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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.
  • Cry Cute: Carnival. If it doesn't make your heart hurt, you probably don't have one.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Carnival versus John Anchor. Especially notable in that it was Carnival's only appearance in the second book.
  • Dead to Begin With: Alice.
  • 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.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Rachel.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Ayen and Menoa, in the final trip through time.
  • Determinator: Mr. Nettle.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Lye Street.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Hasp kind of... crawls into a beer bottle early into God of Clocks and doesn't really come out. We still love him, though.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Oh yeah.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Shiftblades, particularly poor Maybe John. But hey, he gets a run as Carnival's Sidekick—if that ain't compensation, we don't know what is!
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Menoa.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": As you may guess, Anchor is not actually John's last name.
  • Evil Uncle: Carnival has four.
  • Extreme Doormat: Cospinol, from what we've seen of him.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Rachel and Carnival.
  • Future Me Scares Me: Rachel, when time paradoxes trip over each other.
  • Gentle Giant: Subverted with John Anchor.
  • God Is Evil: Ulcis.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Since losing her knife in Lye Street, Carnival alternately relies on this and some strange makeshift weapons to fight. It works.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Carnival is covered in scars; they're eventually revealed to be from self-injury due to remorse, with one notable exception.
  • Grand Theft Me: Sillister Trench does this to Dill at the beginning of Iron Angel.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Carnival's temper is legendary.
  • Heroic Bastard: Carnival, who was the product of her mother's rape.
  • Heroic BSoD: Dill starts off Iron Angel in a state of deep trauma. Well, he did just get yanked out of Hell...
    • Carnival winds up in a rather nasty one towards the end of Scar Night. Thank God for Rachel.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Rachel is a little on the short side, and Carnival is only about average height, which makes them seem very small next to the giant bruisers of the cast (Mr. Nettle, John Anchor, Hasp)—even Dill, who's just plain lanky, is almost a foot taller than Rachel.
  • Humongous Mecha: Arconites.
  • I Have Your Husband: How Menoa blackmails Alice into serving him in Iron Angel.
  • Immortality:
  • I Was Just Passing Through: No you weren't, Carnival.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Carnival and her goddamn gardening fork, natch.
  • Jade-Colored Glasses: Rachel.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Carnival. Rachel also fits the trope at first.
  • The Juggernaut: Carnival and John Anchor both qualify (and Anchor is even a traditional example). If you plan to fight one of them, you'll need a highly trained, massive army—or another juggernaut.
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes: Dill (and all angels). Carnival's eyes supposedly do this, but so far in the books, they've only ever been black (killing rage), dark gray, and blue in God of Clocks.
  • Karma Houdini: Menoa
  • Kick the Dog: Ruby in Lye Street.
  • Knife Nut: Carnival, at least in Lye Street...
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Carnival. And it's progressive amnesia, too. At the end of the first book, it's implied that Ulcis was the one who prevented her from fully remembering her childhood (and much of anything else traumatic).
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Most often John Anchor, but sometimes Mina too.
  • Long Bus Trip: Mr. Nettle, who is never seen again after the end of Scar Night though he survived it.
  • Long-Lost Relative: John Anchor and the slave boy Maybe John.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Devon and Mr. Nettle
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Ulcis is the father of Carnival.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Thaumaturgy.
  • Master of Your Domain: The Spine Assassins have this skill.
  • Meaningful Name: Carnival. And it's more like a meaningful nickname.
  • Mind Screw: Iron Angel takes more than one read-through to understand properly. Although this is partly to blame on the way Campbell sucker-punches his readers a third of the way through...
    • God of Clocks is just as bad, if not worse, because of the time schism aspects. This is lampshaded thoroughly by Rachel.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Ayen.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: We're looking at YOU, Rys.
    • There's also Carnival, who kills Ulcis and leaves a portal to Hell completely unguarded, thus dooming Deepgate and the entire continent it's on to the attentions of the Mesmerist armies.
  • Non-Action Guy: Dill, until he receives some shiny levels in Badass halfway through Iron Angel. The poor thing still tries, though.
  • Not a Morning Person: In a macabre variant, right after Carnival refreshes her life by draining someone's blood, she can usually be found staggering around in a daze, not really comprehending what's going on around her and unable to remember very much. She's very much Not A Rebirth Person.
  • One Girl Army: Carnival again.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Are they ever. They don't even have souls of their own.
  • Our Souls Are Different
  • Papa Wolf: Mr. Nettle, who is... amiable enough until you mess with his daughter. Big, big mistake, Devon.
    • Also Sal Greene in Lye Street.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Carnival, so goddamn much—just look at her other tropes on this page!
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The Soft Men.
  • Plucky Girl: Mina and Carnival.
  • Precision F-Strike: Inverted with Carnival, who swears so much that any sentence that isn't punctuated with curses tends to grab the attention of anyone nearby.
    • Dill plays it straight hilariously in the beginning of Scar Night, though:
      "Balls on a skillet!"
  • Protectorate: If you value your life, you do not threaten Carnival's True Companions.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Any situation where anyone fights John Anchor in Iron Angel.
  • Rape as Backstory: Carnival, who was routinely gang-raped by her father's men as a young girl.
  • Reality Warper: Menoa.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Carnival is slightly less than 3000 years old. Mina is a bit younger than 2000.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Really, Carnival had been in that pot of boiling water for how long? And how many bones did she have to re-break as soon as she got out? Clearly somebody had to pay.
  • Sanity Slippage: Carnival, in Lye Street. Also, Devon and Mr. Nettle in the first book.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Played with in Lye Street. Ruby does it out of cruelty.
  • She's Back: Oh, Carnival, we love you.
  • Serial Killer: Carnival and Devon both.
  • Stable Time Loop: Stable, unstable and not-so-stable.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Rachel.
  • Super Speed: Focusing combines this with Bullet Time.
  • Team Mom: Alice, sort of.
  • Team Pet: Basilis. (Don't call him that to his face, though.)
  • Techno Babble: God of Clocks has some of it when trying to explain the time travel.
  • That Man Is Dead: "My name is Carnival!"
  • Time Travel: Dominates the plot of God of Clocks.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Having the God of Clocks around can really mess time up.
  • Tomato Surprise: Carnival is no ordinary angel—she's a demi-god, which partially explains her insane strength.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The doctor who opens his door for a suspicious woman on Scar Night.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Dill becomes much more powerful (and useful) in Iron Angel after being taught swordsmanship by Hasp.
  • Triang Relations: Rachel, Carnival, and Dill seem to be at point 8. There's never an Official Couple, and all the ships have at least one big obstruction by the end of God of Clocks.
  • True Companions: The main party is quite close-knit (albeit dysfunctional as hell before they click). The core of the True Companions are considered to be Dill, Rachel, and Carnival; Mina, Alice, and Hasp were added in Iron Angel, and John Anchor made the list in God of Clocks.
  • Tsundere: Carnival, at the start of Iron Angel.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Carnival is a fan of this. Serial Escalation kicks in halfway through God of Clocks, when she escapes Cospinol's pot—from that moment to the end of the book.
    • And this from the woman the fans describe as pure, distilled CMOA on her own. It's just that glorious.
  • With Friends Like These...
  • The Worf Effect: Suffered by Carnival, of all people a third of the way through Iron Angel.
    • Justified,however, because it's said straight in the prologue of Iron Angel that Anchor has absorbed as many souls as those in the Labyrinth ( i.e. Hell). Carnival has drunk many souls but not that many.
  • Wrench Wench: Alice.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Most of the plot can be understood at face value, but a lot of important worldbuilding details are subtextual, especially all angels having their mothers' souls. Of course, the main plot sometimes gets so convoluted that the characters themselves complain that they don't get what's going on anymore.
  • Villain Decay: Devon in God of Clocks. Granted, he's making a return as a minor antagonist...
  • You Are Not Alone: Rachel combines this with slight Get a Hold of Yourself, Man! (without the slap) in her attempt to break Carnival out of her Heroic BSoD towards the end of Scar Night. It's shown in Iron Angel that Carnival took this to heart.

Alternative Title(s): Scar Night