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Literature / Familias Regnant

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The Familias Regnant 'verse of Space Opera novels by Elizabeth Moon includes:

  1. Hunting Party
  2. Sporting Chance
  3. Winning Colors
  4. Once a Hero
  5. Rules of Engagement
  6. Change of Command
  7. Against the Odds

The setting is a Feudal Future interstellar federation ruled by the Familias Regnant, a group of noble families headed by a hereditary monarch.

The first three books form a trilogy: Heris Serrano resigns from the Regular Space Service to avoid court martial after disobeying her bloodthirsty commander and achieving her objective without getting her crew killed, and faces an unattractive future career flying an old lady around in her space pleasure yacht. But the crew she inherits turn out to be engaged in dirty business and the woman who owns the ships is actually a pretty Cool Old Lady. On top of those, they get involved in Familias Regnant intrigue.

In the fourth book, focus shifts to Esmay Suiza, a Regular Space Service officer who appeared briefly in book three (although from book five on most of the major characters from the first trilogy, including Heris herself, start sneaking back in as supporting characters).

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Esmay Suiza starts as this and slowly grows in Lady of War.
    • The Serranos seem to only marry/produce a woman who can analyse fleet tactics and discuss variations in cruiser specifications in casual conversation.
  • Anti-Mutiny: Senior officers are unable to seize a ship to commit treason, because their juniors mutiny. High command subsequently has a full investigation to ensure that they weren't planning the insurrection against the traitors before they had evidence.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Not 100% but a lot of them are very ethically questionable. Many are a dangerous combination of incompetent, pompous and in charge of critical infrastructure. There is a considerable number who avert this and seem to focus on fixing the problems caused.
  • Audio Adaptation: Courtesy of Graphic Narration with full voice cast, Music and Sound Effects.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Horses.
    • Nobility being incompetent and a waste of space unless some independent group acts as check and balance.
    • Texas, in the form of the the Lone Star Confederacy, but definitely not New Texas.
  • Badass Family: The Serrano and Suiza families are examples. This also extends to all the named non-noble families, as each is either the high command of the Regular Space Service or the Ground Forces. Almost all of them were formerly sworn to serve one of the noble families, the Serranos are the only exception. The Suiza were a former Ground Forces family that betrayed their ruling dynasty and subsequently left the Serranos without a patron.
  • Blood Knight: Every single male citizen of Aether's World. Every. Single. One.
  • Break the Cutie: Brun and Esmay. Although the former happens for only one plotline and the latter is most of the second half of the series.
  • Briar Patching: Though Esmay refers to it as "Brother Ass and the Cactus Patch".
  • Cerebus Retcon: In Hunting Party, much of the light relief comes from the crown prince being an Upper-Class Twit who is always Comically Missing the Point. One of the sequels features the revelation that he used to be much more intelligent and with-it before an assassination attempt left him with brain damage, which leaves those bits a lot less comic in retrospect.
  • Cool Old Lady: All three of the main Aunts of the first trilogy.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted. Brun plays this part in the early books, but as it turns out, she's actually razor-sharp (just a little sheltered, inexperienced and arrogant).
  • Everyone Is Related: That is one incredibly small space military, considering how often we run into members of the same family. Every single villain in the first two books also seems to be related, either by blood or by having known each other, even if the nature of their crimes have nothing to do with each other and took place in different galactic regions.
  • Extinct in the Future: Hunting Party revolves around a futuristic country house party featuring a fox hunt as one of the entertainments. It's mentioned that real foxes went extinct long ago, so the foxes they're hunting were genetically engineered by mixing genes from several similar species.
  • Famed In-Story:
    • A number of characters are extremely well known as they come from very politically important backgrounds.
    • Kevil Starbridge Mahoney borders on Living Legend status as he is the greatest legal mind ever, in-universe.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Being captured by the Blood Horde of Aether's World is not a nice experience.
  • The Federation: Strongly averted, though not apparent at first. The main setting is peaceful, but culturally homogenous (no aliens, no alliance of different cultures). There is no democracy and no way for the lower classes to have any involvement in politics. The ruling class are rich business owners who inherit their wealth and their seats in the equivalent of parliament. Their children are all genetically engineered to fit the mold - healthy, intelligent, attractive, heterosexual. None of them would consider marrying out of their class, or even a member of their class who might be slightly less wealthy.
  • Feudal Future: Albeit subverted as it indicates it originally started out as corporate franchise with the noble families all being shareholders.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: The plot of Hunting Party involves a rogue admiral who has set up a 'game' where he and his friends can hunt down and kill trained military personnel on a small island, with various rules to keep it 'sporting'.
  • Idle Rich: Lady Cecilia, especially at first. She owns her own space yacht and spends her time traveling the stars, attending parties and keeping up with horses. She does manage her own investments and vote in the equivalent of the space senate, but most of her time is spent enjoying herself.
  • Immortality Immorality: Unlike other works the author goes into serious detail about the legal and social impacts this has on society when a wealthy upper class starts down this track.
  • Lady of War:
    • Heris and Vida Serrano. Esmay is shown to be growing into this role by the series end.
    • Basically what all Serrano women grow up to be, there are others in the other fleet families, but the Serranos provide most examples.
  • Longevity Treatment: Is a constant background issue and major social program.
  • Mildly Military: Even the Regular Space Service's discipline kind of sucks. It's not so much that they're undisciplined as politicized, and the level of adherence to regulations depends on the amount of weight being thrown around. For example, Esmay Suiza is summarily dismissed from the service in disgrace, without any right of trial or appeal, because someone is trying to curry favor with Admiral Serrano, and then the record of the order got lost because her duty station was blown up and she's nearly charged with desertion when she next makes contact with the Service. They then have to figure out whether or not the original order actually existed and what kind of black mark they want to put on her record. Then, when Admiral Serrano tells the bureaucracy to "Reinstate her and get her out here," the administrators just drop the whole thing.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Several of the younger characters have this epiphany at some point.
  • The Mafia: The Compassionate Hand act like this in other countries (in their own, they are the government). Naturally no one trusts them. In the last two books the Familias Regent is starts showing Marfia like symptoms
  • The Men First: Serrano was told that resigning would mean her men would face no consequences.
  • Military and Warfare Tropes: The writer is a former Marine.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: A staple of the author's works.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: One of the Aether's World commanders demonstrates this trait, the others are Blood Knights to a tee.
  • Planetville / Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Painfully so. Not only do entire planets seem to be the size of small towns, entire space empires are also the size of small towns, so that if three people are all visiting the same galactic region simultaneously, they will run into each other.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy:
    • The Bloodhorde of Aether's World. Albeit more psychopathic mass-murdering pirate than Proud Warrior.
    • The New Texas Republic borders on this, though it's overshadowed by the extreme level of Too Dumb to Live.
  • Rape as Backstory: Esmay Suiza and to make it even worse, instead of getting her a therapist her father told her it was all a bad dream
  • Royal Brat: So many exist that they created an entire military section staffed by them, the Royal Aero Space Service; it does not go well. Nearly everyone who isn't a member of the service knows they're pompous, incompetent glory hounds and that not a single one of them is fit to command a waste disposal unit, let alone an armed warship. It's less common for somebody to use their official initialism— R. A. S. S. pronounced separately— than to say 'Royal' and pronounce the rest as an acronym... After being disbanded, many are implied to go onto become (incompetent) pirates to sustain their extravagant lifestyles.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Played with, as Captain Serrano insists that the employment agency ought to give Lady Cecilia the absolute best in the field of any job she requests because she is paying the most money, even if the agency feels that the top employees are better suited for large projects that benefit many rather than catering to one rich woman's whims.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Although the two dimensional plane issue that afflicts most cases of this trope is averted.
  • Space Is Noisy: Played with — it's mentioned that the computer systems on warships are programmed to generate sound effects appropriate to ongoing events to provide audio cues for the crew.
  • Space Navy. Officially the Regular Space Service, but everybody just calls it Fleet. Most of the Major characters are Members of this organisation.
  • Straw Misogynist:
    • The New Texas Republic is the second biggest offender of women's rights, practising slavery-esque polygamy, surgically muting women who speak out of turn, treating them as barely sentient beings.
    • Then there's Aether's World culture where the pun of "impaling a women with your manly spear" will be both a metaphorical and a literal act in that order and this is probably the best fate one can suffer there.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The Royal Aero Space Service to a man.
    • Otilla. Playing with socialist anarchists for fun is not good if you're from the family they most want dead.
    • Aether's Worlders will gladly fight hopeless one-sided battles (although their reputation for brutality means the other side is probably wearing brown trousers at best).
    • The men of New Texas. Abducting the daughter of the ruler of biggest power in the region, a nation so large it's barely aware they exist, sending a video message that basically says "come at me bro", and relying on their ruler not sending a rescue team because it might be viewed as a breach of integrity... Then there's their actually combat tactics which is essentially to telegraph your exact combat capabilities to everything within range by constantly running your weapons system so hot they blind your long-range early warning sensors.
  • You Are in Command Now: How Esmay Suiza enters the series. Unlike some other examples, she has to deal with a board of inquiry and a court-martial, which result in her being reassigned to a staff position as unfit for independent command. (Her superiors are almost immediately scheming to get her back on a command deck.)

Alternative Title(s): Heris Serrano Trilogy, Esmay Suiza Series