originally as regards his own estate, and partly because it hasn't occurred to him yet that communism is anything other than getting people basic amenities and making them more comfortable rather than a whole paradigm shift in the attitudes and structure within society. This may be a deconstruction of a heroic revolutionary character who has a shock epiphany.
    • It also seems that the other labourers simply can't be bothered about their own rights. In particular, the coolies are happy just to have an existence and to get paid and fed, without really worrying about their rather squalid situation, short life expectancy and menial position. Quite a number, including Pea Soup, who was on the brink of starvation when picked up by a labour-broker, have in fact seen worse.
  • Dramatic Irony - we know Radek's not guilty. Very few of the characters, particularly POV characters such as Motylecki, assume he's anything other than guilty. Motylecki rationalises it by assuming Radek is of the opinion that the game laws violate the laws of Nature by imposing arbitrary distinctions on who can take wild food and who can't.
  • Even Evil Has Standards - Siedlecki's angry reaction to his company's barbaric treatment of the three Krovot women is genuine, and not simply because he was just trying to divert attention from him potentially being complicit in the affair, or desensitising his men to violence against the Lenks and therefore having it backfire on the native population of Syevirlantovo.
  • False Soulmate - Kasia to Michal, and Michal to Zakowski.
  • Filler / Synchronous Episodes - this book and Points Of The Compass South West were written because otherwise there would have been an eighteen-month gap in continuity. Originally one book, the story in both books needed elaboration, particularly since the original draft didn't explain why suddenly Siedlecki got hold of Danuta, or why he ended up in Nowozyce. Similarly, the motivation and reason for Horsebones' death was unclear. The story overlaps with the other book to a reasonable extent but the fact that some earth-shattering political developments need expurgation lead the author to need the extra space that two books would give.
  • The Four Loves - Eros mistaken for something more intense has got the better of at least three characters; possibly four. Meanwhile Phileo is developing between others in preparation for the subsequent novels set in Nowozyce, and is demonstrated towards Michal by Migdalecki across the social divide. Zakowski and Migdalecki are another example of brotherly Phileo without a sexual subtext (it helps enormously that homosexual relationships between men of the same social standing are unthinkable).
  • Gods Are Good - Subverted. When Motylecki invokes the pagan superstitions to hope for a miracle during Kakula's abusive treatment and near rape of Konstanta, nothing seems to happen - until he realises that the gods intend for him to be her miracle, rather than sending a bolt from the blue.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion
    • Michal teases Zofia about being a witch and, in certain circumstances, probably being prepared to perform abortions. It is not clear whether she has actually been doing this, but across the Empire it is classed as infanticide. Zoya Maksimova, in the flashback to Lyubov's rescue, is pregnant by her abusers and agonises over whether to keep the child or to risk "criminal repercussions" by going out of Syevirlantovo to procure an abortion when the doctors have examined her and found her to be pregnant. Siedlecki promises assistance in providing for the child, but the end result is not discussed; this is not intended by the author to be a repudiation of abortion, just a means of Siedlecki trying to avoid Zoya being put in an invidious situation. Gilda, the rather more down-to-earth woman kept as a housekeeper rather than a concubine, advises her that the authorities, who don't want a rash of bastards to feed and clothe in the aftermath of the war, are turning a blind eye. However, she went ahead with the abortion, and she and the witch performing it got caught, with heavily-implied tragic consequences.
    • We see Michal's suspicion of Mother Bosacka through his horror that hands that might have performed abortion are examining his eyes to determine whether the aura he is seeing around selected people is spiritual or physical. It is directly mentioned that a former Nowozycka witch was hanged for infanticide, and that the peasants speculate that the old woman might end the same way.
    • Konstanta is a religious fundamentalist in the best possible sense of the word, and despite actually being in a situation where it might be convenient and even necessary believes very firmly that what the Goddess creates must not be destroyed except by the Goddess.
  • Hands-On Approach - Zofia and Michal's scars from Lowe Road. As a healer she gets close to a lot of men, including the people who get flogged. She is not allowed to marry as a witch but that's for much later on.
  • Heir Club for Men - a theme of the book. If Zakowski dies without issue, his estate is entailed on a local Graf, and will be folded up into their estates. Zakowski himself cares very little for this, however, making it something of a deconstructed or subverted trope. Even Marta thinks that would be no bad thing, given the peasant origins of the Zakowski family themselves - though she does at least feel obliged to try, and finding a mate for her son means he might grow out of his hankering for a coolie.
  • Incompatible Orientation - Michal to Zakowski. Although we know Michal is pretty much bisexual, it's obvious he wants a heterosexual relationship, a family and spends time courting Kasia and looking after Czesia.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses - Walentyna displays this mentality, to Danuta's surprise given her wealth and social status.
  • Jail Bait Wait - Siedlecki with Danuta. This isn't an Arranged Marriage; this is love, and a little bit of possessiveness/jealousy given her admiration for Michal, on his part. She looks on him very favourably, and he even has to fend off her enthusiasm.
  • Kangaroo Court / Rogue Juror - the big assumption most of the characters, rich and poor, make is that a jury trial will be be horribly biased against the defendants. Siedlecki is particularly confident in this assumption because even if Horsebones would have died from his wounds, he still deliberately made sure he was dead in front of witnesses he could trust not to be believed or not to make an accusation against him for political reasons. The pitfalls of jury trial - placing the fate of a criminal on trial in a capital case on twelve members of the public - are demonstrated in part 4. Note that in mediaeval England, the jury was often more biased against the defendant than it is now, and was actually considered a retrograde step when trial by ordeal was abolished, leading to the infamous peine fort et dure treatment trying to coerce someone to plead. (Much of the rest of Europe just dispensed with a lot of the formalities and adopted torture; whilst they were later deprecated later on in many countries, Tsarist Russia actually introduced them when reforming its legal process in the 1800s, and although they were abolished after the revolution, modern Russia has re-established them.) With a property qualification establishing juries of well-off men, just the sort of people who are threatened by the perception of a Powder Keg Crowd, the chances of a fair trial are believed to be completely minimal. Note the word believed.
  • Lie Back and Think of the Empire - Marta's advice to Urszula as a way of coping with marriage to Zakowski. Not surprisingly, completely unwelcome.
  • Make an Example of Them - a theme for the book.
    • The treatment of the Rydzowskich mob and copycat rioters has been unusually brutal: rather than being sent to regular prison, they have been sent across the Empire to do various types of menial labour in public, and are treated badly - shackled as if they were in a labour camp, obviously very badly fed and subject to arbitrary rather than judicial corporal punishment.
    • In Nowozyce, Friszmann actively looks to prosecute two or three coolies every year in order to make it plain that insubordination and petty crime will not be tolerated. He has to do this with discretion, because his judgements are subject to administrative inspection from urban courts, but it is calculated to subdue the otherwise relatively well-treated labourers on Zakowski's estate. Marta takes this Up to Eleven by devising punishments, largely of the short-sharp-shock variety, for coolies who have difficulty making the transition from city to town.
  • Meaningful Name - several examples.
    • Ironic in the case of Lyubov Morozova, raped by the Lenks and then abused by Pea Soup's comrades. Her first name means 'love'. Her surname, 'Frost', is also discussed in the context of Medvedev and Branko's slightly awkward and insensitive comments about the inhabitants of her home town, one of the most northerly of the Empire and in a sub-arctic climate zone (Achava is meant to be on a similar latitude to St Petersburg). It also implies she is frigid - cf Defiled Forever, above.
    • Michal goes on a Vision Quest early in the novel, while recovering from his initial illness. Whilst he is under no illusions that "Brankowski" does not mean "raven" in Salwat - that would be kruk, as in Kruczewo, his home town, Bosacka, the rather erratic and indiscreet hedge-witch shaman, tells him that bran means raven in an obscure dialect of a Galtarai tribe which settled in the ethnically heterogeneous Dnivki region, originally Salvat but now part of Krovotka with its own minority nation. (Long story, but basically the Welsh intermingling with Ukrainians.) Michal is from the hinterland of this region and comes to the conclusion that Branko is there to help him, not as someone sent to hurt him.
  • Minion with an F in Evil - Branko - because he is actually sympathetic to the coolies' concerns, is one himself, and is just as vulnerable to Siedlecki's manipulative behaviour as Michal is.
  • The Mole - Branko.
  • Never Recycle Your Schemes - Both Seymour and Siedlecki consider outright murder or assassination to be too likely to rebound on them or their operatives. Siedlecki knows where Seymour's previous ideas of framing Michal for a murder have gone wrong, and wants a quiet, anonymous death with no obvious perpetrator. Hence the plot of the book - to get him directly into trouble in a situation where men of his class and temperament are sitting-duck targets.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! - the B-plot involving Ksawery Radek and his wife. Egged on by Branko to think of others as well as himself, Michal starts the ball rolling - leading to heartbreak for the family. To be fair, it might have happened anyway in different circumstances once what Kakula does to Konstanta was found out by her husband. It just happens in a more public place with much more public consequences.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene - Pea Soup is guilty of this against women on his own side; even Siedlecki found it despicable and threatens to expose his involvement if he doesn't do what he wants. Lyubov, one of his company's victims, has a flashback when she sees his name on an envelope in Siedlecki's study and leaps to several wrong conclusions.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat -
    • The noble-born Marta to her son:
    "Even before emancipation, serfs could buy their way into freedom and with prodigious hard work and the luck of having an unbroken male line some of them even became squires."
    "[W]henever the Graf had to deal with [Walentyna] he lost the relaxed, jolly demeanour that was the norm for him and climbed back inside a fragile eggshell easily shattered by his impatient wife."
  • Plea Bargain - discussed:
    • It is not generally available under Imperial common law. But Danuta advises Radek to plead guilty so he is whipped rather than go to trial in a higher court and maybe on to prison, putting his wife and children further into distress. For this she earns Michal's idealistic contempt for making an obviously innocent man plead guilty, even when she is trying to mitigate Radek's punishment because she knows it is a tough case to win outright. Imperial law is based on English common law, so in general formal plea-bargaining is not often practised. The magistrate's court is a less formal justice system, with a different set of customs, and this means confession is more likely to mitigate a sentence (as in English law), or at least confession means the punishment is less deleterious to Radek in the long run than a spell in prison might be, given the trivial nature of his alleged crime.
    • Dumala, while not a paragon of virtue himself in this situation (having left Branko and Pea Soup in prison for a month before a hearing that normally takes place very quickly after the militia makes a charge) stresses the importance of not thinking mitigation works quite as much by clockwork as they hoped. The choice is murder or manslaughter: confession to manslaughter might mitigate a sentence, but confession to murder will still lead to the gallows. A potentially capital case is always tried in open court despite whatever confession exists, because of the importance of proving that confession to be true (a bit like the concept of allocution in American law).
    • This and the Insanity Defense make an appearance in a flashback to the case which caused Michal's nervous breakdown. Wilfred Young appears completely insane - there is no other motivation for his alleged crime - and Michal's clerk Pratchett suggests using this defence instead of trying to make out that Young was only found cradling the dying man trying to revive him and had not actually killed him himself. Based on the punishment for insanity - life locked up in a room only big enough for a bed and a chamber pot - Michal rejects this plea bargain and goes for broke - and as we know gets broken in half.
  • Powder Keg Crowd - the Empire is becoming this - the tension has been ramping up for a while, but the riots at Rydzowskich and other similar locations in other cities brought the possibility of mob rule and reaction into stark reality. In the two Points of the Compass books, a political point of no return has been reached; in this book, Michal is insulated from its worst effects, but it is seriously worrying the rural authorities and Siedlecki is manipulating their fears so they rebound on Michal.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech -
    • The first instance is a variant. Zakowski launches into a tirade against Michal's faults at one dinner, explaining how a coolie makes a bad family man, that coolies are only interested in indolent poverty, that Michal drank himself into the workhouse and is running after Kasia simply because he wants a woman to go to bed with. He then realises he's actually in love with Michal and backtracks in order to justify why Michal might make a better servant than any other peasant man.
    • Barwinski, who knows who he really is, to Michal:
    "I fear you give your heart away too quickly, or you let the dissipation of youth carry you away, forgetting that you are not at the moment a squire's heir sowing his wild oats."
    • Magistrate Dumala to Zakowski - effectively telling him to either put up or shut up as regards Michal, in order to spare himself and Michal more embarrassment and shame over their relationship and to protect the credibility of the case in hand and Friszmann's court in general.
    "It will make a complete mockery of this case, however, and I do not want that – and neither will you."
  • Sakura - Siedlecki mentions cherry blossom falling in his orchard to Danuta, accompanied by a look of wistful distress.
  • Seme - Zakowski towards Michal, albeit unable to pursue him but setting him high standards to live up to if he wants his help and preferment.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog - a number of examples, beginning with Danuta persuading Radek to confess to poaching the trout in order to forestall a trial he might win but probably wouldn't, stealing Michal's ability to do something positive out from under him, and ending with Siedlecki deciding that, for the moment, dispensing with Migdalecki and Lyubov in his calm and rather vicious fashion is more important, when all eyes were otherwise on preventing him getting to Michal.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X - Justified Trope - for the villain. Siedlecki employs vostochni as gofers and fruit-pickers, and the Minervan Krovot Lyubov as a housekeeper, and treats at least Lyubov reasonably well, despite being openly xenophobic/racist and a member of a violent nationalist group. Migdalecki struggles to break out of this as well - his friendship with Michal has never made him particularly sympathetic to the vostochni, but he has the possibility of learning rather than continuing in denial. As a lawyer and a bureaucrat (working in the Imperial equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service), he finds it handy to have convenient labels to pigeonhole people. With Michal excommunicated and refusing to convert (not that he is put under any pressure to do so), the difficulty arises: having had his faith stripped from him, is he no longer a vostochni, or is he still part of their 'race' and still subject to local discrimination?
  • Stepford Smiler - Lyubov. She appears to be devoted to Siedlecki in a way that appears rather odd given his professed views. However, what she tells Branko undermines much of what Siedlecki intends to do in Nowozyce.
  • Straight Gay - Zakowski does not act camp and is not particularly effeminate.
  • Switching P.O.V. - the first book in the series to actively constrain itself in most if not all chapters.
  • A Taste of the Lash - the theme of the book:
    • Corporal punishment was in use in the Russian countryside until the early 20th century as a peasant-only punishment; the system is based on this form of local peasant justice. On Insula, the peasants are subject to it for petty crimes, and although it never left the statute books as acceptable for use by a magistrate and local 'executioner' (used in its historic sense as someone who 'executes' a punishment, not just capital punishment), it fell into disuse around the time Michal was born due to more liberal attitudes beginning to prevail. It has come back since the Great Offscreen War because of its use as a way of extracting food out of villagers in order to feed troops and refugees, and it was found that it cleared large backlogs in municipal courts in which petty poaching and theft would otherwise have been tried. It also punishes peasants and coolies more effectively than sitting around in a lock-up for a week not working. It isn't, however, used that often in Nowozyce - only two or three times a year on the coolies and free peasants are often informally fined by Friszmann. Ksawery Radek is, however, beaten 'onscreen'.
    • Marta wants to go further and allow Chojnacki to dispense on-the-spot justice with his riding crop.
    • Michal's father refused to allow it in Kruczewo, but has to compromise with the local magistrate and Graf Wieslawski, who take advantage of this to permit a local vostochni soltys, living on land belonging to Wieslawski, to birch petty criminals extra-judicially. Wladek can't get them to stop him unless he sanctions corporal punishment across the whole district. This is explored further in Points Of The Compass South West.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine - subverted. Kasia has a supernatural talent for needlework, which gets her out of the settlement into the big house. However, her parting gift to Michal, when he sends her teabags, is a needle, the right thread to mend his cricket jumper, and an injunction to patch it if he finds darning it too hard and not to sew his sleeves together while repairing it.
  • Wake Up, Go to Work, Save the World - little of the actual farm-work is given much screen time. It's heavily implied that Michal and his friends spend every day at work, and much more happens in the evenings than during the day, but the action is not focused on this as much. Compare the scenes in Achava set in and around the business of a censorship bureau or those in Going Home set around a building site and a government public works ministry. Farm labour is not as sexy. Then again, in the draft, Michal was picking potatoes after snow-melt. Anyone who grows potatoes will tell you that frost kills off an entire crop. So more research may need to be done before the book can be released.
  • Vision Quest - a couple of times.
    • Michal's mother takes over his mind while he is undergoing Adventures in Comaland. Sceptical at first, he speculates on which animal she will send to him to give him succour. It turns out to be a raven, the family emblem, but, deeply cynical as he is, he understands that his role at the moment is to eat leftovers and croak from the sidelines.
    • Zofia undergoes more of a traditional peasant seance by using a sauna and sprinkling certain psychotropic herbs into the water used to create the steam. On meeting her animal totem, she is disappointed to find out she is not the spirit of a bear or wolf, but is guided by a weasel - small and able to stay out of trouble, and the one person actually good at being an advocate for the less powerful in the community.

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