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Literature / Darwath

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Darwath is the setting of a series of fantasy novels by Barbara Hambly, initially a trilogy in the 1980s, followed by various later sequels.

  • The Darwath trilogy — The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight — tells the story of Gil and Rudy, two ordinary Californians who are recruited by the wizard Ingold Inglorion to help save his world from the Dark.
  • Mother Of Winter — Ancient aliens are terraforming the world back into its ancient form, with only Ingold and Gil to stop them, while Rudy uncovers the origin of the Keep's power.
  • Icefalcon's Quest — The Icefalcon must return to his roots to rescue Prince Tir.
  • Pretty Polly (short story) — Gil starts having strange dreams about her past when people in the Keep of Dare start dying. Rumors of a strange monster abound just as Ingold goes missing.

This series contains examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Between Gil and Ingold. It takes a while to get off the ground precisely because of this.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Gil sifts through old fashion catalogs, fairy tales, old diaries, and other minutia no one paid attention to and figures out from context clues that the monsters were never actually defeated the first time and their current emergence is part of a natural cycle.
  • Badass Bookworm: Gil defied her parents to go to college and finish her degree, and once in Darwath she becomes a very capable warrior, earning the epithet Ice-Spear.
  • Bait-and-Switch: On Earth, Gil Patterson is a graduate student in medieval history, while Rudy Solis is an auto mechanic. When they cross to the medieval, magic-using realm of Darwath, one would expect him to become a warrior and her to become a mage. Just the opposite actually happens: Gil discovers a knack for the sword and joins the elite fighting unit called simply "the Guards" (although she never stops being a scholar), while Rudy finds that he's mageborn and becomes an apprentice wizard with Ingold as his teacher.
  • Bamboo Technology: Gil builds a tricorder from spare parts in the Keep. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Ingold Inglorion is very obviously the late Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, brown robes, beautiful voice and all.
  • Corrupt Church: Darwath has a generic "The Church" that frequently makes Our Heroes miserable, having as a central tenet of its faith that wizards are evil and soulless. It also generates some interesting Church vs. State conflicts regarding food distribution and legal jurisdiction, wrangles between two bishops — the compassionate Maia of Thran (an ex-soldier) and the fierce ascetic Govannin Narmenlion, who is less 'corrupt' than utterly convinced of the rightness of her beliefs — and is, on occasion, somewhat helpful by providing historical records.
  • Crapsack World: Darwath is being invaded by flesh-eating Lovecraftian monsters, but that's just their top problem; also, their world is sliding into an Ice Age, and the Church is zealously destroying the wizards and magic-tech that are the only things that just might save them.
  • Cryptic Conversation: This is Ingold's favorite method of teaching wizardry. Rudy gets a full dose of it during their journey to the Wizards' City of Quo in The Walls of Air.
  • Cthulhu Mythos: While never named, the Mother of Winter is clearly Shub-Niggurath from H. P. Lovecraft.
  • Data Crystal: The earlier human civilization that built the Keep of Dare used magitech data crystals to store information. No one ever figures out if there's an audio track.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Dark Ones are an entire species of these. They have no solid body; they're as flexible as an octopus. They're natural flyers, by some completely unknown means. They have their own kind of magic and they can suppress human magic. There is no evidence they're native to the world of Darwath. Worst of all is what Rudy sees when he visits a Nest of the Dark and gets deep enough into it to see the Dark Ones' nursery. When another wizard asks him about it afterwards, he won't talk about what he saw beyond a single question: "Do you know what a tarantula-wasp is?"
  • Expecting Someone Taller: In The Time of the Dark, when Rudy sees a young woman being given lots of bossy instructions when she takes the baby heir to the throne out for a bit of air, Rudy assumes the girl is the most junior nursemaid. She's the Queen.
  • Extradimensional Emergency Exit: Ingold pulls two Extradimensional Escapes early in the opening book of the Darwath trilogy, "The Time of the Dark":
    • He "crosses the void" to Earth from the fall of the palace at Gae with Prince Tir, to shield him from the Dark Ones.
    • When a Dark One tracks him to California in our world, he crosses back to Darwath, taking Gil and Rudy with him to get them out of a burning cabin.
  • Extradimensional Power Source: In Mother Of Winter, Rudy uses 1-dimensional strings to gather preservation magic, a 2-dimensional circle to summon animals, and a 3-dimensional sphere to summon water and rehydrate potatoes. The secret to using magic from 4-dimensional objects is passed down to Ingold for the finale.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion: Incidental details scattered throughout the books indicate that the Church of Darwath greatly resembles the medieval or early-Renaissance Catholic Church. There are bishops, priests, monks, churches and monasteries. The Church preaches against luxury and in favor of self-discipline — and of course it's bitterly opposed to any kind of magic.
  • Functional Magic: Mages possess an inherent gift, which must then be developed with training in Rule Magic.
  • Genetic Memory: The kings of Darwath inherit the memories of their ancestors. It's why Eldor is killed or so we think and why baby Altir becomes a Living MacGuffin, as those memories include how the Dark was defeated last time. It's initially thought that only the men have this ability, until Minalde starts getting visions of her own.
  • I Choose to Stay: Both Gil and Rudy have found reasons to stay in Darwath by the end of the trilogy.
  • Improbable Taxonomy Skills: Rudy can instantly identify a small animal from its bones, but he was highly trained in botany/zoology/magic and the question is: 'rabbit or chicken'.
  • It Can Think: At first the Dark are considered to be simple monsters, no more intelligent than predatory animals. Then they make and execute a complex plan to kill the infant Prince Altir and his mother in a way that looks like an accident. About the same time, Ingold and Gil discover that long ago, the Dark lived on the surface and even built cities. Late in the second book, Ingold and Rudy discover that the Dark Ones have a Hive Mind, and any human wizard who shapechanges into a Dark One loses his or her individuality and becomes part of the mass-mind forever.
  • Magitek: There's an abundance of Lost Technology that runs on magic, ranging from data crystals to holographic interfaces to the Keep itself.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: A strong-enough wizard can shape-change into any kind of animal, but they run the risk of becoming that animal in mind as well as in body, and losing their awareness of their own humanity.
  • The Multiverse: Ingold explains the Void as a sort of super-universe that contains many separate, more or less parallel universes. When Gil and Rudy are in Darwath, Gil notices that the stellar constellations look similar to Earth's, suggesting that Darwath is a parallel Earth. All of the animals and plants of Darwath are also analogs of known Earth animals, save for a few that were obviously created by magic.
  • Retcon: The 5th book just casually mentions that there's been disembodied 'demons' everywhere, all throughout the series. Everyone just ignores them, so thoroughly that they were never mentioned. The only reference is an occasionally mentioned 'demon-catcher', sounding similar to an American Indian dream-catcher in our world.
  • Spoiler: The Pretty Polly short story references key points from the last two novels.
  • The Storyteller: Gil becomes quite well known among the guards for retelling Earth fiction during the long dull hours of guard duty, to the point that they become quite familiar with tales of time machines, transporters, and starships.
  • Trapped in Another World: Gil and Rudy. It's not that Ingold can't take Gil and Rudy back to Earth, but if they don't deal with the Dark first there's the risk of the Dark learning how it's done and coming to eat Earth.
  • Tulpa: The Mother of Winter dreamed her three guardians into existence. Or possibly they dreamed her into existence. At any rate, the four exist independently of each other, with the guardians deciding to get rid of the humans.
  • Wizard Classic: Ingold Inglorion is a classic fantasy wizard — a wise old man, robed and hooded and sporting a thick white beard, carrying a long staff that he uses to focus his magic, who serves as a guide and source of ancient knowledge for the younger characters.

Alternative Title(s): The Time Of The Dark, The Walls Of Air, The Armies Of Daylight