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Literature / Ruin of Angels

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Ruin of Angels is the sixth installment in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. According to Gladstone, this book represents the beginning of "season two" of the Sequence. From this point forward, the series will focus on an overarching plot that will move forward in a linear fashion, hence the lack of ordinal numbers in the title.

Kai, the banker-priestess introduced in Full Fathom Five, makes a business trip to Agdel Lex, a city divided between different cultures and different layers of reality. There she receives a cryptic request for help from her estranged sister, Ley, who then goes missing after apparently committing a murder. Kai begins to explore the city’s hidden layers, hoping to find her sister before the authorities do. Meanwhile, Ley schemes with her ex-girlfriend Zeddig, the leader of a group of outlaws who recover cultural treasures from the time-frozen wasteland hidden beneath Agdel Lex’s surface, to organize a venture of legendary proportions and prevent catastrophe from befalling the city.


Preceded by Four Roads Cross. See the series' page for tropes that are common to the whole Craft Sequence.

Ruin of Angels provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: The central squid intelligence of the Iskari is flawlessly kind and understanding of your confusion and your problems, and could make everything so much better for everyone if you just listened to it for a few moments...
    • The squid's underlings try to be this, but (despite the presence of The Symbiote below) are only human so are still prone to frayed tempers and sour dispositions from thankless jobs.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Gal to Raymet: "Why did you come back for me?"
  • Boarding School of Horrors: High Sisters Thornside, where the Iskari endeavor to mold young Glebland refugees and orphans into loyal imperial subjects. An unusual example where the "bruised idealist" perpetrators are treated with some sympathy, as the narration notes that many of them would probably be genuinely kind if assigned to give aid at a natural disaster, but the daily grind of trying to help/tame traumatised kids who hate everything you represent takes its toll.
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  • Body of Bodies: Some of the Craftwork war machines in the dead city are described as giant snakes or spiders made from human bodies.
  • Butch Lesbian: Other viewpoint characters descriptions of Zeddig comment on her being very muscular and strong.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Since Alikand/Agdel Lex is on the site of the Wound, a perpetual battle that started the God Wars but didn't end with the rest of them, consensus reality is less a philosophical concept and more a clear and present danger. (The Iskari managed to change the weather patterns by believing Agdel Lex is in the desert.) As a result, there are several distinct realities on top of each other, and you move between them by picking one and believing really hard in it.
  • Death Seeker: Gal; demanded of her by her government as a means of executing her without a public scandal.
  • Domestic Abuse: Alethea Vane, Ley's business partner and girlfriend, makes a habit of collecting pieces of her lovers and preparing control spells to use on them. It's heavily implied that she would have kept Ley magically enslaved had it not been Kai who confronted her instead.
  • The Fettered: Gal has enormous skill and power in combat, but has an Honor Before Reason attitude that limits the circumstances under which she will use it.
  • Genius Bruiser: Izza’s old friend Isaak is a huge mercenary with Craft-augmented strength and endurance and a chess master who almost never loses a game.
  • Happily Failed Suicide: After Raymet prevents her Death Seeker love interest Gal from committing suicide-by-Craftsman, she worries that Gal will be angry with her, but Gal says she’s at peace with the situation.
  • Honor Before Reason: Gal has the ability to break out of the Rectification Authority's prison at any time, but she refuses to do so, even after both she and Raymet are tortured, because the Rectifiers defeated her in honorable combat and it would be dishonorable to escapenote  .
  • Humanoid Abomination: Wreckers appear to have a humanoid body structure under their cloaks, but they also have rapidly expanding masses of tentacles under there.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Caamlander knights of which Gal is a member claim to be this, pledging to defeat monsters and depose tyrants, though cynics can't help but notice that they seem to focus their attention on areas that have useful resources and/or are hostile to their government. Gal, however, is a true paragon of their virtues.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Izza.
    Someday it would end, of course, in fire, or a knife across her throat, or with Craftsmen's demon chariots in the sky. She didn't have any illusions about what the world did to people who tried what she was trying. But she might as well build with passion and enjoy the building while it lasted. What other choice did she have? Shivering in some godsforsaken corner while the world tore itself to shreds anyway?
  • Knight Templar: Lieutenant Bescond truly believes the Iskari have the right idea, is fiercely committed to protecting and helping Agdel Lex, and considers herself to be a builder rather than destroyer. If only the city weren't full of people who still consider it to be Alikand, she could well be a good guy.
  • Loan Shark: Zeddig is in debt to one named Vogel.
  • Loophole Abuse: Gal's vows forbid her from breaking out of prison when she's been put there by being defeated in honorable combat. However, they allow—in fact, practically mandate—that she rescue her lady, ie Raymet, from this same prison.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Wreckers have masses of tentacles under their cloaks that let them climb walls and grapple enemies, as well as cause drugged bliss in anyone they touch. Even weirder is their ability to assert reality at close proximity; in their presence the winding alleys of Alikand are replaced by the ordered blocks of Agdel Lex, and the shifting god-monster landscape of the Wastes becomes ordinary sand.
  • Merged Reality: The plan of Alethea Vane and the Iskari is to forcibly merge the layers of reality together and bring old Alikand into Agdel Lex, and the fact that those who reject the new world will fall into the Dead City and be consumed by the monsters there is considered an acceptable sacrifice.
  • Must Make Amends: This is the object of Ley's scheme; she was tricked into creating a device that the Iskari could use to destroy Alikand, and her goal is to keep it out of their hands.
  • New Old Flame: Ley and Zeddig still have feelings for each other, even after a bad breakup and two years apart. At the end, They Do.
  • No Immortal Inertia: Gerhardt and his wife disintegrate when they die, leaving only bones and clothing behind.
  • Ordered to Die: Gal was ordered by her Queen to seek out an honorable death.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The angels of Alikand are not servants of any particular god, but manifestations of the shared identity and collective power of each of the city’s major noble families.
  • The Paladin: Played with. The order Gal is part of claim to be these, but it’s generally understood that their ultimate purpose is simply to enhance the power of the Camlaander government, not to serve some higher principle of justice. Gal herself, however, is sincerely devoted to the ideals the order nominally represents. The inevitable To Be Lawful or Good conflict already happened offscreen; she chose Good and was consequently branded a traitor.
  • Please Select New City Name: The Talbeg city of Alikand was renamed Agdel Lex by its Iskari colonizers.
  • Religious Bruiser: The above-metioned Genius Bruiser Isaak is also a devout follower of the Blue Lady.
  • Revenge by Proxy: After being resurrected and discovering that Kai is Ley's sister, Vane immediately attacks her. Not because she thinks Kai is in any way responsible for what Ley did to her, but simply because hurting Kai will hurt Ley.
  • Sadistic Choice: Vogel makes Zeddig choose between the destruction of the marker he uses as viscerally painful collateral on her debts and the life of a teenage boy he’s extorting. Zeddig chooses the boy.
  • Shout-Out: Ley claims that somewhere out in the Wastes stand "two vast and trunkless legs of stone."
  • Spanner in the Works: Let's just say Vane was not expecting Ley's estranged sister to actually help her out.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: Izza feels frustrated and lonely because people who were once her friends now revere her as the Prophet of the Blue Lady.
  • The Symbiote: After many allusions scattered throughout the previous books, Ruin of Angels gives the reader some details about the Iskari squid gods. They live as symbiotes with their followers, manipulating their biochemistry and sharing their ancient memories with them in dreams. This may explain why the Iskari have a reputation for not being quite right in the head by the standards of many other human cultures. Fontaine discovers that getting the human completely stoned on various drugs also affects the symbiote, leaving narrow windows of freedom when the symbiote is unaware of its host's plans and actions, provided the human is able to focus enough through the drug-haze to actually do anything.
  • Sympathetic Magic: Vogel uses this to coerce people into paying their debts to him.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Raymet to Gerhardt.
  • Thin Dimensional Barrier: Agdel Lex/Alikand and the surrounding area, due to damage from first battle of the God Wars, and the rift in spacetime caused by the battle's loser refusing to die. Combined with the sharply divergent perceptions of the Iskari and Talbeg residents of the city, this has created a unique situation: the post-war Iskari settlement of Agdel Lex and the ancient Talbeg city of Alikand exist as two closely entangled yet distinct layers of reality, along with a mostly uninhabitable third layer where the battle rages on, frozen in time.
  • Train Job: The first stage of Ley’s plan involves stowing away on a train traveling through the Godwastes. Her ultimate goal isn’t to rob the train itself, but she and Zeddig’s crew team up with mercenaries who are pulling a more traditional train job in order to gain access.
  • Womb Level: The headquarters of the Iskari Rectification Authority is a giant squid god that has grown its own body in such a way as to serve as a building. It includes internal eyes for surveillance, prison cells with bars made of bone, and a filing system that requires paperwork to be properly formatted so that the squid won't get indigestion.

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