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Literature / A Chorus of Dragons

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What if you weren't the hero?

A Chorus of Dragons is a High Fantasy series by Jenn Lyons.

In the heart of the great city of Quur, capital of the empire of the same name, evil is afoot. Kihrin, a young but talented thief, is carrying out what he thinks is a routine burglary when he inadvertently stumbles upon two evil wizards, the victim they're torturing, and the powerful demon they've summoned. Then it turns out one of those wizards may actually be Kihrin's long-lost father — which, incidentally, makes him a member of House D'Mon, one of the most powerful (and corrupt) noble houses in the empire. As it turns out, going from Rags to Royalty isn't as much fun as its made out, especially since your newfound family is rotten to the core and a cesspool of cutthroat intrigue. Of course, the intrigues of House D'Mon are only a very small part of the events unfolding around the world. There are far more powerful forces at play than Kihrin realizes, and some of them are very interested in him, and a small group of other special youths whose paths he will soon cross, indeed. Especially since it turns out Kihrin may be destined to destroy the world...


The series consists of the following books:

  • The Ruin of Kings (February 2019)
  • The Name of all Things (October 2019)
  • The Memory of Souls (August 2020)
  • The House of Always (May 2021)
  • The Discord of Gods (April 2022)

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Darzin is horribly cruel to both his legitimate son Galen and to Kihrin who isn't actually his son but his half-brother, but who he claims as his son. Gadrith isn't as sadistic to Thurvishar, but clearly views him as one part experiment, one part leverage over Relos Var and never treats him as an actual person with feelings.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Kihrin meets Lady Alshen D'Mon, she introduces herself as his stepmother and his birth father's wife. He mutters "my condolences" under his breath in reply, and is surprised when she finds that worth a laugh.
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  • Affably Evil: Relos Var maintains a remarkably laid-back avuncular demeanor for a millennia-old dragon wizard intent on freeing an ancient evil and overthrowing the gods.
  • The Ageless:
    • All of the Vor races used to be this, but sacrificed their immortality long ago to shore up Vol Karoth's prison, leading to the creation of the mortal races of the present day. The Vane are not actually this, but achieve either completely stopped aging or aging so slow it's not outwardly apparent via use of their natural shapeshifting ability, which has the side-effect of rejuvenating their bodies.
    • The Emperor of Quur is kept from dying of natural causes such as age of disease by the power of the Crown and Scepter, and can only die by violence. As such, emperors tend to live as long as they can hold onto power; Atrin Kandor managed nearly a millennium.
  • Alien Sky: The world's sun is orange and swollen, and its day sky isn't blue. At night, there are three moons and Tya's Veil, a shimmering aurora visible all year at all latitudes. Notably, only the moons are a natural occurrence — the sun is like that due to its age actually, it's been aged prematurely by Vol Karoth taking a bite out of it last time he was awake, tinting the sky, and the Veil was placed there by the gods to keep out its radiation. In-universe, very ancient literature and poetry are noted as unusual for making no mention of the Veil and using blue and yellow as primary color motifs for the sky.
  • Always Chaotic Evil:
    • Demons. This is mostly down to the extremely traumatic process of being transformed into a demon and then assimilating their first few souls afterwards; very few incipient demons survive this experience with their sanity intact. It turns out it is possible for someone to turn into a demon without becoming corrupted, as Janel and Jerith both prove, but most demons are little more than rampaging ids and perfectly happy to be such.
    • Dragons are more always chaotic period. They're not all malevolent (though they can be) but being extremely upredictable and of questionable sanity at the best of times still makes them extraordinarily dangerous to anyone who crosses their path.
  • Amazon Brigade: In The Name of All Things, Xivan Kaen, Duke Azhen Kaen's first wife, ends up taking the rest of his harem under her wing and training them in swordplay and combat magic. By The Memory of Souls they've become a very effective fighting force that's extremely loyal to Xivan and call themselves the Spurned.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Played with: Janel's gender identity is perfectly clear to herself and her own people, and is ambiguous only because non-Joratese cultures don't have the language to succinctly describe it. In Jorat, she's a "female stallion," which means she adopts a masculine social role (stallion) but is still female physically and for sexual purposes, with neither the desire nor need to physically transition (which some Joratese absolutely do, by means of magic; this is considered separate from the stallion/mare divide, which is entirely based on social role and not physical body); in her culture, this is completely unremarkable. Outside of Jorat it's much trickier, and she mostly just defaults to presenting as a fairly butch woman (though it should be noted she dislikes being referred to as a "woman" without qualifiers).
  • Anachronic Order: Much of the series is structured like this; most obviously, The Ruin of Kings alternates between Kihrin's backstory and the 'present' story every other chapter, while the bulk of The Name of All Things takes place concurrently (outside the Framing Device) with the first book, telling what Janel was doing at the time.
  • Angel Unaware: Khaemezra is initially presented as a powerful but otherwise unremarkable sorcerer and priestess, but is later revealed to be Thaena, the goddess of death, in mortal guise.
  • Anti Anti Christ: Aside from the "destroying Quur" part — which they mostly agree would be deserved if it happened — none of the four 'Hellwarriors' are particularly keen on the whole 'ending the world' thing and are determined to forge their own destiny rather than following the track the gods, the demons or Relos Var set out for them.
  • The Antichrist: The Hellwarrior, a prophesied figure who's supposed to release the demons, overthrow Quur, and maybe destroy the world. Azhen Kaen and Gadrith the Twisted both think they're him. There are actually four Hellwarriors — Kihrin, Tereath, Janel and Thurvishar — though Kihrin, with his connection to Vol Karoth, fits the concept best.
  • Anti-Magic: Wizards can enchant objects called talismans so that they provide their wearer with protection against magic; they drawback is that a talisman will also somewhat inhibit the wizard's own spellcasting ability. Most wizards carry a couple of talismans, enough to provide some protection from hostile magic without hampering their own powers too badly Witch hunters are wizards who carry so many talismans that they've become completely immune to magic, for the price of also being unable to wield it themselves.
  • Anti-Villain: Senera isn't really malevolent; she's just in awe of her mentor/father figure Relos Var and thinks he's the only one who can save the world, and that all the murders they commit are justified in pursuit of this goal. After she realizes that Var hasn't been straight with her, and that he's just as much of a threat as any of the forces he's fighting, she does a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Anything That Moves: Tereath's sexual interests basically boil down to 'anyone or anything capable of reciprocating.' Vane in general seem to have this attitude, having a culture with a very casual attitude towards sex and sexual experimentation, but Tereath gets the most focus since he's a main character (and the two primary objects of his interest are Kihrin and Janel, also main characters).
  • The Archmage: Relos Var is near-universally considered the greatest wizard in the world; Grizzst the Mad is close behind him, and they're both leagues ahead of anyone else.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Discussed and explored. Not every member of a Quuros royal house is personally evil, and some are just as much victims of the empire's oppressive system as the commoners are. That said, the royal houses as institutions are all deeply corrupt and predatory.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Cornerstones are a group of powerful artifacts linked to the souls of the dragons. Not all of them are especially doom-y (the Name of All Things is fairly benign and is only dangerous if you don't know how to work it properly) but some are:
    • The Stone of Shackles' powers correspond to slavery and enables the casting of gaeshes.
    • Warheart may be even worse; its powers can encompass an entire nation and turn everyone in it into paranoid, bloodthirsty nationalists fanatically loyal to whoever holds the stone and implacably hostile to everyone else. The God-King Nemesan used it back in the day to raise an empire that posed a genuine threat to early Quur.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: The only way to win the crown of Quur; when the Emperor dies, the Crown and Scepter are teleported to an arena in the capital, and the first person to grab them becomes the next Emperor. Doing so is easier said than done, since you have to fight off every other claimant to get there.
  • Awful Truth: As revealed in The Discord of Gods all demons were originally mortal. The practical meaning of this is that when demons are destroyed, their souls - both their own and the souls they've eaten - go back into the same general pool of souls that mortal births draw on for reincarnation. Which means that Relos Var's plan to banish all the demons would also kill anyone whose soul was a demon or part of one in a previous life - which, as it happens, is around 99 percent of everyone. Worse? Var knows this - he thinks it's acceptable losses.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Most of The House of Always consists of such a battle between Kihrin and Vol Karoth, with Kihrin's companions getting pulled in at various points. Kihrin wins.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Wyrga is always accompanied by a polar bear cub that never seems to age; Senera and Janel eventually discover that the cub was originally human. It turns out that this is actually her husband, Cherthog, cursed into this form. When Quur invaded Yor, Cherthog demanded that Wyrga — aka Suless — hide him from the invaders, as she was a greater wizard than he was but he had her under a gaesh to ensure her obedience. Unfortunately for him, the way he worded the order was sufficiently vague that Suless fulfilled it by turning him into the cub, in which form the Quuros indeed never found him — but, being unable to speak, use his magic or change back, he was also unable to command Suless ever again.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Vol Karoth is made entirely from S'arric's worst thoughts, feelings and memories. He's also very well aware of this and knows he's missing the good things in life but can't understand what those are, which just fills him with hate and spite all the more. His existence is utterly miserable.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: With so many antagonistic forces with constantly shifting allegiances running around, it can be hard to pick out just who is actually going to represent the biggest threat to the world at large. By the end of House of Always it's mostly settled into a Big Bad Ensemble with Relos Var and Xaltorath between them being responsible for most of the series' conflict, but also opposing each other. Across the earlier books, Gadrith, Azhen Kaen and Suless all have their hands in the pot as well, in addition to Vol Karoth as the Sealed Evil in a Can several of the above want to take advantage of in some fashion; sometimes these people work together, and sometimes at cross purposes. In The Discord of Gods the God-King Nemesan who'd spend most of the series hiding out in the background as Lord Havar D'Aramarin throws his hat into the ring as well, nominally allied with Relos Var while also pursuing his own ambitions.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Gadrith has convinced himself that he, not Kaen, Relos Var or Kihrin is the Hellwarrior and that he's destined to rule first Quur and then the world. He's very, very wrong about this, and is defeated by the end of the first book. In The Discord of Gods he gets brought back... by Relos Var to use as minion, and he ends up getting offed again without accomplishing much of significance.
    • Suless makes a fairly impressive initial showing, but still gets taken out by The House of Always having largely failed to gain the power she sought. An alternate version of Suless from a previous timeline, however, was much more successful and became the core soul of the demon who would become Xaltorath.
  • Black Cloak: Black is the D'Lorus house color, so members of that house tend to wear it; in Gadrith's case, however, his usual black robes only serve to underline his nature as an archetypal Evil Sorcerer.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: When Tyentso is talking with Gadrith and mentions a former friend that the latter killed, Gadrith initially has no recollection of him — he's murdered quite a lot of people — and only recalls him after Tyentso describes in considerable detail, after which he does recall the deed... as a trivial experiment in soul-binding with little emotional investment.
    "Who's Phaellen?"
    Tyentso rolled her eyes. "Really, Gadrith? You murdered him."
    Gadrith gestured for more information. "And?"
    "House D'Erindra? Your roommate? You lured him into the woods and botched making a tsali stone out of him, leaving his upper soul to wander the forest as a damned, twisted shade. Does that sound familiar?"
    "Oh!" Gadrith looked offended. "I botched nothing. I made an important breakthrough in separating the upper and lower souls."
    "So you do remember him?"
    "Yes," Gadrith said. "He snored."
    Tyentso just stared. "I hate you so much."
  • Captured Super-Entity: Duke Kaen's court witch, Wyrga, is actually the god-queen Suless under a gaesh. When the gaesh is broken, she's quick to single-handedly wreck Kaen's operation and kidnap him.
  • Cain and Abel: Relos Var and S'arric in the backstory. Darzin and Kihrin in the present day. Because Kihrin is S'arric reincarnated, this means he technically has two brothers who hate his guts.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Most of the main cast are somewhere on the LGBT spectrum; Kihrin and Janel are bi (though it takes Kihrin a while to realize this), Tereath is pansexual, Senera is a romantic asexual (and Thurvishar might be, too) among others.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Demon armor (on those occasions demons wear armor and assume a more-or-less humanoid body type) tends to look like this more than anything functional. Justified because demons are virtually impervious to harm from mundane sources anyway; they wear armor more for decoration than protection.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Deconstructed. Kihrin is an orphan boy who turns out to be a long-lost scion of one of the empire's powerful noble houses, and is taken in by it fairly early in the narrative. However, his birth father is a sadistic monster, the nobility is squabbling, corrupt and power-hungry, and his adoptive family is brutally murdered by his birth family's agents in the same event that brings him to their attention.
  • Cold Flames: Demons consume heat and produce cold, and thus when they create fire they do so in the form of cold blue flames.
  • Colonel Badass: Because of her standing as Relos Var's apprentice, Senera technically holds the rank of colonel in Duke Kaen's army. As for the badass part, she's a very skilled (and deadly) wizard in her own right.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: All of the Quuros royal houses are associated with a color that is used in their clothing and heraldry (blood members of a house tend to have eyes of this color as well). Most obviously, House D'Mon's color is blue, and House D'Lorus's color is black.
  • Contrived Coincidence: These tend to happen around Kihrin, most obviously when he finds Urthaenriel completely by accident right when he needs it. This is explicitly a result of the fact that the goddess of luck likes him.
  • Court Mage: Relos Var holds this position at the court of Duke Azhen Kaen (though in truth Var is the one really calling the shots, not Kaen). Grizzst the Mad was this for Emperor Simillion, first emperor of Quur.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Grizzst, under most circumstances, is a drunk and womanizer who has the demeanor more of a frat boy than a great wizard. Get him sober and on task (easier said than done), however, and he will demonstrate that his reputation as one of the world's greatest wizards is very well earned.
  • Death Is Cheap: It is if the death goddess Thaena likes you, anyway, since she can both resurrect and reincarnate the dead and is perfectly willing to do so often, whether because her priests petition her to do so on behalf of worshippers, or for her own reasons. After Thaena's own death in The Memory of Souls, death in general gets a lot more permanent.
  • Deity of Human Origin: In addition to the god-kings (who are really just very powerful wizards who figured out a way to gain immortality via worship) the Eight Immortals were all original mortal beings who ascended to godhood by tying their spirits to abstract concepts.
  • Demon Lords And Arch Devils: Demon Princes, defined as those demons strong enough to infect mortals and turn them into demons in turn, are the royalty of the infernal realms and even the most powerful non-demonic beings consider them nothing to sneeze at. Xaltorath is the most prominent plot-wise, and is they're not the most powerful period are at the very least up there.
  • Demon of Human Origin: Many demons were once human souls who were infected and transformed by other demons, losing their humanity and sanity in the process. Lampshaded by Xaltorath, who observes that in their opinion, there's only one real difference between a human soul and a demon... time.
  • Destroyer Deity: Khored, one of the Eight Immortals, is the god of destruction. Despite his portfolio he's a pretty laid-back guy and is generally one of the nicer Immortals.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Azhen Kaen, Duke of Yor, Relos Var's political patron who intends to conquer Quur for himself in revenge for their conquest of Yor decades ago, and who might well be the Hellwarrior. He's removed from the stage at the end of The Name of All Things when the god-queen Suless slips free of his control and kidnaps him, and he turns up dead partway through The Memory of Souls, having largely failed at accomplishing his goals.
  • Divine Parentage: The Eight Immortals are fully capable of bearing or siring children with mortals, though said children aren't really that different from other members of their species beyond typically having their divine parent's favor. Most obviously Tereath is the son of Thaena and Janel is the child of Tya.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: In theory, Relos Var works for Duke Azhen Kaen as his Court Mage. In practice, Kaen is merely following the agenda set by the far smarter and more powerful Var; it's unclear how much of this Kaen realizes.
  • The Empire: The Great Empire of Quur is the unquestioned superpower that rules over most of the northern part of the continent where the series is set. It's also deeply corrupt, was brutally expansionist in its past, and makes extensive use of slave labor and supports an extensive global slave trade as a result. It's also, notably, the country the main character calls home.
  • Enemy Civil War: Per Janel, the only reason humanity has survived is that the Demon Princes hate each other as much as they do anyone else, and spend at least as much time attacking each other as they do attacking the mortal world.
  • Enemy Without: Vol Karoth is eventually revealed to be this for Kihrin, as he is the reincarnation of S'arric while Vol Karoth is the embodiment of all of S'arric's worst aspects. They were separated five hundred years ago by Elana Milligreest. By the end of The House of Always they've reintegrated, with Kihrin's personality in control.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Downplayed. Most people don't especially like the death goddess Thaena, because, well, death, but since she can also resurrect the dead her cult is nonetheless fairly widespread and accepted. Thaena herself ends up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, but for reasons largely unrelated to her portfolio.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Unlike his ally Darzin, who knows full well he's bad and revels in his cruelty, Gadrith mostly just seems mystified as to why anyone would care about things like 'empathy,' 'morality' or 'compassion'.
  • Evil Genius: Relos Var, ruthless schemer and would-be-god, once described without irony as the smartest man in two universes.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: The demon realm is said to be unimaginably cold, with conditions near the Nythrawl Wound bearing this out. Demons themselves love to start fires when invading the mortal world, but this is actually because of their frigid natures — they literally feed on heat. That, and they just like burning stuff. When creating fire under their own power, they produce chilling, ghostly blue Cold Flames.
  • Evil Is Petty: A footnote by Thurvishar suggests that Gadrith murdered his academy roommate and bund his soul in order to take his spot as the highest-scoring student in their class.
  • Evil Mentor: A popular move of Relos Var's; he's Senera's magic teacher and as Father Zajhaera was both Janel's and Brother Qown's teacher. All of them eventually see through him.
  • Evil Overlord: At least some of the worst god-kings were like this. Cherthog and Suless had a well-deserved reputation for cruelty; Khorsal, god-king of Jorat, was apparently so bad that the Joratese were perfectly happy to become Quuros vassals if it meant getting rid of him; Qhuaras, who founded Quur itself, also seems to have been responsible for a lot of the problems that continue to plague Quuros society even if it didn't go full empire until after his death; Nemesan, an early rival of Quur, used a Hate Plague to enslave his own subjects and turn them into a nation of frothing fanatics that even Quur was barely able to conquer.
  • Evil Sorcerer: There are a number of less-than-morally-upright mages running around these books, but Relos Var, Gadrith the Twisted, and Darzin D'mon stand out as the most prominent.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Relos Var (evil; wants to prevent the destruction of the world but also wants to rule it and uses very unethical means to get what he wants) vs the demons (oblivion; incarnations of pure chaos that come from a giant hole in reality that's slowly eating the planet).
  • Faux Affably Evil: Darzin is a rather cheery fellow, and he can be friendly and charming when he wants to be. When he loses his temper, though, the arrogant, vicious sadist he really is comes out to play.
  • Footnote Fever: All of the books are extensively footnoted by either Thurvishar (one and three), Senera (two and four) or both (five), providing context, additional worldbuilding and, especially when Senera's writing, snarky commentary.
  • Functional Magic: Magic involves manipulating tenye, the energy produced by living things, in order to cause a variety of effects. Mastering it generally requires a combination of natural gift (which is fairly common) and extended training (which is much rarer, especially in Quur where the royal houses and the Academy strictly control who is allowed to learn and practice magic). People who are strongly gifted in magic also usually develop a so-called 'witch-gift,' an ability they can tap instinctively without formal training.
  • God-Emperor: The god-kings, as their name suggests, who ruled most of the world prior to the rise of Quur. Suless, Cherthog, Qhuaras, Khorsal, Nemesan and Ynis were among the most prominent. Most of the god-kings were killed or overthrown by Quur during its expansion; those who survive mostly keep a low profile, focusing more on the "god" part rather than "king" by continuing to run their cults but mostly staying out of politics.
  • Godhood Seeker: Relos Var wants to overthrow the Eight Immortals so he can set himself up in their place.
  • God Is Flawed: The Eight Immortals, for the most part (some are more benevolent than others), really do want to help people and protect the world from the demons, but they are still people who've been stuck doing a difficult and largely thankless job for millennia and they're fully capable of screwing up, sometimes on a very grand scale.
  • God Job: The Eight Immortals were originally ordinary people who took up the job of protecting the world from demons and got permanently tied to particular cosmic forces in the process. Further emphasized when it's revealed that Taja developed a process to pass the mantle on should she or any of the others die.
  • God of Evil: Vol Korath is explicitly described as such, though in practice he's more a god of entropy, explicitly described as being like a black hole in humanoid form.
  • God of the Dead: Thaena, the Pale Lady, is the Queen of the Underworld and the Goddess of Death. She judges the souls of the dead and decides whether they may enter the Peaceful Land or not, and her priesthood is responsible for burials and for raising the dead — a process that consists of appealing to the goddess, and which succeeds or not based on whether she decides that the mortal should be returned to life. Her cult's holiest rite culminates in a worshipper committing suicide in order to encounter her in person. If she finds them good and worthy, they return to life at the end of the ritual. If she doesn't, they stay dead.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: God-kings do, anyway. The first god-kings figured out how to harness the tenye from living people and so gain immortality and vastly increased powers, but it has to be given willingly — such as through acts of worship. The Eight Immortals are powerful enough they don't need this extra tenye to survive, but getting it can make them stronger.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Relos Var, when turning his brother S'arric into Vol Karoth intended to create a being capable of entering and closing the Nythrawl Wound. That's exactly what he got. Alas, he couldn't control Vol Karoth and as a side effect, Var and his collaborators in the ritual all got turned into insane dragons. Indeed, much of his schemes are based around trying to pick up where he left off and put things back on track.
  • Good Powers, Bad People: The D'Mons specialize in healing magic, but are also the most brutal and corrupt of the royal houses (and least, as shown on-page) which is saying something. Darzin in particular has few qualms about cutting loose with his sadism since he has access to plenty of healing magic to keep his victims from dying accidentally.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Most of the humanoid races are cross-fertile with one another, and while hybrids are relatively rare they're common enough to be seen as little more than mildly exotic in most situations.
    • All of House D'Mon have some Vane blood, due to being descended from a captive Kirpis Vane princess who was forced to marry into the House. Kihrin is actually more Vane than not, being the son of the quarter-Vane Therin and the full-blooded Vane Khaeriel; he mostly looks like a somewhat pretty-faced human, but has been mistaken for Vane on at least one occasion.
    • Thurvishar is half dreth, though this rarely comes up aside from the fact that he's apparently more resistant to drugs and poisons than a full human would be.
  • Hell Gate: The Nythrawl Wound, located on the distant continent of Nythrawl, is a gigantic portal to the realm of demons. It's also slowly growing and, if not closed, will eventually devour the entire planet.
  • Hellish Horse: When Khirin is being chased by a demonic hunt in the afterlife, the huntsmen ride a variety of monstrous steeds. No two are alike, but they include horses made out of living fire or darkness, ones resembling freshly slaughtered corpses, skeletal steeds with glowing eyes, scaled reptilian equines, and the like, many with cold blue flames sparking from their hooves.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Per his wife Xivan, Azhen Kaen started out with genuinely noble goals of freeing his homeland of Yor from Quuros rule; by the present of the story, however, he's become exactly what he hated — just another scheming, cruel would-be world ruler.
  • Hidden Agenda Villain: Even by The House of Always it's unclear exactly what Xaltorath stands to gain from all of this; considering what they're like, it's almost certainly nothing good. The Discord of Gods confirms that their goal is to tear down the universe entirely so they can remake it in their image - and become the all-powerful god of the next universe in the process.
  • High Fantasy: Let's see — secondary world, lots of magic, epic storyline that deals with the deeds of gods and demons and the fate of nations, prophecies galore... check, check, check.
  • Human Subspecies: The vorfelané (ancestors of the vané) are eventually revealed as an offshoot of the voras (ancestors of humans) who split over ideological differences (though both races have since undergone various transformations that make them physically distinct). Technically, it's noted that all the Vor and their descendants share a common ancestry and thus all can be considered "human", though by the present day only the descendants of the voras use that term for themselves.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Wyrga aka Suless likes to trick people into eating things they would find abhorrent; she nearly tricks Janel into eating horse (for a Joratese, only a very small step below cannibalism, and Janel is disgusted and horrified at the revelation) before Senera stops her (in the accompanying footnote, Senera advises her readers to never eat Wyrga's cooking).
  • I Have Many Names: The dragon Sharanakal has gone by a long list of titles and names over his life, including Earth Terror, Ground Shaker, World Ripper, Night's Fire, Betrayal of Foundations, Toppler of Cities, and Old Man.
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Downplayed. Most immortals naturally look like they're in their physical prime, in their mid-twenties or so. However, many of those immortals are also powerful mages, gods, vane or mimics who can alter their appearance by illusion or physical shapeshifting, and thus can appear at any age they want. Relos Var is an obvious example; despite pushing fourteen thousand, he's a youthful-looking pretty-boy in his true form or at least what was his true form before he became a dragon but prefers to appear as a middle-aged man instead, which he feels to be more dignified.
  • Incapable of Disobeying: Particularly unruly or difficult slaves are controlled using gaeshes, items created by ripping out a piece of the slave's soul and putting it into a small object. Afterwards, anyone who holds the gaesh can command the slave to do whatever they please, and the slave cannot disobey — or, technically speaking, they can, but the gaesh's magic will kill them horribly for their defiance.
  • In-Series Nickname: Kihrin names the two wizards he spies on near the beginning of the first book 'Pretty Boy' and 'Dead Man' after their physical appearances, since he doesn't know who they really are. He doesn't entirely stop using those nicknames even after he learns they are Darzin and Gadrith, respectively.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Tyentso confronts Gadrith over having murdered a friend of hers and experimented on his soul, he is completely unfazed at her accusations — but he does take genuine offense at her claim that he botched the actual soul-binding.
  • Karma Houdini: Most of the major villains are killed or otherwise punished at the end of The Discord of Gods but God-King Nemesan escapes and though his plan to seize the throne of Quur failed, he's still out there and might return to try again someday.
  • Kick the Dog: Darzin is effectively a dog-kicking machine, reveling not just in his cruelty but his sheer pettiness — apparently, he bought Talea as a slave and deliberately didn't buy her twin sister Morea too, even though it was well within his capacity to do so, for no other reason than that he thought it would be funny to separate them.
  • Kill and Replace: Mimics must kill and consume people in order to learn to take their shapes, and often use this trick to impersonate their targets after disposing of them in order to infiltrate organizations or get closer to further marks. Mimics can impersonate people who are still alive, but they won't be as convincing if they haven't had the body and brain to snack on first.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: Krakens are very powerful and intelligent creatures, capable of preying on ships and whales with ease, and also known as Daughters of Laaka as it is believed the god-queen Laaka created them. It's revealed in The House of Always that this is not true; krakens are a very ancient species that actually predate the arrival of the Vor, much less the rise of the god-kings.
  • Last of His Kind: Barring certain gods and dragons, Grizzst the Mad is the last of the Voras.
  • Lazy Dragon: Dragons spend the majority of their time asleep, and can slumber for decades at a time. Once, the dragon Baelosh promised the Emperor Simillion that he would hunt him down and kill him after he finished a short nap. When the short nap was over, twenty-five years had passed and Simillion was already dead.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Darzin D'mon, one of the two evil wizards Kihrin stumbled upon near the beginning of the story, quickly proves to be his biological father. Not really. Therin D'mon is Kihrin's father, making Darzin his much-older half-brother.
  • Made a Slave: Khirin is sold as a slave midway into the first book's overall narrative, in order to quickly get him out of Quur.
  • The Magocracy: Quur, where the Emperor is always a powerful wizard (even if they weren't before, thanks to wielding the Crown and Scepter) and the royal houses all specialize in different kinds of magic.
  • Maker of Monsters: The god-kings often turned their magic to creating entire species of servants, soldiers and monsters, such as the snow giants, the centaurs, the Thriss Snake People, and the krakens. Many of these species are extinct or nearly so by the present day, having fared poorly after the god-kings fell, but some have continued to thrive and plague civilization since then.
  • Mana: Tenye is an energy generated by living beings which is used to power magic.
  • Mega Maelstrom: The Maw is an immense vortex created when ocean currents run into the islands around Zherias, and lies rather inconveniently in the middle of what would otherwise be a prime shipping lane. It's surrounded by smaller whirlpools, called its Fangs, which are each large enough to wreck a ship. Its central funnel, the Throat, is a mile across and impossibly powerful and dangerous.
  • Mind Hive: Demons consume and assimilate souls to get stronger, and retain elements of the memories and personalities of their victims. Most older demons do, however, develop a comparatively stable dominant personality of mixed elements from their original souls and particularly powerful ones they've consumed. Xaltorath in particular is said to have a personality composed of thousands of screaming souls. Mimics do something similar, though they just steal thoughts and memories via their Psychic Powers and don't assimilate actual souls.
  • Mind Rape: Xaltorath inflicts this on Kihrin when they first meet by filling his head with images of horror and depravity (and worse, of he himself committing these acts). He later explicitly describes the experience as a form of rape.
  • Monster Misogyny: Subverted with the morgagge. Whenever they raid human settlements, they always go out of their way to target women because they're actually matriarchal and haven't figured out that the Quuros aren't; by killing women, the morgagge assume they're killing leaders or potential leaders.
  • Mordor: Nythrawl is a very cold version; an entire continent that's completely desolate, icebound and lifeless owing to the giant (and growing) Hell Gate at its center.
  • Mystical White Hair: Senera has hair that's varyingly described as white or very pale blonde and, as Relos Var's apprentice, she's a very powerful wizard in her own right.
  • Nay-Theist: Senera doesn't disbelieve in the existence of the gods, she just thinks their terrible at their job and has little use for them. Ironically, she ends up becoming (briefly) the new goddess of magic in ''The Discord of Gods.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • The Quuros 'royal' houses aren't actually royalty in the conventional sense, as their members are forbidden from ruling or otherwise holding political offices; they're more like corporations, and most of their power bases are economic. That said, they do get to vote for the Voices who actually run Quur (and are the only ones who do), so they have a lot of influence even if they don't sit on thrones themselves.
    • Vol Karoth is called the King of Demons, even though he's not actually a demon and doesn't rule them (and indeed, will destroy demons as happily as he destroys anyone and anything else). But the demons themselves call him that for their own inscrutable reasons, so the name stuck.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: If asked, Gadrith will insist that by usurping the throne of Quur, he will have the power he needs to build a better world. Because Gadrith is a psychopath, it's pointed out that his 'better world' would probably only be a better world for Gadrith himself.
  • No Woman's Land: Quur is highly patriarchal (and homophobic). Note that this mostly applies to the capital itself and its environs (and Yor), as many of the cultures that make up the empire are much more egalitarian on their own turf.
  • Odd Job Gods: The god-kings tend to have much more specific domains compared to the Eight Immortals, especially younger god-kings who don't want to step on a more established god-king's toes (and risk getting into a fight they can't win). The result being that new god-kings often look for a very specific niche that's not taken; one of the youngest is literally the god of toilets and outhouses (he's actually fairly popular, as it happens, because, well, everybody poops).
  • Older than They Look: Most of the D'Mons look much younger than they actually are, owing to their Vane blood.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Vol Karoth, left to his own devices, would eventually destroy the entire planet — and there's no reason to think he'd stop there.
  • Only One Name: Vane names composite the family and personal names into a single word, with the first syllable being the family name (Vane get to pick which parent's lineage they consider themselves a part of). For example, Tereath is from the Ter bloodline, and his father is Terindel.
  • Our Angels Are Different: They're not a distinct class or species of beings in themselves; rather, 'angel' is a term for the empowered agents of a given god or gods.
  • Our Demons Are Different: They're formless, chaotic beings from another universe who've been invading the story's world since time out of mind. They feed on souls and energy, are evil and hateful in a way no mortal can ever match, and, due to losing a war with the gods, they can only enter the physical world at the summons of wizards who can then command them. They're keenly interested in changing this status quo, however, and sufficiently powerful demons who slip their bindings can set about summoning more demons and starting a destructive rampage known as a Hellmarch. At least some of them were once infected humans.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: There are only eight nine counting Relos Var of them in the whole world, which are immortal, the size of hills, and highly intelligent. They're ungodly powerful creatures, and generally treated as living cataclysms more than something that can be fought and killed. They spend most of their time sleeping, hoard treasure, and instead of breathing fire exhale volcanically hot air. It's revealed late in the first book that they began their lives as a group of humanoids that tried to become gods, and failed very badly. In The Discord of Gods it's further revealed that true dragons as a species in their own right once existed in the world but voluntarily left it at some point before the Vor arrived; it's indicated that the corrupted ritual forcing its subjects into this form was not a coincidence.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: The dreth are also known as dwarves and hit most of the typical beats; live underground, physically hardy, excellent miners and craftsmen. However, though they're stereotyped as being short, it's noted that this isn't really true.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The vané, being an ageless, ethereally beautiful humanoid race, are essentially elves by another name (with the addition of limited Voluntary Shapeshifting powers). They're divided into the Kirpis vané (cultured, sophisticated, snooty — high elves) and Manol vané (ruthless, xenophobic but closely linked to nature — wood elves) nations.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The morgage, a brutish, warlike humanoid race, roughly fit the "orc" niche, with the twist that they're descended from the Voramer and thus have some aquatic features. Also, they're all born male and will eventually become female if they live long enough.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Gadrith and Xivan are explicitly described as vampires; essentially ghosts inhabiting and animating their own corpses, which they have to feed on the life energy of living people in order to keep from decaying. Xivan can pass herself off as a living person with some effort, if she's fed recently. Gadrith just doesn't bother; indeed, Kihrin nicknames him 'Dead Man' before later learning that he really is a reanimated corpse.
  • Our Witches Are Different: Witches are magic-users who practice their trade illegally, meaning without an official permit to practice magic and without having studied at the imperial mages' academy. The term is technically gender-neutral but, because all female magic-users are witches by definition (women are legally prohibited from studying magic in Quur), "witch" has become strongly associated with female mages in common usage.
  • Order Versus Chaos: The Eight Immortals (order) versus the demons and dragons (chaos).
  • Orphan's Plot Trinket: Kihrin wears a small stone on a necklace, which is a keepsake from his biological mother. It turns out to be the Stone of Shackles, one of the Cornerstones.
  • Pet the Dog: Early in The Name of All Things Senera wipes out most of a Joratese village but takes care to save a puppy, whom she later adopts and names 'Rebel.' Thurvishar lampshades this, pointing out that a person as ruthless as Senera presents herself as being wouldn't have bothered and that this is a sign she has more of a heart than she admits.
  • Planet of Hats: Mostly averted, as the majority of the nations in the series aren't that hatty, but played straight with the Joratese, whose hat is horses. They love horses, and almost everything they do has a horse motif. Senera actively lampshades it, and occasionally mocks it, in her footnotes for The Name of All Things.
  • The Pollyanna: Talea; it's repeatedly lampshaded that it's really quite remarkable that she can maintain such a cheerful, upbeat demeanor at all times, considering her tragic personal history.
  • Portal Network: Quur has a network of 'gatestones', maintained by House D'Aramarin, that allow for quick and easy transportation across the empire.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: Demons sometimes do this rather than entering the world in forms of their own creation; in some parts of Quur, cremating the dead is a near-universal custom for this reason.
  • Power Crystal: Tsali stones are colorful jewels formed from crystallized mortal souls, and are consumed by unscrupulous wizards to power their magic.
  • Precursors: The four Vor races — Voras, Vorfelané, Voramer, and Vordredd — who were the immortal ancestors of the modern races. Humans are descended from the Voras, vané from the Vorfelané, morggage from the Voramer, and dwarves from the Vordredd.
  • Predecessor Villain: The original group of demon princes responsible for the first demon invasion of the mortal world and corrupting Relos Var's second apotheosis ritual to create the dragons and Vol Karoth. While they're directly or indirectly responsible for almost everything going wrong across the series Vol Karoth ate them as soon as he came into being, so they persist in the present only as creepy but powerless voices in his head.
  • Pronoun Trouble:
    • Nobody's quite sure what pronouns to use for the demon Xaltorath, who can and does appear as male, female or neither depending on mood and whim. It turns out Xaltorath was originally female, but has since absorbed countless souls of every gender into their Mind Hive, so 'they' is probably the most accurate in every sense of the word. By The Discord of Gods everyone mostly just agrees to use the proper pronouns for whatever gender Xaltorath is presenting as at a given time and they/theirs for Xaltorath in general.
    • Downplayed with Janel, who tends to default to she/her pronouns in languages that have them even though they're not quite right for her actual gender (in her native Joratese it's not an issue, as that language doesn't use gendered pronouns).
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Thurvishar works for his adopted father Gadrith only because he's been gaeshed but takes no pleasure in it. Once Gadrith is dead and the gaesh broken, he's perfectly happy to leave that part of his life behind and team up with Kihrin instead.
  • Punctuation Shaker: All Voras names have an apostrophe somewhere in them. It's eventually revealed that this represents a contraction between their personal name (which is only used by itself by close friends, family, and lovers) and family name. For example, Relos Var's original name was Rev'arric, which is a contraction of his personal name (Revas) and family name (Arric).
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Senera believes that Relos Var's goal is to overthrow the Eight Immortals, which is a big part of why she supports him. She's less enthused upon learning he intends to set himself up in their place.
  • Restraining Bolt: A gaesh is an object into which a fragment of someone's soul has been bound; its holder can command them to do anything, and the gaeshed person has to either comply or suffer terrible pain (which is eventually fatal). This technique is used in Quur on particularly dangerous or volatile slaves, and occasionally by powerful and evil mages to bind people who aren't technically slaves like Thurvishar is by Gadrith.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The entire job description for the Emperor of Quur seems to be "please banish any demons that show up." Tyentso makes waves when she makes it clear she intends to actually take a hand in governing the empire in addition to banishing demons.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The dark god Vol Karoth is imprisoned in stasis in the middle of the ruined city of Kharas Gulgoth.
  • Sex Slave: This is a common use for attractive slaves in Quur and the Free States — enslaved prostitutes make up the majority of the sex workers there.
  • She Is the King:
    • Joratese noble titles always take the masculine form, even if the holder is female. This is partially due to Joratese gender roles (which assign gender entirely independent of physical sex and consider ruling to be a masculine quality) and partly because, as Janel points out when explaining why she's a count rather than a countess, a 'count' is a ruler and a 'countess' is a ruler's consort — they're different jobs.
    • After Tyentso becomes the first woman to hold the throne of Quur in her own right, there's much debate as to whether she should be styled "emperor" or "empress." By The Discord of Gods she's mostly settled with "empress" but still sometimes gets called "emperor" as well.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Much of Quur's economy is built on slavery, and it's made very, very clear how utterly awful it is.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Darzin is fantastically arrogant and self-absorbed for someone who is, in the grand scheme of things, an extremely minor player — he's really little more than Gadrith's lackey, and even in the Quuros political hierarchy there's plenty of people above him.
  • Snake People: The Thriss are a race of scaled humanoids with cobra heads from Zherias and its surrounding islands. They were created by the god-king Ynis, who greatly liked snakes and modified his subjects to more closely resemble them. They survived his death during Emperor Simillion's purge of the god-kings, and still inhabit Zherias' jungles.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: The god-kings were wizards of immense power, each ruling over a country as an unanswerable overlord and shaping entire artificial races as servants and soldiers.
  • Soul Jar: Among other functions, the Cornerstones serve as soul jars for the dragons; every dragon has a corresponding cornerstone, and in order to permanently kill them, the stone must be shattered first. If this isn't done, the dragon will resurrect before long. The relationship flows both ways; if the Cornerstone is shattered and the dragon isn't killed, the stone will eventually re-form.
  • The Starscream: Gadrith works for Relos Var, but ultimately intends to betray him and seize the mantle of the Hellwarrior — and the throne of Quur — for himself. Var knows this but tolerates Gadrith anyway because Gadrith's adopted son Thurvishar is also Var's biological grandson, and whatever his other faults Var is loath to risk harm to his own bloodline.
  • Stripperiffic: Talon's usual outfit more-or-less consists of some strategically-placed belts and nothing else; per Kihrin, it provides absolutely nothing in the way of either modesty or protection. Considering Talon is a nigh-indestructible shapeshifter, she probably doesn't feel much need for a more protective or concealing garment.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: When The Misery is being grappled by a kraken that can't be fought off, Teraeth gets Kihirin to sing in order to awaken the Old Man, an immense dragon that Teraeth figures, correctly, will eat the kraken, after which they can figure out how to deal with a hungry dragon in a poor mood.
  • That's No Moon: Dragons are so big that people tend to mistake them for parts of the landscape until they move. When Sharanakal is introduced, Kihrin first mistakes him for a craggy island... until the island opens its eyes.
    Most people see something that enormous and assume it must be a hill. It's too large for us to process as a living creature when it isn't moving.
  • Trickster God: Taja, goddess of luck and chance, often worshipped by thieves, con artists, and gamblers. She's Kihrin's patron deity.
  • Unequal Rites: In Quur, women are formally prohibited from practicing magic or studying at the Academy. Tyentso notes this as being incredibly hypocritical, since the deity of magic is a goddess, and mostly rooted in that fact that if women are permitted to be wizards then it becomes difficult to argue that they shouldn't also own property or have a say in whom they marry.
  • Unstuck in Time: It's established early on that demons don't experience linear time the way mortals do. This turns out to be a plot point, as The Memory of Souls reveals Xaltorath is actually from a possible future and is moving back and forth in time to influence events towards their desired outcome.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Discussed by Senera when she explains her reasoning for turning on Relos Var. If your only win condition is successfully presenting the apocalypse, then you can justify any lesser atrocity as a positive. And that mindset can lead to really bad things.
  • The Virus: Demons reproduce by infecting other creatures, who then transform into demons themselves. It's not clear for most of the series what, exactly, the original demons may have been, but many of them now were once human, or close to it. It's eventually confirmed that all the original demons were once humans from the previous universe who transformed themselves into pure magic beings to escape what was apparently heat death and went completely off their rockers in the process.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Kihirin and Tereath bicker constantly, but it doesn't stop Kihrin from describing Tereath as his best friend without hesitation. Overlaps with Belligerent Sexual Tension, as Tereath makes it very clear he's into Kihrin and that he believes Kihrin reciprocates, even if he won't admit it. Eventually, he does.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Several types of beings can do this:
    • Mimics, as their name suggests, have very expansive shapeshifting abilities and can take the form of any humanoid and at least some animals.
    • Demons don't have true forms in the conventional sense, existing as pure spirit in their own domain. When they enter the mortal world they can take any form of their choosing — though they often appear as monsters, in truth a demon's body is limited only by their imagination (and/or any limitations imposed by their summoner).
    • Vane have a more limited form of this ability; they can change hair, skin or eye color at will and are capable of more complex transformations, but this is much more difficult, time-consuming and uncomfortable. It's eventually confirmed that Vane and mimics are related.
  • Weak-Willed: As pointed out by Khaeriel, this is Therin D'Mon's Fatal Flaw. He does understand how messed up Quur at large and his own family in particular are and wants them to be better, but he lacks the drive to actually go through with making it happen (or to exert much control over his psychopathic son Darzin).
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Relos Var genuinely wants to prevent the end of the world. Unfortunately, his massive ego makes him think he's the only one who can save the world and that any atrocity he commits in pursuit of this goal is, by definition, justified.
  • Were Dragon: Relos Var can shift between human and dragon forms at will. The other dragons may be able to do so as well, as they were all original human (or humanoid, at least) but never demonstrate the ability on-page and may not be sane enough to pull it off.
  • Wild Card: Nobody's entirely sure what the mimic Talon is trying to accomplish or who's side she's really on. Even Talon herself doesn't always seem sure what side she's on, owing to the numerous conflicting minds that make up her personality.
  • Wizarding School: The Academy, run by House D'Lorus, is Quur's premier school of magic.
  • World of Technicolor Hair: The vané have brightly colored hair in all the shades of the rainbow. The Manol vané tend to have hair in saturated or jewel tones, while the Kirpis vané have hair in paler pastel shades.
  • The Wild Hunt: After being sacrificed to a demon, Khirin finds himself in a dark forest where a troop of demons mounted on Hellish Horses and led by a huntsmaster bearing a pair of antlers chases him down.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Relos Var and Xaltorath have been manipulating each other for millennia to such a degree that it's really hard to tell which one is pulling ahead.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: The Lighthouse of Shadrag Gor is a mysterious structure in Quur dating back to the time of the Voras; nobody's quite sure what it was originally for, but time moves much faster inside of it than outside. Various people take advantage of its properties across the series.
  • Your Soul Is Mine!: If a mortal's soul is caught at the moment of death, or forcefully extracted from a living victim, it can be turned into a solid jewel known as a tsali stone, which can then be consumed by a mage to power spells or rituals. Likewise, demons can either bind the souls of their victims to themselves or consume them outright. In either case, a bound soul cannot enter the afterlife or be resurrected as long as it remains trapped (that is, until the stone is broken or the demon somehow tricked or destroyed). If it's consumed, it simply ceases to exist.