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Literature / First Sword Chronicles

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L to R: Michael and Miranda

The Divine Empire teeters on the brink of destruction. It's nobles would rather fight amongst themselves than fight their countries enemies, the equestrians would rather displace the nobles than work towards the national good, and the Emperor would rather help them do it than ask any awkward questions about competence or loyalty.

Into this political maelstrom steps Miranda Callistus, a young woman from a backwater province who has been blessed (perhaps) with magic unseen in centuries. With her immense power, it's possible that Miranda might be able to turn things around and pull the Empire back from the brink...except that she finds the whole idea of the Empire hard to stand, and she might well decide to give it a push instead.

And that's where Miranda's estranged brother Michael comes in. As a gladiator, Michael's life consists of risking his life for the amusement of the crowds, which might be the closest thing that a man like him can get to feeling like a hero...but when Michael finds out that Miranda's life is in danger, he has to find some actual heroism inside himself, or not only Miranda but the entire Empire could perish in fire and bloodshed.

The First Sword Chronicles are a fantasy series written by Frances Smith. To date, there have been four volumes published:

Spirit of the Sword: Pride and Fury (2015)


Spirit of the Sword: Faith and Virtue (2016)

Short Swords: Tales of the Divine Empire (2016, short story collection)

The Dragon and the Sword (2017)

The First Sword Chronicles contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Amy, Tullia and Fiannuala all qualify.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Miranda; as the inheritor of the Aurelian magic she possesses all kinds of elemental magic (most people only have one), has the ability to use sorcery in her own right (most people have to appeal to a god to help them) and her powers involve elements of spirit magic (otherwise very rare).
  • Arc Villain: One for each book:
    • Spirit of the Sword: Pride and Fury: The Voice of Corona, with Quirian as the Bigger Bad
    • Spirit of the Sword: Faith and Virtue: Quirian
    • The Dragon and the Sword: Hespera, with Mors Orocis as The Man Behind the Man
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Summer's morality runs on this, her empathy appears to be reserved for people she knows personally.
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  • Asshole Victim: Most of the guards killed by the furies in Hunted are either jerkasses or worse, who thoroughly deserve everything that happens to them.
  • Befriending the Enemy: a partial example between Michael and Metella, she doesn't know that they're enemies until after she has saved his life the first time, after which she continues saving it. Michael doesn't work it out until after the third time, but tells her that he doesn't consider her an enemy. This makes it a lot easier for Metella to pull a Heel–Face Turn
  • Blessed with Suck: No other alf has the gifts that Diamandra possesses...unfortunately for her, amongst those gifts is repeated visions of her family and friends dying in a brutal and gory fashion.
  • Big Good: Silwa, Goddess of Victory and Wisdom, who is using the main characters to save the Empire.
  • Bling of War: Amy's armour includes a breastplate encrusted with sapphires, forming the image of a leaping dolphin.
  • Bullying a Dragon: various members of the Empire's old patrician famillies attempt to push Miranda around with their money, influence or access to military might, apparently forgetting that she could kill all of them with her magic if she chose. Helen Manzikes, who tries to have Miranda assassinated, and Prince Antiochus, who murders Miranda's best friend in front of her and then expects her to kneel before him, take the cake.
  • But Now I Must Go: Silwa leaves at the end of Spirit of the Sword: Faith and Virtue, to fight the good fight elsewhere.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Upon becoming First Sword of the Empire, Michael is granted five boons by the Empress Aegea but doesn't claim any of them at the time. The first shot of this revolver is fired in The Dragon and the Sword when he uses one boon to save Summer's life.
  • Chosen One: Miranda certainly appears to be one, since she is the first person in five hundred years to be born with the Aurelian power, granting her unique control over all forms of magic. What she's been chosen to do, however (and by whom) is a little less clear. Miranda becomes convinced that she has been chosen to destroy the Empire but Michael talks her out of it.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Deconstructed, as both Michael and Miranda use this trope (though not in as many words) to justify them making decisions that hurt other people. Ultimately, however, they're both just trying to justify their indefensible selfishness and they neither have any right to make decisions on behalf of others.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Lysimachus delivers two, one to the Lost and one to the Imperial troops protecting Lord Manzikes. Quirian gives one to Michael, Tullia and Fiannuala, killing Tullia and Fia in the process.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Miranda
  • Demoted to Extra: Thanks to Rotating Arcs and the introduction of the alver, this happens to all of Michael's companions with the partial exception of Amy.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Princess Romana sometimes dreams of the future, but despite keeping a half dozen interpreters and fortune tellers on hand she can't always understand what they mean. Diamandra's dreams are a lot more on the nose, usually involving lots of nasty deaths.
  • Dual Wielding: Michael, Gideon, Quirian and the Voice of Corona all indulge in this.
  • The Empire: The Divine Empire of All Pelarius, Lavissar, Triazica and All the Lands that Lie Between or May be Found Beyond. It was founded with the intent of world domination, but hasn't made any meaningful progress (or effort) towards that goal in centuries. Whether it is a benign or wicked entity is something the characters could debate fiercely, but for all its many faults it does provide peace and stability to most of its citizens.
  • Fairy Companion: Robin plays up to this trope in her relationship with Irithelie, but actually subverts it as a False Friend working for The Man Behind the Man, with subtle hints that she is also a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
  • Glamour: Both dragons and elves have it, and both use it (or have used it) to enslave others.
  • God-Emperor: Aegea the Great, Divine Empress of All Pelarius, Lavissar, Triazica and All the Lands that Lie Between or May be Found Beyond. By the time the story begins she has very few believers.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Portia has golden hair and is just about the nicest person in the whole story.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Amy was on the receiving end of this from the naiads, when she lived with them, and from every human she grew up with not named 'Michael' or 'Felix'; Ceresia also suffered from this as a result of her apparent human heritage. Averted with Octavia, whose troubles were more the result of being a Child by Rape than anything to do with what her father was.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Amy (half-human, half naiad) and Octavia (half-human, half aestival); Ceresia may also be one, as several characters remark upon human or un-elven aspects of her physical features.
  • Happily Adopted: Ceresia; Laurendred starts off angsting about her adopted status, but comes to accept her place in her adopted family.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: spirit magic, which enables a sufficiently committed warrior to channel the strength of thier soul into physical prowess, turning them into a One-Man Army
  • Insistent Terminology: Princess Romana never refers to Demodocus and Portia as Emperor and Empress, always as Prince Imperial and Princess Consort, due to her allegiance to the Faith of Aegea which holds that there is only one Empress, Aegea. Portia doesn't mind but it infuriates Demodocus.
  • Jerkass Gods: Bael, King of the Gods, who does nothing but yell at, insult, belittle or physically batter his fellow gods.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Summer Phoenix, who combines breathtaking vanity and self-absorption with tremendous bravery and generosity.
  • Knight In Shining Armour: Both Michael and Amy play at being this, to various degress, but Amy is really more of a Blood Knight and Michael turns out to be a Knight in Sour Armour who is putting up a front. By The Dragon and the Sword they both play the trope much straighter as a result of Character Development.
  • Last of His Kind: Quirian is the last survivor of Aureliana. A marginal example, since Michael, Miranda and Felix also have Aurelian blood.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Both Amy and Octavia have human mothers and non-human fathers, from whom they have inherited their extraordinary abilities.
  • Mix-and-Match Critter: The kharanee are never really described beyond having wings, being slimy, and having elements of a whole range of creatures including dragon, centipede, mole and crow.
  • Modest Royalty: Princess Romana is a partial example, as she goes around in public dressed in black. However this is not because of modesty per se, but because she is ostentatiously mourning the decline of traditional values. She also dresses up a little where the people can't see her.
  • Morality Pet: Honoria is one for Summer.
  • Mystical White Hair: Miranda has white hair despite being only nineteen, on account of possessing the Aurelian magic.
  • Named Weapons: Gideon's swords, Duty and Piety, as well as the sword of Cupas, Semper Fidelis
  • The Nameless: The Voice of Corona is never given a name, at most he is referred to as The Voice.
  • Nice Hat: Summer Phoenix wears a cavalier hat.
  • No-Sell: Robin can effortlessly resist Damareia's glamour when the latter tries to use it to get the truth out of her.
  • Not So Different: Hespera claims that she and Summer are alike (both ambitious, talent outcasts rejected by their mothers/mother figures and thrown on their own resources) when she is trying to get her to betray her companions.
  • Oh, Crap!: Prince Antiochus' expression when he realises that Miranda is about to roast him alive for murdering Portia
  • Older Than They Look: Amalia is over three thousand years old but looks about twelve, that being how old she was when she was granted immortality.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Hespera, the only dragon to so far appear on the page, has six legs and cannot fly, although winged dragons are mentioned. All dragons seem to have the ability to control the minds of mortals, turning them into slaves devoted to their draconic masters.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Elves (who call themselves 'Alver') are divided into four kinds, of which only two have been seen in detail: Stone Elves are the most common, with a more advanced level of development than humans (they have printed books, crossbows and their armour is described in Renaissance/17th Century terms compared to the humans' Greco-Roman style), as well as talking in a more modern fashion. Dark Elves, on the other hand, are a Proud Warrior Race with a much more old fashioned culture and manners. Elves can also generate a glamour similar to dragons, allowing them to enchant and enslave those who look upon them.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: Fairies are native to the world of Tarshish, stand about six inches high and produce motes of sparkling light. They're also in service to the Bigger Bad and can tap into his powers.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Laurendred is introduced as a skilled Action Girl and an experienced commander, but she spends the rest of The Dragon and the Sword getting overshadowed by Irithelie's Tarshishin powers. In universe, Laurendred feels this way compared to her mother, while Iri, ironically enough, feels overshadowed by her older sisters.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Michael and Amy are this to one another; Wyrrin refers to the two of them as 'shield brothers', while Amy says that she and Michael are 'two swords in one scabbard' (it sounds much more elegant in the original naiad, apparently).
  • Politically Active Princess: Romana, the only member of the Imperial family who seems to care that the Empire is falling apart, or have any ideas for how to fix it.
  • The Power of Friendship: This is how Fiannuala, Tullia and Gideon are able to appear as Spirit Advisors to Michael after their deaths; Michael's spirit magic is greatly strengthened as a result of their bond. Dagmar claims that the bond she shares with her friends is what enables her to rebound from setbacks.
  • The Power of Trust: Summer is motivated to heroism by the trust that Michael and Honoria have placed in her.
  • Princess Classic: Although she is an Empress rather than a princess (but Romana refers to her as Princess Consort anyway, see Insistent Terminology above) Portia ticks every other box for this trope, being kind, innocent, beautiful, demure and always elegantly dressed.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: The things Romana dreams of always happen.
  • Purple Eyes: Romana and Jason both have them, demonstrating their descent from Aegea.
  • Put on a Bus: Silwa hasn't been seen since the end of Spirit of the Sword: Faith and Virtue and the short story Hunted.
  • Religion Is Magic: all sorcerer's spells take the form of prayers to the old gods
  • Rotating Arcs: In Spirit of the Sword, Michael is the Protagonist with Miranda as the Deuteragonist. In The Dragon and the Sword, Summer takes over as the Protagonist, with Irithelie as the Deuteragonist and Laurendred as the tritagonist while Michael is demoted to the Supporting Leader and Miranda gets Put on a Bus.
  • Self-Proclaimed Knight: Amy is quick to tell everyone she meets that she is a Knight of the Oceanhost, but admits to her closest friends (Michael) that she is only a squire who has stolen the sword and armour of a knight. At the end of Spirit of the Sword: Faith and Virtue, Princess Romana makes her Knight of the Purple.
  • True Companions: Michael and his companions: Amy, Gideon, Jason, Tullia, Fiannuala and Wyrrin
  • Winged Humanoid: Octavia, on account of being half aestival
  • Would Hurt a Child: Hespera devours all the children in the villages she enslaves, as they are too small and weak to serve her. This, more than anything else, is what puts her into This Is Unforgivable! territory as far as Amy is concerned. Amalia is also perfectly willing to stab a fourteen year old girl through the stomach and leave her to bleed to death.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Princess Romana has purple hair (and purple eyes) as a sign of her descent from Aegea. Notably her two brothers do not, which Romana and her supporters see as a sign that she is better suited to the throne: the bloodline has 'bred true' in her. Jason also has purple hair, making it difficult to hide his bastardy.


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