Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Apprentice Adept

Go To

"Know thyself!"

The Apprentice Adept series is a seven-book fantasy and science fiction series by Piers Anthony. The series takes place on two worlds occupying the same space in two different dimensional planes: Phaze - a Magical Land in Medieval Stasis and more or less ruled by the Adepts, the strongest magic users, each specializing in a separate aspect, and Proton, a barren mining planet of high technology, ruled by the Plutocratic Citizens (who control the immense wealth of the Protonite mines). The worlds are divided by The Curtain, an energy field only visible to those capable of crossing it (someone without a doppelganger on the other side).

The first trilogy (Split Infinity, Blue Adept, and Juxtaposition) starred Stile, a Proton serf who, after a mysterious assassination attempt destroyed his career as a race jockey, becomes the central figure in an ancient prophecy to Save Both Worlds from destruction, or ensure said destruction. The first three books, a standalone series in their own right, were originally known as the Split Infinity trilogy, and only lost this title after the four sequel books were added.


The second trilogy (Out of Phaze, Robot Adept, and Unicorn Point) featured Bane and Mach, the sons of Stile and Stile's opposite number, Blue, and their efforts to keep the previous impending doom from happening all over again.

The seventh and final book, Phaze Doubt sees both worlds dealing with an alien invasion, and the Batman Gambit meant to deal with it and prevent future ones.

This series contains examples of:

  • Accidental Rhyme: Stile discovers that he has magical abilities in Phaze after realizing that he keeps speaking in rhymes, which allows him to cast spells.
  • The Ace: Rifleman, from Juxtaposition
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In this case, it's an Anti-Villain for the first two-and-a-half books, and indirectly responsible for most of the crap Stile goes through.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: The unicorn Neysa is an outcast because of her small size and horse-normal coloration. Most unicorns are technicolor.
  • Advertisement:
  • All Your Powers Combined: Anyone with the Book Of Magic gains the ability to use every school of Phaze magic.
  • Alternate Universe: Phaze to Photon, and vice versa. Not quite a Mirror Universe (because morality isn't reversed), but it otherwise fits the trope: people born on Proton have a counterpart in Phaze that is as close to identical to them as possible while still being consistent with the setting change. In particular, magical power in Phase translates as wealth and Game-skill in Proton.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Mach makes one towards Fleta at the end of Out Of Phaze, via the the "Triple Thee". It's powerful enough to break the enchantment she'd put on herself to commit suicide.
  • As You Know: In Split Infinity Sheen reviews details of the Games and Stile's career — to Stile himself; he naturally quips "Thank you for the information." (The sarcasm goes over her head.)
  • Attractiveness Isolation: Suchevane - see So Beautiful, It's a Curse.
  • Author Appeal: Aside from Anthony's usual coercive and/or underage sexual dilemmas and an entire planet of naked people, Split Infinity really gushes on about horses, which the author adores and raises.
  • Badass Normal: Stile, at least in Proton.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • The Oracle used Red's Adept paranoia against her in order to make sure Stile entered Phaze at the right time.
    • Stile also used such a gambit against her during the climax of Blue Adept: Hypnotizing himself into seeing Red as Lady Blue. His shift in attitude to love and passion freaked out man-hating Red enough to cause her to attack Stile, throwing their dance competition and causing her to wash out of the Tournament.
    • He does it again in Juxtaposition: Newly minted Citizen Stile loses a bet to a more seasoned Citizen, who admits he stacked the odds to get the winnote . Stile then revealed that the secret side bet he'd made with another Citizen note , was that someone would cheat to win the next bet. That win more than made up for the previous loss and bolstered Stile's growing rep as a mover and a shaker.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Brown (though it's only a crush), Merle, Neysa, Tania
  • The Big Guy: Hulk
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Amoebans are gelatinous masses who eat through their skin in their normal forms. They also have Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities which they can use to look like humans.
  • Blessed with Suck: Al - a half-vampire who's allergic to blood.
  • Charm Person: Stile does this to himself in the climax of Blue Adept, putting himself into a trance that made him think he was with Lady Blue, instead of Red.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Rifleman after Juxtaposition.
  • Les Collaborateurs: In Phaze Doubt, many Phaze/Proton citizens support the new regime to save their skins or profit, most notably the Tan and Purple Citizen/Adepts.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: The wizards, called Adepts, each pick a color, which matches their personality & type of magic.
  • Cool Horse: The book strongly features unicorns, which are portrayed very favorably.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Stile with Neysa, Hulk, Rifleman (who also becomes Stile's mentor in the ways of Citizenship) & Clef.
  • Deliberate Under-Performance: Stile is careful to avoid performing too well in the Game, in order to avoid reaching the top five places on the ladder which would automatically enter him into the citizenship tournament. This is implied to be standard practice for top Gamesmen, who prefer not to enter while they have tenure left, as (with rare exceptions) a loss before the money rounds means instant loss of tenure and deportation.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Tania, in the second trilogy (at first) & a good chunk of Proton's Citizens
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Purple, the Geomancer Adept.
  • Does Not Like Men: The first trilogy's Red Adept.
  • Enemy Mine: An aversion happens when Stile and Red get together and compare notes. They realize that someone's been playing games with them, but by that time Red's kicked too many dogs for them to work together. Instead, they agree that whoever's left standing will find out who was yanking their chains.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Purple insuring Brown was treated fairly in Phaze Doubt, as she treated him and Tan fairly as their jailer.
  • Fantastic Racism: Among Phaze unicorns — any of them who have what could be normal horse coloration are looked down upon by other unicorns (who come in all shades of the rainbow).
  • Fictional Sport: Proton's options in the Game include some very bizarre possibilities, although it's mostly Real Life games or variants of them that Stile winds up playing. The Dust Slide from Split Infinity is an exception: essentially a waterslide race with multiple channels, using near-frictionless particles in lieu of water.
    • The fifth book names some magical games, one of which (Transformation Chase) is played out during Mach's and Bane's contest.
  • Finger in the Mail: The villains kidnap Clip, one of the protagonist's unicorn allies, and send him Clip's horn as proof. Clip is rescued, and the protagonist uses his magic to reattach the horn.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Standard dialect of Phaze.
  • Foreshadowing: In Juxtaposition, Stile's final round in the tournament involved a poetry contest, which mandated the use of several randomly chosen words. Each of the words turned out to reference events of the battles to come. Later, when he learns the true nature of the Game Computer, Stile suspects the words were anything but random.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: Mach and Bane's accidental swap which sets off the events of the second trilogy.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: Every fight scene involving Proton serfs, unless they've been dressed up in costumes on a Citizen's orders or are wearing protective gear.
  • Fusion Dance: Happens at the end of Unicorn Point, in a BIG way.
  • Geometric Magic: White, the Adept of runes and sigils.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: The Book Of Magic
  • Green Rocks: Phazite, used to power the various spells.
    • Which, when taken to Proton, becomes the energy-bearing Protonite.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Thought to be impossible. But no one thought to check The Book Of Magic for cross-species fertility spells. Once they do, along come Flach (human father/unicorn mother) and Al (vampire mother/troll father).
  • Happiness in Slavery: Many Proton Serfs will do anything they can to stay on Proton.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Subverted. A prophecy foretells that Lady Blue will give birth to Stile's child, so he puts off romancing her until after the big battle to ensure his safety.
    • Then double subverted when Stile learns Lady Blue has conceived before the true final battle, removing that particular piece of You Can't Fight Fate.
  • Hero Antagonist: The Translucent Adept in the second trilogy. Mach even more so, due to Honor Before Reason.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Stile's other self, Blue, though we don't know it until much later.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn / Love Redeems: Tania. Although she doesn't end up with Bane, her love for him makes her change her character completely, over several years, condensed into a couple of paragraphs. For example, she used to enjoy torturing frogs, and now she doesn't.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Tan and Purple's Starscream-like power grab (after their side had basically won) gave the good guys the opening to play their trump card.
  • Honor Before Reason: Comes up so regularly, the bad guys start to count on it.
  • Humans Are Special: Most species have some level of innate magic. However, only humans have the sheer power needed to become an Adept. A nonhuman with the Book of Magic becomes functionally somewhat stronger than a human Adept; a human with The Book has unlimited power.
  • Hybrid Power: Flach's dual heritage - human magic potential and a unicorn's innate shapeshifting magic - give him Voluntary Shapeshifting abilities above and beyond any other unicorns. We see him having mastered a bat and wolf form (along with his natural human and unicorn forms) before he was five years old.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Serfs on Proton are not allowed the privilege of wearing clothing. (There is an exception for safety gear.) This has made them indifferent to nudity and enhanced the appeal of sexy clothing.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: The Tan Adept possesses the magic of the Evil Eye, which grants him the power of Mind Control. His two children, a son who becomes the next Tan Adept, and daughter, Tania, also have this power.
  • Inevitable Tournament: nearly every major conflict is settled, once and for all, via the Great Game (or a variant, in Phaze).
  • I Have Boobs, You Must Obey!: The version of Tania in Proton doesn't have her Phase counterpart's Hypnotic Eyes, so when she desperately needs to convince a man to do something at a plot-critical moment, she tries the closest thing she can think of: flashing her breasts. It works.
  • It Only Works Once: Any specific Adept spell can only be used once, then variations have to be used.
  • Lawful Stupid: Piers Anthony's definition of "good." This is subverted whenever the good guys take advantage of Exact Words.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Clef was a professional musician with little physical prowess. Put a rapier in his hand and it was Go Time.
  • Living Lie Detector: Unicorns can test the truth of a person's words by spearing them with their horns. If the person spoke truly, they are left unharmed.
  • Love Confessor: Adept Trool doesn't believe a woman as beautiful as Suchevane would be with someone as ugly as him except out of fear or pity. Suchevane, on the other hand, is so used to being a concubine that she takes Trool's failure to make a move as a lack of interest in someone so far out of his class, power and status-wise. They confess their feelings, separately, to Agape note , who gets Suchevane to approach Trool in such a way that negates both their objections.
  • Magical Accessory: The totem of the Red Adept - anything from a simple charmed trinket to an Artifact of Doom.
  • Magical Incantation: Stile's magic.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Phazian magic has some very specific rules.
    • Mutually Exclusive Magic: But those rules are pretty much the only thing the various Adepts have in common.
    • Subverted by Mach, the Robot Adept, whose ability with the Book of Magic is bound by virtually no rules, and in fact explicitly breaks several pre-existing rules (such as the impossibility of crossbreeding).
      • To be fair, the Book of Magic is described as the nuclear age of magic whereas the normal Adept magic is like cave men using tools.
    • The biggest rule is the one-use rule. The blue adept needs a different rhyme for each new spell. The tan adept can only use each application of the Evil Eye once on a given person. The yellow adept has a different appearance each time she takes a youth potion, etc. Even the Book of Magic adheres to this, but its wielder can use spells that are just a little bit different to reproduce the same effects with a little imagination, and another wielder can still use a spell that someone else has.
  • Magic Music: Stile's magic must be invoked via rhyme and is strengthened by the use of music.
    • Clef's ability with the Platinum Flute allows him to do something that none of the other Adepts can: manipulate the Curtain that separates Proton and Phase.
  • Magic Versus Science: Magic doesn't work in Proton. Technology more advanced than a horse-and-carriage doesn't work if ported over to Phaze. Stile was able to get around this in the first trilogy by having the Brown Adept animate Sheen the robot as a golem.
  • Make Games, Not War: The Game, where disputes between the Citizens are settled by wagering on games that are played by Serfs. As Serfs are considered quite valuable, and care is taken not to endanger them unduly, this is one of the few non-Blood Sport examples of this trope.
  • Making a Splash: Translucent, the Adept of water.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: Brown, in her first appearance.
  • Meaningful Rename:
    • Several characters choose their names from events and objects of personal importance (Stile, Rifleman, Clef).
    • Werewolf naming has four stages: First syllable given at birth, second when pups are made official pack members (around age 6), third after a first successful solo hunt and fourth after First Mating (traditionally taking their partner's first syllable as their last). A werewolf isn't considered a full adult until they gain the fourth syllable.
  • Meaningful Name: Hulk, which was a Shout-Out. Also, Sheen and Mach. The third-generation characters, meanwhile, have names composed of a Portmanteau Couple Name from their parents—Nepe (Bane, Agape) and Flach (Fleta, Mach).
  • Merged Reality: The two worlds are eventually merged into one; as the characters are explicitly paired across both worlds (mirror-universe twin kinda thing), each pair merges into one being, and each pair has to time-share their body. Substantially easier for the heroes than for the villains, since heroes are used to putting the needs of others on par with or ahead of their own. It's also a lot harder on people whose alternate is a different species or sex.
  • Mind Control: See Hypnotic Eyes, above.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Some native Phazites have animal heads on human bodies.
  • Morph Weapon: The Platinum Flute.
  • New Body, Old Abilities - We see variants with Mach and Bane: Mach retains his robot brain's logic and processing power while in Bane's body, allowing him to work out and process spells and spell combinations far faster and effectively than Bane could. Bane, on the other hand, has his more abstract human mind in Mach's body, allowing him to use Mach's machine nature in more creative ways than Mach (like using Mach's modular components to hack systems and create sensor decoys).
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Shades of this trope apply to the unicorns, which seem to pull out a new magical knack every time their mission is in jeopardy in the first three books. Need a disguise for a companion on short notice? Eh, they can share their "socks" with people. None of the Stallion's three forms are suited to the job? Hey, why not whip up an (unprecedented) fourth?
  • No Biochemical Barriers: But it takes strong magic to get there (see: Half-Human Hybrid).
  • No Name Given, Only Known by Their Nickname: The real/birth names of most of the human cast are never revealed. Also, serfs are required by Proton law to call Citizens "Sir", unless given explicit permission for other forms of address. Similarly, the Adepts in Phaze adopt their titles as their names: the Blue Adept is called "Blue", the Red Adept is called "Red", and so on.
  • One Judge to Rule Them All: How Stile won his harmonica duel against Clef, despite Clef giving what was clearly the superior performance. (The judges gave Stile the victory because he was a better *supporting* player; during their duet, playing with Stile produced a bigger improvement in Clef than playing with Clef produced in Stile.)
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Stile and Blue tend to slip into their native dialects when speaking seriously or stressed.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Fully living were-bats that have to drink blood every so often to keep their shifting powers active.
  • Playing with Fire: Green, the Adept of Fire.note 
  • Precocious Crush: Brown, towards Stile.
  • The Promise: Several, made via oaths or the Splash of Truth.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right / Prophetic Fallacy: In Juxtaposition, Stile was told he would be betrayed by "a young-seeming woman" and concludes it already happened, when Merle turned him in to the Citizen coalition. It turns out, however, that the true traitor was Brown...except in a Double Subversion, not only did she not know she was a traitor (she accidentally cast the spell wrong to switch the cardinal directions, thereby reversing everything—though considering her crush, this may not have been accidental after all), but the betrayal actually ended up helping Stile in the end—since it allowed Stile to stay in Phaze by reversing where his spirit lay, putting it in the golem's body and Blue's in Stile's. This last was another Prophetic Fallacy—everyone assumed "Blue must leave Phaze forever" meant Stile since he had taken up the mantle of the Adept after his death. But once Blue's spirit was taken out of its Soul Jar and put in a golem body, he was the one who had to leave Phaze, and did.
  • The Power of Love: The most powerful oath possible in Phaze is a profession of love, capable of breaking enchantments and binding people together forever.
  • Psychic Link: Mach and Bane, Flach and Nepe (Stile and Blue presumably can do the same but choose not to find out)
  • Rape as Drama:
    • In Split Infinity, the hero, Stile, forces a robot to show him a printout of her program, and they both agree afterwards that it was a form of rape.
    • One of the sections of Unicorn Point's Tournament Arc pitted Tan against Agape in a "Seduction by Proxy" match,note  where rape was allowed to "ensure a finish." Tan's proxy ended up raping Agape's proxy. Though the rape was treated with less drama than the fact that the good guys lost.
  • Renaissance Man: Stile is this for the Game, having attained proficiency in so many varied branches of competition that he can usually manipulate the Game Grid to find an option which favors him. This is stated to be true for all of the highest level Gamesmen.
  • La Résistance: When the Hectare invade in Phaze Doubt, the protagonist Lysander is a Hectare agent tasked with joining the resistance to figure out their plans and foil them. Subverted in that he falls in love with another resistance member and faces a conflict of honor.
  • Retcon: The third generation protagonists get their nature and power level changed radically between when they were background and major characters.
  • Rich Boredom: It's revealed in Juxtaposition that much of the Citizen class uses gambling as a major source of entertainment. From a spontaneous game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to betting on whether more men or women emerge from a corridor, nothing is too petty to drop massive amounts of money on. (Though safeguards are in place so no Citizen can go broke on a bet)
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: intentionally so.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: How Stile's magic works
  • Sacrificial Lion: Hulk. This, and the death of the equally innocent Bluette, led Stile into a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Sadistic Choice: In Blue Adept, before Stile intervenes on her behalf, Neysa is left with the choice of answering the Herd Stallion's summons for breeding season (leaving her oath friend Stile without her help on his quest) or defying the summons and sticking with Stile (and risking going from "outcast" to "exile" and giving up any chance of a foal of her own).
  • The Scottish Trope: The "Triple Thee" (a binding and powerful love-oath in Phaze) is not to be spoken carelessly.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Red Adept only tried to kill Stile because the Oracle said that Stile would destroy her, but Stile only fought her because she struck first.
    • In a more series-wide sense, the Oracle does its best to make sure all its prophecies come true, aided by the fact that it is a magical computer which can therefore work across both frames, and that it has contacts with the self-willed machines, including the Game Computer.
  • Serious Business: In a world where losing a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors can mean getting booted off the planet, everything possibly included in the Great Game is treated as Serious Business. Also, oaths on Phaze (which are magically enforced).
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: A werewolf gains adult status only after a ritual First Mating.
  • Sex by Proxy: Agape and Citizen Tan's "Seduction by Proxy" Great Game match.
  • Sex Equals Love: Fleta falls fully in love with Mach after he makes love to her "my way" (Love making rather than the "Wham Bam" rutting Fleta engaged in, outside of her "heat" season.)
  • Smug Snake: The Purple Adept.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Suchevane the vampire. She's so beautiful that the only ones with the nerve to approach her were ones who wanted her just as a sex object. Trool had too much honor to exert his power on her, despite his genuine feelings towrards her, figuring such was the only way a literal troll like him could be with one such as her.
  • Soul Jar: Stile's harmonica, which contains the soul of the original Blue Adept.
  • Spoiler Cover: The cover of the original run of Blue Adept depicts Stile confronting the maker of amulets, who's dressed in that Adept's signature color. This not only gives away the fact that Red is the hidden enemy, but it renders the scene where that character appears at the Unolympics disguised as a male fairly pointless.
  • Story-Breaker Power: Mach has no limits on his powers as the Robot Adept. He's kept in check solely by Honor Before Reason; while he personally supports Team Stile, he's agreed to play by the rules that the Adverse Adepts set instead of simply blasting them off the map by force majeure.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In Blue Adept, Stile intentionally uses these to harass White, as the non-rhyme caused his spells to immediately fizzle out. Though that effect is immediately spoiled by White revealing that Adept powers negate each other, one-on-one, so his full-power spells would have done little more damage.
  • Take a Third Option: In Stile's duel with the Herd Stallion in Blue Adept, Stile uses the Platinum Flute's power to ensure a fair fight between them, rather than using the power of the Flute to curb stomp the Stallion (humiliating him and making things even worse for Neyssa) or fight him without magic (resulting in Stile's stomping/humiliation).
  • Take Our Word for It: In "Robot Adept", Agape (in Fleta's body) plays matchmaker with Suchevane and Trool, the Red Adept. In "Unicorn Point", it's assumed that something similar must have happened with Citizen Red and Suchevane's Photon opposite, but Fleta doesn't recall anything like that.
  • Technician vs. Performer: Stile (Performer) versus various other Technicians, most notably the musician Clef.
  • There Can Be Only One: Established Adepts (read: Any adept who isn't Stile or one of his allies) tend to protect their positions by wiping out anyone who shows any real power within their specialty.
    • The Tourney itself, although non-Citizens who lose are deported from Proton rather than killed.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Clip (from exiled male in Juxtaposition to Herd Stallion in Out Of Phaze)
  • Tournament Arc: Most of Blue Adept and part of Juxtaposition involves Stile's journey through the Great Game.
  • Trilogy Creep: There are seven books.
  • True Companions: The concept of "Oath Friends".
  • Truth Serum: when someone swears something's true in Phaze, and they really mean it, a wave of rainbow light radiates from them.
  • Tyke Bomb: Flach and Nepe
  • Unobtainium: Phazite/Photonite
  • Unknown Assailant: The Red Adept
  • Upgrade Artifact: The Book of Magic and the Platinum Flute. The Book lets anyone who possesses it cast magic spells at an Adept's power level (It let a troll with no inherent magic become the new Red Adept). The Flute enhances the innate magic of anyone who holds it (allowing Stile to use his magic within the Anti-Magic influence of a unicorn circle). Anyone who can actually play the damn thing gains Adept-level magic. A master musician? Becomes stronger than all the other Adepts put together.
  • The Vamp: Merle, Yellow (while she's using one of her youth potions)
  • Villain Ball: The Contrary Citizens/Adverse Adepts threatened Flach and Nepe with harm to their mothers should they go rogue again, something that explicitly violated their agreement with their fathers, Mach and Bane... an agreement which kept the most powerful actor in each world on their side.
  • Villain Protagonist: Lysander in Phaze Doubt, though in actual deeds, he comes across as a Minion with an F in Evil.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: A unicorn can take up to three forms (unicorn, human, and a third of their choosing, usually a bird or some sort of predator)note . Similarly, werewolves can voluntarily change between human and wolf forms at will, while vampires have human and bat forms.
    • The original Herd Stallion takes this a step further, and succeeds in mastering a fourth Form after Stile persuades him that it would be uniquely helpful in getting them out of their current situation: the Cockroach.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Yellow mentions a Gray Adept in passing early on, but this individual is never referenced again.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: Tan's Evil Eye grants absolute mind control; nifty, but other Adepts with more versatile powers can create spells to duplicate the effectnote  in addition to the many, many other things they're capable of doing.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The unicorns, werewolves, and other shifters on Phaze; the self-aware machines, androids and cyborgs on Photon
  • Why Am I Ticking?: In "Blue Adept", the hero is forewarned that the villain will try to force a magic bomb that will destroy him if he returns to Phaze with it. The bomb turns out to be a bullet, which the villain shoots into the hero, who realizes Just In Time what it really is.
    • Subverted in Split Infinity, when Sheen and Stile suddenly realize she might unwittingly have a bomb implanted inside her. Stile's employer has her dismantled and searched, but fortunately the Citizen grants his best jockey's request and has his security crew re-assemble her when they find no bomb.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Flach and Nepe
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: The dialect of Phaze.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Stile uses other people's Oracle prophecies to ensure his own survival.
    • This is made worse by the fact each person only gets one.
    • Serrilyan, who was prophesied to die after seeing the Sidhe three times. Clef then proceeds to pipe her soul to Heaven, despite her belief she didn't belong there.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: