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Literature / Broken Sky

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A young-adult fantasy series written by Chris Wooding.

The series follows the lives of twins Ryushi and Kia after their secluded home in the mountains is attacked and they find themselves in the world they've been sheltered from for so long. Unfortunately for them, this world (called the Dominions) happens to be controlled by the insane monarch King Macaan who is slowly gaining total control of the people. The rest of the series follows the efforts of Parakka in the beginning world of the Dominions and eventually its mirror world of Kirin Taq (controlled by Macaan's daughter, Aurin).

Like many anime - the storytelling and artform which served as Broken Sky's inspiration - the denizens of the universe have access to magical power, albeit with considerable financial expense. Spirit stones are, as the name suggests, small jewel-like crystals which, once implanted, attune themselves to ley lines and, through them, grant the bearer certain abilities. The more stones a person has, the more powerful their abilities are.

The stones are implanted along the spine - between the ridges of the vertebrae - shortly after a child's birth as part of a special ceremony (the pah'nu'kah), performed only by members of an enigmatic group called the Deliverers. The Deliverers, using a combination of their own innate power and an intuitive vision of destiny, coax the stones into changing their colour to match the newborn's later life.

This "destiny" can either be a facilitator of a person's future profession, such as blacksmithing or the ability to pilot mechanical vehicles, or the ability to manipulate something which associates with their personality. The lead characters - twin siblings Ryushi and Kia - have six spirit stones each, as does their elder brother Takami. Ryushi's blue stones allow him to create (initially uncontrollable) blasts of concussive energy, Kia's red stones allow her to manipulate the earth while Takami's spirit stones allow him to create green flames at will.

Amidst the people of the Dominions are Resonants. While these people - for reasons never explicitly stated - cannot have spirit stones implanted by the Deliverers, they have an ability all their own. Resonants are the only people able to effectively teleport between the two halves of the Broken Sky universe: the Dominions in which Ryushi and Kia were born and the perpetually-twilight land of Kirin Taq.

More information on this series' worlds and species can be found on The Other Wiki.

The series is inspired heavily by anime, as stated by Word of God in Wooding's webpage for the books.

This series provides examples of:

  • Alien Sky: Kirin Taq's sky is forever twilight, with the sun permanently eclipsed, and the Dominions is stated to have two moons.
  • Animesque: Considerably ahead of the curve in being a Western work that deliberately embraces the visual style and storytelling of manga and anime. Avatar: The Last Airbender, arguably the biggest series to do this, didn't start until 2005.
  • Badass Normal: You discover at the end that the character Hochi has never had spirit stones, and instead gotten by on their own strength.
  • Blow You Away: Ryushi's spirit-stones allow him to control air currents, usually by condensing it into 'force-bolts'.
    • Mundane Utility: Once he gets over his Power Incontinence, Ryushi can also use his nigh unlimited store of power to... play a board game without ever touching the pieces.
  • Bratty Half-Pint, Mouthy Kid & Class Clown: Gerdi, especially in Act One. Though, after he's betrayed and captured along with the rest of the group by Whist on Os Dakar and made to fight in the Snapper Run - a multi-level gladitorial arena pitting him against local wildlife - with Kia, he grows up and sheds most of these tendencies. Most of them. He still mocks Hochi from time to time...
  • Brother–Sister Team: One such team - Ryushi and Kia - are the main characters. In Act Two, another one is revealed to be part of Parakka: a Kirin girl named Peliqua and her half-Dominion (basically, a human-Kirin hybrid) brother Jaan.
  • Chain Pain: Peliqua uses a manriki-gusari, a length of weighted chain, to devastating effect.
  • Creepy Twins: In Kia's Vision Quest, she repeatedly sees Princess Aurin and leader of Parakka Calica as near-identical children with the same clothing and hairstyles, who speak in unison and are always holding hands. This is because the two are Splitlings, a pair of people born at the same time in the mirror universes.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Certain spirit-stones can remain unused for years as they possess very specific activation requirements.
  • Cyborg: Machinists and their workers are characterised by their mechanical augmentations. The master of the guild is outright more machine than organic, in fact. Similarly Jachyra are extremely augmented resonants, with very little of their organic bodies remaining.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Princess Aurin when she develops feelings for Ryushi while he is her captive.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Kia's spirt-stones allow her to do this.
  • Dungeon Punk: There's a pretty high level of technology in this world, like the Machinists' devices, the Lava-based heating system in Tusami City, and the transport devices powered by people with Pilot stones. But, since most of them rely on the specialized and jealously-guarded knowledge of the Machinists to invent, and/or require people with unique spirit stones to work, the world is still at least somewhat short of modern technology in many ways.
  • Ear Ache: In Act Two, Takami has one of his ears severed during his fight with Ryushi.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Macaan is a ruthless tyrant and rather insane, but his love for his daughter, despite how he chooses to express it, is deep and fierce.
  • False Friend: Whist turns out to be one of these; not just once, but twice. The first time he encounters Parakka, he uses Kia's desire to find Ty to turn the whole group - Ryushi, Kia, Elani, Hochi, Gerdi and Tochaa - over to the Fallen Sun gang on Os Dakar. A year later, he leads Ryushi into the Maar Keep - Takami's residence as a Thane - where he is drugged and captured by Princess Aurin.
  • Fantastic Racism: The twins' new guardian Hochi inherently mistrusts the Kirin Tochaa. That is, until Tochaa takes a Keriag spear to the gut to save his life.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Resonants that Macaan captures are usually made into elite assassins known as Jachyra, an extremely painful process that leaves their minds tattered and their bodies more mechanical augmentation than flesh. In addition, they are unable to rise against Macaan, who can instantly end their lives using the trigger stone implanted in his forehead.
    • Another such fate for the Resonants takes place during Act Two's main battle: the Integration War. The Integration was Macaan's plot to bring a Keriag invasion force into the Dominions from Kirin Taq by using the combined power of his enslaved Resonants by imprisoning them in energy-rich caverns called Ley Warrens. By doing this, he would effectively turn the Resonants into an organic Stargate, bridging the Dominions and Kirin Taq.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: people of the Dominions (who in pretty much every aspect resemble humans) and Kirin Taq (who are the same as humans except for their yellow eyes and gray skin) are able to produce children together. It is revealed that Macaan is a halfbreed. Aurin also turns out to be quarter-Kirin. Though, the first half-breed to be encountered in the series is Jaan, one of the minor characters in Act Two, with all the social rejection it typically entails.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Ryushi sure does.
  • Heroic BSoD: Hochi is tramuatized and guilt-ridden about how he treated Tochaa after Tochaa dies Takingthe Bullet for him.
    • Kia from the sacking of Osaka Stud up until finding Ty on Os Dakar could qualify as this. Consumed by a desire for vengeance, she has to literally have the sense slapped back into her by Ryushi when she summons a golem to massacre a squad of Royalist Guardsmen on the streets of Tusami City. She spends pretty much the rest of the time being distrustful of almost everyone who isn't her twin brother and doesn't so much as shed a single tear about the loss of her family home until she reaches Os Dakar, four books (in the smaller format; only one book in the larger one) later.
  • Hive Mind: played straight with the Keriags, massive spider-like beasts with a shared consciousness whose only concern is for the well-being of the hive. Subverted with the race of the Koth Taraan who, although they share consciousness and knowledge, are all individual beings who resent having their connection compared to that of the Keriags.
    • Hive Queen: there are several Keriag hives, each with its own Queen. These Queens, however, are not solely connected to their own hive, but instead connected to the Queens and Keriags of the other hives. This is to such an extent that when one Queen is poisoned by Macaan, the others immediately agree to a lifetime of slavery, as losing one Queen would be like losing an arm for them.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Jachyra evoke this; seemingly mummified amalgams of metal and flesh that travel through reflections, that serve as Macaan's secret police. They turn out to be victims of Unwilling Roboticisation.
    • Aurin also has an interrogator known as The Scour that's arguably a straighter example; it appears in exactly one scene to horrifying effect, and never gets any further explanation
  • Identity Amnesia: Act Three begins in the depths of a desert mine, following the viewpoint of an enslaved worker by the name of Mi'atte. As the days wear on, strange items start to inexplicably appear in her quarters. The unfamiliar fragmented memories eventually compel her to remember and mouth out a name to herself in the mirror: Kia.
  • Inciting Incident: The destruction of Osaka Stud by the Spirit-Masked Warrior and a detachment of Royalist Guardsmen.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Calica wields a katana. And unlike Ryushi, her sword never breaks.
  • Little Miss Badass: Elani. When you can face up to anything with the right motivation, you qualify. Add that to the fact that she's the youngest character in the series by a good half a decadenote  and her resilience becomes a thing of wonder.
  • (Not Quite A) Long-Running Book Series: In its originally planned format, Broken Sky would have fulfilled the second of the requirements for this by spanning a grand total of 27 books. However, after the first Act reached its end, the decision was made to condense the remaining 18 parts into a series of six "three-in-one" books and reissue Act One in the same manner, cutting it down from 27 down to nine. Outside fanfiction, Broken Sky has no Expanded Universe and the series only lasted three years (1999-2001) as opposed to ten-plus.
    • The whole series was then later republished as a trilogy, with one book covering each act of the story.
  • La Résistance: Parakka. The only form of real resistance against Macaan's empire.
  • Mind Rape: Princess Aurin has a strange being at her disposal known only as the Scour. Seeming to possess no facial features at all, the Scour possesses the power to tear through - or scour - a person's memories for gathering information.
    "Then the Scour stepped into the doorway and all colour drained from [Ryushi]'s face. It wore a loose black cloak, belted at the waist, which swirled around its feet as it came. Its hands were held together in front of it, buried in its long sleeves. But its chalk-white face was unhooded, and there were no features there. Shallow indentations or slight lumps indicated where eyes, nose and mouth should have been, but the Scour possessed only a smooth skull of naked flesh, uninterrupted by the features by which humans recognised each other. There was something inexplicably horrible about their absence. But not as horrible as the paralysis which suddenly gripped Ryushi, pinning his heart to his ribs and making his arms go limp. Strange, then, that he still had the breath to scream as the Scour clamped its fingers around his face and began to tear and shred at his memories..."
  • Mirror Scare: The Jachyra can see out of and actually travel through mirrors, and as such there are numerous scares with one coming out of a reflective surface.
  • The Mole: Quain is the rebel's contact with the Machinists' Guild in the last third of the story. Although he's ultimately a relatively minor character, beyond generally being nicer and kinder than most of the more-amoral ones willingly working for Macaan as long as he signs their figurative checks, his kindness to Chiro and treating him like a person instead of a disposable machine-part, ultimately stimulates feelings of guilt in Chiro when he betrays Quain on orders, and inspires the Breed to destroy himself to eliminate the pulse hammer attracting Kaiju out of the sea, foiling Macaan's last genocidal plans and saving all live on the continent.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: When Macaan thinks his daughter is dead, he goes completely off the deep end, planning to destroy both continents in both dimensions he rules while remaining in the Spirit World where he is safe and his power absolute. By the time he sees she's alive, he's too far gone to read her refusal to be further part of his plans as anything but a betrayal.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Wyverns of the books only have two legs, and although they can be bonded with human riders, they are presented more as beasts than sentient companions.
  • Parental Abandonment: Macaan's parents both die of a disease while he is at a young age, driving his ambition and desire to dominate the world before he too perishes.
    • Disappeared Dad: Macaan seeks to conquer the world to give to his daughter to prove how much he loves her. These efforts cause her to see him rarely while she is being raised by various nannies, and she resents any attempt of his to be a "father" to her.
    • Missing Mom: Kia and Ryushi's mother never returned from an expedition when they were children. turns out she was killed for being a Parakkan. Also, Aurin's mother dies from the same disease that killed Macaan's parents.
  • Nominal Hero / Unlikely Hero: Their home was burned to the ground by Macaan's forces, their father was murdered by a member of Aurin's court, Ryushi and Kia join up with Parakka, who spark a civil war with the Royalist army and are involved in a number of pitched skirmishes. So you'd expect one of the twins to land the killing blow on the man responsible for everything, right? Wrong. Out of seemingly nowhere, Whist shows up and lands one of his razor discs right between Macaan's eyes. Bet you didn't see that one coming!
  • Only One Name: Nine books, taking place across three years. Not once do you get an official/explicitly stated surname.
    • However, if one is willing to make a bit of a leap, you get a possibility as to the full names of the lead characters: Ryushi and Kia Osaka. Though this is only an assumption based on the fact that the names of properties/companies are often tied to the family that owns them (with the names of other locations being clearly fictional, why else would their home be called the Osaka Stud?) and, with the series having ended back in 2001, getting a Wordof God confirmation is unlikely.
  • Personof Mass Destruction: Anyone with the sufficient amount and color of spirit-stones, but most notably Ryushi, Kia, Takami and Aurin.
    • And, given plot developments at the very end, King Macaan. An exiled Deliverer who fights the twins in a pocket reality of his own making, just so he can turn one of Ryushi's potentially forest-destroying blasts of energy into an acorn and toss it back in his face like a grenade. Even after the Deliverers negated this reality warping he could still produce a spectacular amount of firepower, presumaby using spirit stones
  • Playing with Fire: The green and amber spirit stones allow their user to utilize fire powers; early on we're shown how this can be used day to day, as a street vendor uses them to heat water, as seen in Tusami City. But the more traditional use is seen with Takami, who has enough stones that he can throw out massive gouts of flame.
  • Power Glows: When leyline energy is utilised by a spirit-stone user, the spirit-stones themselves will start glowing.
  • Power Incontinence: Ryushi at the beginning of the series has no control over his immense power, and inevitably burns himself out pouring everything into one supercharged shot anytime he uses it.
  • Power Limiter: the aforementioned spirit-stones' power is nullified by "Damper Stones".
  • Relationship Upgrade: Ryushi and Calica, when a chapter in Act Two ends with the two of them fading to black in an elevator.
  • Shrouded In Mystery: Macaan's secret police, the Jachyra. Your average Dominion-born citizen believe they are invisible, and can pluck the thoughts out of your head.
  • Title Drop: There is no indication of what "Broken Sky" stands for until the end of Act One when the dying Tochaa gives Hochi his pendant and it is revealed to be a translation of old Kirin meaning something divided with the hope for eventual unity. By the end of the series, the something is revealed to be the worlds themselves. The pendant - in an abstract manner - depicts the shattering (breaking) of the sky as the Dominions and Kirin Taq were seperated.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Ryushi. The latter two Acts have him learning how to better control the power granted by his Spirit Stones and, eventually, fulfilling a childhood dream to own/be bonded to his own wyvern: Araceil.
  • The Dark Side: Takami took on the mantle of the Spirit-Masked Warrior and pledged allegiance to Macaan's Royalist cause, becoming a member of nobility in return (the Thane of Maar).
    • In the final part of Act Three, the revelation of his reasoning transforms what seemed like a simple power grab into a complex mixture of Screw Destiny and a Self-Sacrifice Scheme. Believing the universe to be one giant exercise in predeterminism orchestrated by the Deliverers and the pah'nu'kah - the ritual by which they implant newborns with Spirit Stones - Takami decided that the best and only way for his father's dream of deposing Macaan and freeing both the Dominions and Kirin Taq was to betray Parakka in the biggest way possible. By destroying his own family home and murdering his own father, he set his younger siblings on a three-year journey that eventually brought them to become an integral part of Parakka and succeeding where he thought his father would fail without his assistance. In his own words: "My honour was the sacrifice I made to free the worlds."
  • The Reveal: The Spirit-Masked Warrior, the one responsible for leading the destruction of Osaka Stud and murdering Ryushi and Kia's father, Banto, finally shows his face at the end of Act One. It's Takami.
    • Another one close to the end of the story when the twins finally get face-to-face with Macaan. Not only is he a tyrant king trying to impose his rule across two worlds, he's also an exiled Deliverer.
  • Schizo Tech: Semi-justified, the Mechanists' Guild has a monopoly on all the post-industrial technology through their being the only ones with the Stones to properly attune to it, and charges lots of money to build and maintain it.
  • The Trickster: Gerdi's ability practically revolves around this. His Noman spirit stones allow him to conjure illusions, altering the perceptions of select groups of people. Suffice to say, his use of this to startle Elani and his flippant personality go hand-in-hand.
  • Vision Quest: before the Koth Taraan will aid Parakka, they want to test one the group's representatives to see their motives. Kia accepts and enters a vision quest under the head Koth Taraan's observance.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": It turns out that Jaan did this for the Koth Taraan Iriqi, naming it after his and Peliqua's childhood pet dog.