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Literature / Relic Master

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"The world is not dead. The world is alive, and breathes. The world is the whim of God, and her journey is forever."
The first and last chapter quotation of the series

Relic Master (UK title The Book of the Crow) is a 1998 Science Fantasy quartet by Catherine Fisher. Set on a world named Anara, it tells the story of Galen Harn, a member of the religious group called the Order, and his apprentice Raffael Morel, who are on the run from the reigning military presence known as the Watch. The Order worships the seven Makers, who created the world and everything in it long ago, and they believe they have a holy duty to seek out and protect the artifacts the Makers left behind.


The four books in the series are:

  • The Dark City (UK: The Relic Master)
  • The Lost Heiress (UK: The Interrex)
  • The Hidden Coronet (UK: Flain's Coronet)
  • The Margrave (UK: same)

These books provide examples of:

  • Action Girl: Carys
  • Affectionate Nickname: The Sekoi gets in the habit of calling Raffi "small keeper".
  • Alas, Poor Villain: The Margrave gets a very poignant death and the most respectful funeral the Order can give.
  • Alien Geometries: There's a bridge. You walk straight across it, only to end up where you started from.
  • Alien Sky: Anara has seven moons.
  • Always Night: The city of Tasceron.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The Watch.
  • Artifact Collection Agency: The Order, because they believe the relics are sacred.
  • Bad Moon Rising: Agramon's fall is the main conflict of Coronet.
  • Background Halo: Provided by the moons in Margrave. Also a nice call-back to the last book's title.
    Slowly she came to see that Agramon had risen, and all the sisters with her, and that as Galen climbed to an outcrop of rock, he paused there, framed by the coronet of moons.
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  • Big Bad: The Margrave acts as this for the second through fourth books.
  • Bizarre Alien Psychology: The Sekoi have very little distinction between story and reality, and experience any story told to them as though it were really happening. They can also force this effect on human listeners.
    • Also, their minds are entirely unreadable to Raffi.
  • Blue Blood: Our Sekoi is apparently something roughly analogous to a prince.
  • Blunt "Yes":
    • In response to the demand that Alberic assault Maar:
    Alberic: How the hell am I supposed to storm a building with no windows, no door, no gates, and that you can only see if you squint at it sideways[?...] You want a miracle.
    Galen: Yes.
    • In response to the demand that Alberic prevent the Watch from retaking Maar:
    Alberic: And I suppose now you expect my boys and girls to gallantly hold off tens of thousands while you nobly sacrifice yourselves to martyrdom.
    Galen: That's the idea.
  • Brain–Computer Interface: "It's a sophisticated form of neural integrator."
  • Cat Folk: The Sekoi have fur, fluff it up when frightened or stressed, and otherwise act quite similar to cats.
  • Chained to a Rock: Present in one of the Sekoi's stories.
  • Character Title. The Margrave.
  • Cool Crown: Flain's coronet. Of the "plain gold band" variety, it allows the wearer to mentally connect with the entire world.
    • Weirdly enough, the Coronet is technically a circlet, but the picture on the front cover is an actual coronet.
  • Crisis of Faith: Both Galen and Raffi end up having to work through their own in Margrave, Galen's induced by the slow accretion of all the oppression and pain in his life and losing Solon in the previous book, and Raffi's induced by the Big Bad telling him the Makers are just a God Guise for ordinary humans. They both have a (more nuanced) faith back by the end.
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  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Order strongly resembles the more conservative sects of Christianity.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Crow's power is always described as "dark", and yet it is the strongest good force in the series.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Carys and the Sekoi get snippy at times, and the Palace of Theriss is very sarcastic.
  • Death World: Anara sure has a lot of deadly animals, plants, and landscapes.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: The Margrave, in Raffi's; Marco, in Galen's; and in the backstory, Kest in Tamar's.
  • Due to the Dead: After the Margrave is killed, the heroes make sure to perform a proper and respectful funeral.
    • Exploited by the Sekoi with the "something... unusual" at the centre of the Hoard. It's Kest's corpse, brought from wherever it was left to be a part of their ransom. They are not ultimately intending to trade on human lust for gold but on human death culture, on the assumption that performing the proper rites to the dead is so important to humans it can meaningfully sweeten the pot compared to literal tons of gold.
  • El Cid Ploy: Quist impersonates the Margrave to convince the Watch to stand down; what makes it an El Cid Ploy is that he is still technically a Watchman himself.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The black thing at Marjella Caxton's house.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Margrave genuinely loved Kest, and is heartbroken upon encountering his tomb.
  • Feudal Future: Everyone lives like it's the Middle Ages.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The blue boxes are in fact flamethrowers.
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Oddly enough, given the religious undertones that should ensure the converging of the characters' philosophies, with Galen (Optimist), Carys (Cynic), Raffi (Realist) and the Sekoi (Apathetic).
  • Future Imperfect: The characters tend to view all things from the past as being magical and all past people as deities.
  • Genius Loci: The Palace of Theriss, thanks to the marvels of AI.
  • Grand Theft Me: The Margrave can borrow people's bodies, as evidenced in Coronet.
  • Go Through Me: Raffi tries to pull this is Margrave. Subverted when he is simply shoved unceremoniously aside.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The Castle of Halen
  • Hidden Elf Village: Sarres
  • Holy City: Tasceron.
  • Hope Sprouts Eternal
  • Hostile Weather: All of it in the latter half of Coronet. They get snow, hurricanes, rain- and windstorms, and bitter cold, all because the Weather Control Machines aren't working properly.
  • House of Broken Mirrors: The Castle of Halen has a basement full of mirrors the Watch took down.
  • Illegal Religion: The Watch hasn't illegalized belief yet, but it has illegalized practice.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Margrave controls the Watch.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The deathwort, which resembles a cross between a bromeliad and a butterwort. Although it cannot fully digest humans and they just start rotting instead (like when normal carnivorous plants take too-large prey).
  • Meaningful Dream: Raffi has one where he sees all his friends in the Makers' places.
  • Meaningful Funeral: The Margrave's.
  • Meaningful Name: Galen is named for the physician; Raffi for Raphael, the angel who heals the defiled earth.
  • Mirror Character: Quist lampshades it for Carys, as they both betrayed their respective sides, only to use their own tactics against them.
  • Mordor: The Unfinished Lands.
  • Neglectful Precursors: The Makers
  • No Ontological Inertia: Averted. Our protagonists reset the terraforming machines, and as a result it starts raining, but that's all.
  • Not Even Human: Zig-zagged with respect to the Margrave. They find out it exists and is not a human, but it used to be. But that doesn't stop Galen from deciding that it needs to die. And then they learn that it's not that much of a monster, but was never actually a man in the first place, so one of the characters thinks it's okay to kill it - but only out of mercy.
  • Numerological Motif: There are seven Makers and seven moons, and the Sekoi have seven fingers per hand.
  • Planet of Hats: Subverted. The Sekoi seem to have Gold Fever as a hat, but they only want the gold to ransom their planet back.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The majority of the Watch is indoctrinated children, but most of the rest are just in it for the pay and because there aren't a ton of other options on a Death World.
  • Robbing the Dead: The heroes only do it out of necessity, and it's not like the dead man they're robbing was that awesome a guy, but nonetheless they do take the artifact.
  • Sacred Scripture: The Order has plenty: Book of the Seven Moons, Apocalypse of Tamar, Sorrows of Kest, etc., etc. Most of the chapter quotations are derived from them.
  • Scary Scorpions
  • Schizo Tech: Thanks to our Neglectful Precursors leaving all their crap behind, we have a world with flamethrowers, liquid crystal telescopes, A.I.s, and electric elevators, all while horses are the most efficient transport and the main military weapon is the crossbow.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Almost everyone ends up feeling sorry for the Margrave.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: A fundamental belief of the Order.
  • Unstable Genetic Code: Used as the explanation for the many monsters inhabiting Anara.
  • Underside Ride: Carys, Galen, and Raffi sneak into Tasceron underneath carts. It doesn't work, and Carys has to bribe the guards instead.
  • Underwater City: The Palace of Theriss
  • Uterine Replicator: Appears in Maar.
  • Vestigial Empire: Emperors would imply an Empire, but it clearly no longer exists.
  • Vision Quest: The Deep Journey. Crosses over with Adventures in Comaland, because you very much can die while doing it.
  • Waking Up Elsewhere: Raffi has this happen multiple times in Heiress and Margrave, and Carys gets her own shot at it in Coronet.
  • Weather-Control Machine: Found in Maar.
  • Withholding Their Name: Our Sekoi refuses to tell the other characters its name.
  • Zeerust: A mild case. All of the technology is around turn-of-the-millennium level, particularly the CD and laptop.