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Literature / Children of the Lamp

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The first five novels.
Children of the Lamp is a series of fantasy novels for senior children as well as adolescents and adults written by the British author P.B. Kerr. It tells the story of twin djinn, or genies, John and Philippa Gaunt, and their challenges with adapting to the world of djinn. The story has a variety of themes, family, adventure, and loyalty being a few.

List of books in the series:

  1. The Akhenaten Adventure (2004)
  2. The Blue Djinn of Babylon (2006)
  3. The Cobra King of Kathmandu (2006)
  4. The Day of the Djinn Warriors (2007)
  5. The Eye of the Forest (2009)
  6. The Five Fakirs of Fazibad (2010)
  7. The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan (2011)

This series contains examples of:

  • Agent Scully: In spite of how unbelievable a djinn's powers are, don't call it "magic" around any of them. They'll insist that it all falls under scientific principles even though they don't entirely understand how it all works themselves. It's especially egregious when they still apply mystical language to describe it ("life-force", "inner-flame", etc.), constructing their society on inherent morality ("good" tribes and "bad" tribes) and other explicitly supernatural phenomena (the existence of angels and demons, the various monsters and immortals in Babylon, etc.).
  • Artistic License – Biology: A character in the fifth book is notable for having his head shrunken by an enemy Peruvian tribe, but they left him alive because he was a child at the time. Actual head-shrinking processes involve skinning the skull and shrinking the skin while tanning it into leather, so needless to say, this is not something that you could live through.
  • Asmodeus: While Asmodeus never officially appears in the series, he is mentioned as having existed as either a Fallen Angel or demon who was jealous of King Solomon's power, having stolen his ring (which was the alleged source of his divine wisdom) and impersonated him, only to be chased out by Solomon's many wives. He was also supposedly searching for Solomon's Grimoire, a book that Solomon wrote that had the power to control angels, djinn and humans.
  • Alliterative Title: All of the books, as part of their Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • The Akhenaten Adventure
    • The Blue Djinn of Babylon
    • The Cobra King of Kathmandu
    • The Day of the Djinn Warriors
    • The Eye of the Forest
    • The Five Fakirs of Fazibad
    • The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan
  • Always Female: The Blue Djinn of Babylon, essentially the leader of all Djinn, is always female. Presumably this is grounded in tradition as Ishtar was the first Blue Djinn.
  • Balance of Good and Evil: This is discussed from the first book, with Nimrod explaining how there are tribes of good djinn who deal in good luck and evil djinn who deal in bad luck, and that there will be serious consequences if the "homeostasis" between the two is disturbed too heavily. As a result, the good and evil djinn coexist for the most part, even meeting relatively civilly in neutral areas, and usually only intervene with each other if it seems that one side's actions will tip the balance too far. Iblis, who is from a very evil tribe of djinn, claims that there is no homeostasis and there's just always going to be more evil than good in the world, but this is treated as his own self-serving perspective.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: This is a recurring trope in the series; for example in the first book, Nimrod states that Harry Houdini was a djinn, and a more plot-relevant revelation is that Genghis Khan was also a djinn. It starts to take the tone that any human capable of great feats in history, obviously, had to be djinn.
  • Blazing Inferno Hellfire Sauce: For the Djinn, the kinds of dishes that would make curry-tested men cry out in pain and agony, is the equivalent of a mildly hot meal.
  • Brought Down to Normal:
    • Or "mundane" as the conclusion of the last book has John and Philippa use the full extent of their djinn powers to save the world, but it bereaves them of their djinn powers in doing so. Philippa and John are actually quite at peace with this.
    • Midway through the series this happened to Dybbuk, when he used up too much of his power as a celebrity magician, and it's treated like a horrible tragedy. It also happened to Layla Gaunt late in the series, but by choice, so Mr. Gaunt won't be afraid of her.
  • Child Hater: Nimrod is a downplayed example in that he doesn't hate "children," but despises babies (he also professes to hate Peter Pan, claiming that Peter Pan is akin to a baby for not wanting to grow up.) It's Played for Laughs, with a flashback in a later book showing him trying to give his niece and nephew gifts when they were born while going on about how disgusting they are.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Since Iblis' clan is evil by nature, his family doesn't mind what he does and he even conducts some of his schemes with his oldest son Rudyard's help. His sons are also shown to be bitter towards the twins for helping foil their father's plan in the first book. This trope is played with when it comes to Iblis' relationship with his youngest son Dybbuk, who is not purely evil like the rest of Iblis' family; he's shown to care about him to an extent, but not enough to keep from using him to his own ends.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: During the climax of The Day of the Djinn Warriors, Nimrod continually pesters Iblis about the fact that he manipulated his youngest son Dybbuk into losing his powers for his goals, since as evil as he is it's especially heinous for him to treat his own child that way. Iblis attempts to brush him off, before eventually getting frustrated and admitting that he is sorry about Dybbuk losing his powers and that he hadn't intended it, not anticipating how much magic Dybbuk would use. Significant since this is the same person who is shown in an earlier book cursing a child to turn into stone after said child unwittingly rescued him, purely For the Evulz.
  • Exact Words: The conditions to become the Blue Djinn of Babylon is to stay in hanging gardens of Babylon, breathing in the scents of the apple blossoms and drinking apple juice that will harden their heart, until they have become completely cold and logical. Faustina keeps her old personality intact by keeping her soul somewhere else while her body stays in the gardens.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • In The Day of the Djinn Warriors, Iblis and his son Rudyard are sealed in suits of jade armour forever. This is an awful fate even for a human, but even more so for djinns who are claustrophobic by nature.
    • In the second book, when Philippa is taken captive by the titular Blue Djinn, she meets a trapped Djiin in a bottle, with only a single book as a diversion and is moved by pity to release him. When the Djinn decides to kill her, she is saved by the Blue Djinn, who gives her the choice of punishment. Philipa decides to make the guy reread the book that he had during captivity, but the Blue Djinn makes him do it again and again for as long as he lives.
    • In the third book, it is discovered Dybbuk's sister Faustina is unable to attach her soul to a body and is therefore fated to wander around unseen by anyone. Her situation gets better, however.
    • Many djinn seem to treat losing their powers for good as this, like when it happens to Dybbuk. Although at the end of the series John and Philippa seem just fine with losing their powers.
  • Forced Transformation: Mrs. Gaunt is very fond of this as her method of punishment; for instance, the family dogs are Mr. Gaunt's treacherous brothers. She eventually promises to stop doing this when she realizes how badly it freaks her husband out.
  • Foreshadowing: Before the twins learn what they are, they have a discussion about the prospect of them being geniuses. Philipa corrects John, telling him that the proper plural of "genius" is "genii". Which just happens to be pronounced identically to, and is an alternate spelling of, "genie".
    • Also from the first book is all of the talk about how intelligent the family dogs are, how they seem to crave cigar smoke, and how distressed John and Phillipa's father gets when the twins decide to give the dogs new names. They're his own brothers turned into animals.
  • Genie in a Bottle: It doesn't have to be a bottle, but djinn can apparate themselves into any container that they wish—subsequently, they can be trapped inside them as well.
  • Hazy-Feel Turn: Lilith de Ghulle and her daughter Mimi are members of the Ghul Tribe (one of the "evil" djinn tribes) and both try to pass themselves off as Above Good and Evil in the hopes that Ayesha would name Lilith her successor as the Blue Djinn of Babylon. Nimrod believes that a djinn of one tribe or the other's moral compass is inherent, and given Lilith's bratty attitude, he might be right.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Mr. Gaunt's brothers. They tried to kill him sometime before the twins were born, leading to Layla turning them into dogs, but in the second book they transform back into their human selves after performing a Heroic Sacrifice to save their nephew (and were very loyal family pets even before that.) They're shown to regret what they tried to do and have no hard feelings towards Layla for transforming them.
  • Hellistics: Philippa grants a police officer three wishes. One of these wishes results in Layla Gaunt's body being incinerated by a volcano.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The names of the books are titled alphabetically, with Alliterative Titles:
    • The Akhenaten Adventure
    • The Blue Djinn of Babylon
    • The Cobra King of Kathmandu
    • The Day of the Djinn Warriors
    • The Eye of the Forest
    • The Five Fakirs of Fazibad
    • The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Villainous example; an irritated Iblis in the first book empties an entire brandy decanter in one gulp right after Philippa tricks him into eating a mouse. Becomes plot relevant shortly afterward, since he then binds the twins to the now-conveniently-empty decanter using some of their hair that he'd gathered earlier.
  • It's Fake Fur, It's Fine: Played with - When Philipa conjures up a fur coat for herself in The Five Fakirs, she makes sure to make it out of fake fur. She later finds out that her uncle Nimrod also conjured up a fur coat for himself - except with real fur. He says he isn't bothered by it, since it's not like any animals died to make that coat.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Even though its a children's book, Groanin often makes rude comments about races other than British and the other characters just kinda ignore it until Nimrod finally says, "Groanin, you're a racist" in the fifth book.
  • Logical Weakness:
    • The most obvious one is that while a Djinn is in a container of some kind, like a bottle or oil lamp, simply plugging the container leaves them utterly defenseless.
    • Djinn are described as beings of fire and thrive in the heat, so it stands to reason that the best way to pacify them is to go after them when its cold or trap them in some kind of cold-climate.
    • It's mentioned that, if hunting djinn, one of the best ways is simply to One-Hit Kill them by surprise, usually with a powerful gun.
    • A few times, it's brought up that since a djinn needs at least a couple of seconds to say their focus word, this doesn't do much against someone with a gun (unless you can distract them somehow).
  • Masquerade: Djinn, of course, need to keep their existence a secret from humans, and djinn who live among them, like John and Phillipa, need to pretend that they're human.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Dybbuk has this reaction for a brief moment when his plot to get his powers back results in his evil side literally coming out, staring in horror at what he'd done. Then said evil side kills his good half.
  • Product Placement: The author often names the brand of perfumes, cars, cigarettes and other stuff with no relevance to the plot.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Most Djinn can live for several hundred years and still look pretty young. They also mature pretty young and get their wisdom teeth at around thirteen years old. Furthermore, a djinn can theoretically live forever in its lamp, even if critically injured.
  • Taken for Granite: An unfortunate young boy who stumbles upon a trapped Iblis ends up setting him free in exchange for chocolate-covered ants to eat. Iblis, being Iblis, curses the chocolate-covered ants to turn the boy into stone. Layla decides to undo his curse and take him on as her attendant when she's on her way to becoming the Blue Djinn of Babylon.
  • Two Beings, One Body: Djinni can remove their spirits from their bodies and possess humans either by taking total control if the host is human or just riding in the backseat. Things get a bit awkward for a group of the heroes when Finlay has to serve as a host body for not only John but also Faustina. During this time Finlay refuses to take a shower because of Faustina's presence since he doesn't want her to see him naked. To make things even more enjoyable, both John and Finlay have a crush on Faustina. And a djinn passenger tends to pick up their host's thoughts.
  • Villains Want Mercy: As he and Rudyard are about to be sealed inside jade suits for all eternity, Iblis starts begging and pleading for Nimrod and the twins to put a stop to it, despite how he'd been planning similarly gruesome fates for them just a moment ago, as they point out.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: John and Philippa get bound into a brandy decanter in the first book and spend what seems to be weeks inside, while in reality Nimrod rescues them just a few minutes later. It's mentioned that this can be an occupational hazard for djinn (since time is relative to space, time in a bottle can either be greatly compressed or expanded, depending on which way one rotates one's smoke while entering).
  • You Need a Breath Mint: It's mentioned multiple times that Liskeard, who's basically a giant monitor lizard, has bad breath. There's even a scene in The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan where Philippa tries to inform him about his halitosis without angering him.