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Literature / Paladin of Shadows

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A modern military fiction series written by John Ringo, focusing on Mike "Ghost" Harmon/Jenkins, a former Navy SEAL, and all-around Anti-Hero. The first book is a self-admitted author wank piece with a significant focus on BDSM that was originally not intended for publication; it was written specifically to get it out of Ringo's head so he could move on to other work. However, between fan response to a snippet posted on Baen's Bar, and the head of Baen Books (at the time, Jim Baen, who has since passed away) insisting that it be printed, it was published for release to the public. Works later in the series (starting with Kildar), however, tend more towards, as described elsewhere in the comments to the linked LiveJournal entry, below, "man builds stuff and gets lots of pussy".

The inspiration for OH JOHN RINGO NO, an opinion which the man himself shares. Involves lots of hookers, harems, BDSM, and plenty of dakka, with bouts of blowing shit up.

The series consists of the following books as of 2013:

  • Ghost (2005): Mike finds himself in pursuit of terrorists who are into abduction and WMD smuggling. Afterwards, he settles into the "boat bum" life in the Florida Keys, where he accidentally stumbles onto (and foils) another WMD smuggling plot. Having had enough of that, he then embarks on a "sex tour of Eastern Europe" vacation, where he stumbles into yet another terrorist plot, this time aimed at Paris during a Papal visit.
  • Kildar (2006): Taking a wrong turn in some Georgian mountains and giving a lift to a reluctant but beautiful stranger, Mike unwittingly kicks off a series of events that lead to him becoming the new lord of the mysterious and deadly Keldara.
  • Choosers of the Slain (2006): A powerful US senator asks for Mike's help in locating the daughter of one of his constituents, who has been taken by sex slavers. Not all is as meets the eye, though, and the secrets Mike and the Keldara uncover may be more dangerous than the armed men in their way.
  • Unto the Breach (2006): A Russian microbiologist is forced by unsavory characters to abscond with biological weapons and Mike must retrieve him. With dubious Russian assistance and the Chechens on their tail, though, things are going to get complicated fast.
  • A Deeper Blue (2007): Mike and the Keldara are called back to the US to help foil an imminent chemical weapons attack. However, Mike's head is not in the game and the local agencies are uncooperative.
  • Tiger by the Tail (2013): In operations against pirates in the seas around southeastern Asia, the Kildar and his team stumble upon a highly valuable and highly classified cargo originally bound for Myanmar. Mike and the team investigate to get to the bottom of what's happening in the newly democratic (as of the novel's setting) nation.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Affably Evil: Kurt Schwenke is a fairly polite man whose hobbies happen to include torturing prostitutes with various chemical concoctions, killing people with said chemical concoctions and being a Master of Disguise and expert assassin.
  • And Show It to You: Mother Lenka, in Unto the Breach, rips the heart out of a captured Chechen fighter, and drinks his blood from it, the last thing its former owner sees before dying.
  • And This Is for...: Lasko gives a low-key one in Unto the Breach when he kills the enemy sniper who killed Sion.
  • Anyone Can Die: Ringo isn't afraid to let named, familiar characters bite it. Towards the end of Unto The Breach, a number of familiar faces are taken out one after another.
  • Arranged Marriage: The traditional setup for the Keldara is to have marriages arranged by the Fathers and Mothers (leaders, pretty much) of the Keldaran families.
  • Ass Shove: In A Deeper Blue, the central receiver for the bugs Katya plants on Juan Gonzales' boat is hidden in her rectum, before being installed.
  • As You Know: Used to lead off the briefing on the VX nerve gas at the beginning of A Deeper Blue. Given a Lampshade Hanging a few paragraphs later with the acknowledgement of the speaker that he's covering old ground for those at the briefing.
  • Autobots, Rock Out!:
    • The slaughter of the bunkers guarding the retreat path in Unto The Breach were taken out to the accompaniment of DragonForce.
    • Mike occasionally uses music to help boost the morale of his allies.
  • Author Appeal: Ringo has stated that one of his motivations for writing the series was to get his more self-indulgent fantasies out of his head, so they wouldn't start creeping into his other work.
  • Author Tract:
    • Mike's mental commentary on the politically correct history class he'd just had. Although, John Ringo admits he wrote the character to be as negative as possible.
      • OTOH, the scene in question was a screening of Roots, which Mike gets thrown out of for laughing out loud during the "whites chasing and capturing blacks" scene. He'd done enough library research to know that slavers usually bought the slaves directly from the tribes.
    • A more subtle one - it's unclear how much time passes between books, but apparently the Republicans are always in control of the White House, Congress, and everything else.
  • Awesomeness-Induced Amnesia: In Unto the Breach, in a vengeful berserker rage about deaths from a trio of armed bunkers her overloaded helicopter is forced to fly over, Kacey takes the armed Hind helicopter back to the bunkers, and in a whirling dervish of destruction to the sounds of Dragonforce leaves them "fucking vaporized", as an observer to the carnage describes it. Afterward, however, in the narration it's noted that she doesn't remember any of it, between her vengeful thoughts and being "In The Zone".
  • Badass Bystander: A Deeper Blue has Will Carter, a former National Guardsman who helps Mike load his LMG and punches out a terrorist. Carter is a Fan Cameo.
  • Badass Creed: Mike's Restraining Bolt - Protection of the Innocent. Courage in Battle. Loyalty to the King.
  • Badass Family: The Keldara. Well, five badass families, actually.
  • Berserk Button: In Unto the Breach, seeing Gretchen's body causes Kacey to lose it and pull the gunship with four Gatling Guns into use. The Chechens responsible pay in rivers of blood.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Father Ferani, in Unto the Breach.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: One of the mercenaries in Unto The Breach suddenly collapses and can't breathe. Dr. Arensky, who had cultivated a couple of lethal toxins in the kitchen sink, calmly tells him to never, ever fuck with a microbiologist.
  • Break the Haughty: Katya (who was sold into prostitution by her dirt-poor Russian parents and abused for years) starts out as a cold psychopathic bitch who's constantly causing troubles for the people, until Unto the Breach, when she's in a helicopter forced to fly over a trio of enemy bunkers armed with heavy machine guns, and one of the people in the chopper gets their guts blasted all over her and the helicopter's interior by an HMG round. Seeing this happen to someone who was only there to rescue her breaks her the way earlier threats of being killed for acting like a bitch hadn't. Later she's said to occasionally even be helpful to those she hassled earlier, though many people find her sudden change of behavior unsettling, and aren't sure if the change of heart will actually hold.
  • Byronic Hero: Mike admits even to himself that, at heart, he's a rapist, held back only by his warrior code. His restraint of his own dark impulses compels him to do absolutely awful things to those who don't control those impulses. Katya is essentially his Distaff Counterpart, but as we get to hear very little of her internal struggles, she just comes off as his protege in sadistic heroism.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: The Keldara are descendants of Scots and Vikings brought into the Byzantine Empire to serve in the Varangian Guard.
  • Call-Back:
    • As the situation gets worse in Unto the Breach, various heads of state call the US President about some highly sensitive material the Keldara are holding onto from Choosers of the Slain.
    • The intel expert seconded to the Keldara in A Deeper Blue is "Bambi" from Ghost.
  • Cat Fight: A Deeper Blue includes one between Britney, Greznya, and an undercover Katya including a lot of Clothing Damage. It was fake, used to help Greznya break contact with Katya after an information drop, to not reveal the mission.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: In Choosers of the Slain, Katya kills an assassin before the reinforcements show up. "About time you showed up. Reinforcements my ass."
  • Closest Thing We Got: In Choosers of the Slain, there's a conversation between Mike and one of the girls he rescued from the snuff house in Rozaje, Montenegro in the course of a mission. He points out that he's not an expert in rape counseling, and what little he knows is from a former lover who did it professionally, but the girl replies that Mike is as close as she can get to one at the moment given the Keldara are still on the mission at the time.
  • Cold Sniper: Lasko Ferani, the best sniper on the teams, is often alone even when not on a mission, often being out hunting for food prior to Mike's arrival, and doesn't show much in the way of outward emotion. He's actually quite loyal and affectionate towards his people, but is not a touchy-feely kind of guy, so he'll never, ever show it.
  • The Commies Made Me Do It: Dr. Arensky was forced into working for the villains because they took his daughter hostage.
  • Cool Old Guy: Father Kulcyanov, Red Army vet, Hero of the Soviet Union, fought at Stalingrad.
  • Debate and Switch: In Unto the Breach, Mike falls for Gretchen, whose hand has been promised to another. He tries to force himself to perish the thought, but struggles with it, including thinking of pulling an Uriah Gambit. Eventually, though, both Gretchen and Kiril (her fiancee) get KIA, sparing the trouble.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Inverted in A Deeper Blue, where mooks disguise as a friendly tactical team and later DEA agents.
  • Driven to Suicide: Many of the people listed in the files retrieved during the Albanian operation in Choosers of the Slain have been quietly informed of the existence of the files, resulting in a lot of them committing suicide. Japanese businessmen in particular are said to have all killed themselves after being informed their activities were recorded.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Mike is reluctant to follow through with a tradition that requires the Kildar to deflower a newly married Keldar woman, with the reasoning that you don't have sex with the brides of men who have guns at your back, but is eventually convinced to accept it by the village elders. The Keldara men are actually pretty cool with it, thoughnote . A few books later, he figures out the real reason for it and refuses to do it again. The Keldara don't really care about the dowry that the tradition is nominally about; they use it to introduce fresh warrior genes (they only brought it up once Mike had proven himself "worthy" and a "true Kildar") into their otherwise-isolated community...
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Mikhail in Choosers of the Slain, who gets unceremoniously gunned down without a proper death scene after we've been with him for nearly the whole book.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Mike does this at the start of A Deeper Blue, unable to get over Gretchen's death in Unto the Breach.
  • Dumb Muscle: Shota has difficulty counting to five, but wears ridiculous amounts of armor and carries a rocket launcher like the other Keldara carry rifles.
  • Dying Dream: Ringo said that at one point he was tempted to make the entirety of the series be the elaborate dying dream of the protagonist as he died of hypothermia and anoxia while hidden in the nose wheel well of the airplane he snuck aboard in Ghost. He joked that what made him not take that route was that many of his readers (especially of this series) tend to be well armed.
  • Empty Quiver: Three nukes are the weapons of mass destruction that are claimed to have been stolen by terrorists in Unto the Breach, to the US president, instead of the actual theft, due to the sensitive nature of the stolen material. Not really a subversion, though, as the reader is aware from the start about the real WMD that's been stolen, as the theft scene is at the very beginning of the book.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Katya is an absolutely frigid self-serving sadist bitch, but Kurt Schwenke's use of chemical tortures on prostitutes appalls even her.
  • Evil Counterpart: It's a thin line between Katya, the sadistic, murderous whore and Kurt, the sadistic, murderous rapist. Their scene at the end of Unto the Breach even starts to slide into Worthy Opponent when they fight to a draw. Though there is mutual respect of sorts, they don't hate each other any less.
  • Exact Words: In A Deeper Blue, Mike promises to not kill a terrorist that he was interrogating. After getting the desired information, he kept his word. Oleg delivered the killing blow.
  • Expy: The President apparently with the last name Cliff, by a few blink-and-you'll-miss-it name drops in the first book is one of George W. Bush. The first and second Iraq wars are mentioned in passing, and the president even remarks that not forcing a regime change is what one of the things that cost his father the election in 1991.
  • Eye Scream: Katya talks about gouging out several "bad guy" eyes and injecting the poison weapon she's given in Choosers of the Slain into them, but doesn't actually get to do it until near the end of A Deeper Blue, to the drug smuggler who was working with Islamic terrorists to sneak VX into the US.
  • Fat Suit: Unto the Breach has superspy Jay donning a fat suit as part of a disguise during a mission.
  • Gatling Good: The Dragon, from Unto the Breach, has 4 Gatling guns mounted to fire forward. The other Hind has the more conventional loadout of a minigun to each side for defense, in the troop transport role, as is done in Real Life. The young woman whose death caused Mike's Heroic BSoD (well, OK, for certain values of "heroic", given Mike's Anti-Hero status) was killed while manning one of them on a medevac mission.
  • Genius Bruiser: Oleg Kulcyanov.
  • Genre Savvy: Mike and Adams display this in the opening of Tiger by the Tail, noting that as the op is going very well, it's going to go to hell sooner or later. Then Mike decides to make sure:
    Adams: "Oh, you're evil."
  • Guilty Pleasure: Main point of the series which Ringo admits.
  • Gung Holier Than Thou: Colonel Olds in A Deeper Blue is a Lawful Stupid stickler for the book.
  • Hand Cannon:
    • In Choosers of the Slain, MI6 agent Charles Calthrop pulls out a Winchester .454 revolver, after initially reaching for a service-issue Walther to fight back against multiple gunmen in the defense of Katya and Natalya.
    • Mike's Desert Eagle .50 cal pistol from A Deeper Blue, with large caliber pistols discussed a bit with a terrorist whose head said pistol is aimed at.
  • Handicapped Badass: Oleg after he loses a leg
  • He's Back!: In A Deeper Blue, Mike snaps out of his funk when he learns that an operation has Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Idle Rich: This is how Mike Jenkins formerly Harmon describes himself in the second section of the first book, using the term "boat bum", while living off of the 25 million dollar reward money from killing Osama bin Laden.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Used as a joke by Mike, when asked by a beer distribution company representative how Mike had earned the money he was fronting for the Mountain Tiger Beer brewery.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Invoked in Unto the Breach, Urban Warfare scenarios are simulated with the help of Unreal.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: One terrorist in A Deeper Blue can't believe that his crew just got four-shots-four-Kneecaps-four-seconds from Lasko in a helicopter. He tries to go for a gun and gets it destroyed shortly afterwards.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • Mike, in Choosers of the Slain, made plans for meeting Pierson in a bar after the talk with Senator Traskel, though meeting with the Senate leadership is noted to have been more of a "ballbuster" for him.
    • In Unto the Breach, after flying low and slow (due to the helicopter being heavily overloaded) past a trio of enemy bunkers Captain Kacey Bathlick says to her helicopter's crew chief that after "one hairy fucking mission" she seriously needs a drink... Kacey doesn't drink. She later laments, in A Deeper Blue, that some times she wishes her water were beer when she's told about the Rite of Kardane and what happened with Gretchen.
  • In the Back: In Unto the Breach a Keldara says that he doesn't like slaughtering people from ambush, even if it is very effective.
  • The Infiltration: Katya is used in the task for most of the series, and is being trained by Jay to improve her abilities in it starting with Choosers of the Slain.
  • Insecurity Camera: The security cameras at the biological weapons facility from the prologue of Unto the Breech were positioned, thanks to what the narration calls "typical Russian inefficiency", so as to leave a dead spot in their coverage, which is exploited by intruders. Several cameras being shot out by the intruders gets only a casual look by the monitoring staff, with ultimately fatal results for the staff.
  • Insult to Rocks: In Unto the Breach Father Kulcyanov says that calling Stalin a pig is an insult to pigs.
  • It's Raining Men:
    • The SEAL team sent to rescue Mike, in the first section of Ghost, performs a HALO (not that one, High Altitude Low Opening) drop from a B-2 "Spirit", from well above the safe altitude for HALO drops.
    • Later, Unto the Breach has a Keldara intel team being deployed by HALO drop from a more normal option of a spec ops MC-130.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Shows up several times in Choosers of the Slain, usually involving a hammer and abandoned warehouses. Mike goes even farther in A Deeper Blue. All you need to know is Everything Is Even Worse With Sharks. Even Jack might take issue with what he does.
  • Jurisdiction Friction: With FBI agents pulled to Florida from all over the country, in A Deeper Blue, to deal with a possible terrorist attack using VX nerve gas, those from New York run into trouble "interfacing" with Lake County deputies, who hold a rather low opinion of the FBI in general due to previous conflicts, and an FBI motto that seems to the locals to be "Ready, Fire, Aim."
  • Just Between You and Me: A rapist and murderer does this in Choosers of the Slain. He didn't know his would-be victim was wired.
  • Karma Houdini: As of A Deeper Blue, Kurt Schwenke still hasn't been brought to justice.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Father Ferani in Unto the Breach.
  • Lack of Empathy: Jay says this is what prevents Katya from being a truly good spy.
  • Licking the Blade: In Unto the Breach Oleg licks the hatchet that was just used to amputate one of his legs. Adams, a badass former SEAL, is disturbed.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • Little Miss Badass: Creata. Described as small and delicate, she disembowels a sex slaver with a drilling laser in Choosers of the Slain and calmly blows his brains out afterward.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Viktor Mahona takes a 12.7mm round through his abdomen and much of his body simply disappears.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Discussed. Though the Keldara never do it onscreen, they have a habit of making Kildars that are unworthy die mysterious deaths.
  • Master of Disguise:
    • Jay, in the books starting Unto the Breach, is often in disguise on Katya's missions, to help her..
    • Kurt Schwenke is suggested to be this, in A Deeper Blue, starting with his disguise as an Arab.
    • Katya is working on becoming one, under Jay's tutelage.
  • Mathematician's Answer: From Choosers of the Slain:
    "Be careful what she teaches her," Adams said, without looking up. "You might get a very nasty surprise."
    "Are you talking about Anastasia teaching Katya or the other way around?" Nielson asked, grinning.
  • Mighty Glacier: Shota. He may be dumb as a box of rocks, but he's shown at one point wearing armor so heavy that opening a explosive-trapped door just knocked him on his ass, his favored weapon is a rocket launcher, and when an enemy made it into the trench where the Keldara were fighting, Shota just picked him up and bashed him against the wall until he stopped squealing.
    Shota (just after having a claymore go off in his face): I don’t like doors anymore. I don’t like bombs.
    Adams (who was unfortunate enough to have Shota land on him): You’re alive?
  • The Mole: In A Deeper Blue, several Islamics in ordinary positions are used to assist the VX attack on Florida, although one of them only does so at gunpoint once he discovers what he's being told to actually do.
  • More Dakka: Plenty to be found throughout the series, but particularly demonstrated by the slaughter of the bunkers mentioned above, and the improved M-60s used at the end of the battle with the Chechens.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Mother Lenka demonstrates this in Unto the Breach, leading the women Keldara in a suicidal blitz of a group of Chechens blocking the way for their men to return home... and then cuts out and drinks the blood from the heart of one of the Chechens, while the guy was dying.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted in Ghost, where Bashar al-Assad and Osama bin Laden are explicitly named and present to oversee the kidnapping.
  • Nominal Hero: Mike starts as this in Ghost but tones down...a bit in the later books. Katya remains one throughout the series, albeit getting a Break the Haughty along the way.
  • Noodle Incident: Apparently the helicopter drivers first seen over the Caribbean in Ghost and hired on in Unto the Breach had an interesting incident earlier in their career.
    D'Alliard: (On the phone with Kacey) Well, now I got to go. If for no other reason than to keep you two out of trouble. I mean, does this place have a brig?
    Kacey: Hey, we weren't going to go to the brig over that!
    Tammy: (Not looking up from reading a manual) Yes we were.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In A Deeper Blue, Mother Lenka laughing heartily is recalled with horror.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: In the series as a whole, obstructive bureaucrats (particularly US government ones) are occasional roadblocks to the Keldara doing their jobs. However, since their boss is personal friends with the President of the United States, the bureaucrats don't remain obstructive for very long.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: In A Deeper Blue an Afghani-immigrant maintenance man is forced at gunpoint to help pump VX into the water.
  • Oh, Crap!: In Unto the Breach Mike has one when he learns about an enemy group approaching the approximately 100 Keldar, to the tune of 4000 Chechens.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr. Tolegen Arensky is a microbiologist with familiar with chemical weapons, and enough knowledge of nuclear weapons to preserve the effectiveness of a device. He also acts as the Kildar's medical doctor.
  • One-Word Title: The novel titles, Ghost and Kildar.
  • Outside Ride: Mike, at the beginning of Ghost, does this on the van that's being used to kidnap coeds, hanging on to a ladder on the rear door for roof access.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: In Ghost, one of the students Mike picks up in Florida finds out more than she wanted to about the real reason for the planters in her parents' bedroom.
  • Pink Mist: What the commander of a Chechen Islamic army was turned into by Lasko, in Unto the Breach. Live on international television. From roughly two miles away.
  • Profiling: In A Deeper Blue, Middle Eastern terrorists are threatening to unleash VX on Florida. As the situation spins closer and closer to deadline, the situation isn't helped by the fact that the local law enforcement is concerned that the media would accuse them of it if they prioritized suspects based on nationality or color of skin, bringing up issues related to racial profiling. The Keldara, on the other hand, think the searches would go much quicker if they did so, bringing proof to back up their claim. Unfortunately, the first time they do, they walk right into a trap. From then on, though, it's shown as unfailing.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guys: The Keldara. Descendants of the Varangian Guard who've taken extensive efforts to retain their warrior culture in the ass-end of Soviet Georgia. To put it simply, they're Vikings.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: Mike's team, Keldara and otherwise are this. They are mercenaries after all.
  • Ranger: US Army Rangers are sometimes detailed to guard the Keldara valley. We get to see some up close in Unto the Breach. Colonel Nielson was also Ranger-tabbed.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: It's revealed in Choosers of the Slain that Mike is, in addition to being a badass Anti-Hero, a good cook, and not of simple meals like one would expect of "bachelor chow".
  • Red Shirt: Lampshaded in Unto the Breach, during the Chechen assault.
Target! Guy in the red shirt! Fire!
  • Retired Badass: Mike, for pretty much the entirety of the first novel, aside from an occasional gig as a "troubleshooter" for the government.
  • Rule of Cool: Leave your disbelief at the door. If it's cool, it's in, practicality and reality be damned. The author has even acknowledged that "REALITY DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY". Specifically if it was realistic the main character would be dead on page 6 of Book 1 (Ringo even joked that he was considering ending the series with the revelation that he DID die and that everything else was a Dying Dream).
  • Running Gag: "Georgia (the country, not the state)"
  • Safe, Sane, and Consensual: With on exception in the very first book involving an underage hooker, Mike goes out of his way to discuss the technical details of BDSM as far as consent and safety goes, including discussions about Safe Words and limits for the other participant(s).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Lightly used in A Deeper Blue. When an admiral objects to Adams pulling a cigar, the former is asked to check whose authority is behind him.note  The man quickly gives in.
  • Sherlock Scan: Jay does this to Katya when he's first introduced to her, in Unto the Breach. He doesn't, however, reveal how he deduced the assessment, which the reader only knows to be true from previous info given about her.
  • Shoot Out the Lock:
    • Choosers of the Slain has an SPR being placed against the door lock and shot out with a burst.
    • Shotguns used by the intruders in the prologue of Unto the Breach serve as the method of destroying the locks in the building they're raiding. Later, in the extraction of Katya, Shota's shotgun is used on the lock for the door to the building they're attacking.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A particularly funny one in Ghost: "Like a Doom scene, up to your knees in gore."
    • There's a character in Choosers of the Slain called Charles Calthrop, which was the apparent name of the eponymous assassin from The Day of the Jackal.
    • The Keldara are very taken with Patton, particularly the "make the other bastard die for his" line.
    • "I so regret introducing you to Red vs. Blue"
    • "There's an app for that..."
    • In Tiger by the Tail the inital op is titled "Operation Joss Whedon Is A God" and the teams are named after the characters of Firefly
  • Spotting the Thread: In Ghost, when looking for a nuclear bomb in the press parking lot at Notre Dame where the Pope was scheduled to speak, Mike identifies the enemy agent when he claims to be from Alabama, but is eating his meal in the Continental style (not switching the fork to the right hand to cut with a knife in the left) instead of the American one.
  • Spy Fiction: Discussed in Choosers of the Slain, between Mike and an MI6 agent killing some time during a lull in the action, particularly how the Tuxedo and Martini variety is incredibly unrealistic, with the Stale Beer that's actual intelligence work is rather boring. Later in the series the actual spycraft by Katya is of the Stale Beer variety, although with some high-tech enhancement thanks to the US government in Choosers.
  • Stealth Pun: In A Deeper Blue, Mike's crimson-red sports car is damaged, so he has it repainted in the Mountain Tiger colors. He had a red Ford, but he wants to paint it black.
  • Strawman Political: The French internal security representative in Part III of the first book of the series. The college Co-Eds in the first part are a very borderline example, being mostly typical upper-middle class American teenagers.
  • Take That!: In Unto the Breach:
    She wasn't sure what Mississippi was, but it must be a horrible thing if it was used as a mantra for the guns.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • In Unto the Breach one Chechen scoffs at tales of the Keldara eating hearts. If you've gotten this far down the page...
    • Mike deliberately invokes this in Tiger by the Tail, asking "What's the worst that could happen?" to ensure shit will hit the fan. Adams lampshades this.
  • Terror Hero: The Keldara are Type 5s. In Unto the Breach, a Chechen leader notes that even the Spetznaz were only hated, not feared... but the Keldara are feared, and now even more so due to being trained by American special forces who are a double trouble of fear to the muj.
  • Throw It In: In-Universe, at the first Rite of Kardane, the mother of the bride deviated from the proper line of "no shame, only duty" by saying "no shame, only pleasure".
  • Title Drop:
    • Mike, at one point, recites the Shakespeare quote that gave the book Unto the Breach its name.
    • "Right up your alley, Las," Mike said, his face hard. "Choosers of the slain."
    • Mike is said to be listening to Paint it Black at one point in A Deeper Blue, with the relevant part of the song the opening quote of the prologue.
  • To the Pain: In Unto the Breach, the captured Russian microbiologist invokes this trope when explaining to his captor why he was bracing for an impact and nervously checking his watch:
    Dr. Arensky: Because as you were bundling me about and threatening me I was slipping three small needles into your thigh. ...You probably didn't notice the slight pain what with everything else. One of them was coated in a product derived of argot. That's bread mold to you. It causes a reaction called Saint Vitus' Dance. Think of it as LSD. Psychotropic, hallucinogenic, very effective. You're probably already feeling the effects; it's fast stuff. If that didn't get you, the second was coated in a nasty little microbe that is found in sink drains world-wide. Very rarely kills anyone despite that; most people don't eat food they pick out of the sink drain. However, if it is cultured by an expert and then stuck into someone's thigh, it will spread through the bloodstream rather fast. Oh, it's not going to kill you for three or four days, but that one was guaranteed. The last was, I'm pretty sure, botulinus toxin. One of the tins of meat you left us was rather swelled and the resultant culture sure looked like botulinus. And botulinus is nasty. A teaspoon would kill a city. The amount I gave you would only kill, say, an elephant. By the way, that would have killed me if I'd eaten it. Such great care you took, too... (cue car crash)
    • Also ties into the good doctor's speech:
      Dr. Arensky: Let me give you one piece of advice. Take it for what you will. Piss off terrorists, piss off mobsters, piss off your president if you wish. But never ever piss off a microbiologist.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: In A Deeper Blue, Anastasia is kidnapped and tortured for information, but as she's a hardcore BDSM submissive, the beating only turns her on, allowing her to engage in some impromptu information warfare (see Torture Always Works, below).
  • Too Much Information: In Ghost, on finding out their parents' bedroom activities Pam and Courtney have this reaction, Courtney saying that she needs some brain floss, and Pam's horrified reaction immortalized on the (now discontinued) OH JOHN RINGO NO t-shirt.
  • Torture Always Works:
    • ... except when being done on on someone who gets off on being given pain. Anastasia, mentioned above, is questioned for names of Mike's team, but she instead gives the interrogator a list of his own goons.
    • Also averted in Tiger by the Tail. One at least has a reason she's a Chinese covert operative, presumably trained to resist, but the other, a seemingly ordinary pirate leader, has no excuse.
    • Elsewhere in the series, particularly A Deeper Blue, this trope is played straight.
  • Truth in Television: Wait... given the Rule of Cool entry, above, how?! The sex trade is very much a real problem, especially eastern Europe. Ringo and Luc Besson were not just making that up for the sake of the story.
  • Uriah Gambit: Discussed in Unto the Breach, between Mike and Anastasia, in regards to Kiril, fiance of Gretchen, but ultimately rejected as a solution to both Mike and Kiril being madly in love with Gretchen, the latter of which was formally arranged to marry her by Keldara custom.
  • The Usual Adversaries: Extremist Muslims across the series, although the exact subtype varies between terrorists, Chechen paramilitaries and slavers.
  • Valley Girl: Katya takes up this sort of persona as a disguise in A Deeper Blue.
  • Villains Want Mercy: One terrorist in A Deeper Blue asks not to be killed. Mike chews him right out, reminding him that he never offered mercy to his many victims.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In Unto the Breach a lot of people, including the US President, go vomiting after seeing a Chechen commander gets turned into a Pink Mist live on international TV. At dinnertime in the States, no less. The Secret Service is told about a second before it happens and rushes the First Lady out of the room. When she comes back in, she's still holding her fork, which is enough to set the President off again.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: A common item of contention in the series. And now Mike has one, as well as a former Russian bio-weapons scientist.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Three in A Deeper Blue:
      • Jay shows up briefly early on and then disappears.
      • Kurt Schwenke somehow gets away again.
      • Colonel Olds is gradually built up as having a disdain for Mike that he tries to act on, but nothing seems to come of it.
    • For the series as a whole, we have Katrina Devlich. The first Keldara Mike meets in Kildar, she's obviously set up for more (with a desire to be "Kildaran," a position that isn't explained but is strongly implied to be essentially the Kildar's wife) during Kildar and Choosers of the Slain, but her presence is markedly reduced in Unto the Breach (apparently in favor of Gretchen), and then she completely vanishes, not even mentioned in A Deeper Blue or Tiger by the Tail. This is most likely because Ringo got cold feet over Mike being pursued by a fourteen-year-old girl.
      • She does show up, having matured and acquired a medical degree, in some non-canon crossover snippets involving how the Keldara would have fared in the zombie-apocalypse universe of Ringo's Black Tide Rising series.

Alternative Title(s): Ghost 2005