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Literature / Lammas Night

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Lammas Night is a Historical Fantasy novel by Katherine Kurtz.

Paralleling the Battle of Britain is another battle, one fought on the Second Road by mystics of both Britain and Germany. The Thule Geselleschaft, led by archmage Adolf Hitler, is working dark magics to boost the effectiveness of the Wehrmacht. Colonel Sir John Graham of British intelligence, temporary high priest of a British coven, is attempting to organize the mystics of Britain to defend their country, but the going is slow until he gets the unexpected aid of Prince William, George VI's youngest brother.


This book contains examples of:

  • Astral Projection: Work on the "Second Road" involves this. Gray literally starts the novel in the middle of an astral projection to check on one of his agents.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Operation Sealion is cancelled, but William, Richard, and Geoffrey are dead.
  • Crown of Horns: One is worn by Gray during rituals of the Oakwood Manor coven, symbolizing the Horned God.
  • Face–Heel Turn: For most of the novel, the coven is worried that Dieter may have pulled one of these. As part of going undercover with the Thulists, he engages in all their horrific rituals, and even Gray, who has the most faith in him, is unsure that he's still on their side after all that. He is.
  • Foreshadowing: William mentions several times that he feels utterly useless—he can't even die for his country like anyone else. So when he discovers that he's been sacrificed for England's good in a past life, and England currently needs such a sacrifice to survive, he offers up himself.
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  • Functional Magic: The Oakwood coven, the Thulists, and pretty much everyone else who is mentioned belonging to an esoteric organization.
  • Ghostapo: Most of the higher-ups in the Nazi party are occultists, and their magic works.
  • Hedge Maze: An elaborate one at Oakwood Manor. Apparently an ordinary if simplistic example, moving some of the gates turns walking it into a centering ritual that prepares the walkers for whatever ritual is taking place in the center area.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Gray is determined that if a death is what's needed for Britain to survive the Battle of Britain, he will be the sacrifice. In the end, however, the sacrifice he has to make is emotional—he must give up his dearest friend, at William's own request.
  • Human Sacrifice:
    • Thulist rituals, from what we see, routinely involve this.
    • On the British side, Gray is locked in to the ancient cycle of the sacred king dying for the good of the land. It's explained that a willing sacrifice, killed by someone who loves them, is actually a good thing, and in fact necessary for England.
      Slayer of kings and slain for kings am I ....
  • King in the Mountain: Alluded to, with a twist. Gray points out to William that Britain is currently being defended by planes with Merlin engines.
  • Last-Name Basis: Almost everyone in the novel refers to Colonel Graham as Gray.
  • Magicians Are Wizards: Or in Gray's case, a spy who knows slight of hand and hypnosis is also a witch. He often uses the stage magic excuse to cover up any 'weird' happenings.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: After Wells is killed (with a sedative overdose), his body is loaded into a car and a wreck arranged. Misses The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much because there was no autopsy and they claimed he wished for burial at sea — convenient, being able to pull Intelligence strings. All they were really going for was a plausible cause of death that wouldn't make things too much harder for his parents.
  • The Mole:
    • Wells.
    • Dieter.
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: The Thulists sacrifice unwilling victims, the Oakwood group (and others) only allow willing victims.
  • Past-Life Memories: At one point, Gray is put into a hypnotic past-life regression to find out how Sir Francis Drake managed to get England's mystics working together at the time of the Spanish Armada. He also has memories from several other incarnations connected to the "sacred king" cycle as does William, who was sacrificed by Gray in at least one previous lifetime.
  • Power-Strain Blackout: Michael and Gray during the psychic battle against Sturm.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Dieter is actively gunning for this, and gets it. He redeems himself by blowing his cover at the last minute during an important Thulist ritual, letting Michael and Gray channel their power through him to fight Sturm while going after Hitler himself. This gets him shot, but they do kill Sturm, which is a huge blow for the Nazis.
  • Spare to the Throne: William commonly dismisses himself as a "fifth wheel" — no chance of taking the throne himself since his brother and King has children, but nothing else he can do thanks to a pre-novel emotional breakdown that got his security clearance revoked.
  • Unequal Rites: The Oakwood group versus the Thulists.
    • Part of the reason why none of the other occult groups in Britain want to work with the Oakwood group. None of them want to feel like any of the others are in charge. What finally changes this is William's intercession—if he's asking them to do it, then they're not bowing to each other, they're bowing to a prince, which makes all the difference.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: When Thulist agents try to murder William, they do so by running a hose from his car's exhaust system into the passenger compartment.
  • Weird Historical War: The Battle of Britain plus magic.