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Literature / Black Trillium

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A 1990 fantasy novel co-written by Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Julian May. It is also the first book in the Trillium series, consisting of four more novels set in the same universe and featuring more or less the same cast. After the original novel, however, the three co-authors decided to write the sequels separately, so there are effectively three mutually exclusive continuities, of which Black Trillium is the smallest (and only) common denominator.

  • Black Trillium (1990). The original novel begins with the evil kingdom of Labornok conquering the neighboring kingdom of Ruwenda. The only remnant of the Ruwendan royal family are the young triplet princesses, who are rescued by their servants and smuggled across the conquered country to the White Lady, who was supposed to protect Ruwenda from the invasion. From there on, the three princesses must brave three different paths to retrieve three parts of the mightiest weapon left behind by the Precursors, the Scepter of Power, and to retake their kingdom from the invaders.
  • Blood Trillium (1992, May).
  • Golden Trillium (1993, Norton). Some time after the conclusion of BT, Kadiya, the second princess, leads an expedition into the Thorny Hell to uncover a few of the Ancients' secrets.
  • Lady of the Trillium (1995, Zimmer Bradley). 900 years after the BT, Haramis, the oldest princess and the current White Lady, is faced with the challenge of selecting and educating a successor for herself.
  • Sky Trillium (1997, May).

The principle characters of the novels are:

  • Haramis, the oldest of the three princesses. A bookworm since childhood, she is the most intelligent of the three and her mastery of magic soon surpasses pretty much everyone in the world. Her personal artifact is the Three Winged Circle (a wand) and since the end of BT, she is known as the White Lady and the Arch-Sorceress of the Land. In the original novel, her chapters were written by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  • Kadiya, the second princess, is a Lady of War and has a brash, passionate personality, often putting her at odds with the logical Haramis (especially in May's continuity). Her personal artifact is the Three Lobed Burning Eye (a sword) and after BT, she is known as the Lady of the Sacred Eyes, serving as the protector of the Oddlings. In the original novel, her chapters were written by Andre Norton.
  • Anigel, the youngest princess. A Princess Classic who mediates the other two and seeks diplomatic solutions. Her personal artifact is the Three Headed Monster (a crown) and after BT, she succeeds her father as a queen of Ruwenda, immediately marrying Antar, the prince of Labornok, and uniting the two kingdoms into Laboruwenda. In the original novel, her chapters were written by Julian May.
  • Orogastus, alias Portolanus. The Evil Sorcerer who was really behind Labornok's aggression and an on-and-off love interest for Haramis. His role and motivation are greatly expanded in May's continuity.
  • Antar, the Crown Prince of Labornok. The Wise Prince who mistrusts Orogastus and later defects to Anigel's army and eventually marries her. In May's continuity he often plays the Distressed Dude role for Anigel.

The novel and the subsequent series contain examples of following tropes:

  • Alternate Timeline: The original novel is the only one whose plot canonically happens in all three continuities, although Norton and Zimmer Bradley's continuities don't contradict each other (since they only concern their respective heroine and are chronologically 900 years apart).
  • Badass Bookworm: Haramis, after learning magic.
  • Brainy Brunette: Again, Haramis. She's the most bookish and cerebral triplet and ends up being Archmage Binah's successor, and has black hair.
  • Chaste Hero: By contrast to Haramis (who gets it on with Orogastus) and Anigel (who marries and has kids with Antar), Kadiya doesn't seem to be interested in romance at all.
  • Dating Catwoman: Haramis and Orogastus have... an uneasy relationship. Although in the end of Sky Trillium, they seem to finally get together, after Orogastus settles down as the Arch-Wizard of the Sky.
  • Defecting for Love: Antar is a rare gender-flipped example, who falls in love with Anigel, joins her cause, and ultimately marries her.
  • Demoted to Satellite Love Interest: The Good Prince Antar in Black Trillium is a complex character torn between his loyalty to his royal father and to his country and the realization that his father and king has been corrupted by an Evil Sorcerer and pushes their country into ruin and dishonor. In Julian May's sequel novels, his role mostly boils down to being the King Consort and frequent Distressed Dude to his queenly wife, the ex-princess Anigel.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Scepter of Power.
  • Distressed Dude: Surprisingly, it is Antar who often causes trouble to his frail princess of a wife.
  • The Empire: Labornok is a militaristic, expansionist human kingdom.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Orogastus, who becomes an Anti-Villain in May's continuity.
  • The Federation: Ruwenda is an aging kingdom that unites both humans and oddlings, and the only reason why it wasn't conquered for so long was White Lady's protection.
  • Fiery Redhead: Kadiya is a Lady of War with the quickest temper of the sisters, and has dark auburn hair.
  • Gratuitous Princess: The plot wouldn't have suffered much if the three sisters weren't princesses, but they are.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Anigel is the sweetest, most diplomatic, and (at least initially) most vulnerable of the sisters. She's blonde.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: All three princesses, basically: young girls who start out with nothing and end up driving the invaders out of their country. Joan's military talent and people skills seem to be split between Kadya and Anigel, respectively, however.
  • Lady of War: Kadiya is the warrior princess.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Orogastus manipulated the King of Labornok to declare war.
  • Meaningful Name: Anigel is just one letter removed from "angel".
  • The Mentor: White Lady Binah provides early guidance to the princesses, sends them on their respective quests, and dies of old age soon thereafter.
  • Old Magic: In Julian May's sequel timeline, the magic of the eponymous Trillium artifacts is older than even the Neglectful Precursors. In the final installment, a bad guy attempts to use his own, incredible old magic to kill Princess Kadya, wielder of one of said artifacts, only to be killed by the blowback, having admittedly forgotten that Older Is Better in the setting and that one of the artifacts' basic powers is protecting their wielder's life.
  • Princess Classic: Anigel.
  • Round Robin: How the original novel was written: each of the three co-authors wrote their own princess' chapters, cooperating on the chapters where they came together.
  • Royal Blood: All main characters except Orogastus are royals.
  • Rule of Three: The series runneth over with it, especially May's continuity.
  • Ruling Family Massacre: The first book opens with the sack of Ruwendan capital by Labornok and the off-screen massacre of most of the royal family members.
  • Same-Sex Triplets: And all fraternal in the bargain.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The Thorny Hell is probably the single nastiest place on the planet.
  • Time Skip: Lady of the Trillium fast forwards the narration 900 years into the future, when Haramis realizes that she will soon die of old age.
  • The Wise Prince: Antar, whose Heel–Face Turn was foreseeable from the moment his was introduced.