Follow TV Tropes


Literature / RWBY: Roman Holiday

Go To

Spoilers for all RWBY works preceding this one will be left unmarked.
Lie. Cheat. Survive.

RWBY: Roman Holiday is a RWBY young adult novel written by E.C. Myers, with help from Kerry Shawcross and Eddy Rivas, and published by Scholastic. It was released on September 7, 2021. It is a prequel, taking place years before the events of the main series, showing how Roman Torchwick and Neopolitan met and became partners in crime.

Trivia Vanille is the isolated daughter of a rich family in Vale, whose parents are ashamed of her muteness and mismatched eyes. Her only friend is Neo, a mischievous girl who frequently gets Trivia in trouble. However, Trivia and Neo may be closer than they think...

Roman Torchwick is a young, up-and-coming criminal mastermind, trying to make his way through Remnant's underworld. He butts heads with more prominent crime families, but manages to keep ahead — just barely — with his wit, charm, and stubborn desire to stay alive.

Eventually, these two meet up, setting the stage for a wild heist...

Roman Holiday provides examples of:

  • Academy of Evil: Lady Browning's Preparatory Academy For Girls, on the surface, seems like a fancy boarding school. In actuality, it has a secret program training its students to become spies and assassins.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Lady Beat's personal philosophy is that people are governed by thirds: three aspects each of fashion, behaviour, and personality. The three aspects of personality are the Freudian Id, Ego and Superego. Her school's symbol of the triskelion represents how people achieve beauty by harmonising all these thirds. Of course, she herself is not a psychologist, so it's not clear whether this is actual psychiatric theory in Remnant or simply her own interpretation.
  • Alpha Bitch: The Malachite Twins are the popular girls at Lady Browning's academy, and determine the social status of other girls. They start out leading the harassment and bullying of Trivia, but then bring her into their social circle once she joins the "Advanced" program.
  • Ascended Extra: Lil' Miss Malachite, who appeared for a short while during Volume 6, is given a lot more focus, including her organization. She's also the one who recruits a young Roman Torchwick into her organization. The same also goes for her daughters Melanie and Militia, who only showed up in the Yellow Trailer and a cameo appearance in Volume 2.
  • Batman Gambit: As the Malachite Twins' personal protection, Roman decides to involve them in a scheme he has to bring down a rival gang. Although it works, it puts the twins in great danger; Lil' Miss responds by forbidding Roman from interacting with her daughters again. This is the outcome Roman's after, as he hates babysitting the girls.
  • Beneath the Mask:
    • Both Roman and Neo act like tough, hedonistic, careless crooks, but beneath it all they really do want genuine love and latch onto what small bits of genuine affection they can get from each other. When Roman is tricked into thinking that Neo betrayed him, he does his best to pretend that it's just the way the world works and he should have seen it coming, but he's clearly heartbroken and betrayed, and when she comes to rescue him he's overjoyed.
    • Carmel Vanille acts like a meek and submissive Trophy Wife. When she's talking to Roman, on the other hand, her true self is revealed. She's actually a high-ranking Spider operative who is using Jimmy to infiltrate the Xiongs, and plans to pit them and Spider against each other so Jimmy can take over the illegal Dust trade. Jimmy is ultimately her Unwitting Pawn who stumbled into crime by accident, while Carmel has been scheming her whole life to rule Vale's underworld with Jimmy as her puppet and Trivia as her minion.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: Little Miss makes use of surveillance technology to know the intimate goings-on of everyone in places she's interested in. Her decision to try moving into Vale is aided by Lady Browning's Preparatory Academy For Girls. Students and graduates of the academy all wear triskelion pins which act as secret body cams, allowing Lady Beat to collect in-depth insider knowledge on everything that happens around the wearers, from the heights of government to the depths of the underworld.
  • Breakout Character: Roman is the main show's Starter Villain, until overshadowed and replaced by the plot's primary villains. Neo is always in the shadow of the other villains as a minion. However, they've always been among the most popular villains, so this novel places them into the starring role.
  • Call-Forward:
    • At one point, Ozpin appears on a brief news segment about Roman's bank robbery, warning him that crossing Huntsmen in the future may not go so easily for him. In the main show, he is the Starter Villain who struggles against Huntsmen students, particularly Team RWBY. Ozpin also warns him that Vale is a greater battleground than he thinks and that sticking out too much will cost him. Roman clearing out the competition makes him a target for recruitment into Salem's Secret War, which eventually costs him his life.
    • Drugged tea is used both by Neo and against her in the Vanille Estate. In the novel, her parents drug her when she and Roman come to the estate in order to fulfill their plans; in Volume 9, Neo gives Ruby drugged tea in a replica of the estate in order drive Ruby to suicide by sending her to the Great Tree in the Ever After. In the novel, the paralysed Neo wonders if this is what it's like to be dead, and later wonders if she'd ever be like her father in risking it all to achieve her goal. In Volume 9, that's exactly what she inflicts on Ruby; like her father, Neo using the drugged tea ultimately blows up in her face and results in her losing everything. (For her father, it results in him being trapped in her room after Roman comes to save her and being killed by an explosion from the Dust he stored in her room being ignited. For Neo, making Ruby Ascend results in her losing her purpose and being rendered an Empty Shell, leaving her vulnerable to possession by the Curious Cat. Her plan ultimately doesn't even work as Ruby doesn't actually die from Ascending and comes out better from it.)
  • Chafing Against the Dress Code: Invoked. When Trivia/Neopolitan is sent to Lady Browning's Preparatory Academy For Girls, they are all expected to wear uniforms. Trivia, annoyed by this, rips up the uniform and makes a new outfit out of the pieces, shocking and appalling the other students. The teachers, however, reveal that it is that rebellion and creativity they are actually looking for, as they were actually a front for the criminal organization Spider training the girls to become spies and assassins.
  • Coming of Age Story: For Neo, detailing her child and teenage years and her journey from the Lonely Rich Kid Trivia to the master criminal and Dark Action Girl Neopolitan.
  • Compelling Voice: Roman meets a club owner in Vale and asks her if she plans on performing, inwardly noting that he never wants to hear her voice again. Later, it's revealed that she has a Semblance that puts anyone who hears her song under a hypnotic trance, allowing her to capture people for Lil' Miss.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Neo's cleverness, creativity and flexibility allows her to adapt to the situations she's in. Combined with her powerful Semblance, she is almost always able to get herself out of the predicaments she ends up. Whether it's learning how to pick locks to escape being imprisoned in her bedroom or using her Semblance to turn the tables on her own kidnappers, Neo is almost always able to rescue herself without relying on others.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Trivia is the daughter of Jimmy and Carmel Vanille, with Jimmy serving as Vale's city manager. Her parents purposely kept her at home, all but hiding her existence from the world due to her "abnormalities" and Semblance. Her father is emotionally and verbally abusive, often screaming at her for her "imperfections" and creativity; her mother is emotionally manipulative, first offering affection then instantly withdrawing it whenever she's dealing with Trivia's "imperfections".
    • After being abandoned by his mother at an orphanage in Wind Path, Roman grew up on the streets of Mistral, turning to crime in order to survive.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Trivia attempts to escape her locked room by applying an Aerosol Flamethrower to try and melt the locks (Or maybe just expand the metal to make it easier to pick). Unfortunately, Trivia realizes a little too late that her door is made out of wood, and her room is full of flammable items. She just barely escapes the fire that would have killed her.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Roman survives in a room with a Grimm because he knows that Grimm are drawn to anger even more than fear and takes advantage of that, keeping calm and riling up his captor to draw the Grimm towards him. This is exactly how he'll eventually die: his fury at Neo's supposed death not only distracts him from the much bigger threat in favor of beating on Ruby, it sends him into an anger-fueled tirade, allowing the Grimm to notice him amidst the overall carnage and eat him alive.
    • Neo compares herself to the in-universe fairytale "The Girl In the Tower", a woman imprisoned by her controlling father who is eventually rescued by a man. She's more right that she knows, as the fairytale was based the true story of how Salem and Ozma met. And just like Salem, Neo becomes too dependent on her rescuer, and his death sends her into a self-destructive spiral of revenge. To add to the irony, this path leads to Neo meeting Salem herself, completely unaware that she was once the Girl.
  • Defiant to the End: Several times Roman finds himself facing capture and/or certain death and he mouths off every time.
  • Five-Finger Discount: Trivia sneaks out of the house and goes on a “shopping spree”. When she returns her father already knows what she did and bought it all off. This upsets her as it means that she no longer owns any of it.
  • Flipping the Bird: Neo flips off the Malachite Twins when they try to capture her. Roman also does it a couple times.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Regardless of what happens, it's clear Roman and Neo will survive the events of Roman Holiday, and what was once depicted as an imaginary friend that might reflect a split personality, is actually Trivia's childhood search for her true identity manifesting through her Semblance until she uses her appearance to express herself.
  • Foreshadowing: Quite a lot of it, setting up the greater forces of the criminal underworld.
    • When she's 18, Neo accidentally sets her room on fire and nearly dies. Jimmy explodes at her, screaming that she could have killed them all. He's hiding a massive cache of Dust in her room.
    • Lady Beat seems oddly aware of everything that goes on at her school. Because the pins they wear are secret body cams.
    • Hei Xiong mentions that he has every business in Vale under his control. This includes Jimmy Vanille.
    • When Neo first sees the triskelion pins that the Academy girls wear, she realizes that she's seen the golden version of it before, worn by graduates, and that her mother has worn it to some business meetings. This is not only foreshadowing their real purpose as body cams, but the fact that Carmel only wears it to some meetings sets up the fact that she knows what they're for and that those particular "meetings" are with Hei Xiong, hence her using the pin to spy on him.
  • Gilded Cage: Trivia lives in an enormous mansion that has 56 rooms for just three people. It's filled with expensive and rare items, from the flooring to the ornaments. Her room is full of games, books, toys and clothes, and she wants for nothing — except love and freedom. Her parents hide her away in the mansion throughout her childhood, even forcing her to be home-schooled. She's also forbidden from entering certain rooms, meaning her freedom inside the house is further restricted. Eventually, she resorts to using her Semblance and developing skills like lock picking and driving to find ways of escaping.
  • Hide Your Otherness: Trivia was born with one pink eye, something that horrifies her parents. She is forced to wear a contact lens that makes the eye as brown as the other. Linked to her extraordinary Semblance, which initially manifests as a girl with pink eyes and hair, her parents want that to be hidden and never used, too. Even after Trivia eventually masters her Semblance and embraces her identity as Neo, she is so affected by this childhood experience that, when she brings Roman back to the mansion, she uses her Semblance to make herself appear brown-haired and brown-eyed. Roman tells her to stop and let her parents see her true self, which helps break the last few influences her upbringing holds over her.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: The first time Trivia sneaks out of the house, she steals her tutor's car. The teenage Trivia has never driven one before, but makes good use of her experience playing driving simulators. Near the conclusion of the story, she teaches herself to fly a Bullhead through a combination of video game experience, reading a manual, and observing a pilot at the controls prior to hijacking the ship.
  • Instant Expert: Trivia is an incredibly fast learner, picking up numerous skills through a combination of observation and looking up information on her Scroll. Over the course of the story, she teaches herself everything from lock-picking, to driving and even flying a Bullhead. When given a formal instructor to polish her skills, Trivia excels and within months, she's surpassing her more experienced teachers.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: As Roman and Neo are the villain protagonists of the book, the two of them are given plenty of sympathetic traits; they care less for actual villainy and are more interested in their own survival and hedonistic pleasure. Contrast that with the Spiders under Lil' Miss Malachite and the Xiong Family under Hei Xiong, who are ruthless villains that will murder and maim just to prove a point. They're also willing to turn their territories into war zones to control the criminal underworld, as both the cities of Mistral and Vale discover.
  • Meaningful Rename: When Trivia first meets Torchwick, she gives her alias as Neopolitan, her childhood imaginary friend. As she was already on the way to realizing the Neo was a part of her, this prompts her to go all the way and rechristen herself Neo, with the chapters changing to reflect it.
  • Mob War: A war between criminal organizations in Mistral provides Lil' Miss with the opportunity to expand her organization elsewhere, triggering further wars as a result. She begins expanding into Vale, eventually triggering a war with Vale's dominant crime organization, the Xiong family. It comes to a head at Trivia's family estate until Neo and Roman find a way to end it for good.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The first four chapters from Roman's point of view are named after his final words in the main show: "Lie", "Steal", "Cheat", and "Survive". When he expresses the motto in the book, it's condensed to "Lie. Cheat. Survive."; the chapter titles preserve the full motto.
    • Roman spends years putting together get-rich-quick plots in the novel, which are mocked by the Malachite Twins. Neo tears off his note about a "death cannon", and even silently thinks of him as a "dum-dum". This is a nod to his constantly failing Zany Schemes in RWBY Chibi, which includes a death ray that leads to Neo calling him "my dum-dum". However, when he does finally carry out one of them in the novel — stealing and monopolising Vale's coffee supply — the scheme is successful.
  • Not-So-Imaginary Friend: "Neo" is initially thought to be a figment of Trivia's imagination, only for her to realize that she is real and is a product of her own Semblance.
  • Only Friend: Kept isolated by hostile parents for most of her childhood, Trivia is forced to socialize with her Imaginary Friend Neo (in actuality a manifestation of her Semblance). Her first chance to make any friends occurs when she starts attending Lady Beat's academy at the age of 18. However, she is quickly isolated by the Malachite twins, who turn the students against her. When she joins the "advanced" program, the twins insist on bringing her into their friendship, but she knows they're false friends. As a result, the first — and only — true friend Neo is able to make is with Roman. The novel therefore helps clarify exactly why Neo is so loyal to Roman in the main show, and why his death sent her on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, first against Cinder, then against Ruby.
  • Origins Episode: The novel tells the story of how Trivia Vanille became Neopolitan, how Roman Torchwick became the greatest criminal in Vale, and how the two formed their partnership.
  • Parental Neglect: Trivia's parents are so disappointed in their imperfect, troublesome daughter that they hide her away from society, lock her up when she annoys them, and don't even admit to many people that they have a child at all; she is left to try and figure out her own entertainment. The only affection she receives is from her mother, but that is only given when her mother is trying to manipulate her.
  • Patricide: As the story is set in the criminal world, certain characters end up killing their fathers to resolve the dilemmas they're in. Trying to escape her parents' house, Neo tricks Lil' Miss into shooting at her bedroom, where she locked Jimmy with his secret stash of Dust. The resulting explosion destroys the mansion and kills everyone inside. While Jimmy is definitely killed, Carmel's fate is a little more ambiguous.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Trivia's parents refuse to accept their daughter is mute. They constantly try and find ways to force her to speak, and don't tolerate her communications board, punishing and emotionally withdrawing from her whenever she fails. Lady Beat also forces her to attend diction classes and communicate with a voice synthesiser that stresses Neo out because the sound is too alien and mechanical to represent who she is. Part of why she bonds so quickly with Roman is because he never comments on her muteness, and lets her be herself to communicate however she wants.
  • Power Incontinence: Because it's connected to her hidden rebellious streak, Neo's Semblance sometimes goes out of her control and reflects her true self, with "Neo" acting the way she wants to act and her hair and eye color changing to how she feels at the moment. In the last chapter, her hair acquires three white stripes after her parents' deaths without her meaning to, hinting that she's more affected by it than she'll admit to herself.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Hei Xiong sees Roman's old Spiders tattoo, he assumes that Roman is part of a scheme by Lil' Miss Malachite to take over Vale's underworld. As it turns out, Lil' Miss is working on that, but Roman had long since ditched the Spiders.
  • Saved by Canon: Since the events of the novel take place before the events of RWBY, characters such as Roman, Neo, the Malachite twins, and Lil' Miss Malachite will survive any conflicts they go through.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: Neo's able to surpass her teachers in combat by the end of the novel, and her journey concludes with her officially outgrowing her Evil Mentor Lady Beat by outwitting her and exposing the Academy and ruining her career which drives the Spiders out of Vale. To symbolize this, she takes Lady Beat's emblem as her own.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: This occurs repeatedly throughout the novel, sometimes with Lampshade Hanging by the characters. Roman in particularly is suspicious whenever offered something, since he's not above drugging people in the same manner to get the upper hand. Trivia also mixes her sedatives into her tutor's tea in order to escape from the house for the first time. At the end of the story, Trivia's parents serve them drugged tea in order to capture them both. Trivia falls for her parents' trick, while Roman is Properly Paranoid and played along to get the drop on the Vanilles..
  • Tempting Fate: Neo ends the story on a line about how Roman and Neo will be together forever and never get caught. As anyone who's seen the show knows, while they aren't caught by the police, Roman is eventually killed.
  • That Woman Is Dead: Trivia's journey into becoming Neopolitan eventually ends with her disowning her real name forever. After Jimmy and Carmel are killed, Neo concludes that Trivia died in that moment, too.
  • Time Skip: Several skips take place throughout the story to major events. The largest one is six months after Neo and Roman begin their partnership.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Roman happens to learn the favorite foods of two major crime bosses in his rise to infamy. Lil' Miss likes cottage cheese and Hei Xiong likes porridge. Roman is disgusted by both dishes.
  • Villain Episode: As an exploration of Roman and Neo, the entire story is set in the criminal world. All the main and supporting characters are villains; aside from a few marks, most of the minor characters are villains, too. Very few non-villains appear, and only in tiny cameos connected to specific news stories.
  • Villain Protagonist: As the story of how Roman Torchwick and Neopolitan met and became partners, they are the stars of the show. Both the protagonists and antagonists are villains.
  • We Used to Be Friends: The Malachite twins were friends with Roman and Neo in the time they knew them. Despite Roman backtracking on his decision to give up the twins because he realized he cared about them, they've made their thoughts and feelings on the matter very clear. Their friendship with Neo similarly ended when she betrayed the syndicate in favor of protecting Roman.

"Show them who you truly are."