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Literature / Ravirn

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Kelly McCullough's series of "science fantasy" novels follows Ravirn, an immortal demigod descended from one of the Fates, through his misadventures in a Greek Mythology-meets-magical-Internet multiverse. Along with his sarcastic webgoblin Melchior and his love interest Cerice, Ravirn is nearly constantly trying to escape some kind of death sentence that he brought about by cheesing off one or more members of the Greek pantheon.

Books in the series:

  • WebMage
  • Cybermancy
  • Codespell
  • MythOS
  • SpellCrash

Provides examples of:

  • Alliterative List: From Cybermancy:
    • Weird and wild and strangely wonderful, Garbage Faerie reeked of magic.
    • I missed the wild, willful, sexy creature [Shara] had been before her time in Hades, and it tore at my heart to see her so subdued.
  • Apple of Discord: Ravirn, at one point, wonders what happened to it; he suspects that Aphrodite dropped it in a closet somewhere, chasing after the next 'glittering thing'. It turns out Eris (aka "Discord") kept it; it's been modified to allow computer network access, and sports the label "For the specialist".
  • Ass Shove: Implied in WebMage:
    "Hey, Mel, why don't you shift to laptop?"
    "Because you're planning on sticking an icy-cold connector into one of my toasty little ports, and I hate that!"
    "Not half as much as you'll hate where I'll put it if you don't shift."
  • Big Bad: In the first book, Atropos. For the rest of the series, Nemesis.
  • Bookends: Cybermancy: The story starts with Cerberus, the Hellhound of Greek Mythology, a.k.a a three-headed dog, playing poker with Ravirn, and the Epilogue ends with it too.
  • Bothering by the Book: Cerberus has orders to kill Ravirn if he enters Hades. The Furies have orders to kill him, period. Neither Cerberus nor Tisiphone really want to kill him—so they foment an "accidental" fight between Cerberus and the Furies, allowing him to escape into Hades proper from the borderlands held by Zeus, then refuse to enter Hades due to jurisdictional issues.note 
  • Celestial Deadline: In Cybermancy, Ravirn sets one on himself:
    Instantly, bright blood welled up. I touched it to my lips. “I swear by my blood and my honor to return Shara to you before the sun rises on Sunday.”
    There, I was committed. A fool perhaps, but a committed one.
  • CamelCase: The book titles.
  • Canis Major: Played with by Fenris. When we first see him, he's in the guise of a normal dog on a leash. His true form is about the size of a draft horse.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • In WebMage, Atropos places a "Cassandra curse" on Ravirn so no one will believe him about her plans. Ravirn eventually discovers that if he says things that are generally true, such as "Atropos would kill me." if she were brought to where he was, it would be heard "straight" with no overlay of sarcasm, whining, or any other curse effect. It helps that the 'generally true' things apply to both her plan and the fact that he's usually found where he isn't supposed to be at the time; therefore, no details being leaked.
    • In Cybermancy:
      Eris: I know you won’t take my advice even though you know I’m telling you the truth. What more could Discord ask for in the way of strife than painful truth offered fruitlessly to a friend?
  • Chaotic Neutral: In-universe, Eris. Being the goddess of chaos, her entire reason for existence is to spread chaos and strife throughout the multiverse. Despite that, she is one of the very few gods Ravirn counts among his friends.
  • Cyberspace: Kind of. The series doesn't take place inside computers per se, but all of the infinite parallel universes in existence are organized as the "mweb", which is basically a big magical Internet. And they do sometimes pop in to it.
  • Deus Est Machina: Necessity.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Ravirn has a tendency towards this (which gets worse when he's gets a Meaningful Rename to 'The Raven'), which Melchior lampshades in WebMage:
    Melchior: Judging from past experience and what little I've heard, I'm thinking you're following the pattern where you start out in a lot of trouble, and then through a series of brilliantly chosen words, make it infinitely worse.
  • Ding-Dong-Ditch Distraction: From Cybermancy: Shara doesn't want to meet the Goddess of Discord, but her companions do:
    “Have I mentioned that this is a bad idea?” mumbled Shara, when the stairs touched down in front of us.
    “I’d certainly gotten that impression, yes.” I stepped up onto the first stair. “But unless you want to play ‘ring the doorbell and run away’ with the Goddess of Chaos, we’d best get moving.”
  • Dungeon Punk: Ravirn wears a black leather trenchcoat, creates spells in binary code, and usually causes trouble for himself by hacking into parts of the mweb where he doesn't belong.
  • Eat Me: How Ravirn and Laric defeat Eris's dragon.
  • Elective Mute: Persephone, because her voice is so full of sadness it almost drives Ravirn to suicide.
  • Emoticon: Persephone uses them when texting Ravirn, to try and seem friendlier and less unapproachably divine.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Persephone's virus!Sharra bids fair to destroy the mweb which notes the worlds' locations relative to each other, basically dissolving the multiverse.
  • Entropy and Chaos Magic: The Multiverse is set in a 'sea' of chaos, and most magic uses it as a source of energy. How chaotic the result is depends on how well designed the spell is; also, it can be 'tamed' by passing through webgoblins and trolls, since they use "chaos taps" as an 'always on' power supply. But, if it's accessed without any controls (which Ravirn does once to get away from Hades), the result looks like a nuke went off.
    • Also, when Ravirn shapeshifts, he taps the chaos, then 'tells the universe', that - guess what? - he just happens to have a different shape now. If he doesn't focus, though, he's just as likely to be a small expanding cloud of vapor. Even then, he comes back. It's good to have friends....
  • Everybody Hates Hades: He's a bit of a control freak, for one thing.note  And, he can come off as a bit of a jerk, as well. Just don't ask Persephone to spend time around him, for good reason. Basically, the "abduction" reported in the myths led to rape... and then Persephone had to marry Hades and spend six months over each year with him for the following several millennia.
  • Everybody Loves Zeus: He acts like a college frat boy, and occasionally needs help having viruses removed from his porn browser, but... Zeus IS the god that lead the Titanomachy, overthrew his father Kronos, is leader of the Greek Pantheon, and is willing to enforce his decrees (such as "No guns on Olympus"- they 'sound too much like thunder', which is his domain) with lightning bolts.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: From Cybermancy: Hades, the location, but this is about the Styx section:
    If it doesn’t stick you, cut you, or try to poison you, it isn’t native.
  • The Evils of Free Will: In WebMage, Atropos plans to eliminate free will.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: In WebMage, the end of Chapter Seventeen, after being subjecting to an explanation of how the Powers work:
    "Oh shit," said Melchior, jumping to his feet. "That's it."
    "What's…" I trailed off before I really got started. I could see it too. "My grandmother already knows about Puppeteer," I whispered. "She's known about it all along."
  • Flaming Hair: Tisiphone. Yes, including her pubic hair. In SpellCrash, she's referred to as "Little Red Flaming Hood".
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The Furies. As living embodiments of Vengeance, they don't care much for human values like modesty. (And it's implied they don't even need clothes for protection against weather.)
  • Gender Scoff: Played with by Melchior in WebMage, in regards to flesh in general, when Ravirn's about to make a hole in reality to see Cerice again:
    ["]Look, this is about more than my relationship with Cerice."
    Melchior raised a skeptical eyebrow at me.
    "It is," I said, though I wondered if he wasn't right. "She's important to me. Very important, even. But more than that, somebody besides thee and me needs to know what's going on with Atropos."
    "Wetware," said Melchior with a sniff. "Can't live with 'em. Can't debug 'em . If that's what you want to believe about your motives, nothing I say is going to change it."
  • Hellish Pupils: Descendants of the Fates like Ravirn and Cerice have slitted, cat-like pupils. Eris, Goddess of Discord, has eyes filled with swirling Primal Chaos.
  • Helping Hands: Laginn.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: CamelCase-type One-Word Title with a technological / magical theme.
  • Immune to Fate: Ravirn, after Eris's dragon erases his Thread.
  • Implacable Man: The Furies. Even worse is their older sister, the goddess Nemesis.
  • Impaled Palm: Occasionally, accessing a computer requires being there 'in spirit'; part of the process involves sticking an athame into the person's palm, with the other end linked to the computer with (effectively) an USB cable.
  • Insistent Terminology: Ravirn receives a Meaningful Rename to "(the) Raven"; due to bad feelings against the one that gave him the name, Ravirn prefers to act as if it didn't happen. Eventually, others do have to point out that, since it was one of the FATES that gave him the name, he might as well come to terms with it:
    “You know how I feel about the whole Raven thing.”
    “I also know that Clotho does nothing without reason. Whether you choose to wear the name or not, you own it.” [Cerice] canted her head to one side. “More importantly, it owns you. Names have power, Ravirn. You need to at least understand what Clotho’s given you before you can safely put it aside.”
  • Kill It Through Its Stomach: In WebMage, after finding his way into a dragon's digestive tract, this is the only way out.
  • Love Triangle: Ravirn has two love interests throughout the series, Cerice and Tisiphone.
  • Magically-Binding Contract: Any oath made in Necessity's name is magically binding.
  • Magitek: All advanced electronics used by wizards can use some level of magic, and often transform into some sort of magical being (pixies, goblins, trolls so far).note 
  • Mistaken for Servant: In Chapter Nine of CodeSpell, noted to often happen to Athena, though Ravirn is smart enough to recognize her right away.
  • The Multiverse: Made of Decision Loci. How it decision loci works, is said in Chapter Eighteen of Cybermancy:
    Persephone: The part of the mweb run by Fate may control how you get from world A to world B, but it’s Necessity that says where those worlds should be, and even whether they should exist. Not every decision leads to a split in reality, only those that Necessity approves.
  • Morality Pet: In a way, Ravirn to Persephone. It is stated that if not for her trust of Ravirn, she would act arbitrarily destructively in order to prevent Hades from gaining control of her again, even if it requires destroying the multiverse. To aid Ravirn, she sends him the source to several viruses designed to completely destroy the computer systems of the four poles and Necessity, and it's implied that releasing these is the least she would do.
  • Navel-Deep Neckline: Downplayed in WebMage. When first seen, Cerice's outfit is described as a gown that "was very low cut, but a half-jacket prevented it from being indecent."
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: Makes an appearance in CodeSpell.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Zeus acts like a horny frat boy, but Ravirn eventually realizes he can't be as stupid as he looks or he wouldn't have been able to remain head of Olympus as long as he has.
  • Objectshifting: Melchior can turn into a laptop to hide in non-magical worlds.
  • Oh, My Gods!: "Chaos and discord!" is used as an invective, as are "Sweet Necessity" and "Powers and Incarnations".
    • A "problem" with invoking Necessity, even as a swear, increases the odds that she'll focus a part of her attention on what you are doing; Ravirn weaponizes this at one point in the first book to enforce an oath made in Necessity's name.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Once a main character realizes that webgoblins and webtrolls are independent creatures with souls, they tend to stop requiring the use of "Boss" or "Master" (depending on family history), and phrase orders with "Please" instead of "Execute", but the goblin (or troll) will still say "Boss"/"Master" to be contrary. If the person doesn't complain... They have some serious business on their mind.
  • Oracular Head: Mimir, in MythOS.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: They're web servers.
  • Physical God: The Greek pantheon.
  • Playful Hacker: Ravirn fits this to a tee.
  • Pointy Ears: As the first book says, in his natural form, Ravirn has "slightly pointed ears".
  • Portal Network: One of several methods to travel between dimensions is the fairy ring network. Not to mention the "Fury Gates" used by the, well, Furies.
  • Post-Modern Magik: Standard fantasy fare, but brought up to speed in the 21st Century. The Greek gods all use computers, magic is similar to programming code, and goblins and pixies can turn into various electronic devices.
  • Powers as Programs: The spells used are literally coded. When one needs to use the spell, they have their familiar activate it by saying the program name. The spells can also be activated by the casters themselves by humming (or whistling) a tune, but this is usually more difficult and time-consuming.
  • Scorpion People: But with the "human half" replacing the scorpion's tail....
  • Servile Snarker: Primarily Melchior to Ravirn, but it applies to any relationship where a person lets a webgoblin or webtroll talk back.note  At several points it's used as an alert that someone has something on their mind, if they don't argue about the use of the otherwise common term "Boss".
  • Sexual Karma: Ravirn ends up with several Goddesses or Powers that have either dated him, or otherwise care about him. To quote Zeus, in Chapter Eight of SpellCrash: "I don't know how you do it, boy. Two Furies, Discord, and even Persephone. Not quick wit, that's for sure. Maybe it's that whole endangered-puppy thing you've got going on." Also, two web-goblins flirt in various ways, and even outright do their best to help him out, or keep him informed; the stated primary/only reason they don't try harder for a relationship is the size difference.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Played with (In-Universe)- in Chapter Nine of CodeSpell. Ravirn gets sidetracked from his mission by Zeus, and ends up listening to a story told by Thalia.
    '[She] went back to telling a shaggy-dog story involving actual shaggy dogs, including Cerberus, Ares's "mutts of war", Sirius, and a tail without a cat, which for reasons unclear was trying to find its lost smile.'
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick: Melchior definitely qualifies.
    • As of MythOS, Ravirn gains two new ones: Laginn, Tyr's hand, and Fenris.
  • Status Quo Is God: Subverted. It's very much the case in some of the myths that form the source material; some of Ravirn's adventures involve breaking the status quo, as in freeing Persephone from Hades and removing the sword from Fenris's jaw. (And even that keeps a Status Quo, of sorts: Persephone herself is free to walk around all year, but Shara has to take her place within Necessity; and the effect is she disappears within the file system for the 3 months of Persephone's 'Hades' term. Part of the plot then becomes finding out if Shara will pop out again automatically.) It's even lampshaded in a threat from Ravirn to Lachesis: that the Raven has already wreaked several major and lasting changes to the Greek multiverse, and he is quite possibly capable of taking down Fate forever.
  • Take That!: In Webmage, it is revealed that Eris, the Goddess of Discord uses a Mac, while the houses of Fate all apparently use Windows. Though later, she seems to use some kind of virtual machine program to allow Ravirn to code Orion, the spell meant to ruin Puppeteer using an interface more familiar to him.
    Ravirn: "I can see the commercials now: 'The Goddess of Discord uses a Mac. Why don't you?'"
  • Time Stands Still: As seen in Cybermancy, Eris can do this in her castle. Not really. She just locks things in place. They can still hear:
    A sort of velvet silence descended over the room, and I realized that the only things still moving were me and Eris. Melchior and Shara were as still and quiet as Cerice. Even the dust motes dancing in the light of the golden-apple sun had frozen in place.
  • Top God: Necessity is as far above the other gods as they are above mortals. Ravirn temporarily becomes the new Necessity near the end of SpellCrash.
  • Trickster Archetype: When Ravirn has the name Raven bestowed upon him, all of his trickster traits come to the foreground. After all, Raven is a minor chaos power. It even affects his behavior and judgement, making him less cautious.
  • The Tunguska Event: As said in Chapter Seven of SpellCrash, apparently this was caused by Tisiphone being careless with one of her Fury travel gates. As in, not closing it- it's basically two 'tears' in reality, and takes a lot of energy to keep open, especially since both endpoints are "moving" relative to each other. When the energy requirement become too much and the portal snaps shut... This gets brought up when Ravirn is told that he (unintentionally) left one open.
  • The Unintelligible: The Left Hand of Necessity, which only speaks in asterisks.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Sexual Euphemism-type, from Chapter Seventeen of Cybermancy:
    Sharra: "While you and Cerice were playing slot-in-the-RAM..."
  • Summon Bigger Fish: While being chased, Ravirn uses the "Jurassic Gas" spell which reverts gasoline into its past living form- in this case, dinosaurs.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Speaking about a third party in Cybermancy:
    Eris: Tisiphone really needs to get laid. It might mellow her a bit, and that would make her less likely to interfere with me. I’d still have Megaera and Alecto to worry about, since no amount of sex is going to help the former and I don’t see anyone around to throw at the latter.”
  • Wall Bang Her: Cybermancy:
    The first time we made love it was a desperate, against-the-living-room-wall affair, all sliding flesh and seeking tongues—striving to ignore the sword of Damocles hanging over us.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Webgoblin AIs, though treated as mere machinery, actually possess free will.
    • As to why: Eris reveals in WebMage that she helped include a random factor into their core software, but it was up to the Webgoblins (and others of their type) to actually do something with it.
  • Winged Humanoid:
    • The Furies, living embodiments of Vengeance, each with a different type of wing. Megaera's look like seaweed, as said in WebMage:
      The first one through the hole was Alecto; I could tell by her wings. That's the easiest way to identify a Fury. None of the three ever wears clothing.
    • Webpixies, as said in CodeSpell:
      Unlike webtrolls and webgoblins, they're supposed to come across as light and fluffy visually as they do on the programming front. They all stand around six inches tall with dainty dragonfly wings, little pointed ears, and waist-length hair—the classic storybook fairy. Most wear Tinker Bell dresses or miniature Robin Hood suits and wander around acting all glitter glam.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Persephone. She releases the virus!Sharra in an attempt to break Hades's hold on her; it instead starts destroying the mweb. She admits regret over this, but is clear that even the dissolution of the multiverse and destruction of most of the worlds would be worth it if she can become free of Hades. Later on, when Hades is one of the few candidates to replace Necessity, she says that if not for her trust of Ravirn, she might "act without restraint", leaving the strong impression that she would destroy the multiverse again if it would prevent Hades from gaining Necessity's power and re-enslaving her.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: What the 3 Fates want the world(s) to return to; they think there's too much free will around, making the multiverse nearly unmanageable.