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Literature / The Annals of the Chosen

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The Annals of the Chosen is a fantasy trilogy by Lawrence Watt-Evans. It takes place in what's mostly the Standard Fantasy Setting, with the difference that common folk have grown tired of how wizards use and abuse them. The Magocracy agreed to establish a "Wizard Lord" with powers far greater than normal, and gave him near-absolute power to punish rogue wizards. However, eight Chosen Ones were also given power that would allow them to depose evil Wizard Lords—and it just so happens that the most recent one has been acting somewhat oddly...

This series provides examples of:

  • Amplifier Artifact / Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: Each of the Chosen Ones has one of the two, paired to ones carried by the Wizard Lord. Incidentally, the Wizard Lord's talismans don't work if the corresponding Chosen talismans aren't in use, so he can't simply kill them or he'll lose all his power and the other wizards will be able to defeat him.
  • Anticlimax: Very, very deliberate when Sword kills the Dark Lord of the Galbek Hills—it's not an honorable fight, but an assassination.
    • And again when Farash kills the Dark Lord of Winterhome.
  • Anti-Magic: It infuses a particular kind of bird to such a degree that it will also apply to clothing ornamented with that bird's feathers. The increased trade in those feathers is slowly weakening magic across the land. After seeing the horrors of some ler and the incompetence of wizards, Sword thinks that's a good thing and many others seem to agree.
  • Arcadia: Sword grew up there, and several other regions qualify to varying degrees. Averted in Bone Garden, which would be a Town with a Dark Secret if it weren't for the fact that everyone except Sword knows what goes on there.
  • Blessed with Suck: Several of the Chosen Ones, particularly the Beauty and the Speaker. Beauty can't reveal her face or even leave her home regularly for fear of rape or starting riots when men try to claim her. Speaker is constantly assaulted with the voices of every living thing.
  • Blood for Mortar: Rumors state that Bone Garden is surrounded by a fence made from the bones of its human sacrifices which grows taller with each year that passes.
  • Call to Agriculture: Sword finds he greatly prefers tending to crops in his hometown to being a Chosen.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The ninth talisman, which may or may not be connected to a ninth Chosen One.
  • The Chosen One:
    • Deconstructed to within an inch of its life, with discussion of what "chosen" really means, whether anyone need be chosen at all, and even what sort of society would leave someone else to deal with an evil Wizard Lord.
    • Reconstructed at the end of the series when Sword declares they chose themselves to stand against the Wizard Lord. Others had done so in the past, raising armies to defeat rogue wizards until the Immortal Council created the Wizard Lord to deal with rogue wizards and then the Chosen to deal with Dark Lords.
  • Compelling Voice: The Leader. Abused in both the obvious manner and a few less pleasant ways.
    • In the epilogue, the last Leader has married the new King. Nobody's entirely certain how much she uses this on her husband, but it's a useful tool for a Queen.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: Sword is frustrated when he learns the entire reason Artil turned on the Chosen was that the other wizards had created a new Chosen and kept them a secret. If they hadn't made him paranoid that the people who just killed his predecessor might kill him too, things would have gone differently.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Wizard Lord of the Galbek Hills grew up in a town called Stoneslope, where everyone mocked him and thought he would never amount to anything. There no longer is a town of Stoneslope.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: This, combined with the Honey Trap, is pretty much the Beauty's entire reason for existing.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep" / Only Known by Their Nickname: All of the Chosen Ones except Azir and Farash eventually fall victim to one of the two. Sword goes so far as to declare That Man Is Dead.
    • Holds true for most characters, actually. The Barokanese hide their true names as a matter of protection while the Uplanders do not commune with ler and so never learn them. Thus most characters go by a nickname based on their profession or actions while young.
  • Evil Chancellor: Inverted. It's initially thought that Farash is manipulating Artil towards evil, but in fact Artil is evil on his own, and Farash is trying to keep him under control.
  • Fisher King: The Wizard Lord also controls the weather, so if they go bad, expect a lot more lightning than normal.
  • Functional Magic: A Theurgy variant, with ler (Animate Inanimate Objects, Genius Loci, and such) replacing gods. Wizards are powerful enough to order ler around, while priests are forced to bargain with them. Incidentally, those bargains aren't always pleasant.
  • Geas: The Chosen must fulfill a certain condition set by their respective ler to maintain their abilities. The Chosen Swordsman for example must practice his swordsmanship daily. The Wizard Lord in turn is empowered by talismans linked to the Chosen; if they kill one of the Chosen, the talisman will lose its power and weaken them.
  • Grandfather Clause: The Wizard Lord's main role is to eliminate rogue wizards but by the time of the story less than a handful exist due to the decline in free magic. A new one is only appointed out of tradition; there's no longer an practical reason for them.
  • Healing Hands: The Beauty, oddly enough. And no, it's not Intimate Healing.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Farash started the series as a manipulative rapist but eventually redeems himself when he helps defeat Artil.
  • Human Sacrifice: A not uncommon demand of ler in some villages, such as one where a young child is sacrificed each spring. Bone Garden seems to have this as its primary industry.
  • Humble Goal: Sword spends a fair bit of time in the novel musing on how much he'd love to go home so he can just grow barley and beans with his family.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Bone Garden, a village spoken of in disgusted and terrified whispers. The full extent of what goes on there is never made clear, but its populace's main duty in life seems to be breeding new sacrifices.
  • Invisibility: Well, not true invisibility, but the Archer can make people ignore his presence.
    • The Thief has, if not true invisibility, something even closer than the Archer's. And that's on top of being a Master of Disguise.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Artil, and arguably Farash as well.
  • Karma Houdini: Discussed with Farash. Because the Chosen didn't impose any penalty on him aside from giving up his role as Leader, he got away with his many other crimes and even became Artil's advisor. Turns out he was recruited as the Chosen Traitor and was trying to make up for his previous sins.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Bow, who's devoted himself entirely to being the first Archer to kill a Wizard Lord, and as such is half-willing to fire an arrow every time he sees one, even if he hasn't been declared a Dark Lord yet.
  • Living Lie Detector: The Scholar is a very unusual case—he's not very reliable, but he can detect objective truth. It works like this: in his line of work the Scholar learns many bits of information, and if the information is true, he or she is guaranteed by his magic to remember it. So, if the Scholar ever forgets something, then it must be false. The Chosen successfully uncover several important lies in this way.
  • The Magic Goes Away: Slowly happening throughout the land as trade for anti-magic feathers increases.
  • Master of Disguise: The Thief.
  • Medieval Stasis: First justified, then averted.
  • The Mole: Farash. Later undergoes a Heel–Face Turn without Becoming the Mask, and becomes a mole for the other side - as the Chosen Traitor.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: At the conclusion of the series, Sword destroys the Wizard Lord's talismans as he feels the role is no longer necessary.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Sword hides in the Summer Palace during the winter as nobody would believe he could survive in the nearly-barren tundra. He almost doesn't, but it puts him in the perfect spot to ambush Artil.
  • Photographic Memory: The Scholar can remember anything true he's been told. If he forgets something and has to be reminded of it, it's clearly false, so he's indirectly a Living Lie Detector as well.
  • Poke the Poodle: The Thief is required to commit three thefts a day—but there's no lower limit to the value of the stolen items. Also, nothing prevents the Thief to return the stolen items post-theft.
  • Power Perversion Potential: The Swordsman in an obvious manner, the Leader through a massive aversion of Mind over Manners.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Deconstructed.
  • Refusal of the Call: Discussed and attempted—successfully for once. Not that it was a good idea . . .
  • Sacrificial Lamb: The Seer in The Ninth Talisman is introduced with one of the most in-depth and sympathetic backstories of the Chosen, having overcome impossible odds simply to be alive and free. She's unceremoniously butchered near the close of the novel to prove Artil has gone Dark Lord.
  • Screw Destiny: Discussed, but only put into practice at the end.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The new talisman given to Artil grants him no additional power and he doesn't know who the new Chosen is. He becomes overly paranoid as a result and turns on the Chosen for fear of the unknown final member, which in turn leads to his own death.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Deconstructed and turned up to eleven by the Beauty. Even a burqa doesn't help her, since her voice is beautiful too.
  • Spider-Sense: One of the Seer's abilities.
  • This Is Reality: Slaying the Dark Lord is a lot less glamorous and noble in "real life" than in the old stories.
  • Two-Part Trilogy: And a good thing it was that—initial considerations called for five volumes.
  • Villain with Good Publicity / Hero with Bad Publicity: Artil is beloved of the common people because he's made their lives better in many ways. At the same time, he has spread lies and exaggerations about the Chosen and their actions, first by rumor and then open declaration.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Artil as the Wizard Lord acts controversially by using his magic to subject dangerous ler, build roads, and allow more natural weather patterns. Given his role is meant to simply deal with rebellious wizards many feel he's going too far, though Sword personally approves of much of it.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The new Leader chews Sword out for deciding to let her predecessor off with a smack on the wrist for aiding the Dark Lord. Thanks to that he avoided any repercussions for his many other crimes and apparently chose his successor specifically as a joke against the other Chosen.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: The fate of Stoneslope after its resident punching bag made something of himself and became Wizard Lord.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: The Wizard Lord was created by the Immortal Council to act as a watchman for the wizards, eliminating any that went rogue. When one went bad and became the first Dark Lord the Council created the Chosen to keep watch on the Wizard Lord. Inevitably the Chosen in turn face internal corruption with Farash, the Leader, abusing his power and allying with a Dark Lord.