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Literature / Revanche Cycle

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The Revanche Cycle is a four-part Dark Fantasy saga by Craig Schaefer, author of the Daniel Faust series. The series consists of four books,

  1. Winter's Reach
  2. The Instruments of Control
  3. Terms of Surrender
  4. Queen of the Night

Set in a world vaguely fashioned after the Italian Renaissance, the story is told in Switching P.O.V. style and follows four main plots (along with a smattering of subplots):

  • Felix Rossini, heir to a crumbling banking dynasty. He aims to elope with his fiance, Renata, and start a new life, but he's honor-bound to secure his family's legacy first; a legacy threatened by the machinations of their enemies, who would rather see the Rossinis broken or dead.
  • Livia Serafini, daughter of a dying pope. The devout Livia sees her beloved church sliding into decadance and ruin, and vows to do whatever it takes to save it. "Whatever it takes," however, could cost her life and her soul...
  • Werner Holst and Mari Renault, bounty hunters on the trail of an exiled statesman. They're one step behind their quarry and one step ahead of their past; a sadistic witch and her followers are on their trail, determined to make Werner and Mari pay for the death of a young apprentice.
  • Lodovico Marchetti, a powerful businessman with a lifetime of bitterness in his heart, a hunger for revenge, and a plan he's worked twenty years to perfect. His machinations draw the other plots together, snaring everyone in his plans.

The Revanche Cycle contains examples of:

  • Affably Evil:
    • Lodovico is perfectly pleasant when he can afford to be, and genuinely regrets ordering Felix's assassination, instructing that it must be done as painlessly as possible. He cares about people. He just cares about getting his revenge more.
    • Owl, Shrike and Worm are the epitome of affable evil. Fox, on the other hand, thinks he is but just comes off like a douche.
  • Animal Motifs: The witches all have animal names, and bone masks to suit. These cannot necessarily be taken at face value, as the bandits who cross Hedy, the Mouse learn the hard way.
  • Arc Words:
    • In book one, "I will not be silent" — a line from a hymn to a saint — both points out the importance of Renata, Livia and Mari (they all hear it, under separate circumstances) and hints there may be some sort of supernatural guidance taking place. (One of the Dustmen hears it too, and to him it feels like a warning.)
    • In book two, "I am my father's daughter" seems to be foreshadowing a showdown between Livia and Aita, or at least drawing a line of contrast and comparison. They are both their father's daughters, which means very different things...but when they speak those words, watch out.
  • Arranged Marriage: Felix's quest to escape his arranged marriage to Aita Grimaldi takes up a big part of his arc in book one. It doesn't go well.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Livia, at the end of book two.
  • Ax-Crazy: Simon, more and moreso as the series progresses (thanks to his Humiliation Conga and repeated failed attempts at assassinating Felix) shattering his already-frayed sanity.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Murgardt Empire is first presented as the bad guys, callous expansionists who crushed the Belle Terrai under their heel. Then we find out that the downtrodden, long-suffering Terrai also happened to be slavers, used primitive germ warfare, and are so well-known for horrifying war crimes and elaborate methods of torture that Imperial soldiers would choose suicide over being captured. Nobody is the good guy here, and nobody is innocent.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Mari starts out as an almost comically naive young woman, obsessed with aspirations of knighthood, chivalry and valor. Then the Owl puts her through a battery of psychological torture, grinding her down until she goes literally Ax-Crazy.
    • That said, the Mari we first meet is the product of very careful drugging and brainwashing by Werner. The Ax-Crazy Mari? That's the real, original version. Arguably, there is no point at which she isn't batshit crazy, it's only the nature of that craziness that changes.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Vassili and Despina, aka Worm and Shrike. They're also the Owl's students and Co-Dragons.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Worm and Shrike's favorite pasttime. Also, what will probably happen if you get arrested in Winter's Reach. For any reason. Any reason at all.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The series trope. The name 'The Revanche Cycle' refers both to revenge and revanchist policies of reclaiming lands lost in war. The whole thing is revenges inside revenges, with Lodovico's plot to destroy the Empire and avenge his father enabling, among other things, an uprising among the conquered and downtrodden Belle Terrai. If any character in this series doesn't have a motive for revenge at first...give it five minutes.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Hassan's raiders versus the Dustmen mercenaries guarding Lodovico's decoy caravan. It ends quickly. And badly.
    • Felix versus Veruca. He never had a chance.
  • Ear Ache: Veruca Barrett saws off Felix's ear at the climax of their Curb-Stomp Battle "duel".
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The witches in the Owl's faction seem to have genuine affection if not love for one another, and their entire motivation in pursuing Werner and Mari is to get revenge for Squirrel's death.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • When Simon blows up the Ducal Arch and massacres over a hundred people — to get at three targets, Lodovico is horrified and vows to put him down like a rabid dog if he survived the blast.
    • Subverted, however, by his allies. Both Aita and the Sisterhood of the Noose deem Lodovico's standards a sign of weakness, and encourage him to harden his heart.
  • Expy: Dante Uccello is pretty blatantly Niccolo Machiavelli. Livia and Carlo Serafini may be loosely based on Lucretia and Cesare Borgia.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: Worm and Shrike speculate that the Owl might be torturing Mari because she has a romantic interest in her. The Owl neatly sidesteps the question.
    • This ultimately does turn out to be the case.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Rossini family. They used to be one of (if not the) most powerful banking dynasties in Mirenze, but they've been in decline for decades.
  • Just the First Citizen: Veruca Barrett, "Mayor" (read: absolute iron-fisted dictator with an elite guard of brutal killers) of Winter's Reach. She delightedly whips a crowd into an anti-Imperial frenzy, while playing up her humble nature and her refusal of a queen's title.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Quasi-subverted with Mari Renault. She fanatically aspires to be the ideal of a storybook knight, in a world where storybook knights don't exist. And by the halfway mark of the series she's murdered multiple people in an Ax-Crazy rage, killed an unarmed and wounded soldier to protect Nessa — and joyfully, tearfully thrown herself to the floor at Nessa's feet, pledging her life to the witch's service. None of which means she's actually given up her (already warped) ideals of knighthood.
  • Minored In Ass Kicking: Facing down a trio of bounty hunters, the otherwise-cerebral Dante Uccello. "I was the captain of Mirenze's militia! Did you think I got the job without learning how to fight?"
  • Moral Myopia: Lodovico Marchetti, in spades. No sacrifice is too great, if it means avenging his father's murder and freeing Mirenze from Imperial rule.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Amadeo rallies the people of the Alms District, carries out a daring rescue to save Livia from her prison...and as a direct result, sparks a massacre that gets hundreds of innocent people killed. Meanwhile, Livia was already working on her own escape plan, she wasn't a damsel in distress, and she didn't need his help.
  • Professional Killer:
    • Simon, though his professionalism goes into sharp decline.
    • The Dustmen are mercenaries, but their leader is explicit about "being in the murder business". They don't fight wars: they kill, period.
  • Royal Blood: Becomes a major plot point, when Dante discovers that Carlo is his half-brother, and a bastard. Livia is the only true descendant of Pope Benignus. Later he uses that discovery to spur Livia's claim to the papal throne.
  • Straight Edge Evil: Basilio Grimaldi, who believes in exerting exact, precise control over every aspect of his world. He'll hire murderers and torturers, but he won't hire drunks, because drunks are unpredictable.
  • Succession Crisis: Kicks off at the end of the second book, with two contenders in two nations formally laying claim to the papal throne.
  • Torture Cellar: Basilio maintains one of these, and isn't shy about having people brought there or threatening to do so. And he dies there, too.
  • Wham Line:
    • "Decided how you should die," the Owl said.
    • Book two ends on three huge wham lines/moments, one right after the other: "The note bore two words: You're Next.", "Mari? Would you like to become my knight?", and "Perhaps I am."