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Literature / Monster Blood Tattoo

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The boy with the girl's name.

Combine Bio Punk and Dungeon Punk, mold it into a Coming of Age Story, layer in a lot of The Lord of the Rings-style world building, and frost it with lots of alchemy, and you'll have the Monster Blood Tattoo series.

Written and illustrated by D. M. Cornish, the first series is a trilogy following the bildungsroman of one Rossamund Bookchild: orphan, budding chemist, and reluctant adventurer, and his journey of self-discovery. Along the way he meets many people and many creatures, notably Europe, the Branden Rose, lightning-wielding monster-hunter and duchess-in-waiting of Naimes; Threnody of Herbroulesse, telepath, fellow lamplighter 'prentice, with a prickly exterior; and assorted monsters and nonhuman denizens of the wilds of the Half-Continent.

  1. Foundling (2006)
  2. Lamplighter (2008)
  3. Factotum (2010)
  • Tales from the Half-Continent (2014) — anthology

Other books and stories are planned in the series, obvious given the sheer scope of the world and the attention to detail and backstory present in the glossaries of each book. As of spring 2013 two new stories in one book are forthcoming, according to the author.

The Jim Henson Company has optioned the rights to create a film based on Cornish's world, but there has been no news since 2009. Any upcoming news relating to the series and much extra material can be found on David's blog, Monster Blog Tattoo.

The series was renamed to The Foundling's Tale in North America, possibly because the Moral Guardians felt ill-at-ease with a title referencing tattoos (or blood) in a young adult novel.

This series includes the following tropes:

  • Abnormal Ammo - Pistoleers/Spendonettes shoot chemical laden shot from their pistols.
  • Academy of Adventure - In the second book, Rossamund and his classmates as lamplighters have to learn to fight monsters.
  • Adventure-Friendly World - The Wilds lurk behind civilization, And all sorts of Monster Hunters are needed to hunt down the various nickers and bogles. Which is a profitable and glorified position in the Half-Continent.
  • Alien Sea- Although not a traditional alien planet, the world of the Half Continent's ocean definitely sends the message that this is not our familiar world. The oceans are strongly acidic and multicolored due to the concentration of chemicals that rise from the sea floor. Half an hour in it will leave you with a really bad rash, over an hour and a half will leave you dead. Multitudes of sea monsters dwell beneath the waves, too. Have a nice swim!
  • All-Loving Hero - Averted with Rossamund. Although he's a sweet kid and grows to feel sympathy towards monsters, he hates and fears monsters just like the rest of the population at the beginning of the story. He does have feelings of loathing towards certain characters, notably Licurius. And there are certain monsters throughout the book that even he gets disgusted by.
  • All of the Other Reindeer - Rossamund is heavily picked on because of his name and size.
  • All There in the Manual - There is a selection of glossary terms, maps, and diagrams at the end of each book. The first one took up nearly as many pages as the story itself.
  • Alternative Calendar- The Half Continent's Calendar system is divided into 16 months, most having 23 days with 7 day weeks. The days of the week are also alternative named. Midwich, Domesday etc.
  • Animal Motifs - Urchins, or monster lords, each have a specific one, having the head or general appearence of a specific animal.
  • Arc Words - "Not all monsters look like monsters... some everyday folk are the worst monsters of all"
  • Bad Powers, Bad People - Subverted: Rossamund's powers aren't evil per se, it's the reason behind their existence that has everyone upset.
  • Battle Trophy - The titular Monster Blood Tattoos are etched on a monster-slayers skin in the slain monsters own blood.
  • Beastly Bloodsports - Hunting dogs are set against captured monsters in underground pit fights.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished - Played with; at various points, Europe gets the crap beaten out of her and/or becomes deathly ill, and is described as looking like a shadow of her former self...and STILL being gorgeous.
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat - The Lamplighter-Marshal until he's called away as part of a power play by the Master-of-Clerks.
  • Bittersweet Ending - No one really important dies, but Rossamund is separated from Europe and all the other humans he cares about, forever.
  • Blessed with Suck - Being a Lazhar; on the one hand, awesome monster-killing powers. On the other hand, you have to take an array of noxious potions on a daily basis to keep your implanted organs from killing you horribly; which they may end up doing anyways. Oh, and you're a social pariah, shunned by decent folk. Wits have it even worse than Fulgars, having to take twice as many potions and losing all their hair.
  • Carnival of Killers - Europe and Rossamund have to fight their way through a number of hired killers at the midpoint and at the climax of Book Three.
  • Child Soldiers - The prentices are all quite young, but expected to learn how to fight and succeed against various monsters in about four months' time. This is revealed as not commonly accepted everywhere in the Half Continent as a woman expresses the sentiment that Rossamund is too young to be fighting.
  • Clingy Costume- sthenicons, although they enhance human vision and smell, are somewhat painful to take off after being worn and, if worn long enough, will require surgery to be fully taken off.
  • Conlang - The narrative is full of created words and slang used heavily in the Character's speech and is detailed and decoded in the index.
  • Cryptic Background Reference - The Half-Continent is vast and all the stories happen within a few hundred miles of each other, but there's the imperial heartland on the other side of the Half-Continent and all the kingdoms near it, and all the people only mentioned like the Emperor, not to mention the tales of the Gotts who fled from across the sea from the rise of a false-god, apocalyptic monsters that are only mentioned in passing.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle-Europe utterly fries The Misbegotten Schrewd Who was both relatively harmless and stupid and also completely caught off guard.
  • Dance Battler- Europe's fighting style is described as dance-like on several occasions.
  • Dark and Troubled Past - Fransitart's past is mysterious and tragic, leaving him gruff, scarred and ashamed of his actions.
  • Death World - The world of the Half Continent has elements of this, with the wilderness (obviously) infested with deadly monsters, the aforementioned seas acidic and potentially deadly ,and the environment being generally inhospitable due to the Threwd, which has mind altering affects on people who go too far into the wild, sometimes driving people insane in the worst of cases.
  • Eldritch Abomination - the false gods, and to the common people probably the monster lords. The false Gods are pretty much a expy of lovecraftian horrors, they live under the sea, they have many mouths and radically different bodies, they are sleeping and waiting to rise, cults of people worship them and when one did rise a fishing village was destroyed.
  • Eye Scream - Freckle plucks the eye out of a rever man in the first book, apparently with his bare hands.
  • Facial Markings - Most teratologists have facial markings, known as spoors, which are made with chemical stains instead of needles and ink. Fulgars, who control lightning, are marked with diamonds somewhere on the face. Wits, who control a form of telepathy, are marked with arrows. Dexters have both sets of organs/powers and combine the diamond and arrow in various ways. There are also skolds (basically battle chemists, without any biological augmentation) and they generally have long stripes over their eyes, from the hairline to the jawline.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture-
    • The Gotts are heavily based on German culture, while the Haacobin are based on Western European culture with some Germanic influences.
    • Turkemans are definitely not the Ottoman Turks of this world.
  • Fantastic Racism - Basically the entire storyline. Monsters Vs. Humans and such.
  • Foreshadowing - Freckle's words to Rossamund on their first meeting, Rossamund's conversation with the Rabbit Lord.
  • Functional Magic: Alchemy variation. The most obvious is probably the lahzars, a group of specialised monster-hunters who have had various vat-grown organs transplanted into their bodies to give them special powers: control of electricity (called fulgars) or what amounts to telepathy (called wits).
  • Healing Potion - Rossamund always has a satchel full of powders, including healing powders.
  • Humans Are Bastards - Rossamund finds it infuriating that everyone is so intent on killing monsters.
  • Humanoid Abomination - Some of the monsters are this, particularly rever-men and jackstraws (apparently referred to as zombie scarecrows in the glossary). Rossamund might be considered this.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Threnody is a vain and annoying brat, annoying even Rossamund to the point of snapping at her, but she highly values the protection of the oppressed because of her calendar learnings and remains loyal to him even when it gets hard for her.
  • Living Ship - Sort of. The ships of this universe are run by living organs acting as their engines, but other than that are made of standard material.
  • Nightmare Fetishist -
    • Licurius' hobby was painting graphic depictions of monster-related violence. Some he sold, others he kept in his bedroom.
    • Sedorners, or monster-lovers/sympathizers are viewed as the lowest form of life by the general populace.
  • No Woman's Land - Averted, despite the world being based heavily on 17th -18th century time periods, women in this world seem to be able go to school, inherit positions of authority and become respected and feared monster hunters.
  • Old Soldier - Masters Fransitart and Craumpalin are both naval veterans who served in war together.
  • The Pardon - Europe uses her nobility to enact this on Rossamund during his trial in the second book
  • Super-Senses -
    • Laggards have superpowerful vision, wearing an olfactlogue enhances ones sense of smell, and a sthenicon enhances both sight and smell.
    • Wits can sense where their quarry is hiding by psychicly picking up their natural electrical pulse.
  • Technicolor Eyes - The alchemical "washes" that give leers their special sight also changes their eye colors; laggards have brown and yellow eyes, falsemen have red and pale-blue eyes.
  • Took a Level in Badass - Rossamund, goes from spending fights hiding in Book One to wading through a horde of nickers at the battle at Wormstool near the end of Book Two.
  • Überwald - The setting of the books is very gothic inspired, taking place in a culture resembling Central Europe, with huge decrepit old buildings, and a very dark and gloomy wilderness filled with looming trees, fog covered landscapes, and general creepiness being a primary setting in the Character's travels.
  • Uriah Gambit - The Master-of-Clerks sending Rossamund to Wormstool, the most dangerous Lamplighter outpost in the Empire, is implied to be this.
  • Would Hurt a Child - Europe surprisingly enough, has no problem with electrocuting Rossamund into a coma.
  • You Monster!! - Rossamund says this when he finally stands up to Europe near the end of the first book.