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Literature / Dragaera
aka: The Phoenix Guards

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No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style.
Vlad Taltos, Teckla

The world of Dragaera is the brainchild of Steven Brust. It serves as the setting for two of his novel series — the Paarfi of Woundwood books (including the now-complete Khaavren Romances series) and the Vlad Taltos books (ongoing) — as well as the standalone novel Brokedown Palace.

Dragaera is a fantasy world dominated by two major sentient races. The first are the Dragaerans, who are tall, long-lived, and vaguely elven. The second are the Easterners, who are human for all intents and purposes. Interestingly, both species call themselves "human," and use the formal name for the other. Most Dragaerans live in the vast and powerful Dragaeran Empire, which covers most of the main continent, and the rest inhabit some of the independent islands off the southern coast. Most Easterners live (surprise) to the east, in several small kingdoms, although some have emigrated to the Empire. Both of the series take place largely in the Empire. Brokedown Palace takes place in the Eastern kingdom of Fenario.


The Empire consists of seventeen houses/castes, each named after an animal on the planet. Although some houses are considered superior to others, a certain amount of peace between them is maintained by the custom that all seventeen get their turn to provide an Emperor or Empress. "The Cycle" determines the order. As each abdicates, the next house in line provides their Heir. Assassination of an Emperor is discouraged by the Orb, a mystic sphere that orbits the head of the current sovereign and protects him or her from least until it is time for the Cycle to change.

The number 17 is of mystic significance in Imperial culture, and that extends to the books themselves, which all run for 17 or 34 chapters. Another common trait to the books is Devera, a little girl who appears in some form in literally every book Steven Brust writes. In the Dragaera novels, she's established to be the daughter of a major character, only she technically hasn't been born yet.


The Vlad Taltos series describes the life of the Easterner Vlad Taltos, an Imperial citizen after his father bought their way into the House of Jhereg, which is essentially the "Mafia caste." Despite being a second-class citizen, Vlad makes his way through life as an assassin and a mid-level power player in the underworld of the Empire's capital. Most of the novels are written from the first-person perspective of Taltos himself, but Brust will sometimes experiment with other approaches.

The Paarfi of Roundwood books are a series of historical fiction novels written by Paarfi of Roundwood, an eccentric historian whose florid style is a parody of Alexandre Dumas. Each book in the series is based on a book written by Dumas. The books in the Khaavren Romances closely follow the structure of the The Three Musketeers stories, while The Baron of Magister Valley follows The Count of Monte Cristo. Paarfi writes the books during and sometime after Vlad's life, but they take place several hundred years before Vlad's time. Due to the long-lived nature of Dragaerans, there are a number of cross-over characters between the two series.

A short introduction to the setting, written for a non-canon spinoff pick-a-path adventure book (Dzurlord), may be read here.

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     Books in the Dragaera universe (so far) 

Vlad Taltos series:

  • Jhereg (1983)
  • Yendi (1984)
  • Teckla (1987)
  • Taltos (1988)
  • Phoenix (1990)
  • Athyra (1993)
  • Orca (1996)
  • Dragon (1998)
  • Issola (2001)
  • Dzur (2006)
  • Jhegaala (2008)
  • Iorich (2010)
  • Tiassa (2011)
  • Hawk (2014)
  • Vallista (2017)

Paarfi of Roundwood series

  • Khaavren Romances:
    • The Phoenix Guards (1991)
    • Five Hundred Years After (1994)
    • The Viscount of Adrilankha
      • The Paths of the Dead (2002)
      • The Lord of Castle Black (2003)
      • Sethra Lavode (2004)
  • The Baron of Magister Valley (2020)


  • Brokedown Palace (1986)

These books provide examples of:

  • Ability Mixing: Vlad Taltos dabbles in combining Eastern magic with Dragaeran sorcery and psionics. He once invokes a Sympathetic Magic principle of witchcraft to let a Psychic trace someone's mind through an object they used to own; later, he kludges all three disciplines together to eavesdrop on Telepathy, a feat previously thought to be impossible.
  • The Ace:
    • Morrolan, the rich, powerful, famous Dragaeran duke with a flying castle and a Morganti sword. He's as powerful of a warrior as he is a sorcerer and witch. While Sethra Lavode is the most powerful character in Dragaera, Morrolan is the hot-shot prodigy who studies and excels in everything.
    • For assassins, Mario is The Ace. When you start off your career by eliminating the Emperor, it's hard not to be.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The bulk of Dragon is basically a war movie, and it features a quite deep discussion between Vlad and Virt on the philosophy of war.
  • Action Girl: Dragaeran society is filled with them, because women are just as likely to be fighters as men. Of the major characters, Tazendra and Aliera are most prominent. While Sethra is better known as a sorceress, she is also a potent swordswoman. Cawti and Norathar had long careers as this trope before moving on to other things.
  • Aerith and Bob:
    • On the one hand you have names like Morrolan, Loiosh, and Khaavren, while on the other are characters named Vlad, Mario, and Kelly. Common-sounding names mostly come from Eastern cultures and are even used by some Dragaerans. Loiosh is apparently a Dragaeran spelling of the Fenarian name Lajos. A few Dragaerans even have Serioli names, which sound no more fantastic than normal Dragaeran names to readers, but qualify as this trope in-universe.
    • The roster of named deities in the series include Verra, Barlen, Kelchor, Ordwynac, Nyssa and ... Trout.
  • Alien Sky: A perpetual glowing red-orange Overcast hangs over the Dragaeran Empire, blotting out stars and obscuring the sun, but also making night much brighter. It's magical fallout from millennia of sorcerers channeling power from the Imperial Orb. This is probably why Vlad describes the sea as orange in Tiassa. The sky outside the range of the Empire is a standard clear blue. Vlad has a particularly hard time getting used to the blinding days and pitch black nights outside the Empire.
  • The All-Concealing "I": Kiera's narration in Orca.
  • All for Nothing: In Yendi, it's revealed that Norathar is and always has been the Dragon Heir, which was not changed by the titular Yendi's plotting. That means Adron wasn't, and therefore could never have won his civil war.
  • Anachronic Order:
    • The series itself is written out of chronological order, and the plots of some books are written out of chronological order. Dragon weaves three different timelines together, for instance, and Taltos alternates between two. Dzur has a fairly straightforward timeline, but each chapter is introduced with a course of the dinner that initially got Vlad involved. Tiassa's three sections take place at widely-spaced intervals within Vlad's life.
    • Lampshaded in Dragon:
    First, I have to ask you to excuse me for starting in the middle, but that's more or less where it starts.
    • In-universe, Paarfi's first historical romance, Three Broken Strings, is implied to have used this trope heavily as well.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Aliera acquires the greatsword of Kieron, who is her ancestor and her previous life's brother. Subverted when she gives it away in exchange for Pathfinder.
  • Anti-Hero: Vlad himself. In the earliest books in the he's not much more than a murderous thug, but he has a few redeeming features and he's always up against people who are worse than him. As the series goes along, he becomes more traditionally heroic.
  • Anti-Magic: Phoenix Stone, which comes in two forms that block sorcery and psionics.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: A notable feature of the Khaavren Romances, emulating the prose of Dumas.
  • Apocalypse How: Adron's Disaster is a Regional/Societal Disruption example. Paarfi points out that at the time, Sethra feared it'd be Planetary/Total Annihilation.
  • Arc Number: The number 17 shows up everywhere, and is considered a holy number by the Dragaerans. Every single book Brust has written has a multiple of 17 chapters, which started as a coincidence and then became a tradition. Brust originally chose the number because it has no pre-existing mathematical or numerological significance.
    • There are 17 houses of Dragaerans
    • There are 17 "Great Weapons"
    • The position of Emperor/Empress rotates through the Houses; each full progression of 17 rulers is called a "Cycle" and ends with a "Decadent Phoenix" ruling. 17 Cycles constitutes a "Great Cycle" and ends with a "Phoenix Reborn" on the throne instead.
    • The calendar has 17 months of 17 days.
    • In Yendi, Sethra's punishment of Sethra The Younger is based on 174.
  • Armor Is Useless: No one wears armor in Dragaera, which fits with the swashbuckling style that Brust likes. A novel in the Vlad series eventually explains that metal armor attracts sorcery, making it worse than useless.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Some of the gods of the world are Dragaerans who have ascended. Sethra claims to have turned this down.
  • Aside Glance: Used in the in-Verse stage play Six Parts Water (which provides chapter quotes for Jhegaala).
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Daymar of all people uses such a quip when he delivers the promised thorn-hawk egg in Hawk. Vlad is amazed that Daymar actually told a joke, even if it's a cheap one.
  • Author Appeal: Brust has stated that the key to writing interesting fiction is to simply write about whatever you think is cool.
    • Brust thinks that swashbuckling, swirling-cape adventures are cool, and so that's generally the shape of the Dragaera books.
    • Brust obviously likes food. Vlad worked in his father's restaurant and is a noted gourmand.
    • Brust is proud of his Hungarian ancestry and puts a lot of Hungarian references into the world.
    • Vlad's signature mustache makes a lot of sense when you see the one that Brust himself sports.
    • A darker example comes from the organized crime angle in the first few books, which went by the wayside once a friend of Brust was killed by mobsters, making him realize that they aren't so cool after all.
  • Back from the Dead: Fairly routine; as long as the person's central nervous system is intact and they weren't killed with a Morganti weapon or left too long before it's attempted, revivifying someone is just a matter of an admittedly expensive spell. The ease with which revivification can be achieved and the sure certainty of an afterlife is important in maintaining sympathy for most of the protagonists. The people they kill might not always have deserved it, but at least they're not dead dead.
  • Back in the Saddle: In Tiassa, Cawti briefly comes out of retirement to save Vlad from Jhereg assassins. Norathar puts on her Jhereg cloak on top of her Dragon uniform and joins her.
  • Badass Cape: Morrolan.
  • Badass Normal: While Vlad does possess a number of magical abilities, he usually goes against foes who are larger, stronger, far older, and much more magically powerful than him due to their species and social standing.
  • Berserk Button: Various characters have them:
    • Aliera is very sensitive about her height, to the point that she will float a foot off the ground to hide it. Shortness in Dragaeran society is commonly associated with Easterners. Admittedly, Aliera is willing to fight to the death for just about any social infraction.
    • Morrolan takes it extremely poorly if someone insults Adron. When Blackchapel was attacked, his first impulse was to hunt down and kill the raiders personally, even though he'd be outnumbered thirty to one.
    • The Jhereg has certain rules you don't break, the major ones being: never kill someone in their home, or in front of their family; never steal from someone you were hired to kill; never give any information about who hired you; never go to the empire. They tend to take any violation of these rules very poorly, even if they come from people who don't have any reason to follow them. In Dragon Vlad views tracking down Fornia as a purely professional contract, until Fornia comes after him in his home. Then it gets personal.
    • The other thing Vlad doesn't take well is having his people screwed with. Sethra Lavode gets away with setting up one of his people to get his attention once, because she's Sethra Lavode. Vlad recalls that he almost put a knife in Daymar's eye when the Dragaeran scanned his underling's thoughts. On both occasions, however, he became friends with the offending party, so he doesn't completely lose control.
  • Best Her to Bed Her:
    • Five Hundred Years After mentions a gender inversion. Rollondar e'Drien, who was the Warlord (commander of all military forces) fell in love with his wife after she defeated him in combat. It's noted that he receives a lot of ribbing in the barracks because of this.
    • And of course, inverted with Vlad, who has only casual relationships until he falls in love with the woman who bests him. Fatally. Though he gets better.
  • Betrayal Insurance: A lot of Vlad's actions and Noodle Implements in Hawk turn out to be this, as he suspects (correctly) that the Jhereg will try to kill him as soon as they've got what he proposes to trade for the cancellation of their contract on his soul.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: In Yendi, it's mentioned that Sethra Lavode, one of the world's most powerful sorcerers, sometimes turns intruders into jhegaala, a creature that has attributes of a toad. Also, the Sorceress in Green threatens to turn Vlad into a newt in the same novel, in a Shout-Out to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • BFS: Many Dragaeran warriors, such as Aliera and Tazendra, fight with weapons nearly as tall as they are. As Aliera is short by Dragaeran standards, this makes her the sword equivalent of Small Girl, Big Gun. Vlad even makes a point of how he has to carry around a very heavy rapier. He uses a one-handed fencing style, so he has to use something durable or else it will break too easily.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: Both the old Imperial Palace in Dragaera City and its successor in Adrilankha take this up to eleven, being bigger than many cities. Vlad gets lost repeatedly in the latter, and Tazendra in the former.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Fenario is based on Hungary, as is their language. In one novel, Vlad goes by an assumed name that a Dragaeran mispronounces as "Mawdyear." This is an approximation of the pronunciation of "Magyar," which is a Hungarian surname and actually means "Hungarian."
    • In Brokedown Palace, the names of Vili's pet norska translate as "Mother", "Father", "Brother", "Sister", and "Baby". Awwww...
  • Bizarrchitecture: Precipice Manor, from Vallista, looks like a normal mansion from outside. On the inside, various halls, rooms, and stairways are linked together in weird, illogical, and/or geometrically-impossible arrangements.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The jhegaala, a native Dragaeran animal for which one of the Houses is named, has a bizarre life cycle in which it variously transforms from an egg, to a blind, herbivorous aquatic nymph, to something like a large toad, to something moth-like and venomous. An intermediate stage is implied to occur between "toad" and "moth", in which it simultaneously transforms non-stop, and lays or fertilizes eggs.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: The tendrils on the necks of dragons are sensory structures that detect other creatures' psychic energies. In Hawk, when Vlad tunes into Loiosh's senses, he mentions how some colors disappear and new ones emerge, suggesting jhereg see a different range of light wavelengths than Easterners.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Vlad is about as anti- as it's possible for a hero to get without being a Villain Protagonist, but we like him anyway because he's funny and the guys he's up against are usually as bad or worse. As the series goes on, Vlad experiences a crisis of conscience and becomes more moral.
  • Black Comedy: Known as "grey humor"; at least, that's what Teldra calls it.
  • Blah, Blah, Blah: How a cynical and disinterested Loiosh summarizes the Eastern activists' conversations to Vlad in Iorich.
  • Blood Knight: All members of the House of the Dzur are this type, constantly searching for individual glory in battle, especially against impossible odds. This is largely what distinguishes the Dzur from the other warrior caste of Dragaera, the Dragons, who yearn for military conquest rather than simply the challenge of combat.
    Tazendra: "How, and miss a battle of six against thousands? When will such a chance come again?"
    • Vlad comments in Jhereg that the best way to avoid a fight with a Dzur is to look as helpless as possible, because Dzur don't like to fight unless the odds are against them. He also tells the Dragaeran equivalent of a Lightbulb Joke.
    How many Dzur it takes to sharpen a sword? Four. One to sharpen it, and three to put up enough of a fight to make it worth his while.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: No one knows what the Jenoine are trying to do or why. Their minds are too alien to fathom.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Tazendra is a rare female example. Dzur in general tend to be this, while Dragons are generally more serious but can also count.
  • Bond Creatures: Vlad's link with Loiosh. Other witches have familiars as well. Dragaeran sorcerers don't. The Warlock has two as a mark of his exceptional gifts as a witch.
  • Book Ends: Not for the series, but Vlad himself ponders how the phase of his life in which he works for the Organization both begins and ends in the same jungle clearing.
  • Buffy Speak: Vlad engages in this occasionally. From Hawk:
    Vlad: "But, won't the Organization come down on them like, I don't know, like something that comes down on things?"
  • The Bus Came Back: In Tiassa Savn, somewhat if not completely recovered. Timmer from Orca also makes an appearance.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
    • A teckla is a California salt marsh harvest mouse.
    • There are a few mentions of animals called "mock-men", which from context sound like either monkeys or apes.
    • Issola appear to be herons or cranes, based on descriptions scattered through the books.
    • Subversion: Early on, fans were convinced that "kethna" was simply the Dragaeran word for "pig", until actual pigs were mentioned in Athyra.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": Orcas were originally described as much nastier and toothier than a real orca, although this is not reflected in official illustrations. Also, "Hawk" could refer to any bird of prey in the Dragaeran language.
  • Call-Back: In Hawk, Vlad needs to slip past the sorceresses who are guarding a building, and he has Loiosh and Rocza fly inside and distract them. When he came up with this plan, he laughed at the irony, as he'd used the exact same tactic years ago to carry off his very first assassination (described in Taltos).
  • Call-Forward: In Yendi, Vlad realizes he should start changing his weapons regularly. By Jhereg, set later but published earlier, he does this routinely. Many others due to the Anachronic Order.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: Vlad tends to push the envelope a lot more than usual, but in general this trope is justified. Most sane people wouldn't argue with a seven-foot-plus swordswoman packing a BFS.
  • Captain Obvious: Paarfi is very good at this; often he will also, in addition to stating the obvious, precede it with a statement telling the reader he is about to state something obvious. At one point he writes, "...but the Khaavren of two hundred years before was younger, and younger, we should add, by the amount of two hundred years."
  • Cataclysm Backstory: The Viscount of Adrilankha books depict the slow recovery of the Empire from nation-wide devastation.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Inevitable with the way the Cycle works (given where it's kept, you can hardly pop over to check on it). When the Cycle turns, the heir of the next House must take power. How do you know when the Cycle has turned? Well, when the heir of the next House takes power. Invoked by Adron in Five Hundred Years After, when he grimly points out that he'll only know he can win at the point he's already won.
  • Catchphrase: Sticks's "No future in it". Napper's "Don't matter".
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the novel Taltos, Vlad mentions being given the vial of a god's blood early in the novel, and this item ultimately proves important in the novel's resolution. Ironically, the climax of the book revolves around the fact that he didn't bring it with him, so he needs to invent a spell to teleport it there.
    • Paarfi explicitly references this trope in Five Hundred Years After, albeit with flashstones rather than guns.
    • Brust is a master of series-arc Chekhov's Guns — many books or subplots are based on a throwaway comment, cool fact, or inconsistency in a previous book.
  • Chickification: This happens to Cawti. Though she earns a fearsome reputation as an assassin, she leaves the life behind to join La Résistance and rarely uses her skills to help her. When she gets in over her head, Vlad barges in and fix things. However, Cawti resents Vlad's interference and seems to think she could have handled herself, and she kicks plenty of ass in Tiassa.
  • Circling Vultures: Jhereg take the place of vultures for purposes of this trope. Loiosh and Rocza, seen circling Vlad's unconscious body in Tiassa, are mistaken for this by some guardsmen.
  • Classy Cat-Burglar: Kiera the Thief.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Aibynn and Daymar both show traits of this trope.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Vlad is put into a position where he must torture a sorceress to gain information. Though he mostly only has to threaten, he finds the episode extremely distasteful.
    • Vlad himself is subjected to extended torture in Jhegaala, and is interrogated via pain-inducing sorcery in Teckla.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of the seventeen Houses' has official colors that their members almost always wear. The only House without identifying colors is the Yendi, and the only House whose members can seldom be bothered to dress the part are the Teckla.
    • The Imperial Orb changes color in accordance with the current Emperor/Empress's mood, or with the truth or falsehood of a statement when used for lie detection during court cases.
  • Combat Pragmatist: As an assassin, Vlad always uses the most safe, practical and dirty way to defeat an opponent. This gets him into trouble in the Paths of the Dead, when he must defeat 17 Dragonlords in single combat. When he starts throwing knives at them, without the proper trappings of a duel, they abandon their mook chivalry and zerg rush him.
  • The Consigliere: Discreets are somewhere between this and therapists. Kragar also makes an excellent consigliere for Vlad because he's very competent and has no ambition to lead.
  • Continuity Cavalcade: A lot of characters and elements from previous Vlad novels converge in Hawk.
  • Contract on the Hitman: Happens to Vlad.
  • Cosmic Retcon: A number of plot inconsistencies in the early books were implied in Dzur to be due to Verra screwing with Vlad's memories.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Vlad lampshades how Fornia's scheme in Dragon is unnecessarily complex; he fought a large-scale war just in hopes of fighting Morrolan or Sethra, whose weapons could break open his greatsword and reveal the more valuable blade hidden within. While he just couldn't ask them to help since he'd stolen the weapon from Morrolan in the first place, there were still plenty of ways to accomplish what he wanted easily. But Dragonlords never choose the easy path.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: In Kelly's opinion, the traits and "virtues" of the houses are effectively this because the rigid expectations each house has for its members prevent other strengths from growing from within.
  • Crossover: Tiassa combined characters and writing styles from the Paarfi and Vlad novels.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Both Paarfi and Vlad constantly drop references to things that don't get explained, in Paarfi's case because he isn't writing for humans, and Vlad seems to want to avoid digression. Examples of Vlad's unexplained references include fighting his own likeness, communing with Eastern spirits to recover the Necromancer's soul, and Morrolan fighting a demon who had taken his sword while Vlad lay helpless. Sound like important events to someone in their twenties? All of those events were recounted on one page of Phoenix, and happened in one room of Castle Black.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus:
    • The Khaavren books have a character named Pel who studies Discretion, an art which allows its practitioners to comfort the Emperor or Empress by listening to their worries and keeping them confidential. While it's difficult to tell to what extent this is more like psychology than religion, it's notable that Discreets dress in monk-like robes and that Pel is the equivalent of Aramis, who was a priest.
    • Also, Jhegaala, set in the East, features a Father Noji, a priest of Verra who could very easily pass for an Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic village priest in our world. The East is basically a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Hungary.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Aliera isn't a villain, but she's violent, destructive, and prejudiced, and her tendency to help her daddy's plans out was partially responsible for Adron's Disaster.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Elder Sorcery, which is technically illegal, but everyone knows Aliera practices it. And Vlad can too.
  • Deader than Dead: The victims of Morganti weapons, which eat souls.
  • Deadly Euphemism: "Become dead" for "assassinated", and "work" (always in quotes) for "assassinating people". If it's just an assassination, it's "putting a shine on" someone, but if it's Morganti, it's a "dull shine".
  • Deadly Scratch: The slightest cut from a Morganti blade allows the weapon to eat the victim's soul. Worse, the weapons are somewhat sentient and actively hungry, and Vlad can sometimes sense them yearning to reach the closest person.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Definitely Vlad. He even lampshades it in one exchange where he states that he'll pass time by exchanging sarcastic comments with Loiosh. Many of the other characters in the Taltos books display at least a touch of the trope. Kiera, Kragar, and Loiosh all do it as well, and Sethra has her moments.
  • Deception Non-Compliance: In Five Hundred Years After, Aerich is duty-bound not to inform Khaavren what his other friends are up to. Realizing Khaavren really ought to know, he sends Tazendra to converse with Khaavren about something else, knowing she's incapable of keeping a secret.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The end of Five Hundred Years After in which Mario's Spanner in the Works causes the Empire to fall and plunge into years of famine and chaos.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Vlad's reaction the first couple of times he meets Sethra.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Lady Teldra speaks the Jenoine language well enough to pull off an insult so pithy it actually distracts a Jenoine.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: One Jenoine dies in Issola by the simple expedient of becoming a snack for a dragon. In another scene, Tazendra notes with some amazement that she just defeated a Jenoine in single combat, then promptly dies.
  • Destination Defenestration: How Mica was introduced in The Phoenix Guards, having been thrown in through a tavern window by paid thugs seeking to incite a fight with the heroes. Luckily for Mica it was an oilcloth-covered window, not glass.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Teckla rebels are strongly reminiscent of Bolsheviks. Verra implies that this may be because they actually found a stash of the writings of Earth philosophers.

  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Some aspects of the world had not been completely fleshed out when Brust wrote Jhereg, resulting in a little bit of weirdness on rereads. For example, the Phoenix Guards are simply called Imperial Guards, and the Furnace is simply the sun. Vlad also seems to characterize assassinations a lot more lightly than they're taken in the rest of the series, implying that you might get assassinated simply as a warning. Kragar refers to Mellar's late mother as "a whore" as if it's disgraceful, yet "tag" work is shown by later books to be unstigmatized in Dragaeran society, with Kragar himself dating one of Vlad's sex workers.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette:
    • Well, Sethra is a vampire after all. But the fact that nobody noticed that she'd become one of the undead for a few thousand years is rather telling.
    • The Necromancer also.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Jenoine are vastly powerful, extraplanar creatures who warp reality to unknown purposes and are generally considered hostile by everyone who is not Jenoine. The entire purpose of the Dragaeran Empire is to keep the Jenoine from coming back.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Great Weapons.
  • Epigraph: Brust usually opens chapters of the Taltos series with quotes from in-world documents or conversations, often hilarious ones. Sources range from court transcripts and legal memos in Iorich, to a list of instructions for Vlad's laundry service (mend cut in pants, remove bloodstains from shirt, etc) in Teckla.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Vlad thinks of Dragaeran society as evil, but with only a few minor exceptions they have almost no division of gender roles. Eastern society, while actually shown to be equally as ruthless as Dragaeran society, does have a more real-world distinction between genders. Noish-pa once curses himself for going easy on a hostile Dragaeran simply because she was female.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Jhereg has a set of rigid rules that all members must follow. Some are obvious, such as never testifying before the Orb, while others amount to professional courtesy, such as never attacking someone in his home. To violate any of these rules even in matters of life and death is considered pretty outrageous.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Necromancer is a skilled necromancer who seems to have no name. The Khaavren Romances reveal why: she's actually a demon.
  • Evil Chancellor: Lord Garland in The Phoenix Guards
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: One of the hints in Orca that Kiera isn't quite what she seems.
  • The Evil Prince: The Duke of Kana in the Khaavren series is a rather incompetent example of this; Probably Adron also, although Aliera and Morrolan would make you wish you'd never been born if you said so.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Loraan, with Grita/Orlaan of the Khaavren books being an evil sorceress. Sethra Lavode is a subversion: she fits a number of the stereotypical traits, but is actually quite a nice person.
  • Evil Weapon: Played pretty straight with Morganti weapons, although generally somewhat subverted with Great Weapons, which are are caring and protective of their wielders, and just happen to eat the souls of their victims. According to the short story "The Desecrator", this is played totally straight by the Great Weapon Nightslayer though.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Mario manages to pull off his assassination of the Emperor mostly because Sethra accidentally chooses the room he's hiding in to explain how an assassin could get past the extremely fatal security measures built into the Orb.
  • Expansion Pack World: The Isles, a group of Dragaeran kingdoms that exist outside of the Empire but never seem to get conquered. They aren't even mentioned until well into the series, when Vlad visits one.
  • Expy: The Khaavren Romances were conceived when Brust and a friend assigned Dragaeran Houses to the heroes of The Three Musketeers. In the resulting series, the main characters are obvious stand-ins for each of the original heroes. Khaavren is the young, ambitious d'Artagnan. Aerich is a consummate gentleman with a dark past, like Athos. Tazendra is a boisterous bruiser and dumb muscle, like Porthos. Pel is a cerebral schemer and womanizer, like Aramis.
  • Eye Scream: Vlad sometimes likes to hold a blade right up to someone's eye (usually the left) as he threatens them, and talks about knifing targets through the eye. It's convenient for jamming the blade into the skull, since brain damage is one of the few ways to make sure a person can't be resurrected by sorcery short of using a Morganti blade.
  • Fakeout Escape: Vlad uses this tactic in Hawk when some Jhereg are about to bust down the door to his flophouse room. Doubly lampshaded: Vlad's inner monologue comes up with the idea by speculating what someone in a play full of stupid action scenes would do, and Loiosh snarks about how he can't believe his boss is going with such a cliche.
  • Fantastic Fallout:
    • The Empire's old capital city was destroyed when a spell involving Elder Sorcery misfired, reducing the region to a permanently impassible lake of raw chaos that dissolves anything it touches.
    • Similarly, millennia of magic use by various sorcerers has left the skies above the Empire with a permanent orange glow.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Eastern Kingdom of Fenario is heavily based on Hungary. Its language is Hungarian and its "klava" seems to be based on Hungarian egg coffee. This might be justified in that Dragaera is sometimes suggested to have a science fiction background as a world populated by humans from Earth. Vague references are occasionally made to cross-overs between the universes. By the way, "taltos" means a shaman or wizard-like figure in Hungarian folklore and traditions.
  • Fantastic Firearms: Gun-like magitek weapons appear from time to time in the series. Starting out, we have musket-like magical guns just as likely to rip off a soldiers fingers as they are to kill an enemy. Further along are flash stones, which are simple stones enchanted to fire a short-ranged blast of energy, more or less mimicking the functionality of pistol muskets.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: There are almost no projectile weapons of any sort in Vlad's time. In the Khaavren Romances, which are a parody of The Three Musketeers, magical "flash stones" take the place of muskets, being short-ranged and single-fire weapons. Word of God explains that flash stones have fallen out of use by Vlad's time because magical advances have made them too easy to sabotage.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: The gods who sit in the Hall of Judgement, though they're really Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • Farm Boy: Deeply subverted with Savn in Athyra.
  • Faux Interracial Relationship. In the prequel novel Five Hundred Years After. Khaavren, the main protagonist has a Meet Cute with his future wife Daro, and bewails the fact that while he loves her, their relationship won't work because she is of a different House (basically a race) than he is. She then reveals that while she dresses like a member of one House, she actually belongs to the same House as him, she just likes the other colors better. The fictional narrator then comments how great it was that this impediment was cleared up.
  • Fetish-Fuel Future: Brust seems to like Action Girls, and Dragaeran society's almost total lack of separate gender roles makes this a lot easier to accomplish.
  • First-Name Basis: Regardless of how formally they might address one another at other times, folks who communicate psychically always use first names, which maintains the necessary intimacy for a mental connection.
  • First-Person Smartass: A textbook case. In fact, the term was actually coined to describe this series.
  • Food Porn: Brust is a noted gourmand and Vlad is a cook who spends a lot of time in restaurants, leading to some obvious Author Appeal. The framing tale of Dzur is a single meal at the world's most luxurious restaurant. Each chapter represents a course. You will get hungry reading it. It's occasionally inverted into Food Gorn when epicurean Vlad despairs over having to subsist on army rations, linseed-soaked everything, or prison food.
  • Forced Transformation: The fate of the Dzur warriors who have challenged Sethra Lavode and never returned is to be changed into animals by her. She says so herself.
  • For Want of a Nail: Paarfi references a story, "The Tale of the Smudged Letter", in which a single drop of water on a letter causes the sinking of islands. He also deconstructs the concept, pointing out how incompetent all the people who fell prey to the resulting chain of mishaps must have been to succumb to those mishaps.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Since the Khaavren romances are both prequels and written as in-universe historical fiction, the audience already knows that Tortaalik will die, Adron's Disaster will destroy Dragaera City and begin the Interregnum, and Zerika IV will reclaim the Orb and rebuild the Empire.
  • Foreshadowing: In regards to Setha Lavode:
    • In Taltos, the first time Vlad talks to Sethra psychically, he notes that it was remarkably easy to set up the mind-to-mind contact given that they'd only met once before. A few books later, we discover that Vlad's been friends with Sethra for years in her guise as Kiera.
    • In Jhereg, when Vlad mentions Kiera having once found him dead and took him to Sethra for revivification. Once you learn who Sethra is, why even a very accomplished thief should be taking her dead assassin protege to her for resurrection might seem mighty off.
    • In the early books, Vlad mentions Spellbreaker's tendency to change its length as appropriate for however large an area he's using it to shield in a fight. Dzur provides an explanation when Godslayer, into which Spellbreaker is incorporated, turns out to be a Morph Weapon.
    • In Paths of the Dead, Piro's falling in love with Ibronka is foreshadowed by his conversation with Krytaan about girls, as Piro is more interested in finding a brave girl - the signature trait of Dzur - than in appearing brave to impress one.
  • Four-Star Badass: Sethra takes this and runs with it. She's not just a general, she's one of the greatest military minds ever known, and she's not just a badass, she's a vampire wizard who orders gods around.
    Sethra: It is good to find one's self in agreement with the gods.
    Vlad: Is it?
    Sethra: Yes. It shows the gods have some wisdom.
  • Fragile Speedster: Vlad must fight this way against Dragaerans, whose greater size and strength renders him effectively squishy. His Eastern style of fencing is focused on speed and evasion.
  • Friendly Enemy: The Demon and Vlad are this toward each other. While the Demon is still devoted to killing Vlad for betraying the Organization, he respects him a lot for risking death to help Cawti, and agrees to order his subordinates to leave her alone. For his part, Vlad thinks that if he was still in the Jhereg, he would like to work for the Demon, and is willing to take his side against other contenders to rule the House.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: The weapon of choice of Lar, Piro's lackey. Not to be outdone in terms of ridiculous weaponry, Mica, Tazendra's lackey, uses a goddamn barstool.
  • Functional Magic: There's sorcery, witchcraft, and psionics. Sorcery is the most useful by far. And then there's Elder Sorcery...
  • Funny Background Event: When Khaavren informs Finance minister Bellor that he's placing her under arrest, the clerk who'd admitted the captain to the office sits down in shock, misses his chair, and takes The Pratfall.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Inverted in Orca, when death-on-two-legs Sethra Lavode reassures Vlad that she'd decided long ago that keeping her alternate identity as Kiera secret was not worth taking a life for. She's quite willing to kill for honour or necessity or a cause, but not for that.
  • Gender Is No Object: The Dragaeran Empire places almost no distinction on gender, allowing women to participate equally in all professions, even the military. Most people in high office during Vlad's lifetime happen to be female. There are a few minor exceptions, such as the Jhereg Organization, which is traditionally divided into the male Right Hand of mobsters and female Left Hand of mercenary sorceresses. In the Khaavren Romances, two Dragaeren women discuss whether a male Dzur would really be attracted to a woman who could defeat him. They ultimately decide that he could. Even the Dragaeran language has gender neutral pronouns, so that they do not need to use male pronouns as a default.
  • Genderbender: Drien, one of Morrolan's ancestors, is said to have changed sex at some point in his/her life. S/he lived so long ago that nobody's sure which sex Drien was originally.
  • Gentlemen Rankers: In Dragon, Baronet Taltos serves as a private in Morrolan's army. Most of the other troopers are this trope as well, as Dragonlords ignore social rank in military context.
  • God Was My Copilot: Sethra to Vlad while in her Kiera persona
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Aliera's father is Dragaeran and her mother is a Sufficiently Advanced Alien goddess.
  • Hide Your Children: Paarfi claims to have done this in Five Hundred Years After, to minimize the reader's horror at Adron's Disaster.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Vlad and Cawti Taltos, as well as Mario in the Khaavren book Five Hundred Years After.
  • Honor Before Reason: The House of Dragon in general, Morrolan in particular. The House of Dzur especially, to the point of pride. The Lyorn are all about this trope.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Dragaera has a lot of odd creatures, such as the named but never described winneasaurus, which seem to be similar to Earth animals.
  • How Do I Shot Web?: Vlad has little understanding of Spellbreaker's full properties beyond its ability to negate spells. When it becomes Godslayer, he learns its properties on the fly, doing things like accidentally breaking memory modification spells put on him by a goddess and destroying the soul of a sorceress who's trying to kill him.
  • Hufflepuff House: With seventeen Dragaeran Houses, it's inevitable that at least some of them will end up stuck with this. As a general rule, the Houses whose hats are fighting, magic, and politics get more attention than the others. The rest are on a sliding scale—the Teckla have gotten more screen-time as the series progresses, while the Jhegaala and the Chreotha are still basically set dressing. (The former in particular don't even get a direct appearance in the novel named for them.)
  • Humans by Any Other Name: Has a very weird relationship with this trope. Both what we consider humans ("Easterners") and the elflike Dragaerans refer to themselves as human and call the other something else.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: The Phoenix Guards series has a lot of this due to Paarfi, a Dragaeran, acting as narrator.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Paarfi makes something of a Running Gag of how Clari is more capable than her nominal superiors, out-classing Ibronka in preparation, getting directions, finding places to stay, and even charming higher-ranking soldiers.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Paarfi's lengthy rants about how he will waste no words in his storytelling. He also tends to go back on his promises to the reader, e.g. saying he'll refrain from describing horses and explaining why he won't, then describing Khaavren's steed later in the same chapter. Heavily lampshaded by an essay following one of the novels in which the case is made that Paarfi really is being terse and laconic by Dragaeran standards. The entire novel is presented as being "one of his notebooks" for a work that needs expanding "by an additional eight or nine volumes" before publication! Jhegaala suggests that a "brief" survey for a Dragaeran is at least six volumes.
    • In The Baron of Magister Valley, Paarfi makes a humanitarian Author Filibuster against cruel and unusual punishment against all citizens of the empire... except Teckla, "who do not feel pain as gentlemen do."

  • I Call It "Vera": All the great weapons have official names. Vlad, however, insists on referring to Godslayer as Lady Teldra, and for good reason.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Or book naming in this case, and sometimes chapter naming as well.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Castle Black. Vlad notes that black is the color of sorcery, so calling it Castle Black is pretty ostentatious to a Dragaeran.
  • I Like Those Odds: The entire House of the Dzur. Tazendra gets most of them on the page, but that's just because she's the most prominent Dzur character.
  • Immortal Breaker: The Morganti blades are downplayed examples - they aren't surefire weapons against the Jenoine, but are one of the best ways to have a fighting chance of killing them.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Mica and Lar, the lackeys of Tazendra and Piro in the Khaavren Romances, both use ridiculous weapons to surprisingly good effect, mostly from shock value. Mica wields a barstool, while Lar goes for a Frying Pan of Doom.
  • Innocent Bigot: The Empire is a hierarchical and fairly racist society, and lots of perfectly nice characters will say unintentionally offensive things about Easterners or Teckla without realizing it.
  • Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy: Vlad has to do this to himself with a knife in Hawk, when a Jhereg assassin punches him hard in the throat and collapses his windpipe.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: The chapter titles in the Khaavren books.
  • Jerkass Gods: Vlad has gotten significantly more cynical about religion on the whole since Verra started screwing with his life. But she's not the worst of them by a long shot.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: In Hawk, Vlad arranges a meeting with Jhereg leaders to try to arrange an end to their pursuit of him. They quickly discover and negate the spell on the meeting room that would've compelled them to be agreeable, but don't find out until too late that Vlad's actually setting them up to get busted by Khaavren for threatening Imperial security.
  • Klingon Promotion: The Jhereg
  • Language Equals Thought: Comes up when Teldra tries to explain what the Jenoine have to say in Issola.
  • Levitating Lotus Position: Daymar's favorite posture.
  • Lightbulb Joke:
    • The Medieval Stasis version is apparently a sword-sharpening joke. After Vlad made several in Yendi, the fans took it upon themselves to write a whole lot more.
    • Another book illustrates the differences in the attitudes of the Houses by describing how each would react to one rotten onion in a basket of them (A Dragon would throw out the whole basket, a Hawk would notice it was rotten but not stop you from eating it, a Jhereg would try to sell it regardless, etc).
  • Lonely at the Top: Vlad describes his life before Cawti like this - successful though he was, the only ones who could understand his life were Dragaerans, whom he hates, while most Easterners saw him as too Dragaeran because of his Jhereg title. He had little problem getting dates but they were little more than pretty arm-candy there because he had money and a modicum of power. Cawti, as a fellow Jhereg assassin and Easterner, was the one person who could understand him, and he offered her the same in return. And the loneliness starts again once their marriage goes on the rocks.
  • Lovely Angels: Norathar and Cawti when they were the "Sword and Dagger of the Jhereg". Given the disparity in heights, they probably also count as a female version of the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser type of Brains and Brawn.

  • The Mafia: The Right Hand of the Jhereg, the male half of "The Organization" in House Jhereg, behaves much like the real world Mafia. Contrary to in-world as well as fan perception, most Jhereg are not actually in the Organization, and are law-abiding citizens of the Empire.
  • The Magic Goes Away / The Magic Comes Back: Happened to sorcery at (respectively) the start and end of the Interregnum, due to the absence of the Imperial Orb.
  • Magitek: In the Empire, everyone can cast at least minor spells by drawing power from the Orb, and magic takes the place of most technology. The simplest function of the Orb is to act as the Empire's official timekeeper. In the Khaavren Romances, based on The Three Musketeers, "flashstones" are the magical equivalent of flintlock pistols.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage:
    • Inter-House marriages (although not flings) is generally about as repulsive to Dragaerans as incest is in real life. Dragaerans aren't able to explain why it's so anathema to them. They just feel the wrongness. It's the result of Jenoine tinkering with Dragaerans as part of their mysterious experiment. During the Interregnum, the taboo was much less pronounced, and it's possible for mixed Dragaeran couples born after the Disaster to hook up without understanding what all the fuss is about.
    • Zerika IV and her Easterner lover Brimfrod/Lazslo, while not actually married as such, suffer from this. Grita leaks knowledge of their relationship to the Lyorn Heir, who promptly withdraws his support. However, after the war, it's not such a problem because everyone who knows either doesn't care or refuses to insult their lawful Empress. (Vlad at one point has a chance to ask about it, but has problems with how to phrase the question; Zerika decides to 'answer' anyway and says she considers Lazlo a soulmate.)
  • Manly Facial Hair: Vlad wears a signature mustache. Since Dragaerans cannot grow facial hair, it's a statement of racial pride and defiance.
  • Master Swordsman: Mellar successfully fought his way into the House of the Dzur, defeating seventeen of their warriors in one-on-one duels. The only reason Vlad survives even the first few seconds of their fight is that Mellar's disoriented and has never confronted an Eastern-style fencer before.
  • Mathematician's Answer
  • Meaningful Name: A "taltos" is a person with magical power in Hungarian mythology.
  • Medieval Stasis: Both averted and a Justified Trope. Magical "technology" leaped forward after the Interregnum due to changes in the Orb. Otherwise, the Dragaeran Empire's Great Cycle system is deliberately designed to keep it in stasis.
  • The Mentor: Vlad's grandfather probably is the most obvious example, but Kiera the Thief also played an important part in making Vlad who he is, as does Sethra Lavode.
  • Metaphorically True: After murdering his boss, Vlad bare-faces his way through his trial for the killing by testifying, under the lie-detecting Orb, that he believes his superior killed himself. He can truthfully claim this because, in his opinion, anyone treating him as badly as his boss did is just asking for Vlad to kill them.
    • In The Phoenix Guards, the current Warlord attempts to pull this in reverse, asking manipulative questions and forbidding Khaavren to give more than the most basic of answers in an attempt to incriminate him in front of the Emperor. It almost works.
  • Mind Screw:
    • It is revealed in the novel Orca that Vlad's friend, the cat burglar, Kiera the Thief, is in actuality another of his friends, the feared vampire and near-goddess, Sethra Lavode. With this revelation, Vlad realizes that, far from acting out of free will, he had been manipulated into many of his life choices, including becoming an assassin.
    • Not to mention in Dzur we find out that the goddess Vlad was raised to worship has been screwing with his memories, and not even Vlad is sure what's true about his past anymore. This also functions as something of a Cosmic Retcon, since Verra's messing with his memories could explain certain inconsistencies.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: Dzur Mountain's name describes it perfectly. Paarfi suggests Adrilankha was named for how the cliffs there resemble a bird's outstretched wings, although Adron's Disaster subverted this when one of them collapsed into the sea.
  • Morph Weapon: Godslayer, which turns into everything from a knife to a rapier.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: The prequels reveal that Morrolan occupied this role, being raised as an Easterner and not discovering his true identity until some time later. There was a rather hilarious scene in which Teldra has trouble keeping a straight face while explaining his species to him in The Paths of the Dead.
    • Even more true of Zivra, although the foster parents who raised her in secrecy until she could claim her Phoenix heritage weren't exactly poor.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • Vlad's main source of income while he is on the run is a gold coin he shows around in some shady taverns. Then he takes the money of the bandits that inevitably show up. From what is left of them.
    • As an adolescent, Vlad became a Bully Hunter as payback for how Orca kids used to beat him up. Teen Vlad would walk around acting cocky to goad Orca youths into "teaching the Easterner a lesson", then gleefully kick the living crap out of them.
    • Happens to Grita in the Khaavren Romances, when she's approached by a group of highwaymen, and eventually recruits them to be her thugs. ...and again later when she runs out of uses for them and kills the leader.
    • Paarfi cites an occasion when a cutpurse tried to rob the sleeping Greycat, only to have him wake up long enough to slit the would-be thief's throat, then resume his nap as if nothing untoward had happened.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Vlad's explanations for losing one of his fingers include "a very heavy weight," "too slow with Spellbreaker," and "a wound that got infected," among others. The real reason is given in Jhegaala.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Dragaerans typically have long, lean builds. It's unusual for them to be noticeably muscular. Nevertheless, they're all stronger than most Easterners across the board.
  • Must Have Caffeine: Don't try to be funny before I've had my klava, Kragar...
  • Mutilation Interrogation: The actual reason Vlad lost a finger.
  • Mysterious Past: Definitely Kragar, and most of the cast to a lesser degree.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Vlad occasionally uses this, but given his Sophisticated as Hell attitude toward vocabulary in general, it tends to be more about an opportunity for Expospeak Gags than actually censoring himself. Iorich in particular is full of these sorts of jokes.
  • Noble Tongue: Serioli is this in this series, although not only is it not at all like Latin, it is a Starfish Language that is painful to listen to.
  • No Guy Wants an Amazon: Solidly inverted. Men from Houses with military prowess as their hat want women who are at least as competent with a sword as they are. Ibronka (Dzurlord) even notes that she'll never make a good match if she doesn't prove herself as a fighter.
  • No Name Given: There are a number of characters who are Only Known by Their Nickname. The Sorceress in Green is never referred to by name. Pel, the Duke of Galstan, goes by a fake name and a fake title. No duchy of Galstan has ever existed. Both characters are Yendi, who are famous for their webs of deception.
    "How many Yendi does it take to sharpen a sword? Three. One to sharpen it and one to confuse the issue."
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Most witches seem to have a familiar. Vlad is notable for having a jhereg familiar with human-level intelligence.
  • Nonindicative Name: Vlad often Lampshades how South Adrilankha is on the west side of the city.
  • Noodle Implements:
    • Used as a joke In-Universe. Apparently Vlad was quoting a play.
    "We'll need a sorcerer who specializes in light extraction from candlebud, a smith who can fabricate a foot-long surgical-quality needle, an acrobat who can do both wide-spar and high-rope, a swimmer who is fluent in Serioli, a—"
    • Vlad spends much of Hawk assembling a bewildering array of obscure supplies for the scheme he's cooked up, and refusing to explain what they're all for to either his associates or his audience.
  • Noodle Incident: The guy wearing the wrong sort of boots, who could jump an eleven-foot crevasse. Paarfi cites a lot of historical examples in passing, a few of them (e.g. the 22-horse carriage that almost jumped an even bigger crevasse) better imagined than witnessed.
  • Oblivious Adoption:
    • Morrolan was raised as a human and didn't realize he was different, even as he remained youthful looking at over 100 years old, despite everyone else around him getting older and dying. His being at least a foot taller than anyone he knew should have been another clue...
    • Zerika IV was raised under another name by Dragonlords, the better to conceal the last Phoenix from potential enemies or exploiters. She had honestly believed herself to be a Dragon or part-Dragon crossbreed, albeit a rare blonde example of unusually calm temperament.
  • Odd Couple: Aliera and Mario—the daughter of (and later the) Dragon Heir paired with the Jhereg's best assassin.
  • Oh, Crap!: Kragar has exactly this reaction when he and Vlad realize that Mellar has intentionally set himself up to get assassinated in order to spark another Dragon-Jhereg war and destroy both Houses, as well as utterly humiliate House Dzur in Jhereg.
  • Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: The paratext before each chapter of Teckla is Vlad's laundry bill, and seems inconsequential, until you realize that the book shows how each item got dirty, torn, or covered in Vlad's blood.
  • Old Magic: Elder Sorcery, which uses pure Chaos for power, was outlawed as soon as the Dragaeran Empire was founded. All Dragaerans can perform a safer form of sorcery through their psychic link to the Imperial Orb, whereas Elder Sorcery has a nasty habit of going haywire and dissolving the sorcerer and their surroundings.
  • Ominous Floating Castle: Castle Black. Most people are a little too nervous to create more, for good reason - they were relatively common before the Interregnum, but Adron's Disaster sent them plummeting.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted by the three women in the books named Ibronka with no connection to each other—the Dzurlord in the Khaavren Romances, Vlad's grandmother (named in Teckla) and a minor girlfriend of Vlad (named in Taltos). The name Ricardo is used for more than one male Easterner, and there's also a Ricard in Iorich.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: In Teckla, Easterner revolutionary Kelly narrowly stops Vlad from taking out rival Jhereg lord Herth because he believes the defeat of Herth and what the Jhereg represents belongs to the revolution - they've been fighting Herth too long to just let someone with a new grudge swan in and stick a knife in Herth's brain.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Vlad always refers to his grandfather as Noish-pa, which means grandfather in Fenarian. A number of Dragaerans are also referred to only by their nicknames or titles, such as the Demon, the Sorceress in Green, the Necromancer, and Sticks.
  • Oracular Urchin: Devera.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Subverted in that Easterners are called "dwarfs" by Dragaerans outside of the Empire. Easterners are essentially real-world humans, and their society is based somewhat on Medieval Eastern Europe. Serioli are a short crafting people typically found in the mountains, and have been mentioned panning for gold, but have little physical similarity to classic fantasy dwarves.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons in Dragaera are giant, powerful reptiles that do not breathe fire. Instead, they have tentacles that pick up psychic impressions from other animals. The House of the Dragon was named after dragons for their aggressive and warlike demeanor. Giant jhereg found around Deathsgate falls look more or less like classic wyverns. The smaller, more common jhereg look like cat-sized wyverns. They have human level intelligence and a poisonous bite.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Dragaerans are called "elfs" by Easterners in the eastern kingdoms. They are tall, slender, extremely long-lived, highly magical, and some strains have pointed ears. Their Empire is based on the Protestant Reformation era of Europe. Dragaerans come from all walks of life, from peasants to criminals to tradesmen to professionals to nobles.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Sethra Lavode has the traditional need to drink blood, but from what description is given, it seems to be small quantities and there's no indication of her preying on Dragaerans or Easterners. She is also able to consume at least small quantities of normal food and appears completely human (or Dragaeran) in her Kiera identity. Loraan in Athyra is also undead and fits the traditional vampire idea better, having a number of Glamour Failure traits which reveal he's no longer alive.
  • Overly-Long Name: The god Tristangrascalaticrunagore, who's usually (fortunately) called Tri'nagore for short.
  • Painting the Medium: There's a sequence in Issola where Vlad's passage through a dimensional gate causes the narrative to split into three simultaneous threads, with chunks of their three unique descriptions of his experience alternating in turn, like so:
    -that Loiosh was no longer with me-
    -leaving perception, without the awareness of whence it sprang except-
    -all life is movement, which is to be here and not be here and the same time, or here and there simultaneously, or to deny time, or to deny place-
  • Panthera Awesome: Tiassa. They're panthers with wings.
  • Pet the Dog: Vlad gets a massive one in Teckla when he drops almost all of his fortune from Jhereg into buying control of South Adrilankha off the Jhereg lord he'd previously been fighting with, so he can help clean it up and be a good "landlord" for the Easterners who are forced to live there due to poverty.
  • Phrase Catcher:
    • "Shut up, Loiosh."
    • From Dragon: "I think I will soon begin taking it personally everyone telling me I'm taking things personally."
  • Plague Doctor: Tevna the pyrologist is a plague mortician, roaming from one disease-beset settlement to another during the Interregnum, and cremating the dead and their personal possessions to break the chain of infections. His all-gray clothing strikes the same morbid note for Dragaerans (who consider gray the "color of death") as a Real Life trope example's beak mask and garb.
  • Planet of Hats: Each house has distinctive personality traits. It's suspected that the different houses actually have different strains of animal magically included in their bloodline by the Jenoine. The Jhegaala are unusual in that their hat is that they change hats over time. Dragaerans outside of the Empire do not have houses, which can be confusing for citizens of the Empire. Kelly, a human within the Empire, accuses the House hats of being artificial constructions. (Given how the Houses were set up to begin with, he's technically right.)
  • Playground Song: "Dung-Foot Peasant", a Teckla children's ditty in this vein, provides epigraphs for Athyra. It's mentioned that the song has evolved, adding new verses and forgetting others, between Savn's early childhood and his sister's.
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Played with in Hawk, in that virtually everyone Vlad knows contributes in some way to his scheme to get the Jhereg off his back: Daymar inspires the idea and provides the egg and wand; Kragar provides a safe place to stay; Kiera, the lockpick and information; Morrolan, the smoke-sphere; Aliera, healing for Kragar; Sethra, someone to build the stairs; Cawti, her uncharacteristic agreement to go into hiding; Sara, the euphonium; Perisil, the quotation from Dragaeran trade law; and Khaavren, the plan's final twist. Loiosh's and Rocza's help is vital, and Lady Teldra wakes up in time to consciously do her part. The Empress and Warlock intervene on Vlad's behalf after the park ambush, ensuring he's still alive to come up with the plan. The Demon ends up saving Vlad after plotting to kill him for years. Even characters who don't actually appear in the novel help out, albeit indirectly and/or symbolically: Norathar provides a safe place for Vlad's family to hide; both Savn and Vlad Norathar inspire Vlad to save, then recruit the young cutpurse; and Noish-pa's fencing lessons from decades ago give Vlad his strategy.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Averted and then Lampshaded in Five Hundred Years After. Khaavren initially thinks his future wife Daro (see Faux Interracial Relationship above) is a different House from him, and therefore their love is doomed, but he mentions this and she immediately reveals she's actually a Tiassa like him. Paarfi then goes on a digression about how readers may be surprised and disappointed by how quickly this was solved, since in such romances the convention is usually that a series of complicated and/or ridiculous plot contrivances would prevent a conversation like that until the end of the book, possibly just before or just after one of them marries somebody else. He concludes by saying they can't complain because it's historically accurate.
  • Possession Implies Mastery: Subverted. One of Vlad's weapons, Spellbreaker, was stolen from a wizard; Vlad has no idea of its complete powers, and simply uses it to the best of his ability. He's even less competent with Godslayer.
  • Power Glows: Iceflame's blade is light blue, and glows the same shade.
  • Power Nullifier: Spellbreaker negates magic that it touches. Sorcery also does not work on the Isles because of the rock they're made out of, which is probably why they never get conquered by the Empire.
  • Precision F-Strike: In Dragon when Loiosh keeps ignoring Vlad's "Shut up, Loiosh," to get another needling remark in, until Vlad graduates to, "Shut the fuck up, Loiosh."
  • Prequel in the Lost Age: The Paarfi books, especially the first two (set before the Interregnum).
  • Pretend Prejudice: Vlad says he hates Dragaerans, and in fact he got into his line of work just so that he could beat on them. However, as time goes on, he begins to realize that nearly all of his friends are Dragaerans, and that the really revolutionary human factions just irritate him. Aliera, too, is not especially fond of Easterners, but she likes Vlad and Cawti just fine.
  • Produce Pelting: A bit character from Five Hundred Years After makes a meager living cleaning up the messes from this trope. He absolutely loathes the job, but lives for theater.
  • Pronoun Trouble: The dominant Dragaeran language has "gya" as a gender-inclusive pronoun for "person of unspecified sex". The lack of similar terminology in English forces the person who translates Paarfi's works to use "he" instead: a liberty for which the Hawklord chews the translator out, when he's told about it.
  • Proper Lady: Lady Teldra. This is a trait of the Issola, and to a lesser extent of the Lyorn.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Houses of the both the Dzur and the Dragon, with the former aspiring to be heroes and the latter aspiring to be conquerors.
  • Punctuation Shaker: House Dragon's patronymics take the form of "e'Something". It's probably a contraction, since the double-whammy "e'Marish'Chala" was a shortened form of a very long name. Terms like "S'yang stones" are explicitly shown to be contractions.
  • Purple Prose: Paarfi gets a little overenthusiastic sometimes. Or a lot so, as with the 362-word sentence in Magister Valley. This is usually both intentional and played for laughs.

  • Rage Against the Heavens: Vlad really doesn't appreciate Verra deciding to make him useful. There isn't a whole lot he can do about it, but that doesn't stop him from being very, very angry.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Aerich, a stoic and sober-minded Lyorn warrior, wears a skirt and crochets in his spare time.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Dragaerans can live for thousands of years. Sethra Lavode is tens of thousands of years old. Many tens of thousands; Sethra is older than the Empire itself.
    • The Warlock is an Easterner, but he is at least several hundred years old and looks young enough that he can be mistaken for Vlad.
  • Reality-Breaking Paradox: Adron's Disaster.
  • Reasoning with God: At the end of the The Paths of the Dead, Zerika has to do this to get the Orb back—although it's more like convincing them to give her the Orb without condition, since she knows they have to do it anyway, they just want to manipulate her.
    Zerika: If there is a thing you wish of my Empire, you may ask me for it, as it has always been, and I will decide, as the Emperor always has. That is how it will be. Now give the Orb into my hands.
  • Reincarnation: Being "revivified" is a rather simple procedure with a high chance of success, provided that your central nervous system is intact. Dead Dragaerans are reincarnated if they are not judged worthy to pass on to the next level of existence. Vlad is revealed to be a reincarnation of the founder of the House of the Jhereg.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Referenced.
    Loiosh: I told you I was cute.
  • Running Gag:
    • The "sword-sharpening jokes"— one for every House, at least by implication— and Vlad teasing Loiosh about lacking opposable thumbs in Yendi.
    • In Taltos, whenever anyone in the Paths of the Death notes that Vlad and Morrolan are alive, Vlad replies "How can you tell?" Only Verra likes the joke. Becomes a Brick Joke in Vallista, when it's Vlad who notes that the Warlock is alive, and Laszlo returns the phrase.
    • In Dzur, Vlad keeps spilling or breaking his drinking vessels, twice because somebody startled him and once because the wine was so awful that he threw the jug out the window at the first sip.
    • In Hawk, Vlad repeatedly suggests that the reader, or he himself, send a Strongly Worded Letter voicing rude objections to how the story is playing out. Not to him, mind, but to the likes of Sethra, Morrolon, or the Empress: "Let me know how that works out for you."
    • In Vallista, upon making some comment that'd make a good aphorism, Vlad spells out his last name so the reader can cite its source.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Jhereg in the Organization will never mess with someone in his or her home. Also, anyone who kills someone who is the guest of a Dragon is likely to cause a war between Houses. This has happened twice between them and the Jhereg.
  • Sassy Secretary: Subverted, as Kragar is not just a rare male example, but knows full well that he could run the operation on his own. Moreover, given that he is wisecracking and refers to Vlad as boss, Loiosh might be argued as an example both male and animal.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: House Jhereg is named for a species of scavenging venomous reptile, and is the House associated with criminals. Subverted by Loiosh, an actual jhereg who can be quite courageous when acting on behalf of Vlad, who raised Loiosh as his companion and familiar.
  • Science Fantasy: The series plays like Low Fantasy, but there are occasional glimpses of a science fiction background to the setting. In Dragon: a Serioli refers to Easterners as the "Old People," then "clarifies" this as "people from the small invisible lights." As the overcast hides the stars, this suggests the aboriginal Serioli remember humans coming to Dragaera from the stars. Sethra has admitted to Vlad that the Dragaerans were engineered from humans by the Jenoine.
  • Screw Destiny: Kelly and his followers take this attitude towards the Cycle, believing they can force a change in the Empire even though it's thousands of years too early for another Teckla Republic.
  • Secret-Keeper: As of Orca, Vlad knows that Kiera is actually Sethra Lavode. Played with in that, while he and Kiera/Sethra both know that he knows, they maintain the facade even during private conversations, as it helps the latter maintain the role and helps Vlad keep the two personas straight in his head. (It doesn't stop him from obliquely joking about it, such as telling Sethra that he picked up a habit of biting his thumb from Kiera, when everyone knows he's lying his ass off.)
  • Seemingly Profound Fool: Vlad has a hard time figuring out whether the drummer he meets on the Isles is incredibly profound or just a goofball who takes drumming too seriously. Ultimately it's left ambiguous. The character was based on Brust's friend, who really is that into drumming.
  • Selective Historical Armory: Weaponry is mostly Renaissance-era or thereabouts, but with a lack of projectiles that encompasses not only Fantasy Gun Control, but Fantasy Bow Control as well. The one time Vlad encounters archers (in Dragon), their bows are called "javelin-throwers", and their rarity in the Empire is such that Vlad doesn't even recognize them as weapons.
  • Self-Surgery: See Instant Drama, Just Add Tracheotomy (above).
  • Sensory Tentacles: Dragons have sensory tendrils on their cheeks and chin that detect psychic energies.
  • Servile Snarker: Loiosh is Vlad's familiar and obeys his orders, but that doesn't stop him from constantly busting his chops through their telepathic link. Loiosh is quick to blame Vlad's Deadpan Snarker personality for rubbing off on him.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Morrolan, Paarfi, Daymar in lecture-mode
  • She Is the King: Inverted with the court office of Lady of the Chairs, which is referred to by that exact title even if the incumbent is male. Played straight with the Lord of the Keys, for whom the same rule applies.
  • Sherlock Scan: Khaavren and Aerich take turns doing this to Chaler's corpse in Five Hundred Years After, to Tazendra's mystified amazement.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: The jhereg.
  • Shout-Out: Due to the humorous nature of the series, Brust sprinkles in shout outs to some of his favorite things.
    • In Issola, Vlad and Teldra come up with the recipe for bagels and lox.
    • In Dzur, the old Tsalmoth who assists Vlad at the library uses a spell that finds specific patterns of characters in text, making it the sorcerous equivalent of a search engine.
    • In Iorich, four-year-old Vlad Norathar is seen playing with the low-tech, soft toy equivalent of a Transformer.
    • There are a few Monty Python and the Holy Grail jokes in Yendi:
    Morrolan: "You wouldn't want her to turn you into a newt."
    Vlad: "I'll get better."
  • Shrouded in Myth: Sethra is a bit mysterious. She has a reputation for, say, turning Dzur heroes who showed up to kill her into lizards, yet she's usually a fairly nice person, if kind of creepy. Vlad has on a couple of different occasions considered a list of Sethra myths and commented on which ones he thought were really, really stupid; in particular, if she actually does have a secret path to the Halls of Judgment in her basement, she owes him an apology.
    • Great Weapons in general, and Godslayer in particular. Also Dzur Mountain, above and beyond its connection to Sethra.
    • Mario Greymist's reputation as an unstoppable, undetectable assassin qualifies, as "Mario did it" is apparently the default Hand Wave for the Phoenix Guard if they can't solve a murder case.
  • Silly Reason for War: Morrolan goes to war with Fornia in Dragon over the theft of a fairly worthless sword; lampshaded numerous times by Vlad, who can't understand it and feels like the Only Sane Man even though he's in the war for an similarly stupid reason. Subverted when he suggests the alternatives, like assassinating Fornia or stealing it back or negotiating, and all of his ideas are shot down immediately. Later justified by Sethra by explaining that both Morrolan and Fornia are ambitious Dragonlords with a common border - war was inevitable, the sword was just a convinient pretext for both of them. Fornia wanted also to fight with the sword against a great weapon to reveal the great weapon hidden inside the sword, but that was just a bonus.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Vlad and his wife Cawti meet under an... extreme case of this.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Paarfi, who Lampshades this shamelessly in The Phoenix Guards with his digression on how an historian (i.e. him) can feel equal or greater pride in recounting past great deeds than did those who simply performed them.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Kiera the Thief has a reputation as being able to steal anything and relies on stealth rather than combat prowess.
  • Soul-Cutting Blade: Morganti weapons consume and destroy the soul of anyone they so much as scratch, barring a rare few entities who can withstand their hunger.
  • Soulless Bedroom: The Necromancer's quarters in Castle Black are little more than a closet, despite her respected position and friendship with the owner. Subverted in that they, like her, have Hidden Depths — namely, a few extra dimensions accessible only to her.
  • Spanner in the Works: No one was expecting Mario to actually succeed at assassinating the Emperor. His doing so, and with the worst timing possible, is what led to Adron's Disaster.
  • The Spock: Daymar, who combines it with Cloudcuckoolander.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Jenoine, whose worldview is so unfamiliar that they don't even understand the concept of "place" outside of mathematics.
  • The Starscream: Most everyone in the Jhereg is ready and willing to take advantage of Klingon Promotion opportunities.
  • Start of Darkness: The Baron Of Magister Valley is a stealth example for Vlad's old Right Hand boss, the Demon.
  • Start X to Stop X: The Serioli created Morganti weapons so no one would ever want to fight a war. It worked; Serioli were horrified by the idea of utterly destroying a soul. Dragaerans and Easterners lack that level of concern.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Kragar is so easy to ignore that people are constantly getting surprised by him. Born a Dragon, he considers it a curse because it made it impossible to lead troops. Even as a Jhereg crime boss, he has to leave notes for his subordinates.
    • The Necromancer sometimes plays the Stealth Hi aspect straight also.
  • Stock Medieval Meal: A parody example via expospeak occurs in the novel Issola. Here, the protagonists order at an inn what is described as the house bread with some kind of cheese and smoked fish; however, it's pretty clear that what they are actually ordering is bagels and lox. The series generally averts it, in part because Food Porn is Author Appeal. In one book (possibly Teckla) it's implied that a local inn/restaurant serves (American) Chinese food.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: A Running Gag in Hawk is Vlad snarkily recommending that the reader, if they don't like how he's telling the story, send a very rude letter to complain about it ... not to Vlad, but to some of his powerful friends who'd presumably beat the snot out of the reader for doing so.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: The epigraph from the epilogue of Jhegaala features this closing line of a play:
    We introduce the players now
    Who have delivered each their lines
    So we may at last get off our feet,
    And you off your - chairs.
  • Suicide by Cop:
    • This is Mellar's scheme in Jhereg, hoping that his assassination would cause a civil war.
    • Tazendra's parents allowed themselves to be killed by Shaltre's mercenaries rather than be captured and forced to tell where they'd hidden young Aerich.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Jenoine are interdimensional beings who popped into the Dragaeran universe and warped everything around for their unfathomable experiments. The actual gods of Dragaera are mostly comprised of their helpers, who rebelled and kicked them out. Lesser beings can ascend to godhood if they become powerful enough.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: The House of the Phoenix has them, one of the indicators of their exalted status.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: Only Vlad's perspective (or Paarfi's rose-tinted view of history) makes the cast seem anything less than a bunch of total bastards.
  • The Syndicate: House Jhereg specializes in illicit businesses, such as drugs, assassinations, theft and fencing, gambling, loan sharking, prostitution, and illegal sorcery are just what's been mentioned so far. Note that the drugs, prostitution, and gambling would be perfectly legal if they paid taxes on the proceeds.
  • Taking the Heat: Half the plot of Iorich.
  • Talkative Loon: Although it doesn't exactly sound crazy, Vlad's narration waxes so poetical/stream-of-consciousness when he's deeply in the process of using witchcraft, or otherwise in an abnormal mental state, that it can get confusing.
  • Teleportation Sickness: After the Interregnum, magical teleportation is easy, safe, and relatively cheap. However, almost all Easterners suffer motion sickness when teleported, whereas Dragaerans don't.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Sorcerous teleporation blocks, which can be configured to either only keep people from teleporting in, or to prevent teleportation both ways. The blocks are always placed over battlefields, to prevent teleportation from being used in war.
    • Sorcery, teleportation included, is suppressed on Greenaere as a natural phenomenon, as its bedrock is rich in Phoenix stone. Lucky for Vlad, this isn't true for pre-Empire sorcery.
  • Terminally Dependent Society: The loss of the Orb to Adron's Disaster left the Empire in chaos, as sorcery failed and the Cycle was disrupted. Only its return could stave off the resulting anarchy, plagues, and invasions.
  • Thanatos Gambit: A double example in Jhereg: Mellar's scheme is to get himself assassinated at Castle Black by the Jhereg, thus insulting Morrolan and setting the Dragon and Jhereg Houses at each others' throats. Countered via the same trope by Vlad and his friends when they trick Mellar into (temporarily) killing Aliera, thus rescinding his rights as Morrolan's guest.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Vlad lies paralyzed, staring down a mass of advancing chaos that is dissolving everything in its wake.
  • Time Abyss: Sethra Lavode. She's commonly believed to be around twenty thousand years old (a typical Dragaeran lifetime being two to three thousand)...and that's off by a factor of ten. She is quite literally as old as the Dragaeran Empire—somewhere around 250,000 years. And she only became undead relatively recently. (How she did it is unknown, but she has said something about "merging with the rock of Dzur Mountain again...")
  • To Hell and Back: The gateway to the afterlife for Dragaerans is a physical location that mortals can enter. Some Dragaerans become undead and walk back out again. Mortals have walked out of the Paths of the Dead twice so far. That's not counting another two Dragaerans known to have been conceived there, Tethia and Devera, who may not entirely rate as "mortal" as a consequence.
  • Torture Technician: Unfortunately encountered by Vlad in Jhegaala.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: While Vlad is too much the gourmand to limit himself to just one favorite dish, he does prefer kethna-stuffed hot sweet rolls as his favorite breakfast. With klava. Lots of klava.
  • Trouble Magnet Gambit: In Jhereg. Kiera uses her pickpocketing skills to replace Mellar's regular daggers with Morganti daggers (which destroy the victim's soul). Aliera then picked a fight with him and got stabbed, causing Mellar to panic and flee Morrolan's castle, allowing Vlad to kill him. Mellar didn't know that Aliera's soul was protected by her sword, allowing her to be resurrected.
    • Subverted in Tiassa, when everyone only thinks Vlad has possession of the silver tiassa. The Jhereg-cultivated belief that he's got it still gets a lot of trouble heading his way.
  • A True Story in My Universe: Played with on a massive scale in the peripheral material of both series. In one Vlad book, he refers to a "fool" who is paying him for his stories, and in another novel describes how he's speaking into a "tube" to narrate the story. In the Khaavren Romances, Brust even interviews the series's fictonal author, Paarfi, and talks about the changes he's had to make in "translating" the original text. Paarfi reacts with outrage at the liberties he's taken.
  • Tyke-Bomb:
    • Vlad. He learns that most of his life's choices have been influenced by Verra and Sethra in order to make him useful. In Issola, Sethra even states outright that facing the Jenoine in their own place in order to rescue Morrolan and Aliera is "the kind of activity Vlad is trained for." It is not yet clear if he is targeted against the Jenoine, or an all-purpose Tykebomb.
    • Possibly also the case with Devera, who actually engineered her own conception at Verra's instigation.

  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Aliera is famous for her beauty, but her lover Mario Greymist has unexceptional looks and might even be a little paunchy. He makes up for it by being the most feared assassin in the world. (He was apparently better-looking as a young man in the Khaarven Romances, however.)
  • Uncoffee: While regular coffee does exist, a variation called klava is an import from the Eastern kingdoms and very popular with Dragaerans. It's based on Hungarian egg coffee, and involves coffee being filtered through egg shells. For some reason, Dragerans serve it in a glass, which burns your hand if you don't let it cool. Vlad is a particular connoisseur of good klava, but prefers it in a mug.
  • The Underworld: The Paths of the Dead.
  • Unnamed Parent: "Noish-Pa" is Fenarian (i.e. Hungarian) for "Grandfather". Noish-Pa's actual given name has yet to be revealed, although Vlad's deceased parents' names were finally mentioned in Jhegaala.
  • The Unpronounceable:
    • The names of Serioli. Vlad's description of someone saying a Great Weapon's real name in Serioli is, "He made a sound that, if it had been louder, would have made the staff think he was choking to death."
    • Also, Dragaerans from a certain part of the Empire have bizarre, consonant-littered names that Vlad can only approximate. One of his old bosses gets a new spelling on his name every time Vlad mentions him. In Orca, he doesn't even try with "Hwdf'rjaanci."
  • Unreliable Narrator: Vlad's messed-up memories. Also, the Khaavren Romances are fictional accounts of historical events within the world of Dragaera. Word of God states that Paarfi embellishes and makes some things up. In one particular clash of unreliable narrators, the confrontation between Aerich and a Teckla is given vastly different accounts by the Teckla in Teckla and Paarfi in Sethra Lavode. Paarfi also completely ignores the Dragon-Jhereg War.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Used by Vlad to greater or lesser extents, as he usually narrates coming up with a plan but glosses over some of the details. For example, only a few details are left out of his big plan in Jhereg, while in Teckla he barely explains anything to do with his plan before carrying it out at the climax.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Tazendra at the end of Sethra Lavode, after hitting her Rage-Breaking Point. Paarfi notes that this is a Dzur trait in general. While usually, Dzur enjoy themselves immensely in a fight, once you manage to get one really angry, they become about ten times more dangerous. Tazendra, despite having been imprisoned in a stasis spell and being severely injured, curb-stomps the hell out of her opponent. A freaking Jenoine.
  • Uplifted Animal: The jhereg species wasn't originally intelligent, but gained these qualities due to Jenoine experimentation. Loiosh isn't exactly thrilled to learn this.
  • Utility Magic: Dragaerans use sorcery for almost everything they can, and Vlad is certainly no different. He's used it to light candles, chill wine, and clean chamber pots. In Orca Kiera checks for security spells on a mansion and mostly finds fertility spells on the land, "spells that kept the latrines from smelling, spells that kept the mansion from sinking into the ground," and others that take the place of basic maintenance and gardening. The peasant Teckla, however, are kept largely ignorant of sorcery on purpose, barring a few spells useful for keeping up farmland. Magic is so wrapped up in everything Vlad can knock chunks of masonry off buildings by gently slapping Spellbreaker (a small golden chain) against them.
  • Values Dissonance: Discussed in Yendi, when Vlad tells Cawti what it's like to have Dragaeran friends who nod along when Sethra the Younger talks nonchalantly about her plans to invade and subjugate the East. Even Morrolan, who grew up among Easterners, would have made her Warlord if he were Emperor, and Aliera was only opposed to it because she felt it would weaken the Empire. invoked
  • Vain Sorceress:
    • The Sorceress in Green uses magic to continue looking young and attractive.
    • Arra, an Eastern (human) witch who appears to have a Dragaeran lifespan and looks quite attractive (and knows it) at over 100 years old.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds:
    • Morrolan and Aliera are cousins and best friends, but any time they're in a room together odds are really, really good they're going to start yelling at each other. Lampshaded when Vlad finally gets sick of it and chews them out.
    • Aliera and Sethra are a particularly extreme version of this in Five Hundred Years After, constantly challenging each other to duels and assumed by everyone seeing them to be worst enemies. Lampshaded by another character, who points out that this is nothing unusual among Dragonlords who are good friends.
    • Piro and Shant may have been this as well, to judge by how resignedly Zivra and Lewchin react to the boys' bickering.
  • Voice of the Legion:
    • Verra, whose voice sounds like two people speaking slightly out of sync. Has the added bonus that a group of different people, all listening to her at once, will all hear different things. And respond to what they hear. As Vlad put it, "She's the only person I know who makes those around her incomprehensible."
    • Bolk from Brokedown Palace and the talking athyra which Morrolan and Vlad encounter on the Paths of the Dead have this quality.
  • The Voiceless: In Tiassa, Khaarven's servant Borteliff is widely assumed to be mute. He can talk, he's just found that silence in a servant is so prized by his employers that he'll go for a year or more without saying a word.
  • Wandering Minstrel
  • Wastebasket Ball: Many of the clues Kiera collects in Orca were left behind at the bank because Vonnith had poor aim at this trope.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Most Easterners in Dragaera don't live long past 60, while Dragaerans live for thousands of years. Powerful Easterner witches can live hundreds of years, while undead Dragaerans can exist pretty much indefinitely.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: One interpretation of Adron is that he wanted to take over so that he could fix the mess that Tortaalik had gotten the Empire into. However, his choice of methods and some really inconvenient coincidences resulted in him crippling the Empire for two or three centuries. Notably, Adron's last words were a request that Khaavren and his friends not tell anyone that he'd been this.
  • Wham Episode: The ends of Phoenix, Orca, Issola, and Hawk. Five Hundred Years After is this for Dragaera's history.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Brokedown Palace never states whether any of the Old Palace servants or guards survived the climax.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Especially in the earlier novels, Vlad doesn't care about taking the lives of Dragaerans, and even enjoys it. In kind, Dragaerans see little value in Easterners' lives. Also, Dragaerans don't seem to view jhereg as anything more than wild animals, even though they are known to possess human-level intelligence.
  • World of Snark: Fluency in Snark seems to be a prerequisite for membership in the Jhereg, or at least the Right Hand. Most of Vlad's non-Jhereg friends also, probably because only other snarkers would put up with Vlad's own snarksmanship.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: Khaavren and the others in Phoenix Guards. It is played so straight it is probably a parody of the trope.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The Sorceress In Green's plan in Yendi. Vlad himself plays a reasonably good game of it against the Jhereg in Hawk.
  • Xenofiction: Portions of Athyra are presented from Rocza's point of view.

Alternative Title(s): Jhereg, Khaavren Romances, Vlad Taltos, The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, The Viscount Of Adrilankha, Jhegaala, Issola, Tiassa, Teckla, Yendi, Iorich, Brokedown Palace, Hawk, Athyra, Dzur, Orca, The Paths Of The Dead, The Lord Of Castle Black, Sethra Lavode