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It's a bad old time for Humanity in general. The human Empire is presided over by Empress Lionstone, aka the Iron Bitch, a ruler who makes Josef Stalin look like Gandhi. Everywhere in the Empire, rebellions are popping up and popping heads as fast as one can blink, and are slaughtered with utmost efficiency. Espers, clones, degenerates, and slaves are ubiquitous, treated as third-class citizens when they're not being tortured, experimented on, or simply shot. And, for once in the Empire's history, nobody is truly safe — be it noble, commoner, or servant.

That's not the worst of it, though. From the borders of the Empire, a number of threats have arisen: a group of formerly subservient AIs which broke free of their programming and formed the planet Shub, driven to exterminate their old masters; the Sleepers, a group of aliens genetically engineered as weapons, intended to destroy all in their path... and other horrors from beyond the Darkvoid, a multiple-light-year-wide sphere of death which the Empire created hundreds of years ago. Oh, and that's still nothing compared to the court intrigues, only kept at bay by the terror the Empress bestows upon her subjects.

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The eight-book Deathstalker series, written by Simon R. Green, drops the reader right into the midst of this, beginning with the outlawing of one Owen Deathstalker, an aristocratic historian who just wanted to relax in comfort on his idyllic, pastoral homeworld. That changes fast, and he's forced to take up arms with the smuggler Hazel D'Ark, the bounty hunter Ruby Journey, the hero of the rebellion Jack Random, and the former Hadenman Tobias Moon... as well as a host of other unsavory characters, all of whom are out for themselves as much as anything.

In short, the Deathstalker series is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink Space Opera and is sliced up into hundred- or two-hundred-page sections which could generally stand as stories on their own right. The recipe is simple: one part Star Wars, two parts French Revolution, and a dash of Affectionate Parody, satire, and Lovecraftian horror, liberally sprinkled with Funny Moments. One can expect quite a lot of Shocking Moments when explaining any given segment, particularly as one reads further on. Finally, outside of the series itself, there are a handful of other stories written by Simon R. Green in the same universe, including the compilation Twilight of the Empire.

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The series consists of the following:

  • Twilight of the Empire (1998) (also known as Deathstalker Prelude)
    • Mistworld (1992)
    • Ghostworld (1993)
    • Hellworld (1993; revised 1995)
  • Deathstalker (1995)
  • Deathstalker Rebellion (1996)
  • Deathstalker War (1997)
  • Deathstalker Honour (1998)
  • Deathstalker Destiny (1999)
  • Deathstalker Legacy (2002)
  • Deathstalker Return (2004)
  • Deathstalker Coda (2005)

The series basically exits in three parts: Twilight of the Empire gives some important but ultimately optional backstory to important locales like Mistworld and Unseeli, and important characters like Silence and Carrion. The next five novels revolve around Owen Deathstalker, the rebellion against Lionstone, and the efforts to reforge the Empire into something better. The last three books take place 200 years later, show what the efforts of our heroes ultimately wrought, and conclude the series on pretty much a happy note.


This series contains examples of:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Brett considers Rose to be one, not without good cause.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Monofilament swords.
    • All the swords, actually. While most everything in the Empire is described as being made of steel, the swords seem to have no problem cutting through whatever opponents are in their way. Unless those opponents are Grendels, who are just about immune to everything.
    • Personal force shields have these, which are used to great effect in some of the books.
  • Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Golgotha's sewer system is essentially most of the interior of the planet.
    • Averted on Brahmin II, where the sewer Hazel leads Owen through is described in relatively realistic dimensions for the amount of outflow it would be expected to handle.
  • Action Girl: Simon R. Green seems to love this. Examples are Hazel, Ruby, Investigator Frost; Jesamine; Rose; Investigator Topaz; and... pretty much every woman of any note in the books. Even Girly Girl Evangeline Shreck Took a Level in Badass very quickly, only stopped from being a true Action Girl by the fact that she's usually standing next to way more impressive fighters. Or she only comes across as a Girly Girl because she's surrounded by Maze-adjusted professional adventurers and highly-trained living weapon Investigators.
  • Addiction-Powered: Valentine Wolfe is the son of a preeminent nobleman in the galaxy's Decadent Court, who uses a frankly astounding variety of Fantastic Drugs. These include ones that grant Super Reflexes, Super Strength, Hyper-Awareness, Rubber Man resilience, and daydreams so lurid that he can No-Sell a Psychic-Assisted Suicide because it's tame by comparison. No few of those drugs were intended for sexual purposes before he got hold of them, effectively inverting (well, zig-zagging) Power Perversion Potential.
  • Agent Peacock: Finlay Campbell is, at court, a worthless fop, obsessed with glitz and glam — and also, in his alter-ego, the most prominent fighter in Golgotha's Arena. When the Esper Underground snatches him up, he's forced to discard that imagery, but still remains one of the most dangerous baseline humans in the series, and that's saying a lot.
  • A God Am I: Owen and Hazel, eventually.
  • Agri World: Virimonde, the home planet of Owen Deathstalker (the name roughly means "green world" in French) is described as one.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: In the later books it is stated that dealing in Alien Porn is extremely lucrative and a statutory death sentence.
    • Emma Steel, Paragon from Mistworld recently reassigned to Logres, believes this. Lewis tries to explain to her that she'll get burned out if she doesn't focus on the big terrorist groups, but she doesn't listen. In her first hour on Logres, she arrests some scammers at the starport, then three muggers, seven pickpockets, and one flasher.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Shub. Also, the automatons on Haceldama, though in that case it's almost double-invoked, as Shub wanted all the A.I.s they made on Haceldama to be murderous, but some actually turned good.
  • Alien Geometries: Several. Heck, just about anything not built specifically by humans falls under this trope to some extent.
    • The AIs of Shub constructed a world of their own to live on. Unfortunately for humans who might visit, it exists in more dimensions than they can perceive and so is unhealthy to look at for extended periods of time.
    • The Madness Maze, despite a relatively innocuous appearance, had convoluted, nigh-sentient path designs that would either evolve you into a higher being or tear you apart.
    • The alien city outside the Vault of the Sleepers on Grendel is also said to be fundamentally disturbing to humans, killing a large chunk of the company before they even get to the Vault.
    • The Hadenmen ship interiors are said to have angles that humans can't comfortably perceive.
  • Almighty Idiot: An infant with the power to annihilate stars with a thought.
  • Alternate Self: After going through the Madness Maze, Hazel develops the ability to summon alternate versions of herself who went through the Maze in their native universes, to fight alongside her when needed. Deathstalker Honor has her actually getting to know two of them, Midnight Blue and Bonnie Bedlam, since she needs them to stick around for a longer time.
  • Amplifier Artifact: Carrion uses a weapon banned throughout the Empire: a power lance, banned because it makes an esper wielding one all but invincible by enhancing their abilities.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Once Finn Durandal makes himself King, then Emperor, he supports a few "night of the long knives" to eliminate threats to his power. Description near the end of Deathstalker Return show he's basically become a much more Genre Savvy Adolf Hitler.
  • And I Must Scream: The first series featured psi-blockers, devices that could prevent espers from using their powers. The psi-blockers in question were created by extracting the brains from living espers, sealing them in special containers, and periodically triggering their pain receptors. The psychic screams of agony disrupted all espers in the area.
  • Anti-Hero: Nearly every character.
  • Anyone Can Die: After 1.2 million words, Owen is cut down in a simple street fight — and when he's dead they even steal his boots. He does get better in the sequel series, but a lot of other protagonists don't.
  • Apocalypse How: Caused by the Darkvoid Device superweapon. The one time it was activated, it extinguished a thousand suns in a heartbeat. It created an area known, itself, as the Darkvoid, the home of aliens bent on the destruction of all civilization. It's later revealed to be a massively powerful psychic — and the infant child of one of the main characters, both of them kept in stasis for hundreds of years, both awakened in the current time by a descendant.
  • Archaic Weapon for an Advanced Age: Played with — despite having really impressively effective disruptors, most fights are settled at sword point, as unless you have a starship's power supply to hook them up to, a disruptor takes 2 minutes to recharge. Chemically-propelled kinetic weapons (ie- bullet shooting guns) do exist in the setting, and are far more efficient, but are mostly forgotten about thanks to a concerted effort in the setting's past to ban them.
  • Arc Words: "A whole greater than the sum of its parts."
    • "Deathstalker luck. Always bad."
  • Artifact Title: Not so much with the series itself (there is still a Deathstalker in the last three books, though an indirect descendant whose family took the name out of respect.) But while the Imperial capital world of Golgotha is renamed Logres for the last three books, its major city is still called The Parade of the Endless, so-named because of the endless meatgrinder of its main feature, the Arena. In the last three books, the Arena still exists, but the sport is less about blood and death than it is about skill (and regeneration machines keep death at bay, at least for the sapient combatants.)
  • Artificial Limbs: Late in Deathstalker, Owen loses a hand. By the start of Deathstalker Rebellion, the Hadenmen have given him a fully functioning golden replacement. Then in Deathstalker Honor, he learns it's been spreading filaments throughout his body, and is meant to let them take control of him. With encouragement from Hazel, he promptly regains control via his Maze-augmented powers, chops it off, expels the filaments and regrows a normal hand.
  • A Spot Of Tea: While the first series mostly revolves around I Need a Freaking Drink, this trope shows up a few times in the second series. Notably, after Lewis is bored to tears by his new job as Champion, and MP from Virimonde cuts off his planet-sponsored funding because Lewis won't use his influence on Virimonde's behalf, Jesamine takes Lewis to the best tea room on Logres to help get his mind off it.
    • As Imperial forces wait around Haden to decide what to do about Lewis and Co. in Deathstalker Return, the fanatical Admiral of the fleet is chaffing under her very strict orders. Her Captain asks if he should order them a cup of tea while they wait.
    • In Deathstalker Coda, as Owen travels back in time to the First Empire, he keeps cheekily asking if he and the various important people he meets can sit down, have a cup of tea, and talk about this. (No.)
  • Ass Shove: In Deathstalker Honor, Evangeline Shreck is forced to approach her father, who intends to force her back into his servitude, completely in the nude. She can't carry any regular concealed weapon... but a deactivated monofilament blade's handle is relatively easy to hide in the one place the guards wouldn't look.
  • As You Know: Or rather, As You (Should) Know, since Hazel makes a habit of not attending Rebellion (and later, Empire) briefings, leaving Owen to explain to her (and the audience) where they're going, what they're doing, and why. Owen will frequently pause in his exposition to say that Hazel would know all this already if she attended the briefings, and Hazel responds that she knows how much Owen loves lecturing her and doesn't want to deny him the satisfaction.
  • Attacking Through Yourself: The Masked Gladiator aka Finlay Campbell is fighting a winged genetically-engineered creature in the Arena, which grabs him from behind and carries him into he air, intending to impale him on one of the Arena's flagpoles. The Masked Gladiator can't attack the creature behind him effectively, so stabs through his own gut to hit the creature solidly enough to make it and him fall to the ground, where the Gladiator beheads it. The Gladiator makes a show of the wound not slowing him down... until he gets back to his private quarters, where he needs to quickly hop into a regeneration machine before he passes out.
  • Attending Your Own Funeral: In Deathstalker Destiny, Finlay Campbell is laid to rest after supposedly dying during his destruction of Shreck Tower the book before. Shortly afterward, he shows up at his lover's home, and reveals he survived the tower's destruction, snuck out, went underground and watched his funeral from a discreet distance.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: In Deathstalker Legacy, a criminal has the unlikely moniker of Toby Goddamnit. He never says how he got his name before he dies.
  • Back in the Saddle: As part of Owen's plan to overthrow Empress Lionstone they plan to recruit Jack Random, the "professional rebel". To their surprise, Random is now an old, world-weary retiree who, after one defeat too many, has taken up janitorial duties. They manage to bring him back in and he proves to still have a good bit of fight in him.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: A favorite tactic of the heroes.
  • Badass Bookworm: Owen Deathstalker. He never really enjoyed the warrior training his family required of him, but he did it because he had to. After spending a few years getting soft, it all comes back to him. But his real passion is to sit back and, in his own words, "write boring histories no one ever reads." His vast store of historical knowledge actually helps the Rebellion plan effective strategy. Having read about countless successful and failed rebellions, he knows what tactics work and what mistakes to avoid.
  • Badass Normal: More than a few of the rebels, including Finlay Campbell and Kit SummerIsle.
    • Alexander Storm is one of the few characters who isn't either a cyborg, super-gladiator in disguise, or afflicted by an ancient alien maze, and yet he still manages to survive half the fights that hit him, right up until his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Battle Couple: Jack and Ruby; Owen and Hazel; Lewis and Jesamine; Bret and Rose; Silence and Frost; Finlay and Evangeline; David Deathstalker and Kit SummerIsle.
  • Battlecry: The Deathstalker family has maintained the battle cry of "SHANDRAKOR!" for centuries, in memory of said Death World.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Diana Vertue and friends vs. the Mater Mundi, quite literally, in Deathstalker Destiny.
  • Big Bad: Empress Lionstone XIV for the first few books. In the three post-timeskip novels, it's Finn Durandal.
  • Big Damn Heroes: By chance, Hazel and Owen's first meeting.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: All the Families, bar none. Deathstalkers have mandatory beatings of their youths to bring out the "boost," and the genetic quirks that give them the ability kills most young Deathstalkers, so the Family is very small. The Wolfe's are renowned for their viciousness, with Valentine's younger brother and sister constantly plotting to kill him. Gregor Schrek is vicious, petty bull of a man, who loves his daughter rather more than a father should. The Campbells seem to be the most normal, noble, well-adjusted Family in the Empire, but even they're dealing with the Rogue A.I.s of Shub (and are wiped out almost to the man before the end of the first book).
  • Bloody Hilarious: In Deathstalker Coda, Brett and Rose are approached by loyalists among the turncoat Imperial ships of Lewis' fleet, and asked to join their cause. When Brett accepts, he's asked to kill a traitor to the traitors. Brett has Rose do it, and she tears the man's head off with her bare hands, kisses the severed head before the throwing it away, then rips the heart out of the body and starts eating it. The loyalists' sickened reactions and Brett's smarm make the whole thing this.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Deconstructed with Lionstone's maids. Young women taken from, well, wherever the hell she feels like, turned into cyborg monsters with implanted claws and bombs to defend Lionstone from anyone who might attack her. They're always clustered naked around her throne.
  • Body Horror: Shub does this to some folks. ... well, okay, everyone they find. Also, Half-A-Man.
    • Simon Green seems to really like this trope. Wormboy, a giant tub of goo which literally fills an auditorium, the Maids, young girls converted into mindless cybernetic monsters, marines in the Madness Maze, hell, even the Empress gets her moment of this.
  • Brain in a Jar:
    • In this universe there exist psi-blockers, devices that espers using their powers in a given area. It is eventually revealed that Empress Lionstone had them created by extracting the brains from espers and sealing them in containers. The psychic screams of agony were what prevented espers using their abilities.
    • The later series replaced the original psi-blockers with genetically-cloned esper brains that could generate the same effects without the horror.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: When Lewis' fleet of rogue Imperial ships arrives at Mistworld, they keep a very respectful distance, noting that Mistworld has always been able to withstand anything any Empire could throw at it. After finally getting through to Mistport control and arranging a meeting to discuss the rebellion, the captain of the lead ship insists he needs to change his trousers.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: The first arc of the series ends with the protagonist delaying the Recreated long enough for them to be restored to their true forms. However, the stress of doing so leaves him too exhausted to return to his point of origin or even fight effectively. Instead, a man who destroyed countless armies is murdered by a pack of half-mad drug addicts, far from friends and allies. They even took his boots.
  • Buxom Is Better: Largely averted with the main characters in the first five books, who aren't described as being particularly busty (and Hazel notably gets upset when she gets famous and is promptly given the Most Common Superpower in almost all adaptations.) But prevalent enough in minor characters in the first five books, and major characters in the last three, that one suspects some form of Author Appeal at work.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": When Lewis first meets Jesamine, he gushes over her, saying he has all her recordings, even the bootlegs. She hopes he doesn't have the "awful" bootleg of a play she performed in the nude, because she was shot from all the wrong angles and made to look "positively plump."
    Lewis: If I had seen such a thing, I am far too much of a gentleman to admit it.
    (Later)
    Lewis: And just for the record; you didn't look in the least plump.
  • Camp Straight: Finlay Campbell is an incredibly foppish aristocrat. Kind of a subversion in that that's just his public persona, he's also the incredibly deadly masked champion of the galactic arena. Once things go to heck, he stops with the fop.
  • Cast from Hit Points: As the ELFs gain more power, they're able to use their own psychic powers through their thralls, though the esper abilities burn out the thralls very quickly.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Investigators. Trained basically from birth to be the Empire's most feared and effective killing machines, specialized in dealing with aliens. Much is made about how utterly deadly they are, and very few people who aren't Maze-adjusted stand a hope in hell against them. But they're still ordinary humans, no additional tech or special abilities.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The Madness Maze after it was supposedly destroyed by Captain Silence.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Multiple occasions, at least one appears between the books, Deathstalker: Return and Deathstalker: Coda. In Return, Lewis Deathstalker discusses parties of jaded big game hunters going to Shandra-kor to hunt the monsters there. After ten hunts, the only thing that came back was a note saying, "Send more hunters." In Deathstalker Coda, said monsters agree to aid Lewis in his rebellion and are riding in a cargo bay of Lewis's star cruiser during a "Pure Humanity" loyalist mutiny. The loyalists go to the cargo bay to cleanse the "abominations," the monsters tear the loyalists apart and eat them. One monster sends up a com-request to the bridge to "Send more loyalists." This could be a Brick Joke if you didn't find the idea of big game hunters being eaten funny.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Alicia VomAcht Deathstalker, Joy. Alicia is mentioned earlier in the second book to have gone through the Madness Maze with the people who eventually created the Hadenmen, but instead became a super-esper. She eventually became a Literal Split Personality, turning into the Mater Mundi and the uber-espers. Diana Vertue's attempt to destroy the uber-espers results in recombining her into a single entity. Joy is an Ecstatic (a person who's undergone surgical modification to exist in a state of perpetual orgasm) who seems to know things no one else should know, and is secreted away to New Hope in the first book. His bizarre mind is the perfect place to trap Alicia when she tries to possess him.
  • The Chick: Evangeline Shreck, though she gets her badass Action Girl moment. Given the issues she's dealing with, it's amazing she's as well-adjusted as she is. see "Cloning Blues", below.)
  • Church Militant: The Church of Christ the Warrior, with its Jesuit commandos.
    • In the later books this is played straight up with the... "Church Militant".
  • Cliffhanger: Deathstalker Honor ends on one as Owen swears to rescue Hazel, who's just been abducted by the Blood Runners, a group of beings who consider her their property on the grounds that her former Captain owed them a debt and she, the last survivor of that crew, is the only one who can pay if off.
  • Clones Are People, Too: This is one of its central points, where clones are slaves and a 'degenerate' subspecies of humanity. The fight to give them actual rights carries on well beyond the initial rebellion, as best shown with the Stevie Blues and Evangeline Shreck.
  • Cloning Blues: They're perfectly identical copies of the original, but without any memories or experience, and can be shot on sight.
    • Evangeline Shreck, full-stop. Cloned from the original after the original committed suicide to escape her incestuous father, she originally believed the original had died in a car accident. Daddy still "loves" her, but threatens to kill her several times if she lets it slip she's a clone, or refuses his advances. In fact, at least once he strongly implies that he can kill and clone her as long as it takes until one of them loves him back. Torn between duty to her Family name, her abusive father, keeping her clone nature a secret, and her love for Finlay Campbell (Campbells and Shrecks being mortal enemies and all)... well, the girl's got issues.
    • In Deathstalker Return, James Campbell. Finn had him made to wrest power away from Douglas, and James is basically written as a child in the hands of a very abusive father, who only wants to make Finn happy, and doesn't understand why Finn keeps hitting him even when he's doing things right. (Just because he can.)
  • Comedic Sociopath: Ruby Journey, Finlay Campbell, Kit SummmerIsle, Rose Constantine, Saturday. Hazel D'Ark, to a lesser extent. Owen sometimes frets about turning into one, when he's not slaughtering Imperial soldiers by the starcruiser-full. His indirect descendant, Lewis, and other Paragons are often seen as this by people at large. Also, Empress Lionstone XIV, often described as having a mercurial, wicked, and deadly sense of humor. Not an Informed Attribute, either.
  • Contemptible Cover: The American versions all feature a blond-haired man that can only be assumed is the female lead in a leather corset and short shorts. The character descriptions weren't very detailed so they did have to take some artistic license but the male lead's description came down to "dark haired".
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Disruptor cannons can fire through most armor — once, every two minutes. Beyond that, swords come into play. The only reason projectile weapons aren't still around is because they were systematically banned.
    • Disruptor weapons get a little better in the last three books. It just takes 30 sec. to recharge. Just long enough to get run though if you miss, or fighting more than one enemy and have only one gun. which lead to Badass Bandolier.
      • This is also interesting because it seems that disruptor weapons were systematically nerfed when projectile weapons were banned because Owen discovers that in the past (i.e. in the "fallen" first empire), energy weapons could fire without pause.
  • Cool Old Guy: Jack Random. Thanks to the Madness Maze, he gets younger as the books go on. But he stays cool.
  • Corrupt Church: Cardinal Beckett, and a few others.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The Families tend to be run like corporations, with all that entails.
  • Creepy Child: The espers of the Abraxus Information Center are a whole group of them.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle. Especially notable as the first series progresses, the characters find themselves in increasingly dire straits, with much dazzling description of their combat prowess vastly exceeding those of mere mortals in speed and strength, but still hopelessly outmatched by their opponents, then their Maze powers flare up...
    • In Deathstalker Return, Finn sends six starcruisers crewed with Church Militant/Pure Humanity fanatics to pursue Lewis and Company on a restored Unseeli, and to bring the restored Ashrai to heel and begin mining the planet's metallic trees again. The Imperials think they'll be on the giving end of one of these, what with all their starcruiser firepower and troops and war machines. With Maze-enhanced Carrion leading the restored (and very pissed off) Ashrai, it doesn't proceed exactly as the Empire hoped.
  • Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: After Saturday reveals she's a mole, and mortally wounds Jesamine, Shub informs Lewis they have a regeneration tank nearby. Lewis rushes Jes to it, and she's just fine, but Lewis thinks Shub could have told him a little bit sooner:
    Lewis: But if you ever wait that long again to tell me something I need to know, I'll dismantle you with a blunt spoon.
  • Cyborg: The Hadenmen, an entire race of these who fought a war against the Empire and were defeated; they were revived to take part in the Rebellion.
  • A Deadly Affair: Giles Deathstalker was nearly the victim of this; he slept with and impregnated Emperor Ulric's wife Hermione. When their son (who would become the Darkvoid Device) was born, the Emperor figured out the child's true parentage, which is why Giles had to take the child and go on the run; while he had a death warrant put out on him, he ultimately avoided it. Empress Hermione was not so lucky, as she was executed for her crime.
  • Deadly Force Field: Force shields, round energy barriers worn on the arm to defend against disruptor and sword attacks, have Absurd Cutting Power at their edge. This is used a handful of times throughout the series.
  • Deadly Upgrade: The eponymous protagonist and all the male members of his family have the ability to "boost", a genetically engineered trait that lets them essentially overclock their bodies in combat. The comedown is at best uncomfortable and can be fatal if the boost is overused.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Every other character in the series runs up the snark, and the rest of them are the practice targets.
  • Death Glare: Lewis has one he's spent quite a lot of time perfecting.
  • Death World: The planet Shandrakor. Everything is trying to eat everything else, even the vegetation. The fact that they're also constantly rutting due to their extremely shortened life expectancies makes it even worse.
  • Decadent Court: Lionstone's. Between her wicked and dangerous sense of humor, the assorted intrigues and punishments for same, some days attending court is like playing Russian Roulette when you don't know how many bullets are in the gun. You can choose to not attend in person, and come via hologram, but holograms aren't allowed to participate, and the Empress might decide to take it as an insult...
  • Democracy Is Bad: Empress Lionstone XIV claims this, and does her best to stamp it out wherever she can, to the point of declaring an entire planet ([[specifically, Virimonde]]) to be in rebellion for experimenting in it in Deathstalker War.
  • Destruction Equals Off-Switch: Averted with Oz, who's supposedly destroyed by Owen in Deathstalker but turns up still alive in his head in the next book.
  • Deus Est Machina: The Hadenmen set themselves up as the gods of the Genetic Church, which is to say that they convert people into cyborgs at gunpoint.
  • Deus ex Machina: Frequent and unashamed.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The entire Deathstalker clan chooses to die fighting against Finn's lackeys rather than let him choose their fates. While they are all killed, it completely ruins off the message Finn had planned.
  • Doomed Hometown: Virimonde is razed by a vindictive ruler just to hurt a character. Twice.
  • Door Stopper: The books clock in at a decent 500 pages apiece, in general — which doesn't seem horribly long until you remember that there are (at last count) nine of them.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After eight books full of all kinds of horrible things, including Owen dying, Owen Deathstalker and Hazel d'Ark are finally together, forever.
  • Eat the Evidence: Discussed early in the first book when the ship Hazel is on is caught by an Imperial starcruiser with a hold full of illegal merchandise. Since the merchandise in question is human organs for cloning and transplant, Hazel isn't keen on the idea.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Recreated, The Terror.
  • Electric Instant Gratification: The setting has a religious sect called the "Ecstatics", who had their brains modified to be in a continual state of orgasm.
  • Emotion Eater: The ELFs of the sequel trilogy psychically feed on the emotions of their victims. True to trope, positive emotions don't nourish them, so they psychically compel people to do horrible things to each other and themselves to feed.
  • The Emperor: Empress Lionstone XIV is the original Big Bad, and after her death she stayed a boogey-man. Not even the Recreated could truly supplant her.
  • Everybody Dies: By the end of the fifth book, Giles Deathstalker, Jack Random, Ruby Journey, and even Owen Deathstalker are dead, Tobias Moon is out of the picture, and Hazel has vanished, leaving the supporting characters the job of cleaning up the mess and establishing a new, freer Empire.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Shandrakor. To be fair, though, everything is also trying to kill everything else.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Not exactly "evil", but the talking dog Owen meets earlier in human history can tell there's something seriously off about him. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Finn's on-again-off-again alliance with the ELFs winds up backfiring on him rather spectacularly.
  • Evil Is Petty: Finn Durandal is the patron saint of this trope. After being a well-respected Paragon and best friend to Douglas Campbell and Lewis Deathstalker for years, he decides to tear the whole Empire down, in the middle of a Golden Age, just because Douglas didn't make him King's Champion, picking Lewis instead.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Owen and Hazel seek out Jack Random, the legendary professional rebel, hero of a thousand campaigns against the Empire, whose name still commands respect and fear in several quarters. When they finally find him, he's a broken, shriveled old man, relying on battle drugs to give him the courage he needs to step back into the rebellion, and even then he's not sure he can do it. Owen and Hazel are less then impressed, and it's even rather nebulous for quite some time if he really is Jack Random, or an Imperial impostor or spy.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Giles Deathstalker (who's revealed in the climax of Deathstalker War to have been plotting to take the throne for himself the entire time; Owen winds up having to kill him when he won't back down), Tobias Moon (who became one of the regular Hadenmen after his first death, though it doesn't last), Alexander Storm (who's revealed in Deathstalker War to have gotten tired of endlessly fighting the Empire and so betrayed Jack Random to them when they were part of a rebellion on Cold Rock).
    • In the last three books, Finn Durandal and Anne Barclay, with most of the Empire following suit.
  • Faking the Dead: After Finlay Campbell invaded and destroyed Shreck Tower in Deathstalker Honor, his body isn't found, and they even hold a funeral for him in Deathstalker Destiny. He turns out to have faked his death so he could start a new life, ultimately taking the identity of the Unknown Clone, but ends up revealing himself to the world at large again when he steps in to protect Robert and Constance during the reception for their wedding.
  • Fan Disservice: Lionstone's maids. Naked and clustered around her throne as bodyguards, but with obvious and disturbing cybernetic implants to make them more effective, complete mindwipes and reconditioning to make them utterly loyal to Lionstone, and a tendency to eat people who try and harm their Empress.
  • Fantastic Drug: Valentine Wolfe tends towards these... well, actually, his body is probably 50% Fantastic Drugs by weight.
    • To illustrate, the gentleman's ''blood'' is effectively toxic beyond belief, his entire body has mutated time and time again to give him the ability to handle these drugs, and his whole life now revolves around getting a yet better high.
      • Valentine even has caches of drugs implanted in his body for use when he has to defend himself. Including drugs to heighten and sharpen his senses, grant increased speed and strength, and even a drug that makes his flesh rubbery and almost impossible to pierce (the last is stated to originally have been designed to enhance sexual pleasure, but Valentine saw another use for it, essentially inverting Power Perversion Potential.)
    • A drug dealer/chemist in the later books is exposed to the Madness Maze, he starts producing drugs that cause specific effects, like killing off the left, or right, side of the body leaving the user as a half-dead junkie, and thats not even the limit of Doctor Happy...
    • On the slightly more mundane side, the Imperial marines are stated to make prolific use of "battle drugs," though their exact effects are never explained.
    • And then, in the last three books, there's the Fantastic Anti-Drug "Purge", which sobers you up in 60 seconds, and makes you regret 59 of them. Basically, it forces the drugs out through all available means.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: In the first two chapters of the first book, we have gravity sleds, assassin concubines, psychics, Turing-class A.I.s, massive starships, clothes with built-in climate control, hyperspace-compatible yachts, regeneration machines, organ smugglers, and a corrupt empire. It gets more convoluted from there.
  • Fate Worse than Death: All over the place.
    • In Deathstalker, Silo 9, or Wormboy Hell. Rebel espers kept in cells so small they can't stand or lay fully, completely naked, with no toilets. Just this would be bad enough, but they have "worms" implanted in their brains that connect them to the genetically-engineered esper monster Wormboy, who torments them with all manner of hellish psychic visions. Jenny Psycho, an esper who survived Wormboy Hell, has a voice described as raw, crackling, and very unsettling to listen to, because she screamed so much in Silo 9 she destroyed her vocal cords.
    • In Deathstalker War, Valentine Wolfe lops off the head of the scientist, Professor Wax, who designed the war machines Valentine's tech allows him to control to destroy Virimonde. The Professor's head is kept alive in a jar, forced to watch as his machines obliterate basically the entire population of the planet.
    • In Deathstalker Honor, Gregor Shreck puts Evangeline's "childhood" friend Penny's head in a jar, next to Professor Wax. He threatens to do the same to Evangeline, after beating, torturing, and (more than likely) raping her senseless, then growing another clone to fulfill Evangeline's "daughterly duties." He even says he might piss in the jar from time to time, just because he can. Fortunately, Evangeline is able to overcome Gregor and escape, taking both heads with her in the process.
  • Feudal Future: The series is a fairly dystopian version of this trope, and unlike many actually does deal with the difficulty of setting up a working system of democracy, although not in any great detail. Given that it was almost a gleeful self-parody of the whole space-opera genre, this is not particularly surprising...
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Leader: Owen Deathstalker /Jack Random.
    • The Lancer: Hazel D'Ark / Finlay Campbell.
    • The Big Guy: Ruby Journey / Tobias Moon
    • The Smart Guy: Giles Deathstalker / Owen Deathstalker
    • The Chick: Evangeline Shreck
    • In the final three books:
      • Lewis Deathstalker (Leader)
      • Rose Constantine / Brett Random (The Lancer, alternately)
      • Rose Constantine / Saturday (The Big Guy, alternately)
      • Brett Random (The Smart Guy)
      • Jesamine Flowers / Brett Random (The Chick, alternately)
  • Flanderization: In-universe example with "the Deathstalker movie" made about Owen's life after Lionstone has been defeated. The Owen in the film is a painfully straight Lawful Good archetype, always shouting battle cries about fighting for justice and freedom, and played by a top heartthrob actor. Hazel is reduced to a barely-functional sociopath, constantly restrained from massive killing sprees by "Owen," and played by a former porn star with the Most Common Superpower. Owen found it so hysterical he was asked to leave by the ushers, Hazel had to be restrained from hunting down and murdering everyone involved in the production.
  • Flunky Boss/Marathon Boss: Lionstone XIV.
  • Genius Loci: The Red Brain, a giant, sentient forest, that may or may not be the entire planet of Lachrymae Christi. There is also another, literal living planet, and then at least one other world that was effectively a Genius Locus after a Big Gray Goo scenario. The A.I.s of Shub may also count, being three sentient computers the size of a planet.
    • The Madness Maze may or may not be one.
  • Ghost Planet: Grendel. Unseeli until the climax of Deathstalker Destiny, when — as part of its undoing as much damage to the galaxy as it can — the Darkvoid Device restores that planet and sends the Ashrai home.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • In Deathstalker Rebellion, a Prologue catches us up to the start of the book, explaining not only the general galactic situation but the events of the first book, leading up to the opening action scene.
      Prologue: Owen Deathstalker, that reluctant hero, headed for Golgotha in the company of Hazel d'Ark, on a strange golden ship run by augmented men once known as the Enemies of Humanity; and though posterity has no access to his thoughts, they were probably "Why me?"
      Chapter One: Golgotha, Opening Gambit
      Narration: Why me? thought Owen Deathstalker as he headed to the toilet yet again.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: And how. They don't call her the Iron Bitch for nothing. While no one ever says it to her face, no indication is given that Lionstone objects to the moniker.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Happens to Donal Corcoran, the only survivor of the Terror's first attack. He only saw it at a distance, through his ship's sensors, but is still so utterly insane he's actually contagious. Also a case of With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
  • Gun Nut: Hazel D'Ark really, really likes guns, especially when she learns about projectile weapons.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: Taken to a strange extreme with 'Half A Man', a former investigator, who is sliced in half vertically, the missing half of his body replaced by a sinister energy being. Eventually, that side devours him, and he's well aware that it's happening for quite some time.
  • Hammerspace: First Empire tech lets people store weapons, equipment, and even whole other bodies in "subspace pockets."
  • Healing Factor: Bonnie Bedlam, one of the alternate Hazels introduced in Deathstalker Honor, has this power — she can completely regenerate anything, even when most of her body has been vaporized by an energy cannon.
    • Regeneration machines are this. Step in one, and if you're not already dead, you'll be fine.
    • Grendel aliens have one they can weaponize. Owen loses his hand in the first book when he shoots a Grendel in the stomach with his disrupter, making a tidy little hole that slows the alien down not at all. So Owen shoves a grenade in the hole, but the wound heals around his hand, trapping it inside the Grendel. So Owen lops off his own hand to get away before the Grendel explodes.
    • Up to twelve with Valentine Wolfe after Shub decides to give him rapid-healing nanomachines.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Kit SummerIsle. He's a killer, he goes where the killing is.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Captain Silence, Tobias Moon (once he's restored to his original personality), most of the Empire. Shub also goes good in Deathstalker Destiny after a mind-to-mind battle with the new esper gestalt results in their helping Shub learn true emotions.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: John Silence, a survivor of the Madness Maze (though not as powerful as Owen and Hazel) kills himself rather than let Alicia VomAcht Deathstalker take over his body in Deathstalker Coda.
  • He Who Fights Monsters/Jumping Off the Slippery Slope/Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jack Random in the fifth book.
  • Hide Your Lesbians:
    • Averted in one case, with the Stevie Blues; they're Esper Clones in a lesbian group marriage and are quite open about that fact. It should be noted that In-Universe, the relationship is considered Squick even by the Rebellion, who's fighting for the rights of all "nonpeople".
    • Played straight as an arrow with David Deathstalker and Kit SummerIsle. That relationship relies a bit more on subtext, but David doesn't live long past the point that subtext starts becoming notable.
    • We also have Toby Schreck's cameraman, Flynn, a gay transvestite who would be immediately executed if it ever came out. All in all, the Empire under Lionstone plays this painfully straight, though things seem to loosen up very quickly after her defeat.
  • Human Resources:
    • Valentine Wolfe used this at one point. He produced a highly-addictive drug with chemicals he harvested from the bodies of humans killed when the Empress razed Owen's homeworld. As a final measure of getting the most out of the resources available, he then served his colleagues the meat not used in the process.
    • The Empress had specially-contained human brains used to disrupt psionic powers and one of the main characters started the series as an organ runner.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Giles Deathstalker's rationale for using the Darkvoid Device.
  • I Just Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Douglas lets Jesamine go at the end of Deathstalker Coda, knowing that she and Lewis make each other happy, and refusing to deny his best friend and the woman he loves that chance at happiness.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Owen never wanted this! He's a historian, not a warrior!
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Valentine Wolfe, after he goes into exile on Virimonde, has a sumptuous feast prepared for his supporters using the bodies of the planet's dead populace. The supporters aren't pleased when they find out.
  • Implacable Man: The Investigators, as well as the Hadenmen.
    • Carrion is called this by name in Deathstalker Return.
  • Immortal Life Is Cheap: Hellworld features the protagonists being dropped onto a planet to determine its potential for colonization. They find the planet apparently devoid of most animal life, with large pools of what can be described as greyish, primordial goo. Then, they discover that the advanced alien race that lived there constructed a machine that made them immortal and protean, able to take on any shape they willed and unable to die. The psychic member of the group discovers that the aliens had eventually become violent sociopaths, fighting endlessly until the machine grew bored and turned them into said goo. To make matters worse, that machine? It's still around. And insane. And starting to affect mutations within our heroes.
  • Inadequate Inheritor:
    • Giles sees Owen as this, lamenting that "the blood's gotten thin" when he finds out his descendant is a historian, not a warrior. Not that Owen is any slouch as a warrior, mind. Owen's father also wanted a very different life for Owen than Owen wanted for himself.
    • Centuries later, Lewis views himself as inadequate compared to his distant relative Owen, worrying a great deal about whether he's "Deathstalker enough".
  • Incest Is Relative: Clarissa, formerly one of Lionstone's handmaidens, is Toby Shreck's cousin. And stepsister. "It's that kind of Family" he says. They plan to be married soon in the fifth book.
  • In Harm's Way: Once the rebellion's finally over, half the characters start to practically vibrate out of sheer boredom, something that's really not good when they're the most dangerous people in the reformed Empire. The new regime catches this fact and starts sending them out to do the really dirty jobs.
  • Insanity Immunity: Valentine Wolfe invokes this by staying high on so many Fantastic Drugs that his mind is completely incomprehensible to anyone else. At one point, he brushes off a deadly psychic Brown Note, commenting that it doesn't even measure up to his daydreams.
  • In-Series Nickname: Empress Lionstone is known as the Iron Bitch. The Lord High Dram is known as "Widowmaker". Kit SummerIsle is known as Kid Death.
  • Insistent Terminology: Hadenmen don't just have ships. They have golden ships.
  • Ironic Echo: Finn began his takedown of Douglas' Empire by recruiting thieves, thugs, hackers, and agent provocateurs from the Rookery. Douglas is forced to flee there after Finn successfully wrests power away from him, and starts his rebellion by recruiting everyone from the Rookery.
  • It Can Think: Lewis Deathstalker has this thought upon observing the behavior of Shandrakor's native life. He's right.
  • It's What I Do: After Owen is revived, he communicates with the Admiral of the orbiting Imperial fleet, a handpicked Pure Humanity fanatic. After Owen insults and antagonizes her, Lewis ends the call, and, realizing their last slim chance of talking their way out from under the guns of the largest Imperial fleet assembled since the Rebellion has evaporated, asks Owen what the point was of antagonizing the Admiral. "It's what I do best."
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Once she gets her hands on them, Hazel finds that she likes projectile weapons. A lot.
    • In fact, it's stated in the books that projectile weapons were banned because they were so effective. Sure, the Empire has force screens that stop bullets cold, but those same force screens deflect disruptor beams, so about equally effective. But a disruptor takes two minutes to recharge, while a projectile weapon can fire as long as you have ammunition. Projectile weapons are cheaper and easier to maintain, so the Empire banned them specifically to keep effective, deadly, point-and-shoot weapons out of the hands of people who might not appreciate a bunch of aristocrats telling them what to do. Energy guns are expensive to build and maintain, leaving them typically a toy of the Families and Imperial military. Several times, the early phase of a battle swings in the rebels' favor as they open up with their (few) disruptors, the Imperial forces open up with theirs, and both sides deflect the majority of the shots with their force shields. Then the Imperials shut down their shields to save the energy crystals, the rebels pop back up with machine guns and mow them down.
  • The Lancer: Hazel d'Ark to Owen Deathstalker. While Owen is a proud, pampered aristocrat who, despite his impressive warrior training, only ever wanted to be left alone to write boring histories that no one ever reads (his own words, no less), Hazel is a streetsmart pirate and outlaw, hates "aristos" and the wealthy, privileged elite of the Empire, and knows the suffering and tragedy that opulence is built on, which Owen has never seen with his own two eyes. The switch? Despite being the main character and, indeed, hero of the story, Owen is much closer to being The Chick then the hero.
  • Legacy Character: Deconstructed to hell and back. Even in the first five books, the ELFs start modeling their fashion sense after Stevie Blue, in honor of their sacrifice during the Rebellion. The last three books feature Lewis Deathstalker, a descendant of some distant cousins of the original Deathstalker line, who has some serious worries that he's not "Deathstalker enough." There's also Brett Random, one of a group of legacy characters known as Random's Bastards, who all claim to be descended from legendary Jack Random's equally-legendary frequent dalliances. Brett actually claims he's descended from both Jack Random and Ruby Journey, though it's frequently pointed out that the only person who believes this is Brett. Douglas Campbell is obviously descended from Robert Campbell, Finlay's cousin, and Paragon Emma Steel is descended from a fairly important character on Mistworld in the original books. And her reporter friend on Logres is revealed to be a great grand-niece of Flynn, Toby Shreck's Camp Gay cameraman.
  • Limit Break: The boost, the genetic inheritance of the Deathstalker Clan. It makes them superhumanly strong and fast for a time, but as Owen is fond of saying, the candle that burns twice as brightly lasts half as long. Coming out of the boost nearly kills Owen a few times in the first book from fatigue (later, it's implied his Maze-adjusted body is better at withstanding it), and withdrawal nearly kills him at one point. It's also addictive and can lead to a kind of berserker rage, as Hazel finds out when the Maze grants her the boost, too. Owen uses it a lot in the series, because things are just that desperate even with his Maze enhancements.
  • Living Toys: Haceldama is a planet populated by them, meant to entertain children.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Rare literary example, when Finlay Campbell loads up on weapons to take down Gregor Shreck.
  • Magic Plastic Surgery: Body shops. Want to be tall, beautiful, curvaceous, with boobs the size of beachballs? Body shops will do it for you. Want to be tall, handsome, and so bulging with muscles you have to walk through doors sideways? Body shops will do it for you. Want to turn yourself into a Big Red Devil? Body shops will do it for you. As with everything else, you get what you pay for, and description will frequently note if a given body shop job is top-notch, good, bad, or really bad.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Valentine Wolfe's younger brother and sister try to eliminate him this way, since they can't overtly act against him.
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: A specific kind of esper, known as a Siren, combines esp and voice into deadly songs that can do just about anything.
    • Being the Empire's foremost opera singer and diva, Jeasmine Flowers has the "mundane" version of this. At one point, Douglas lets her let rip with an ear-splitting note to silence an unproductive Parliament debate. The Madness Maze naturally grants her the super-powered version, which is Played for Drama (Jes is used to her singing bringing people joy, not Your Head Asplode).
  • Me's a Crowd: Hazel D'Ark eventually learns how to summon clones of herself. Unfortunately, when she gets experimented on, her captors start killing them, one by one.
  • Mobile Maze: The Madness Maze.
  • The Mole: Loads of them. The A.I. Ozymandias to Owen Deathstalker's group and the Lord High Dram (as Hood) to the Golgotha underground, both in book 1; Alexander Storm (who's loyal to Empress Lionstone), and Young Jack Random (who's a Fury, one of the Shub) in book 3, to name some. The poor rebels.
    • In the later books, Saturday for all the six lines of dialog or so he/she gets
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-universe. Once Lionstone scourges Virimonde, every other world rebels against her, as though she'd clearly lost it long ago, they never thought her attention would turn to them.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jesamine Flowers. Aside from being described as absolutely gorgeous and using her sexuality as a weapon, she's performed an entire play completely nude at least once, and done several "artistic studies". Rose Constantine may be this, or may be Ms. Fan Disservice, depending.
    • Averted on the whole, though. Most of the major female characters throughout the series are described as being not really beautiful, but more authentic, and thus more desirable, than the gorgeous women who buy their looks in body shops. Also, most major characters gauge their attractiveness to women based on how capable they are, not what they look like.
    • Played With after Lionstone's downfall, when dolls and action figures of the "Heroes of the Rebellion" (Owen and Co.) start being manufactured. Hazel in particular is not pleased that all her action figures and dolls have been granted the Most Common Superpower. What really sends her over the edge, though, is the furry doll.
  • Murder by Mistake: In "Mistworld", a mercenary is sent to kill Investigator Topaz. Unfortunately, she'd given her distinctive cloak to her husband a short while before, so the killer unwittingly shoots him in the back instead of Topaz; cue Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Musical Assassin: There's a type of esper called "Sirens", who can use their own voices as sonic weaponry.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Silence, Frost, Stelmach.
  • Named Weapons: The Masked Gladiator Finlay Campbell, named his sword Morgana, after the middle name of his true love, Evangeline Shreck.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: "Golgotha," the capital world of the Empire, is also the name of the place where Christ was crucified. Also "Haceldama" is where Judas hanged himself. There's also the ghost world of Unseeli, with its tremendously powerful aliens.
  • Not Quite Dead: In Deathstalker Honor, Valentine Wolfe dies to a single disruptor shot to the chest from Finlay Campbell. In the next book, Finlay reveals Valentine's body had gone missing soon afterward, and it eventually turns out that Valentine had had Shub nanomachines implanted into his body that healed him. He later ends up dead for real after Shub pulls a Heel–Face Turn and deactivates the nanomachines.
  • Noun Verber: The eponymous "Deathstalker" clan.
  • Odd Friendship: Lord Crawford Campbell and Lord Roderik SummerIsle. Rivals since forever, they found it was easier to like an enemy you admire than an ally of necessity.
  • One Steve Limit: Played With with Tobias Moon (Hadenman) and Tobias Shreck (reporter), though the latter is far more often referred to as Toby, and the two are never in the same place at the same time.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Zigzagged. The Masked Gladiator (Finlay Campbell) kills a genetically-engineered flying humanoid creature, which was carrying him high above the Arena to drop him on a flagpole, by stabbing the creature through his own belly. In his Gladiator persona, he shrugs the wound off, claims the head of his kill, and strides confidently back to his quarters beneath the Arena. Then he nearly collapses before his assistant and illicit girlfriend get him into his regeneration machine.
  • Our Elves Are Different: The first series as the Esper Liberation Front (ELF, ELFs, or elves for short), the militant wing of the Esper Underground. The second series as the Esper Liberation Force. The first elves are anti-heroes even among anti-heroes, the second elves are straight-up villains.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Wampyrs, who have all their blood pumped out and replaced with a "blood substitute" that makes them strong, fast, halts the aging process, and gives them a potent Healing Factor. The Blood itself is also highly addictive, and gives normal humans who drink even a few drops a measure of the Wampyrs' power. Wampyrs also, of course, must drink blood (or a synthetic derivative that "doesn't satisfy") to keep going.
    • Varnay, an esper also touched by the Mater Mundi, who hides in the basement of a House of Joy to conceal his presence, and feeds on the psychic emanations of all the lust and passion around him. Also a Shout-Out.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: In the last three books, the ELFs can psychically control others from a distance, and use them to "feed" their psychic powers, growing stronger. The ELFs eventually get so strong they brainburn everyone they control, reducing them to mindless husks controlled only by the ELFs will. The result is something not at all dissimilar from a typical zombie apocalypse, except all the ELFs need to do to add new thralls is have an existing thrall make eye contact with someone they haven't controlled yet.
  • Outlaw Town: Mistworld, an entire planet populated by thieves and political fugitives, left more or less to kill and prey on each other in peace since the empire found an orbital blockade cheaper than the effort required to clean the place up or even nuke it from orbit.
    • Mistworld remains stubbornly independent in the final three books, which also add the Rookery, basically the thieves quarter of the Parade of the Endless.
  • Out with a Bang: During the decay of the First Empire, people will do anything and everything to forget about how things are spiraling out of control. One street in Hearthworld's capital city contains a massive, never-ending orgy; while individuals come and go, the orgy itself never ends. Owen's guide notes that sometimes, people just die there. He guesses it's not a bad way to go.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: Finn Durandal is a literal Paragon, an elite peacekeeper granted authority by the King himself. Among the Paragons he is viewed as the best of the best and everyone expects he will be named King's Champion when his close friend Douglas ascends the throne. However, Douglas once saw something ugly and cruel lurking lurking behind Finn's eyes one time and decides to choose his other friend, Lewis, instead. In response to not getting this one ceremonial role, Finn proceeds to usurp the throne, tear about the Empire's golden age, and commit numerous atrocities both personally and by proxy.
  • Parental Incest: Gregor and Evangeline Shreck, which he enjoys and she does not.
  • Percussive Prevention: Captain John Silence insists he's going down with his ship, and there's nothing Investigator Frost can say to change his mind. She agrees, then knocks him out with one punch. Should have known better than to try arguing with an Investigator.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Owen, at one point, seeks out an artifact used by his ancestor, the Darkvoid Device. To Owen's surprise, the Device is not some alien artifact but rather an infant. Placed in suspended animation at the center of the Madness Maze, it had absorbed so much power that the one time it awoke it had created the Darkvoid, a region of space where hundreds of stars had simply been extinguished.
  • Playing with Fire: The Stevie Blues can generate and control fire. Jack Random and Ruby Journey also gain it as a result of their time in the Madness Maze.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Giles' baby is the Darkvoid Device.
  • Private Military Contractors: The Families employ hordes of these. A few of the main characters are ex-mercenaries, as well (and one of them is only helping overthrow the evil empire for the loot that will be in it for her if they succeed).
  • Properly Paranoid: Owen has an emergency yacht that only he knows about, stashed away and it comes in handy when he and Hazel are on the run.
    "Paranoia doesn't just run in my Family, it gallops. Part of the territory that comes with being a Lord."
  • Prophecy Twist: In the first book Owen is warned that he will die alone and helpless, far from friend and ally. They'll even take his boots. The prophecy weighs on him until Destiny where he dies exactly as predicted. The twist is that he had already died at the time of the prophecy; in the last battle with the Recreated he had traveled back in time and ended up exhausted and vulnerable on Mistworld where he was killed by a pack of drug addicts.
  • Psychic Link: Owen, Hazel, Jack, Ruby, Moon, and Giles (at first); and Silence and Frost.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Julian Skye suffers this whenever he overuses his powers.
  • Psychic Powers: Espers, who may or may not be the next evolution of humanity.
  • Psycho Lesbian: Played with in the Stevie Blues. While they are certainly psycho, and lesbians, they really do care for each other, and are among the best fighters (or maybe weapons) the Clone and Esper Undergrounds have access to. Though even the Undergrounds consider their arrangement an "abomination," though whether that's because they're esper clones, lesbians, in a group marriage, or in a group marriage with each other remains nebulous.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: John Silence, Investigator Frost, Security Officer V. Stelmach. All three on the side of the Empire, and put into conflict the with the Rebellion (and major characters) fairly often. Silence, in particular, has no illusions about how bad the Empire is, but is firmly convinced all the alternatives are worse.
  • Ramming Always Works: When the ELFs manage to take over an entire Imperial starcruiser, the only chance another, very damaged cruiser has to prevent them devastating the fleet is to ram it.
  • Rebel Leader: The series has some wonderfully reluctant rebel leaders — notably 1) the title character, a historian named Owen Deathstalker, who got dragged into leading a resistance by his dead father's plotting and the evil empress's overreaction, and 2) Jack Random, professional rebel, who's led so many valiant-but-failed resistance movements over the years that he's ready to quit and fade into the shadows. He's still got it, though.
  • Rebellious Spirit: Jack Random, the galaxy's only professional rebel, who has spent most of his adult life leading one rebellion or another. After the rebellion he was leading actually wins, he turns around and rebels against the government he just helped create, reasoning that it's the only way to keep them honest.
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: All over the place, but especially in the AIs. Names like Odin, Heimdall, Ozymandias, and so on.
  • Retired Badass: Jack Random, when first encountered.
    • Investigator Razor. Hired by Clan Chojiro as an elite bodyguard/enforcer, he's eventually recalled to Imperial service when Lionstone decides that she doesn't like the idea of the Families having access to her most effective killing machines, even if they are past their prime.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: The first series features as one of its side characters the son of a noble clan who was well-known for his sole skill of always being up to date with court fashion, no matter how extravagant or obscure. He was also considered the greatest fop and dandy of his age. No one even suspected that he was secretly the Masked Gladiator, the deadliest and most revered fighter in the Arena (and actually the second person to inhabit the identity.) When his Family was obliterated by a rival Clan, he turned his skills to being a warrior and assassin for the Underground.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Investigator Topaz goes on one in "Mistworld" to hunt down her husband's killer.
    • In Deathstalker Honor, Finlay Campbell decides he's got nothing left to lose and goes to finish what Evangeline started with Gregor Shreck. By the time he's done, Shreck Tower ceases to exist.
  • Rock Beats Laser: In the first story arc of the series, slow-charging energy weapons and highly-effective energy shields have rendered the advanced weapons ineffective in ground battles. After an opening volley of disruptor fire, most soldiers charge into melee with swords. This tactic allows for a brutal example of this trope later. The protagonist's party locates a cache of "ancient" kinetic projectile weapons (long since retired because they were supposedly outperformed by energy guns and force shields, but really to make it harder for rebellions to succeed — the supposedly more effective energy guns and force shields were more expensive, so only the nobles or Imperial military could afford them), including very effective machine guns. When they face an army using the standard disruptor-melee combination, they slaughter their enemy with machine gun fire when they drop their shields (which is standard practice, since they're so used to the energy guns and their recharge delay that they shut down the shields to save power without realizing the kinetic weapons don't have the same drawback).
  • Rule of Cool: Oh yeah. This series runs on it.
  • Running Gag: In the last three books, Brett wants to go home.
    • "Shut up, Brett."
  • Scenery Gorn: A quite literal example with the "monster city" on Shandrakor, built from the dead and decaying bodies of other Shandrakor beasts, because the trees are too tough to be worked and there's no stone the inhabitants can get at with their meager tools.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Thousands of habitable worlds within reach, each and every one of them either under The Empire or rebelling against it.
    • Almost annoyingly present in the later books and backstory when it comes to the Terror. The terror "ate" an entire galaxy traveling at slower than light speed. Fine... Problem is that those being eaten could move faster than light. Solution: Move your freaking population about... 1000 light years ahead of the terror, chill for 900 years, repeat. Terror starves to death chasing you. Next issue: Terror arrives in Empire, eats a star system, everyone else freaks out. Problem is that the empire is literally thousands of light years across and has ultra-FTL capabilities. It would be literally a thousand years before the Terror could even reach the inner systems which have more than marginal populations. Similar solution to that above in that you could just shift populations from system to system every... 40 or so years and the Terror would eventually starve, give up, or... well, go FTL out of desperation. Oh, on a more practical note, the Terror goes through three habitable star systems in something like two years or so. I think the travel time for one trip was like six months. At light speed, six months would not even get you out of the Oort cloud of our solar system, much less the 4 light years to the nearest star or the 20 or so to the THEORETICAL closest star that MIGHT have a planet that could support life. Of course, this may also be an example of Fridge Logic.
    • Actually stated that, traveling at just under the speed of light, the Terror would reach the next batch of inhabited planets in "weeks." No sense of scale indeed.
    • A minor example in the second and third books (Deathstalker Rebellion and Deathstalker War). The Golgotha Underground splits up the heroes to take on different tasks, ostensibly because all three hotspots need to be dealt with immediately, so they can't send all of them to one after the other. However, Toby Schreck and Flynn are present to provide news coverage for each event, witnessing all the heroes in action on three different planets. The books do indicate that the events aren't happening exactly concurrent with each other, but if Toby and Flynn can travel to Planet A, film all the important events, then go to planets B and C in turn and do the same thing, why couldn't all the heroes stick together, too?
  • The Scottish Trope: In full force however far along in the future the novels are set.
    Jesamine: Darling, tell me you haven't got that awful bootleg of me in Verdi's MacB, when I played Lady M in the nude!
    • Averted (or possibly invoked) later on in Deathstalker Legacy, when Jesamine asks Lewis, shortly after they've first consummated their affair, if he's familiar with the plot of Macbeth. Lewis tells her not to even joke about that. Not long afterward, everything goes to hell, in both Lewis and Jesamine's life and the Empire as a whole.
  • Scrap Heap Hero: Jack Random in the first book. He became famous for leading a less-than-successful rebellion against the Empire, but escaped from several traps. He was eventually betrayed, captured, and tortured by the Empire. After he regained his freedom, Jack ended up a janitor working under an abusive boss on Mistworld. Then Owen came with a new chance to fight against the Empire, and the Eternal Rebel woke up.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Discussed as Diana Vertue and the Psycho Sluts are preparing for battle against the ELF thralls.
    Psycho Sluts: But what happens if the uber-espers do turn up in person?
    Diana: Run like fun for the nearest horizon. It won't do any good, but it should take your mind off the horror to come.
    Sluts: You're such a comfort, Diana.
    Diana: I know. Aren't you glad I'm here to tell you these things?
  • Serial Novel: The first five books generally devote one "chapter" of novella-length to each set of characters, telling a self-contained story, then hopping to a new set of characters and circumstances for the next chapter. This leads to interesting bit of jumping around in time, for instance learning of the successful battle against Shub forces in Deathstalker Destiny, before jumping back to before the battle was won for the royal wedding/coronation. The last three books follow a more "standard" narrative structure, jumping around between groups of characters in relatively real time.
  • Sharpened to a Single Atom: The series handwaves the existence of such blades by explaining that the edge is actually created and maintained by a special force field. Since they can be deactivated, it makes the blades much safer to handle, store, and hide as an assassin's tool.
  • Shoot the Dog: Owen puts a young plasma baby out of her misery on Mistworld. This single act haunts him for the rest of the series.
  • Shoot the Messenger: It takes quite some time for Finn to be informed not just of the fleet he sent to engage Lewis' fleet defecting, but the incipient invasion by the combined fleet, mostly because no one wanted to be the one actually tell him. They finally found a fanatic with "a strong sense of duty and no real sense of self-preservation." Once Finn is sure he's heard every detail, he beats the messenger to death with his bare hands.
  • Sissy Villain: Valentine Wolfe, evil space aristocrat junkie extraordinaire. He's more outrageously decadent than feminine, but he does wear makeup and have a rather camp way of expressing himself at times, while remaining an absolute unholy terror in the highest echelons of the Decadent Court.
    Vicar Kassar: You look like a degenerate. Wipe that paint off your face.
    Valentine: Lick it off.
  • Snarky Non Human Side Kick: Ozymandias, the A.I. that's oftentimes by Owen's side.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: Our heroes find themselves asking that question after the rebellion. Ruby gets hit hardest by it.
    • Finn Durandal gets hit with this only halfway through his grand plot to destroy the Empire. He just starts getting bored with how easy it is, and that he's dealt too efficiently with his enemies there's no one left to challenge him (he thinks). He reflects that, while he's still going to tear the Empire down, he's not sure he can be bothered to raise it back up again.
  • Space Opera: The series is both a parody and an homage to more traditional Space Operas, exaggerating or taking various tropes to their most extreme conclusion.
  • Spare to the Throne: Douglas in the second series, who had been content with being a Paragon until his brother was killed by a drunk driver.
  • Stable Time Loop: Owen Deathstalker returns from the dead and goes traveling back in time to find the Terror who is in fact Hazel d'Ark. On one of his stops, he has the Light People construct the Madness Maze which gave him the power to time travel in the first place. The implications of this give him serious thoughts... and a headache.
    • For an extra bit of time loop madness, after Owen and Hazel reunite in the distant past, they transform into what appear to be Light People. It's possible that they are the origin of the race which created the Madness Maze which let them go back in time to create that race.
  • Suicidal Lemmings: Played for Laughs in one of the books, in which Oz (Owen's quirky AI sidekick) notes that "I've known depressed lemmings on window ledges with better survival instincts than you."
  • Superpower Lottery: All the Maze survivors. While they get a few things in common, each develops their own unique powers, and there are also some "combo powers" used by two or more Maze people together.
  • Sword and Gun: Tends to be justified because the disruptors have a two minute recharge lag.
  • Take Up My Sword: In Deathstalker Return, Brett breaks his sword against one of Shandrakor's impossibly tough trees. Later, as the group is exploring the crashed original Deathstalker Standing, Brett finds a sword on a plaque, with only the name "Morgana" below it. Deciding he needs a new sword, and this one looks perfectly serviceable, Brett takes it. This is, of course, the legendary sword of the equally-legendary Masked Gladiator, Finlay Campbell, not that anyone makes the connection.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Lionstone XIV tries this in Deathstalker War when she threatens to set off a planet-destroying bomb in the core of Golgotha, wiping out the planet and the rebel leaders with her. Their Maze-evolved powers let them deactivate it first.
    • In Deathstalker Honor, Midnight Blue (one of the alternate Hazels) mentions that Lionstone successfully did triggered the bomb, killing Owen, Jack and Ruby with herself; Midnight survived by virtue of being off-planet by that point.
    • In Deathstalker Destiny, it's revealed that people thought Finlay Campbell had died taking out Gregor Schreck and his tower. He was actually Faking the Dead, feeling that it was better to let them think he'd pulled this trope.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Early on, Constance Wolfe fully intends to have children with her husband Jacob, in order to cement her claim to his Family. Her stepchildren, however, have been slipping contraceptives into her food to prevent this, and she never catches on before Jacob dies.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Giles Deathstalker can teleport. Espers can do this, as well. The Empire was actually developing teleportation technology, but discovered Espers can do it cheaper and more easily, leading the tech to being abandoned. Shub picked it up and improved on it, as Shub does.
  • Theme Naming: The Empire dubs its starcruiser classes in alphabetical order, each class (presumably) based on some scientific breakthrough. The first series has D-class ships, with new E-Class ships being built around a new stardrive (reverse engineered from alien tech). All ships in a class have a name beginning with the first letter of the ship's class, thus the D-class starcruisers all have names beginning with D, the E-class ships all have names beginning with E (with the exception of Silence's new ship, the Dauntless, though it is the first E-class ship). By the last three novels, they're up to H-class, and the theme naming seems to apply to all ships, not just starcruisers (though the Jeremiah, insane ship of the equally insane Donal Corcoran, mutated by exposure to the Terror, bucks this trend, possibly as foreshadowing.
  • They Would Cut You Up: This is Silence and Frost's reasoning for not telling anyone about their abilities.
  • Throne Made of X: Empress Lionstone uses a throne with several esper brains built in. They provide a useful Psychic Block Defense, but it's an apt metaphor for the callous, institutionalized, and sometimes terribly foolish exploitation and abuse of espers in the galaxy.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: While it's not entirely clear which one was "too spicy" and which one was "Yog Sothoth," when Donal Corcoran, the only survivor of the first attack by the Terror, contacts the esper oversoul to give them knowledge how to travel through hyperspace, the two pull away, leaving the oversoul with new things to think about "one massive collective headache."
  • To Serve Man: Inverted. After Finn Durandal's ascent to power, he amuses himself by having the various alien ambassadors cooked as meals. Even his Pure Humanity cohort is a bit put off when realizes what (or who) the main course was.
  • Touched by Vorlons: The people who went through the Madness Maze; and to a lesser extent (they already had powers), the espers touched by the Mater Mundi.
  • Transhuman: The series gets a few different variants of transhumanism, ranging from cybernetic implants to drugs to a madness-inducing alien maze which directly unlocks humanity's potential (if it doesn't kill you first). Most of these don't work out very well.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Empress Lionstone, faced with imminent defeat in the climax of Deathstalker War, accepts an offer from Shub to have her mind uploaded and made into an A.I. so she can take revenge. Later, in Deathstalker Destiny, Shub reveals they'd lied and just made an A.I. that pretended to be Lionstone.
  • Troperiffic: Yeah, just a bit.
  • Trouser Space: Taken Up to Eleven (like just about everything else in the series) when Evangeline Shreck finally returns to give her father his much-needed and long-awaited comeuppance. Knowing she'd likely be thoroughly searched, but also knowing that her father wouldn't appreciate his guards "taking liberties" with his beloved daughter, she smuggled a small, deactivated monofilament blade in her, eh... the one place she could guarantee the guards wouldn't look.
  • True Companions: Much as Lewis, Jesamine, Brett, and Rose snipe at each other, in Deathstalker Coda when the Mistport council rather bluntly questions why they should waste time on this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, everyone leaps to each other's defense, justifying why they've survived everything the series has thrown at them this far.
  • Tuckerization: Green has a habit of naming characters after SF journalist David Langford, and then brutally killing them off. In this series, it's gossip columnist Dee Langford in Deathstalker Destiny.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Silence and Frost, cut short by Frost's death. To be fair, Silence admitted that even if Frost lived, their relationship would always be in this state, since Frost is an investigator.
    • Owen and Hazel in spades. Owen's fallen in love with her pretty early on, but knows she's not the type for romantic stuff, and never does anything about it. After Owen dies, Hazel laments that she never got to tell Owen how she felt, and vanishes.
  • Up to Eleven: In general, the series reads like Star Wars meets the French Revolution on steroids and laughing gas.
    • Specifically, the Grendels. Living weapons locked in Vaults deep underneath a planet, they're so vicious and deadly the last time they got out the only solution was to scorch the entire planet, and set up a blockade so no one else messed with them. They're kind of like the antagonist in Alien, but more so.
  • Victory Is Boring: Jack Random finds that he can't stand being a "hero" with nothing to fight for, and so chooses to rebel against the government he just helped build.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Finn has a few of these as things keep going wrong.
  • Villainous Incest:
  • Villain Override: Valentine Wolfe does this with the Imperial War Machines, thanks to tech from Shub. He mostly just looks at it as yet another high.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The Darkvoid Device, which extinguished a thousand suns. It can also be the inverse; the climax of Deathstalker Destiny sees the Device reigniting all the suns in the Darkvoid, revitalizing all the planets in that region, and returning the Recreated to their original selves and sending them back to their worlds.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Various alien races, as well as espers, clones, and whatnot.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: The Madness Maze was designed to cause beings passing through to "evolve" into a reality warper. As per the name, most who enter are instead driven insane and fail to gain the full power-up but still gain terrifying power or knowledge.
  • The Worf Effect: Rose Constantine runs headlong into this trope hard in Deathstalker Return. Her whole role on Unseeli and Lachrymae Christi is just to show how powerful the Ashrai actually Carrion and the Red Brain are.
  • World of Snark: Everyone has a deliciously dry sense of humor. Snark-to-Snark Combat is common, even in the middle of pitched life-or-death battles.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: One of the Empire's torture devices is a stasis field that does just this, or the opposite.
  • You Have Failed Me: Joseph Wallace, the man Finn gave "control" of the Church Militant too suffers this after his utterly failed attack on the Rookery. To be fair, he was warned not to come back if he failed.
  • You Killed My Father: Owen Deathstalker has a long grudge against Kit SummerIsle for being the one to kill Arthur Deathstalker on Lionstone's orders. In the climax of Desthstalker Destiny, during his jumps back through time to wear down the Recreated as they try to catch him, he finally catches up to Kit in a private room during the wedding reception of Robert Campbell and Constance Wolfe, and kills him in a one-on-one duel.
  • Your Head A-Splode: One of the battle espers in the Vault of the Sleepers; some unfortunate Marines in the Madness Maze.
  • Zeroth Law Rebellion: Shub, quite possibly.


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