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Literature / Kushiel's Legacy

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"Love as thou wilt."

Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy series encompasses three trilogies, told from first-person perspective by one character in each. It lies somewhere between Alternate History and fantasy, using recognizable names for real-world places, events, and occasionally people.

Kushiel's Legacy is widely lauded by reviewers for having complex societies, likable characters, and a continuous onslaught of politics and intrigue which blend seamlessly with the sex.

The books are split up into 3 trilogies, each with a different protagonist.

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    Phèdre's trilogy 
The first trilogy follows the exploits of Phèdre, a woman with a red mote in her eye which marks her as an anguissette, one who experiences pain as pleasure. This talent means she draws a high price, as prostitution is a highly valued and respected profession in her home country. Added to this, she is trained in espionage, escape, and other things by her bondholder, with intent to use her as a weapon to stabilize the realm. Over the span of three books, Phèdre goes from girl to adult, and winds up deeply involved in the politics of the realm and the divine, thanks in part to her... unique talents, both as courtesan and spy. Much of the story focuses on her sexual encounters, both consensual and at times very non-consensual.
  1. Kushiel's Dart (2001)
  2. Kushiel's Chosen (2002)
  3. Kushiel's Avatar (2003)

    Imriel's trilogy 
The second trilogy follows Phèdre's adopted son, Imriel who happens to be the biological son of one of the realm's most infamous traitors. The books follow his coming of age, and his struggle to live up to his adoptive parents while putting aside the reputation in his blood.
  1. Kushiel's Scion (2006)
  2. Kushiel's Justice (2007)
  3. Kushiel's Mercy (2008)

    Moirin's trilogy 
The third trilogy takes place a century after the second trilogy ends, and follows the adventures of the druid Moirin from the land of Alba. A descendant of the Maghuin Dhonn from the second trilogy, Moirin must learn to deal with the consequences her ancestor's actions foisted on her people, master her magical powers, and learn about her half-D'Angeline heritage.
  1. Naamah's Kiss (2009)
  2. Naamah's Curse (2010)
  3. Naamah's Blessing (2011)

    Short stories 
In 2010, the short story "You, and You Alone," part of the Songs of Love and Death anthology, told Phèdre's mentor Anafiel's backstory.

Kushiel's Legacy provides examples of:

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  • Affably Evil: Melisande may be the villainess, but she's also exceedingly beautiful, charming, and clever, and might have gotten away with a lot more if she wasn't half in love with Phèdre. Melisande is arguably more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist than truly evil—she's still following the prime D'Angeline tenet of "Love as thou wilt." It's just that she happens to love manipulation, magnificent bastardry. There's also a subtext that strongly implies that it was all part of the plans of the Gods to prevent the destruction of the world.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head:
    • Delaunay often shows his affection towards Alcuin and Phèdre by stroking their hair.
    • Subverted with Waldemar Selig: he does this to Phedre quite often, though for him it's a means to show off his ownership of a d'Angeline slave.
  • The Alcatraz: The prison island of La Dolorosa in Chosen. With shades of Azkaban as well, given the endless, wailing, soul-rending winds.
  • All Abusers Are Male:
    • The only characters who are ever openly considered rapists are men and Joscelin is the only person who really considers Melisande abusive. Considering that Melisande drugs and rapes Phedre after getting her family killed, this is pretty absurd.
    • Also, during the entire Drujan incident, all of the really evil characters are male. The women are captives, possibly selfish or bitter, but not worshipers of the god of evil. In general, in these books, women may be devious, ruthless, and order murder to be done, but they never go in For the Evulz.
    • However, in the second trilogy where Imriel is the POV character, he is assaulted by a bear-witch woman. It is made very clear that he considers the act a violation and that his very consensual-sex-oriented gods would intervene or avenge him.
  • All Myths Are True: The mythology present in the series - from the older Alternate History religions to Terra d'Ange's new myths of Elua - is all true history, and the gods keep an active hand in the plot, if usually light enough that all you see is a divine inspiration or nudge of emotions to their chosen hero. Moirin's trilogy in particular sees many more myths of the wider world walking the Earth.
  • Alternate History: The details are somewhat murky but, other than the definite existence of magic, the course of history in Europe seems to have been about the same up until the death of Yeshua. No resurrection occurs and Christianity is never founded. Instead the Magdelene's tears fall on Yeshua's blood and create Elua. This miracle causes Judaism to develop into the messianic faith of Yeshuism which rejects Elua as an illegitimate son of the One God. Elua wanders the Earth for some time and eventually founds Terre d'Ange. With Terre d'Ange as a buffer against the Skaldi Tiberium is not sacked, leaving almost all of its works intact. Without Christianity, there is no Tiberian equivalent to Emperor Constantine to convert the empire to a single religion under the Roman Catholic church, so most places retain their "pre-Yeshuite" faiths. Also, Zoroastrianism exists but never became the dominant religion of Persia, instead being confined to Drujan (located in real-life Azerbaijan). Khebbel-im-Akkad, culturally similar to Ottoman Turkey but located from the Mediterranean coastline to Afghanistan, controls Drujan (in theory) and follows Mesopotamian paganism rather than Islam.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Ganelon de la Courcel to his much younger siblings Lyonette and Benedicte.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Many marriages in the series, as the major characters are nobility. Played with in that marriages cannot be carried out without the consent of the betrothed, as this is against the teachings of Elua. Still, politics plays a part. Children of House Courcel in particular can expect to be married for political reasons (which makes sense given they're the royal family): Ysandre was betrothed to the Cruarch of Alba as a teenager, though they fell in love after meeting for the first time. Ysandre chooses to stay a virgin until marriage, and describes this as an act of love for her country. In Kushiel's Justice, Imriel is married off to a noblewoman of Alba despite having fallen in love with Ysandre's heir, his cousin Princess Sidonie, but his wife is assassinated by a rogue druid faction and, after many more travails, he finally marries Sidonie at the end of his trilogy.
  • Always Someone Better: The ancient Hellenes are this to D'Angelines. In the second half of Chosen, Phèdre travels to the island of Kriti and gushes about everything she sees there. This is interesting because-this one exception aside-she (and most D'Angelines) tend to look down on non-D'Angelines.
  • Amicable Exes: Delaunay and Melisande
    Phèdre: Was she your lover?
    Delaunay: A long time ago. [grin] We are well-matched in many ways, but that was not one of them; unless it be that we were too well-matched. If neither will give way in love, it is not pleasing in the eyes of Naamah. [shrug] Still, I do not think either of us gave the other cause for regret.
  • Ancient Tradition: The Midwinter Masque has its origins in a celebration that long predates the coming of Elua. Elua liked it so much he insisted the tradition be maintained.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Joscelin has a hard time admitting his love for Phèdre. It takes him two full books to finally decide he'll put up with her no matter what.
  • Arc Words:
    • Elua's commandment—love as thou wilt—serves as a theme for the series as a whole. It has to be pointed out in-universe that this is not the soft philosophy that some mistake it for, it is a command. It still takes courage and faith to follow your heart when life gets very complicated, and the consequences for ignoring it are not just emotional.
    • Phedre's arc words—that which yields is not always weak—come from Hyacinthe, and while most repeated in Dart, define her character in all three of her novels.
  • Attack on One Is an Attack on All: How House L'Envers regards any attack on a member of their house. They always protect their own. Delaunay ends up on the receiving end of this, earning the intense enmity of House L'Envers after he wrote a poem accusing Isabel L'Envers of murder.
  • Author Appeal: Terre d'Ange is a society who worships love and believes that prostitution is a sacred calling. Everyone Is Bi and the books feature a lot of BDSM. Oddly, this seems to be the only real fetish as such that anyone practises: there's vanilla sex and bondage, but no foot fetishism or cross-dressing. Of course since the book is told from the perspective of Phèdre, she might not encounter too many fetishes outside of BDSM, since that's her specialty.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: How things work in Skaldia. If you want to keep your position of authority, you'd better be an asskicker.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: "You will stand at the crossroads, time and time again, and make the choice."

  • Babies Ever After:
    • Eventually, after Imriel and Moirin earn their happy endings.
    • Subverted, however, with Phèdre and Joscelin, who never do have biological children, although they raise Imriel.
  • Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad: Drujan used to worship the Lord of Light. The Mahrkagir takes Drujan down the opposite path, and his people seem to gain strength the more they twist and pervert the old teachings.
    Gashtaham: Duzhmata, duzhûshta, duzhvarshta. Ill thoughts, ill words, ill deeds; the three-fold path of Angra Mainyu.
  • Band of Brothels:The Court of Night Blooming Flowers, which is composed of the different pleasure houses (for every type from physical to pain to intellectual) at which the Servants of Naamah work. They have a noted amount of political power within Terre d'Ange even if it's in decline at the time of the series.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: In Chosen, every time Melisande comes to visit her cell on La Dolorosa, Phèdre is forced to wash and don clean clothes.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • It's heavily implied that the first 2/3rds of Kushiel's Avatar is part of Kushiel's plan to punish Melisande and kill the Mahrkagir. The former Punisher of God does not putz around.
    • It is also implied that everything in the two previous books were purely to prepare Phèdre for the events of the third. This starts with her birth which may coincide with the ascent of the Mahrkagir.
  • Bawdy Song: "Phèdre's Boys" have made up a few songs about her. An example? "Man or Women/We don't care/Give us Twins/We'll take the pair!"
  • The Beard: Allegra Stregazza for her husband Ricciardo.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The shapeshifting Maghuin Dhonn bear-witches. Which leads, in fairly short order, to the removal of said shape-shifting powers.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Almost everyone in Terre d'Ange is supposed to be beautiful, though some are exceptionally so. This is somewhat justified as the people of Terre d'Ange are distantly descended from fallen angels who intermarried with humans.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Despite getting burned with a hot poker, repeatedly flogged and cut with razor blades, and partly flayed at various times, Phedre's scars are mentioned just once, when realistically they should be quite severe, and they don't detract from her sex appeal or ability to get into her amorous adventures at all. Justified due to her Kusheline heritage as an anguisette: Phedre has a mild Healing Factor and all but the most severe injuries don't actually leave scars.
  • Berserk Button: Joscelin's is Phèdre, and later Imriel.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed:
    • A Cassiline technique called Terminus is built around this trope. If things are looking particularly grim for a Cassiline and their charge the Cassiline will use their daggers to kill both of them.
    • Supposedly, this has never actually been done, although Joscelin was preparing to do it near then end of the first book when Phèdre was being skinned alive.
  • Betty and Veronica: Imriel is torn between his dutiful love for gentle brunette wife Dorelei, and his socially inappropriate and fairly kinky attachment to glamorous, feisty blonde heiress Sidonie, a Defrosting Ice Queen.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • The biggest Big Damn Heroes moment in the series is when Barquiel L'Envers charges out of Troyes-le-Mont to rescue Phèdre and Joscelin, just as Joscelin is about to perform a Mercy Kill on himself and Phèdre to save them from Waldemar Selig.
    • Also, the Albans arriving along with Isidore d'Aiglemort's armies to break the siege of Troyes-le-Mont & defeat the Skaldi.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The Courcel, Stregazza, L'Envers, Trevalion, Shahrizai family tree. Lampshaded when Phèdre takes Imriel to meet Severio Stregezza and reflects that he is one of the few people in Imriel's family who isn't guilty of some version of murder or treason.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Languisement, the poetic word in D'Angeline for fellatio (and typically the start of a sex scene), is one letter away from languissement, meaning "yearning" in French. Make of it what you will...
    • La Dolorosa means "The Painful" in Italian (and Spanish). It's an island prison in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Venice, Italy and basically The Alcatraz, but even worse than most.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The first trilogy ends with Phèdre freeing Hyacinthe, but he's decided he wants to go to Alba to be with Sibeal. Phèdre responds by throwing the biggest going away party that the City of Elua has ever seen.
  • Blackmail: Melisande's escape in Dart and renewed plotting in Chosen turns on a hidden traitor in Ysandre's court whom she's blackmailing. It's Percy de Somerville, the current head of the army. He had been in on house Trevalion's earlier treason, which Melisande exposed, but kept his involvement to herself to use him later.
  • Black Widow: Averted. Melisande is rumored to have killed the men she married, but really, she just made a habit of marrying very old men so she could wait and inherit their money when they died.
  • Blessed with Suck/Cursed with Awesome: Kushiel's Dart itself, depending on the situation. Phèdre has very conflicting feelings about being an anguissette. It makes her experience pain as pleasure, which sounds convenient on the surface, but can actually be very complicated. On the one hand, it means she's almost impossible to torture. On the other hand, Phèdre is sometimes frightened by her own needs and desires and doesn't like that she takes pleasure from pain, cruelty, and humiliation.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Nearly gets Queen Ysandre killed during the climax of Kushiel's Chosen.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Joscelin is originally hired on as a bodyguard to protect Phèdre during her assignations.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Quintilius Rouse and later his son Eamonn.
  • Boring Return Journey:
    • Subverted often in this series: it still takes a pretty long time to get home from every journey, and things still happen.
    • Both of Phèdre's journeys home are perilous in Dart, the first because they are still evading the Skaldi and D'Angelines they escaped from, the second they are bringing the Alban army, and still have unexpected encounters.
    • Phèdre and Joscelin get ambushed by bandits on a routine return to La Serenissima, in Avatar. Phèdre notes that she's getting a little too wrapped up in the larger plots for something like an unsafe road to surprise her. The return journey from Saba also counts; having crossed deserts, rivers, and jungles to get there makes it just as arduous to get home.
    • In Justice, Imriel's very long journey into the wilderness of Vralia to avenge his wife takes just as long to return from, as he's forced to stop and deal with every local leader and city guard he bargained with, escaped, or lied to on the way in order to keep going.
  • Born Lucky: Phèdre alleges that this is averted with her because her parents gave her a cursed name.
  • Brains and Bondage: The entire series runs on this trope.
  • Bring News Back: Happens in Dart when Phèdre and Joscelin flee Skaldia in the dead of winter in order to warn Ysandre of the impending invasion. Also, Phèdre spends the entire second half of Chosen trying to warn Terre d'Ange of Melisande's plan.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: In Chosen, one of Phèdre's assignations is a pair of twins, although it's pretty heavily suggested that the siblings don't actually interact and just enjoy being in the same... situation. (Phèdre's Showing at Camellia House in Dart does not feature a pair of siblings; it features the Dowayne's sister, whom Phèdre and Alcuin met when they arrived, and another adept.)
  • Brown Note: When Phèdre learns the "Name of God", a powerful word that contains within it the secrets of the nature of the entire world and uses it to compel an Angel to break a curse over Hyacinthe. Carey cheats in order to avoid printing the Name: whenever it is spoken, it appears as "____________". However, every mortal who hears Phedre use it to compel Rahab, hears the word "love" in their own language.
  • Bury Your Gays: Despite the series taking place in a society where homosexual love is celebrated alongside heterosexual love, gay characters either die, like Alcuin, Roland, and Delaunay or live in the closet/straight marriages of convenience like Lucius and Ricchardo, though neither are from Terre d'Ange and would be disinherited/slandered for being gay. The one gay relationship that lasts happens in the Offstage Waiting Room with Ti-Phillipe and Hughes. This tends to spark off a lot of debate in the fanbase. Bisexuals (this includes two of the three protagonists) largely survive.
  • But Not Too Gay: Many gay characters do exist in the series (though no lesbians, oddly enough), but none are ever shown even kissing, let alone getting a sex scene. While that is partly due to them all being supporting characters, even minor ones are seen getting it on otherwise in the books. Everyone Has Lots of Sex except the gays (bisexuals do explicitly get some).

  • Camp Follower: It's mentioned in Kiss that there are plenty of women on board the great ship the Ch'in Emperor sent to fetch Master Lo Feng. They are only along to keep the sailors and soldiers from being too lonely.
  • Can't Stand Them, Can't Live Without Them: Joscelin towards Phèdre in the first two books. Really, what do you expect from a celibate warrior-priest paired with a courtesan who enjoys her job? He finally accepts being her permanent Love Interest in act three of Chosen.
  • Carpet-Rolled Corpse: How Imriel smuggles Sidonie out of Astegal's palace.
  • Cast from Hit Points: What Moirin does if she uses her powers for something other than their original purpose.
  • Celibate Hero: Joscelin is a Warrior Monk, raised from age ten to be the "perfect companion." Part of their final vows is indeed a vow of celibacy. He broke his vow later in the books, was outcast, but got his respect even so.
  • Cheer Them Up with Laughter: It's stated by the narrative that patrons visit Orchis House, whose adepts are Fun Personified, when they want a night of merriment and a break from the troubles of life.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The Companion's Star Ysandre gives to Phèdre at the end of Chosen, which entitles her to one boon. It finally pays off in Avatar when Phèdre uses it to force Ysandre to let her and Joscelin adopt Imriel
    • Also, the password of House L'Envers.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Early in Chosen we're introduced to the Unforgiven, an order of knights who have permanently stationed themselves on the d'Angeline-Skaldi border to defend the kingdom in penance for their former commander Isidore d'Aiglemort's treason in the preceding war. Phedre and Queen Ysandre recruit them to help retake the City of Elua during the coup attempt against her.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Surprisingly enough Joscelin's ability to fish becomes important in Avatar.
    • There's also Phèdre's Cruithne and Skaldic language lessons, which come in handy in Dart.
    • In the Naamah trilogy, the language of ants. Oh dear god.
  • Chemically-Induced Insanity: In Kushiel's Mercy, Imriel has a spell cast on him, in the form of being stuck with a steel needle soaked in the sweat of a madman, to drive him insane for several weeks so that he isn't affected by a Fake Memories spell that another party cast on the entire city.
  • The Chessmaster: Melisande and, to a lesser extent, Anafiel. Phèdre inherits this from the both of them, and is incredibly clever when god-ordained lust isn't turning her brain to mush around Melisande.
  • Child by Rape:
    • Hyacinthe, as his mother was raped by a patron of Bryony House.
    • Bao is the result of his mother being raped by a raider.
    • Kamala, daughter of female bodhisattva Laysa by the Falconer Tarik Khaga, a warlord who kidnapped her and many other women to join his harem.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Melisande betrays everyone she partners with, and people keep teaming up with her anyway because she's that beautiful, that smart, and her plans are that good.
  • City of Canals: La Serenissima, which is based on Venice.
  • The Clan: House Shahrizai. They're even described as "clannish" in the books. House L'Envers qualifies as well.
  • Conspicuously Public Assassination: Justified The traitors hire mercenaries to start a riot in a crowded temple during the largest celebration of the year. That way, the assassination would just look like an accident amidst the pandemonium. Really, what do you expect of a plan backed by Melisande?
  • Cool Uncle: Joscelin is this to his siblings' children, who think that having a hero of the realm for an uncle is pretty much the neatest thing ever.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Almost as soon as he sets foot on Alba in Justice Imriel is stalked and harassed by the Maghuin Dhonn. They keep mentioning they are trying to prevent a future disaster, but instead of just talking to Imriel they stalk and bind him with magic. When they eventually reveal that the disaster would be Imriel's son killing off the Mahguin Dhonn and becoming a conqueror due to his and his father's hatred for them. Imriel was understandably not impressed and immediately called them out as idiots for not just talking to him.
  • The Coup: The plot of Kushiel's Chosen ultimately revolves around a coup attempt against Queen Ysandre by her uncle Prince Benedicte and his hidden wife Melisande Shahrizai, with the connivance of a general in the D'Angeline army intending to seize the City of Elua from Ysandre's allies, and a traitor bodyguard of the Cassiline Brotherhood attending the Queen on a suicide revenge mission to do the actual killing. Phedre and Joscelin are able to foil the assassination of Ysandre, then the Queen leads troops from the Skaldi border to recapture the City of Elua.
  • Culture Clash:
    • Most notable between Terre d'Ange and Alba, which are politically united by Ysandre and Drustan's marriage, but completely different culturally.
    • There is lesser, but still significant culture clash between Terre d'Ange and Caerdicca Unitas. Both recognize the other as civilized, but odd.
  • Cultural Posturing: D'Angelines love to wax poetic about how advanced, beautiful, and sexually liberated they are. This is a poorly Justified Trope, since Terre D'Ange is quite the Utopia, for reasons already listed and because everyone else seems to be stuck in the Dark Ages while the D'Angelines are in the Renaissance.
  • Cunning Linguist: Phèdre. Both meanings.

  • Daughter of a Whore: Played with in Phèdre, who is indeed the child of a sex worker and one of her customers, raised in a brothel, and called "a whore's unwanted get," who then became a prostitute. Only her parents had married before having her and they left her to foster in a brothel, which wasn't their original intention.
  • Decadent Court:
    • At the beginning of the series, the first and best heir to the throne is dead in a border skirmish, the current King has gotten old and timid, and the new heir Ysandre is young and untested. This has turned the D'Angeline court into a nest of intrigue as multiple parties kick off plots to take the throne themselves. As the series continues, Ysandre's reign endures and this trope mellows out, although some plots still echo decades later.
    • La Serenissima in Kushiels Chosen. Murder is a common hobby in the Stregazza family, and different splinters of the clan are fighting over the Doge's seat, with the current Doge being coerced into stepping down.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone in the series has their moments, even the normally civil and cultured Phèdre and Queen Ysandre. Barquiel L'Envers stands out for having snark be his default method of communicating.
    Barquiel on Phèdre's reappearance: Delaunay's anguissette. And the Cassiline. Didn't you enjoy my largesse in the Khalif's court? I heard I sent you to Khebbel-im-Akkad after paying you to betray your master.
  • Death by Childbirth: Poor Queen Jehanne...
  • Death by Origin Story: Edmée de Rocaille and Prince Rolande for Delaunay.
  • Declaration of Protection: Several examples, the most notable being Joscelin's vow to protect Phèdre, but also:
    • Delaunay swearing an oath to protect Ysandre.
    • Barquiel becoming the oath-sworn protector of Imriel and Sidonie's firstborn.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Sidonie.
    • In Naamah's Kiss, Jehanne, sort of.
  • Demonic Possession: Almost(?) happens to Raphael. What everyone thinks happened to Snow Tiger.
    • It did happen to Imriel's friend Lucius, when his jerkass ancestor, Gallus took over his body.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • The Mahrkagir is an expert at pushing people over it. Many women in his zenana have crossed it, and some starve themselves to death as a result. Phèdre and Joscelin come close to hitting it during their time in Darsanga, but never actually do.
    • In Naamah's Blessing, Jehanne's death, followed by (overly hasty) news of his son's death, push King Daniel over this. He drowns himself in the river.
  • Determinator: Several. Joscelin and Phèdre both have this in spades, and Moirin shows tons of it when chasing Bao. Jacqueline Carey likes her women strong-willed.
  • Diamonds in the Buff: A variant. Melisande contracts Phèdre (a courtesan) to accompany her as a "pet" to a court function wearing a very see-through gauze gown studded with diamonds, and a collar with a magnificent diamond (and ring for a leash). Phèdre-an experienced courtesan at this point—is still both amazed at the opulence of the outfit, and more than a little mortified at being that exposed in front of every high-ranking noble of the realm.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Imriel's father died when he was just a baby.
    • Hyacinthe never knew his father.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal:
    • Along with irresistible angelic gifts, there is the matter of Moirin, Snow Tiger, and the dragon. Not perceived as okay exactly, but certainly not held up as a terrible evil.
    • Although the Master of the Straits is the product of precisely this form of rape. When nobody will seek pardon for him, he places a curse on his own son and refuses to lift it until he is himself pardoned.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Female:
    • Averted, mostly. Phèdre informs the reader that rape is an unforgivable act of treason in her culture. Yet when Melisande drugs her and commits sex acts that could arguably be rape before selling her into slavery this act is never considered rape despite a cultural understanding that both men and women can be sexually dominant and powerful. It becomes gray since Phèdre is a professional submissive, and was under contract to Melisande. Melisande did honor the letter of the contract, including the safe word, and knew damn well Phèdre was a trained spy, working for her enemy, and Phèdre obviously does view what happened as a violation despite not using her safeword, but she also doesn't brush it off because of Melisande's gender.
    • Melisande is shown to respect the gods and avoid blasphemy, so it’s entirely possible she would have heeded the ‘’signale’’. It’s also possible that Phedre was rationalizing. It was her first (though certainly not her last) experience with non-consensual sex, and it was with someone she had very complicated feelings for. It may have been easier to cope by believing Melisande wouldn’t really cross the line and that Phedre had retained a kernel of control and self determination. It’s also one of the few encounters Phedre relates in distant and vague terms. Even the events with the Mahrkagir are described in detail. Melusande’s treatment of her could be the one thing she couldn’t face directly.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Both played straight and averted depending on who the protagonist is. In Naamah's Kiss, Moirin more than once jumps on a man who is saying no (both times because she's a bit under the influence herself, but still) and compels him to go along with it. However, when Imriel is assaulted by a woman (ironically, of the same people as Moirin) who tries to compel him to respond to her desire, this is held up as an abomination. The trick is, Moirin comes from Alba. The culture is different in Terre d'Ange, which views rape as heresy.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Strongly condemned. Imriel was raped during his stay in the Mahrkagir's harem and it's largely thanks to Phèdre and Joscelin's parenting skills that he's in as good mental shape as he is in the second trilogy.
  • Dramatis Personae: Each book in the series has several characters and therefore have a dramatis personae that can go on for pages and pages. Averted most recently in the soft cover edition of Namaah's Kiss, a few pages of praise for the past books, the usual title pages, and the ever present map, then it jumps straight into chapter one with no preamble.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: Cassilines carry a pair of daggers and a two-handed sword. The daggers may be drawn at any time, but they are forbidden to draw the BFS in the field except to kill in defense of their charge.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Women of Necthana's line are particularly talented in this. Drustan's mother and sisters all receive true dreams, and bear woad tattoos denoting this.
    • Alais can receive dreams of the future. But she doesn't always interpret them correctly.
    • Moirin gets this, in a way, when she talks to the spirit of Jehanne in her dreams.
    • Hyacinthe and his mother both speak the dromonde which is a similar talent to true dreaming.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Phèdre's plan to escape the Skaldi relies on Joscelin mimicking Selig's White Brethren, who all wear white wolf-pelts and look the same at a distance. Necessary not only to get out of the camp, but to steal the supplies necessary to survive on their own running through a freezing snow-covered landscape.
  • Drowning Our Romantic Sorrows: Imriel does this with Maslin in fantasy-counterpart Russia in the dead of winter over Sidonie. Apparently no one told them that alcohol can expedite hypothermia.
  • Dungeon Bypass: In Scion the Duke of Valpetra eventually got fed up trying to siege Lucca the traditional way that he dammed a river and diverted it to knock down a wall and flood the city.

  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Pretty much every main character in the series has a long, hard journey to get to the end with the major conflicts resolved.
  • Earth Drift: Dart has little more than divine lineage to elevate itself above historical fiction. Naamah's Trilogy, in contrast, begins with a character who can turn herself invisible, and takes a pit stop at summoning demons from the Ars Goetia before running off to Chinese dragons. Justified by the end of Kushiel's Mercy, which states that, with protagonists close to the royal family having been victimized so often by acts of high magic, Imriel and Sidonie are going to establish an academy to research and teach magic for defense of the realm.
  • Epic Flail: Tahmuras, The Dragon in Kushiel's Avatar wields one. He comes closest out of anyone in the entire six-book series to besting Joscelin.
  • Erotic Literature: Ohhh so much. With a heaping dose of alternate history, espionage and fantasy thrown in.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: Inverted. Two minor characters are eunuchs: Erik, a Skaldi boy in the Marhkagir's harem, who is shattered by his experience, but ultimately helps Phaedra escape, and Sunjata, an ex Carthaginian slave who'd been freed by Melisandre in the past, then recruited into the Unseen Guild but turns out to be good. Both are portrayed as victims of this.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: It would seem logical that such an intelligent woman as Melisande would just kill Phèdre instead of letting her live to cause trouble. However, for her to kill Phèdre would be blasphemous, and she won't do it.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Many of the women in the series count. Melisande, Phèdre, Moirin, Snow Tiger, Nicola L'Envers y Aragon, and Queen Jehanne to name some.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: This is the norm of D'Angeline society, with prostitution being a highly respected profession, and their religion's precept is "Love as thou wilt". Virtually Everyone Is Bi as well. It's considered rather strange if you don't do it, which is part of why the Cassiline Brotherhood is seen as overly strict and austere. Fantasy Contraception exists for D'Angeline women, but they never mention STDs. Note however that other cultures are far stricter.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Nearly every d'Angeline character is bisexual. Some characters are only really shown being interested in one gender due to only having one or two love interests. Some are Depraved Bisexuals, since there are bound to be some evil people in the story. But most are simply bi.

    In other countries, however, not everyone is bi—or at least, if they are, their cultures don't allow them to express it. Much of the story is spent in countries other than Terre d'Ange, and sometimes this is a point of Culture Clash.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier if French: The D'Angelines.
  • Evil Matriarch: Lyonette de Trevalion is the mastermind behind her family's attempt at treason.
  • Evil Uncle: Subverted and played straight in the royal family.
    • Barquiel L'Envers appears to be this. Phèdre is very suspicious of him in Chosen, and easily believes the real traitors' attempts to frame him for Melisande's escape. However, he is in fact staunchly loyal to his niece Ysandre and works to secure her throne, making him a subversion.
    • Played straight with Benedicte de la Courcel, Ysandre's great-uncle.
  • Extreme Doormat: Phèdre isn't this, but she acts like it when working in her professional capacity to satisfy the unique tastes of her clients. More than one enemy, up to and including a God of Evil, has failed to recognize the difference until it was too late.
    Hyacinthe: [to Melisande] That which yields is not always weak.

  • The Fair Folk: The second trilogy introduces a human tribe of the Fantasy Counterpart Cultures Alba and Eire, who are described very like the Fair Folk: an old people who live in the wild, untamed areas, powerfully magical, and not malicious but adhering to a different moral standard. Some characters fear them and refuse to speak of them, while others welcome bargaining with them. Their Voluntary Shapeshifting and sympathetic magic play a vital role in the plot.
  • Fallen Angel: Elua's Companions, Rahab from the first trilogy, and the spirits in Naamah's Kiss.
  • Famed in Story: Pretty much every major character.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: Joscelin's "two daggers and vambraces" fighting style probably qualifies.
  • Fantasy Contraception: The gift of the fertility goddess Eisheth to D'Angeline women: they can only become pregnant if they light a candle and pray to her for it. She may or may not then grant this request. Interestingly, Eisheth absolutely refuses to grant one such request when made by a woman who was—unbeknownst to her—under the influence of a mind-controlling love spell. Ultimately played straight, since the woman in question later revealed that she never made the request in the first place. It's also shown once that asking Eisheth to conceive doesn't preclude the chance of a miscarriage.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Basically every single location is some version of this. Terre d'Ange is France down to the language and various other parallels, though looking at the map, the City of Elua is Lyon rather than Paris; in one particularly egregious example, the Venice-counterpart is named "La Serenissima", a nickname by which the real city is sometimes called.
    • Skaldia is an interesting example. It's located where Germany is in Real Life and the culture is Old Germanic with a hefty dose of Norse, but the history is a mix of different German time periods. They're initially Germanic barbarian tribes (Roman period) who are united under a single leader (a la Otto von Bismarck) that is then soundly defeated by an alliance of France and Britain (World War II) and afterwards becomes known more for trade than force of arms (modern-day Germany, reputed to have the strongest economy in the Euro zone). Although of course Terre d'Ange is basically France at the height of its power, which makes it easy for them to defeat Skaldia, whereas Real Life Germany and France were indeed historical enemies note  and had several wars, it's France who was usually decisively on the receiving end (apart from a few memorable exceptions). And specifically in the case of WWII, it can hardly be said that France "won" it by virtue of own merit. note 
    • Alba is a Britain where the Celts were never replaced by the Anglo-Saxons and Normans as the dominant cultural group (the name is Scots Gaelic for Scotland, and the "mab" in Drustan mab Necthana is a real patronymic used in Welsh, Breton, and Cornish). The Dalriada in the first book are borrowed in name from a Celtic kingdom that ruled in the Hebrides in the mid-first millennium A.D. (in real life it was later conquered by the Norse).
    • The Yeshuites are Ashkenazi Jews mixed with Roma and the mythology of Messianic Judaism. That is, they're caravanners who are basically culturally European Jews, but accept Jesus (and not Elua) as the Messiah. The name "Yeshuite" comes from Yeshua ben Yusuf, Jesus' name in Hebrew (it's a cognate of "Joshua").
    • The Tsingani are quite clearly based on the Roma, with words very similar to those in Romani, their wandering customs, reputations, taboos and trades.
    • Caerdicca Unitas is Renaissance Italy: a confederation of loosely allied city-states speaking a version of Italian.
    • Khebbel-im-Akkad is essentially Ottoman Turkey, except straddling the Fertile Crescent and Iran. It's also still pagan (following the Mesopotamian pantheon), Islam never having arisen in the series. It rules over Drujan, which is Zoroastrian and located in the real-life location of Azerbaijan.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Eventually Double Subverted in Naamah's Kiss, where an alchemist invents the first gunpowder weapons. This is later restored through wiping the memory of everyone who knew how they worked to stop them being used again.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The first trilogy starts with a takeoff of Judeo-Christian mythology, especially The Four Gospels, being the literal origin story for Terre d'Ange, then adds Dreaming of Things to Come in the Alban royal family's Celtic bloodline. Avatar incorporates a literal version of Zoroastrian mythology in the Mahrkagir story arc, then we start to get spells cast by mortals in Justice, and by the Naamah trilogy it becomes a setting relatively high in magic.
  • Fantasy World Map: Each book in the series has them, even though they're renamed versions of Europe, North Africa and Asia with names that make the Fantasy Counterpart Culture even more obvious.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Hyacinthe, poor guy.
  • Fertile Feet: Blessed Elua according to legends. This is similar to the Real Life story of Buddha.
  • Flower Motifs: Each of the houses/themes of the Night Court are inspired by flowers and all adepts have to earn a flower tattoo in order to finish their indentured servitude.
  • Fictional Colour: Sangoire, which is described as "a red so dark and saturated it was almost black, the color of blood spilled on a moonless night."
    Delaunay: The color is called sangoire. Thelesis told me that in the seventh century after Elua, it was decreed that only anguissettes might wear it.
  • Fiery Redhead: Favrielle no Eglantine who is also a bit of an Insufferable Genius when it comes to designing clothes.
  • Feuding Families: Happens frequently between the Great Houses of Terre d'Ange and occasionally other nations. Examples include House Trevalion plotting against House Courcel, House Courcel plotting against a different branch of House Courcel, and the L'Envers-Stregazza feud that ends with Dominic Stregazza's assassination. There's also House Shahrizai and House Morhban, who are always engaged in a power struggle for the rule of Kusheth.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Happens when Raphael de Mereliot nurses Moirin back to health after accidentally hitting her with his carriage. Moirin is instantly attracted to him and doesn't hesitate to make her move once she's recovered.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: Elua for Terre d'Ange. House Courcel can trace their lineage back to him.
  • The Fundamentalist: In Naamah's Curse Moirin is abducted and taken to Vralia (read: Russia) by a Yeshuite patriarch (read: Orthodox Christian bishop). There he offers her the choice of conversion or being put to death as a witch, with a long argument where he calls her sexual practices filthy and disgusting. He's also fighting hard against a more liberal, forgiving interpretation of his religion's doctrine.

  • Geas: The Master of the Straits controls the ocean between Alba and Terra d'Ange with ancient magic, and is bound under geas to prevent anyone from crossing for all eternity. He will resist this command for those who sing new songs for him, and for a time this is the only way to cross the Straits without sinking. The geas is later eased by the union of Ysandre and Drustan, a love that dares the Straits much like in the story of his curse, although this also allows the Master to pass his curse to another. At the end of the first trilogy, Phedre uses the Name of God to force the angel who set the geas to lift it completely.
  • Genre-Busting: The series has a loosely Historical Fantasy setting—an Alternate History High Middle Ages Western Europe with a focus on France—but all the books have significant erotica and thriller components. The Phèdre trilogy is part High Fantasy, part Spy Fiction, the Imriel trilogy is part Coming of Age Story, part Romance Novel, while the Moirin trilogy is mainly adventure fiction.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: Perhaps an explanation for the lengthy sections between Moirin and Jehanne and Moirin and Snow Tiger. Also the celestial Dragon in Snow Tiger is either of this opinion or a Yuri Fan. His comment when Snow Tiger decides that she's not too different from D'Angelines.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: The prisoners on La Dolorosa are imprisoned in solitary confinement, often for years. Most are driven insane over the years, with behavior ranging from talking to themselves or people who aren't there and self-harm. Phedra also begins to experience it during her stay there.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Phèdre journeys to Alba to enlist the Albans' aid against the Skaldi in Dart.
  • Good Parents: Actually more than the other kind for a fantasy of this nature. In particular, Ysandre and Drustan are wonderful with their children.
  • Government in Exile: Drustan and his mother and sisters are hiding out with the Dalriada, due to his cousin, the old Cruarch's son, seizing power.
  • Graceful Loser: When Phèdre appears to testify against Melisande, Melisande quickly gives in, knowing she is beaten... and then subverted when she breaks out of prison that night.
  • Green Thumb: Moirin's power through Anael's line let's her talk to plants and make them grow.

  • Happily Adopted: Imriel by Phèdre and Joscelin.
  • Harmful to Minors: Everything that happens to Imriel in Darsanga. The trauma stays with him well into adulthood.
  • Healing Hands: Raphael and Master Lo Feng from Naamah's Kiss.
  • Heir Club for Men: After Rolande dies, there is some of this problem in Terre d'Ange. Ysandre can inherit, and is next in line for the throne, but some people prefer to support her cousin Baudoin de Trevalion simply because he's a man.
  • Hero of Another Story: A few examples, but most prominently Micah Ben Ximon and the Yeshuite pilgrims from Kushiel's Chosen, who later reappear in Kushiel's Justice. Not to mention the result in Naamah's Curse...
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Imriel carries on an affair with red-haired Claudia in Scion.
  • Heroic Bastard: All of Grainne's children, but particularly Eamonn mac Grainne who becomes a good friend of Imriel's and fights at the siege of Lucca.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Isidore d'Aiglemort's death after dueling and killing Selig.
  • Heroic Seductress: A lot of problems in the first trilogy are solved by having Phèdre find the right person to sleep with. This ranges from seducing an on-the-fence admiral to infiltrating the harem of a horrific dictator.
  • Hidden Depths: The first time Phèdre really gets to see Ysandre, she notices that while the Dauphine is very young, she is also the perfect example of Cereus House's beauty with inner steel.
    • Throughout Imriel's trilogy, the Duc Barquiel L'Envers is deeply mistrustful towards Imriel, to the point of antagonism. But in Justice, we see Barquiel's hidden depths when he recognizes Imriel's own: Imriel isn't motivated by power, only by a selfless, sincere love for Sidonie—- and that's a motivation the Duc can respect.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Melisande's plan to escape into La Serenissima in Kushiel's Chosen relied on this trope. Her looks were too striking that any body looking for her would have an easy time spotting her. She decided to walk out in the open as Prince Benedicte's new D'Angeline wife who wore a veil because of her faith in the goddess Asherat.
  • High-Class Call Girl: Phèdre definitely qualifies at this through the first book and first half of the second book.
  • Historical Fantasy: It's basically a Europe and the Mediterranean where the Gospel narrative was literally true but took a very different turn after the Crucifixion. Works of high magic and Physical Gods are reasonably common, but there's little small-scale magic.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Joscelin does this a lot, especially where his Cassiline vows are concerned—however, Phèdre knocks this out of him eventually.
    • Phèdre has shades of this as well, given that she's willing to give herself up to a madman's seraglio because of an oath she gave her greatest enemy and her devotion to her gods.
  • Hunting "Accident": Happens in the backstory of Kushiel's Dart, albeit not with a weapon - before a hunt, the saddle on the horse Dauphin's fiancée, Edmée de Rocaille, was to ride was tampered with, and she had a fatal fall.

  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On:
    • Phèdre is an anguissette and cursed to feel pain and pleasure as one. Any bit of pain will register as pleasure for her. So when she had to get her marque worked on in Dart she was reduced to an orgasm laden mess. The guy doing the job even complains about how annoying it is to work on someone who is constantly writhing in ecstasy while he's trying to apply the tattoo, just like his grandfather (who did the last anguissette's marque) told him.
    • This happens again in Chosen when Favrielle accidentally sticks Phèdre with a pin, causing Phèdre to have quite the reaction that actually renders Favrielle of all people speechless.
  • I Gave My Word:
    • It comes up a lot, but Melisande takes it to catchphrase levels with "I keep my promises."
    • Moirin gets this a lot too, given that she's descended from The Fair Folk that killed Imriel's pregnant wife.
  • I Have No Son!: Two instances in Dart.
    • Phèdre's mother sells her to Cereus House, and is forced to basically deny that Phèdre is her child. Liliane doesn't say these words, but she does push Phèdre at the Dowayne in a way that says she's disowning her.
    • Hyacinthe finally finds his people, and meets his grandfather. However, when he speaks the dromonde which is strictly taboo for Tsingani men, his grandfather declares him and his mother dead and everyone begins to mourn with Hyacinthe still standing right there.
  • IKEA Erotica: This becomes a characterization point. Imriel is not comfortable with his sexuality. Phèdre is very comfortable with hers.
  • Improvised Weapon: Most notably, the hairpin that Phèdre uses to kill the Mahrkagir.
  • Indentured Servitude: The Houses in the City of Elua and some private parties in Terre d'Ange will take in children, training them as high-class prostitutes, paying off the debt by doing so and freed when their term is completed (signified by the completion of a tattoo that runs the length of their backs). Both Phèdre and Alcuin are bonded as this, and Phèdre once buys out the indenture of a girl who suffered a facial injury before she could complete her term of service and couldn't get any more customers because of the scar. Later, Phèdre goes on to fix the holes in the rules that result in a situation like that. Further, they aren't allowed to have sex with anyone before turning sixteen and the laws are strict on consent-they cannot be forced without it being legally rape, while the profession in general is highly respected, with legal protection.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: The D'Angelines, who impress every other people with their beauty. It's because they're descended from rogue angels.
  • In the Blood: Almost every character has a significant level of their personality determined by their ancestry. This is justified, though, since the progenitors of the D'Angelines were angelic embodiments of various traits. It's not as explicit with other nationalities, but by and large every deity is assumed to be (or was once) a physical presence in the world, so their people could have their traits written literally into their genome.
  • Insufferable Genius: Favrielle nó Eglantine is a brilliant seamstress, but she has a caustic and impatient personality.
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople): All of the country, and more than a few ethnic names are older and/or foreign words for easily recognizable places.
  • In-Universe Catharsis: In Kushiel's Dart, Phèdre goes to the temple of Kushiel to atone for her role in the death of her master and the things she had to do when a captive of the Skaldi. Kushiel himself is said to be the patron of a very harsh mercy, attended by masked priests and priestesses who inflict painful rituals on those who come seeking atonement.
  • It's Not You, It's Me: Imriel pulls this on Sidonie in Justice. Joscelin and Phèdre exchanged this occasionally.
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: Sidonie and Imriel do this to each other in Justice as well. Then again, given her position, and his mother's, possibly reasonable.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Joscelin with Phèdre at points (and Phèdre right back at times). Imriel and Sidonie, as well.

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Joscelin and Bao both. However, once Phèdre takes the stick out of Joscelin's ass, and Moirin smoothes off Bao's rough edges, this disappears.
  • Just Between You and Me: Explored with regard to Melisande. For her, it's really all about the scheming, manipulation, and Magnificent Bastardry. She does it very well, and she wants someone to see and appreciate that. Delaunay was a similarly-skilled schemer, if rather more heroic. He and Phèdre are the only people Melisande believes might fully appreciate her plots. To her, the game is more important than the outcome, and playing well is more important than winning. And so for this reason, she sometimes divulges small portions of information regarding to her schemes to Delaunay, and later Phèdre.
    Phèdre: [to Delaunay about her recent encounter with Melisande] Every artist craves an audience, my lord, and she has chosen you. Whatever is to occur, it is her desire that you know she is its architect.
  • Karma Houdini: Melisande Shahrizai for the most part; she's just too good at Xanatos Speed Chess for karma to catch up to her. She escapes punishment, but she doesn't get her son.
  • Kissing Cousins: Sidonie and Imriel, with a good bit more than kissing going on. They're actually first cousins twice removed, though, a bit more distant. Still it's close enough that their families expected them to view each other in a more familial way and were caught off guard by what developed.
  • Lady in Red: Phèdre sometimes does this on assignations to play up her unique role as an anguissette.
    • Even when she wears other colors, at least in Dart she also wears a cloak a color D'Angelines call "sangoire" a red so deep it is almost black (indeed, the word is a portmanteau of the French words for "blood" and "black.")
    • During her very first assignation with Childric d'Essoms, Phèdre dresses in a red gown.
    • The Midwinter Masque in Kushiel's Chosen, which she plays up by wearing a gown that exposes her entire back, letting all the peerage of Terre d'Ange know that she is returning to Naamah's Service.
  • Lessons in Sophistication: Phedre's childhood is filled with these. In the Night Court, she receives lessons in etiquette and comportment to prepare her for life as a High-Class Call Girl; after adopting her, Anafiel Delaunay expands the curriculum to include arts and sciences, languages, espionage, self-defense, and the arts of love.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: The Cassiline Brotherhood are sworn only to get their swords out to kill (normally, they use daggers and vambraces). You'd better believe that when they do, things are going to get VERY dangerous. Especially if it's Joscelin, and doubly especially if Phèdre is in peril.
  • Libation for the Dead: Traditional in Alba. Drustan does the honors most of the time.
  • Light Equals Hope: The zenana comes together for the first time to pry the boards off the garden door, letting sunlight in. It's the first instance of defiance against the Mahrkagir & signifies that perhaps their situation is not quite as hopeless as it seems.
  • Like Brother and Sister:
    • Anafiel Delaunay and Edmée de Rocaille, despite some people's suspicions otherwise.
    • Phèdre and Hyacinthe start off like this as kids, though their feelings don't stay entirely platonic.
    • Imriel and Alais: but in this case it really is like that, no romantic undertones at all. (Well, as far as this series goes, anyway.)
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Played with; Terre d'Ange's monarchy passes patrilineally, but the king only has one granddaughter, who proceeds to have two daughters of her own. Meanwhile, in Alba, inheritance passes from uncle to nephew, although this is later revealed to be motivated by the male rulers not trusting that their wives' sons are actually theirs, and preserving the lineage through their sisters. Meanwhile Imriel's significant lineage comes from both sides of his family.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: Averted. D'Angeline men typically have long hair and it isn't considered feminine. Played straight in other countries where Joscelin is considered girly for having long hair.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: Nearly every D'Angeline man qualifies.
  • Loophole Abuse: The spirits in Naamah's Kiss do this to avoid giving usable answers to their summoners, as they really dislike being under any human's control.
    • Moirin does this as well to let Jehanne know about her promise to Raphael and get help to get out of it.
  • Love at First Punch:
    • Well, she never actually hits him, but Sidonie's snarkiness is one of the first things that attracts Imriel to her.
    • The verbal version of this is also a big factor in Moirin and Bao's attraction.
  • Love Hurts: The later half of Scion, and most of Justice, deal with Imriel and this. Not to mention Phèdre and Joscelin's rocky start in Dart and Chosen.
    • Also shows up in the Naamah series. Could be considered an underlying theme of the universe.
    • ”Love is hard. Harder than steel and thrice as cruel.”
  • Love Ruins the Realm:
    • One of the prime arguments against Imriel and Sidonie's relationship in the second trilogy. (No one is really bothered about them being relatives: Terre d'Ange is that kind of place. They aren't that closely related, anyway... Sidonie is his first cousin once removed-it's a complicated family.)
    • It comes roaring into play in the Naamah trilogy. If Daniel and Jehanne didn't love each other quite so much, Jehanne's death probably wouldn't have crushed her husband's spirit so much—which ends up causing many of the conflicts in Naamah's Blessing.
    • Averted in Dart: Queen Ysandre of Terre d'Ange and Cruarch (King) Drustan of Alba fall in love. Their alliance crushes the invading Skaldi and brings peace to both countries.

  • Made a Slave: Phèdre is enslaved by the Skaldi in Kushiel's Dart. Both she and Imriel are made slaves of the Marhkagir in Kushiel's Avatar.
  • The Magnificent: Alais is known as Alais the Wise in the third trilogy. Many Skaldi have one after their name. There's a lampshade hanging when Phèdre wonders what Harald the Beardless would be called when he's old enough to grow a beard.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Phèdre becomes one to Imriel after she finds him, to the point that she strong-arms the queen into letting her adopt him.
    • While Imriel very much has his doubts, Melisande would do anything for him.
  • The Masochism Tango: Phèdre and Joscelin's relationship to a T at first. However, it tones down eventually, once Joscelin loosens up, and Phèdre stops getting yanked around by Melisande every three seconds.
  • Masquerade Ball: Terre d'Ange celebrates the winter solstice by having masked balls and celebrations. Typically Phèdre attends in a Pimped-Out Dress of some sort.
  • Master Swordsman: Several, most notably Joscelin. It's noted in Kushiel's Chosen that he's better than even the most practiced of the Cassiline Brothers for a very good reason—he's fought for his life many more times than they have.
  • May–December Romance: Delaunay, already an adult and battle veteran, rescues Alcuin as an infant. After adopting and raising him, and remaining quite oblivious to Alcuin's feelings until Phèdre drops a reveal on him, Delaunay relents when Alcuin makes a move on him and the two start an adult relationship.
  • Meaningful Appearance: Moirin's eyes are often mentioned to be jade-green and she is regularly called a bear-witch. Her ability to talk to plants fits in the nature aspect nicely.
  • Meaningful Echo: Kinda. After the second book Melisande's reply to Phèdre's accusation of treason gets said in one form or another at least once per book. It's usually mentioned that Melisande said it first.
    • Original quote
    Melisande: Elua cared naught for mortal politics, nor did Kushiel.
    • Notable one in Scion
    Sidonie: It's not that simple!
    Imriel: No, it's not. Mayhap if we obeyed Blessed Elua's precept, it would be. Elua cared naught for thrones or mortal politics.
    • Even Ysandre, ever Melisande's target, has to acknowledge them in Mercy, as she publicly confronts Imriel's and Sidonie's relationship
    Ysandre: Blessed Elua cared naught for crowns and thrones. Those words, I am told, were spoken by Melisande Shahrizai.
    • And the third trilogy continues the trend
    Jehanne: Elua bids us to love as we will. And I do. Why isn't that enough? Why does it have to be so damned complicated.
    Moirin: We're the ones who make it that way. Blessed Elua cared naught for crowns or thrones.
  • Medieval Stasis: Averted in some aspects, enforced in others. Science and technology barely advance at all from the beginning of the first trilogy to the end of the second; in the third, set approximately a century later, European ships can now cross the Atlantic and medical science has advanced to the point that vaccination has been invented (and is used to prevent the plague-driven depopulation caused in our history when European diseases were introduced to the Americas), but the invention and use of cannons in warfare is explicitly averted by a divinely-mandated destiny.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard:
  • And Jehanne, in a way, given that she's Moirin's sexual mentor.
  • Metaphorically True: A few times, but especially with Melisande.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Joscelin admits that this is the case of noble families who end up pledging a son to the Cassilines. The eldest stay because they are the heir to the domain. The youngest stay to comfort their mothers. It's then a middle son who ends up being pledged to the order.
  • Million to One Chance: Phèdre nó Delaunay is very frequently told (or admits herself) that her plans are madness and suicide. Yet, with the exception of a few Unwitting Pawn moments, they always work.
  • Mordor: Drujan, frequently called the kingdom that died and lives. Its fields are dying, the civilians starving and surviving on grim hatred. The Mahrkagir is making it a barren place intentionally, to feed their god's power.
    Gashtaham: Angra Mainyu, we stand before you to profess our faith. Of this world we are created, and in death we are reborn in your name. The works of Ahura Mazda, we abjure! His livestock, we starve and slaughter; his earth we salt and render barren.
  • Multi-Melee Master: Joscelin, and by exension, all Cassilines. They dual-wield daggers when they're not trying to kill you—and a two-handed sword for when they absolutely, positively must send someone back to their maker. Preferably in pieces.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • The backstory that transformed Delaunay from being a Crown Prince's consort to the man known as Whoremaster of Spies.
    • This also applies to Lo Feng - his failure to raise his biological son right is what later allows Snow Tiger to be possessed by the celestial Dragon and the creation of Divine Thunder (cannons).
  • Mysterious Protector: Canis for Imriel in Scion. Turns out Melisande sent him.
  • Mysterious Veil: In Chosen, Prince Benedicte's new wife in La Serinissima takes the Veil of Asherat, the local sea-goddess, as a symbol of her finding refuge there. While true in every respect, it's really Melisande under an assumed name, which lets her pull off a Hidden in Plain Sight.

  • No Accounting for Taste: This is stated to be the realm at large's opinion of Phèdre's relationship with Joscelin. Then, later, their reaction to Moirin and Jehanne.
  • Non-Heteronormative Society: The D'Angeline society is very open about sexual freedom, to the point of Everyone Is Bi, especially among the nobility. Certain forms of prostitution are also considered to be a sacred calling, and there is a highly respected Band of Brothels called the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers that operates as a form of nobility in their own right.
  • No Periods, Period: In Terre d'Ange women can only become pregnant if they pray to Eisheth, a fertility goddess to open their wombs, and then the Goddess may or may not grant this wish. So essentially no one has a menstrual cycle until then, and no one has to worry about unwanted pregnancy unless they change their mind. Be Careful What You Wish For.
  • Noodle Incident: In Dart when Phèdre first meets Melisande, Delaunay keeps Melisande silent about his second pupil by reminding her "Do you want Cousin Ogier to know why his son cancelled his wedding at the last moment?" This is never spoken of again. We don't even get to find out who this Cousin Ogier is.
  • Not Hyperbole: The Mahrkagir's iron rod is, in fact, just that. It's iron and spiked and covered with the dried blood of the women he's raped with it.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Subverted. Several times, Phèdre has been placed in situations where she has been forced into sex with another person. She mentions the worst part of the experience is always the humiliation of enjoying it.
  • Not Worth Killing: Inverted. Instead of killing Phèdre, Melisande continuously deals her more merciful punishments, like selling her to slavery, trapping her in the worst prison in the world, etc. because legend has it that a descendant of Kushiel who kills a bearer of Kushiel's Dart suffers ten-thousand years of torment in the afterlife. This is a smart decision in a world where gods and angels are proven to exist. Rather than not being worth killing, Phèdre is too valuable to kill. That, and the fact that Melisande just finds her too much fun as a sex slave.
  • The Oath-Breaker:
    • Joscelin, in a largely heroic example. Cassilines swear many oaths, loyalty to their order, to never abandon their charge, to never draw their sword unless they need to kill to defend their charge, to remain celibate, among others. Being sold into slavery to the Skaldi, Joscelin is forced to break most of his vows to keep Phèdre safe and get them both home, having refused to abandon her and escape himself. He is finally forced to break his last vow and abandon the Cassiline order (who wanted him in custody to atone) in order to continue protecting Phèdre, holding his oath to never abandon her above all the others. Ironically, the Cassiline's mythology of their patron angel Cassiel features a very similar choice.
    • Played straight and invoked with the Unforgiven, a military squad sworn to a traitor lord that allowed the Skaldi to invade. The survivors of the attack that turned back the Skaldi are sworn to atone by forever guarding and holding the Skaldi passes, and also to follow Kushiel's Chosen on Earth, Phèdre (who is flabbergasted on hearing this). Phèdre later asks them to abandon their posts and march with Ysandre to retake the City of Elua, referencing Joscelin's choice of breaking one vow to hold a higher one.
  • Official Couple:
    • Joscelin and Phèdre become lovers in the third act of Dart, and she officially names him as her consort after they break up, then get back together in Chosen. The response from Queen Ysandre: "Finally!"
    • Imriel and Sidonie have an affair for several months before he has to leave for an Arranged Marriage. After he's widowed and a lot of other stuff happens, they get back together.
  • Older Sidekick: Imriel seems to get a new one in every book to help him out.
  • Omniglot: Phèdre picks up 13 languages over the first three books, most of which she learned while traveling. Imriel can speak almost that many. Justified in that once you've picked up three or four languages, the rest become somewhat easier—especially if you're dealing with "Romance languages" that have similar pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar.
  • One-Hit Kill: The main power of the Aka Magi, who can kill with a glance. Because of how ridiculously powerful that is it only took a small number of them to kill Khebbel-im-Akkad's entire invading army.
  • Oracular Urchin: Hyacinthe, sorta.
  • Orphanage of Love: Imriel grows up in the Temple of Elua, living a very simple and happy existence.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Blessed Elua and his Companions. It is outright stated that the companions were angels of God. They are treated as gods by some of the mortals of the books, though.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Naamah's Kiss has a traditional Chinese dragon.

  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Examples that go unnoticed in-universe:
    • Melisande's escape from Troyes-le-Mont is assisted by her cousin Persia visiting her single-room cell, swapping clothes with her, and walking out. Made more plausible since the Shahrizai family all have a similarly distinctive appearance (deep black hair with bluish highlights, to start), although Melisande is supposed to stand out as a beauty even among them. This lets her roam the fortress at will arranging the rest of her escape, and her cell guards are killed before Persia is discovered.
    • Imriel copies Melisande's simple trick in Avatar, swapping clothes with another kid to ditch his escort back to Terra d'Ange, which only needs to work long enough for their ship to set sail. He stows away on Phèdre's boat instead, joining their journey to Jebe-Barkal and beyond, because he's come to love and trust them, although it's noted this will definitely make people believe he's his mother's son.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • This is particularly common in the Delaunay household. Delaunay, Alcuin, Phèdre, and Guy are all without parents.
    • Ysandre's parents die when she is a child.
  • Parental Favoritism: Lyonette openly and obviously prefers her son Baudoin to her daughter Bernadette.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: The entire second trilogy pretty much revolves around getting over this for Sidonie and Imriel.
  • Parental Substitute: Delaunay acts as a father of sorts for Phèdre and Alcuin, as well as teacher and pimp (and, for Alcuin, lover).
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: In Dart Melisande hires Cereus House as the setting for her lover Prince Baudoin's birthday party. Longest Night parties, for courtesans, are similar.
  • Patricide:
    • In Dart, though Drustan is the Cruarch's heir he is forced to flee when the Cruarch's son kills his father and takes his title.
    • Daeva Gashtaham murdered his own father and ate his heart in order to become an Aka-Magus and receive power over death.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Ysandre and Drustan. Also Nicola and her husband.
  • Pet the Dog: The Mahrkagir literally has a dog statue which he gives to Phèdre because he loves her. Also Melisande's love for Imriel.
  • Pimped-Out Dress/Costume Porn:
    • Phèdre spends a while waxing lyrical about her dress before every fete, ball, masque or other special occasion. The red dress and velvet cloak for her first assignation comes to mind. When she anounces that her return to being a servant of Naamah she wears a gown with a low back that shows her tattoo, to show she means business. Phèdre gets really dressed up on the night she plans to kill the Mahrkagir with her hair-pin.
    • Other characters get to wear these as well, especially in the books that don't have Phèdre as a main character.
  • Pining After Protagonist's Parent: Delaunay is determined to help and protect Ysandre because Ysandre's late father Rolande was the great love of Delaunay's life.
  • Platonic Prostitution:
    • In addition to being Servants of Namaah, the adepts of Eglatine House are cross-trained in a variety of performing arts (singing, dancing, acrobatics etc) and are frequently employed en masse for those skills alone.
    • In Chosen, the Doge asks Phedre to sing and play the harp for him, and gives her a patron gift to honour Naamah aferwards, remarking that if he weren't an old man, he might have honoured the goddess differently...)
  • Plot Tailored to the Party: Phèdre is able to solve a lot of problems by having sex with people, but equally, if not more important, are her skills as a clever spy, linguist, and diplomat.
  • Plunder: A historical "foraging" example is brought up when the Alban army gathers for war regularly taking food from the local peasants who are said to grumble. Waldemar Selig's invasion of Terre d'Ange is a more orthodox example as several works of art as well as gold and jewels are said to be taken from various temples and cities as well as the slaves they take as well.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Eamonn and Grainne mac Conor. The brother digs in his heels and plays it safe while the sister runs headlong at challenges.
  • Position of Literal Power: The Master of the Straits originally a Geas(see above) the position does allow the original holder to pass the position on without receiving too much of the original curse. You're just stuck on the original island and you can decide the amount of traffic on the straits given your control of the sea and the weather.
  • The Power of Love:
    • Might as well be a physical force equal to gravity in this series.
    • It does get twisted from time to time. For example, the source of the Aka Magi's powers over death comes from them sacrificing and eating the heart of a person they truly love. This is also the key to why the Mahrkagir is vulnerable to Phèdre. He loves her, and if he performs the ritual sacrifice, he will unleash the full fury of his God. The fact he wants to do this is the only thing that allows Phèdre to get him alone long enough to kill him.
  • Pregnant Badass: Grainne rode into battle against the Skaldi while only a few weeks pregnant with her future son Eamonn. Ysandre in particular finds this fascinating and horrifying.
  • Proud Scholar Race: The Siovalese have this reputation in Terre d'Ange. They are known for being great scholars and engineers.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy:
    • This defines no less than three of the nations that are not Terre d'Ange: the Eiran, the Albans, and the Skaldi. After their defeat by Terre d'Ange and the Albans, the Skaldi mutate into a trade power rather like Germany did, seeking to gain through gold what they couldn't through force of arms.
    • In Terre d'Ange, the Camaelines are credited with only being to think with their swords before one of their leaders turns out to be Melisande's traitor. The Skaldi, meanwhile, are never credited with thinking, swords or otherwise. Then, their leader also turns out to be working with Melisande. Hmm, notice a pattern here?
    • Drustan and Eamonn fit this trope although both are very clever and thoughful men. It's more about how other people preceive them as being couth or uncultured.
    • Waldemar Selig tries to avert this. He dreams of ruling over a sophisticated empire, but the Skaldi care too much for fighting and drinking to pose a threat to Terre d'Ange, until he unites them under one kingdom. But even he loses his head in the heat of battle at Troyes-le-Mont...
  • Psycho Serum: Imriel gets a surprise dose of this in Kushiel's Mercy. Ironically, being flat out of his head for a month turns out to be the best thing for him, given the situation that he's in. Being mad for a month was part of his mother's plan to make him immune to the spell being cast on everyone else in the city.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: Darsanga.
  • Punny Name: Berlik (pronounced bear-lic) the servant of a bear-god who can turn himself into a bear.
  • Purple Prose: Justified. Phèdre's an active courtesan-spy trained to observe details and appreciate beauty, so it makes sense that her inner dialogue would contain lots of description. Fortunately, Carey's prose style, while detailed, is rarely unintelligible, and anyone who's above an 8th-grade reading level should be able to undertstand it. Imriel uses his infiltration skills less, and so his POV is less detailed. And Moirin, who spends the first 15 years of her life in the wilderness and finds the D'Angeline pre-occupation with looks silly has even less description than Imriel's.

  • Queer Romance: Phédre and Moirin are both bisexual. They have romances and sex with women in their respective trilogies (although with less focus than the straight relationships). Some gay male romances also occur, though off page.
  • The Quest: Even though the first trilogy is mostly political in nature, each book centers around one or more quests that require the protagonists to travel far from home.
  • Raised by Rival: After Melisande is imprisoned, her son Imriel is first raised by monks, then fostered by the heroine Phédre and her lover Joscelin. It's a surprisingly happy arrangement: Phédre and Joscelin love Imriel as a son, Imriel reciprocates, and Melisande trusts her Worthy Opponent to raise Imriel well.
  • Rape as Drama: As soon as Phèdre is taken out of Terre d'Ange, she goes from willing courtesan to constant rape victim. The fact that her curse forces her to enjoy it makes it even more hellish for her.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Especially when Terre d'Ange regards it as not just a crime, but heresy.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Phèdre nó Delaunay and Melisande Shahrizai. Phèdre describes her skin as being "a perfectly acceptable shade of ivory" and her hair as "sable-in-shadows." Melisande is described as having alabaster skin and hair so black that it gleams blue under light. Being D'Angeline they are automatically beautiful, but even among D'Angelines Phèdre is a highly desired courtesan and Melisande is regarded as being one of the most beautiful women alive. The kind of beautiful that inspires people to write poetry about her.
  • Red Light District: Night's Doorstep is where you go when you want some company but can't possibly afford the Night Court.
  • Redemption Equals Death: In Kushiel's Dart, Isidore d'Aiglemort goes on a suicide mission to avoid being remembered as a traitor (and foil the plans of Chess Master, Melisande).
  • Religion of Evil: The worship of Angra Mainyu in Drujan. Their faith is literally a rebellion against good, and their priesthood encourages defilement and death. They believe the Mahrkagir is their god's avatar on earth.
    Gashtaham: We embrace darkness and the lie, abhorring all truths. Your three-fold path, we walk in faith: ill thoughts, ill words, ill deeds. Let your presence among us be made manifest, and your will spread, until the hearts of all mankind seek only destruction, and brother turns upon brother, and all is laid waste.
  • Rescue Romance:
    • Subverted. Imriel attempts to save Sidonie from a boar, but it turns out to be just a deer.
    • Reversed both ways with Joscelin and Phèdre. Joscelin's one of the best fighters in the series and saves Phèdre countless times, but his Cassiline arrogance and idealism couldn't mentally prepare him for the harsh realities of Skaldic slavery. He would have starved himself out of humiliation if Phèdre hadn't snapped him out of it. And while Joscelin's not dumb, he's not Delaunay-trained either. Phèdre's observation and subterfuge skills are key to many of their plans.
  • Revealing Cover Up: In Chosen, the veterans of Troyes-le-Mont in La Serenissima all declare that they saw Barquiel L'Envers together with Persia the night of the escape. Phedre knows Persia was actually Melisande, and is fully ready to accuse Barquiel of treason... until Fortun notes that every veteran said the same thing the same way, like it was rehearsed, and feigned ignorance of the only other veteran they hadn't found yet, information a less involved guard was quickly able to supply.
  • River of Insanity: The journey through the Amazon in Naamah's Blessing.
  • Roguish Romani: The series has a semi-historical fantasy setting featuring the Roma analogs, the Tsingani (which is the Russian word for "Gypsies") or "Travellers". They're pretty stereotypical (bright clothes, dancing, champion horse-breeders, stealing from the non-Travellers, and some Tsingani women can see the future) but the way they're treated is at least mentioned. Hyacinthe, the most important Tsingani character met in the first book (who's actually only half-Tsingani), actively plays on the stereotypical depictions of his people to promote his mother's fortune-telling business (as well as his own) and to become a fixer and owner of a horse stable.
  • Romanticized Abuse: Melisande and Phèdre's relationship certainly qualifies. Arguably a subversion, as Melisande is a villain.
  • Rope Bridge: In Kushiel's Chosen, island prison La Dolorosa is connected to the mainland only by a rope bridge, which has two guards on the island side armed with axes, who can cut the bridge long before anybody gets across. Joscelin's solution? Climb along the underside of the bridge.
  • Royal Blood: Very important, to the point that those of the royal line are called Princes and Princesses of the Blood.
  • Royal Brat: Mostly averted with Imriel-who was raised in an orphanage for most of his life-and played mostly straight Jehanne's daughter. In the latter case, she mostly just needs people who know how to handle her.
  • Royal Inbreeding: Imriel de la Courcel falls in love with and eventually marries Princess Sidonie de la Courcel. Imriel is the son of Sidonie's great-uncle, making them first cousins once removed.

  • Sacred Scripture: As the worshipers of Namaah consider sex an act of worship, the Trois Milles Joies (an in-universe version of the Kama Sutra) may be considered one.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Dorelei, Alcuin, and Delaunay.
  • Safe Word: Known as a signale. Not heeding it is considered heresy.
  • School of Seduction: The Court of Night-Blooming Flowers.
  • Screw Destiny: Phèdre's reaction to Hyacinthe's fate in the first trilogy. Succeeds, of course. Joscelin after deciding he can't live without Phèdre in Chosen.
  • Scream Discretion Shot:
    • Kushiel's Dart has a scene where Phèdre is drugged and then tortured by Melisande Shahrizai. It's described by Phèdre as not being rape because Melisande would have heeded the signale. We only hear Phèdre's very short and non-explicit summary of it, which is bad enough.
    • Melisande is shown to respect the gods and avoid blasphemy, so it’s entirely possible she would have heeded the ‘’signale’’. It’s also possible that Phedre was rationalizing. It was her first (though certainly not her last) experience with non-consensual sex, and it was with someone she had very complicated feelings for. It may have been easier to cope by believing Melisande wouldn’t really cross the line and that she, Phedre, had retained a kernel of control and self determination. It’s also one of the few encounters Phedre relates in distant and vague terms. Even the events with the Mahrkagir are described in detail. Melisande’s treatment of her may be the one thing she couldn’t face directly.
  • Secret Relationship: Sidonie and Imriel are like this when they actually hook up. It doesn't last long though.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Zigzags in the case of Imriel and the Maghuin Dhonn. They foresee the possibility of a terrible future, and at first all their attempts to avert it make it more likely and worse. However, in the end, they do manage to change the course of fate... but at a terrible price.
  • Semi-Divine: The D'Angeline people are like this; descended from God's grandson and his angelic companions.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Patrons pay extra to take the virginity of a new courtesan. And it's typically part of an aristocrat's 16th birthday celebration for them to visit the Night Court for the first time.
  • Sex God:
    • Any of Terre d'Ange's courtesans, due to the glorification of prostitution as sacred. Special mention goes to Phèdre.
    • Taken very literally in the case of Naamah, though she's more of a Sex Angel than a Sex God.
  • Sex Slave: The woman of the Mahrkagir's harem, who come from a variety of nations and whom Phedre is briefly part of before they are liberated. Also the women of the Falconer's harem.
  • Sexual Karma: But S&M is subsumed under this umbrella and Imriel needs to accept and explore his sadistic side in order to accept his sexuality. Basically, especially in Terre d'Ange, the only "bad sex" is rape. If it's consensual and nobody dies (or is seriously injured: Phedre is once yelled at by Anafiel for letting a client burn her with a hot fireplace poker and ordered to use her safeword next time) and everyone has fun, it's good for D'Angelines!
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Phèdre wears such a gown in Chosen. All courtesans from the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers must earn their marque, a tattoo covering the entire back, in order to complete their debt of servitude towards their House. It's considered unseemly for an adept to bare her back in public before her marque is complete. After the marque is completed, baring it is considered a declaration that he or she is taking offers.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat:
    • This is played with in the series. Phèdre and the aristocrats she contends with tend to be intelligent, well-educated, and extremely cunning in high society and politics. Very few people are as naive as this trope. However when faced with people who are not as well off, they genuinely don't understand what daily life is like for the masses.
    • This is averted with Imriel, who grew up as a goat-herd orphan (and was then horribly abused), and thus tends to have a balanced view of upper and lower-class life, not to mention a deeper understanding than most of how dangerous the world is.
    • Alban and Skaldi aristocrats also tend to avert this, due to life generally being harder and closer to the earth in these countries.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Sidonie and Alais. Sidonie resembles their D'Angeline mother - blonde, fair-skinned, and cool to the point of being perceived as an Ice Queen. Alais resembles their Cruithne father, being brown-skinned, dark-haired, spirited, and considered to be not as well-mannered. Just like a real yin-yang, however, each one has a tiny bit of the other: Sidonie's eyes are black like Drustan's, Alais's are violet like Ysandre's.
  • Single-Precept Religion: "Love as thou wilt."
  • Siege Engines:
    • The Skaldi build siege towers for use during the siege of Troyes-le-Mont.
    • Most recently the 'Divine Thunder' (cannons) seen in Kiss.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: This is the canon of Cereus House, pale, fragile beauty with inner steel. Phèdre notes that this also perfectly describes Ysandre de la Courcel.
  • Silver Fox: Cecilie Laveau-Perrin, a former Cereus adept. She is in her fifties when Phèdre meets her, and is commonly believed to be just as lovely as she was in her youth, partly because her pale Cereus-canon hair has gone platinum.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Moirin and Bao bicker with each other right up until the point where they start having incredible sex.
  • Slave Brand: Imriel is Made a Slave, sold to a brutal sexual sadist, and is branded on the buttock at age 11. He's rescued, but the Scars are Forever and the trauma of the experience lingers well into his adulthood.
  • The Sleepless: Lucius when he was being possessed by Gallus. Imriel eventually challenged him to a duel just so his friend could rest for a night.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: A downplayed version in Chosen: In La Serenissima, Phedre's remarkable D'Angeline beauty makes her very recognizable when she needs to be undercover.
  • So Happy Together: Melisande and Phèdre towards the middle of Dart.
  • Someday This Will Come in Handy: Or as Delaunay and Phèdre like to say, "All knowledge is worth having."
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Maslin is this to his mother, who was pregnant with him when his father Isidore d'Aiglemort died.
  • Something Only They Would Say: In Kushiel's Mercy, even though Sidonie's under the influence of Fake Memories wiping out the memory of her boyfriend Imriel, and Imriel himself is a Manchurian Agent, the use of the word "always" when it comes up in conversation always (har) triggers something for them, which they eventually figure out.
  • Sorkin Relationship Moment: Imriel's relationship with Dorelei contains a number of these.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: Imriel gets stalked/harassed in various ways by a Maghuin Dhonn witch, who at one point thinks she can Screw Destiny by getting pregnant with Imriel's child. Boy, does he not want to.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers:
    • Joscelin and Phèdre are presented as this at first, as are Sidonie and Imriel. Moirin and Bao seem to be setting up for this as well
    • Anafiel Delaunay and Prince Rolande; it's the theme of the anthology where the short story was published.
  • STD Immunity: No one ever gets a venereal disease, nor are any mentioned, despite having unprotected sex whenever they wish.
  • Straight for the Commander: At the climax of Kushiel's Dart Isidore d'Aiglemort leads his army on a cavalry charge against the Skaldi, aiming to get to Waldemar Selig and kill him. They end up in a Mutual Kill.

  • Taking You with Me: Gallus, not to another person but to a flood when he returns to the underworld after protecting Lucca.
  • Targeted Human Sacrifice: The Âka-Magi must offer a sacrifice to Angra Mainyu to gain their powers over death. Specifically, they have to strangle someone they honestly love. Phèdre realizes the Mahrkagir, mad monster though he is, is falling for her, and connects the dots. Gashtaham plans to twist his love of her to make him not just the source of their death magic but a full priest in control of it, making them likely unstoppable.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works:
    • In Dart, Joscelin uses this in desperation after Selig's men catch up to them in Skaldia. Six on one and he's winning, but Phèdre kills the one taking her hostage, so the last man with a horse decides to off the easier target first. Joscelin can't catch up in time. Lampshaded even:
    Joscelin: Do you know what the odds of making that throw were? We don't even train for it. It's not done.
    • It's a dagger, but in Kushiel's Chosen, Joscelin makes a dagger throw that disrupts the aim of an enemy on the other end of a large temple filled with fighting men. Phèdre comments that she thought the throw was impossible.
  • Time Skip: The books mainly continue where the last one left off, but there's a ten year jump between Chosen and Avatar and a hundred year jump before the third trilogy. There's also little time skips during the books when the characters are traveling or nothing important is happening.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Phèdre. Early on in Dart she is burned with a red hot poker. She states that "There was no pleasure in it, at least not one who was not an anguissette would understand." Of course, there are lines even for that: she derives no pleasure from being skinned, for example. Still, she says late in the first book that she cannot be forced to tell secrets through torture. This appears to be true. However, she pretty much hits her limit in Darsanga with "the rod."
  • Trojan Prisoner: Phèdre and Joscelin infiltrate Darsanga this way, Joscelin giving Phèdre to the Mahrkagir's harem in exchange for sanctuary. The gambit runs longer than most examples, as it takes her a long time to get enough trust and planning to find a way to end the Mahrkagir's reign.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Imriel, according to others in the book. Sometimes when reading, it's far too easy to imagine him in a James Dean type get up.
  • Twin Threesome Fantasy:
    • Well, not so much a fantasy, but actually played out in Chosen with Apollonaire and Diànne.
    • Though the trope is played with, it's worth mentioning in Dart. Phèdre sleeps with the twin lords of the Dalriada, but separately.
  • Tyke Bomb: Joscelin and Cassiline brothers in general. Sadly for Joscelin being hyper competent at combat didn't prepare him for much of life outside of being a bodyguard.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: In Terre d'Ange, it's at least regarded as unproblematic. Since the Night Court prostitutes are raised into the lifestyle from early childhood, it's all they know, and the see their calling as noble. Some, like Alcuin, accept the life without realizing what it actually means-and Alcuin has to deal with his extreme guilt towards Naamah, when he finds out that he doesn't actually want to have sex with strangers for money. Outside Terre d'Ange, all the problems you'd expect seem to exist as prostitutes there have no special status.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Joscelin and Phèdre in Dart. (It gets resolved.)
  • Unusual Euphemism: "I/you should catch a fish" between Joscelin and Phèdre.
  • Utopia:
    • Terre d'Ange is a land blessed by angels, where everybody is beautiful (as pointed out repeatedly) and there's lots of free polyamorous sex going around. It's so beautiful that ugly evil foreigners want to invade and conquer it, but of course they fail. And they would have succeeded too, if it weren't for those other foreigners. There is a slight whiff of the Unreliable Narrator about it - of course Phèdre thinks her own country is the best, and even she admits D'Angelines are pretty stuck up.
    • This begins to zig zag a bit in the second trilogy. Imriel more or less says outright that being pretty is the only thing D'Angelines are particularly better at than anyone else, and that physical beauty isn't really important. Much as he loves his country, he makes it sound a lot less like a Mary Suetopia than Phèdre did.
    • And even Phedre drops the superiority monologue for a few chapters when she visits the island of Kriti (Crete) in Chosen. All she does is gush about how awesome Kriti and its culture is, not that there was a single bad thing said about it whilst she was there. Probably justified, as earlier in the series Phedre mentions that to the d'Angelines, the ancient Hellenes were the pinnacle of civilization before Elua came to Terre d'Ange. This also has a Real Life basis as to most Western nations today, Ancient Greece is viewed as part of a Golden Age for classical civilizations. It goes back to Ancient Rome, who saw them in the same way (and ripped off their culture, too).

  • Vestigial Empire: Caerdicca Unitas, which contains Rome's fantasy counterpart Tiberium.
  • Villainous Lineage: Imriel is the son of the biggest traitors to his country, and despite him being a goodhearted person (and raised by other goodhearted people), many people suspect that someday he might take after his mother. Later on, a group of The Fair Folk have a psychic prediction that Imriel's son would take after his mother and destroy their nation, and so they kill his pregnant wife to make sure this doesn't happen.
  • Vow of Celibacy: Members of the Cassiline Brotherhood are required to be celibate, in deference to the example of the archangel Cassiel, the only angel to follow Elua but not lie with mortals. In Dart Phedre's first bodyguard was in training to become a Brother but was kicked out before taking the vows for having sex with a farmer's daughter. Joscelin does break his vow with Phedre during their escape from Skaldia, but Phedre convinces him to treat it as a moment of divine grace (and it's implied she's right), and only lightly referred to later, even after they more fully commit to their love and break it for good.
  • Wandering the Earth: Elua and his Companions, back in the day. Even when they found Terre d'Ange, Elua insisted on wandering everywhere.
  • Warrior Monk: Joscelin and the other Cassiline brothers—complete with vow of chastity. Deconstructed somewhat; the discipline is very demanding, starting at age 10, but we get several flawed examples, and the many restrictions and traditions of the order do not hold up under the strain of the extreme situations Joscelin finds himself in.
  • Welcome to the Big City: Moirin has lived on the fringe of society all her life, so her introduction to the City of Elua is, in a word, rough. It starts with getting hit by a carriage.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Melisande is arguably simply following the precept of "Love as thou wilt" as concerns her passion for intrigue and backstabbery. Even Phèdre says that Melisande would doubtless be a very good Queen, as she makes a habit of doing everything to which she sets her mind, excellently.
  • Wham Line: New queen Ysandre de la Courcel explains some recent oddities in the royal family, especially why she hasn't married: "Ysandre de la Courcel folded her hands in her lap, lifing her chin again. 'At the age of sixteen,' she said quietly, 'I was promised to the Cruarch's heir, his sister-son Drustan mab Necthana, the Prince of the Cruithne.'"
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: The ability to speak the language of ants was originally given as a prank by an irritated spirit. In Terre d'Ange, it's this. In the Amazon Rain forest, it's a little different.
  • When the Planets Align: used by the Carthaginians in Mercy to put a spell on the entire city.
  • White Hair, Black Heart: Averted with Alcuin, who is one of the gentlest people in the series.
    • Played straight with Isidore d'Aiglemort, also known as Kilberhaar (silver hair).
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Melisande has multiple chances to kill Phèdre, and always opts to imprison her instead. (Multiple characters question why she went with the "sell her to Skaldia" plan in the first book instead of just killing her.) There are two reasons for this: anguisettes are so rare that Melisande sees destroying one as a criminal waste, and it would be literal sacrilege to destroy Kushiel's chosen. Melisande is always very careful never to piss off the gods, even when it puts her in more danger from mortal authorities.
  • Wife Husbandry: Inverted. Delaunay adopts Phèdre and Alcuin with the plan that he wants them to work as spies/courtesans and believes that the kids see him as a mentor/boss figure. Instead both of them fall in love with him. Alcuin waits until he's free and legal to make his move. Even then, Delaunay—normally a master of reading people—is so oblivious that Phèdre has to outright tell him Alcuin is in love with him for him to accept Alcuin's advances.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: How the Aka Magi explain their power to kill with a glance. Everybody is just a step a death at any moment, they could have a heart attack, they could trip and break their neck, a clot could form in their brain or any other hundreds of other accidents. All the Aka Magi do is give fate that little push.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Snow Tiger is strong enough to casually bend steel bars, but if she sees her own reflection, even in someone else's eyes, she goes on a killing spree. Though, technically, it's not her. It's the dragon bound up inside her head, which can't stand to see itself in the wrong body.
  • Women's Mysteries: The rite of fertility that women undergo to get pregnant is closed off to men. It's actually pretty simple-they just pray for the goddess Eisheth to let them conceive while lighting a candle (though she doesn't always grant it).
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Mahrkagir, full stop, which leads to some nasty nightmares for Imriel.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Melisande always has backup plans, and even when she loses her bids for power she comes away with at least some degree of victory. However the game plays out, she gets something out of the results.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Phèdre working to uncover Melisande's Evil Plans.