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Literature / Havemercy

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Metal dragons, gay magicians, and explosions!

Havemercy is the creation of Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett, two college students and LJ users who decided there were entirely not enough of the three above things in their lives, and set out to write a charming, exciting, funny steampunk fantasy. They've garnered a loyal fanbase pretty quickly, which likely has something to do with the fact that Ms. Jones is the coauthor of The Shoebox Project, which... possibly has an even loyaler fanbase.

Anyways, Havemercy tells the story of four men in the alternate-Russia-based country of Volstov: Royston, the magician; Hal, the quiet country boy; Thom, the scholar; and Rook, the airman. And, oh yes, the airmen ride dragons. But not just any dragons. No, these dragons... they're made of metal. And they're Volstov's greatest weapon in the war against their neighbors, the Ke'Han.

... A war that takes a bit of a backseat for most of the novel, because other elements are far more interesting. Royston is banished to his brother's home in the countryside for being... different. It's there that he meets Hal, and something starts to stir. Meanwhile, after a bit of an incident involving the wife of a diplomat, Thom is asked to teach etiquette to the Dragon Corps, including the boorish, foulmouthed, snarky Rook.

In essence, it's a fangirl-friendly, Ho Yay-packed, very clever sort of high fantasy.

The sequel, titled Shadow Magic, was released in the summer of 2009. It follows the story of diplomatic peace talks with the Ke-Han, involving a new cast of main characters. Caius and Alcibiades, who both featured minor roles in the first book, are both sent as part of a group of diplomats to the Ke-Han capitol. Caius is a slightly crazy, very effeminate young man who will mess you up. Alcibiades is a gruff soldier who is not at all happy with the job he's been given. Joining them are Mamoru, a prince of the Ke-Han who is probably the nicest person you will meet in this book, and Kouje, his loyal, duty-bound retainer. The general consensus is that the second book is just as good, if not better, than the first, with what might possibly be even more Ho Yay stuffed in.

The third book, Dragon Soul, released in the summer of 2010, runs approximately concurrently with Shadow Magic. It follows Rook and Thom, returning from Havemercy, this time on a journey to the Hanging Gardens of Eklesias, despite the fact that Rook doesn't even know where the fuck they are. Said journey gets derailed almost immediately once Rook finds out people are digging up and selling bits and pieces of the dragons destroyed at the end of Havemercy, possibly including Havemercy herself. He is not pleased. Madoka, a Ke-Han scavenger, is also roped into the plot, very much against her will, and Malahide is sent out as a spy for the Esar to find out who's selling the dragon parts.

The fourth and, at least for now, final book in the series, Steel Hands, was released in August of 2011. It features Balfour and Adamo, two of the airmen from the first book, as narrators, as well as two new characters, Laure and Toverre. It deals with a continuation of the plot of Dragon Soul, and the effects the events of that book have on Thremedon.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: The entire Dragon Corps, really. One is even named Ace.
  • Agent Peacock: Royston spends forever picking out his clothes in the morning, is embarrassed to be seen with a red nose, and loves theater, not to mention the open gayness. He can also blow stuff up by thinking about it. Caius is another example: he wears feminized versions of male clothing, primps and preens, and likes fluttering about with a fan... which happens to hold retractable knives in the creases. That's the least dangerous he gets.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Rook. Selfish, nasty, narrow-minded, misogynistic, violent, vulgar, at times outright sociopathic. The ladies are not deterred in the least.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Well, within the walls of the Airman, this is certainly true. Except for poor Balfour...
  • Ambadassador The whole Volstovic delegation to Ke-Han in Shadow Magic, as shown by what happens when their hosts turn on them.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics - velikaia in Russian is female form (Russian has grammatic gender) of "great one".
  • Back from the Dead: In a way. One presumed-dead character returns near the end of Steelhands, although he was never really dead in the first place.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Alcibiades and Lord Temur towards the end of Shadow Magic.
  • Badass Normal: Madoka. Despite being untrained in either magic or combat, she still holds her own, mostly through sheer force of will. She even manages to take down Dragon Soul 's main antagonist, a dangerous sorcerer.
  • The Beard: Laure for Toverre, although predictably, in the end, they decide to call the engagement off.
  • Big Eater: According to Rook, Thom in Dragon Soul.
  • Big Damn Heroes: ALL of the Airmen at the end of Havemercy
    • Also, Prince Mamoru, Kouje, the Margraves, and all of the Esar's army at the end of Shadow Magic.
  • Blood Knight: Rook is always at his happiest when he's fighting.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Again, it's stated that the vulgarity and insanity that occurs amongst the Airmen is ignored simply because no one else could do the job they do.
  • Calvinball: The darts game between the airmen
  • Camp Gay: Toverre. He constantly insists on dressing Laure, although part of this may also stem from his rather OCD tendencies.
    • Royston, too, although he combines this with a healthy dose of badassery. He spends forever picking out his wardrobe in the morning, is so vain that he dreads being seen in public with a cold, and buys theater season tickets.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The cast is really entirely male (except for one character), and if you take fanart at its word, almost all of them are gorgeous. The third and fourth books remedy this slightly by adding more female characters as narrators and major players.
  • Clock Punk: The dragons combine this with Magitek
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Rook
  • The Dandy: Caius Greylace. His obsession with being pretty annoys Alcibiades, but no one else seems too bothered by it (or they don't care). Also, in Steelhands, Toverre. The back of the book says that he is 'more interested in his wife-to-be's clothes than her bed', which is completely accurate.
  • The Determinator: Rook, particularly toward the end of Dragon Soul. Madoka also has her moments.
  • Disguised in Drag: While on the run, Mamoru (very convincingly) disguises himself as a woman in order to avoid suspicion.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Ke-Han = feudal Japan/Manchu Dynasty China. Volstov also bears a striking similarities to Russia (say th'Esar and th'Esarina too quickly and it sounds like Tsar and Tsarina), and the Arlemagne naming scheme, at least, sounds quite French. The desert nomads in "Dragon Soul" are definitely Bedouins
  • Find the Cure!: The point of Hal, Royston, and the magicians' discussions in the Basquiat, though it's less "exciting quest" and more "long, anxious discussions."
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Though they don't travel together, the four protagonists can definitely be seen as an example of this; Royston is phlegmatic, Rook is choleric, Thom is melancholic, and Hal is sanguine.
    • In Shadow Magic, Caius is sanguine, Alcibiades choleric, Mamoru melancholic, and Kouje phlegmatic.
  • Government Conspiracy: On the milder side, perhaps, but th'Esar's coverup of the plague probably counts.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot / Guy on Guy Is Hot:
    • Although not terribly explicit, the book contains numerous cases of open gay lust and endless Homoerotic Subtext. Aside from the actual canon, Rook and Thom—their animosity borders on Slap-Slap-Kiss territory—are the biggest offenders, followed, in descending order, by Thom and Hal, Thom and Balfour, Royston and Adamo...oh, hell, everyone.
    • The sequel's no different. Both Caius and Alcibiades, and Mamoru and Kouje have Homoerotic Subtext in simply staggering amounts.
    • Which does not even begin to cover Steelhands, which is possibly even gayer than Havemercy was. There's Toverre and pretty much every attractive male he meets, including, hilariously, Hal, and the airmen are once again in the spotlight, meaning that the homoerotic dynamics are back in full force. This doesn't even include Royston and Hal being quietly adorable in the background.
    • Malahilde seems almost like she's flirting with Madoka at points in Dragon Soul.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Rook. Just...Rook.
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Only one half of the Royston-Alcibiades friendship is actually heterosexual, but they are lifelong platonic friends and confidants who trust one another with everything, except cooking decent food.
  • Hide Your Gays: Not the books themselves (obviously) but the front flap description for Havemercy makes no mention whatsoever of Hal or Royston.
  • I Got You Covered
  • Irony: At the very beginning of Havermercy, Royston remarks that many people find it odd and/or distasteful that th'Esar chose a commoner to be Provost. Two books later in Dragon Soul, it's revealed that the Provost is th'Esar's illegitimate child.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Rook and Thom. Er... John and Hilary?
  • Mind Control: Caius exercises this over a certain Ke-Han warlord in Shadow Magic.
  • Mind Rape: Apparently how Caius tortures people, though the details aren't too explicit. We get to see it in a bit more detail in the sequel.
  • New Meat: Apparently what happened to Balfour upon first joining the Corps... as well as Thom, though he never truly "joins" anything.
  • Not Using the Zed Word: Magicians as margraves, and psychic magicians as velikaia.
  • Odd Friendship: The cultured, sarcastic Royston and the gruff, foulmouthed Adamo fit this, though it's somewhat subverted in that they've apparently been close since before the novel started - Word of God has confirmed that they've been close since they were students. This is elaborated on a bit more in Steelhands, where we get to seem them interact a bit more.
    • Caius and Alcibiades in Shadow Magic. Alcibiades pretty much hates Caius's guts, and yet they still spend the majority of the book together.
  • Official Couple: Royston and Hal.
  • Parental Abandonment: Rook and Thom's parents left them to fend for themselves at a very young age. Also, Dmitri's father, that is, th'Esar dumped him at an orphanage because Dmitri is an illegitimate child he had with Antoinette.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Rook. Caius isn't as brutish, but still has a dubious conscience, based on his willingness to torture anyone who gives him even half an excuse.
  • Sensitivity Training: For the Dragon Corp after Rook thought the Arlemagne diplomat's wife was a whore.
  • Shrinking Violet: A rare male example in mousy, bookish, freckle-faced Hal. True to type, he comes into his own at the end, leaving Nevers with Royston when his exile is cut short and eventually saving the country from magical plague.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang Rook and Thom, in spades. Although, as Havemercy herself notes, there are times when they're not that different after all.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Royston's talent is that he makes things explode.
  • The Quiet One: Ghislain
  • Telepathy: While the books have different kinds of telepaths, all get lumped into the category of velikaia, at least in Volstov.
  • Torture for Fun and Information: Performed on Rook during his captivity in Ke-Han, and by Caius on whomever gives him an excuse.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Mamoru in Shadow Magic and Madoka in Dragon Soul (not to the extent of that other Madoka, though the circumstances aren't far off). The entire series could be considered one for Rook though he's far from an innocent victim.
  • Unequal Pairing: One of Royston's major problems in engaging in a relationship with Hal. Royston loses the battle.
  • Unusual Euphemism: All kinds of colorful homophobic slurs which Rook uses to the fullest, particularly "Cindy," as well as a number of terms for whores.