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Literature / Red Room

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There are no good guys in the world of shadows...but maybe some bad men are better than others.
The Red Room is an Urban Fantasy series by C.T. Phipps and published by Crossroad Press. It is part of the The United States of Monsters universe.

The series follows Derek Hawthorne, a Man In Black member of an Ancient Conspiracy known as the House which is devoted to upholding The Masquerade. Thinking about retirement, but never quite getting there, Derek is joined by his succubus partner, Shannon O'Reilly, as they work against Eso-Terrorists or supernaturals who are attemtping to reveal the supernatural to the public. Gray-and-Gray Morality abounds as the two sides are both shown to have legitimate points.

The books were originally a standalone series but have since been Retcon-ed as a tie-in to the The United States of Monsters. This means the series that originally took place in 2015 were retconned as taking place in 2006, two years before the Broken Masquerade in 2008.

Books in the series:

  • Esoterrorism (2015)
  • Eldritch Ops (2017)
  • The Fall of the House (2020)

Not to be confused with the ghost story of the same title by H.G. Wells.

The series contains the following tropes:

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     The Series 
  • Action Girl: Shannon, Penny, and Cassandra.
  • Agents Dating: Derek Hawthorne and Shannon O'Reilly have an immediate attraction which later leads to them becoming sexually involved. Complicated by the fact Shannon was ordered to seduce him, which Derek knows, and that agents are expected to marry in order to continue the Conspiracy—which neither member wants to involve any offspring in.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The House has existed, ostensibly, since the time of ancient Babylon. Word of God says this is bullshit but fits their purposes to claim.
  • Ancient Tradition: While the House is an Ancient Conspiracy, the Red Room is more like this, protecting the world from the supernatural as well as covering up its existence.
  • Arc Welding: Is made part of the United States of Monsters series, retconning the series to taking place in 2006 just before the Broken Masquerade.
  • Badass Abnormal: Talbot, Shannon, and the Wazir all qualify as this.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: All of the Red Room agents tend to be this.
  • Badass Normal: It's stated, more or less, regular humans have no chance against supernaturals in a straight fight and only win by using superior numbers and tactics. Derek, repeatedly, subverts this and has survived missions he by all rights shouldn't have. Derek becomes a Badass Abnormal by the end, awakening his long dormant magical powers.
  • Battle Couple: Derek and Shannon by the end. Derek's parents were implied to be this during World War 2.
  • Broken Masquerade: The goal of groups like the Emerald Eye.
    • It is achieved at the climax of The Fall of the House when the world becomes the United States of Monsters.
  • Cloak & Dagger: One of the better examples in urban fantasy.
  • Cowboy Cop: Derek is considered to be the spy version of this, being senior enough and well-connected enough to get away with it, much to the consternation of his boss. It's implied Derek actually accomplishes a lot of his missions due to this and Refuge in Audacity. It provides him just enough of an edge in sheer confusion that he gets the drop on his foes. Indeed, it's very likely that his superiors have mistaken him for a Cowboy Cop when he's closer to being a Bunny-Ears Lawyer.
  • Creature-Hunter Organization: The Red Room performs these duties as part of their activities.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Shannon's Lilin form. Subverted by the fact this is when she can tear you limb from limb.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone in the book qualifies as this.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Red Room suffers a good deal of this to monsters. Subverted in the fact many of them really are that dangerous. Nonhumans, simultaneously, tend to think little of humans.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Implied to be the case with the Astral Plane generating ideas which can physically enter the world. Rakshasas, magic, Celtic fairies, mummies, ogres, kappas, kelpies, yetis, Hollow Earth, a still living Elvis Presley, dragons, trolls, Oni, unicorns, ghosts, demons, elves, vampires, Draugr, homunculi, succubi, angels, Frankenstein's Monster, Aladdin's flying carpet, kitsune, Grey aliens, the Loch Ness Monster, Odin, and a few other things have been either seen or mentioned in passing as being real.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Talbot is the inspiration for the Creature according to Derek. Notable for the fact, he seems to be a fairly charming fellow and his scars wouldn't be that big of a problem in many places.
  • Goth Girls Know Magic: Penny is a thirty-two-year-old Goth girl who is also an amazingly powerful sorceress.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: The Red Room functions as a spy agency on supernatural beings. It's also the intelligence arm of the House.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Both the Emerald Eye, House, and other factions all have valid points. Sometimes verges on Black-and-Gray Morality with some of the more extreme examples.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Subverted in that both Penny and Derek are human despite having a dragon for a mother. Their mother had to assume a fully human form in order to mate with a human and have kids. It still leaves them subject to Fantastic Racism.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Discussed repeatedly by Derek. He never stops dwelling on his role in the Red Room as a Senior Agent and killer.
  • Horny Devils: Lilin feed by sex or sexual energy. They can kill you this way, so it's in the best interests of mortals not to get too close. Shannon has learned to control it and can only take a little at a time.
  • The Illuminati:
    • Derek lampshades this in Esoterrorism, saying the House more or less embodies every single conspiracy nut's fears about this except reptile men.
    • The cover for Esoterrorism is a visual homage given the pyramid in the background and Word of God has confirmed the House is the in-universe inspiration for the organization.
  • Kitsune: Mentioned in passing as being real.
  • Klingon Promotion: How you join the Committee since all of them are immortal wizards. The only way to prove you're worthy to become one of the smartest, most powerful men in the world is to make room.
  • Magitek: Namedropped in the book. The wizards of the House (called "The White Room") use science to maximize the potential of their spells and create all manner of fun gadgets and devices.
  • The Masquerade: What the Red Room exists to preserve.
  • Megacorp: Pantheon Corporation is the world's biggest supplier of everything. Justified as it's a front for the House and misuses their ties to become more powerful as well as widespread.
  • The Men in Black: While they don't use this description for themselves, the agents of the Red Room serve this function. Subverted in the fact, despite their job, they're pretty much normal people with the same emotions and attitudes as anyone else. Lampshaded in-universe when they mention it would undermine their ability to do their job covering up supernatural events if they wore such a conspicuous outfit.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Committee is composed of twelve wizards who rule over the House from all over the wordl. Derek joins them at the end of Esoterrorism.
  • Out with a Bang: Lilin are capable of killing this way and when they lose control, DO kill this way.
  • Perky Goth: Penny and Lucy both qualify for this. May also qualify as Author Appeal given they work for a spy agency.
  • Pop-Cultured Badass: Derek Hawthorne is a fan of Bruce Lee, the Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, James Bond films (enough to know details about individual films), several video games, Star Wars, and horror movies. Justified as it's mentioned Derek, despite the fact he's a super-cool spy, was more or less raised at home by the television.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Professor seems to be one of the few individuals who actually gives a shit about doing their job of protecting mankind and finding real-traitors versus going with the easy answers
  • Shout-Out:
    • The name of the series is an homage to both the Red Room of Marvel comics which trained the Black Widow and the room Cooper visits in Twin Peaks according to Word of God.
    • There are more than enough shout-outs to everything to warrant its own page. Just see the Pop-Cultured Badass entry.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Every other line between Shannon and Derek is them throwing a zinger at each other.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To The Laundry Files. Whereas the Laundry is about nerdy but damaged civil servants facing the Apocalypse, the Red Room is about glamorous superspies fighting a more conventional War on Terror.
  • Spy Catsuit: Subverted as Shannon mentions wearing one only in jest. She considers skintight leather the last thing a person who wants to remain inconspicuous should wear.
  • Spy Fiction: Stale Beer Served in a Martini Glass flavored variety. Derek and Shannon are witty, glamourous, beautiful, uber-talented super-spies who fight monsters. They're also deeply damaged people who question the value as well as morality of their actions on a constant basis.
  • Spy Speak: Subverted by the existence of the Rings of Veritas. It allows agents of the Red Room to speak freely without worrying about listeners.
  • Trenchcoat Brigade: Derek is a schemer, Guile Hero, and trickster who wears a Trenchcoat. He also is a minor magician at the end of Esoterrorism.
  • Urban Fantasy: Advertised as James Bond meets the Dresden Files.
  • We Have Reserves: A horrifying figure brought up in the book is that roughly one-third of all field agents are expected to be killed over the course of their duties. This becomes Fridge Horror when you realize the majority of these agents are family-members to the other House members around them. It gets worse when you notice how muted everyone's reaction to this. Which, of course, is because they've been raised to view it as normal.
  • Witty Banter: Shannon and Derek engage in a lot of this.
  • World of Snark: Derek, Shannon, Penny, Lucy, and even the villains get quips in.
  • Affably Evil: The Wazir is a kindly old grandfather type, who will kill entire cities if it means the Truth comes out.
  • Archenemy: The Wazir serves as this to the Red Room as of Esoterrorism. He's killed at the end of the book.
  • The Archmage: The Wazir is one of these. The Committee is also implied to be composed of these. Subverted by Derek, who is a beginner at best, at the end of Esoterrorism.
  • Arranged Marriage: Derek and Cassandra had one of these. It is the catalyst for the plot.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: The Wazir and Cassandra.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Derek tries a number of these throughout the book. The one to infiltrate Pantheon Corp is Epic Fail. The one to find the infiltrator, though, is a Funny Moment.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Cassandra turns out to have been this during her marriage to Derek. He's appropriately horrified.
  • The Conspiracy: Cassandra is working with the Wazir to provide him with the Matheson virus in order to cause a Zombie Apocalypse that will shatter The Masquerade. This will destroy the House and result in Pantheon Corp becoming one of the most powerful organizations in the world. It will also get her revenge on the group that she blames for her Mind Rape.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Cassandra Cassidy of Pantheon Corp is believed to be this. They're right.
  • Duel of Seduction: Shannon and Derek try this on one another to see if they can get an edge on each other. They fall in love instead.
  • The Dragon: Tommy Moretti is this to Cassandra. He works for her as a way of getting back at Derek.
  • Elvis Lives: Derek is shown a picture of his Uncle Talbot and Elvis Presley sitting next to a Gray alien. Derek remarks that he didn't know his uncle met Elvis.
  • The Greys: Derek is shown a picture of his Uncle Talbot and Elvis Presley sitting next to a Gray alien. Derek remarks that he didn't know his uncle met Elvis.
  • Mind Rape: How Cassandra justifies her plan to destroy the House. They subjected her to this to guarantee an advantageous Arranged Marriage.
  • The Mole: Derek is accused of being this. It's actually Doctor Strickland, Tommy Moretti, and Cassandra.
  • Norse Mythology: Odin shows up or at least his eye does.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Talbot's plan to sneak past Cassandra's defenses? Sneak a team into their base with a flying carpet.
  • Retirony: Derek is thinking of retiring when he's framed for treason.
  • The Rival: Tommy Moretti believes Derek to be this. Derek thinks of him as more of an annoyance.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Derek gets away with a lot more than he should due to the fact he's the son of a Committee member. He despises this fact since he long ago broke ties with his father but it's still there. It's also implied Derek gets away with as much as he does because he's well-liked and really-really good at his job. It ends up with him promoted to the Committee.
  • Stock Ness Monster: The Trope Namer is mentioned in passing in the prologue as being real.
  • This Is Reality: A Dramatic Irony example as Derek keeps insisting this is next to his glamorous Femme Fatale partner in epic gunfights and shoot-outs. He seems to be more in denial than anything else.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Wazir believes the Truth should be let out because it forces supernaturals and humans at each others throats. Also, regular people have a right to know about the supernatural. The House, contrast, believes the world would self-destruct if this happened. Both qualify for this trope.
  • Villain Has a Point: Word of God has this as a deliberate theme as the Wazir, Cassandra, Committee, and Doctor Strickland all have valid points. It's just they're also ruthless in their pursuit. But then again, so are the heroes.
  • Yandere: Cassandra turns out to have these sorts of feelings regarding Derek. It's due to brainwashing she's only partially recovered from.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The threat of one of these is a driving force in Esoterrorism. Notable in the fact it would require terrorists to deliberately spread it and the army WOULD be able to deal with it. It just would break The Masquerade wide open.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Draugr are monsters created with vampire blood which are cannibalistic mindless creatures that are strong, fast, and durable. Also qualifies as Our Vampires Are Different.

     Eldritch Ops 
  • Affably Evil: Rebecca Hawthorne is polite, friendly, and loves her brother. She also views supernaturals as subhumans that need to be eradicated.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Christopher and Nathan Hawthorne are completely inscrutable in their motives. Christopher is eventually revealed to be a good guy while Nathan remains ambiguous.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Bloodsword is the vampire Excalibur. It has a demon inside it and dramatically increases the power of the wielder. It chooses Derek as its wielder over Dracula.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: How Derek views vampires. At least initially.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Dracula and Rebecca Hawthorne
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: What happens to all of the mortals turned into vampires by the Vampire Nation. It's why they are Always Chaotic Evil. It is also what happens to supernaturals captured by Protocol Zero.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Derek has managed to kill Dracula, shut down Protocol Zero, and save his ex-partner from being a vampire puppet. He's lost a hand, though, and was forced to kill his sister Rebecca. It's also clear the House is going to turn on him for his betrayal.
  • Call-Forward: The book introduces the Vampire Nation that will play a large role in Straight Outta Fangton.
  • The Conspiracy: The House is brainwashing hundreds of supernaturals into Manchurian Agent figures as part of a plan to cause the supernatural world to become weak enough through infighting that they can all be exterminated. Dracula plans to stop this but only because he is personally threatened by it.
  • Dracula: Makes an appearance as the Big Bad. He's notable as being the warlord of the Vampire Nation as well as a pirate in addition to his usual qualities as a Romanian warlord.
  • Dramatic Irony: Dracula and Derek actually want the exact same thing. They hate each other too much to cooperate, though. They end up fighting to the death after they finish off Protocol Zero.
  • Enemy Mine: Dracula attempts to have this with Derek but it fails miserably.
  • Fight Dracula: The premise of the book. Derek fights against Dracula and his minions. It's actually Protocol Zero who is the real villain.
  • Final Solution: The ultimate aim of Protocol Zero is to kill all supernaturals save mages.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Bloody Mary falls in love with Derek because he's a killer of hundreds of monsters. It's implied this was originally why she fell in love with Dracula.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Derek suffers this after killing Rebecca.
  • The Peter Principle: Derek is ill-suited to be a member of the Committee because he is a brilliant agent but not very good at politicking, paperwork, or diplomacy. He jumps at the opportunity to get back into the field and ends up utterly screwing up the Committee's plans.
  • Spanner in the Works: Derek hates vampires and probably would have agreed to any operation that is against them. However, the Committee didn't trust him and he ends up destroying Protocol Zero after Christopher shows him that they're not all bad.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Draugr show up again as weapons used by the Vampire Nation.

     The Fall of the House 
  • All for Nothing: Derek's sole motivation is to save Ashley Morgan (senior) from death. She ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice at the end.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Derek becomes a demon at the end of the game, though he's a free demon independent of Hell and has Bloody Mary's protection.
  • Avenging the Villain: Roland is motivated by the death of his cousin Cassandra in the first book.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Nathan Hawthorne successfully destroys the House and ends The Masquerade. He's also a Karma Houdini. Averted with Roland and Stephen, who both die in the end.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The House is destroyed and The Masquerade is broken. Roland and Stephen are dead while Balor has been returned to his state of half-death. However, Derek, Christopher, and Ashley all died in the process. Victory has been adopted by Penny and Lucy, though, while Derek is now a rogue demon working with Bloody Mary to fight Hell. Arthur has also become an assassin of evil doers, taking up Derek's mantle as humanity's champion. The series continues on in the other United States of Monster books.
  • Broken Masquerade: The goal of the villains. They succeed in the end.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Roland Cassidy, Stephen Hawthorne, and Nathan Hawthorne are the trio that are involved in events.
  • Call-Forward: Numerous ones to the Morgan Detective Agency with the Morgan family and Alex Timons as well as Lucien Drake showing up as support.
  • The Dragon: The Gunmage is this to Roland Cassidy. She's his biological daughter but sacrificed as just another pawn.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Balor, who is apparently a fallen angel that masqueraded as a Celtic god. Resurrecting him is the primary aim of the villains.
  • Driven to Suicide: Christopher does this after Ashley dies.
  • Expy: Roland Cassidy is one for Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2 according to Word of God.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Nathaniel Hawthorne proves to be this. The House is utterly corrupt and ruining society so he enacts a plan to create a Broken Masquerade and kill its leaderhip. It results in millions of deaths. It also destroys the House and creates a society where humans and supernaturals can live (mostly) in peace as shown in the other United States Of Monsters books.
  • Foil:
    • Roland Cassidy is a Deadpan Snarker Committee agent who is also a Bunny Ears lawyer who can keep up with Derek quip-for-quip and plan-for-plan.
    • Stephen Hawthorne is just as good an agent but wholly given to infernal magic, with a similar relationship to his demon familiar.
  • Foreshadowing: The Vampire Nation has lost Dracula but has rebounded by buying up Detroit with plans to make it New Detroit.
  • The Hero Dies: Derek dies of his injuries at the end of the book. Thankfully, his spirit lives on.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Ashley makes one of these in order to kill Balor.
  • Karma Houdini: Nathan Hawthorne kills millions of people with his plan to break The Masquerade and destroy the House. He also gets Derek, Ashley, and Christopher killed as well as sets loose Stephen. He ends up not only succeeding in his plan but taking over Pantheon Corp as well as becoming an international hero with a Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Kill 'Em All: Christopher, Ashley, and Derek all die in this adventure. Though Derek becomes a god.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Derek and Penny's "dragon" mother is Kim Su from Bright Falls Mysteries.
  • Mind Rape: The Dream Chair's sole purpose is to inflict this.
  • Motive Decay: Derek briefly suffers this while unleashing his Superpowered Evil Side. He almost forgets why he's tearing into the bad guys.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Roland believes the best way to create a Broken Masquerade is to murder as many human beings in the most public way possible.
  • Passing the Torch: Alex, Arthur, Lucien, and Ashley are all teenagers in this book but heroes of the later United States of Monsters books.
  • Physical God: Balor is an enormous Godzilla-sized monster who resembles Chernabog from Disney's Fantasia.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Derek goes on one of these after being tortured in the Dream Chair.
  • Together in Death: Bloody Mary and Derek have an unconventional one of these.
  • Villains Do The Dirty Work: Stephen kills most of the Committee off at Nathan's behest.
  • Willing Channeler: Stephen is this for the demon Furfur, the two of them uniting their powers to do a maximum amount of evil.
    • Derek becomes this for Bloody Mary until his death.


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