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Literature / Hidden Things

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Vikous: Somewhere, between the back of your mind and the corner of your eye, just beyond the edge of hearing—that's where the hidden things have gathered for years, finding their way there when the world got too hard for them, or too small, or too lonely. That's the business that White got pulled into. It would have been his choice. That's all I know.

Hidden Things is an Urban Fantasy debut novel by Doyce Testerman, released in 2012.


Calliope Jenkins, private detective and former band singer, is awoken in the middle of the night to a phone call from her best friend, business partner and ex-lover Joshua White, who is out in Iowa on a mysterious quest of his own. "Watch out for the hidden things," he warns her.The next day, he's discovered to be dead—or is he? Because Calliope received another message from Josh: this one sent three hours after he was supposedly killed. Not long after a mysterious transient appears, claiming to be able to find him—Josh is lost in the Hidden Lands. With nowhere else to turn, she begins a dark and terrifying adventure through the heart of America, discovering the demons and dragons and satyrs that hide in plain sight, and coming face-to-face with more than a few ghosts of her own past.


This book contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Ambiguous, as it's unclear just how bad things were in the Jenkins household, and Calliope gave as good as she got, if not worse—but the fact remains that they did throw her out of the house. Her parents turn out to love her dearly and are deeply regretful of how things went down.
  • Action Girl: Calliope, natch. Her sister Sandy also desperately wants to become one, but feels unable to due to the pressure of society.
  • Aerith and Bob: Calliope and Sandra. Mahkah lampshades this, calling it an uncommonly complex name for a human.
  • Affably Evil: Faegos.
  • All Myths Are True: Played with—most myths are based in truth, but they don't often get everything right.
  • Amicable Exes: Calliope and Josh used to date. It ended badly, but even afterwards they remained extremely close friends and went into business together.
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  • Angel Unaware: Walker is referred to by Gershom as a Grigori, which is a name for a race of fallen Watcher angels. Since Vikous is something along the lines of his cousin, he is likely one as well. More explicitly, Vikous has wings, albeit rather demonic-looking ones.
  • Anti-Climax: Calliope's solution for dealing with Mikey is to simply ignore him and walk away. It's more intense from an emotional standpoint than anything else. Before that, Faegos is rather quickly shooed out once rejected. Mind you, with a dragon threatening to burn him, it's not like he could do anything else.
  • Arc Words: "The hidden things" and variants, also, "Trust the guide."
  • As You Know: Averted. Gluen point-blank refuses to explain to Calliope things that he considers to be common knowledge, such as the Hidden Lands.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: For dragons, flying. They love to do it, but they can't anymore because it would make them too noticeable.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Calliope and her parents, who turn out to not be such bad people after all.
  • Back from the Dead: Played straight once and subverted another time. Vikous gets brought back straight away by Faegos to prove he could do it; Josh, however, is only a memory, and eventually Calliope refuses to bring him back all the way. In both instances, it's not so much that they're brought back to life as it is history being changed so their deaths didn't happen.
  • Batman Gambit: A few. Faegos tries to pull one of these off, attempting to rope Calliope into a deal where she'll give up the name of her companion, Mahkah. He fails, because humans aren't bound by the same laws as the hidden things. Josh and Mikey pull the same gambit, selecting Calliope as their choice for the quest— Josh because he knew Calliope could free his spirit, and Mikey because he thought Calliope wouldn't—and if she did, she would kill him afterwards. Josh is right.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The reasoning behind Walker's motivation: he's so convinced that there's no other end to the quest other than failure, that the only way to break the cycle is to Kill ’Em All.
  • Becoming the Mask: Vikous accuses Walker of having done this, albeit in an unusual way.
  • Big Bad: Both subverted and lampshaded: There's no big bad per se—the orchestrator behind the plot, while initially appearing powerful, is just a scared and demented manchild, while the heavy hitters of the book are purely reactive, attempting to exploit the situation for themselves. As Vikous says:
    This isn't a video game, Calli. The big boss with a thousand hitpoints doesn't have to be the one at the end.
  • Black Sheep: Played with. Calliope thinks she is one, but the truth is more complex. Vikous is said to be one for his own kind, as he is fond of humans and believes his people should integrate with them.
  • The Brute: Implied with Kopros, though Faegos claims that he has no stomach for violence.
  • The Chosen One: This trope applies to some extent to Calliope—she was chosen by Josh to undergo the quest—but just how special she is, we don't really know, as while characters imply that she's really not that important as a person in the long run, it's shown that she has been observed by them since childhood. Of course, reality is a rather malleable thing in this universe, so it's entirely possible that they went back to learn more about her past after(?) she was chosen.
  • Creepy Child: Mikey, who is described as having half his face frozen into a scream. Even before we meet him, through flashbacks we can see that he clearly was not right.
  • Creepy Good: Vikous, the demonic monster clown, who is perhaps the most heroic character in the book.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Everywhere. We've got stuff about Songs of Power, trolls, implied alternate realities, and biggest of all previous incarnations of Calliope's quest, right throughout history. The Hidden Lands themselves are almost this, given that very little time is spent in them.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Vikous is a very creepy-looking homeless clown—and also happens to be one of the nicest characters in the book.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Calliope, Vikous, Detective Johnson, Joshua...yeah, nearly everyone gets a moment or two.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Very fiercely defied—Calliope tries to invoke this trope on Josh twice, and both times immediately feels disgusted with herself.
  • Determinator: Calliope is a subversion. Initially, with her strong-willed personality and inherit stubbornness, you'd think she would fit this to a T. However she's given up on a number of things throughout her life and seriously considers abandoning her quest towards the end. Vikous is a straighter example; it's implied he's gone through the quest many times, to watch it consistently fail, but he never gives up faith in Calliope and puts himself in harm's way a lot to see it through.
    Calliope: You're wrong, you know, [about] me turning around and going home. It sounds exactly like me.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: A downplayed example, but Calliope assaults Vikous several times without any provocation. Nobody raises an eyebrow at this, and Vikous only ever notes that the fact that he continues to try and talk to her despite the increasing level of violence aimed at him is just proof that he's got something very important to say.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Jenkins family—most of their problems come from Poor Communication Kills rather than any actual malice, with the exception of Sandy.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: None of the bad characters even for a second stop to consider that Calliope might refuse to sacrifice her companion. To be totally fair, everything looked to be on track for them until the last.
  • Evil Sorceror: Faegos. Well, his first act is to (temporarily) kill Vikous, so what do you expect?
  • Fat Bastard: Gluen.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: Gershom is a satyr who apparently "retired".
  • Facial Horror: Mikey's face is described as "frozen, locked in a permanent scream, the skin a sickly-grey."
  • The Fair Folk: Apparently, they now work in run-down bowling alleys. Don't accept drinks from them.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Calliope and Vikous, eventually.
  • Fish out of Water: Calliope, which gets her into a lot of trouble at first. It's not really helped by Vikous quite deliberately keeping her in the dark.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Deconstructed with Calliope and Sandy, who are foolish and responsible respectively. The burden of being the responsible sibling caused Sandy to feel she had to give up on her dreams of an exciting life and is extremely bitter and resentful to her sister as a result.
  • Freudian Excuse: Mikey's desperation to remain a child and have friends is what drives the plot.
  • Gambit Pileup: There are three (four, if you count Vikous's jelly packets) major gambits going on, though interestingly they don't overlap much and none of the gambitters seem to be aware of the others' true plans. We've got Josh's plan to get Calliope to free him, Mikey's for the exact opposite and eventual Suicide by Cop and Faegos's attempted bargain to capture Mahkah.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Calliope and Sandy were actually very close, until Calliope left home and Sandy grew disenchanted with her own life and prospects. Much of their interaction with the book is arguing.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Vikous and Calliope are the heroes of the book, and unambiguous ones at that, but they do not muck around when it comes to people they don't like.
  • Hero of Another Story: In his role, Vikous has attempted to shepherd a lot of humans through the quest, often at enormous personal cost.
  • Homage: To Neil Gaiman's work, especially Neverwhere and American Gods.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Kopros, Faegos and Vikous.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: This is expressively Vikous's role as the guide.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: Elves are said to be this, though they've had to shed some beauty in order to fit in with humanity.
  • The Jester: According to Vikous, his kind started the tradition: they spawned the culture to produce imposters that they could then be mistaken for.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Faegos's eventual fate is to angrily bow out after coming face to face with a dragon. Pretty wise move.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Implied to be happening thanks to humanity's steady destruction of the hidden things. Mikey uses this as justification for sacrificing his companion, saying that it didn't matter as she would have died anyway.
  • Meaningful Echo: Twice. The first is plot-related: Vikous and Walker both use the phrase "behind the grave" instead of "beyond the grave", which tells Calliope that Walker is definitely more than he seems. The second occurs towards the end and is more a sign of Character Development. Vikous explains to Calli that dragons (and by extension all hidden things) might mean a hundred things or they might mean nothing, but it doesn't stop them from being miracles in their own right. Calliope repeats this to herself upon deciding whether to sacrifice Mahkah for Josh, and it helps her decides not to.
  • Meaningful Name: Calliope is based off the Greek word for "beautiful-voiced", which is extremely apt. "Kopro" and "Faegos" form "Koprophagos" or shit eater, again, pretty much nailing them. "Gluen" is a shortened form of "glutton". Jokingly lampshaded by Vikous, who states that his name means nothing.
  • Monster Clown: Vikous, though it turns out he's actually very heroic.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Subverted. Mikey does have this epiphany, but rather than making any attempt to atone, he just tries to arrange things so that either someone else will share his pain or kill him.
  • My Greatest Failure: Vikous regards a previous follower who is strongly implied to be Mikey as this: he sacrificed a great deal to keep the guy alive, only for it to go horribly wrong. The consequences of this follow him.
  • Nice Guy: Joshua White and Tom are both extremely patient with Calliope, even when she doesn't particularly deserve it.
  • Not So Stoic: Vikous takes a lot of crap from Calliope, ranging from being kicked out of the car, kicked in the chest, and pepper-sprayed right in the face. The only time he ever gets truly angry with her is when he thinks she's broken one of the fundamental laws of his universe.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: Calliope thinks that the point of her quest is to save and resurrect Josh. Actually, this is the absolute worst outcome; doing so would require her to sacrifice Mahkah, and thus condemn all dragons to extinction.
    Walker: You'll lose even as you think you're winning.
  • Not So Different: Quite a few examples. The catalyst for the friendship between Calliope and Vikous is one: they're both stubborn, abrasive people who never know when to shut up, to the point that they're more interesting when they're not speaking. This trope is also what causes the friction between Calliope and her mother, their personalities being so alike.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They use optical illusions to disguise themselves as semitrailers and SPEAK LIKE THIS USING TELEPATHY. Their scales are indistinguishable from tyre treads and smell of lilacs.
  • Performance Anxiety: Inverted. Calliope is a brilliant singer live on stage, but she was never satisfied with her demo tracks. One of the main reasons why her band breaks up.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Calliope and Josh eventually ended up as this, though they did date before that. She gets one in Vikous, too—though Walker seems to think otherwise, there's nothing romantic between them at all (in part because he's not even human, clearly).
  • Posthumous Character: Josh, in an interesting spin on the trope.
  • Primal Fear: Vikous can use this as part of his "clown" magic, most notably when shoving his way past the security guard and when fighting the goblins.
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Calliope occasionally has flashbacks of Mikey's childhood. It's unclear how or why she receives them.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Mikey, very much.
  • The Quest: An odd combination of The Hero's Journey, The Homeward Journey, Escort Mission and I Will Find You. Implied to have occured many times before, though Calliope is the first to be successful.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: With the exception of Walker and his goons, all the police officers in the book are friendly to Calliope and do their best to help her.
  • Screw Destiny: Walker's predetermined task is to act as the goad: while his exact original role is not stated, it's implied to be along the lines of forcing The Hero to continue with their quest. After seeing too many quests fail, Walker essentially says "stuff it" and starts trying to kill all involved parties just to break the cycle. Calliope herself indulges in a little of this by choosing to not sacrifice her companion.
  • Secret Test of Character: The quest as a whole is partially this. Calliope is presented with a choice: she can have her greatest wish granted, but only if she chooses to sacrifice her companion, a dragon, upon which all dragons will disappear from the world entirely. She refuses. It's suggested that this test has been done many times before, and everyone before her failed it—i.e. Mikey—causing the steady destruction of the hidden things.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Done twice. A lot of people, Calliope's current boyfriend and her parents among them, still don't quite believe that Josh and Calliope's relationship is now purely platonic. In a downplayed example, Walker accuses Calliope in a nightmare of Vikous being her new boyfriend, which is of course nonsense.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Both with Sandy and Calliope and with Josh and Mikey. Sandy is rational, straightforward and determined to follow the rules whereas Calliope is impulsive, fierce and determined to break rules often for the hell of it. Josh is extremely responsible and careful while at the same time eager to move on and change. Mikey is...not.
  • Smug Snake: Walker and Faegos.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: Calliope, upon returning to her hometown.
  • Suicide by Cop: At the very end, this turns out to be Mikey's final gambit, out of shame for all the terrible things he's done.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: For about the first half of the book, Calliope and Vikous are fairly antagonistic to each other. This is partially because they have similar traits of stubbornness and blunt speaking, and because Vikous quite deliberately refuses to tell Calliope much about the nature of his world. Joshua predicted this, just as he predicted that they would eventually overcome this and become great friends.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Calliope has more than a few shades of this in the early part of the book. She greatly over-exaggerates the cruelty of her parents and pins the blame for the band breaking up on Josh's new wife, Lauren. As time goes by she's able to review her past with fresh eyes and admit to a few hard truths about her own actions in those circumstances.
  • Villains Act, Heroes React: Inverted, with one exception. The plot is kicked into motion by Josh's choices, and the villains of the story are all forced to change their plans regularly to keep up with Calliope and Vikous. The one exception is Mikey, who called Josh to him in the first place.

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