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Literature / One for the Morning Glory

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"This is not how these tales end," Calliope said firmly.
"This is not the way that things end when they get to be tales," Amatus said, "but since ours is not told yet, we cannot count on it. There were a hundred dead princes on the thorns outside Sleeping Beauty's castle, and I'm sure many of them were splendid fellows."

One for the Morning Glory is a darkly comedic fantasy novel by John Barnes. The premise of it is that the characters are all aware that they feature in Fairy Tales...but they do not know which roles they play in the stories.

The toddler Prince Amatus gets his hands on the Wine of the Gods and demonstrates that the truth of the saying, "A child who tastes the Wine of the Gods too early is only half a person afterwards." It's literal. The right half.

Four mysterious Companions arrive at the castle, and the novel follows Prince Amatus through his adventures in the underground goblin kingdom, the attack of a mysterious illness, and the invasion by the usurper of the neighboring kingdom.

And word play. Lots and lots of word play. The book is full of malapropisms used seriously and consistently throughout the work.


This novel includes examples of:

  • All Myths Are True: It's lampshaded as one of the distinguishing marks of the kingdom, to distinguish it from lands that are merely actual.
  • Anachronism Stew: Used freely, and Lampshaded; when Sir John drinks tea, he thinks it's an anachronism, but the Duke points out that such problem exists only the lands that are merely actual.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sylvie the goblin's prisoner.
  • Decadent Court: The goblin court is explicitly described as a parody of King Boniface's.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Invoked: Amatus's behavior is so erratic after Gorlias's death that people worry that he doesn't sit about spurning sympathy despite his otherwise melancholy behavior.
  • Dying Alone: The Duke remembers kneeling beside men he had just mortally wounded and holding their hands and assuring them in their last moments.
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  • Evil Overlord: The usurper Waldo: he conquered the kingdom of Overhill and personally murdered two infant members of the royal family when it was massacred; turned Overhill into a wasteland; and set out to conquer the next kingdom with evil magic, undead, and goblin allies.
  • The Evil Prince: Part of the backstory. The kingdom of Overhill was independent because a king had sent his brother packing to an unsettled corner of the kingdom, and he had declared it an independent kingdom.
  • Fiery Redhead: Calliope.
  • Fisher King: Overhill has been reduced to a wasteland under the reign of the usurper Waldo. Queen Calliope, returning, is told that it has even become better since the usurper left to continue his conquests.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: Amatus invokes this as an analogy of their situation.
  • In Its Hour of Need: Prince Amatus has to be carried out the ruined capital by force. And his father King Boniface stays and dies.
  • Insubstantial Ingredients: The Wine of the Gods includes such things as starlight and autumn.
  • The Magnificent: Kings receive such a title posthumously. Early in the book, characters who had thought he would be King Boniface the Shrewd consider that maybe he'll turn out King Boniface the Jolly. At the end, we have a play: "The Tragical Death of King Boniface the Good."
  • Manly Tears: Prince Amatus weeps at Gorlias's death.
  • Medium Awareness: The characters are aware that they are in a Fairy Tale. They are also aware that they do not know what their role in said fairy tale is, which inspires due caution.
  • Mordor: Overhill has been reduced to a wasteland under the reign of the usurper Waldo. Queen Calliope, returning, is told that it has even become better since the usurper left to continue his conquests.
  • Off with His Head!: During the first chapter the court witch, court magician, and royal nursemaid are all beheaded, their bodies dumped out the window, and their heads neatly lined up in a row by the captain of the guard for losing track of the young prince and letting him drink the Wine of the Gods. Said captain then manages to do all that to himself as well for his role in Amatus getting his hands on the Wine of the Gods.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: Prince Amatus faces such a crowd and manages to persuade them that they had come to draw matters to his attention, and that he would deal with them.
  • The Quest: All knights are supposed to go on a quest. Sir John is sent after Waldo's heart because he had never performed a proper quest before.
  • Rags to Royalty: Calliope is secretly the princess of a neighboring country, smuggled to safety. She ends up getting herself crowned and then marrying Prince Amatus and being queen, although at one point she does wish that she could marry Amatus as just the nobleman's daughter she passes herself off as; as a princess, the political aspects are a little obvious.
  • Riddle of the Sphinx: The Riddling Beast at the edge of the goblin kingdom asks, "What goes on four legs in the morning, shaves the barber at noon, and crosses the road in the evening, and what does it have in its pockets?" Prince Amatus correctly answers "Myself and the things that are mine" because the answer to such riddles is always "myself" — though the pockets nearly threw him. Later, they turn about the Riddling Beast so it guards the way out of the goblin kingdom — which is good, because a goblin can not easily answer a riddle whose answer is "myself and the things that are mine."
  • Rightful King Returns: Princess Calliope returns to her native Overhill, which the usurper Waldo had seized when she was a child, and is crowned there. A Fisher King effect comes into play.
  • Royal Blood: Prince Amatus is asked to cure the sick because a prince's touch can do that. Works, too.
  • Secret Legacy: Subverted. Calliope learned, very young, that she was the only daughter of a king to be smuggled to safety after her father's throne was usurped. Not that that doesn't lead to complications on its own.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Deacon Dick Thunder is a Shout-Out to Robin Hood. Indeed, the prime minister Cedric explicitly says they can draw him into certain plans because he wouldn't miss the chance to play Robin Hood.
    • Also, the Riddling Beast's Riddle of the Sphinx ends "And what has it got in its pockets?"
    • A ballad's main character turns out to be not a woodcutter but a butterfly who couldn't manage to dream of a Chinese philosopher.
    • The entire novel is a Shout-Out to the Irish folk song "One for the Morning Glory"; in fact, its chorus is the word-for-word prophecy foretelling the four people who will help restore Prince Amatus.
  • Soul Jar: They deduce that Waldo must have done this by the magical powers he gains from it; with the aid of the Riddling Beast, they track it down and destroy it.
  • Sour Supporter: They hear a ballad that ends with a young woman prisoner to the goblins, and since it's true, and they know it, they discuss rescuing her. Gorlias is as enthusiastic as any, and characters object: he's the oldest, he should be gravely warning them against it and talking of its dangers. Gorlias proceeds to discuss its dangers in a portentous tone, as if he had warned them off, but on the trip itself, he's perfectly cheerful.
  • Standard Royal Court: King Boniface's court: a Fairy Tale court with a liberal admixture of a royal court as needed by the Rule Of Whimsy.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Calliope dresses as a man. Characters pretend to be deceived. Sometimes even she forgets that she's dressed as a man and glares at people who refer to her as male.
  • Think Nothing of It: Invoked after the Twisted Man saves Sir John and the duke.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Highly Unpleasant Things It Is Sometimes Necessary To Know and worse, Things That Are Not Good To Know At All.
  • Troperrific: All the characters have Medium Awareness that they are in a Fairy Tale, so that tropes are invoked, lampshaded, and even relied on — but not excessively, since they don't know for certain what their roles are.
  • Virgin Power: The goblin queen claims the goblins have raped a captive maiden. Gorlias says that would be impossible: trying to rape a pure maiden would have destroyed them.
  • War Refugees: Many arrive at the capital.
  • Wicked Witch: The witches are as capable of niceness as everyone else, but except in the rarest cases, fit the physical description perfectly.
  • You Shall Not Pass!