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Literature / Artamon's Tears

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I can promise a snow-covered country haunted by ghosts, a murdered lord, a shadowy drakhaoul-daemon with a craving for innocent blood, unrequited love, imperial ambitions, court intrigue, an ancient legend about a dead emperor's cursed rubies.

And a dragon.
Sarah Ash

A trilogy of fantasy novels by primary school teacher Sarah Ash, consisting of Lord of Snow and Shadows, Prisoner of the Iron Tower, and Children of the Serpent Gate.

Gavril Nagarian is a simple painter living in the idyllic nation of Smarna, on the continent of Rossiya. His life gets turned upside-down one day when a band of warriors from the Grim Up North of Azkhendir approach him stating that he is the son of their recently-deceased king, and he must take his father's place. What follows is an elaborate character-driven fantasy saga featuring...well, all the elements mentioned in the page quote.

Mrs. Ash has also written a dual book prequel series, The Alchymist's Legacy, dealing with the youth of Estael, the original trilogy's left-hand-man to the bad guy. It also focuses on the earlier lives of Ruaud de Lanvaux, Celestine de Joyeuse, and Jagu de Rustéphan and how they all came to associate with one another in The Tears of Artamon. Tracing the Shadow is the first book, taking place for the most part before the events of the original trilogy; Flight Into Darkness, the second and last book, entails the "behind the scenes" events taking place concurrently with it.


The Tears of Artamon provides examples of:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: In the first book and for a while into the second one, anyway.
  • Arranged Marriage: Eugene and Astasia.
  • Beast and Beauty: Kiukiu and Gavril, once the latter's Body Horror kicks in.
  • Break the Cutie: Both Gavril and Kiukiu (hell, just say Kiukiu's name out loud and tell me she isn't supposed to be lovable!) get the treatment.
  • Changeling Fantasy
  • Children Are Innocent
  • Cycle of Hatred: A major theme. One of the problems of Azkhendir society is that when someone is murdered, they produce a wraith, and the easiest way to lay a wraith is to kill its murderer...which then creates another wraith.
  • Deal with the Devil: One of Gavril's ancient ancestors made one, and his family is still suffering for it.
  • Deconstruction: So, it turns out that while The Empire does bad things it is ultimately a force for good, that The Emperor has legitimate reasons for wanting to take over the world, that he genuinely loves the woman he has forced to marry him and eventually earns her love in return, that the Legion of Doom is made up of human beings who are generally not sadistic and many of whom just want to ensure peace and get back home, and that no-one is actually evil. Huh.
    • It's a Lighter and Softer Deconstruction! It's like its deconstructing Deconstructions! Okay, the author probably wasn't thinking about that at the time.
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  • Easing into the Adventure
  • Enemy Within - Khezef, a vampire dragon demon who lives within whoever is patriarch of the Nagarian family. Eugene eventually gets his own vampire dagon demon as well.
  • Evil Duo - Eugene and Estael, though they're not so much evil as they are in the hero's way.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture - Rossiya is a Rome-analogue. Muscobar is Tzarist Russia. Azkhendir is Wallachia, and Smarna is Venice with some touches of Revolutionary France. Francia is France merged with the Spanish Inquisition. Tielen is a hybrid between Industrial Revolution Great Britain and German Unification Prussia.
  • Fantasy Gun Control - Massively, massively averted. First of all, there are guns. Second of all, the author seems to have put a lot of thought into how various technological achievments occured and what their effect on the world is, and the relation between science and mysticism.
  • Foil - Gavril and Eugene are both dispossesed heirs to thrones, both are followed around by a younger female Morality Pet, both are in love with Astasia at one point or another, both are young well-educated men, and both have an Enemy Within. However their personalities are complete opposites; Gavril just wants to be normal while Eugene seeks to Take Over the World.
  • Freakiness Shame: While the drakhaol is definitely not pretty, more than a few characters express awe at it's majesty and power. Gavril's angsting about it is perfectly justified, though, since it gives him a Horror Hunger and makes him ugly.
  • Grim Up North - Azkhendir. Well, it's north of the protagonist's homeland, anyway. There are actually more temperate lands northward beyond it, but it still has all the elements of this trope thanks to it being at a very high elevation.
  • Horror Hunger
  • I Just Want to Be Normal - Gavril
  • In the Blood - Drakhaouls (literally.) Also, shamanic abilities.
  • Lamarck Was Right - Possibly justifed as we're dealing with demon magic here.
  • Locked Out of the Loop - Gavril's mother Elysia never told him who his father was.
  • Long-Lost Relative - After Kiukiu is rescued by Malusha from the Snow Spirits, she finds out from her in the Ways Beyond that Malusha is her paternal grandmother and that she (Kiukiu) is an Arkhel Guslyar descendent.
  • Meido: Kiukiu.
  • Morality Pet: Eugene has his daughter and Astasia, while Gavril has Kiukiu.
    • Khezef sees the entire Nagarian line this way. It is noted more than once that his connection to the family has made him very different from his siblings.
  • My God, What Have I Done? - In Lord of Snow and Shadows Gavril experiences this twice after he burns the entire Tielen army to a crisp (though Eugene barely escapes and is badly burned), and he nearly drains Kiukiu of all her blood. In Prisoner of the Iron Tower Gavril experiences this after he takes the life of his first "bride" and from them on continually feels a deep self loathing after each time he kills.
  • Mysterious Parent: Gavril first learns who his real father is through Kostya as well as the Drakhaoul legacy the druzhina expect him to continue. Additionally, Kiukiu learns of her father through Malusha, that he was an Arkhel, a Guslyar, and was considered a traitor by his family.
  • New Super Power: Kiukiu's inherent Guslyar abilities, honed by Malusha. Gavril can also count, discovering what he can do with his Drakhaoul powers.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: the Drakhaouls are a kind of demon vampire dragon. Also Estael, who is both an alchymist, wind mage, and Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Heavenly Guardians seem to be a rather Old Testament-inspired type of them. Also, the Drakhaouls.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Drakhaouls
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Drakhaouls.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: Spirits from the Ways Beyond, especially the sacrificed children.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Drakhaouls
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: Implied with the Drakhoul Prince. "He was once the brightest of us."
  • Phantasy Spelling: "Alchymy," "forte-piano," et cetera.
  • Princess Classic: Astasia (technically she starts out as a duchess and later becomes an empress, but she still pretty much fits the trope).
  • Rapid Aging: Kaspar sends Kiukiu to the Ways Beyond, where her spirit ends up being trapped for days. By the time Gavril gets her physical body to Malusha to bring her back to the living, Kiukiu has aged into an old woman - her face wrinkled, her hair dried out and completely gray.
  • Rightful King Returns
  • Royal Blood
  • Rousseau Was Right: The Emperor? He's a pretty nice guy once you get to know him, he's just a bit rough around the edges. The Knight Templar? He's just ignorant, not bad. The vampiric demons who feast on the blood of innocents? They just want to go home.
  • Shadowland: The cold, bitter, Proud Warrior Race Guy filled Azkhendir in contrast Gavril's warm, tourist-drawing, scholar-filled homeland of Smarna.
  • Second Love: Kiukiu for Gavril.
  • Secret Legacy
  • Spirit World: The Ways Beyond.
  • Superpowered Evilside: Khezef
  • The Dragon: Estael
  • The Emperor: Eugene, as of book 2.
  • The Empire: Heavily deconstructed.
  • Transformation Sequence: Whenever Gavril or Eugene enters his dragon form.
  • Two Beings, One Body: As the Drakhaoul gains more power over its host, the host slowly begins to look more and more draconic.
  • Unequal Rites: The old, wild magic that the Drakhaoul examplifies is very different from the scientifically influenced "alchymy" that The Empire makes liberal use of, which in turn is something very different from regular science. At one point, an alchymist and a scientist are both assigned to the same problem and told that their different viewpoints will be an asset, and react with amused contempt and disgusted outrage (respectively) at the very suggestion that the other one could be of any use whasoever.
  • Uniqueness Value: Gavril is at one point coerced into consuming, over a period of time, a potion that will first weaken and then destroy the Drakhaoul he has bonded with. The daemon's pleading to Gavril that "you're killing me... and I'm the last of my kind... the last in the world..." is surprisingly moving, given that we know by that point how monstrous it is. Of course, it helps that Gavril is The Hero and the Drakhaoul, however unpleasant, is his only means of protecting his country from The Empire.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Drakhaouls must feed on "innocent" blood to recover after expending energy by going into their dragon form. Also, such sacrifices must be made to open the Serpent's Gate and let them back into Heaven.

Alternative Title(s): Tears Of Artamon


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