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Literature / Mageworlds
aka: The Price Of The Stars

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Mageworlds is a series of Space Opera novels by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald.

It began with a trilogy consisting of The Price of the Stars, Starpilot's Grave and By Honor Betray'd. There are also three prequel novels, a sequel novel, and several short stories.

The setting mixes in some fantastical/mystical elements, most obviously in the form of the Adepts, an order of psychic Warrior Monks, and their evil counterparts, the Mages.

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This series contains examples of:

  • Bilingual Dialogue: The main non-human race, the seven-foot-tall saurians, understand human speech perfectly well but either can't or don't speak it themselves, so humans who have to deal with them learn to understand their speech and it's not uncommon for conversations to take place with each side speaking in their own language.
  • Captain Ersatz: The Price of the Stars is set a generation after an epoch-defining interstellar war, in which Beka's parents were military leaders. Beka's mother was a princess whose entire planet was destroyed by the enemy as an example to those who would resist, and her father, before he joined the fight, was a smuggler who famously did a notoriously difficult bit of navigation with record efficiency. Her father's best friends are a tall alien from a forest world whose species tend to communicate via Bilingual Dialogue, and an Adept (a psychic Warrior Monk who fights with a signature melee weapon) with a connection to her mother.
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  • Couldn't Find a Pen: In Starpilot's Grave, a Magelord is revealed to have cut the throats of those piloting the warship he was riding and used their blood to write a cryptic note to an "Adept from the Forest World" on the windscreen before emptying the craft to vacuum, swiping a scout-craft, and setting it adrift on a trajectory which would bring it to the attention of the intended recipient.
  • Elderly Immortal: The Professor in The Price of the Stars is shortish, slightly built, clean-shaven but grey haired; he is in excellent shape for the sixty-something he looks like and a superb fighter, but his bones are not up to diving into gutters and he implies that his reflexes are slowing down... then he breaks out the sorcery and admits he is far on the far side of five hundred.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: For a Black Humor version, Lieutenant Ari Rosselin-Metadi was abducted at blaster-point and made to board an armed freighter he almost instantly recognized as his father's old ship Warhammer, which was given to his sister not long before she was killed in a crash. So when the one-eyed beruffled dandy answering to Captain Portree stepped out of the cockpit, Ari rose to his full considerable height and threatened to kill the twerp unless Beka was produced alive.
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  • Eyepatch of Power: Beka Metadi assumes the identity of the roguish (and male) Tarnikep Portee, a nearly psychotic dandy with a crimson eyepatch and an oversized blaster. Tarnikep is both crazier and more of a badass that Beka.
  • Faking the Dead: Near the beginning of The Price of the Stars, Beka Rosselin-Metadi attracts the wrong sort of attention nosing about the death of her stateswoman mother and is obliged to (with the aid of an old family friend) stage a messy spaceship crash complete with organic material smeared among what was left of a malfunctioning lifepod. She then continues the investigation under a false identity.
  • Hyperspeed Escape:
    • In The Price of the Stars, while making the getaway from their rather messy kidnapping, star slingshot included to reach jump speed.
    • In Starpilot's Grave, after taking down several mageworld ships.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In The Price of the Stars, Beka's investigation of her mother's assassination goes through several rounds of discovering a man behind the man, leading to the revelation that it was ultimately initiated by the Magelords.
  • Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex: In By Honor Betray'd, Ari Rosselin-Metadi, a giant of a man who can casually kill most humans with his bare hands, expresses concern about this trope on his wedding night. His bride Llannat Hyfid (rather athletic, but on the small side) tells him to extinguish the candle, then makes her hands glow with power as she reassures him that nothing they do that night will hurt her.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: In The Price of the Stars, the Professor rescues Beka Rosselin-Metadi from assassins seeking to hide the truth behind her mother's death, then assists her in creating a cover identity and tracing the conspiracy back to its source. He gets killed by a random booby trap shortly before her confrontation with the head conspirator.
  • Metaphorically True: In The Price of the Stars, the enigmatic old man that answers to 'Professor' pretty much lives on the trope. For example when the Adept Llannatt Hyfid asks him if he knew the hidden asteroid base he operates out of was Magebuilt he responds, "I did, Mistress. But that was long ago... five centuries and more," leaving those present who were not aware that he was himself a renegade Magelord and far older than he looked to draw their own conclusions.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Near the beginning of The Price of the Stars, Beka Rosselin-Metadi is rescued from assassins by an old man who (aside from the blasters and skill with them) strikes her as an instructor in languages and deportment at a finishing school, so she starts calling him "Professor". Despite revealing his position as Armsmaster to House Rosselin, he makes no attempt to correct her (or anyone else) nor provide another name save at the end of a hand-written letter given to her some months after his death.
    The letter closed with a line of symbols in a script and language Beka didn't recognize. It took several seconds, staring at the page with blurring eyes, before she understood that the alien symbols were a signature.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In The Price of the Stars, Rebellious Princess Beka Rosselin-Metadi is essentially introduced grumbling to herself about how, despite seven years of earning her living as a starpilot for hire and avoiding anything resembling polite society, every time she gets a few hours short on sleep she starts sounding like she just stepped out of a Central Worlds Finishing School. It proves plot-relevant when a Space Force officer notes the same accent coming from a one-eyed male gunslinger from a frontier system after an all-night running battle about eight months after Beka's supposed death.
  • Over-the-Top Secret: Played for humor at the beginning of Starpilot's Grave, when Lieutenant Ari Rosselin-Metadi and Mistress (Lieutenant-Grade) Llannat Hyfid return to base from their kidnapping in the prior book and are promptly awarded the Space Force Achievement Medalnote  before the entire post save the gate guards and emergency room. The commandant then informs the audience that the citation is not only too classified to be read aloud in public, but classified at a level that even he is not cleared to read it (or mention the classification level) and only knows that it was signed by the Head of the Grand Council.
  • Rebellious Princess: Beka Rosselin-Metadi is the eldest daughter and heir of Perada Rosselin, Domina of Lost Entibor, Entibor-in-Exile, and the Colonies Beyond; she found the associated lifestyle and expectations stifling, and ran away to be a starship pilot as soon as she was old enough to get away with it.
  • Rightful Queen Returns: Invoked by Beka Rosselin-Metadi at the end of Starpilot's Grave. Galicen has fallen to a new Magebuilt warfleet. FTL communications, suppressed outright for the initial strike, remain patchy. Therefore the best way to distract the invaders from defeating what was left of the Space Force in detail before they manage to regroup was for the Domina of Lost Entibor, Entibor-in-Exile, and the Colonies Beyond (a.k.a. her) to rally the resistance to her banner in a way that they dare not ignore.
  • Signature Item Clue: When Admiral Jos Metadi learned his daughter fatally crashed the ship he gave her months earlier he promptly flew out to examine the site personally. Between the standard-for-the-class engines and the bits of control panel he found he swiftly figured out what Beka had done, at which point he had what was scraped out of the lifepod sent home for a funeral and ordered the wreck destroyed.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: In The Price of the Stars, Beka Rosselin-Metadi is targeted by assassins and has to fake her death to throw them off. She then creates a cover identity for herself that is as different as possible from Beka Rosselin-Metadi in several respects, including presenting as male.
  • Tactful Translation: Defied in The Gathering Flame, when Warhammer's number-two gunner introduces a passenger to the ship's engineer, an alien who understands the common human language but doesn't speak it:
    Tillijin: This is Ferradacor, son of Rillikkikk. Ferrada, for short.
    Ferrada: [makes rumbling bass noises]
    Tillijin: He says he's pleased to meet you.
    Ferrada: [speaks again, this time to Tillijin]
    Tillijin: It was a loose translation, she's new here.
    Ferrada: [speaks once more]
    Tillijin: Oh, all right. He says, "Another damned thin-skin. I hope she does not get in the way."
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Near the climax of By Honor Betray'd, Llannat Hyfid, wholly loyal to the Republic and still at least nominally a member of the Adept's Guild, faces the Magelord sus-Airaalin in a formal duel to the death for all that he holds. When the latter is struck down and refuses medical help, Mistress Hyfid finds herself acknowledged as not merely First of all the Mage-Circles but Grand Admiral of the invading warfleet.
    sus-Airaalin: For the sake of the galaxy, Mistress, you must hold your power and use it well.

Alternative Title(s): The Price Of The Stars, Starpilots Grave, By Honor Betrayd, The Gathering Flame

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