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Literature / Maledicte

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Maledicte, book one of The Antyre Chronicles, is a fantasy novel by Lane Robins, set in a Regency-esque Crapsack World where the gods are presumed dead, the countryside suffers from overpopulation, the cities are filthy, women have almost no rights, and Antyre, the novel's stand-in for a much less successful Great Britain, pays around a third of its tax revenue to the vaguely Russian-seeming country of Itarus, to which Antyre had lost a war.

The titular character starts off as Miranda, a beautiful, hard-headed girl from a slum known as the Relicts, which had been destroyed by the Ani, the god of love and vengeance, before the gods disappeared. While she and her childhood sweetheart Janus are out practicing armed robbery, a man in a fancy coat abducts Janus. Having lost Janus, Miranda takes refuge in a broken temple to Ani and emerges three months later with a god-touched sword and nascent superpowers. As she discovers, Janus is the bastard nephew of the king, who desperately needs an acceptable heir and intends to fob Janus off as his brother's legitimate son by a secret marriage. In an attempt to find Janus, who is being tightly controlled by his newfound relatives, and to kill the man who took her away from her, Miranda adopts masculine attire and the persona of the boy Maledicte, trades his favors to the lecherous Baron Vornatti for aid in ascending Antyrrian society, and, with the aid of his new friend, Gilly, becomes one of the most prolific and feared duelists and assassins in the country. Unfortunately, Maledicte can't easily shake his possession by the God, and must enact a battle of wills to keep his personality from being utterly subsumed by Ani's vicious nature.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Even before receiving formal combat training, Miranda was instructing her fellow street urchins in how to beat and rob people.
  • Amazon Chaser: Janus, Gilly, Vornatti, and Aris all want Mal, a ferocious fighter, although not all of them know that he is really a woman.
  • Arranged Marriage: In order to strengthen his claim on the throne, Janus needs to marry a highborn woman approved by his family.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Earl of Last abandoned his pregnant mistress to a miserable life on the streets, which his brother, King Aris, tolerated until he needed a new heir. Lady Mirabile is a black widow, Dantalion murders a woman to extract her unborn child, Vornatti enjoys seducing minors, and Janus stabs his infant half-brother through the heart in order to preserve Maledicte's powers, which Maledicte himself no longer wants.
  • Bifauxnen: Nobody at court recognizes that Mal is a woman. Instead, they think that he is an extremely beautiful man.
  • Blood Knight: Mal is obsessed with dueling the people who angered him years ago.
  • Children Are Innocent: Explicitly refuted with a scene that pits Maledicte against his younger self. It's the younger version that's truly vicious.
  • Bastard Bastard: Janus, getting worse with time.
  • Decadent Court: With its abundance of poisonings, duels, and assassinations, intermingled with whoring, gambling, and lavish fetes, Antyre's court definitely qualifies. Although it's hinted that Antyrrian nobles are pikers compared to their Itarusine counterparts.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: Averted: Gilly's rape by Mirabile is treated as a genuinely disturbing event for him.
  • Becoming the Mask: After Miranda adopts the male identity of Maledicte, she begins to refer to herself as himself—even to herself. Symbolized by an actual masquerade ball in which he succeeds in fooling everyone (although his closest friend experiences a momentary impression of femininity).
  • Creepy Crossdresser: While Maledicte is in some ways a sympathetic protagonist, he's also carrying out a Faustian pact with Black-winged Ani, the god of love and vengeance, using his new identity as cover.
  • The Dark Side: Ani drives Maledicte to murder and mayhem. Of course, the god of love and vengeance has some pretty good material to work with, given that Miranda was already an armed robber and murderer at fourteen.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Vornatti will do just about anything bipedal (Mal gives him a lewd monkey statue as a present), but he seems to prefer his lovers young and under his thumb. He's also a drug addict, a blackmailer, and an expert in poisoning people.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Maledicte.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Maledicte himself has murdered a handful of people and is possessed by the god of vengeance, but he's still appalled to learn that Janus killed Ella and Celia, just for being embarrassing mothers. Janus finally moves past what Mal can forgive when he sells Gilly to a Slave Galley.
  • Frame-Up: Janus kills his half-brother, knowing that people will blame Maledicte for the crime.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Mal's insults are almost as notorious as his penchant for killing people.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Lizette.
  • Hot-Blooded: Mal experiences severe mood swings and has limited patience with Janus's long-term schemes.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Gilly, Maledicte's confidant, spy, poisoner, muscle, researcher, propagandist, and mystic.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Gilly's attitude toward Maledicte.
  • Improvised Weapon: Mal kills a dinner guest with an oyster shell.
  • Ironic Echo: As children, Miranda and Janus share a ring with the inscription "Only each other at the last." Over the course of the book, Janus takes his place in the Last family— which has the motto "Only a Last at the last."
  • Jerkass Gods: Definitely Ani, but the others don't seem to do much good either.
  • Mad Oracle: The intercessor. Gilly worries that he will go down this path as well.
  • Master Poisoner: Vornatti and Mal share an encyclopedic knowledge of poisons, notwithstanding that Mal prefers using his sword.
  • Meaningful Rename: From Miranda to "Maledicte," which is quite apt, given Mal's infamously sharp tongue.
  • The Mistress: King Aris advises Janus to treat Mal like one.
  • Only Sane Man: While most of the characters are emotionally unstable, prone to grandiose schemes, and/or too busy with debauchery to care about anything useful, Gilly spends his time trying to ensure that he and his allies avoid getting hanged, bankrupted, and/or exiled.
  • Rape as Backstory: Gilly.
  • Sex Slave: Gilly's parents sold him to Vornatti when he was fourteen.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Gilly and Aris.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Played straight, although Maledicte puts more effort into the transformation than most Polly Olivers. For example, he wears a waist-bulking, breast-binding corset and uses poison to lower his voice.
  • Son of a Whore: Miranda/Maledicte and Janus.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Janus's family makes it almost impossible for Miranda to find him, and later for Janus and Mal to live as a couple.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Gilly's attraction to Maledicte (whom he thinks is a man) confuses him.
  • The Unfettered: Maledicte believes that there is nothing she wouldn't do to get Janus back and keep him. Until Janus turns on Gilly. Janus proves his own willingness to sacrifice their relationship, several innocent lives, and Mal's freedom in order to attain political power.
  • Took a Level in Badass: At the story's beginning, Miranda is a clever street rat capable of taking on drunken sailors. After a little training, Maledicte is the court's most dangerous swordsman and probably its second-best poisoner, not to mention able to turn into a cloud of birds and fly.
  • Traumatic C-Section: Dantalion performs one on Amarantha after her carriage crashes.
  • Villain Protagonist: Mal starts off as a very dark antihero and evolves into this.
  • Weasel Words: Janus calls Maledicte out for this when Mal pushes him to speed up a plan so that they won't need to dirty their hands with infanticide. As Janus points out, Mal has already committed infanticide, as Amarantha's advanced pregnancy was the only reason to kill her.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Kritos, Last, Janus, and Maledicte. Gilly is also an accomplice, in the death of Amarantha and her near-term infant.
  • Yandere: When asked how he will respond if Janus has forgotten him, Maledicte replies that he will kill him.