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Literature / Kingdom's Disdain

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"But I don’t want to cure world hunger. I want to make giant bugs."
Keltnin Savos, Web of Bones
The first three books in the series.

The Kingdom's Disdain (2020) is an ongoing series of fantasy novellas by Paul! Lang.

The first book in the sequence, "Web of Bones", follows a young man with partial amnesia who knows two things: that he's from our world, and that he's not in our world anymore. He is in the Kingdom of Laskmeer, a land of magic and monsters. He takes on the name Cardinal and teams up with the stoic elf, Mad Crossbones, to become monster hunters. Also among the main cast is Sareash, the Princess of Aldroy, who's dealing with political conspiracies the looming threat of The Rot Lord, a god of decay.

Cardinal doesn't remember his identity, but he does remember media and stories from our world. This makes Lampshade Hanging very common, as he recognizes tropes in this story from the video games he used to play.

The first few books are about Cardinal and Sareash fighting monsters and learning new powers, but as the series goes on focus shifts to human enemies and complicated political divisions.

Books in the series so far:

Main Series:

  • Web of Bones [1]
  • Ten Thousand Teeth [2]
  • House of Flies [3]
  • Blood Drain [4]
  • The Distants [5]
  • Corpse Beetle [6]
  • Sick Butterfly [7]
  • The Spokes of Decay [8]
  • The Nature of the Beast [9]

Tie-In Books:

  • The Tale of the Useless Prince (2021): A prequel set 10 years before the main story about the young life of Minister Lacturn. [10]
  • Feast of Lights (2022): The holiday special, set between Corpse Beetle and Sick Butterfly. [11]
  • The Chronicle of Quelk the Slime (2023) [12]
  • Bru-Nack the Giant and his Eternal Stew (2023) note  [13]
  • Flydragon: A Tale of Evil in Noble Aldroy (Upcoming)

This series provides examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: Mad, if he bothers to even think about the concept at all.
  • Accidental Murder: While slaying the Yellow Horned Dancers, Shareash unwittingly kills Thermavorous. This earns her a discreet exile.
  • Action Girl: Sareash would rather practice with her sword than talk politics.
  • Affably Evil; Zaiveeur the Clokken, in contrast to his partner Worm
  • Animesque: Combat is inspired by anime battle scenes, and Gamoriel takes the form of a chibi.
  • Anti-Villain:
  • Badass Boast: Cardinal attempts this when he bravely confronts Edreimelech. Unfortunately, he's drunk off his ass, so all he says is, "If I had a sword, I'd stab you with it!"
  • Black and Nerdy: Cardinal's knowledge of fantasy tropes imply he was this before being transported to Laskmeer.
  • Blended Family Drama: Sareash doesn't get along with her stepmother, Lady Solth.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Zaiveeur, and Clokkens in general, has a moral code. It's just alien to most humanoids.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: When Sareash was little, she ran around hitting the servants over the head and calling them goblins. Subverted, in that a calm rebuke from Thermavorous sets her straight.
  • Break the Haughty: Edreimelech/Worm over the course of the books; constantly bested by people he considers inferior and failing to manipulate the Princess in "The Nature of The Beast".
  • Breather Episode: After all the loss, betrayals, and deaths throughout the series, Feast of Lights focuses on the members of Night Star simply celebrating the titular holiday.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: When he and Cardinal enter Aldroy in Web of Bones, Mad has animated four skeletons to pull their chariot. It causes a stir.
  • The Chosen One: Sareash and Cardinal... or maybe just one or the other. Maybe.
  • Christmas Special: Feast of Lights.
  • The Comically Serious: Mad Crossbones and Trog.
  • The Conspiracy: In House of Flies, Cardinal overhears what sounds like one. Minister Lacturn has hired hitmen to kill the King.
  • Cool Sword:
    • The castle has a whole Hall of them. Valsrofen, the Untainted Blade, is the coolest; at least in Sareash's eyes. According to legend, it was forged by a Dragon God and won't strike anybody the wielder loves. (This has yet to be tested in modern times)
    • Though it's described as rusty and "not that important", General Turp Glurbob’s Goblin Swatter has a cool name and may fit some readers' personal aesthetic more than the shiny Valsrofen.
  • Crapsack World: The Island of Laskmeer is an untamed wild crawling with deadly monsters and ancient curses. Add to that government corruption, inequality, and assassins ready to pounce at any moment.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Almost literally; lampshaded by Cardinal:
    "...religion seemed to be part of everything they did here, like it was Alabama, only, Jesus was some kind of space dragon?"
    "Good dragon Christians thought I was an evil wizard."
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Mad Crossbones I a necromancer who enchants skeletons to pull his chariot and experiments on dead bodies. He's not a villain, though, and frequently saves lives as both a physician and monster hunter; and though he isn't exactly sentimental, he has enough compassion to swiftly put victims of the mother leeches out of their misery rather than wait until later.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cardinal, especially in his narration chapters where we get to read his unfiltered thoughts.
  • Dem Bones: Mad's "bone boys".
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Cardinal in the main series. Lacturn in "The Tale of the Useless Prince".
  • Distracted by the Sexy: When he and Mad dine at the inn in Web of Bones, Cardinal spends a lot of time checking out the innkeeper.
  • Dragons Are Divine: The people of Laskmeer primarily worship a Dragon God, Bal'zomest; while those on Alto-Samar worship Bal'zomest's son, Balsameth. They revere dragons so much that their units of measurements are based on dragon claws.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: In "Blood Drain", Cardinal runs off because he feels disrespected by his party members, despite risking his life for them multiple times.
  • The Dung Ages: In "Blood Drain", the village of Qe'Lam is smelly, poor, and implied to be covered in poop.
  • Epic Fail: Drunk!Cardinal trying to take on the assassin. The Elf doesn't even take him seriously.
  • Fantastic Drug: Slich-grog, made from the sedating toxins of Mother Leeches.
    "That made sense. They may have almost killed me and filled my body with eggs, but they made me feel damn good about it."
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Worm, who worships a God of Hate and prays for his enemies' agonizing downfall, is so horrified by Drathe's willingness to summon the Beast of the Gulch just to take over a hunting barrak that he drops his planned manipulations and joins his sworn enemies to stop her.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Laskmeer appears to be a combination of Medieval European Fantasy and various Middle Eastern/Arabic cultures. Most characters resemble the latter in physical appearance. The people of Calde are also said to be a partial stand-in for the occupied Israel of the Bible.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion: The Book of Law and Promises resembles The Bible; specifically, the story of King Aheerum and his treasonous son, Accor, pulls directly from David and Absalom.
  • Foe Romantic Subtext: Sareash and Worm tread a fine line between pure disdain and sexual/romantic attraction.
  • Food Porn: Or alchohol porn; the Hot Swolt in "Blood Drain" is described as tasting like cinnamon and burnt wood; and feeling smooth and warm going down. Kind of like a hot Old Fashioned/Old Smokey.
  • Genre Savvy: Cardinal applies fantasy tropes from video games and RPGs in our world to his life as a wizard in Laskmeer. However, he has about an equal chance of being this and Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Giant Bug: Most of the monsters so far are giant bugs. The Rot Lord apparently enjoys making them.
  • Giant Spider: They "greet" Cardinal to this world and us to the story.
  • Gold Digger: Lady Sloth's primary reason for marrying the King. Though she also at least likes him as a person and given her background, can you blame her?
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Zaveur weilds dual harpoon guns and uses then to both attack and move in fights.
  • Hate Sink: Worm the Elf Assassin is arrogant and mean whether you're his enemy or his ally, though he may cross into Love to Hate for some.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • High Fantasy
  • Humans Are White: Averted. Most of the people of Aldroy are brown/tan, but some are darker or fairer and aren't seen as unusual. When it comes to humans, skin tone doesn't denote "Race" as much as culture and religion do.
  • An Ice Person: Some of Mad's go-to spells are ice based.
  • Identity Amnesia: Cardinal remembers most things from our world; video games, hamburgers, Luke Skywalker, etc. He doesn't remember his own name or much about his life.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Cardinal's motivation.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Due to her sheltered upbringing and headstrong nature, Sareash sometimes insults others without meaning to. This actually causes friction with Cardinal in "Blood Drain".
  • Jerkass: Worm of the Shadow League stands out. Unlike Mad, who is simply apathetic to others' emotions, or the monsters, who kill from instinct, Worm actively seeks to belittle his opponents and is even unpleasant to his allies.
  • Jumped at the Call: After some understandable terror at waking up with no memory in a giant spider's web, Cardinal decides pretty much immediately to join Mad on his quest.
  • Living Clothes: Cardinal's red robes have the instinct to protect their wearer, and can produce teeth and claws.
  • Lizard Folk: The Clokken people.
  • Manchild: The King, though it's downplayed.
  • The Mentor:
    • Thermavorous; he taught Sareash the way of the sword early on and in general acts as a guardian to her.
    • Mad takes Sareash on as an apprentice while Cardinal is away.
    • Gamoriel trains Cardinal in his magical abilities.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Thermavorous dies at Sareash's hand.
  • Mercy Kill: Mad uses these exact words when he kills the mother leeches' victims in Blood Drain.
  • Meta Guy: Cardinal, mentioned above. Especially in his narration chapters.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Yellow Horned Dancers are the color of bees or yellow jackets, chirp like crickets, devour like locusts, and are referred to in the title as "flies".
  • Monster of the Week: The first few books, at least, are each named after a monster the heroes must take down; the Mountain Recluse, Zarklago, a group of giant Yellow Horned Dancers, and Mother Leeches.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Nobody called "The Rot Lord" is good news. Subverted by Mad Crossbones, who you only really need to fear if you're a monster; and "Heretic Wizard, Bloodmage", because... see Non-Indicative Name.
  • Necromancer: Mad is a rare heroic(ish) example.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Because he rode into Aldroy wearing all red in a chariot pulled by skeletons, Cardinal is given the rather frightening title of "Heretic Wizard, Bloodmage". This is despite the fact that (at the time) he knows no magic and it's Mad who controls the skeletons. This actually prompts Cardinal to learn magic, so that he can "live up to" his title.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: "The key to getting away with manipulation was to always act the fool, and Lactrun made sure to do that at all times."
  • Odd Name Out: Most of the books are named after a monster that the group battles, but "The Distants" comes from a Clokken word for unclose acquaintances, instead.
  • Panthera Awesome: In Ten Thousand Teeth, the Zarklago.
  • Parasitic Horror: The Mother Leeches.
  • Pest Controller: The Rot Lord is said to create and command plagues of bugs.
  • The Power of Hate: Both Valsrofen and the Decay Beam can only be used if one truly hates their opponent.
  • Rags to Riches: Lady Sloth was born to peasants before she married the King.
  • Running Gag: Cardinal's swords breaking in battle and him having to get a new one.
  • Shock and Awe: One of Mad's spells lets him create and control electricity.
  • Shout-Out: Due to Cardinal being something of a geek from our dimension he:
  • Shrouded in Myth: The Rot Lord. Apparently, no concrete lore exists around him, but he was adopted from a figure named "The Dirt King" by the Goblins who inhabited Laskmeer before humans took it. Current residents blame him for misfortune, but nobody has a concrete perception of him.
  • Smug Snake: Or, Smug Worm in this case. Worm talks a big game, looks down on humans and has some talent; but he's actually the apprentice assassin and eventually beaten by a human.
  • The Swarm: In House of Flies: The Yellow Horned Dancers; giant, highly territorial black-and-yellow crickets/locusts. They are herbivores, but highly territorial and when in a large enough group are capable of killing multiple people at once. Sareash finds some in the castle, even bigger than normal, who had killed at least two servant girls.
  • Swords and Sorcery: The two most prevalent studies of combats are swordsmanship and spellcasting.
  • Take That!!: One of Cardinal's few personal memories is being annoyed by a classmate who wouldn't stop talking about Homestuck.
  • Trapped in Another World: Cardinal, technically; though much like Phillip J. Fry, he seems to get on BETTER in Laskmeer than he did in our world.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Both Cardinal and Sareash go through this in Blood Drain. Cardinal because of the graphic fight against the mother leeches and perceived lack of respect from his party; and Sareash due to witnessing true poverty for the first time and general tiredness.
  • Walking Wasteland: The Rot Lord, probably.
  • Wicked Stepmother: How Sareash views Lady Solth. She's not wicked, their personalities just clash; but she saves her stepdaughter's life
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Sareash.
    "The world that played itself out in her eyes might have been preferable to the one we occupy—a world where everyone has a place and a purpose, where hard work is rewarded in equality, and where justice shines down like the sun."
  • What You Are in the Dark: Blood Knight Sareash ultimately spares Worm, a man she fully intended to murder as brutally as possible; while Cardinal, normally the group's Nice Guy, masters enough raw hate to kill Zaiveeur, an opponent he previously regarded as a friend.
  • You Mean X Mas: The titular "Feast of Lights".