Ladylord is a fantasy novel written by Sasha Miller, published in 1996.
The book is set in a fictional feudal society with certain similarities (but not exact parallels) to Japan. It focuses on Javere qa Hyasti (commonly called Javerri), the daughter of a powerful lord. Their society is basically patriarchal, but shortly before Javerri's father dies, he takes the unprecedented step of declaring her his "son" and heir.
This is not popular with everyone, especially the more senior lord who hopes to take control of their province. That lord's confirmation is required for Javerri to properly inherit, and wanting to be rid of her, he gives her an Impossible Task: retrieve a dragon's egg.
The book focuses on her expedition to do this and on the politics that go on while she's away.
The book contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Lady Javerri. Her quest requires her to prove she is this.
- Antiquated Linguistics: Sort of. The in-universe language spoken by the characters (which we don't see) apparently has significant distinction between formal and intimate speech, and this is indicated in the text by the use of archaic pronouns for the more intimate forms - "thou" and "thee" appear when characters are addressing people they're close to.
- Baleful Polymorph: Javerri's wizard Wande-hari takes out First Lord Yassai's own chief sorcerer, who goes by the name "The Scorpion", by turning him into a literal scorpion and stomping on him.
- Band of Brothels: Courtesans seem to be well-organised, and its said that even lords would be hesitant to meddle in their affairs. Madam Farhat, a senior figure in the so-called Hyacinth Shadow World, certainly considers herself a political player.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: When Chimoko, Javerri's maid, is captured by First Lord Yassai, her friends in his palace can't help her escape, but they can arrange a reprieve from the drug keeping her immobile and allow her exercise on the roof. Chimoko then throws herself off the edge to avoid what she believes will happen to her. Yassai still attempts to use the situation to his advantage, retrieving Chimoko's head and sending it to Javerri's province as proof that her expedition has met with misfortune (because if she's dead, Yassai can appoint a governor).
- Body Double:
- When Javerri leaves Monserria to cross into Fogestria, she does so secretly, and leaves her maid Chimoko behind pretending to be her so as to confuse her enemies as to her progress. It works for a while, but Chimoko is eventually arrested. She kills herself to avoid torture.
- Halit makes a magical duplicate of Javerri to fool her friends, although it doesn't last particularly long.
- Crossing the Desert: Javerri's group has to cross a desert. In addition to the danger of sand sharks, they're also being steered in the wrong direction by The Mole, leaving them too far from water. Fortunately, there's a desert tribe to help them out.
- Draconic Humanoid: The dragon-warriors, hatched from dragon's eggs. Javerri has a dragon-warrior bodyguard called Chakei, and First Lord Yassai has an elderly one whom he wishes to find a replacement for. The dragon-warriors can't speak as humans do, instead relying on telepathic links.
- Dragon with an Agenda: First Lord Yassai finds it necessary to rely on the sorcerer who calls himself the Scorpion, but notes the Scorpion is barely bothering to pretend deep loyalty. Yassai decides to look for a way to do away with the Scorpion later, although the end of the book gets there first.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The book is sometimes described as being set in a version of feudal Japan, but although there are similarities, it's not actually a clear-cut counterpart. Some of the names sound Japanese-like (e.g. Chimoko, Sakano, Michu), but many do not. Some sound Chinese-like (e.g. Nao-Pei, Sen-Ya, Feng-chu), while others are neither (including the country's name, Monserria).
- Good People Have Good Sex: The two people hoping to be Lord of Third Province have starkly contrasting sex lives. Javerri, the protagonist, spends most of the book as a virgin (as per traditional requirement), even after marriage, and also shies away from using various stimulating toys given to her by Madam Farhat. Nao-Pei, by contrast, is only a Technical Virgin, doing everything she can think of that doesn't disqualify her, and later goes for more extreme things like bondage and masochism. Javerri ends up happy with her husband, while Nao-Pei ends up forced to be a dutiful wife to a man she did "depraved" things with (and who did those depraved things for abusive reasons) but doesn't actually like.
- Heir Club for Men: Trouble regarding a lack of male heirs makes an appearance twice in the story. In one case, Lord Qai of Third Province doesn't have any sons, but declares his daughter Javerri to be his "son" and heir anyway. In the other, Lord Yassai of First Province has trouble acquiring an heir due to impotence, making the pregnancy of his concubine Seniz-Nan particularly valuable to him. This grants Seniz-Nan more leeway in court than she would otherwise have. After the child is born, Seniz-Nan is part of a plot to have him kidnapped by Yassai's enemies, in part because this preserves her necessity to Yassai - she's the only woman ever to bear him a son, and he can't kill her if he thinks he needs to make another one. (In fact, the first child isn't even his.)
- Impossible Task: Javerri needs the confirmation of First Lord Yassai to properly inherit the office of Third Lord, but he doesn't want to give it, since he's hoping to put his nephew into the position. He decides to "test" Javerri by having her retrieve a dragon's egg, from which he can get a replacement dragon-warrior. She concludes that he intends her to fail, and probably to die, but goes anyway.
- I Know Your True Name: Magicians can gain power over other magicians this way. This is presumably why many magicians use assumed names. Lord Yassai's chief sorcerer is commonly known as the Scorpion, but Javerri's wizardly mentor Wande-hari tangled with him long enough ago to know his real name.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: A non-final, sexual version. It seems to be accepted practice for women who would like to sleep with a man but are currently unable to (such as because they're already married) to arrange a courtesan for the man instead. Javerri does this for her own husband, since she feels she must keep herself virginal, but is more angsty about the mental image of it than she had expected to be. It turns out, of course, that Ivo didn't ever enjoy the courtesan's intended service.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Sen-Ya, believed to be the only son (and therefore heir) of First Lord Yassai by the concubine Seniz-Nan, is not actually his son. Yassai is mostly impotent, and to get pregnant, Seniz-Nan visited the dungeons as an anonymous lady of the court and had sex with one of the prisoners (as the guards seem to indicate ladies of the court not infrequently do). Yassai assumes that the second part of Sen-Ya's name is to honour him, but it's actually from the prisoner.
- The Mole: First Lord Yassai, via the Scorpion, sends a spy/saboteur along with Javerri's expedition. Javerri figures this out, but can't decide who it is. The most obvious candidate is their guide, Ezzat, but it isn't him.
- Rape as Drama:
- The courtesan/concubine Safia is raped and nearly killed by Lord Yassai's guards as a punishment for working against him. She survives, and arranges the kidnapping of his baby son and heir (with the assistance of the mother, who was a friend of Safia and also opposes Yassai).
- The protagonist herself is raped by the traitor Yassai sent with her, as her enemies believe that she will consider herself unfit to rule if she no longer meets the virginity requirement for the office she claims. She does feel this way at first, but comes to believe that it is her intentions that counts towards the requirement, and that the rape therefore does not change her eligibility.
- Lutfu intends this as part of his punishment of his wife Nao-Pei for continuing to sleep with her lover Sakano. However, Nao-Pei is sufficiently turned on by being tied down and hit that when he gets to the sex, it's with her urging.
- Royal Harem: Two of them.
- Lord Qai, Javerri's father, kept a harem, but Javerri isn't interested in doing anything with it herself once she inherits. By tradition, the women from the disbanded harem can choose between joining their late lord in death or being married off to men of fairly low social rank. Javerri also works out a third option whereby those who don't want to do either can go to be courtesans with Madam Farhat.
- First Lord Yassai also has a harem, with two of its members significant to the plot. His concubine Seniz-Nan, mother of a child whom Yassai incorrectly believes to be his son, is an ally of Javerri. Javerri herself gifts Yassai another concubine, Safia, but after Safia is too obvious in advancing Javerri's interests, Yassai gives her to his guards to be raped and left for dead. She survives, and exacts a measure of revenge by masterminding the kidnapping of the aforementioned heir.
- Sand Worm: The desert through which Javerri's group has to pass has "sand sharks", or sahandas. They get attacked, naturally, but are assisted by a tribe of desert people.
- Seppuku: General Michu, after a bandit attack on Javerri's group, says that he should do this for failing to properly protect her. She firmly rejects it.
- Sexless Marriage: When Javerri marries Ivo, she tells him that she won't be sleeping with him. She does personally like him, but tradition requires that the Lord of the Third Province come to power while still a virgin. It's traditional for women who can't sleep with someone they like to send a sort of substitute in the form of a courtesan, and Javerri tries to do this. Javerri and Ivo's marriage is finally consummated at the end of the book, when Javerri's position is secure.
- She Is the King: The basis of the story. The ruling lord has only daughters, and so names one of them his "son". The title of the book, Ladylord, is a reference to the odd style some people use due to her unique situation. Her political maleness doesn't extend to actually being considered male in other senses, however - she has a husband rather than a wife, for example.
- Strange-Syntax Speaker: Chakei, Javerri's dragon-warrior bodyguard who communicates with her telepathically, has unusual syntax to his speech, tending to put the subject towards the end of the sentence and sometimes omitting the verb "to be". For example, **thank you i**, **that way know i**, **good is**, and **here i**.
- The Strategist: Sigon, one of Javerri's generals, has a reputation as a strategist. He doesn't actually go to war in the book, but manages to survive the reign of Lutfu (the First Lord's nephew) over Javerri's province while she is away, and collects evidence of Lutfu's harsh rule.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Javerri dresses as a boy for part of her trip, thinking it safer.
- Technical Virgin: Tradition requires that people wanting to be Third Lord keep their virginity until then. The two main candidates (both women, since Lord Qai has no sons) have technically done so, but have different approaches. Javerri upholds the spirit, avoiding all sex even after she marries Ivo. Nao-Pei, by contrast, is widely rumoured (correctly) to do just about everything except the thing which would disqualify her.
- Telepathy: Those with training in magic can communicate mentally. Javerri and her wizard mentor, Wande-hari, can do this. It is also the only way to communicate with dragon-warriors, who can't speak human languages.
- Til Murder Do Us Part: Nao-Pei marries Lutfu to secure the support of his uncle, First Lord Yassai. Once she's firmly established in her position, however, she's intending to get rid of her husband so as to more easily be with her lover, Baron Sakano.
- Too Kinky to Torture: When being punished for infidelity by her husband Lutfu, Nao-Pei finds that she likes what he's doing, and encourages him to do more. This somewhat reconciles them, although not to the point that she's happy to be stuck with him.
- Unusual Euphemism: The people of the five provinces seem to have a whole vocabulary of unusual euphemisms to describe private parts - Jade Stalk, Jewel Terrace, and plenty more.