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Literature / Alex Verus

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"My name is Alex Verus. I'm a mage, a diviner. In mage terms I'm unaligned, which means I'm not affiliated with the Council but don't count myself as a Dark mage either."

An urban fantasy series by Benedict Jacka.

Alex Verus runs a magic shop in London, and he's a diviner. His magic lets him see the probability of future events, predicting what'll happen by seeing the various possibilities ahead of him. It makes him very good at finding things out, but not so good when it comes to brute force. As a result, he tends to get approached by other mages, who are less good at finding things out but who possess an abundance of brute force which they're more than willing to use if they don't get their way.

The twelfth and final book was released in 2021.

  • Fated (2012)
  • Cursed (2012)
  • Taken (2012)
  • Chosen (2013)
  • Hidden (2014)
  • Veiled (2015)
  • Burned (2016)
  • Bound (2017)
  • Marked (2018)
  • Fallen (2019)
  • Forged (2020)
  • Risen (2021)

There's also a series of articles about the world and setting called the Encyclopaedia Arcana which can be found on the author's website here.

This series provides examples of:

  • Armor-Piercing Attack: This is why Life mages are considered scarier than the average mage. Their life magic and Touch of Death can get through an elemental mages shields, as if they weren't there.
  • Artificial Intelligence: As of Forged, Alex has befriended November, a being that is a sentient AI merged with magic. Levistus had been using it as a database for the blackmail he had on the other council members.
  • Affably Evil:
  • All-Loving Hero: Anne. Except she doesn't actually like being this.
  • Asshole Victim: Tobruk, the fourth apprentice Richard took on. Alex says that while there are many things that he regrets from his time as Richard's apprentice, killing the evil prick was one thing he was glad to have done.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: In Veiled, Alex notes that, up until the 16th century, many mages created towers as their headquarters and saw them as a status symbol. Then cannons came along and they discovered that those two don't mix very well.
    • Accumulators, magical devices that drain ambient magic out of the air to then massively amplify a spell cast through them, strong enough to turn a simple light spell into a Wave-Motion Gun capable of leveling a fortress. Problem is, they take almost twenty minutes to charge under ideal conditions and the charging process is incredibly noticeable and thus an enemy will have more than enough time to stop it. Oh, and they're highly illegal under the Concord.
  • Ax-Crazy: Deleo, who can barely go anywhere without killing someone. She's so batshit insane that divination doesn't work on her. Onyx is a more subdued example, but he always responds to something getting on his nerves by smashing it, hurting it or flat-out killing it. Lots of things get on his nerves. Both their mentors, Richard and Morden respectively, are rather disappointed in how their chosen turned out.
  • Badass Boast: Alex gives one of these during the climax of Taken:
    Alex: I’ve had enchantresses bewitch me and elemental mages burn me. I’ve stood against one of the most powerful battle-mages in this country and watched him die. I’ve faced Light mages and Dark, constructs and assassins, elementals and dragons, and I’m still here. You think you’ll be the one to take me down? You think you’re going to succeed when they couldn’t? Not you. Not today!
    • He gets another in Forged when speaking to the Council about a ceasefire:
      "That was not me threatening you. This is me threatening you. There were seven of you at that table when you voted to sentence me to arrest and interrogation and death, and when you sent those Keepers to hunt me to the corners of the Earth. There were six of you at that table when you refused my offer of a ceasefire and ordered Talisid's team to ambush me. There are five of you at that table now. If you refuse my offer again, I will continue this war with every resource and ally at my disposal. I will use information from Levistus's files to sow discord in your ranks and destroy your base of support. I will ally with your enemies and use the information I've gathered over the years to strike you where you are most vulnerable. And if that still doesn't work, I will come after you personally. I will arrange your destruction at the hands of others, as I did Sal Sarque, and I will kill you with my own hands, as I did Levistus. I will hunt you down one by one, so that there are four of you around that table, then three, then two, and if you still won't listen then I will keep going until every member of the Senior Council is dead and the Star Chamber is empty except for a records clerk sitting in an empty room."
  • Badass Normal: Council security operatives in general but Garrick from the second book especially.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The Great Fire of London is rumored to have been engineered for the purpose of destroying the series of spires near St. Paul's Cathedral that served as the old HQ for the Light Mages in Britain.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Luna and Variam.
  • Benevolent A.I.: November. He's a bundle of anxiety when Alex finds him, but all he wants to do is be free of Levistus, and he's all too happy to help Alex after.
  • Benevolent Boss: Surprisingly, Morden is this to Alex. One of the most powerful Dark Mages in the country, allied with Richard and forcing Alex to work for both of them with a suspended death sentence, he doesn't belittle or bully Alex. He shows trust and appreciation towards Alex abilities as his aide, explains things to Alex when he doesn't understand something, and listens to Alex's input. He treats Alex much better than most Light mages do.
  • Berserk Button: Deleo/Rachel has tons, due to being crazier than a shithouse rat. Chief among them are Alex's existence, mentioning Shireen, and calling her by her original name.
  • Big Bad: Levistus and Richard are shaping up to be this, with Alex right in the middle of them.
    • The Djinn controlling Anne appears to be attempting to ressurrect the final Big Bad of the series; the Sultan of Djinn, who wants to wage war and destroy all humanity.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Veiled. Alex is now a full Keeper auxiliary and White Rose is destroyed, but the latter has put Alex irrevocably on Levistus' shit list and helped Richard advance his plan. Also, demand for what White Rose was offering is still there and someone might take up their niche in the future.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Briefly, thanks to the monkey's paw, Alex is robbed of his Divination. He gets better, though.
  • Call-Back: The assault on Levistus' base is practically a highlights reel of all the ways he's tried to kill Alex over the course of the series. Mantis Golems, Ice Cats, AP mines, gunmen, mages, Keepers and his aide Barrayar, all in one place. He even pulls out another enslaved air elemental for the final battle.
    • In Fallen, when Alex visits the Fateweaver's Tomb, the stain on the ground that used to be Griff is still there.
  • Charm Person: Enchanters and Enchantresses like Meredith as well as Mind mages like Crystal are good at this sort of thing, though Enchanters are much more subtle about it.
  • The Chessmaster: Several people vie for the title, both among Dark and Light mages, with Levistus being the most prominent. Richard Drakh proves himself worthy of the title in Bound.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Crystal.
    • Also the Light council's modus operandi.
  • Combat Clairvoyance: Alex exploits this heavily, which is the reason he can survive fights with things massively more powerful than he is.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Alex uses whatever is on-hand to fight, and states outright in the second book that killing people is often safer than trying to disable them. The one person he does spare in the assault on the keep nearly kills him later in the assault. A particularly impressive example happens early in the second book: He finds some mercenary wiring an AP mine, waits until the trip wire is set and throws a wrench into it while the mercenary is still right next to it.
  • Combo Platter Powers: A mage tends to only be able to do one type of magic but elementals tend to get a few superpowers like creating forcefields or portals on top of their element.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: According to the Encyclopaedia Arcana, trying to burn a Fire mage is like trying to drown a fish and it's specifically mentioned that some of them can walk through lava. It's generally averted for everyone else, though.
  • Corrupt Politician: Many mages on the Light Council, including in the Senior Council. Levistus is only the most prominent example. We see more of them in Marked.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Dark Anne and Alex attacking Levistus in Forged. His forces never stood a chance.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Luna's curse has the nice side effect of rendering her immune to casual misfortunes and making her generally lucky. It brings bad luck to her enemies, too. Justified in that the curse was created by taking a useful (if morally questionable) luck-draining spell and making it permanent.
    • Her power is also noteworthy for being almost impossible to block or even detect making her a phenomenally effective battle mage and duelist, at least against her classmates (and in her final test).
  • Deadpan Snarker: Alex has his moments.
    • Luna from Taken onwards has this as her trademark.
  • Designated Girl Fight: The first book has a bizarre one between two air elementals.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • A space mage called Symmaris in Burned, who is terrified of stepping into Alex' store for fear of him murdering her, but she has no qualms gating waves upon waves of gunmen into his home to kill him in his sleep.
    • Meredith. She finds herself in a tough situation, she'll always fold.
    • Lyle. He won't do anything to harm his chances of promotion. He acts tough when in control, but is terrified if taken out of his comfort zone.
  • Disappointed by the Motive: At the end of Risen, Alex finally asks Richard why he's been doing everything he's been doing throughout the series. It turns out, he's just a megalomaniac and just wants power for power's sake, claiming that power is required for any cause but not actually mentioning any such cause. Alex is distinctly unimpressed.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Throughout Forged, Alex tries to barter a ceasefire with the Council so he can focus on dealing with Anne and Richard. He assumes that they'll want to deal, as he is now in possession of an extremely powerful magical artifact and he just helped kill one of their senior council members, but they don't. He realizes that they don't know about the Fateweaver, and they don't know how he's the one who got Sar Sarque killed. It's not until the end, after he's killed Levistus and taken the AI elemental with all their blackmail that they start taking him seriously.
  • Dumb Muscle: Onyx doesn't use his brain often. He's a violent thug who uses his magic to smash through his problems. He's still a threat because he's one of the more powerful combat mages in the series.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Everything left behind to kill you in the Fateweaver's tomb still works just dandy. Of course, as the traps are magical and located in a pocket dimension, there's no reason they would necessarily wear out in the first place.
    • The place is starting to fall apart in Fallen, though it's left open how much of that is because the spells are running out and how much is because Onyx damaged the statue the place was keyed to.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Luna is much more demure in the early novels, her Deadpan Snarker and Jerk with a Heart of Gold tendencies don't really show up until the third book. Possibly justified in that she was still dealing with being unable to control her curse up until that point.
    • Even weirder, in Fated, Shireen seems to be the sacrifice Alex couldn't prevent. The story was later fleshed out to make Shireen the girl harvested by Rachel and added the character of Catherine Traviss to be the one Richard sacrificed to open a portal to another world. Likely a full Retcon.
    • Earlier books, especially the first, have Alex conversationally addressing the reader regarding plot points or pieces of world-building, as if he were verbally telling someone the story. This tapers off in later books to a more standard first-person narration.
    • The term 'Seer' is used interchangeably with 'Diviner' in the first book by various characters, including Alex himself, suggesting that it's a common alternative. The term almost entirely vanishes from the rest of the series.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Starbreeze is the 'Made of Air' type. Most other elementals that appear are used as Guardians or, in Thirteen's case, as assassins.
  • Enemy Civil War: It's more or less stated that this is the reason Dark mages don't run everything. The protagonist points out in the first book that even though it might not feel that way, Dark mages are actually much more dangerous to each other than they are to everyone else.
  • Elemental Powers: Elementals are the most common type of mage with fire mages being the most common sub-type.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The true form of the monkey's paw. Also the exact description Alex gives of the jinn Anne bonded with.
  • Everyone Can See It: Everyone knows Alex is interested in Anne, including her. He Cannot Spit It Out though.
  • Exact Words: Morden is quite fond of this, often to darkly humorous effect.
    • More importantly, all three of the dragon prophecies we knew of had hidden meanings:
      • The one concerning Rachel. It said Alex had to get her away from Richard. Shireen took that to mean he had to make her realize the error of her ways. Instead, Alex manipulated her into destroying Richard's dreamstone, which resulted in her being cast out.
      • The one concerning Anne. It said she'd be changed for the worse if she returned to Sagash's shadow realm, but Variam points out that it didn't mention which time. In Risen we realize that the dragon clearly meant her second return, because she takes over the entire shadow realm and enslaves or kills anyone she finds before the Marid Sultan takes complete control over her.
      • The one concerning Alex. It said if he were to choose to take the Fateweaver to try and save Anne and Variam he'd die. Technically, he did. His heart gave out and after Anne found a way to save him his body was altered in such a way that both his magical and his biological signature are now distinct from what they were before.
  • Femme Fatale: Meredith, thanks to her good looks and charm powers.
  • Fights Like a Normal: Richard Drakh never shows anyone what magic he can use. Some speculate death or charm magic, Alex has his money on him being a Diviner, but nobody knows. He never has to fall back on them because the same focus items Alex uses and some Improbable Aiming Skills with a handgun are all he needs to be one of the deadliest people in the series.
  • First-Person Smartass: Alex.
  • Flash Step: Blink foxes are basically space-adepts that can use this spell.
  • Flight: Air Mages and some lightning mages can do this.
  • Functional Magic: The series pretty much runs on this.
  • Giant Spider: Arachne. Oddly enough, she's nicer than most of the humans. She also makes dresses.
    Luna: Alex, she's a giant spider.
    Alex: I know.
    Luna: Alex, she's a giant spider.
  • Gold Digger: According to the "Ask Luna" FAQ, many enchantment mages (even the Light ones) make a living this way.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Dark War happened several thousand years ago and was a conflict between the Light and Dark mages.
    • The "Ask Luna" FAQ has revealed that there was also a conflict called the Coldbringer War that occurred in the 1960's which was some type of conflict involving the mage councils of several different nations. Luna doesn't know what happened, and her attempts to find out by asking people who would have been alive at the time have so far been rebuffed.
  • Guile Hero: Alex uses knowledge and quick thinking to take on opponents who really ought to be way out of his weight class.
  • Happy Place: Anne has one built up in Elsewhere that she used during her apprenticeship. Note that a Happy Place in Elsewhere is a bit like a hammock over an active vulcano.
  • Hate Sink: There is absolutely no redeeming quality to Levistus and he represents just about everything Alex means when he says something negative against the council. In Veiled we see more of his mindset which combined with what he did to Leo only makes him even more of a disgusting excuse for a human being.
    • Bound also gives us Zilean and Lightbringer, a duo of black ops men for the Crusaders who specialize in horrific Torture Porn thinly disguised as Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique. Richard ends up exploiting this by putting a recently tortured Anne in the same room with her two torturers and a bound Jinn so that she ends up making a Deal with the Devil out of sheer hatred for those two. Doesn't change the fact that seeing their demise is immensely satisfying.
    • Caldera also becomes one in later books. She has no problem arresting Alex when the Council orders her to, and when Alex got away from her she blames Alex. She also turns a blind eye to the shadier sides of the council, and dismisses some of their worst actions like trying to bomb Luna if Alex didn't surrender himself. She's also the one who reveals the truth of what happened at San Vittore, and that Dark!Anne is responsible. Not for any act of greater goodness, but to due blind loyalty to her job, her ego and taking Alex down a peg. The she spends the remainder of the novel focusing on re-capturing Alex. Most fans are sick of her zealous, hypocrtical attitude.
    • Nimbus, Director of the Order of the Star. It's notable that we're made to hate the man long before he even becomes a real character because his two appearances in Marked and Fallen are both him botching important operations in the most idiotic ways possible, but once he's finally introduced properly in Risen he wastes no time in setting himself up as one of the most unbearable characters in the series. An incompetent blowhard who got his position purely because of his ass-kissing skills and is proud of the fact, constantly makes mistakes that get people killed and refuses help even if it kills other people and when challenged on this will happily explain that the Council considers everyone expendable (but not himself). The guy is such a sorry excuse for a human being that even the ever-jovial Landis loses his cool around him.
  • Healing Hands: The standard spell of Life mages. Unfortunately, Anne was once apprenticed to a Dark mage, so most people don't trust her to heal them, since Life mages can do the Touch of Death-thing as well. As it turns out, that distrust is well justified.
  • Healing Factor: Life mages in have one, making them hard to kill. Anne's allows her to survive injuries, such as getting her throat slit and being flayed alive by Zilean and Lightbringer.
  • Heroic BSoD: Luna has one after the events of Burned
  • Irony: Hidden is the first book in the series in which Alex does not kill anyone, however indirectly. It is also the book in which he is accused of murder most often.
    • Bound has Vihaela talk about and threaten characters with horrible torture multiple times. By the end of the book, the only people who did horribly torture someone were a team of Light mages.
    • Both Morden and Richard used the Might Makes Right approach to find their Chosen and both of them ended up with this (predictably) netting them Ax-Crazy battle magic experts instead of the smart schemers they really needed for their plans.
    • Alex goes on and on about how Diviners are looked down upon and how they are so much weaker than elemental mages. And then it turns out the most feared Dark mage in the country is a Diviner.
    • Levistus constantly claims to be on the side of good and to be protecting people from the Dark. He also lives in one of the most prohibitively expensive parts of one of the most prohibitively expensive cities in the world in what amounts to a palace. The amount of money he uses to make his own life more pleasant could enable him to fix humanitarian problems on a global scale.
    • In Hidden, when Alex beats himself up over how manipulating Anne was something Richard would have done, Crystal tells him not to flatter himself and that he'll never be as good a manipulator as Richard. In Fallen, when Alex finally does manage to outsmart Richard, Crystal is one of the people who dies as a result.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Slate, a Light Death Mage Keeper introduced in Veiled, spends the entire novel sniping at Alex for being Ex-Dark and generally being unpleasant, and even Caldera says he is an asshole. But he is horrified by the little girl that he and Alex find inside White Rose, and at the end when the slaves are leaving and a Council Security guard grabs said little girl and tries to hurry her along out of impatience, Slate comes along, verbally tears into him and gently helps the girl to the Gate. Alex sees this and notes that, even if the Council does nothing for them, the slaves will very likely have some help in the future.
    • Luna has shades of this, once her personality is fleshed out beyond having a curse. She's not cruel or mean-spirited but she'll call you an idiot for not playing a board game correctly.
  • The Jinx: Luna has a hereditary curse that makes her this, stealing the luck of anyone nearby to enhance her own (despite her desperate wishes to the contrary). Anyone who actually touches her is liable to wind up dead from a freak accident. As the series goes on she gets better and better at controlling it, to the point that it can be safely considered Winds of Destiny, Change!.
    • Even after gaining control, her curse still interferes with a couple of things. She has trouble using focuses to channel her power, because her curse tries to destroy them from the inside instead of flowing through them properly. Arachne ends up making her a custom focus capable of playing nicely with her power.
  • Killed Off for Real: Many characters over the series, but most notably Rachel and Levistus as of Forged.
  • Knight Templar: Several on the Light Council are this, especially when fighting against Dark mages. They belive that they are in the right and the only thing protecting Britain from malevolent forces. The most prominent example is senior council member Sal Sarque, who attacks Alex constantly with extreme prejudice, due to believing him a Dark mage working with Morden and Richard willingly. He's willing to gun down a bunch of innocent mages and adepts if he thinks they're aligned with other Dark mages. Caldera is also to be shown one in later volumes, willing to go for extremes to nab possible culprits, uncaring if those same culprits had reasonable motives.
  • Lampshade Hanging: In Fated, after Alex finally figures out that the red cube Luna showed him is the key to opening the Fateweaver's Tomb, he actually pauses in his narration to address the reader and tell them that in the heat of the moment it wasn't as clear as it probably was to the reader.
    • In Risen, Yun Ji-yeong wonders why exactly so many powerful people (Sagash, Jagadev, Crystal, Morden, Richard and the Crusaders) are so obsessed with Anne, who is, on the face of it, just a life mage.
  • Light Is Not Good: Levistus, in particular, who is just as sociopathic as the Dark villains. Even among the rank-and-file Light mages, enthralling mundanes for entertainment appears to be socially acceptable.
  • Lost Technology: In the "Ask Luna" blog, Luna notes that most of the wonders that mages created in past ages was made possible due to the slave labor of magical creatures that are now all-but extinct and gateways to another world call Alata that are now closed.
  • Love Confession: Alex finally confesses to Anne during the climax of Marked.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Mages' powers seem to work on a consistent set of rules. One of the biggest ones is that mages can only use one type of magic. A fire mage can use fire magic and nothing else.
  • May–December Romance: One of the reasons that Alex is hesitant to be more than friends with Anne is that he's eight years her senior. Dark!Anne tells him that he's kidding himself if he thinks she cares about that at all.
  • Meaningful Echo: In Hidden, when Richard breaks into Sagash's shadow realm in order to offer Anne and Alex a job, he's interrupted by Sagash's apprentices and tells them that, as a matter of courtesy, he doesn't want to kill Sagash's apprentices in his own shadow realm. In Forged, as Alex continues his embracing the dark side, he says the same thing to Morden's apprentices when they encounter him in Morden's shadow realm, cementing that at this point in the story, Richard and Alex aren't as different as Alex would like.
  • Meaningful Name: Surely it's not a coincidence that the most prominent Dark wizard of the series has a last name that's a near-anagram of "Dark?" In the same vein, almost all the mage names are meaningful, which is probably because the mages choose them at the end of their apprenticeship:
    • Morden means "to murder" in German. He's a Death mage.
      • Surely it's not another coincidence that both Drakh and Morden — with his "what do you want?" catchphrase — are names of major antagonists in Babylon 5.
    • Deleo means "I erase" in Latin. She's a Water mage who specializes in disintegration spells.
    • Vitus comes from Latin for "life". He desperately wanted to live forever.
    • Arachne, a beautiful person who happens to be a giant spider.
    • Alex himself doesn't escape this. Is it any wonder that a character who can unerringly see the future (as well as being one of the few mages with his head on his shoulders instead of up his arse) has the name Verus — the Latin word for truth?
  • Mirror Character: Anne and Vihaela share an unnerving number of similarities which is why Alex ends up confusing a Jinn-powered Anne for Vihaela in Marked. They're both very powerful, both use life magic to paralyze and kill and want respect. When not-Anne negotiates terms with Morden in Marked, she outright states she wants to be like Vihaela, to be feared by those around her.
  • Mirror Monster: What finally kills Rachel in Forged.
  • Mood Whiplash: Caldera's attempt to arrest Alex in Burned jumps from hilarious to heart-breaking and back again several times.
    • Veiled is a fun, upbeat buddy cop story about Alex and Caldera ribbing each other after all the awfulness of Hidden. And then the two of them find Leo and everything goes to hell.
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: Of the 'no-one can use multiple schools at all' variety.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya:
    Will Traviss: My name is Will Traviss. You. Killed. My. Sister!
  • No-Sell: A Life-Drainer uses his powers on Anne, it doesn't succeed, since she has the same magic, only stronger. Alex then gives us this gem:
    Ja-Ja: That should have worked.
    Alex: It’s okay. It happens to a lot of guys.
    Ja-Ja: Shut up!
    Alex: I’m sure it doesn’t happen to you usually. Maybe you can take a rest and try again in a few minutes.
    • In Forged Alex finally goes after Levistus, who, upon being cornered, starts hurling magic at him and summons up an elemental similar to an elemental that had nearly killed Alex in the past. Alex dispatches it with barely a thought.
  • One Person, One Power: Adepts are low-level mages who can cast only one spell each.
  • Order vs. Chaos: The conflict between Light and Dark is much more this than one between good and evil, because there are quite a few Lawful Evil people on the council and Dark mages are most definitely not Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They give out vague hints and prophecies. Shireen gave one such prophecy to Alex in Fated, Alex got such vague help during Cursed and Variam got one regarding Anne that had and still has him all kinds of worried. In Burned it is revealed why this is. Dragons perceive all points of time at once. They don't predict what might happen, they state what is happening.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They're all dead
  • Pegasus: A diviner Alex goes to visit has one of these. He likes sugar lumps.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Levistus' death and Rachel/Deleo's death. Alex watches as the latter gets her throat slit, and for a moment he considers helping her, then remembers what a colossal monster she's been and lets it happen.
  • Physical God: Dragons are close to this - if not outright are - including the one beneath Arachne's cave.
  • Pocket Dimension: Bubble realms and shadow realms qualify and often have big, climatic moments happen in them. Fated had the Fateweaver's tomb, Taken had the other side of Crystal's estate, Hidden had Sagash's shadow realm and Burned had the jinn's tomb.
  • Psychic Static: In Hidden, Alex briefly works together with Crystal. He sees her use a gate stone and fills his thoughts with annoyance at the fact that she's better with them than he is, so she can't hear his plans to stab her in the back, before she can do the same to him.
  • Reality Warper: The Chance Mage Chalice implies that chance magic is less about affecting probability and more about changing reality around them.
  • The Red Mage: "Hybrid" mages can have some abilities and spells from one discipline and some from another. The most prominent example we've seen so far is Vihaela, a Life/Death hybrid.
  • Red Shirt Army: Council security. The council has no illusions that they could take on a Dark mage and survive. They are only there as living shields for the mages and as early warning system that is more paranoid than a ward.
  • Religious Bruiser: According to the "Ask Luna" section of the series website, Anne is a Christian and Vari is a Sikh.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Fire mages are more or less immune to heat, Ice mages are more or less immune to cold, you can't drown a Water mage et cetera. Generally, most Required Secondary Powers are expected.
  • Retired Monster: Morden of all people at the end of Forged. If he's to be believed, he wants to settle down and be a teacher.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: As it turns out, Alex did. When he loses his divination for a time in Cursed, it becomes very apparent that he is unable to make logical connections and even walk straight without stumbling without his magic telling him what to avoid.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: Morden of all people, who has decided that things are getting too hot in the British magical-political scene and decides to retire to become a teacher. Alex specifically notes at the beginning of Forged that he had a feeling Morden would manage to walk away from the situation clean, and as of the end, it looks like he has.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One to The Dresden Files. In the first book Alex mentions he's heard of a wizard who lives in Chicago and advertises in the phone book, but dismisses it as a rumor.
    • Hidden also has one to House.
      Luna: Maybe it's Lupus.
      Variam It's never Lupus.
    • One of the "Ask Luna" blog posts says that Alex has resisted Luna's attempts to name the Blink Fox "Vulpix"
    • One perhaps to Babylon 5 ,two of the characters in the books are Morden and Drakh.
      • In "Fated" Morden asks Verus "What do you want?" - an important question and plot point for Morden in Babylon 5. Morden's appearance is also described as very similar to Ed Wasser, Morden's actor in Babylon 5.
    • In Bound we meet a Force/Light hybrid mage called Lightbringer who can turn light into solid objects. What does this remind you of?
    • We meet mage named Barrayar who is shorter than average and more dangerous than he looks... though some of his strategies are way beyond "the far side of ethical".
    • The skeletally thin, scheming death mage who wants to live forever named Sagash is just one letter away from another skeletal, scheming death mage who wants to live forever.
    • In Marked, Alex asks Vihaela whether she ran out of rings and had to turn back into regular Sonic after her Super Mode apparently ran out.
    • In Risen, Alex's negotiation with the 4th in command of the adepts is an almost word for word recreation of Gilgamesh negotiating the surrender of the war stompers.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Appears to fall in the "Prophecies Are Predictions" category; Alex can only see the future in terms of probability, and he has trouble seeing past a decision that somebody has not already made. Of course, this only applies to human magic: The existence of the dragon prophecy pushes the setting towards the "Fate" end.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Anne has one, which she developped to survive Sagash's brutal tutelage. It's not actually a separate personality, but the character traits that Anne can't, or won't, deal with. She's the culmination of her darker impulses, which include the willingness to fight and kill. Not-Anne becomes a lot stronger, when she establishes the contract with the Jinn, and able to use its magic to power-up her own.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Richard has a lot of trouble with the Dark mages constant infighting. It could be that they cause more headaches than fighting the Council.
  • The Social Darwinist: Dark mages believe that people only have a right to what they can take and what they can keep. They have no problem with slavery or killing people in their way. Alex was apprenticed to a dark mage and admits that, while he sees himself as a good guy, most of the people who oppose him wind up dead.
    • Yet this is also defied. Cinder in particular is quite able to keep his word and act according to prior agreements, even when there's no immediate payoff for him. Deleo... not so much.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The fate of Griff.
    Griff, needless to say, was very dead. After being shredded, incinerated, and disintegrated all at once, what was left of his body could fit in a pencil case. Anyone planning to give him a burial would need a mop and a vacuum cleaner.
    • In general, battle magic runs on this. As Alex explains, 90% of a fight between mages is about building shields, as one solid blow is usually all it takes to kill the other guy. And everyone in the same room.
  • Taken for Granite: Caldera, the Keeper Alex meets in book 4.
  • They Look Like Everyone Else: Richard Drakh doesn't look impressive or imposing, and appears rather ordinary. His mage name doesn't distinguish his magic type either, or is in any way outspoken. That does not mean he should be underestimated - he is the top dog among Dark mages for a reason.
  • Thinking Up Portals: A lot of mages do this, the Encyclopedia Arcana compares it to a mage equivalent to a driving test.
  • To the Pain: The dark mage Vihaela seems to be incapable of threatening people without describing in graphic detail what exactly she's going to do to them, like when she tells Alex that if he tries to walk past her, she will turn his blood into acid.
  • Token Good Cop: Caldera is the token honest Keeper, the only one who doesn't play politics, bend the rules, or serve ulterior motives. However, when forced To Be Lawful or Good, she chooses Lawful over and over again, ultimately resulting in her death when Verus stops giving her second chances. Illmarin is also noteworthy as a Keeper who is always respectful towards independent mages and even non-mage members of the magical community like Luna; Alex is genuinely upset that he is one of the casualties in taking down Vihaela.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Alex has never quite been a wimp, but by Marked, he has become noticeably more confident, composed and powerful. Fending off assassinations and power plays on a daily basis for the better part of a year will do that to a guy. He takes another one in Fallen when he takes the Fateweaver, the MacGuffin of book one. Then he slaughters Onyx' entire gang, and fights and kills Onyx one-on-one. To put in perspective, Onyx is one of the most powerful combat mages in the series - Alex had to run away or outmaneuver him to survive. And Alex kills him.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Anne and Sonder starting with the Aftermath of Chosen. Anne's reaction is justified because it unpleasantly reminded her of her own Dark and Troubled Past. Sonder's reaction... not so much. Especially when Alex points out the hypocrisy of it by pointing out that Sonder apparently was fine with Alex killing people when it was Sonder's own life on the line.
    • To a lesser extent, Alex himself, starting with the middle of Chosen and apparently ending with the end of Hidden. His interactions with people who stood by his side for the last three books seems very abrasive. He got better, though. This is actually pretty justified, though, as the possibility of his Evil Mentor Richard Drakh being alive and well is wearing on his nerves. He also becomes more ruthless in Fallen, when he realizes that he can't play nice anymore, and that he'll have to take power to survive and to save Anne when her Demonic Possession with the jinn becomes complete.
  • Unequal Rites: Diviners like Alex seem to be looked down on, due to being physically weaker than other mages. They're really good at finding things out, though, which helps them avoid fights in the first place.
    • Mind you, this doesn't keep the very smart elemental mages from being at least a little bit afraid of Alex.
  • Villains Never Lie: According to Alex, this is exactly what makes Richard Drakh so dangerous. He never lies, but it's what he doesn't say that ends up hurting the people he manipulates.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's getting harder and harder to talk about Anne without giving away most of the major developments in the series.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Diviners in general. They lack any sort of combat magic, including the shielding spells that elemental mages rely on. If a combat-trained mage attacks a diviner, the diviner usually ends up dead. Diviners are so dangerous because, with their powers, they can avoid being attacked altogether.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Throughout the series it becomes painfully obvious that the majority of mages, both Light and Dark, don't care about the feelings or wellbeing of anything that isn't human (and most of them don't actually care about the wellbeing of humans, either). Arachne specifically mentions that Alex is unique because of the empathy he has for non-humans.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: Luna essentially steals luck from those around her, causing misfortune to anyone who crosses her path in exchange for being immune to random accidents herself. The catch is that she can't turn it off.
  • Wrong Context Magic: One of the reasons Richard Drakh is so unnerving is that his magic makes no sense. He should not be able to do the things he does and considering he spent ten years in another world, it's entirely possible that his powers are literally out of this world. We find out what his power is in Fallen. Turns out he's a diviner like Alex, but contracted with a jiin with himself in control of the relationship, so that he'd have more direct means of dealing with physical threats.
  • You Bastard!: In Hidden, Alex has an unconscious bad guy in front of him. He then, in case the reader was wondering why he did not simply kill the guy, gives several good arguments as to why killing him would have made things worse and ends with "point 3, what the hell is wrong with you? You seriously think I want to be responsible for more dead kids? Jesus!"