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Literature / Inda

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The Inda series is an adult fantasy series written by Sherwood Smith that takes place in an alternate world called Sartorias Deles, in which several of her other novels (including Crown Duel) are set. The events described in the four books comprising the Inda series are historical to the events in her other novels.

The setting is a world in which humankind are migrants, albeit from some several thousand years past. Once, humans built an ancient kingdom referred to as Old Sartor, thriving and building on the magics that were taught them by the indigenous beings of the world when they first entered it, changing and enhancing life... but then Norsunder came, perverting and corrupting, and the ancient kingdom of Old Sartor fell. But magic continues to exist and enhance the lives of the people of Sartorias Deles and by the time of our story the memory of Old Sartor's fall and the shadowy existence of soul-eating Norsundrians have faded in most people's minds to frightening stories and a source for curses...


But all that is really background data. The real story begins with Indevan-Dal Algara-Vayir of Choraed-Elgaer, the second son of a prince (an aristocratic title) among the incredibly martial-oriented horse-riding Marlovans who rule Iasca-Leror. As the younger brother, he is expected to remain at home and dedicate his life to serving as its defender when his brother inherits. Still a child, and subject to the discipline and training deemed necessary by his elder brother, he is beloved of the castle people and perfectly content with his lot in life.

But by royal decree, he and all other younger brothers among the aristocracy are summoned to train for war at the royal academy, disrupting tradition. To Inda, it seems an exciting opportunity to hone his skills and make friends among the other aristocrats' children, though it means the kingdom is preparing to go to war. But when he befriends the younger son of the king he becomes the target of vicious bullying directed by the king's heir and his inner circle, and as his own natural talent for command and tactics begins to show he draws the unwelcome attention of the king's own brother.


Inda does not get to live the life he had expected. The events set in motion by his friendships at the Academy lead him far away from Iasca-Leror, to the decks of pirate ships and distant shores, dealing with ghosts and pirates and rumored Norsundrians. Meanwhile, the people he's forced to leave behind have their own problems to deal with, as the machinations of the king's brother and firstborn son begin to come to light. And all the while the ancient enemy of the Marlovans, the Venn, against whom they anticipate warfare, are beginning to mass as internal problems loom...

Though Inda is the focus character, the books feature plenty of characters, several of whom have only a tertiary link if any to Inda himself. The books also span a period of about 15-20 years, following Inda, his siblings, and his age-mates as they grow up from childhood/teenhood to adulthood and parenthood, and introducing members of younger generations to follow as well in each book.

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This series in general provides examples of the following:


  • Actually, That's My Assistant: People mistake Fox for Inda so often that they start using it to trick people, at one point having several characters dress up like Fox and captain various ships to give people the impression Elgar is present while Inda does his own investigations elsewhere. In the third and fourth book it sort of stops applying because Fox basically takes on the Elgar the Fox persona, as Inda goes home to fight the Venn.
  • Action Girl: A kingdom full of them - all of the Marlovan women are trained to fight defense in counterpart to the men, who are expected to fight offense. The girls and women in Inda's marine defense company and later his pirate fleet also definitely count.
  • All Deaths Final: There are definitely ghosts, but it is never even suggested that anyone try to bring the dead back to life.
  • All There in the Manual: Though the series is peppered with references and explanations about what sorts of things magic has completely changed in this world, a more complete explanation of how exactly things like Disappearing the dead and the Waste Spell work is given on the author's website, in addition to extra information about what happens to the characters following the end of the last book.
  • Arranged Marriage: All of the Marlovan nobility have these, most of the marriages arranged years before the expected bride and groom are even born. The girls are sent to be raised by their future husband's families when they are 2 years old, in the hopes that even if they do not fall in love they will at least know how to function together and be used to one another.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking
  • Badass Army: Both the Marlovans and the Venn have one. Inda also ends up building himself one.
  • Battle Cry: The fox-yip of the Marlovans.
  • Black Magic: Norsundrian magic.
  • Boarding Party: There are a lot of ship battles, and most of them involve this at some point.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Nugget's rope-swinging battle technique. It comes in quite handy in the last standoff with Erkric.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Occurs with a couple of characters.
  • Functional Magic: In this world, magic was used in the past to eradicate sexually transmitted diseases and pedophilia and to prevent the existence of physical rape (although sexual coercion and abuse of a sort can still happen). It is also used to get rid of human waste, disappear dead bodies (according to certain rules), transfer things and people across distances, clean things, strengthen bridges and buildings, heat water for baths, and enable babies to be born without anyone getting pregnant or doing PIV sex (although the Birth Spell is not guaranteed to always come to people when they want to use it). And these are just the things that are commonly in use by laypeople - there are other, far more powerful magics which exist and are studied by mages.
  • Eye Scream: One of Inda's classmates, Cama, gets his eye kicked in during one of the ongoing feuds.
  • Dating Catwoman: Inda falls in love with a Venn dag.
  • Death of a Child: The first major death in the series is that of an eleven-year-old, and later other child characters (including a two year old) are murdered.
  • Evil Uncle: The Sierandael/Harskialdna
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Because of magic, women in this world cannot get pregnant unless they choose to and sexually transmitted diseases have been eradicated. Therefore, this trope ensues. Most of the characters go to pleasure houses and/or engage in casual sex on a relatively regular basis, with the exception of a few who are implied to be somewhere on the asexual spectrum or else have Single-Target Sexuality.
  • Friendly Enemy: Durasnir to Inda and Evred, kind of. Signi considers at one point that if they could meet anywhere but the battlefield they would probably be great friends. The one time Durasnir does meet Evred, he's reminded of his son.
  • Incompatible Orientation: A major feature of two intersecting love triangles in the series. Hadand is in love with Evred, who is gay. Evred is in love with Inda, who is straight.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Fox's memoir, which becomes an important plot point in the sequel to this series, 'Banner of the Damned', which is set 400 years in the future.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Hadand is in love with Evred, Evred is in love with her brother Inda, Inda is in love with Signi but also possibly Tdor, his wife-to-be, who is definitely in love with him. To make it even more complicated, Tau is sleeping with both Hadand and Evred and might be in love with Evred, while also being in love with Jeje.
  • Mind Control: The Venn mage Erkric seeks to learn how to do this, and plans to use it not only on his own king-to-be, but on the Marlovans' king as well.
  • Mad Love: The Sierlaef is convinced the only reason Joret keeps denying him is for honor's sake.
  • Nobody Poops: In a weird, roundabout way, this is actually literally true in the Inda series. Instead of pooping (or peeing, or dealing with menstrual flows) and cleaning up after the fact, humans all learn how to say the Waste Spell when they are young. The Waste Spell transfers the waste from their bowels directly deep into the ground, without their having to do anything so gross as actually expel it from their bodies and wipe up afterward.
  • Persecuted Intellectuals: In a roundabout way - the Sierandael/Harskialdna tries to get rid of people that seem to use their brains too much, as he finds them difficult to control and perceives uncontrollable elements as a threat to himself and through him the king and the realm.
  • Pirates: Present throughout the series - even in the very beginning we are told that Inda's father's first family was all murdered by pirates.
  • Polyamory: Because almost all of the marriages among Marlovan nobility are political, a lot of this goes on. It's slightly less common outside of the Marlovan culture, but there are still several characters to whom it applies.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Cama and Joret. They both move on in the end.
  • Sex Is Violence: A few characters, including Inda himself, admit that battle sometimes arouses them.
  • Truth Serum: White kinthus, though its truth-telling properties are only one of its uses. It's also a pain reliever, and is said to relax the ties between the body and the mind or spirit. If taken in too high a dosage it can kill the recipient. People under the influence of white kinthus will talk about anything if they are asked, but the information is not always relevant - careful direction is required in order to gain useful information from the person to whom the kinthus is given.
  • Unrequited Love Lasts Forever: Apparently, the Montrei-Vayir family is known for having lifelong passions. Sometimes those passions aren't returned, which results in this trope.
  • Utility Magic: Most of the magic that we see is this sort.
  • War Is Glorious: Marlovan culture is almost entirely war-oriented, leading to many of the characters feeling this way. At the same time, though, once they actually see real warfare many of them also realize that...
  • War Is Hell: Inda especially comes to feel this way.
  • Worldbuilding: It's incredibly detailed and complex. Also, in a way this series is actually worldbuilding for later novels, as the events that occur are referenced in them as important parts of history.
  • Worthy Opponent: A big part of Venn war philosophy requires acknowledging their enemies' prowess and treating them with respect and courtesy. One of the commanding officers, Durasnir, even contemplates how incredibly respectful and honourable his treatment of Inda would be if he were to capture him, with a chance to smoothly discuss favourite battle tactics and so on over supper before execution, for which all of the Venn officers would be required to be present and in their best uniforms to observe.

Examples specific to Inda (book one)

  • Experimented in College: Most of the all-male Tvei class sexually experiment with one another in their teenage years until they are given leave to go to the town pleasure houses, at which point most of them seem to be exclusively into women. The exceptions are Flash Arveas, who continues to be interested in both men and women, and Evred, who is only interested in men.
  • Military School: The Academy where the Ains and Tveis are trained in the arts of warfare and command.
  • School Bullying Is Harmless: The older crew on the ship that Inda signs on with all chuckle and approve of the other shiprats and older mids and mates making fun of him and playing tricks on him because he's a landlubber, figuring it's all in good fun and a good way to get him to learn faster, but it's clear that Inda hates it and doesn't find it in good fun at all.

Examples specific to The Fox

    The Fox 
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Mad Gallop Yvana-Vayir is flogged to death. Pirates like Walic, Boruin, and Coco also all seem to take great delight in coming up with nasty methods of murder.
  • Cutlass Betweenthe Teeth: Barend does this with a knife in one scene while climbing aboard as part of a Boarding Party.
  • Duel to the Death: Inda has one with the captain of a pirate ship on the Sartoran Sea, because it's 'the pirate way'.
  • Easily Forgiven: Fox and Barend conspired to bring Inda to Walic's attention so that they could get him aboard and then use his prowess as a commander and fighter to help them lead a mutiny. Part of their scheme involved being sure to pick someone who looked like he could be Inda and ensuring he was killed so that Walic would think the dangerous Marlovan prince was dead. This means they are indirectly responsible for the deaths of the majority of Inda's original Marine Defenders crew and definitely directly responsible for the deaths of Kodl and Dun. Inda's response to this reveal is a quiet statement that they killed his 'mates', which makes them uncomfortable, but he doesn't seem to hold it against them for long and never brings it up again after that conversation.
  • Forced to Watch: At the beginning of the book, Inda is forced to watch the pirates murder whichever of his former crewmates refuse to join up with them.
  • The Mutiny: Inda, Fox and Barend orchestrate one on Walic's flagship.
  • Pirate Booty: It's on a haunted island, too!
  • Public Execution: What Mad Gallop Yvana-Vayir is given after his attempted coup fails.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: Thog does this to Boruin's crew after Inda was going to leave them be.
  • Treasure Map: Inda comes into possession of one.

Examples specific to King's Shield

    King's Shield 
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The king has Inda showcase his fighting abilities in a couple of sparring demonstrations with several Marlovan soldiers to increase morale and make them feel Inda can lead them to victory.
  • Hide Your Children: When the people of Castle Andahi know the Venn are coming, they try to send the youngest children to hide out in a cave until everything is over in the hopes that they at least might survive. When the kids realize what's happened, some of them try to go back and help, with tragic consequences.
  • Last Stand: The women of Castle Andahi have a particularly epic one that doubles as You Shall Not Pass!.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: Durasnir's feelings on the Venn's attempted invasion of the Marlovans, when he discovers that Erkric was using the war as a front for his own secret purposes.

Examples specific to Treason's Shore

    Treason's Shore 
  • Blatant Lies: When Fox is telling the Venn under Balandir that the only reason they're facing him instead of Inda is because Inda only fights Norsundrians, and then spouts a bunch of other over the top bullshit about how badass Inda and his fleet are.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Fox vs Balandir.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: Evred sends Inda up north to intimidate the rebels there into quieting down.
  • Fingore: One of the ways Signi is tortured.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying!: Before the sea battle with the Venn, there's a scene in a tavern where several characters are getting married and adopting children and generally partying about.
  • Suicide Mission: Inda sends himself on one against Erkric because he feels they cannot win the battle any other way, and he also doesn't want to have to deal with the other order he was given by Evred in the event he survives.