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Literature / Hart's Hope

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Hart's Hope is a novel written by Orson Scott Card which takes place in the medieval land of Burland. Burland is ruled by the tyrannical king Nasilee, damaged young princess named Asineth, and bloody martial law. All of the gods hate Nasilee and conspire to raise the Count Palicrovol to become king. Zymas, the king's general, allies with Palicrovol to take down Nasilee.

To rule he must kill the king and marry the daughter, and to make sure that everyone knows that he is truly king, Palicrovol publicly rapes twelve-year-old Asineth. Palicrovol then gives Asineth into the care of his wizard Sleeve.

Asineth has conceived, and bears the child for a ten-month term, making the child one of great power. She uses the power of her child to bind the gods to her will and amass great power.

He then sends for his betrothed, the Flower Princess, Enziquelvinisensee Evelvenin, to marry, but Asineth now renamed herself Beauty has come back, transforms his princess into an ugly crone, Sleeve into a dwarf jester, and Zymas into an old and weak man. She takes power and banishes Palicrovol from the capital to never see his loved ones again.

Three hundred years later, Palicrovol has a vision of a peasant woman, Molly, the two of them make love and Molly has Orem. As Orem grows he wishes to travel to the capitol, Inwit also known as Hart's Hope. Inwit is a strange city with different gates and that you can only enter the part of city based on the gate you enter. Since Orem has no trade, he has only Piss Gate. He has three days to find work before he will be expelled from the City.


Hart's Hope provides examples of:

  • Almighty Janitor: The old man polishing the furniture in Queen Beauty's palace is actually one of the deposed gods of the world — the one called God, in fact.
  • Anti-Magic/Power Nullifier/Un-Sorcerer: Orem was born as a natural magic sink; he gets the full Blessed with Suck implications (Power Incontinence, et cetera) until he's properly trained in it, but afterwards he's able to negate the Big Bad's entire power-up ritual by duplicating it as she goes along.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: Orem being prepared for his first meeting with Beauty is a gender-flipped example.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: The Queen Beauty is dead, Palicroval has returned to Inwit and married the Flower Princess, who was restored to her natural form along with Sleeve and Zymas, and the gods are freed from their prison. Unfortunately, he is on his way to execute Orem as a usurper despite the latter being both his son and the one responsible for Queen Beauty's downfall. Whether he actually goes through with it or reconsiders his decision is left unseen. Even if Orem is allowed to live he's still left traumatized by all of the sacrifices and betrayals that has left him a Broken Bird holed up in a tower with only his True Companions to support him.
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  • Blood Magic: Magic is paid in blood. The bigger the animal, the more magic it possesses. Bleed a rabbit and it has more magic than a rat, a human has more magic than an animal, and a baby under very special circumstances has enough power to bind the gods themselves.
  • Conjoined Twins: The Sweet Sisters are goddesses who joined at the face. With one having half a face to look outwards and the other only facing inwards.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The novel begins with the story of a baron who overthrows his king. Orem, the hero, isn't even born for another hundred pages (and several centuries of in-story time).
  • Magical Seventh Son: Orem is Molly's seventh son.
  • No Ending: The entire story is framed as a missive to Palicroval, attempting to persuade him to spare Orem's life. The recipient's response is not given, leaving the fate of a major character unresolved.
  • Offing the Offspring: Beauty kills her infant child in order to acquire enough power to wreak havoc on the resident gods, and she conceives a second child in order to kill him and get more power.
  • Rape Is A Special Kindof Evil: Played with in the oddest way. Palicroval has to marry Asineth after killing her father in order to be recognized as king by both the people and the laws of Inwit. He also must consumate that marriage to make it legitimate. It's implied that these laws are enforced magically as much as they are sociologically. Asineth's consent is not required but Palicroval does not seem to take any pleasure in doing it. Ironically he considers killing her afterward to be crossing the line.
  • Second-Person Narration: Hart's Hope is written in the second person, but the "you" in the story is not the same as the "you" reading it; rather, it is being narrated to someone else, whose identity only becomes clear at the end.
  • Start of Darkness: A chapter is devoted to explaining how eventual Big Bad Princess Asineth is shaped by events ranging from someone else being punished for her disobedience, accidentally causing the execution of her father's favorite mistress, and being raped in public by her father's killer to cement his claim to the throne.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Palicroval, after Orem rescues him and his loved ones at great personal cost, only cares about what Orem did wrong.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: The Flower Princess, because she will never lie.