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Literature / Erebus Sequence

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The Erebus Sequence is a Fantasy trilogy by British author Den Patrick.

The three books are:

  • The Boy with the Porcelain Blade (2014)
  • The Boy who Wept Blood (2015)
  • The Girl on the Liar's Throne (2016)

Landfall, the setting of the trilogy, has a culture resembling that of Italy during The Renaissance which is where its inhabitants originally came from, though it's now isolated in a world of its own. The story revolves around Demesne, a huge castle in which power and prestige is contested by several powerful noble houses each of which has its own function in society (military, trade, etc.) The king himself is never seen, and some doubt he exists. Commoners tend to suffer.

Amidst all this are the Orfani, people of uncertain parentage who each have some form of mutation or deformity. They're supposed to serve the realm, but are widely disliked and distrusted, and tend to be thought of as tools to be kept at arm's length. Each of the three books focuses on a different Orfani character as they get tangled up in the politics of the Demesne and the drive to reform it. The protagonist of first book, Lucien, aspires to join the military-orientated noble House but gets caught up in the mystery of exactly what's going on with the King. The protagonists of the two books which follow, Dino and Anea, are friends of Lucien who have to deal with the changed situation that he created, because that the situation isn't nearly as resolved as he had hoped.

The series contains examples of:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: This is given to someone without their knowledge; Rafaela has been secretly building up Lucien's immunity to the poison Golia uses due to the (correct) fear that it will eventually be needed.
  • Baby Factory: The answer to the question of where the Orfani come from. The sanatorio, supposedly an asylum for the mentally ill, is actually a place where the king breeds mutants with kidnapped women.
  • Body Horror: In addition to the sometimes unpleasant mutations that the Orfani can have, the King has transformed himself into a multi-limbed abomination.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: Exactly who the main villain is takes a little while to sort out: the King and the Majordomo each seem dismissive of the other's belief that they're the one in charge, and in the second book, the apparent new threats (such as the Fonteins) turn out to be manipulated by the still-alive Majordomo again.
  • The Brute: Golia, the most physically imposing of the Orfani, is also both the nastiest and stupidest. He's being prepared for a role as dumb muscle, but thinks he's going to be the next king. (He doesn't genuinely care, and just wants to strike out at people who think they're better than him.)
  • Changing of the Guard: The second book stars a character who was mostly a sidekick to the first book's protagonist. The third book then shifts focus again to a character who was a friend of the previous two protagonists.
  • The Chessmaster: The Majordomo lacks the resources of a noble House, but is sufficiently good at politics (and has sufficiently numerous spies) that he holds authority anyway. In the second book, he continues to be good at manipulation despite supposedly being dead.
  • Decadent Court: Demesne is full of politics and scheming, with few nobles concerning themselves with anything but their own status and advancement. It doesn't help that the king doesn't pay any attention to it and leaves everything in the hands of a manipulative Majordomo. In the second book, attempts by Anea and Russo to reform the court and establish a rudimentary democracy are fiercely and violently resisted.
  • Defector from Decadence: Some nobles in Demesne don't think much of the way it's run. Stephania Prospero, in particular, defies her mother and supports attempts at reform. At the end of the second book, she has to flee, but doesn't think she'll miss the place much.
  • Facial Horror: It turns out that the reason Anea wears a veil and can't speak is that she doesn't have a jaw.
  • Flashback: The first book alternates between telling the main story and providing scenes from the protagonist's life before that, meaning that what's happening "now" and the background of How We Got Here are interwoven. The second book uses fewer flashbacks, but there's still a reasonable number.
  • Gayngst: In the second book, Dino realises that he's gay and after a while, that he's in love with his friend Massimo. This causes problems, since there's a lot of prejudice earlier, another character is effectively exiled because of it. As such, he still hasn't admitted his love when Massimo gets killed, which doesn't do Dino's mental health any good.
  • Hand Signals: Anea, as The Speechless, develops a sign language to communicate with people she knows (which is less cumbersome than restricting herself to written communication as she had previously done).
  • Incompatible Orientation: Dino attracts a degree of female interest in the second book, but realises that he's gay. However, prejudice means that he's unwilling to simply say so.
  • Just the First Citizen: When Anea becomes de facto queen, she disdains the title which would normally come with it. This reflects a dislike of the traditional power structures of the kingdom although when actual attempts are made to reform things, the situation gets rather complicated.
  • Mad Scientist: This is revealed to be what the always-absent king has been getting up to. Among other things, it's the origin of the Orfani.
  • Never Found the Body: In the first book, the body of the Majordomo isn't found where it should be, which naturally presages a return in the next book. At the end of that book, it's reported that Dino, the main protagonist, died, but again, we don't see a corpse, so we can't be sure.
  • Not Themselves: In the second book, Dino notes that both Anea and Russo are acting strangely harsh and distant. It turns out that they're both using a tinctura which, presumably without their knowledge, strips away people's empathy and sentiment.
  • Passed-Over Promotion: D'arzenta, a maestro di spada (sword instructor) is a minor Reasonable Authority Figure to Lucien in the first book (relative to Sadist Teacher Giancarlo, anyway). In the second, however, he's very bitter towards Dino, the new protagonist he probably wouldn't have minded if Dino had just been made a maestro di spada, but Dino was made superiore, outranking D'arzenta.
  • Passing the Torch: At the end of the first book, its protagonist, Lucien, declares that he'll be leaving. He puts his friends in charge and says that he may return if people give them too much trouble. The second book, therefore, shifts its focus to one of those friends, with Lucien remaining off-stage until the very end.
  • Playing Both Sides: In the second book, Dino discovers that letters of "advice" from a mysterious Lord Erebus are being received by both the traditionalists and the reformists. The escalation of conflict is largely due to Erebus warning each one about what the other is allegedly plotting.
  • Properly Paranoid: The precautions that Rafaela is revealed to have taken against the possibility of Golia poisoning Lucien required a lot more foresight about what could happen than Lucien had.
  • Sadist Teacher: In the first book, Giancarlo (a maestro di spada, or sword instructor) is a complete Jerkass, particularly towards Lucien. He's pretty much open about wanting Lucien to fail as completely and permanently as possible, and uses Lucien's conscience against him during the final testing by ordering him to execute an unarmed man.
  • The Speechless: Anea can't talk due to having no jaw behind her veil.
  • Sparing Them the Dirty Work: Dino agrees to be an assassin for Russo because if he refuses, she'll send his friend Massimo instead. Even if Massimo can pull it off safely, Dino doesn't want Massimo (whom Dino is secretly in love with) to carry a murder with him for the rest of his life.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Played with. Some of the Orfani have spikes growing out of their bodies, and they're often perceived as villainous, but in fact, that's variable. Dino, the protagonist of the second book, has spikes but is a hero.
  • Talking with Signs: Anea is The Speechless, and at first, she communicates by writing in a notebook she carries around. Later, she and her friends devise a sign language which is rather easier to use.
  • Time Skip: Between the first and second book, years have passed.
  • Wife Husbandry: Downplayed and gender-swapped with Lucien and Rafaela. She's not that much older than him, and is more his nanny and maid than mother figure, but their relationship nevertheless started out as caregiver-and-kid.