Fortune de France is a series of French novels by Robert Merle published between 1977 and 2003, and also the title of the first book (1977), which is titled The Brethren in English.
It is an epic set in 16th and 17th century France. The narrator, Pierre Siorac, is a young Huguenot (aka Calvinist Protestant) noble who tells the reader about the religious wars of that time, as well as the adventures of his father, then his own.
The first novel was meant to be standalone, but was so popular the author kept writing sequels for 26 years. The first book is therefore much history telling (plus some everyday life at dangerous times) while the sequels have the narrator face increasingly adventurous situations, and witness major historical events firsthand.
These novels provides examples of:
- Almighty Janitor: Many servant or low class characters are very competent. Most of the males also count as Battle Butler.
- Audience Surrogate: The narrator is a sensible and reasonable person with very modern opinions who is constantly noticing Values Dissonance.
- A World Half Full: This is a Crapsack World with tons of villains and corruption but there is always hope, happy moments and decent human beings.
- Been There, Shaped History: The narrator is present during major events such as the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, some battles and some assassinations.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The narrator sometimes addresses his reader, that he guesses to be a female attractive one. He even writes her imaginary lines in a conversation.
- Civil War: Telling us of French civil wars seems to be the main point of the first book. Happens all the time in the whole series.
- Corrupt Church: This series is set during the Reformation, which happened due to this, so of course this will be mentioned or played with. In fact corruption is found in many parts of society so you can also expect to find cases of Corrupt Bureaucrat and Corrupt Politician.
- Driven to Villainy: Many minor antagonists are just poor people doing banditry so as not to starve, or servants being loyal to their master. The protagonists befriend or hire a few of them.
- The Epic: These books tell us about decades of French history from the perspective of its protagonists, who travel through the whole country and are involved in many things.
- Fantasy Contraception: They litterally "know the right herbs and where to use them".
- Four-Star Badass: Several characters are depicted as very competent generals. Played with in the case of Henri IV who is said to both be a very competent one and to literally shit himself during every battle.
- Infallible Narrator: The narrator seems to be writing about things that happened much earlier, and remembers many details and conversations.
- Language Tropes: Robert Merle apparently liked these. He taught English Literature in French universities, and did several translations during his career.
- Antiquated Linguistics: These books are famous for the particuliar language used, using many idioms from that time without being very hard to read.
- Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: They do that all the time. Scholars speak Latin when commoners are around, Pierre and Miroul speak their Occitan dialect when in Paris, and they often use Italian or English for the same reasons.
- Omniglot: Several characters are very good with foreign languages. In the later books this is often the main reason they are sent on missions.
- Smart People Know Latin: Justified considering the period. Many characters are scholars, and Latin was spoken at universities.
- Not So Different: Everyone is someone else's heretic. Catholics and Protestants murder each other whenever they find an excuse, and the moderate ones are hated by both sides as well as knowledgable women and homosexuals.
- Pocket Protector: Subverted. "This medal would later save my life, but not in the manner that you think."
- Rags to Riches: Several low class characters become noble or at least wealthy.
- Serial Romeo: Several characters are somewhere between this and The Casanova.
- Shown Their Work: A very careful study of history and language seem to have been done. Hollywood History seems to be mostly averted.
- Succession Crisis: Several of the major events are real-life examples, especially the succession to Henri III.
- Warrior Prince: Most of them, including kings.
- Worst Aid: 16th century Physicians are depicted to be very bad. Bloodletting is their solution to every disease. Also they look down on surgeons who do all the dirty work and are a lower social class. Much discussed (and averted in the case of several characters).