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Literature / Farsala Trilogy

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The three books in this YA trilogy — Fall of a Kingdom, Rise of a Hero, and Forging the Sword — were published by Hilari Bell from 2003 to 2006. The story — that of a pseudo-Iranian land called Farsala attempting to resist invasion — is told in alternating perspectives by three very different characters: Kavi, Jiaan, and Soraya. They are, respectively, a repentant traitor, a bastard, and a deghass fighting to keep their land free for a year, after which the Hrum will retreat.

The land of Farsala, as has been mentioned, is a close parallel to Persia, and the Hrum are, for all practical purposes, the Romans. Hilari Bell does not go out of her way to emphasize this, however- she uses the two cultures to build a world familiar to her readers and then lets the story take over. The text is also littered with bits of world-building that seem to be mostly her own invention. As a result, the Farsala Trilogy stands out among young adult fantasy trilogies about three teenagers trying to save the world.

It is also noteworthy for its understated commentary about how heroes arise. In the first book, the chapters are intercut with shorter, Purple Prose-y sections telling the actual Persian myth of Sorahb, which includes the detail that he will be reborn when Farsala needs a champion. The later two books are intercut with sentences written in the same tone, which recount highly romanticized versions of the events in the books, all credited to the entirely nonexistant "Sorahb reborn."

Fall of a Kingdom was originally titled Flame and part of a series titled "The Books of Sorahb," but the second and third novels have no alternate titles.

This trilogy provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Watersteel, clearly based upon real-world Damascus steel.
  • Achey Scars: Both Kavi and Jiaan.
  • Action Survivor: Kavi.
  • A Simple Plan: Getting the Hrum gold.
  • Backstory: Kavi's past explains a lot about his hatred of the deghans.
  • Barbarian Tribe: the Kadeshi
  • Bittersweet Ending: Heavier on the sweet side.
  • Break the Haughty: Soraya. Jiaan's original rival and later disliked ally, Fasal, also gets hit with this.
  • Buy Them Off: It only makes it worse with the Hrum, but it was very easy to do with the deghans' lawkeepers.
  • Character Development: One of the series' main strengths, and in full effect for all of them. It's most striking with Soraya. She's barely recognizable as the same person by the end of the series, but it all feels totally natural.
  • The Chosen One: Discussed frequently, but never actually appears.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Garren. Due to the Farsalan culture, it's considered a Moral Event Horizon moment.
  • Composite Character: The Sorahb reborn of legend is a composite of nearly the entire resistance. Specifically, Kavi's tactical brilliance at guerilla warfare and spycraft, Jiann's ability as a battlefield commander, Soraya's magic, and in the finale Fasal's ability as a swordsman.
  • Daddy's Girl: Soraya again.
  • Demythification: It's a freaking weird example, since there actually is magic and it's an in-story legend, but it's certainly revealing the reality behind the magic.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kavi tries to wipe out all the deghans.
  • Distinctive Appearances: Jiaan isn't remarkable looking, but Soraya's gorgeous ultra deghan hair gets a lot of emphasis, and anyone Kavi allies himself with warns him that if he betrays them then a young peddler with a scarred hand is easy to find.
  • The Dung Ages: Averted with Farsala, but played straight with their neighbor, Kadeshi. Kadeshi's peasant class are shown to be starving as their lords eat at banquet.
  • Elemental Powers: The Suud magic.
  • The Empire: The Hrum.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: a diabolical version with the djinn. It's never confirmed whether or not they exist.
  • Friendly Enemy: Jiaan and Patrius, Kavi and Patrius.
  • Handicapped Badass: Kavi.
  • Going Native
  • Heel–Face Turn: Kavi is known for this, despite only actually turning twice.
  • Heroic Bastard: Jiaan.
  • Horseback Heroism: The deghans at first.
  • Honor Before Reason: Garren.
  • Idiot Hero: Subverted with Fasal. He starts out as a Proud Warrior Race Guy who would rather ride to his death than fight practically. He gets better as the story goes on. He still puts Honor Before Reason, but he can also think rationally when the situation is desperate.
  • Lovable Traitor: Kavi is this in universe among some.
  • Made a Slave: Soraya's mother and brother. Also her cousin Pari. And most of the deghans who weren't killed in the battle, including the child of the ghan.
  • Morality Pet: Soraya's relationship with her little brother is initially her only humanizing trait. She gets better.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Patrius.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The pre-chapter introductions of books two and three have a historian describing the Sorahb Reborn's campaign against the Hrum. The chapters themselves often show the wildly different truth of the matter.
  • Pride: The deghans' fatal flaw
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: All of the deghans
  • Realism: The story's distinguishing feature is how normal everyone is.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Kavi's double agent act requires him to rely on this. His luck finally catches up with him in the climax of the last book.
  • The Remnant: Farsala's army of deghans are slaughtered almost to the last man in the climax of the first book, leaving Jiann and Fasal to lead those who remain, mostly consisting of archers, support troops, and peasant volunteers chaffing under Hrum reprisals.
  • Rousing Speech: Jiann at the end of Fall of a Kingdom
  • Rules Lawyer: Garren. He issues a challenge saying he'll kill Kavi if Sorahb doesn'f show up to duel him. When people point out that Hrum law forbids the killing of prisoners, he says that because he gave said challenge, he doesn't have a prisoner, he has a hostage, and Hrum law has no such rule regarding hostages.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: When Soraya disguises herself as a serving wench, one of the male servants warns her to keep her face hidden as much as possible, as it's dangerous to be so pretty in the army environment she finds herself in.
  • Spoiled Brat: Soraya in the first book.
  • Token Good Teammate: Patrius, Barmael, and the various people under them within the Hrum who don't support Garren's politics.
  • True Companions: Kavi, not with the other heroes, but with Navi's family. Despite Soraya and Jiaan being actual family, they never really form a dynamic this close.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The narrative viewpoint moves between Soraya, Kavi, and Jiaan.
  • The Unchosen One: All three, for ignoring the Sorahb legend.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Soraya, almost, but for political reasons.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Soraya's initial attempts to pass for a commoner fail because she overloads on the accent in an attempt to hide her upper-class diction. The character who catches her, an actual commoner, says that nobody in real life actually talks in such a stereotypically "peasant-y" way.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Jiaan gives this speech to Fasal when the latter decides to torture Patrius.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: After the Hrum begin occupying Farsala, everything changes. Even after they are defeated at the end, so many Farsalan deghans have died that their status as the ruling class is doomed.
  • You Killed My Father:
    • This is Jiaan and Soraya's reaction when they find out what side Kavi was originally fighting for. They never actually carry out their revenge.
    • At the end of the last book, Soraya transfers this attitude to Substrategus Garren after she watches him repeat the trick he used to kill her father. Then she kills him.