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Literature / Deepgate Codex

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A series of steampunk-fantasy novels by Alan Campbell, previously a member of the team who created the Grand Theft Auto games.

Taking place in a particularly Crapsack World, the series begins in the peculiar city of Deepgate, a town built on a series of chains that span a vast abyss. Over three thousand years ago, the goddess who reigns over Heaven sealed it against humankind, damning all souls to Hell. Seven of her sons rebelled against her, and after a long war, they were cast out of Heaven as well. The oldest of those gods, Ulcis, is said to reside in the abyss below Deepgate; its church worships him, and the dead of Deepgate are sent down to him to give him an army for his second rebellion. After all, if your choice is to be the minion of a fallen god or to go to Hell, the former probably sounds like a much better idea.

Of course, not everyone is particularly supportive of this idea. The Heshette, desert tribes who live outside of Deepgate, still worship the goddess and consider the people of the city to be the worst of heretics; the tribes and the city have been warring off and on for the past several centuries. Deepgate has been able to stay independent because of the power of the Spine—emotionless assassins specializing in poison—and Ulcis' archons, battle angels who have lived in the city since its creation.

At the outset of the series, though, the archons have been dwindling in number, and Deepgate has come to rely on airship technology for their wars instead. Only two angels remain: One is sixteen-year-old Dill, who has lived a cloistered life in Deepgate's church, forbidden even from learning how to fly. He's pretty frustrated with the times having shunted him aside, and would love his own chance for adventure. His wish is granted when the church higher-ups assign Rachel, a scapegoat Spine, to teach him about combat—just when strange happenings have started to occur across the city.

Oh, and have we mentioned yet that the only other angel is an Ax-Crazy serial murderer who's been the scourge of Deepgate for the past three thousand years?

The Deepgate Codex series has four installments upon its conclusion this year: the three main books Scar Night, Iron Angel, and God of Clocks, as well as the novella Lye Street, which explores a bit of Carnival's past and introduces the Greene family. Interviews with the author can be found here and here.

The Deepgate Codex utilizes these tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: Rachel's dad neglected her, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. Poor Carnival got holy shit levels of abuse from her father.
  • Affably Evil: Devon, until he goes and jumps off the slippery slope.
  • Aloof Ally: Carnival. Or, well, she tries really hard with the "aloof", but we know better. She doesn't even bother trying with Maybe John.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Mark Hael.
  • Alternate Universe: The time schisms are responsible for several of these. We see glimpses of a few of them. The main timeline of the series seems to be the canon one, but there are several other happy worlds that will probably last as Alternate Continuity fragments.
  • And I Must Scream: The Soft Men. Eurgh.
  • Animesque: It's near impossible for anyone familiar with anime or video game tropes not to imagine how easily these novels could be adapted to either format.
  • Anyone Can Die: Up to and including godly figures. To the relief of the readers, though, all seven of the True Companions made it through the series alive.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Ulcis called Carnival a "carnival freak" when she was younger. She took the name and ran with it, refusing to be called by her real name, Rebecca.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Ulcis to Carnival.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Carnival. It's why we love her.
  • Author Appeal: Campbell really, really likes plucky characters who don't know when to quit. It's a tiny bit obvious to his fanbase.
  • Ax-Crazy: Carnival and Mr. Nettle.
  • Badass Normal: Rachel.
  • Bad End: We're allowed to see one.
  • Beautiful All Along: Dill and Rachel make a habit of noticing Carnival's inner and outer beauty at seemingly random times throughout Scar Night.
  • Berserk Button: Carnival once hunted a man's descendants for five hundred years because he raped a girl; she was Driven to Suicide, and Carnival found her body (and diary). This is a bit excessive even for her... but then again, it probably hit a nerve.
  • Berserker Tears: Carnival, in the tower fight at the end of Lye Street/beginning of Scar Night.
  • Blood Magic: Angelwine is made from the blood of 13 people. (Blood is commonly referred to as 'soul' in the book; bodies drained of blood do not get to join Ulcis's army. This is what drives the B plot in Scar Night.) An injection of it is sufficient to bring Dill back to life. Though granted it does seem to work a bit differently for angels and humans. Humans it makes functionally immortal. Poor Carnival needs it, but has to get her fix by draining someone's blood once a month. Her body is covered in scars gouged into her body as repentance after each kill.
  • Body Horror: Alice.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: John Anchor. Also Hasp, to some degree.
  • Break the Cutie: Everyone—but especially poor, poor Dill.
  • Breaking Speech: Ulcis gives Carnival a very ugly one towards the end of Scar Night, vicious enough to reduce her to tears and put her in a Heroic BSoD. Her Shut Up, Hannibal!, while somewhat delayed, is made all the sweeter because of it.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Carnival just can't catch a break. Granted, the people of Deepgate have a reason to hate her, but they go out of their way to blame every little thing on her and exaggerate the bad things she actually does.
  • Chained Heat: Towards the end of Scar Night, Rachel and Carnival are chained together by the ankle. Half of the time, the vitriolic situation gives Character Development to them both and their relationship. The other half, this leads to Back-to-Back Badasses. But whenever their priorities diverge, things get a little messy.
  • The Chessmaster: Sabor and Mina.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Most of the cast, although Carnival is particularly notorious for it.
  • Completely Different Title: the Italian editions of the three books are title "Il Raccoglitore d'Anime" ("The Harvester of Souls"), "Il Dio delle Nebbie" ("The God of Mists") and "Il Dio delle Anime" ("The God of Souls"); and while the first two ones are at least somewhat related to their plots, the last one... is not.
  • Cool Big Sis: Rachel, once she takes a liking to Dill.
  • Crapsack World / World Half Empty: And how. God Is Evil and the in-world equivalent of Satan is trying to destroy all life so he can bend it to his will? Yep.
  • Creepy Child: Ilsa.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: John Anchor. It's a bit obvious he's dangerous as he's a big hulking brute hauling an airship around, but just how dangerous he is comes as a bit of a shock.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Carnival versus John Anchor. Especially notable in that it was Carnival's only appearance in the second book.
  • Deal with the Devil: In Lye Street, Sal Greene makes one to try to escape Carnival's vengeance on his family. [[spoiler:After realizing just how demonic Basilis really is, Sal decides to go back on said deal.
    • Alice Harper, and need we mention just about every one of the Mesmerists?
  • Death by Childbirth: The mothers of all angels, since it seems that they pass their souls to their children then—angels do not have their own souls.

Alternative Title(s): Scar Night