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Literature / Marla Mason

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The Marla Mason series by T.A. Pratt is an Urban Fantasy set around the Marla Mason character, the ruling sorceress of Felport, as she struggles to save her home from insane reweavers, bloodthirsty Aztec gods and Death itself.

The series has ten books so far:

  • Blood Engines: The first book, which, paradoxically, was set not in Felport but in San Francisco. It features frogs. Lots of frogs.
  • Poison Sleep: A Reality Warper wakes up in Felport.
  • Dead Reign: Death comes to Felport.
  • Spell Games: Marla's brother comes for a visit and a bit of business.
  • Bone Shop: The prequel, self-published after Pratt's publisher dropped him. It details Marla's Rags to Riches story as she ascends through the ranks of Felport's magical elite.
  • Broken Mirrors: Written in response to the massive Cliffhanger of the fourth book.
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  • Grim Tides: Continues from the ending of Broken Mirrors.
  • Bride of Death: Marla explores her new line of work.
  • Lady of Misrule: A crossover with the author's standalone novel The Strange Adventures Of Rangergirl.
  • Queen of Nothing
  • Closing Doors: the final book in the series so far although there are short stories set in the same world.


  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Felport's dagger of office is this. Justified in that it's actually the sword of the angel of death.
  • Afterlife Express: Mentioned in the first novel. becomes a major plot point in Dead Reign.
  • All Theories Are True: Played with.
  • The Archmage: Sanford Cole.
  • Artifact of Doom: The cloak. It's a magical artifact that can heal its user or make them nearly unstoppable in combat... but it comes with a hefty price. It has a mind of its own, is quite malicious, and will try to overwhelm its wielder's mind. In this world, it fails—but in other timelines, it has succeeded.
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  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Bradley Bowman's eventual fate.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Marla doesn't know the meaning of the word 'quit', even when she really should be quitting.
  • Badass Cloak: Marla Marla uses the cloak only as a last resort, but she wears a normal one sometimes, because she realizes that the sight of her in a cloak is intimidating to everyone who knows who she is.
  • Battle Butler: Pelham.
  • Blood Knight: Marla is a little too fond of kicking ass.
  • Body Snatcher: Rondeau. As well as Crapsey, his evil counterpart from another dimension.
  • Body Surf: Rondeau's ace in the hole. If the body he currently inhabits dies, he can just acquire a new one. Goes horribly wrong at the end of Spell Games.
  • Boxing Lessons for Superman: One of the recurring themes is that sorcerers shouldn't rely exclusively on magic but learn mundane skills as well.
  • Brutal Honesty: Marla is really bad at diplomacy.
  • Came Back Strong: What happens to Marla at the end of Grim Tides.
  • Came Back Wrong: Resurrecting the dead is usually a very bad idea; Somerset, an unpleasant man while alive and a terrifying monster while undead, is the best example. Marla strongly disapproves of all things undead because of her experience fighting him.
  • Canon Welding: Lady of Misrule incorporates the previously standalone novel The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl into the Marla Mason universe.
  • Career Versus Man: In Marla's case, the answer will invariably be her career. Double subverted and Played for Drama in Poison Sleep.
  • Challenging the Chief: How the position of Chief Sorcerer in Felport used to work. These days, the major sorcerers have to vote to approve a candidate, even if they've already defeated their predecessor.
  • Charm Person: Joshua Kindler in Poison Sleep. For a nonhuman example, there's the supernaturally adorable critter in Pale Dog which turns out to be a hellhound.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The snake god's power to grow exactly as big as he needs to be to defeat his opponent.
    • B's ability to summon an Afterlife Express.
    • Rondeau's body-jumping.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Elsie Jarrow, first mentioned in book one, is one of the main antagonists in book seven.
  • Combat Pragmatist
  • Con Man: Marla's brother Jason.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Marla claims to have a contingency plan for a black hole coming to Felport.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Reversing the cloak from white to purple.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Marla, eventually. It turns out that the position of Queen of the Underworld is not symbolic at all.
  • The Determinator: Marla, full stop.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: An Aztec toad goddess in book one, the incarnation of death in book three.
    • In Broken Mirrors, Marla essentially intimidates the god of the multiverse into breaking her rules because Marla is killing every version of her that doesn't decide to help and it's taking a rather extreme toll on her multiplicity self.
  • Did You Just Romance Cthulhu?: Marla ends up getting married to the god of death.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?
    "If you do have any noteworthy nocturnal transmissions, let me know, all right?"
  • Domain Holder: Powerful sorcerers can create pocket universes to retreat from the world or to practice the more inconspiciuous forms of magic. Notable examples include Artie Mann's Fantasy Kitchen Sink London, Ernesto's junkyard, and Genevieve Kelley's Dream Land.
  • Don't Fear The Reaper: Death after his (relative) Heel–Face Turn.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The cloak. Death is scared of it.
  • Enemies with Death: Initially.
  • Energy Beings: Rondeau is one kind, the Thrones are another.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: The chaos witch Nicolette and the far more powerful Elsie Jarrow.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Mason to Marla, Crapsey to Rondeau.
  • The Exile: In Dead Reign, Death magically exiles Marla from her city. She's annoyed, to say the least. In Broken Mirrors, the surviving sorcerers of Felport exile her again. This time it’s permanent
  • Fisher King: In Lady of Misrule, Nicolette uses a spell to become Fisher King of Felport, the titular Lady of Misrule.
  • For Want of a Nail: An alternate Marla wasn't able to resist the cloak because her universe’s Jason Mason died as a young boy, meaning that he wasn't around to protect Marla as a kid or teach her how to defend herself as a teenager. The result of this is an evil Marla Mason and a dystopian timeline.
  • Glamour: Joshua Kindler's main magical ability, to the point where his presence and touch can become addictive.
  • God Job: Marla becoming the goddess of death is set in motion in Dead Reign and fully realized in Grim Tides.
    • In book five Bradley ends up lucking into a recently vacated position. When he accepts every alternate version of him gets lumped together and his job is to oversee the entire multiverse (our multiverse; not the larger overarching cosmic multiverse).
  • Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: Flying is accomplished by insulting the forces of gravity.
  • Healing Factor: The white side of the cloak can heal anything.
    • Even being set on fire.
    • Even headshots.
  • The Hedonist: Rondeau.
    "What's the point of staying alive if you don't live a little?"
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Teleportation is dangerous because something might just eat you on the way through.
    • Nicolette ends up losing an arm on one trip. Most characters consider this relatively lucky.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: At first it seems like the pattern is "Two Words, one being negative / dangerous": Blood Engines, Poison Sleep, Dead Reign, Spell Games, Bone Shop, Broken Mirrors, Grim Tides. Then we get "[Female Noun] of [Negative State]": Bride of Death, Lady of Misrule, Queen of Nothing, and The Last Title, Closing Doors.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Rondeau after the events of Spell Games
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Bethany, a Los Angeles sorceress with cannibalism-fueled magic.
  • Immortality Immorality: Not all methods of achieving immortality are immoral in themselves, but they're all bad ideas in the long run. Immortal sorcerers always eventually go crazy, and most do so in catastrophically destructive ways.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Rondeau loves these.
  • Kill All Humans: The cloak/the Mason. Kill all dolphins.
  • Kill the God: Marla is occasionally pitted against deities, such as the Aztec toad goddess in Blood Engines.
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  • Literal Genie: The Bay Witch. She'll keep her promises to the letter. She promised Death to hide Marla’s cloak where no one but her could find it. She never promised him it would stay there.
  • Losing Your Head: Happens to Nicolette in Bride of Death.
  • Made of Magic: Artifacts are this.
  • Magical Society: Each city has its sorcerers and its chief sorcerer.
  • Married to the Job: Marla. Her relationship with Felport is described in ways that make it appear like a romantic relationship more than once.
  • Master of One Magic: Most of the sorcerers in the series qualify. They excel in a certain discipline, and may be able to use it for a lot of different purposes, but they can’t use anything else. Marla herself is a generalist, but her subordinates include a master of sympathetic magic, a wizard of pollution, a sea witch, and a nature wizard.
  • Meet Cute: Subverted completely with Marla and Rondeau.
    T.A. Pratt: "There has seldom been a less cute "meet cute" in the history of buddy-cop stories."
  • Morality Pet: The city of Felport to Marla. She loves the place, would do anything to protect it, and is generally more sympathetic once she's inside Felport city limits.
  • The Multiverse: This is the reason the plot for Broken Mirrors happens. Marla goes to another universe to kidnap an alternate version of her dead friend.
    • It turns out that it's actually a layered example as well. Our multiverse is a self contained area in a larger set of multiple universes. This comes into play in one of the short stories when the cloak tries to take over and kill everything in every universe of our section of the cosmos. When the gods who oversee the larger multiverse discuss these events one group has a minor breakdown when they realize they exiled the thing to a set of multiverses instead of a single isolated universe.
  • Not Quite Human: Rondeau, who is actually an energy being possessing a human body.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The cloak. It's an exile from a different universe and it's goal eventually boils down to "how can I kill everything living and have some fun doing it?" When it eventually realizes there are multiple universes each with multiple versions of itself it does it's very best to break down the walls so it can have it's own eldritch babies with itself and destroy everything all that much better. In one of the short stories it very nearly succeeds and it takes the intervention of entities more powerful than Bradley's god form to stop it.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Marla and Rondeau. They're very important to each other and their friendship is the great constant of the series. Impressive, considering how they met.
  • Pragmatic Hero: Marla's willing to do just about anything to protect her city.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: Rondeau. The cloak.
  • Purple Is Powerful: The inner lining of Marla's battle cloak is purple. When it switches places with the white outside, things get serious.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: Happens to a Reality Warper in Poison Sleep, with disastrous consequences.
  • The Red Mage: If you can't be very good at one thing, learn to be decent at a lot of things. Marla's style of magic has been referred to as brute-force-o-mancy in-universe.
  • Ruling Couple: After Grimm Tides, Marla and Death rule the underworld together, six months out of the year. It takes both of them to make one complete god.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Outsider, which was imprisoned beneath Death Valley long ago and is inadvertently released by Marla.
  • Sole Survivor: When Marla starts studying with Artie Mann in the prequel Bone Shop, she learns that Ernesto was the only survivor of Artie's last batch of apprentices. Marla herself is the sole survivor of this group.
  • Strictly Professional Relationship: Marla and Rondeau, without the customary sexual tension.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: In Bride of Death Marla is being beaten by a higher dimensional, tentacled monster thing with lots and lots of teeth. She summons several enormous ghost sharks from prehistoric times and they tear it to pieces.
  • Unequal Rites: There are countless ways to be a sorcerer and all of them are more or less right.
  • Unknown Rival: Nicolette is obsessed with becoming Marla's nemesis, while Marla considers her nothing more than a minor nuisance. By Lady of Misrule, several characters outright tell Marla that her refusal to take Nicolette seriously has motivated her to become a far greater threat than she might otherwise have become, as she is now striving to become so dangerous that Marla won't be able to ignore her anymore.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Chaos magic is not good for the wielder's mind. Nor is immortality. Or using the cloak...
  • Wizards Live Longer: Most sorcerers use magic to extend their lives in some way.
  • Workaholic: Marla's job of ruling and protecting Felport takes up almost all her time, and she has few interests outside of that job.
  • Wham Episode: Broken Mirrors. The true nature of the cloak, Marla and Rondeau’s evil twins, the deaths of half the recurring characters, and of course Marla’s exile.