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Literature / Rowan of Rin

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A series by Emily Rodda, author of Deltora Quest. It follows the adventures of a young boy named Rowan, who is considered quite an oddity in his village of Rin because he is small, weak and cowardly compared to the tall, strong and fearless people which live there. One day, however, the stream which runs through the village dries up, and six brave villagers set out on a quest to the Mountain to restore it. However, they have been given a map which only Rowan can read, so Rowan accompanies them, and it soon turns out that Rowan is the person the six heroes need most of all...

Each book in the series focuses on Rowan as he goes on an important quest with his friends, to save his beloved village from the dangers that threatens it. Along the way, they find out quite a bit about the ancient people of the Valley of Gold, and the true history of the people of Rin. Rowan makes many new friends on his adventures and comes to be respected and almost feared by others in Rin for his exploits. In later books, characters such as Zeel (a Zebak raised as a Traveller), Perlain of Pandellis (a Maris man), Allun the baker and Shaaran and Norris of the Silk become recurring companions of Rowan during his adventures.

The books in the series are:

  • Rowan of Rin
  • Rowan and the Travelers
  • Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal
  • Rowan and the Zebak
  • Rowan of the Bukshah (titled Rowan and the Ice Creepers in some countries, including the US)

Now has a character page!

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: All the women in Rin, excluding Shaaran. Zeel could count as well.
  • Action Mom: Jiller. She was fully prepared to go into battle against the Zebak in the fourth book, takes up the role of Chooser without complaint or fear, and is as brave and strong as the average Rin villager. She also deals with a lot over the course of the series, mostly with regard to her children's safety.
  • Adventure Towns: Rin and Maris.
  • An Aesop: There's a few of them, including:
    • Being different from everyone else isn't a bad thing. People's differences complement each other, which can be essential.
    • There's no shame in being afraid, everyone's afraid of something and fearing nothing isn't actually a good thing.
    • Even if you don't like some aspect of what you are, you'd be better off acknowledging it and using the strengths it gives you instead of pretending you're something else and burying your head in the sand.
  • Androcles' Lion: It's revealed at the end of Rowan of Rin that the Dragon wasn't roaring because it got a bone stuck painfully in its throat. Rowan pulls the bone out, and the narration says that the Dragon won't eat him because of that. Unfortunately, Jonn's still there and is almost dead, and the Dragon is very hungry...
  • Anyone Can Die: Mostly averted, except in the case of Neel the potter, who is eaten alive by an Ice Creeper in Rowan of the Bukshah.
  • Babies Ever After: By the beginning of the fifth book, Marlie and Allun are married and expecting a child.
  • Batman Gambit: The Keeper's plan to create a fair trial for the Candidates of Maris only works because she correctly guesses exactly what Rowan would insist on doing after he discovers that his mother has been poisoned.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: It's revealed in Rowan And The Zebak that not all of the people of Rin's ancestors escaped the Zebak's clutches; those who were left behind slowly wasted away and mostly didn't have children. Rowan realises upon hearing this that they must have felt that death was better than living as slaves and having children who'd be born into slavery.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Rowan, Allun, Zeel, Perlain, Shaaran, Norris and Annad arrive in Rin just before the Zebak attack in Rowan and the Zebak. Just moments later, as the people prepare for battle, Rowan figures out how to repel the invaders and convinces Lann and the villagers to flee into the orchard and hide there while the Dragon takes care of the Zebak.
    • Rowan and the Maris candidates returning to the Cavern of the Crystal with the antidote to save Jiller, just in time. Though it turns out that the whole thing was a set up to allow the candidates to have a fair Choosing. The old Keeper tells Rowan afterward that she knew from the Crystal that it would all turn out okay.
    • Also Doss destroying the Zebak invasion fleet in Keeper of the Crystal.
    • Rowan, Zeel and the Travellers returning to Rin just before the Mountain trees start eating all the villagers in Rowan And The Travellers.
  • The Big Guy: Strong Jonn carries the name for a reason. He's a rather Gentle Giant, though, with a heart as big as his biceps.
  • Broken Bird: Zeel.
  • Canon Welding: Rowan of Rin is confirmed to take place in the same universe as Deltora Quest and its related books, but as of yet there has been no relevant interaction between the two stories. The island is briefly visited in the Star of Deltora series, but the ship is turned away by the Maris.
  • Character Development: Rowan becomes a lot less timid and a lot more bold and crafty as the series goes on, due to his self-esteem rising and the influence of friends such as Zeel and Perlain. Most of the adults in the village who once looked down upon Rowan start treating him with respect and become less close-minded and racist toward the Maris and the Travellers. Lann is a major example, as she begins the series as a major Jerkass who is prejudiced against the other races and mean toward the oddities of Rin (Allun and Rowan mostly), and ends it as a much more open-minded person who is willing to accept that 'weak' people have worth too. She even tells Rowan, in Rowan and the Bukshah, that although they are both completely different in their build and physical strength, that doesn't matter because they are similar in all the ways that matter.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Allun with Marlie, before they get married in the fourth book. Also Jiller and Strong Jonn.
  • Cowardly Lion: Rowan is afraid of everything. Which means he faces his fears every single day, so he's the only one brave enough to make it all the way to the end.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: During the main series, most of the characters avert this, since most of them have normal, balanced childhoods and rarely experience any real trauma. However, both Allun and Rowan play this straight, as they have been bullied for most of their lives by the rest of Rin for being oddities. Zeel was originally a foundling Zebak child who was discovered and raised by the Travellers.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Allun.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Zeel's parents were drowned at sea, while attempting to escape with Zeel from enslavement in the Zebak lands. Marlie's parents are never mentioned, but it can be assumed that they are dead.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Zeel and Asha.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rowan's father is not present at all in the series. In the first book, it's said that he was killed in a house-fire, after saving his son's life. Allun's father died during the War of the Plains.
  • Doomed Hometown: Rin averts this mostly, though it comes close multiple times to being destroyed by Unrin trees, decimated by invading Zebak and facing an eternal winter. The Valley of Gold, however, plays this straight.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: There is a form of this in each book.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Shaaran.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Ice Creepers don't just thrive in the cold, they are the cold. Their very presence causes the temperature to drop. If enough of them are present in one area, their combined coldness can give them access to areas previously too warm for them.
  • The Empire: The Zebak have tried multiple times to conquer other peoples, and from what we see of their society in the fourth book, it's very militaristic and autocratic (though the lower classes are more peaceful).
  • Face Your Fears: The Mountain forces the seven who climb it to each face the thing they fear most, from spiders to claustrophobia to the loss of loved ones. One by one, they each find that there's something they can't handle. Rowan, who fears everything and continues anyway, is the only reason they ultimately succeed.
  • Fearless Fool: In an excellent twist, John is beaten by the mountain not because he was afraid, but because he wasn't when he should have been. Exhausted and slowly freezing he realises that Sheba was right, only fools do not fear, and admits this to Rowan.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Allun, Strong Jonn, Marlie and Rowan, during their quest into the Mountain in the first book. Rowan and Zeel become firm friends after facing the Pit of Unrin together and saving Rin from the Unrin trees. Rowan later becomes a close friend to each of the Maris Candidates after they work together on the Island to brew a antidote to save Rowan's mother Jiller from the Death Sleep poison.
  • Fish People: The Maris have webbed hands and feet and need to stay moist to survive, but Zebak propaganda described them as having fish tails too.
  • Foreshadowing: There's a throwaway line early in Rowan Of Rin about how Val and Ellis are known for being very finicky with their housekeeping. It's later revealed that it's because Ellis is extremely arachnophobic, and can't stand so much as a leaf lying on the floor in case there could be a spider under it.
  • Generation Xerox: In Rowan And The Bukshah, Rowan repeatedly dreams of himself, Shaaran and Norris on a journey. It's later revealed that he's actually dreaming of the past, and three people who very closely resembled them.
  • Giant Flyer: The Dragon of the Mountain, and the grach.
  • Happily Married: Jiller and Jonn, after their wedding in book four. Allun and Marlie as well, in book five.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Averted with Shaaran, Norris and Thiery of the Silks. When Rowan and his companions arrive in the Zebak slave quarters to rescue Annad, Shaaran and Thiery quickly accept Rowan's offer to set them free as well. The only reason Norris refuses it at first is because of a fear of being discovered and punished for attempting to escape, and not because he actually wanted to stay in slavery.
  • Heroic BSoD: This happens to Norris during Rowan and the Bukshah, when Rowan, Norris, Shaaran and Zeel are trekking through the Mountain. It takes Rowan to snap him out of it, playing on the fierce pride which all Rin fighting folk seem to have.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Thiery of the Silks willingly gives his own life so that his grandchildren, Rowan, Allun, Zeel, Annad and Perlain can use Unos the grach to escape from the Zebak. He had sworn to the Zebak that as long as he was alive, Unos would never fly. After his death, Unos was released from it.
    • Though not fatal, Norris, Rowan, Zeel and Shaaran all sacrificed something to continue their quest in Rowan and the Bukshah. Zeel gave up her yellow kite, Shaaran her precious silks, Norris attempted to convince the others to leave him behind so that he wouldn't become a burden to them and slow them down, and Rowan chose to give up his friendship with Norris, Zeel and Shaaran so that they would not risk their lives and possibly die when they accompanied him on the final leg of the journey to defeat the Ice Creepers.
    • Rowan is almost forced to become Keeper of the Crystal himself in the third book after Doss turns out to have been a Zebak-controlled traitor, and though he is very reluctant he is willing to make the sacrifice if it means preventing a Zebak invasion from occurring. Luckily, he realises just in time that the Crystal is more powerful than any Zebak magic trick, meaning that no Keeper of the Crystal would ever betray Maris to the Zebak, willingly or not, thus eliminating the threat Doss poses to the Maris people.
    • Rowan's father gave up his life by saving his son from dying in a house-fire.
  • Hypocrite: Towards the end of the first novel, the characters are back home worrying about Strong Jonn; Val states that he's 'all alone' on the mountain. Allun points out that he's not alone, Rowan's with him. Val sneers that a weakling like Rowan is no use to Jonn, and he needs someone strong, brave and courageous by his side at a time like this. Allun bluntly points out that Jonn had five strong, brave and courageous companions at one point: "They all ran away." Val, who was among the first to run away, has no comeback to this.
  • I Am Who?: Rowan is shocked to discover that his mother is the Chooser of Maris, and even more shocked at the news that this means that he and his mother must journey to Maris to take part in the Choosing of a new Keeper.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Rowan is always wishing that he were as strong as the rest of Rin, so that he wouldn't be bullied and could help his mother around the village and in the fields. This eats at him more and more in the second, third and fourth books, as he becomes frustrated at not being able to help physically when his friends are in trouble. Eventually, he realises that he does not have to be physically strong to be of any help, and has other talents and his wits which he can use.
  • It's All My Fault: Allun blames himself for what happens to Rin in the second book, as he was the one who took the berries down from the Mountain. He redeems himself when he helps save the village from the Unrin trees by destroying them.
  • Jerkass: Naturally, Kids Are Cruel towards Rowan, but plenty of the adults are also unnecessarily mean to Rowan as well.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sheba displays this at times— although she is horrible toward those who ask for her help, her cryptic riddles always aid the heroes in their quests and she truly seems to care about Rin. Lann and Bronden also develop into this as the series progresses.
  • Kid Hero: Rowan, definitely. He's only twelve by the time the series finishes. Zeel counts as well, as she is around Rowan's age and accompanies him on three of his quests.
  • Kill It with Fire: Ice Creepers being creatures of the cold, hate fire and heat. To them fire is like poison and one intense blow from a flaming torch can kill them.
  • Klingon Scientists Get No Respect: It's revealed that Rin used to have both artists and warriors, who lived in harmony despite their differences. In the present day, almost all of the villagers are the warrior type, while the occasional artist throwbacks are shunned for being weaker and usually wind up as carers of the bukshah, because it's a job that doesn't require strength.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: What happened to the warrior slaves that were sent to the Maris continent to help with a Zebak invasion, courtesy of the Zebak. It was meant to make them more obedient and focused on the war. It didn't work.
  • Left Hanging: In Rowan and the Zebak, it's mentioned that the majority of the Zebak are peaceful, it's the ones in charge who are cruel and want to conquer everyone. The peasants see Rowan and co making their escape, and then when the Zebak go after them, the Dragon kills many and the rest are forced to flee. It sounds like there could be a rebellion in the works, but it's never brought up again.
  • Manchurian Agent: In the third book, Rowan has the task of choosing the next leader of the Maris people, the Keeper of the Crystal. However, it turns out that one of the three candidates, Doss of Pandellis, was brainwashed by the Zebak and sent as a sleeper agent to help them conquer the Maris. In the end he's chosen and Rowan can't take back his choice, but the Crystal itself is powerful enough to override the neural programming, so it all works out.
  • Man-Eating Plant: The Unrin trees, which destroyed the Valley of Gold and almost did the same to Rin.
  • Memory-Wiping Crew: The Zebak have the power to completely wipe a person of their memories of the past. They did just this to the warrior slaves they sent to the Maris continent to fight against the Maris and the Travellers, thinking that it would make them better fighters and more focused on the war. Unfortunately for them, that goes completely awry when the warrior slaves decide to take things into their own hands.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Most of the villagers prize heroism and bravery, and look down on Rowan because he wears his fears on his sleeve, but some meet this trope more than others; in particular, Marlie, Allun and Jonn are more understanding of Rowan. Tellingly, although each of those who accompanies Rowan on the journey have their own well-hidden terrors to face, those who are cruelest and most dismissive of Rowan tend to have the most humiliating breakdowns and are those who are forced to drop out first.
  • The Needs of the Many: The Maris believe that one person's death is of no matter if it serves the greater good. Rowan doesn't agree, especially when the person in question is not a Maris and did not sign up to put their life on the line.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Star, the leader of the bukshah herd, and Unos the grach, who was Thiery's companion in the Zebak lands and later becomes Sheba's.
  • Official Couple: Jiller and Jonn, by the end of the first book. Allun and Marlie by the end of the fourth.
  • Oh, Crap!: In Rowan and the Travelers, Sheba's prophecy warns of an "ancient enemy" that is coming. Rowan spends the whole book on the lookout for it and then realises that the berries Allun brought down the mountain grow into carnivorous trees that destroyed a city once before...and that everyone in the village has a garden full of them.
    Rowan (thinking): The ancient enemy... is here.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: They're called the Maris, they're cold-blooded fish-people with webbed hands, they need to be in water and dry out if away from it for too long, but when in water, they can recover from almost anything. They can also smell water if it's anywhere nearby.
  • Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Every one of Sheba's prophecies rhymes.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: All the time. Sheba's riddles tend to be cryptic, and the characters spend a lot of time trying to figure out what they mean. And even when they're actually straightforward, the characters often misinterpret them. For example, in Rowan of Rin, one verse says to 'let your guide be made of wood'. The group interpret that as 'let the most cool and unemotional person go first', what it actually meant was 'use a stick to find a path through the swamp'.
    • Another notable case is in Rowan And The Bukshah, with the line 'Four must make their sacrifice'. Rowan and Zeel recall this line and think it means that they must all throw themselves into the Mountain's heart, but Shaaran manages to knock some sense into them, saying that there's no way that doing so could possibly benefit the situation whatsoever. After some reflection, Rowan realises that she's right.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: All of the men in Rin except for Allun and Rowan.
  • Psychic Link: After the events of the third book, Rowan and Doss, the new Keeper of the Crystal, can communicate with each other through a mental link.
  • Rule of Seven: "Seven hearts the journey make. Seven ways the hearts will break."
  • Second Love: Jonn for Jiller.
  • Spotting the Thread: In Rowan And The Keeper Of The Crystal, Doss tells a story about how a year before the story's events, he and his family were out in a boat, the boat sank and the Great Serpent nearly killed him. Rowan later realises that at that time every year, the Great Serpent is on land laying its eggs, so Doss couldn't have seen it.
    • In Rowan And The Zebak, Zeel pretends to be a senior Zebak commander, but her disguise fails when she demands that a guard give her his key, as the character she's playing should have her own key. The guard does not fail to notice this.
  • The So-Called Coward: A variation; Rowan is genuinely terrified by his adventure, and is the subject of contempt from those around him because of his fear, but manages to pull himself together enough to make it through.
  • Take Off Your Clothes: Strong Jonn, Marlie, and Rowan just swam through an underground ice-cold lake, and on the other side Marlie is all businesslike about, "Let's change clothes immediately so we don't get sick" — but Rowan just utterly refuses. Marlie's astounded by this: the whole crux of the plot is about overcoming fear, and they've been through X number of horribly frightening things so far, and how can Rowan think this is a big deal? But Strong Jonn knowingly tells Marlie to turn her back so that modesty can be preserved.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Rowan. Though he's not nearly as badass as the rest of Rin, he does improve somewhat over the course of the series, by becoming less timid and more ready to stand up for himself and do what's right. By the end of the series he is feared by others in Rin, something which he is amazed at.
    • Shaaran can be said to have gone through this, as well. She starts off as a girl who is afraid of the bukshah and known for weeping often and having a soft heart, but in the end proves to be as determined and courageous as most of Rin, and does not falter even once during their final quest. When Rowan, Zeel and Norris decide to sacrifice themselves as they believe Sheba's riddle asks it of them, Shaaran vehemently tells them that this cannot be what the riddle had in mind, as she cannot believe that the Mountain would want others to die so that its hunger can be sated. She was right. It is Shaaran who leads Rowan to the true meaning of the final riddle in the quest.
  • Weak, but Skilled: This seems to be Allun's main fighting style, as he is not as strong as most of the people in Rin but uses his quick wits to defeat his enemies.
  • Where It All Began: Except for Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal, all of the books begin in Rin and end there.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: In the first book, each of the seven comes across some issue they can't handle, excepting Rowan (who's terrified of everything) and Strong Jonn (who fears nothing). In order:
    • Ellis is incredibly arachnophobic, so much so that he can't handle a leaf lying on the floor of his house in case there could be a spider under it.
    • Val has always been with Ellis, so she can only go a little way without him around before it becomes too much for her.
    • Bronden can't handle seeing visions of her dead friend, Minna, who was also the only friend she ever had.
    • Allun can't swim. In this case, it's not that he's afraid of water, it's that he was afraid of being mocked and tormented by the others for lacking a skill everyone in Rin already knew, on top of for being half-Traveller.
    • Marlie is very claustrophobic, to the point that she can't so much as wrap a blanket tightly around herself.
  • Would Hit a Girl: In Rowan and the Travelers, Rowan physically attacks Zeel, thinking she's a spy for the Zebak.