Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Counselors and Kings

Go To

Counselors and Kings is a trilogy of Heroic Fantasy novels by Elaine Cunningham that take place in the nation of Halruaa in the Forgotten Realms setting. As Halruaa is aesthetically and geographically distinct from the rest of the Realms, however, only the magic system, gods, and some throwaway references really tie it in to the main setting and it largely functions as its own self-contained story.

The kingdom of Halruaa is ruled by an aristocracy of powerful wizards, kept in check by an elaborate system of laws, customs, and restrictions. These are protected by the Jordain Order, a specialized group of people specially bred to have peak human physical and mental abilities and almost total resistance to magical power. Loyal only to truth, Halruaa, and their wizard patrons, they generally function as advisers and aides to the most influential wizard-lords, and are the titular Counselors. An order of specialized wizards called Magehounds ensure the Jordaini's purity.

The story follows four main characters- Matteo and Andris, two young Jordain who are about to learn that the land they love and the Order they are a part of both hold darker secrets than they could imagine; Tzigone, a mysterious girl who possesses both the magical abilities of a wizard and the sharp mind and magic resistance of a Jordain, but is haunted by the ghosts of her Dark and Troubled Past; and Kiva, an embittered Magehound with a personal vendetta against the wizards of Halruaa and all they stand for. These four are bound together by the dark legacy of Akhlaur, the most powerful necromancer who ever lived and whose shadow lies on Halruaa even two centuries after his disappearance. At the same time, there are many who have come to believe that Halruaa's aged king, Zalathorm, is starting to lose his grip on his throne and his magic, while a handful (most notably Lord Procopio Septus) scheme to claim the throne for themselves.

The trilogy consists of:

  1. The Magehound
  2. The Floodgate
  3. The Wizardwar

This Work Contains Examples Of:

  • Affably Evil: Kiva when she's not acting Ax-Crazy, Dhamari, sometimes Procopio.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Kiva. After the destruction of the Cabal and the freeing of the tapped elvish souls within it, she realizes that her life's work is complete, but she's still unable to let go of her hatred or the weight of all the terrible things she'd done to get to that point. Vishna executes her almost as a Mercy Kill and mourns over her body.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Crinti
  • Ancient Conspiracy: What most people think the Cabal is. It's actually a sentient Artifact of Doom.
  • Antagonist Title: The Magehound is named for Kiva, not any of the heroic members of the cast. Of course, it's also the only book where she's sole Big Bad- from The Floodgate on, Akhlaur's getting involved...
  • Anti-Magic: All Jordaini (and Tzigone) are completely immune to most magical effects, though particularly powerful ones can still affect them (albeit weaker than they would normally). As Tzigone finds out in her mage duel against Procopio in The Wizardwar, however, their environments are still fair game, and there's nothing that'll stop a giant elemental from picking her up and dropping her several hundred feet...
    • Akhlaur uses a variation; while he's not immune to magic himself, he can use the powers of the Cabal and/or the laraken to absorb any magic directed at him, increasing his own strength in the process.
  • Anti-Hero: Tzigone is a Type II, sometimes bordering on Type III if she's angry enough. Kiva would like to think she's a Type IV or V, doing bad things for a good cause, but by the end of the first book it's plain to just about everyone that she may have been an Anti-Hero at one time, but long ago descended into outright villainy.
  • Anti-Villain: Zephyr, the elf Jordain and Kiva's co-conspirator from the first book isn't really a bad sort, but he's dragged along in her schemes by his sense of personal obligation. One could also make a case for Uriah Belajoon, who wanted to avenge himself on Basel for a crime he didn't commit, but was really just a grieving old man manipulated by more evil characters.
  • The Archmage: All of the wizard-lords would like to lay claim to this level of skill, but the ones who fit it best are Zalathorm, Akhlaur and Vishna. Formally, just an alternative title for wizards powerful and loyal enough to be trusted, among the other things, with an airship and its secrets, used because some of them are so young "Elders" sounds weird.
  • Arc Words: The phrase "I grant you rest and respect" comes up often, usually in reference to the undead or the souls trapped in the Cabal. The last time it's said is by Vishna, just before he kills Kiva.
  • The Atoner: Zalathorm and Vishna. Also Andris in The Wizardwar.
  • Ax-Crazy: Kiva in a bad mood is pretty much this, particularly after the events of The Magehound.
  • Bad Powers, Good People: Matteo is probably the most straightforwardly decent, heroic person in the whole trilogy but he also has a natural affinity for the Shadow Weave.
  • Badass Bookworm: All Jordain again, though Matteo is particularly noted for being able to reel off facts on almost any subject and immediately after take down most opponents.
  • Bastard Bastard: Referenced. Tzigone is not an example, being a heroic if chaotic character, but she does refer to herself as "a bastard in every sense of the word" in the first book.
  • Bifauxnen: Tzigone, who is noted to be very flat and has no trouble at all impersonating a boy (Matteo thinks she's male when they first meet).
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Kiva and Akhlaur in The Wizardwar.
    • Big Bad Wannabe: Procopio and Dhamari try and get in on the action too, but are playing well out of their league.
  • Big Good: Zalathorm
  • Black Magic: The Shadow Weave.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Themo
  • Broken Bird: Tzigone has elements of this beneath her sunny exterior. Kiva starts out a bird broken beyond hope of recall, and goes downhill from there.
  • Broken Pedestal: Not an individual, but Halruaa's wizard lords in general get a heavy dose of this from Matteo's and Andris's point of view. Tzigone, for her part, never had much use for wizards even though she is one.
  • Cast from Lifespan: After the confrontation with the laraken at the end of the first book, Kiva gets not quite permanently drained of most of her powers though the laraken is incapable of killing her, as it's her offspring. Partway through The Floodgate she's able to regain her magic through a combination of intense study and cannibalizing the energy of a number of captured artifacts, but the effort visibly ages her, causing her to go from looking about the same age as Matteo and Tzigone (around 20) to looking middle-aged (though being an elf, she's of course actually far older than that).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Queen Beatrix. Tzigone sometimes comes off as this too, though it's more something she does to amuse herself rather than an actual trait of her personality.
  • Combat Sadomasochist: The Crinti are a Proud Warrior Race who worship the goddess of pain. You do the math.
  • Covers Always Lie: Make that back covers. The summary on the back of The Magehound bears only a superficial resemblance to the novel's plot. The other two are somewhat better.
  • Dark Action Girl: All the Crinti, Kiva
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many, though Matteo and Akhlaur are perhaps the most notable. In general, since jordaini are supposed to be The Stoic, their senses of humor tend towards the understated and sarcastic.
  • Determinator: Tzigone is like this in her pursuit of her mother's fate and her family history- Matteo is this even more so when going after important information he needs to best serve Halruaa. Lampshaded in The Floodgate when one of Procopio's political allies tries to stop Matteo's investigation of Kiva by throwing bureaucratic roadblocks at him, and Procopio angrily chews the guy out since those tactics will just make someone like Matteo more determined.
  • Deuteragonist: Matteo and Tzigone split the role of protagonist about evenly, with Kiva as deuteragonist and Andris as tritagonist.
  • Dirty Coward: Dhamari
  • Disproportionate Reward:
  • The Dog Bites Back: The demon Akhlaur summoned to aid his magic was directly responsible for his defeat.
  • The Dreaded: Akhlaur, even two hundred years after his first defeat.
  • Dual Wielding: The preferred weapons of the Jordain are two long knives.
  • Eccentric Mentor: Basel is middle-aged rather than ancient, but his combination of eccentricity, skill, and wisdom fits the trope, and he is a mentor to both Tzigone and Matteo.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Easy Amnesia: Tzigone has had this for years and spends much of the trilogy looking for her past. It turns out her memories were magically repressed. Queen Beatrix was also enspelled so she wouldn't remember being Keturah.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even Dhamari is appalled when he finds out that Kiva brought Akhlaur back, though he quickly swallows his revulsion and sees opportunity for himself.
    • Crinti are raiders from the land which is mostly theocracy worshiping the goddess of pain. And then one was told that a "partner" gave one on them to the Unseelie as a punishment. She calmly closed the conversation, then ordered her team to wrap up and go away, finding it impossible to deal with someone who can do this.
  • Evil Chancellor: Sort of. Cassia, Zalathorm's original Jordain, is certainly amoral and amibitious and has no love for the protagonists, but there's no indication she's doing her job improperly or trying to corrupt Zalathorm.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Okay, so Kiva wants revenge against both King Zalathorm, Akhlaur, and Halruaa itself. So at the climax of The Floodgate she frees Akhlaur from his imprisonment, intending to pit him against Zalathorm so that both will die and Halruaa will be devastated. Thing is, Akhlaur catches on almost immediately to what's going on, and makes it very clear to both Kiva and the reader that he's playing along only insofar as it suits himself.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Seeing as most of the characters in the trilogy are wizards this could apply to almost all the villains, but the one who fits the stereotype best is Akhlaur, hands down. He was also gunning for Evil Overlord before Zalathorm took him down.
  • Freudian Trio: Tzigone (id) Andris (ego) and Matteo (superego). Akhlaur, Vishna, and Zalathorm are implied to have been one too when they were young, though it's hard to say who held what role.
  • Friendly Enemy: Procopio and Basel start out this way. Over the course of the trilogy, the "Friendly" part gradually goes away.
  • Gambit Roulette: Kiva's scheme, 200 years in the making. Its needless complexity is justified considering the mental stability (or lack thereof) of the person doing it.
  • Genetic Memory: Tzigone can call on some of her mother's memories at times of great distress. She also has a more limited ability to see into the past in general.
  • The Ghost: In The Magehound. Akhlaur comes up often, but since he was defeated (though not killed) long ago, he never actually appears. And then in The Floodgate, he rectifies that in a big way.
  • Guile Hero: Matteo and Tzigone both count. Considering the in-depth studies Matteo has made of why magic works and how to counter it, he could also be seen as this universe's version of a Science Hero.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Andris is part elf. The laraken is Kiva's offspring with a water demon. The Crinti (Dambrath nobles, legally should be either half-elf or at least 1/32 drow) are part-drow — descendants of Loviatar priestesses and dark elf males.
  • The Heavy: Kiva. Akhlaur may be more powerful and a bigger threat, but Kiva gets the lion's share of villain-related page time and development, being arguably as central to the story as Matteo or Tzigone.
  • Heroic Bastard: Tzigone. This is a cause of great concern for her, as her mother was a wizard and a wizard's bastard is traditionally put to death if the father can't be named (to avoid contaminating the breeding pool with wild talents). She's understandably worried that the truth will come out but it turns out her parents actually were married at first secretly, and later publicly.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Andris makes one in the final battle, taking a bolt of death magic Akhlaur had intended for Zalathorm.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Basel looks fairly harmless on the surface; a friendly, jovial man more than willing to laugh off most offenses. Get into a real fight with him, though, and he'll show you why he used to be a battle wizard who instructed Jordaini students, and if you threaten his apprentices, he'll show definite Papa Wolf tendencies as well.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Several of these revelations come up, unsurprising for a series that puts such a strong emphasis on bloodlines. For the trio, they are:
    • Tzigone is Zalathorm and Beatrix/Keturah's daughter
    • Matteo is the son of Vishna, his favorite teacher
    • Andris is distantly descended from both Kiva and Akhlaur
  • The Magocracy: Halruaa, though ironically the second-highest rank after wizard is reserved for those without any magic at all.
  • Mama Bear: Keturah, and how.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Kiva's very good at this, though the fact that her insanity leaves her somewhat... erratic causes her to fall short of Magnificence.
  • Masquerade: Everyone knows basics about the Jordaini Order, but almost no one knows more unpleasant details, kept under the cover by conspiracy and oaths. Some of which would be severely detrimential for civil peace, let alone make keeping this tradition alive very hard.
    • A lot of the more unpleasant details of the Jordain start to make a scary amount of sense after it's revealed that the first Jordain were created by Akhlaur.
  • Meaningful Name: "Tzigone" means "Gypsy", and Tzigone the character chose the name for that reason. Her real name is Ria, though even after she remembers it she still seems to go by Tzigone, judging by the epilogue.
  • Mind Rape: At one point Procopio casts a mind-probing spell so intrusive it's directly compared to a sexual assault. Because the target is Tzigone, however, not only does it not work, but Procopio gets a punch to the face for his troubles. Naturally, the previous target of his intrusion was quite happy about this incident.
    • The Unseelie are also fond of doing this to mortals who wander into their domain. There's a reason that they're one of the only things the Drow and their Crinti cousins fear.
  • Moody Mount: Cyric. "What did the horse do to earn a name like that?"
  • Moral Myopia: Vishna is very good at handing out personal wisdom, but not always the greatest at following it himself, which lead him to get mixed up in Kiva's schemes. He redeems himself in the end, though.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Dhamari
  • Not That Kind of Mage: There's a distinct hierarchy of types of wizards in Halruaa. Diviners and summoners are near the top, with conjurers, illusionists, and necromancers further down and generalists at the bottom. Referring to a wizard as part of a lower-ranking school will not go over well.
    • Shining South for the roleplaying game noted that this isn't really a formal hierarchy, and that diviners used to be quite a bit lower down in the ranking before Zalathorm showed just how useful a diviner Archmage could be in a position of power.
  • Old Master: Vishna
  • Oh, My Gods!: Most Halruaans swear by Mystra, the goddess of magic. For swears that don't involve directly invoking a god's name, "by wind and word!" (also the phrase that seals a wizard-word oath) is popular, while Akhlaur prefers the variation "by curse and current!"
  • One-Gender Race: Make that one gender caste, for the most part. Jordaini girls are stillborn more often than not, and as a result the Jordaini are overwhelmingly male, with notable exceptions like Cassia and Tizgone, sort of.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The main elf character, Kiva, is a villain, and the most prominent group of elves we see are her Unwitting Pawns. Elves are also noted as Akhlaur's favorite race to experiment on because of their innate magic.
  • Parental Abandonment: All Jordaini are raised apart from their parents, and the overwhelming majority never know who they are (though most don't feel a huge lack, since they consider the order to be their family). Tzigone spends most of the series trying to track down what happened to Keturah, her Missing Mom who is apparently dead but is revealed to be alive, albeit amnesiac. In the process, she runs across several people who might be her Disappeared Dad but the real one is King Zalathorm himself.
  • Photographic Memory: Jordain have this, as a combined result of intense mental training and the fact that their minds are already naturally enhanced. Tzigone, who has the natural ability but not the training, is extremely envious of this because of how her memory has some rather large holes in it.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Matteo and Tzigone grow into this kind of dynamic; while she does flirt with him on occasion, it's made plain she just does it to annoy him and not because she's seriously attracted to him. Somewhat ironically, Matteo at one point theorizes that they are (half) siblings, but this turns out not to be true.
  • Poke in the Third Eye: Turning a crystal ball into so much shrapnel.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Tzigone is barefoot nearly every time Matteo meets her. She is even barefoot when a disguise would allow it, such as when she was dressed as a performer. Clearly a preference rather than a need as in the epilogue she has once again ditched her shoes to get in bar fights, despite no doubt having access to them as a Princess.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: Dhamari, though he's very good at making it seem natural, causing most people to dismiss him as fawning and overly polite but harmless. This is not a smart move.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Crinti
  • Psychological Torment Zone: The Unseelie realm, for Tzigone and to a lesser extent Matteo.
  • Quest for Identity: Tzigone's on one.
  • Rape as Backstory: Kiva was raped at least twice- once by Akhlaur to produce the bloodline from which Andris will descend and once by a demon to produce the laraken. Unless directly referring to her progeny, however, Kiva doesn't angst about these in particular, lumping them in with all the other torture she suffered as Akhlaur's favorite guinea pig.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: King Zalathorm.
  • Rebellious Princess: If the epilogue of The Wizardwar is anything to go by Tzigone has definitely slipped into this role
  • Refuge in Audacity: Tzigone's whole life, pretty much.
    • What the last thing one would expect from someone wearing stolen clothes and medallion of a powerful militant order who passed for a pupil, but was wrongly berated for a failure to behave accordingly?
    Tzigone: Watch who you're calling a Jordain! Don't start with me, unless you want to hear a few things about yourself that you won't like knowing. (And though not a jordain, she made good on this threat.)
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Hilariously inverted in The Floodgate.
  • Royal Bastard: Tzigone, though Zalathorm did marry her mother officially later on.
  • Running Gag: Tzigone stealing Matteo's Jordain medallion, and in the first book vehemently denying that she's a wizard, usually just after performing some fairly blatant magic. When she takes an apprenticeship with master wizard Basel Indoulur, Matteo is quick to point out the irony.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Akhlaur.
  • Secret Identity: Queen Beatrix is actually Keturah, Tzigone's mother. It's so secret, even she doesn't know.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Not the trilogy itself, but considering that according to 4th edition Realms, Halruaa was completely destroyed by the Spellplague not terribly long afterward...
  • Smug Snake: Procopio Septus, Dhamari Exhelsor
  • Soul Jar: Kiva's great quest is hunt for the gem containing trapped souls of her tribe. The Cabal also acts as an equivalent of lich's phylactery for Akhlaur, Vishna, and Zalathorm.
  • Street Urchin: Tzigone, when we first meet her.
  • Square Race, Round Class: Snarkily invoked by Akhlaur; he mentions at one point that "they" say that elves can't be necromancers, and then follows up by noting that "they" obviously never met Kiva.
  • Trickster Girlfriend: Tzigone for Matteo; they are not officially a couple, but there are romantic overtones between them. And she really loves to play tricks on him, including stealing his Jordain medallion and pretending in public that she spent a night with him when she's disguised as a courtesan.
  • Undying Loyalty: Mbatu, Kiva's bodyguard in The Magehound, feels this way towards her. It's mentioned that Kiva appreciates the attitude, but does not understand it.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Just about everyone at some point—Andris perhaps most obviously.
  • Villain Protagonist: Arguably Kiva; she's not the only main character, but gets at least as much pagetime as Matteo and Tzigone, and probably more than Andris.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Kiva has a couple.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Zalathorm, Akhlaur and Vishna are all over three hundred years old because the Cabal is keeping them alive. Kiva is only a little bit younger, though because she's an elf there's no magic involved and it doesn't show.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Andris briefly flirts with this in The Floodgate. Kiva thinks she's this, but closer examination of her motives puts her closer to Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • What Happened To The Laraken?: Well, it most likely died with its creator, but its never touched on directly. Vishna's final fate is also not touched on, though considering what we last see him doing and his circumstances at the time after killing Kiva and seeing Akhlaur die, he probably killed himself.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: The Jordain as a whole. They're not above to using Exact Words or something that is Metaphorically True to leave a wrong impression, though.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Shadow Weave, theorized by Matteo but never confirmed as the cause of Akhlaur's descent from youthful patriot to psychopathic necromancer.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Kiva does some truly terrible things, but considering how awful her backstory was it's easier to pity her than hate her.