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Literature / Samaria

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The Samaria series (also known as the Archangel series) by Sharon Shinn is set in the world of Samaria, a culture that has forgotten the mechnical marvels that run their society and believe them to miracles. Unusually, the skeptics are the bad guys, and the theocrats the good guys; hey, just because you're confused about a starship doesn't make you bad.

In internal chronological order, the books are:

  • Angelica (2003)
  • Archangel (1997, first published)
  • Angel-Seeker (2004)
  • Jovah's Angel (1998)
  • The Alleluia Files (1999)

While each book is readable as a stand-alone novel, the later novels contain many references to characters from earlier books. The chronological first book was the last to be released and each of the novels following it have at least a throw-away reference to it. Each novel centers on themes of love and harmony in the face of dissonance violence.

Tropes included

  • Always Save the Girl: The main male protagonist of every book does this. He is always willing to give up the world for the girl and often has to in order for his love interest to admit the reciprocity.
  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Usually several per book. They seem to go back and forth though equally between the Official Couples.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Also once a book.
  • Arranged Marriage: The political and spiritual leader of Samaria is the Archangel, whose bride or groom is chosen by the God. Jovah doesn't usually take advice on such things. In the case of Gabriel and Rachel, it was an outright forced marriage; Rachel was flatly unwilling to go along, but being a slave, she could be given to Gabriel despite her non-consent, and later she agreed to become his wife and angelica in truth (after putting him through hell first).
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: A Once A Book event where the Official Couple finally decide to get over whatever was keeping them apart.
  • Beta Couple: Delilah and Noah play this to Alleya and Caleb in Jovah's Angel. Nathan and Magdalena serve the same purpose in Archangel, which is focused on the tumultuous beginnings of Gabriel and Rachel's relationship. Likewise, Reuben and Lucinda in The Alleluia Files have a much easier time admitting their feelings than Jared and Tamara.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: If the population doesn't come together once a year to sing the Gloria, Jovah gets mad and will first destroy a mountain to get their attention, then a major city, and finally the world. Also, anyone who knows the proper prayers can call down thunderbolts. The prayers get used maybe a half dozen times (that we see) in almost a thousand years.
    • Raphael doesn't believe this since he's been using a fake angelica for 20 years and nothing happened. The reason why is made clearer in The Alleluia Files: Jovah isn't tracking the identities of the archangel and angelica per se, it's looking for the number of "registered users" singing at the Gloria each year.
  • Book Worm: Alleya is very scholarly and believes her only genuine talent is research and being able to remember information no one else cares about. As such her selection as the next Archangel is met with consternation although her bookish nature is very helpful in solving Samaria's weather problems and discovering what Jovah really is.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: Jovah doesn't actually care that the partners he chooses love each other. For the Archangel's spouse, it looks for a complementary personality that will make him a better ruler; for anyone else, its concern is eugenic compatibility. The fact that every one of these ends up as a Perfectly Arranged Marriage is because these are romance novels.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Rachel to Gabriel so very much. She's the worst offender of the entire series; though the other female protagonist get their chances, she takes the cake.
  • Celibate Hero: Inverted. Angels in this series have a difficult time breeding. There are never more than two or three hundred living angels at any given time throughout the series. This leads to very lax standards for the angels, who are not only allowed to sleep around but are encouraged to.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Really, what do you expect when almost every major city, political region, and character is named from the Bible?
  • Defenestrate and Berate: Again Rachel is a prime offender of this, though Tamar gives her a good run for her money.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Rachel has a fear of heights induced by dreams she had after an old woman predicted she would one day die by falling. Susannah has a second kiss implanted into her skull which allows her dreams to be touched by Jovah who prepares her to help her fight of invaders just before she becomes the Angelica.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: To be expected in a series where True Loves can identify each other by pieces of crystal embedded in their arms that light up when they get close to each other (the first time) or spark when one of the pair is in danger, or is feeling something particularly strongly.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: The female protagonist of every book gets at least a small section where she acknowledges how handsome her new or soon to be husband is.
  • Ethical Slut: Obadiah in specific, though angel society in general seems to prize this.
  • Everyone Can See It: The main couples fall under this in every book save Jovah's Angel and Angel Seeker. At least in those two the main couples realize it first before anyone else.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Edori for post-Diaspora Jews, with a side helping of Roma/Gypsy. Manadavvi tend to look like secular Arabs, with Jansai as their tribally-oriented cousins.
  • First Church of Mecha
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The Jacobites in the Alleluia files seem like this to pretty much anyone who doesn't buy into their beliefs. Even Jacobites tend to see themselves as Nay Theists, since though they acknowledge the existence of Jovah, they don't recognize him as a deity.
  • Gold Digger: The Angel-Seekers. Anyone who succeeds in birthing or fathering an Angel child is guaranteed a life of luxury in the Angel parent's Eyrie, so there are literally hundreds of people who seek out Angel lovers in the hope of accomplishing this. Since Angels don't always breed true with humans, this results in a lot of unwanted human children as well, who frequently end up abandoned by their human parents.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Archangel Gabriel is more honorable and compassionate than almost any other character in the series, with a firm understanding of right and wrong, but he's not very friendly and tends not to take anyone else's opinion into account when making his decisions. He expects his commands to be obeyed and doesn't react well when they aren't. This is why he gets Rachel as his angelica, because she doesn't care about his station or respect his authority, forcing him to learn a little humility and tact. On the positive side, these traits are part of why he's chosen as Archangel to replace Raphael. He absolutely will not put up with the Jansai's enslavement of the Edori, and in Angel-Seeker, he's willing to kick some ass to protect the Jansai women from their men.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: In Jovah's Angel Alleya and Caleb become the first people ever to discover that the "god" Jovah is actually a spaceship controlling the weather patterns and Samaria is a colony founded by human's far more technologically advanced ancestors from a far off-planet. After teleporting on board and fixing the ship to save Samaria from flooding, they decide not to reveal the knowledge because it would cause chaos. Save for few cryptic files and confiding in the next oracle, they take their achievements with them to the grave and even leave the main angel hold, letting Delilah retake Alleya's Archangel position. Subsequent books reveal that Alleya's term was remembered as a brief blip in Delilah's reign and by the time their discovery is revealed they're long dead.
  • Happily Married: This is apparently the fate of every Archangel and Angelica/Angelico pairing. Also happens if you meet someone and the Kiss in their and your arms light up when you meet (guess what happens to every main couple eventually).
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Rachel and Gabriel, Susannah and Gaaron. While the girls are supposed to be similar in height to them, the descriptions of the men often give this impression.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: Rachel and Gabriel almost from the moment they meet. It is commented that their tempers make them an excellent match.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Inverted, it is heavily believed by the populace of Samaria that if the Archangel doesn't marry the man or woman the god decrees that he will not accept the Gloria (the annual concert celebrating peace and preventing Jovah from destroying the world). Actually, no. Jovah isn't going to force anyone to marry. It's just trying to be helpful.
  • Made a Slave: Rachel's backstory. Same as Rufus.
  • Magic from Technology
  • Marriage Before Romance: Most of the relationships in the series start with Jovah selecting the partners. The story is then about how the pair develop feelings for one another after they're chosen.
  • The Masochism Tango: Rachel and Gabriel all the time, when not pulling an Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: Rebekah, until she was forced to try on her wedding dress.
  • Nice Girl: Nathan and Magdalena, Gabriel's best friends who he acknowledges are far more easy-going and amicable than he is in Archangel, Alleya, Caleb and Noah in Jovahs Angel, Beta Couple Lucinda and Reuben in The Alleluia Files and Rufus and Obidiah in Angel Seeker
  • Official Couple: The male and female protagonist of any of the books.
  • One World Order: Though there are minor cultural variations, the entirety of Samaria is run by one government (for certain values of "government"). This ends when the Edori migrate to Ysral.
  • Pair the Smart Ones: Scholarly, introverted Alleya and geeky, engineer Caleb in Jovah's Angel.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: If the Kiss lights up, you're with your destined love, arranged for you by Jovah. Jovah hasn't made any mistakes on this score that we've seen.
  • Plucky Girl: Rachel was chosen as Gabriel's wife because she was his equal in willpower and stubbornness, as well as compassion. She was willing to kill herself to free Gabriel to sing at the Gloria and save the world, and later, to threaten Gabriel into either killing her or letting her go, as part of their ongoing Belligerent Sexual Tension.
  • Rags to Riches: A few of the female protagonists:
    • Archangel: Rachel goes from a slave to the Angelica.
    • Angel Seeker: Rebekah goes from a prisoner in all but name to her oppressive Jansai family and future husband to the wife of one of the most prominent angel leaders in Samaria.
  • Runaway FiancĂ©: Rachel pulls this all through Archangel, as does Susannah in Angelica, though to a much lesser degree. To continue the tradition, so does Tamar in The Alleluia Files.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Attempted once a book. Inevitably the female lead leaving the male who has to chase her down.
  • Second Love:
    • Archangel: Gabriel to Rachel, after she lost her Edori partner Simon when they were sold into slavery and it's later revealed he died.
    • Jovah's Angel: Noah to Delilah after husband Levi's death. An unusual example in that Noah is clearly a much better match for her than Levi was.
  • Skeleton Government: The leader of Samaria is the Archangel. Then there are the oracles who have a direct line to god. Other than this, the bureaucracy of Samaria is pretty sketchy.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Rachel and Gabriel.
  • Songs in the Key of Lock: Practically all Samarian technology runs on this, from music boxes with hidden compartments to the god Jovah itself. The hints are laid in the early books, and described in detail in The Alleluia Files.
  • The Usual Adversaries: While not Always Chaotic Evil, the Jansai are misogynistic assholes who are nearly always either causing problems or neck-deep in them.
  • Trilogy Creep: It's supposedly The Archangel Trilogy, but Shinn has also come out with two side stories (Angelica and Angel-Seeker).
  • Tsundere: All the primary female characters, with the exceptions of Rebekah, Lucinda and Alleluia.
  • Twice Shy: Caleb and Alleluia initially, though this doesn't stop them from hooking up for a bit before finding out that they are ordained to be together by the god himself.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: Of sorts. Archangel stands on its own and Jovah's Angel is set a ways in the future after that. However, the entire plot of The Alleluia Files is about the world's response to the revelations in Jovah's Angel.
  • Villain Has a Point: Okay, Raphael is a Straw Nihilist and Flat-Earth Atheist who doesn't believe in Samaria's religious teachings and tries to overthrow them both by testing Jovah through varying the religious proceedings, and later by a military coup. He's Right for the Wrong Reasons, because Jovah isn't actually a god, but that doesn't make him any less of a jackass, and it doesn't save his life when Jovah hits him and his followers with a Bolt of Divine Retribution.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Well, the Archangel/Angelica (or Angelico) couples are married by Arranged Marriage, but the question is always whether they'll come to love each other as well. These are romance novels, of course they do.