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I don't object to the ugliness, hate, and perversion in A Song of Ice and Fire and other modern epic fantasies. Such things exist in all fallen worlds and must be included for the sake of verisimilitude in any work of sufficient seriousness and scope. Is there not ugliness, hate, and even perversion in the Bible? What I object to is the near-complete absence of beauty, love, and normalcy to oppose them.
Vox Day, explaining why he felt it necessary to write his own fantasy series as a "literary rebuke" to what he considers the current nihilistic trend in the genre
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The Arts of Dark and Light is an ongoing epic fantasy series by American expatriate author and political activist Theodore R. Beale, better known under his Pen Name Vox Day. Though it has its origins in older short stories, the first book in the series proper, A Throne of Bones, was published in 2012. It has been followed, so far, by one sequel and a collection of related works. The prequel short story "Opera Vita Aeterna" was a finalist for the Hugo Awards in 2014.

Set in the medieval fantasy world of Selenoth, the series initially follows what appears to be two unconnected main plotlines. The first concerns political struggles in the Church and Senate of the decaying Amorran Republic, told mainly from the points of view of members of the feuding Valerian and Severan noble houses; the second chronicles intrigues in the rising rival power of Savondir, as seen mostly by a princess from an outlying kingdom. At the same time, ominous prophecies, seemingly supernatural irruptions and savage hordes on the march in the North suggest greater threats than mere local unrest. Only gradually do the true stakes of the emergent conflict become apparent.

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The Arts of Dark and Light is unusual in modern fantasy for presenting a world in which The Church is as much of a power as in the real medieval ages, temporally as well as spiritually. Thus, the actions of popes and prelates matter fully as much as those of dukes and kings, and even many villains do not wholly disregard the tenets of religion. At the same time, Selenoth is also a world where magic is very real, and Church theologians strain their intellectual resources trying to make sense of werewolves and immortal elves as part of the Lord's creation.

According to the author, the main storyline is ultimately projected to span five books. As of 2020, the series currently comprises the following volumes:

  • Book I: A Throne of Bones (2012)
  • Book II: A Sea of Skulls (2017)
  • Summa Elvetica: A Casuistry of the Elvish Controversy & Other Stories (2017), a collection of short fiction that ties into and expands the setting
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Finally, a necessary disclaimer: while we are well aware that Vox Day isn't popular with everyone (to put it mildly), this page is about the series, not the author's real-life politics. With this in mind, please consider the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment as you make your contributions.


The Arts of Dark and Light contains examples of the following tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Savondir, at least in its newly annexed territories. They rule only through might and fear, and have to spend a lot of effort suppressing uprisings and purging dissidents. The King isn't extremely popular in Savondir proper, either, with Theuderic noting that more or less every noble of note would try to kill him and seize the throne for himself if he thought he could.
  • Above Good and Evil: This is the core of the Wahrkonigen philosophy. Good and Evil are, ultimately, meaningless concepts with no natural existence, invented by human imagination. A truly objective observer does not judge, but simply recognizes that which Is.
  • The Ace: Magnus, Corvus' older brother and Marcus' uncle, is the leader of House Valerius, as well as a decorated former officer and savvy politician, who acts as a mentor of sorts to his nephew and a foil to his more narrowly military-minded brother.
  • Ace Pilot: Bereth is the fantasy equivalent, a skilled hawk rider in Elebrion's air force. Much of her plot arc concerns military actions when her country is invaded.
  • Action Girl: Generally averted, as most cultures in the setting are "realistically" medieval, at least on this matter. The major exception is the elvish kingdoms, which depend heavily on magic and allow female magic-users in their military. Individual examples include:
    • Bereth, one of the elvish sorceresses and an officer in their air corps, who is quite deadly by any human standard.
    • Caitlys, too, though she's not professional military and so fights less, but is competent with weapons and magic when she does.
    • For a human example, Isabel, a designated slave for Savondir's program to breed mages. Savondir does not allow women to study magic, but her potential is strong enough to manifest spontaneously when she suffers a very acute trauma, and she uses it to wreak havoc on her tormentors.
  • Action Girlfriend: Overlapping with Magical Girlfriend for Marcus. Caitlys Shadowsong is a Magic Knight from the elven kingdom, and is introduced more or less when she saves him from assassins trying to sabotage the diplomatic mission he is accompanying.
  • Action Politician: Corvus. Justified, since he is a general originally, and only becomes a politician when he is drafted for Consul by others without his direct knowledge. Even in office, though, he has good reason to be glad for his military and combat skills.
  • Action Survivor:
    • Marcus. He's a theology student originally, and even after joining the military he's more of a staff officer than a Frontline General. He finds fighting for his life most disagreeable when he is forced to do it—though he also makes a creditable showing at it, at least so far.
    • Fjotra. She isn't a stereotypical fantasy warrior girl, but more of a "realistic" young Dark Ages noblewoman. Even so, she has some experience of violence, and makes it through a number of dangerous situations through wits and instinct.
  • Actual Pacifist: Herwaldus. While the Church as such is not unconditionally pacifist (it includes Templar-like warrior priests among its holy orders, for example), the order of monks he belongs to is. He won't use violence against fellow creatures of the Lord, even to defend himself.
  • Aerith and Bob: The various human cultures have names derived roughly or entirely from real historical languages, and so will usually look fairly familiar to the reader (though some forms can still be rather exotic). At the same time, the fantasy civilizations follow their own more fantastic naming conventions, leading to this. Consider, for example, Marcus and Caitlys, an Amorran scholar and his elvish girlfriend.
  • Affably Evil: Patrice and Blaise, the Savondir wizards who accompany the northern expedition. They come across more as friendly young academics than commissars, and are generally pretty nice to Fjotra when they interact—though they're also still pretty open about Savondir intending to annex her father's kingdom once the werewolf crisis has been dealt with.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Downplayed, but Fjotra finds herself somewhat attracted to the Red Prince due to his handsomeness and dark charisma, even though he is a villain and it's clear he intends to conquer and oppress her people.
  • All-Loving Hero: Marcus is a somewhat downplayed example. He isn't a pacifist by any means, as he eventually does become a military officer (as his father wants him to), but he remains a highly empathetic person, who forgives enemies, hates unnecessary violence and feels sorry for the poor, the slaves, and basically everyone who is oppressed in some way—even the savage goblins the legion he is deployed to is assigned to fight.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Severa ends up in an arranged marriage to shore up the Severans' relations with another noble house as the civil war draws nigher. Specifically, Magnus' son Sextus.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The orcs. Subverted with the goblins, however: while the humans generally consider them, too, to be this, the POV chapters/stories from their side show that they are quite humanlike psychologically, and some are actually even morally upright people.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Roheis is generous and kind (if somewhat condescending) to Fjotra when she comes to Savondir in search of help for the Dalarns in their war, and is about the only one there who is. Even so, she obviously has her own agenda as well, and it's not immediately clear what it is, nor where Fjotra will ultimately fit into it. It's eventually revealed that she is allied to Saint-Aglie's conspiracy.
  • Anachronism Stew: Selenoth mixes traits of several historical periods in its constructed world. Amorr's political system and social values are inspired mostly by the late Roman Republic, but its technology is closer to the High Middle Ages, with stirruped, heavily armored cavalry and artillery that is much more mobile and accurate than anything in real-life antiquity. Also, there is a powerful church similar to medieval ultramontanism. Savondir has similarly medieval technology, but its society is an uneasy mixture of feudalism and modern totalitarianism (this being enabled in part by magic). Their naval technology is also more advanced than other things might indicate, approaching that of the early Age of Sail (although without cannons).
  • Ancient Conspiracy: There is at least one that is active both in Amorr and Savondir, attempting to manipulate both states for its own ends. Possibly, there are several, with different non-human powers working at cross purposes. This is not made entirely clear, since most of the information about the conspiracy's deeper workings so far comes from an Unreliable Expositor.
  • Ancient Evil: The Watchers, who are behind the Ancient Conspiracy. They are immortal beings who predate human and even elvish civilization, and seek to secretly steer the mortal states in certain directions as part of a grand occult design.
  • Ancient Grome: The Republic of Amorr is a sort of Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Ancient Rome (with somewhat more advanced, "medieval" technology), and also sports a number of Greek features, including some philosophers with Greek-sounding names, Greek titles for at least some of its Church hierarchy, and a general undercurrent of Hellenistic pagan mythology and philosophy in its culture.
  • Animal Eye Spy: The elves use this as part of their intelligence service. King Mhael can boast that wherever birds or lesser beasts are, there are his eyes and ears.
  • Animal Motifs: Corvus' name means "Crow" in Latin, and is commented upon in this context. The narration also draws attention to it—as does Corvus himself, thinking it an omen when the crows appear to him.
  • Anti-Air: Elvish war hawks usually fly too high for most handheld weapons to reach them (or be effective if they do), so the only effective defense against them in most circumstances is either magic or heavier war machines. In Selenoth's technological paradigm, the latter would be catapults and ballistae of various sorts—so rather less effective than modern anti-air artillery, even if these versions have been developed to be more accurate and rapid-firing than their equivalents in real life medieval times.
  • The Anti-Christ: Dauragh, who is either the son of the last Witchkings or (arguably) the last Witchking himself. Either way, his parents expected him to restore the glory of their empire and the True Art, and he does his best to live up to their hopes—becoming thus a Dark Messiah to The Remnant of their former servants.
  • Anti-Hero: Theuderic is written as a vaguely heroic, or at least not antagonistic figure, despite being part of the Savondir magical police and doing a number of things that are morally questionable at best.
  • Anti-Magical Faction: The Amorran Republic and the Church maintain a rigorous Ban on Magic, enforced by the Michaeline Order. This deprives the Republic of a powerful weapon; but given how evil most of the heavily magic-using factions in the setting are (e.g., Savondir, the Witchkings), they can probably be excused for thinking all magic is demonic.
  • Anti-Villain: Aulus Severus Patronus, the Princeps Senatus and head of the Severan family, who is Corvus's number one political enemy for leading the expansionist faction in the Senate. However, rather than being a Straw Hypocrite, he really does believe in the politics he champions, and also has many other noble traits. For example, Patronus genuinely cares about his family, and though he is an unscrupulous and ruthless politician, he is personally honest, with even his enemies acknowledging him as incorruptible.
  • Anyone Can Die: Minor characters, major characters, and even POV characters are not safe from this, with several of the latter biting the dust in the first book alone.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: Both Savondir and the elves are depicted as interested in learning what they can of the magical secrets of the Witchkings for their own ends, sending expeditions to the Wolf Islands to search for remnants of their records.
  • The Archmage: Bessarias is an archimage emeritus who has sworn off magic after certain traumatic events, though his theoretical knowledge of it is still second to none. Galamiras and Gilthalas are straight examples, and Amitlya is a female one.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Downplayed. Most of the heroic protagonists are noblemen of some kind, showing that this is not an absolute rule—but most other aristocratic characters are at best privileged and indifferent to their lessers, and a fair number are outright evil, ranging from corrupt magistrates to depraved villains. Played straighter in Savondir than in Amorr, though the latter also has examples. Marcus' cousin Sextus is one, a spoiled and unsympathetic princeling who cares very little for those beneath him.
  • Arranged Marriage: Severa finds herself in one after her father destroys her previous love affair. Fortunately, it turns out that she gets along quite well with her prospective husband.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Given Amorr's strongly religious culture, the characters quote or allude to the holy scriptures of the Church on numerous occasions. Judging from the contents of the references, the Good Book is very similar to the real life Bible.
  • Assassination Attempt: Fjotra, who has Hyper-Awareness, manages to foil one on the Red Prince in Savondir when he is attacked by traitors among the guards. This brings her to his attention and ensures a relatively more sympathetic hearing for her embassy.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: A villainous example that is not played for laughs. Scaum-Durna uses creepy magic to appear as an attractive woman and lure men.
  • Aura Vision: Michaeline brothers have the gift of detecting magic, so that they can more easily combat it. This is called the Fifth Eye, and manifests as them seeing auras around wizards and magical artifacts, whose colors and brightness depend on the type and magnitude of the magic.
  • Author Appeal:
    • Vox Day loves scholastic philosophy, as he readily admits in an afterword to Summa Elvetica. In The Arts of Dark and Light, one of the main characters is an aspiring young church philosopher, and Summa especially is full of references to the works of Thomas Aquinas and others.
    • He is also a wargaming enthusiast and military history buff, which has probably influenced his detailed portrayal of the Amorran military, and in particular the exhaustively described battle in the first few chapters.
  • Badass Army:
    • The Amorran army is based on the Roman legions, with a well-developed officer corps and chain of command, as well as a strong cadre of professional soldiers.
    • Savondir has a particularly strong heavy cavalry, as well as their State Sec of wizards, which also deploys military units in the field.
    • The elves have the best army in the setting man for man. Since they are so long-lived, almost all their soldiers are veterans, or if not that then still far better trained and equipped than those of any other nation. Many of them are also magic-users on a tactically useful scale (and some on the strategic scale), and they have the setting's only regularly constituted air corps.
  • Badass Boast: Witchking Ar Mauragh makes one as part of a Love Confession to his companion when they make their Last Villain Stand against the elves:
    I would burn all the earth and sky if it would save you now.
  • Badass Bookworm:
    • The mild-mannered scholar Marcus is a Non-Action Guy when he first appears in Summa Elvetica, but gradually gets tougher over the course of the series, until he can qualify as this.
    • Bessarias. He is a reclusive, somewhat crankish old natural philosopher of some repute—as well as an archmage who is one of the setting's most eminent examples of a Person of Mass Destruction.
  • Badass Creed: House Valerius' motto, which shows their devotion to the Amorran Republic, and that they put the public good before their own:
    Our House is Amorr.
  • Badass Pacifist: Herwaldus. As a priest, he doesn't fight, but he travels across the world to the setting's most dangerous foreign cultures to preach his religion to any among them who might hear. And suffers persecutions and violence with utmost calm while forgiving his tormentors.
  • Badass Preacher: In addition to the dedicated templars of Amorr's military orders, there are also several priests in the regular, pacific clergy who demonstrate impressive courage and prowess.
    • Bishop Claudo is a shrewd negotiator with Nerves of Steel, who does not show fear even when confronting powerful wizards and haughty elfkings, as well as a true believer and learned doctor of the church.
    • Herwaldus, again. Not only is he a Badass Pacifist, he is also a man of faith who does not fear staring down even monstrous demons as he preaches the Word.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: "The Last Witchking" ends with Speer dead, his rule overthrown and the demons having accomplished the real aims they were actually pursuing while pretending to support him.
  • Bad Habits: When Theuderic and Lithriel go to Amorr, the latter is disguised as a nun, as this makes it easier to hide from the authorities there that she is an elf. Lithriel is an Anti-Heroine who is otherwise mostly contemptuous of the Church's religion, but still plays the part fairly well.
  • Balance of Power: Amorr leads an alliance of more or less similar states, and Amorrans (high-ranking ones, at least) are well aware of Savondir's growing power and the need to counter it. At the same time, nefarious forces are sowing dissent within the Amorran alliance itself, leading to increasing strife. This is one major reason why Patronus wants to end the alliance and simply annex the allied states instead.
  • Ban on Magic: In Amorr, where it is punished by death if practiced without special Papal dispensation. Downplayed in Savondir and Malkan, where magic is tightly regulated by the authorities but not banned as such. Averted completely by the elves: with them, magic is uncontroversial and commonplace.
  • Barrier Warrior: Most wizards in the setting are this to at least some extent. (Which, of course, makes sense: if personal shielding is a magical "skill" that any military wizard can learn, it will naturally be a basic part of their training.) Sorcerous combat is usually described in terms of using counterspells to break down the enemy's wards before delivering firepower, with the shields flaring increasingly brightly through a spectrum of colors as they strain and fail.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Several examples, including:
    • One of the noblest of the heroic main characters has become a brutal tyrant by the end of the first book—regretting this every step of the way, but nonetheless continuing down along it.
    • More positively, Bessarias. In the series proper, he is a wise old elvish sage of strong faith, while a prequel story somewhat surprisingly reveals that by contrast, in earlier days he was a typical arrogant young intellectual before he began to study serious philosophy.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Most of the more significant villains (e.g., Patronus and most of his family, the Red Prince) and ambiguous characters (e.g., Roheis) tend to be varying degrees of handsome or beautiful, and almost invariably highly charismatic. By contrast, many heroes (such as Corvus) are rough-hewn or plain-looking, if not exactly ugly. There are also some exceptions to this trend; Caitlys is quite beautiful, for example, in her own exotic way.
  • Being Evil Sucks: A special variation. The truly horrible bad guys don't generally feel like this (they're too sociopathic to care)—but if you are a good guy who for some reason turns bad, this kicks in with a vengeance. If you think that Being Good Sucks, well, you're probably right, but becoming evil to get away from it will probably only make everything even worse.
  • Being Good Sucks: Trying to remain morally upright in times of trouble and war is not easy, and the series really rams home this point. Corvus, especially, agonizes over the measures he is forced to take—both when upholding the law over his own preferences and when eventually breaking it even as he tries to save it.
  • Being Tortured Makes You Evil: Lithriel becomes evil (or at least a lot less nice) due to being enslaved and brutalized by Malkans.
  • Benevolent Conspiracy: Corvus eventually gets involved in one of anti-expansionist Amorran senators, which determines to stop Patronus and his bid for power by any means necessary.
  • Big Bad Friend: Toward the end of the story, Marcus finds out that his uncle Magnus is the leader of the enemy faction in the civil war.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: Tertiary POV character Theuderic is a state wizard in Savondir, and thus effectively the fantasy equivalent of something in between a KGB agent and a commissar.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: The royal family in Savondir. Of the members we have seen, the King, the Crown Prince and the Second Prince are all more or less clinical sociopaths, underlining Savondir's status as the setting's Evil Empire.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Some bits of dialogue are given in Amorran and the Savondir and Dalarn languages (based on modified Latin, French and Scandinavian languages, respectively), and left untranslated. It doesn't change very much, but readers who know these languages can sometimes pick up additional nuances of the character interactions or worldbuilding.
  • Biomanipulation: Selenoth magic can be used to transform flesh, or even impose hereditary traits as a sort of supernatural genetic engineering. The Witchkings were particular masters of this dark art, and some of the monsters they created still linger as a villainous legacy even many centuries after their fall.
  • Bioweapon Beast: The werewolves are the most (in)famous example, developed as a superweapon by the Witchkings when they were on the verge of utter defeat and had few resources left to wage conventional war. They work like typical werewolves in most respects, except that they have efficient social organization on a large scale (with armies numbering tens of thousands, ruled by a sort of priest-kings) and are hardwired with their late masters' commandment to destroy.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Due in part to Deliberate Values Dissonance. Amorr, probably the closest thing the setting has to a "Good Guy" faction, has social values largely appropriate to ancient or medieval times, so that (for example) slavery is commonly accepted there. However, their enemies are far worse, with Savondir a totalitarian monarchy that combines the worst features of medieval despotic feudalism and early modern French Revolution-style tyranny. And even they are better than the pure destructiveness of the Hordes in the North.
  • Black Magic: To the Church, all magic is Black Magic, demonic in origin and essence, and thus banned on pain of death. The magic-using factions disagree, limiting the term to particular forms, such as various kinds of demonism and Blood Magic. Historically, the Witchkings particularly excelled at this: due to their ideology of seeking knowledge for its own sake, they ignored all the traditional bans on the darker magical schools.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Elf king Mhael's speech to the Amorran embassy when they object to his magic ends on this note, disparaging the Church's equivalent of the Bible. The elves, he says, have much older and better scriptures:
    You put much faith in an old text, priest. If you value ancient writings so, I shall show you our library. We elves possess many such texts, some written by elf, some by man, some through demons, and some from gods. All of them are far older than those scribblings that give meaning to your fantasies and your dark dreams of slaughter.
  • Bling of War: Mostly played straight, since military technology and technique are largely medieval. Officers and even soldiers in most countries wear fairly bright colors and distinctive insignia, as well as metal armor in the better-equipped forces. The exception is the elves: their full dress uniforms are as brightly colored as everyone else's, but in the field they usually wear darker greens and browns more akin to modern militaries. In their case, this is justified, since their mobility tactics benefit from camouflage, and they can use their superior training and magic to handle the command and control issues that were historically part of the reason for gaudy uniforms and standards.
  • Blood Knight: Tribune Fortex, Marcus' immediate superior in Legio XVII in A Throne of Bones. He fearlessly charges into the fray when challenged by the enemy... even when he has direct orders not to.
  • Blue Blood: Most of the major figures in the story come from some sort of royal or noble background:
    • Both the main protagonist faction (the Valerians, including several POV characters) and their rivals (the Severans) belong to the oldest and most respected families in Amorr. Much like real Rome (or the US today), Amorr doesn't really have a titled nobility per se, but some bloodlines are still thought of as better than others.
    • Savondir does have a nobility, though even noblemen are subject to the monarchy's despotic authority. Theuderic is the son of a count, but had to renounce his title to enter Savondir's corps of sorcerers.
    • Fjotra is a princess, even if her rustic kingdom is not very respected by others (and seems destined to be annexed by Savondir in the near future).
  • Book Burning: When the Witchkings/Wahrkonigen ruled, they did their best to burn all the histories of earlier times and create a Year Zero, and were successful enough for this to lead to present-day Amorr inhabiting a sort of Future Imperfect.
  • Bread and Circuses: Amorr has something very like the original Roman variant, including violent sports and gladiatorial games. It's pointed out more than once that not everyone likes this, but it's popular with the masses.
  • Breeding Slave: Presented entirely in earnest with Savondir, where women who carry the potential for magic are forced into a royal breeding program to supply magic-users for their State Sec. This applies even to women of the nobility.
  • Burn the Witch!: Downplayed. The magic-hating Amorran priests want to burn Caitlys at the stake, but don't actually get to do it—at least, not in the first book.
  • Bury Your Gays: The only explicitly homosexual characters in the books are a goblin, a demon, and two soldiers. Most of them come to a bad end, and the goblin is killed in a particularly horrifying manner.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Downplayed a little, concerning an atrocity Sextus didn't personally commit, but is still rather flippant about.
    Sextus: It's a pity there aren't more half-elves around these days. Why did we kill them all, do you happen to remember?
  • But I Read a Book About It: Marcus is an intelligent and well-educated man, but only a junior reserve officer with little command experience when he suddenly has to command a legion. He thus needs to figure out how to convert his theoretical military knowledge into practical military leadership rather quickly.
  • Byronic Hero: Theuderic, who especially comes across this way in the prequel story where he features, operating as a sort of intelligence agent.
  • The Caligula: Both the King of Savondir and his heir, the Red Prince, come across as sociopaths, with liberal helpings of torture, wars of conquest, murder, death threats and general adherence to Savondir's Might Makes Right philosophy, as well as utter lack of remorse for any of it. However, both are also fairly high-functioning ones, who can perform their roles as rulers and generals quite well.
  • Canis Latinicus: The author uses real Latin to represent Amorr's language, but also makes up a number of Latin-ish words to represent concepts unique to the Selenoth universe (or, sometimes, to add original flavor). Generally, these are fairly logically and thoughtfully constructed, showing that considerable work went into the imagined dialect, although there are some oddities. For example:
    • Elves are called aelvi in Amorran, corresponding to the real Latin alfi (a loanword from the Germanic languages). The Amorran is clearly derived from a similar foreign root, but with a different history of transmission before it entered the language.
    • One of the top Amorran military ranks is stragister militum. Stragister is presumably an amalgamation and contraction of the separate Roman titles strategus (general) and magister (master, commander). The office of magister militum (literally "master of soldiers") was a senior military appointment in the late Roman Empire, and stragister militum appears to be the approximate Amorran equivalent.
    • The high Church officer equivalent to the camerarius (or camerlengo in modern Italian—roughly, steward or chamberlain) is called cerulengus, indicating that he is the keeper "of the Blue" (caeruleus) rather than "of the Chamber" (camera), blue being the color of the College of Cardinals in Amorr (as opposed to red in real life). The clearly non-native element -engus—or more likely, an assimilated -lengus (then an agent marker derived from the same Germanic root as English -ling or German -lein, with a Latinizing grammatical suffix -us, in either case replacing the ordinary Latin agent suffix -arius we would expect)—would further, as in the real-life Italian, indicate a Germanic influence on Amorran "Latin". Such makes sense in the context of the worldbuilding, since ancient Amorr was once conquered by the pseudo-Germanic Wahrkonigen and presumably absorbed some of their language.
    • Decessus Immortuus, the name of a mysterious painting, loosely translated in the text as The Death of the Undying. The first word is real Latin, but the second one is an original invention, seemingly derived from mortuus (dead person, corpse) with negative prefix in- (assimilated as im-)—effectively, a literal Latin version of undead. The grammar is also irregular, possibly deliberately so; in correct Latin, the second word would be in the genitive case here (immortui).
    • The titular Throne of Bones is called the Sedes Ossus, an original, irregular fantasy Latin construction. In real Latin, the word sedes is grammatically feminine, so it should be either sedes ossea for the adjective ("throne of [the material] bone"), or sedes ossorum for genitive plural ("throne of [many] bones").
  • Cannon Fodder: The goblins are treated this way by everyone, almost as a joke, sort of like the stereotype of the Red Army in World War II that often surrendered in huge droves and could only ever win through terrorizing their own troops and drowning the enemy with sheer numbers. At one point, it's suggested that this is at least in part a self-reinforcing stereotype: since the goblin soldiers know that their commanders treat them as expendable, it makes good sense that their morale is low.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: The Selenoth elves are much wealthier, more knowledgeable, beautiful and magical than the setting's human cultures, as well as near-immortal. They also have a much more advanced society, with living standards approximating the modern world (thanks to Utility Magic), civil and political rights and rule of law, secularism and even a fairly gender-egalitarian and sexually liberated culture. Due to this, it's probably justified to at least some extent that they look down on the more or less "authentically medieval" humans as barbaric, superstitious, unhygienic, misogynist, economically backward and generally unappealing. However, the author also makes very clear that their society has other social problems instead, which are serious enough, somewhat subverting the trope.
  • Captain Oblivious: While Marcus isn't generally one when dealing with his fellow men, he often comes across this way in his interactions with the elves, mainly due to the Culture Clash between their society and his own more "realistically" medieval one. For one thing, he initially assumes that everyone who isn't a complete villain must share all or most of his major religious beliefs, and finds it weird to meet people who don't neatly fit into that pattern.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Inverted with Corvus and his chief of staff, Saturnius. Corvus is a skilled tactician, but rather uncharismatic and taciturn in person, whereas Saturnius is socially smoother and helps him handle other authority figures who can't simply be commanded.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Averted with most villains, who are more of the Well-Intentioned Extremist or hypocrite types, thinking that their villainy is for the greater good (or at least justifying it to themselves). Interestingly, even the Witchkings (who come across as very stereotypical Evil Overlord-type villains when described by everyone else) defy this when we see a POV from their side, insisting that they are really the good guys. However, the King of Savondir is a more or less straight example: he believes in power for its own sake only, uses the most brutal and immoral methods to keep and expand his rule, and doesn't care what other people might think. Indeed, he even boasts of his own amorality.
    You can trust His Royal Majesty will personally strangle every child in Montrove with his own hands if that is what is needed to teach those rebels who is their righteous, God-given King.
  • Career Versus Man: A common problem for the elves, who (unlike most of the human lands) have a fairly gender-egalitarian culture where independent women are not uncommon. For example, Bereth's mother thinks she should marry her boyfriend and retire from the air corps, but she doesn't want to give up flying.
  • Celibate Hero: Marcus avoids women because he is still smitten with Caitlys, whom he met years earlier. When his fellow officers drag him along to a brothel, he sticks to conversation in the eatery.
  • Central Theme: Several somewhat related ones, connecting to an overarching motif of Romanticism Versus Enlightenment:
    • When evil always seems to win, is it better to be a good guy and lose, or win and become the new bad guy?
    • Keeping the faith. For all that the world can easily seem a very dark and horrible place, there is a spot of light here and there. And there will be more of them if men try to make it so.
    • Can science figure out everything, or are there truths that we won't ever understand? Are there some where we may even be better off not trying to?
  • The Chains of Commanding: Corvus. He was comfortable in his role as general, where his mandate was clear and his mission straightforward, but finds himself ill suited to the much murkier depths of civilian politics when he is persuaded to campaign for consul.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Speer Gnasor, the ordinary farmboy with a mysterious (and ominous) legacy that comes calling for him. Specifically, he turns out to be the son of the late Evil Overlord of the setting, who wants him to restore their family and its empire.
  • Character Development: Most of the main characters change a fair bit over the course of the story. Among others:
    • Corvus, who is the closest thing the first book has to a central protagonist. He starts out as an upright and popular general who idealistically stands for office in a time of crisis, and then gradually grows more disillusioned as one tragedy after another hits him.
    • The younger characters (Marcus, Fjotra) show more typical fantasy protagonist growth arcs, starting out in low positions and growing into their greater responsibilities while questioning previous authorities.
    • Severa is youthfully naive and impulsive, gets drawn into a conspiracy to spite her father, then has to grow up in a hurry and become more mature as the civil war strikes her family.
  • A Chat with Satan: Or with a Fallen Angel, anyway. Specifically, Laris Sebastius, after revealing himself as a Watcher, offers Corvus power, glory and the salvation of his troubled Republic if he will do his bidding as puppet ruler of Amorr. Corvus refuses, however.
  • The Chessmaster: Several, but Viscount Saint-Aglie in Savondir is the main example. The last few chapters reveal that he is behind all Savondir's problems, werewolves, Dalarns and rebellions, and using them to launch his own coup against the king.
    • Roheis is perhaps the second most prominent. When the Savondir plot ends in the first book, it's revealed that she was really working with Saint-Aglie all along to have the Red Prince killed.
  • Childless Dystopia: The elvish kingdoms are a slightly downplayed example, which isn't quite literally childless, but faces a demographic disaster due to a combination of past war casualties, naturally low fertility and (at least in the eyes of conservatives like Bessarias) a decadent, egalitarian culture that doesn't sufficiently encourage female elves to be wives and mothers. Marcus notices this when he visits Elebrion: a sublimely beautiful and very clean and well-maintained city, but inhabited by few, and with almost no children. The figure he comes to think of to describe it is "a city of dead angels".
  • Christmas Cake: Played with where Roheis is concerned. She is a widow when she is introduced, but part of her description specifically brings up the curious fact that she still has not remarried... even though she is a beautiful woman who even now looks quite younger than her true age of 26 years.
  • Church Militant: The Amorran Church maintains both religious military orders and a more prosaic security force of church soldiers to protect its properties and interests, entirely separate from the Republic's secular chain of command. This becomes important in the civil war, when the Amorran government starts to break down.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Corvus. Though he used to be a great general, and still is in many ways, he is both out of his depth in the Byzantine politics of the capital and an ever more obviously old and tired man, himself, who really would rather retire than battle over the Republic's future in the Senate. He also becomes increasingly much of a Tragic Hero as the Republic slides ever closer to complete collapse in spite of his best efforts.
  • Colonel Badass:
    • Quintus Tullius Acerus, the senior tribune of Legio VII in the prequel stories (whose rank is thus approximately that of colonel). He leads the retreat of the Amorran expeditionary force in Merithaim, after the elves destroy their headquarters and most of the senior commanders.
    • Gaius Valerius Fortex, a cavalry tribune in Corvus' Legio XVII, who launches a premature charge on his own initiative and duels with a goblin chieftain.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Tribune Fortex, a Blood Knight with roughly the same rank when converted to Amorr's Roman-inspired military.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: A villainous example, although with some measure of Sympathetic P.O.V.. Ar Dauragh, at least nominally the last Witchking, knows the terrible responsibilities his position and magical heritage demand of him—not least because his father and his advisors make them explicit to him.
  • Common Tongue: Amorran serves as a downplayed version, since it is also used as a language of learning, as well as trade, even outside Amorr's borders. However, there really is no "common" language as such, with each of the setting's cultures speaking its own, mutually unintelligible from the others. (In the style of Tolkien, but more explicitly, the languages are based more or less closely on real-life ones, mostly derived from the Indo-European language family. For example, Amorran is a variant of Latin with more Germanic influences, the Savondir language a sort of archaic French or Norman, and the Dalarn tongue is derived from Scandinavian dialects. Elvish picks up at least some phonology and grammar from Celtic, though it also seems to incorporate other, non-Indo-European elements.) Of course, scholars, diplomats and others from cosmopolitan backgrounds are likely to know second and third languages in this sort of setting, so communication is still possible—just not as easy as in a typical fantasy setting.
  • Complete Immortality: The Watchers are undying, incredibly ancient cosmic monsters that cannot be destroyed by any known human agency, whether mundane, magical or relating to religious exorcism. Even literally burning one to ashes only means that he'll take a little longer to regenerate. They are hinted to have some still unspecified means of potentially destroying or damaging each other, but no mortal power seen thus far can.
  • Condescending Compassion: Roheis is kind and helpful to Fjotra in most of their interactions, and pretty much the only one who gives her any honest help with saving her homeland, but there is also a condescending note to much of what she says and does. As a high-ranking noblewoman of Savondir, Roheis seems to look down on the Dalarns, even a princess like Fjotra.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Severa after she joins the Utruccan witch cult. Originally, she wants to rebel against her father, but after they forgive each other her ties to the cult still remain—leaving unclear with whom her true allegiances lie.
  • Consummate Liar: Roheis. She can fool even Fjotra, who has Hyper-Awareness—at least, at first...
  • Cool Chair: Corvus has one that is almost a throne, carved with crow designs and bird's talons for legs.
  • Cool Crown: The Silver Crown of Savondir and the High Seat, the symbol of royal authority worn by the monarch of Savondir.
  • Cool Old Guy: Pope Charity is over a hundred years old, but still has a clear head and an iron will. And although he capably upholds the dignity of the Holy Office, he also indulges in occasional playfulness off the record.
  • Corrupt Church: Subverted. Much like the real-life medieval Roman Catholic Church, the one in Amorr is heavily involved in worldly politics, and so draws in its share of opportunists, power mongers and generally corrupt clergymen—and this has realistic effects both on how it works internally and how it is perceived by outsiders. However, there are also many honest priests who are sincerely devoted to their religion, and do their best to limit the sway of the hypocrites, the serving Pope being notable among them. On the whole, the Church is deeply flawed, but still ultimately presented as a net force of good in the world. One of its most spectacular triumphs in this regard is to help avert the brooding war between Amorr and the elven kingdoms.
    • Played straighter with its branch in Savondir, which is nominally part of the same church but effectively cut off from the legitimate hierarchy. They are thoroughly under the thumb of the totalitarian regime and function as its Propaganda Machine, for example by condoning its heavy use of magic (which the Church proper condemns as demonism).
  • Corrupt Politician: Aulus Severus Patronus. Though not in the sense that he takes bribes himself—in fact, he's even scrupulously honest with his personal finances. However, he has certainly bribed and conspired with other politicians to support his own ruthless agenda to overthrow Amorr's Republican system.
  • Cosmic Horror Reveal: The revelation that the immortal, alien Watchers exist, and are probably behind the strange murder of several cardinals in the conclave, changes the story from a relatively mundane fantasy political drama to a much darker tale of struggle against ancient evil.
  • Country Mouse: Fjotra and her brother when they first arrive in Savondir. They are royalty themselves, but from a rather rustic, outlying kingdom, and thus lost in the sophisticated society of the court. Both are quick learners, however.
  • The Coup: Corvus and his friends eventually launch one when it seems as though Patronus and his supporters are winning the political struggle in Amorr. Also, Roheis' party (which includes Viscount Saint-Aglie) seems to be plotting one against the regime in Savondir, though they haven't yet acted on their plans.
  • Court Mage: Savondir has a political system that straddles the line between this and an outright magocracy. Its wizards are nominally only advisors and servants to the theoretically all-powerful king, but in practice they operate as a very powerful state within the state. Most senior noblemen have magical advisors, and even the King does well to listen to what his court wizards have to say.
  • Crapsack Only by Comparison: In general, Selenoth is a fairly "realistic" medieval fantasy world, with economic and social structures even somewhat more advanced than straight medieval feudalism in most places (ranging from Ancient to Early Modern elements, in various aspects). While Deliberate Values Dissonance is present throughout, it likewise deliberately averts the stereotype of Medieval Morons. However, to the elves (who live in a society with much more "modern" values and standards of living, maintained through Utility Magic), even an advanced human country like Amorr seems rather primitive, superstitious and not least misogynist.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Elebrion. It's refined, cultured and luxurious, full of wealth, grandiose historical monuments and art of incredible beauty... but also hollow. The elves, a nation in sad decline, for the most part either cling to the memories of their past glories or celebrate their present prosperity, few wanting to think of what awaits them in the future.
  • Creepy Crows: The Crows, who appear in the early chapters to observe Corvus' battle. They return later with a similarly ominous effect, and are also noted In-Universe as an omen of sorts.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The execution of the captured Witchkings were carried out by such means as boiling or burning. Also, magic was used to destroy their souls so they could never be reborn.
  • Crystal Ball: The senior Savondir wizards at the Academy are seen using a stereotypical one when supervising their dragon-taming experiment.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Amorran Church is very obviously based on medieval Roman Catholicism, even if there are considerable differences between its theology and that of real-life Christianity. Its churchmen even quote quite a fair bit from holy books that sound very much like those of the real Old Testament.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: The elves in Elebrion use Utility Magic rather than technology, but still have something very like this aesthetic, as well as a culture that is more or less "modern" and even liberal in its values.
  • Cult of Personality: From what little is seen of the Witchking polity, the Witchkings' human servants seem to have treated their masters like this. Certainly, the Witchking heir is all but worshiped by The Remnant when he appears.
  • Cultural Posturing: Most cultures do this to some extent. In particular, relations between the more secular and the more religious nations are colored by this, with each side considering the other various degrees of arrogant, ignorant and foolish for its faith (whether in atheism or God), and at least sometimes saying as much out loud.
  • Culture Clash: The various nations in Selenoth have significant cultural differences, and do not always function smoothly together. For example, Amorr has a Ban on Magic which strains relations with the very magical elves, to the point that there are sometimes riots against them. The elves for their part think human societies are superstitious, primitive and not least incredibly misogynistic, their own fairly egalitarian, "modern" values clashing with the "medieval" ones in other lands.
  • Cultured Badass: The Red Prince is a villainous example. Though he shows signs of being The Sociopath, he is nonetheless a charismatic and effective Frontline General, as well as an educated and cultured nobleman.
  • Cultured Warrior: Marcus, who is a bona fide church scholar as his main career outside the military. As such, he is well familiar with history, theology and philosophy, as well as the theoretical and applied military arts.
  • Cunning Linguist: Fjotra translates between Savondir's "French" and the Dalarn tongue when her father meets with their representatives.
  • Cute and Psycho: Lithriel, Theuderic's elvish lover, who alternates between being this and a quieter Broken Bird after various traumatic events.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The main protagonist Corvus has always been a Principles Zealot when it comes to Amorr's traditions and laws. However, the increasing evidence he sees of the corruption in the capital after he joins politics there (and in particular, the revelation of Patronus colluding with dissident factions among the Allies) finally convinces him not to play by the rules if his enemies won't.
  • Daddy's Girl: Corvus' youngest daughter Valerina is especially close to her father. Since she is still too young to take an active part in the plot, though, she makes relatively few appearances, him being too busy to enjoy much family life.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Severa, though she's really a subversion. Her father long tried to protect her from his dangerous political games, only bringing her into his villainy at a late stage, and then rather reluctantly. And Severa herself isn't really very evil—though she is loyal to her father, and so does her best to play the part as capably as possible once she is expected to.
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: The creation of the werewolves. Originally, the Witchkings refrained from creating autonomous, self-reproducing and adaptable living weapons, at least in part because they recognized the danger that they might lose control of them. However, in their last days they became desperate enough to resort to it. Though the Witchkings were defeated before they could be fully developed and deployed, some wolves survived the elves' purges, and continued to grow and adapt in the remote wilderness. In the present day, they have emerged again as one of Selenoth's most urgent existential threats: a rapidly adapting and expanding culture of monsters driven only by their programmed lust to devour and destroy everything.
  • The Dark Chick: Roheis plays this role in the conspiracy in Savondir, being a somewhat morally ambiguous attractive female who spies on the royals on their behalf and first helps Fjotra out, then tries to draw her into their plot.
  • Dark Fantasy: Downplayed. Vox Day doesn't deliberately go in for destroying fantasy archetypes or wallowing in toilet humor like (for example) Joe Abercrombie, but he does attempt to depict a world with historical verisimilitude and period-appropriate values, as well as realistic war and such (given the available technology and magic). The result is a fair bit darker than Tolkien, but without the nihilism of the modern Grimdark crowd.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Rather than either of the two "Establishment" candidates Attilius Bulbus and Carvilius Noctua, the victor in the Papal elections eventually turns out to be Bishop Falconius Valens. It is strongly implied that the Watcher had a hand in this.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Generally, dark is evil in Selenoth, as befits the flavor of classic high fantasy. However, there are some individual exceptions. For example, Commander Fenwick is a moderately high-ranking officer in the local Mordor equivalent's military, yet comes across as one of the most decent characters in the entire setting.
    • Ar Mauragh discusses this concerning the Witchkings, arguing that what looks like "evil" about them is really only the results of successfully transcending the slave morality of lesser men. However, according to most people In-Universe (and probably most readers as well) the Witchkings really play the Dark Is Evil trope completely straight.
  • Dark Messiah: Dauragh, the last heir to the Witchkings, tries to rally the remnants of his ancestors' followers to reclaim their legacy, and uses methods generally appropriate for this trope.
  • The Dark Times: The reign of the Witchkings, The Empire a number of centuries ago, who created a Year Zero by burning all books written prior to their time and conquered almost the entire world before The Alliance of elves and men barely managed to defeat them.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Theuderic, the Savondir operative who is a minor POV character in the main story, stars as the Villain Protagonist in the prequel short story "A Magic Broken" (reprinted in the expanded Summa Elvetica collection).
  • Deader Than Dead: Ar Mauragh, the last (or technically, second last) of the Wahrkonigen. To make certain he was absolutely dead and wouldn't return, the elves used elemental magic to dismantle his body into its constituent particles, and spirit magic to tear his soul apart into a thousand screaming pieces. It seems similar treatment was also meted out to the other Witchkings, along with more conventional tortures.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bereth. She even snarks in the third-person-limited narration of her chapters.
    Her own orders were simple: put an arrow into any orc or goblin who threatened hawk or rider; leap off the hawk and bind the hands and feet of any orc stunned by the mage so that the hawk could safely carry them; and not to take any undue risks while trying to fulfill the first two tasks.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • In the prequel stories, Dauragh, the leader of the Witchking remnant, makes one with the demons Scaum-Durna and Baastiel as he tries to restore his ancestral kingdom. It ends badly for him.
    • Corvus is offered one by one of the Watchers, who promises to help him make peace and restore Amorr to its former glory in return for his and his state's assistance with other matters. However, even though he has already fallen far, Corvus does not go along with this.
  • Death from Above: The elves can use their giant flying hawks in this role, transporting wizards who rain down destruction on the enemy. This is one of their most dramatic magical force multipliers, though not necessarily the most effective one in aggregate.
  • Decapitated Army: The seven-year Siege of Iron Mountain was finally broken when, through a desperate gambit, Lord Hammerstone managed to exfiltrate a commando team who killed the Troll King, causing his army to dissolve as each of his warlords scrambled to seize his portion of the kingdom.
  • Defiled Forever: Female elves lose their ability to work magic if exposed to this.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Bad guys aside, even the good guys in Selenoth will often appear less than perfect to modern audiences, since the author tries to give them more or less authentically "medieval" values. And the villains can be extremely evil, and sometimes fairly alien.
    • Almost everyone, including The Republic Amorr, accepts slavery as a matter of course. Even good characters do not generally question the institution as such—though they will (in varying degrees) resent it when people mistreat their slaves.
    • Just as in real medieval times, religion is a bigger part of life than in the present-day secular West. The Church has a powerful influence in politics, and this is widely seen as how it should be. Most characters are also more religious personally than the casual reader might expect, at least in Amorr. This is perhaps the setting's greatest difference from A Song of Ice and Fire and other standard fantasy.
    • Savondir is pretty much treated as evil In-Universe, but apart from their political totalitarianism, their social values are also old-fashioned in some ways. For example, people consider it very strange that Roheis has not yet remarried—even though she is of a good noble family and an intelligent and beautiful woman, who still looks quite a bit younger than her 26 years.
    • The orcs are written as straight-up sociopaths. They see other people as things, and treat them entirely in ways that are convenient to themselves. For example: obey superiors who can punish you if you don't; don't kill screaming children just because they're annoying if you might need them later; do feel free to kill them if you won't. This for a smart orc who thinks ahead—the stupid ones have little impulse control, and so tend to act on whim without considering possible longer-term consequences when not kept under firm control.
    • Played with where the elves are concerned. Unlike most others, they actually have fairly modern and even liberal values for the most part, believing in gender equality, secularism, a fair amount of sexual freedom and such things. So they probably look like the least odd culture to the average reader—but given Vox Day's own strongly conservative politics, writing people from such a society sympathetically is certainly Deliberate Values Dissonance for the author himself.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: The Amorran Republic, though its Roman Republic-style democracy is not fully "democratic" in the modern sense of the word. The story shows the awkwardness of the system, as well as its potential for a fair bit of corruption—but at the same time, it also makes clear that naked tyranny is still far worse, and that for all its flaws, the Amorrans dearly prefer what they have to the alternative.
  • Demonic Possession: Demons in Selenoth are mostly incorporeal, and so lend themselves well to this. There are a few exceptions, as very powerful ones can manifest physically under the right circumstances, but generally speaking, they need a host to operate in the material world. In A Throne of Bones, one particularly horrifying spree mass murder turns out to be due to demonic possession.
  • Demonization:
    • The Witchkings, who are the archetypical villains in the history of Selenoth, may have been subjected to some of this by the elves after they lost the war for world supremacy against the elvish nations. The objective facts show that they did use a lot of forbidden magic and were by no means nice guys, but the most extravagant allegations against them (such as them being Soul Eaters or planning to invade Heaven) aren't confirmed by the flashback stories where they appear.
    • The mainline Church preaches that goblins, trolls and other "subhuman" species are demonic, and therefore soulless and Always Chaotic Evil. Thus, they deserve no human consideration or legal protection. However, there is also a minority position that is more universalist, with some orders of monks believing in their potential for good and even sending missionaries to them.
  • Demon of Human Origin: Downplayed somewhat with the Wahrkonigen. They didn't make themselves complete demons with their transhumanist magic, but infused themselves with sufficient demonic essence to become radically superhuman (or perhaps subhuman) liminal beings.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Scaum-Durna is a liar, murderer and sadistic monster generally. He is also into men, and doesn't mind presenting as a woman to get in bed with them.
  • Desert Warfare: Cassianus Vopiscus' expedition into the Western Desert. Vopiscus, a logistics expert, is well suited for the command and makes careful preparations, at first enjoying great success. However, his enemies have access to magic that he could hardly have anticipated...
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: The King of Savondir and most of his senior followers are motivated by this. There is an element of Darwinian philosophy in their society, but this adds little real philosophical depth to their might-makes-right mindset.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Savondir going to war with the werewolves, notionally to protect the Dalarns (and actually to annex them). The werewolves themselves are seen as only a minor problem—they might be able to beat a small Northern kingdom, but will surely be no trouble for The Empire... As it turns out, the werewolf horde kills the Red Prince, force the Southern forces to retreat, and are now likely to make Savondir their next target.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: Played with. In Amorr, Ambassador Silvertree has special dispensation from the Pope to work magic, which is otherwise forbidden in the country on pain of death, and the embassy is ordinarily inviolate... but hiding fugitives there (even fugitives not actually accused of any official crime) brings in the Order of St. Michael.
  • Dirty Coward: Aulan, though he thinks of it more as pragmatism. Abandoning your allies to die might not be nice, but if you stay and fight, you might die, too, and what use can they be to you if you're dead, anyway?
  • Dispel Magic: When fighting another wizard, a wizard can either attempt to batter down his magical shields with brute force, or else use this. In Amorr, the Knights of St. Michael also have a version of this (which is either innate or a holy power granted to them by God), even if they cannot really do magic as such.
  • Dissonant Serenity: King Mhael's reaction to being sprayed with blood as an assassin is obliterated is restricted to mild disapproval at the messy way the problem was solved.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: The new Amorran regime's insistence that it's not a dictatorship, after Patronus has been killed and his supporters purged. This is technically correct, since the Senate has not voted official dictatorial powers to the new Consul... but since the wartime emergency grants him effectively unlimited powers anyway, up to and including ordering executions without trial and purging tens of thousands of people, in practice this doesn't really matter all that much.
  • Distressed Dude: Marcus, when he ends up taken hostage by a renegade Michaeline. Caitlys saves him with a spell.
  • Divided We Fall: Amorr is disintegrating into political disaster and looming civil war just as the ancient evils in the North are stirring again. Naturally, someone planned it just this way. Ironically, totalitarian Savondir seems better able to deal with The Conspiracy so far, though the enemies have tried to sow strife there, too.
  • Do-Anything Soldier: The elves seem to train their soldiers for multiple roles, with the same elves sometimes at least seemingly equally capable as beast riders, medics and light infantry (and many are magic knights too). This is more justified for them than for a human military, since they can educate their troops literally for decades without them falling out of shape. They also have a critical manpower shortage under conditions of wartime mobilization, so making the most versatile use of every available body makes sense.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: A non-comedic example in the Amorran intrigues. It turns out that the hidden supernatural power behind Patronus' ambitious plans wasn't the obvious suspect Laris Sebastius, but actually Severa's servant girl Quinta.
  • Doorstopper: At 900-some small-type pages, A Throne of Bones can certainly match the great fantasy writers in bulk. The second volume is somewhat shorter... which Vox Day has jokingly(?) promised to remedy by releasing an expanded edition.
  • Downer Ending: The ending of the series as a whole has yet to be revealed, but both the first book and several of the short stories end on rather sad notes:
    • A Throne of Bones: Amorr is collapsing into civil war, Corvus has lost all he was fighting for, the Wolf Isles have to all seeming been conquered by the werewolves, and the Horde is about to move into Elebrion.
    • "The Wardog's Coin": The battle was eventually won, but some good people are dead, and it changed nothing in the big picture anyway.
    • "The Last Witchking": Speer is dead, his parents' empire was never restored, and the demons have exploited his misguided efforts to launch a new horror on the world.
  • The Dragon: Aulan to his father, Severus Patronus. Being more suited for this as a rising young officer, he leads the Severan forces in the field, liaises with their Thursian allies, and also carries out the assassination of Marcus' brother Corvinus.
  • Dragon Rider: Averted, since dragons are both very powerful and very independent in this setting, although the elves substitute an air corps flying giant birds instead. Savondir's wizards are experimenting with magic to enslave dragons for this purpose, but this backfires horribly on them when one breaks free.
  • Dramatic Irony: In A Throne of Bones, thanks to the prologue the reader knows that Patronus isn't the main threat to Amorr, or at least not the only one. However, Corvus and his friends don't, and so concentrate all of their attention on him and his party while largely overlooking what is happening in the College of Cardinals.
  • Dying Race: The elves. Thanks to their magic they are still very powerful, especially given how few they are, but their back was broken by the war with the Witchkings. They never really recovered, and now only three of the seven elvish kingdoms remain—and those are in steady decline as they fall further behind the rapidly multiplying humans and "subhumans" (goblins, trolls, etc) in demographic terms. The elves themselves are well aware of their problems, but no political authority is powerful enough to impose the radical (and hence, unpopular) changes needed for a national rebirth. Instead, things continue to wither, and individual elves react with anything from hedonism and apathy to despair.
  • Dystopia:
    • The Witchking empire: a transhumanist tyranny by, of and for the inhuman elite that treated the common people like cattle, burned all books to destroy history and persecuted religion and faith.
    • In the present day, Savondir: a totalitarian monarchy of extreme social stratification with deadly byzantine politics for the elites and serfdom for the masses, along with bloody purges and a magically empowered secret police, and its economy is based on perpetual conquest and exploitation of the new territories. The crown's powers over the individual are so absolute that even daughters of the high nobility can be impressed into the state wizards' Super Breeding Program without much protest.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: Subverted. The transhumanism of the Witchkings looks very much like this to most mortals in the setting, who find the society they create horrifying beyond words. However, the Witchkings themselves aren't deliberately being evil—they've just become too inhuman to see the way they are doing things as wrong.
  • Easy Logistics: Usually averted; the military POV segments take some pains to show how much work goes into keeping an army of any size equipped and supplied, even under a medieval technological paradigm, and how important it is to keep the lines of communication open. There are a couple of exceptions, though.
    • The elves have it easier than everyone else, since they use a lot of Utility Magic to transport and maintain their equipment, and have a functional air force of sufficient strength to provide reliable intelligence, communications, suppression of hostile raiders, and even some reinforcements and supply by airdrop.
    • Marcus' legion manages one specific feat at one time that should reasonably stretch their capabilities to their very limits, or more likely beyond. It involves digging tunnels.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: The Amorran conservatives who oppose Patronus' plans for reorganization know full well that their state is working less and less well, with the Constitution facing issues that were not anticipated when it was written (or else just being rules-lawyered to death on others). The trouble is that they don't have any real alternative to his Repressive, but Efficient solution, other than "keep calm and carry on" while hoping things will get better. They're painfully aware themselves that their position is almost purely negative, so they do their best to just not talk about what they want to do instead, and concentrate on the easier point that tyranny and expansionism are bad.
  • Elite Army: Elebrion, and presumably also the other elvish kingdoms. They field small numbers and little or no heavy infantry, but every long-lived elf soldier is trained to a very high standard, and they also make heavy use of magic and their air corps as force multipliers.
  • The Emperor: The King of Savondir doesn't use the title, but otherwise fits the trope in every other way: the ruthless, brutal ruler of a tyrannical, conquering superpower that terrorizes everyone else, with superficial trappings of a civilizing mission very barely hiding its philosophies of Darwinism and supremacy.
  • Emperor Scientist: The werewolves that are becoming an increasing threat by the time of the main story were originally created by the Wahrkonigen as living weapons. One of the short stories shows Ar Dauragh in this role as monster maker.
  • The Empire: Savondir in the present day, an oppressive, totalitarian and expansionist monarchy with a magical Secret Police. A number of centuries back, the Witchkings used to be this, to the point almost of world domination, but the elves managed to defeat them.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Played more or less straight among the elves, who have sort-of modern values in this respect, but averted in the realms of men. The aversion especially much strikes Severa, when her father crushes her (rather innocent) love affair with a slave by having him killed, and the servant girl who helped her cover it up sold into prostitution.
  • Ethereal White Dress: The elvish queen wears a long white gown. Together with her pallor, light hair, serenity and classical beauty, she makes Marcus think of some impossibly perfect statue of the ancient heathen gods somehow come to life.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • Patronus is harsh to his daughter Severa, but at least part of the reason for this is precisely that he does care about her.
    • While the Witchkings are Obviously Evil (if the name didn't already tell), when we get Lord Mauragh's POV in the prequel stories, we see that he had a lover to whom he was very devoted and loyal.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The goblins of Wickham Fensboro may not be knights in shining armor, but they still resent the orcs' genocidal policy against the hoblets who live there, and so help to try save them when an orc military unit is quartered in their town.
  • Evil All Along: M. Valerius Magnus, Corvus' brother. While this comes as a surprise when first revealed, a second read shows that it was actually foreshadowed quite a bit—for example, what questions did he discuss with the philosophers earlier?
  • Evil Chancellor: Du Moulin plays this role in Savondir, inspired at least a little bit by Cardinal Richelieu (and even more so the pop-culture version of him). In the Amorran church, Archbishop Laris Sebastius becomes one as chief assistant and advisor to the new Pope.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Count Saint-Aglie's confrontation with Prince Etienne when the latter has kidnapped Fjotra. His disdainful rebuke to the duke basically amounts to the observation that status and wealth do not equal true power.
  • Evil Evolves: The werewolves, whose society is evolving at a fantastically accelerated rate, fast enough for humans to observe it. At first, they are bestial creatures much like any other big predator, only nastier. Then, they evolve a primitive social organization, sort of like early Stone Ages tribes. By the time of A Throne of Bones a decade or two later, they make use of rudimentary weapons and armor, their own form of battle magic, and are capable of organizing well-coordinated armies many thousands strong, and the smarter ones among them can speak human languages and even impersonate real men and women when assuming human form. This is about the time by which they go from "nuisance" to "existential threat" to the surrounding cultures, and they show no sign of stopping evolving either. In A Sea of Skulls, they have mastered siege warfare.
  • Evil Is Bigger: The King of Savondir is huge; Fjotra compares him to a bear when she first meets him. He is somewhat less imposing now than in his youth, though—then, his bulk used to be all muscle, whereas nowadays it's mostly fat.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The hapless Speer Gnasor finds out, to his regret, that the demonic powers he draws upon to restore his country only really have their own interests in mind, and consider him little more than a gullible puppet.
  • Evil Is Sterile: A literal example with the last Witchkings. Since they had transformed themselves into posthuman supermen, they became literally another species than humanity—and so could no longer have children, once there were too few of them left, ensuring that they would eventually die out once the complex magical infrastructure needed for creating new ones from human devotees was destroyed.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: Deliberately invoked by the Wahrkonigen, due to their transhumanist ideology. Their sorceries changed them from ordinary human wizards to almost god-like demonic overlords.
  • Evil Mentor: Roheis to Fjotra. She takes in the Country Mouse princess and rather cynically teaches her those things about the intrigues of the court (as well as its etiquette and fashion) that she needs to know to be able to plead for her country—and gradually also reveals her own ruthlessness, as well as her intentions to use Fjotra and her people for her own ends.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: If the Watchers ever succeed in opening the hidden Shadow Gate, nothing will remain the same.
  • Evil Overlord: Ar Dauragh becomes a deconstruction of one when he tries to claim his father's legacy as the last of the Wahrkonigen. Initially presenting himself as something in between a Darth Vader Clone and a Dark Messiah, he then gradually declines into a wreck as the position crushes him.
  • The Evil Prince: Duke Etienne Henri in Savondir, the jealous younger brother to the Red Prince and second in the line of succession to their father's throne. When he receives the news that his brother has been assassinated, he is openly gleeful about it. He also wants to marry Fjotra (of whom he is otherwise disdainful) to usurp her family's kingdom, and is strongly implied to be a rapist.
  • Evil Reactionary: The "good guy" opposition gathering around Corvus appear like this from Patronus' perspective. As he judges it, they are blinkered fools who will run Amorr right into the ground with their antiquated traditions that are no longer up to it in real life. Better, then, to adapt to the times, embrace expansion and reform the moribund Republican system into something more effective.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Dauragh's court wizard Cajarc is a somewhat downplayed example. He is certainly evil, but also gets to show that Even Evil Has Standards before he goes down by objecting to some of Dauragh's unethical magical experiments. More generally, the Witchkings themselves are this by default.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Witchkings built fortresses of black stone very much in this style to house their laboratories. A repurposed one is still used in the present day as the Reaver King's royal stronghold.
  • Evil Uncle: M. Valerius Magnus becomes one to his nephew Marcus when he reveals that he has thrown in his lot with the Severans.
  • Evilutionary Biologist:
    • The Wahrkonigen, who experimented with a sort of demonic transhumanism to create a new superman species. They were themselves one of the products of their research; the werewolves are another.
    • Savondir's wizards are basically Witchkings Lite in many ways, and they also promote evolution and a magical version of For Science!. However, they don't have the applied magical knowledge to put this into practice—at least, not yet...
  • Evil vs. Evil: From the Amorran point of view, at least, it looks like this when the Horde invades Savondir. Though in actuality, it's really more of a case of Evil vs. Oblivion, as the more well-informed characters soon realize.
  • Evil vs. Oblivion: Savondir is certainly evil, and few others would mind seeing them knocked down a few pegs. However, the werewolves, a species of leftover living weapons from the Witchking War, are omnicidal monsters with an innate urge to kill and eat everything. It's little wonder, then, that the Dalarns ask totalitarian (but still human) Savondir for help against them.
  • Evil Virtues:
    • Patronus is a ruthless ideologue and scheming conspirator, but he is personally honest, refusing to partake of any bribery, embezzlement or graft to enrich himself.
    • Roheis is resourceful and ambitious. While similarly ruthless, she has had to work much harder for her power (since women are generally banned from politics in Savondir), and retains her ability to think quickly when her plans don't work out in detail.
    • If Lord Mauragh is to be believed, the Witchkings are (or at least, were originally) really driven by scientific curiosity and the search for the ultimate truths of existence, rather than petty or evil motives. Even if they seem to have suffered a bit of Motive Decay since.
  • Expy:
    • Sextus Valerius Corvus will most likely remind many readers of a Roman version of Eddard Stark in A Song of Ice and Fire: an older man, father, conservative and war hero already tormented by the weight of his responsibilities, who is then pulled into national politics by more clever men and reluctantly accepts a high office out of a sense of duty. However, he develops in a completely different direction once he is Consul: whereas Eddard Stark remained rigidly honorable to the end and got killed for it, Corvus instead cracks under the onslaught of the sly schemers in the capital and goes Knight Templar on them, eventually becoming a tyrannical military dictator himself.
    • Fjotra is a white-haired, impoverished young princess who has travelled with her brother to foreign lands in search of allies, has to contend with evil noblemen trying to abuse and exploit her, and determines to make use of Altar Diplomacy if that is what it takes to get the help she needs. Sounds familiar?
    • Lithriel was a kind young elf maiden who loved flying, but was cruelly enslaved by humans who destroyed her magic and left her stranded far from home. Her backstory and visual description alike are very similar to Aerie in Baldur's Gate II—though she never met the kind people Aerie did after she was freed, who restored her faith in the world, so she is spiteful and snarky instead (much like BGII's Viconia).
  • Face Death with Dignity: The last two Witchkings, and especially the woman, with added Undying Loyalty. They are a couple, and she refuses to run away when he is about to die.
    You are mine and I am yours, from the beginning of time to the end of whatever lies waiting on the other side of the grave.
  • Fallen Angel: The Watchers are based on the Watcher Angels (Grigori) of late Judaism, a class of semi-divine beings who appear in apocryphal texts such as the Book of Enoch. They were supposed to be guardians of Man in his primitive state, but instead turned against God and taught mankind all sorts of sins of civilization, such as usury, warfare and cosmetics, thus bringing about the Flood. In Selenoth, most of the Watcher race is said to have left the world long ago, but some of them still remain, pulling the strings of the realms of men from behind the scenes.
  • Fallen Hero:
    • Witchking restorationist Ar Dauragh (also known as former farmboy Speer Gnasor) goes into his Dark Lordship full of idealistic hopes to avenge his parents and save their unjustly maligned legacy. However, as it turns out that the Witchkings really were evil, he soon becomes this instead.
    • By the final chapters of the first book, Sextus Valerius Corvus has become a borderline genocidal tyrant, gloomily presiding over the downfall of more or less everything the character was originally trying to save.
  • False Flag Operation: The warmongers trying to assassinate Marcus and Bishop Claudo intend to blame their deaths on the elves, thereby destroying the peace negotiations they are attending and providing a casus belli for renewed conflict with Elebrion.
  • False Utopia: The elvish kingdoms. On the surface, they look much more appealing than either Savondir or Amorr, especially to the reader, due to having more or less modern social values and living standards in an otherwise fairly Dark Fantasy-ish setting. In actuality, they really do have that, but this fuels decadence and apathy to the point that their societies are beginning to collapse under the weight of their own ennui.
  • Familiar: The elves have a somewhat sinister version of this, with real demons bound to animals serving as helpers. This ties into the real folklore about familiar spirits, but the way they are used by the scientist-like wizards also brings to mind the way AI is often portrayed in near-future settings.
  • Fan Disservice: Scaum-Durna, the Shameless Fanservice Girl Dark Chick who is actually a sadistic male monster in love with bloody murder.
  • Fantastic Foxes: Or one, at least: a mysterious red fox that speaks with human words. It turns out to really be a demon.
  • Fantastic Nuke: The Witchkings' magic was powerful enough to qualify as this, and at least some of its applications were also somewhat similar to nuclear weapons in their effects (such as bluish-hot magic fire burning large areas to microscopic dust). The elves have a similar superweapon spell, which may be a literal nuke with a magic initiator charge. Savondir doesn't, as yet, but there are hints that their state wizards are trying to replicate either or both of the processes.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Both Savondir and Amorr disapprove of miscegenation with elves—Amorr even had a great purge of half-elves in their country in historical times. Savondir, which is closer to Equal-Opportunity Evil, seems to restrict this mostly to social prejudice (although elves being very rare there might also have something to do with this).
    • The elves of Elebrion themselves have overt racial policies in place against humans, restricting all immigration to temporary visits, and even these carefully controlled and closely supervised, tolerated for purposes of diplomacy and commerce only.
    • The orcs of Zoth Ommog are condescending toward the goblins they have conquered, and outright genocidal against the hoblets who live in the former goblin kingdom.
  • Fantastic Rank System: Amorr uses a modified Roman military system. Such ranks as junior or senior Centurion, Tribune or Legate work more or less as in real life ancient Rome (roughly, company, field grade, and general officers, respectively), but there are also ranks and appointments unique to Amorr: for example, the Stragister Militum (a senior general officer rank).
  • Fantastic Science: The Witchkings, the elves and Savondir all used or still use magic to aid what we would call their non-magical science and technology (though they don't always distinguish that sharply between the fields). With magic able to view and manipulate very fine structures of matter and energy, as well as supply high-energy charges that real life needs heavy equipment to produce, this has resulted in powerful advances in everything from cosmology and particle physics to magical genetic engineering.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart:
    • The Amorran civil war is very much inspired by the Social War.
    • In the past, the earth-shattering wars against the Witchkings come across as more than a little inspired by World War II, with the elves as the English and the vaguely German, Nietzschean-transhumanist Wahrkonigen as a sort of exaggerated expy of the Nazis.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Most of the nations in the setting have more or less obvious real-life historical inspirations:
    • The Amorran Republic derives largely from historical Rome, but with some tweaks and the important difference that The Church is already established in Amorr's equivalent of late Roman Republican times.
    • Savondir is culturally French, although their system of government is closer to modern despotism than true feudalism.
    • Malkan is half Switzerland, half Venice, a city-state based on banking, trade and crafts.
    • The Dalarns are more or less Vikings, being Nordic raiders from the North.
    • Zoth Ommog appears inspired by the United States—specifically, the most boorish type of Eagle Land, its horde armies appearing much like caricatures of cliched superpatriotism and ultra-machismo out of Generation Kill. They even have marching songs that sound suspiciously like USMC-style military cadences.
  • Fatal Flaw: Corvus' flaw is his rigorous devotion to Amorr's traditions and laws. His severe uprightness makes him a good general, but a mediocre ruler, and a downright terrible conspirator. Unfortunately, it's the latter the Republic needs most...
  • Fat Bastard: The King of Savondir. He is huge, fat, and basically a somewhat high-functioning sociopath with absolute power.
  • Faux Action Girl: There's an In-Universe example in A Throne of Bones, where two female fighters in a gladiatorial game are billed as fierce Amazons taken captive in a recent war. This is actually a lie: they're really just ordinary criminals condemned to the arena, and predictably don't do very well against opponents who are real warriors.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Due to Deliberate Values Dissonance. As an "authentic" medieval society that takes its traditions and religion seriously, Amorr punishes a number of sexual crimes very severely by modern standards, for example requiring capital punishment for adultery and homosexuality. Marcus is saddened by this, and intervenes in one case to make the punishment a little milder, substituting a quick beheading for the regulation death by beating.
  • The Fettered: This is Corvus' core personality, sometimes almost verging on Lawful Stupid: he will always treasure and revere Amorr's sacred traditions. Also the main reason why he is considered a Ned Stark expy. Though unlike Ned, Corvus does learn the need to play dirty in politics before it's too late for him—with horrible results.....
  • Feuding Families: The Valerians and Severans in Amorr, who head different political parties in the Senate. The Severans want to expand Amorr and turn it into The Empire in all but name, annexing and absorbing the allied states, while the Valerians lead the conservative opposition to this policy.
  • Fictional Document: Sometimes, the story quotes in-universe documents, such as letters between political conspirators, philosophical and "Biblical" works relating to the fantasy religion, and Amorr's national epic poem, the Amorriad.
  • Field Promotion: Marcus finds himself in charge of the 17th Legion after most of its senior officers are assassinated, and furthermore ends up brevet-promoting a number of subordinates on his own authority.
  • Fighting from the Inside: Pope Valens, after he is elected. There are little hints that he is acting under duress, cryptic words trying to imply something important... and then we learn that he is suffering from Mind Rape by Laris Sebastius. In the end, he manages to temporarily free himself and fight back a little with his dying breath.
  • Final Solution:
    • Farther back in the history of the setting, there used to be a mixed-race human-elf state bordering on Amorr, but the Amorrans exterminated it. This caused a drastic decline in their relations with the other elvish kingdoms, and at least some Amorrans regret it in retrospect.
    • The elves themselves exterminated the Witchkings, but almost no one regrets this, since they were a race of Always Chaotic Evil powerful magic users who ruined most of the world before that. Except the Witchkings' followers, obviously, but most of those were killed as well.
  • Fireballs: Most powerful wizards know some spell that functions more or less as this stereotypical effect. In Selenoth, it's considered a military-grade weapon, and typically heavily regulated in all countries, even those that permit magic.
  • First Time in the Sun: Symbolically experienced by a younger Bessarias in one of the prequel stories when he decides to leave the academy after he witnesses how they treat the monk Herwaldus, figuratively turning his back on the atheism and sorcery that has darkened his life until then.
    The great iron doors of the Collegium Occludum opened before him, spilling warm autumn sunlight onto the cold stone of the ancient hall, and he strode resolutely forward, out of the shadows and into the blinding embrace of the light.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The elves are a somewhat downplayed example. They realize full well something exists that most humans think of as Almighty God, and see that He sometimes causes miracles to happen for His faithful. However, they tend to consider this "God" to be merely some sort of powerful spirit entity, much like the less powerful angels and demons they summon in their own experiments—interesting to study and potentially useful or even dangerous, but not an omnipotent cosmic power or cause for existential crises.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: Witchking Mauragh left one behind when the elves destroyed his remnant of the old Witchking kingdom, in the form of his hidden son.
  • Foil:
    • Sextus to Marcus. The latter is a philosophically inclined, caring man who is oppressed by many of the evils of the setting, whereas Sextus is a carefree wealthy wastrel who spends his time on gambling, parties and women.
    • Tribune Fortex, also to Marcus. Unlike Sextus, he is an established officer, and even quite a competent one—but a Blood Knight whose brutality and battlelust contrasts to Marcus' teeth-clenched determination to do his duty in wartime even while never liking it.
    • Lithriel to Caitlys: another elf sorceress, who encountered the worst of the human world rather than its better parts, and so has a rather different attitude toward life, the universe, and everything.
  • The Force Is Strong with This One: Wizards can at least imperfectly sense another magic-user's power, though there are also means of more or less perfectly cloaking it when it's not in active use. The monks of the Michaeline Order in Amorr also have a variant of this, which allows them to see otherwise invisible magical emanations through the Fifth Eye.
  • For Science!: The elvish wizards are often portrayed this way, seeking knowledge somewhat recklessly through dangerous experiments. (One such incident created a desert of glass in the setting's recent history.) Even more so the Witchkings: the very motive of their villainy is said to be the pursuit of ultimate knowledge and truth, with no regard for ethics or morality.
  • Four-Star Badass: Sextus Valerius Corvus, one of the main protagonists, is one of Amorr's greatest generals, though now an aging one with grown children who is no longer as strong as he used to be. He still gets opportunities to show that he remains a tough Old Soldier.
  • Friendly Enemy: The demon Mastema seems to be this to Bessarias in the prequel stories. Ultimately, though, he turns out to be Faux Affably Evil.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The elves in general, though most have a somewhat less ostentatious variation of this than the typical Disney princess. King Mhael, though, demonstrates an upgraded version.
  • From a Single Cell: This is how the Complete Immortality of the Watchers works. They literally cannot be destroyed, at least not by any means available to humans (including magic)—even burning them, grinding the ashes and scattering the dust only means it takes them a little longer to reassemble.
  • Frontline General: The Red Prince decides to personally lead the expedition against the werewolves, and then a cavalry recon mission, which he does competently and without fear in and out of combat.
  • Functional Magic: Magic works in Selenoth, and functions much like simply an extension of natural laws, for the most part predictable and quantifiable. Wizards in this world are much like scientists in real life (though with some remnants of superstitious trappings). What we would call spiritual phenomena exist, but they are also treated somewhat materialistically. For example, immaterial souls survive the death of the body, but wizards with the right magical equipment can analyze and even destroy them, too. This makes the supernatural world of the divine the great mystery of the setting, instead: no wizard-scientist, no matter how learned or wise, has so far been able to understand God.
    • This is in keeping with understandings of the term "magic" in Europe circa 1000-1500. Generally speaking, scholars of that time distinguished "Demonic magic" from "Natural magic". "Demonic magic" came from, well, "demons." By contrast, Natural magic relied on the ‘occult’ (from the Latin meaning “hidden’) properties of natural substances. These were properties which could not yet be explained by medieval scientific knowledge but were nonetheless believed to be part of the natural world and not reliant on demons to make them work: one classic example was the power of the magnet to attract iron. The term "supernatural" tended to be reserved for God alone.
  • Funetik Aksent: Often used to distinguish speakers of different cultural or social registers. Most of the accents are based on real-life patterns (English local dialects and such), though a couple seem to have been invented specifically for the setting.
  • Gender Bender:
    • The demon Scaum-Durna is male, but chooses to appear to the world as a woman when he takes on a human guise.
    • The Watchers seem to be this, since (according to the ancient legend Silvertree tells) all the twelve named Watchers were described as male, yet in the present day, at least one appears female. Alternatively, there might simply be more of them than Silvertree's source knows about, but they do have Voluntary Shapeshifting, and gender and sex might not matter all that much to angelic beings.
  • Gender Is No Object: Completely averted (and often defied) by most societies in the setting, with reactions to the idea of female soldiers ranging from horror to sneers. By and large, this is justified for much the same reasons as it was in real life medieval times (whether cultural, physiological, psychological or economic). The elves are an exception, though, with women accepted in their military on what seems to be more or less equal terms. With them, this is likewise justified through their inhuman nature and innate magic, which mitigate many of these issues. Though some conservative elves (notably Bessarias) still complain about them.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability:
    • Elves of both sexes are magical beings, with a much higher incidence of innate sorcery than any human race, but the magical potential of female elves is tied to their maidenhood. Male elves have no such limitations (nor do human wizards of either sex, though Savondir sort-of replicates it artificially by simply refusing to teach magic to women).
    • Members of the Michaeline Order in Amorr are recruited from boys born with the supernatural, ostensibly God-given ability to see and dispel magic. The Order is traditionally male, since no girl has ever been known to possess such gifts, though there is In-Universe debate on whether such a girl should be accepted as a Michaeline if one was found.
  • The Generalissimo: There is call for one to take charge and restore order in Amorr, as the institutions of its traditional Republic face new challenges and don't seem up to them. Toward the end of the first book, the heroic protagonist Corvus himself has effectively (if reluctantly) become this.
  • General Ripper: The protagonist Corvus eventually becomes one, after seeing how the politicians are running his state into the ground. He is a Tragic Villain, however, with generally sympathetic (or at least understandable) motives, and gets a Sympathetic P.O.V. that confirms this.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Marcus. Before he became an officer, he was a church scholar, as well as a diplomatist, picking up the skills of both professions.
  • Giant Flyer: The giant hawks used by the elvish air corps, which are large enough to carry passengers, a small crew and even some cargo. They are very versatile, and can be used for a great number of purposes, not all of them necessarily military as we define it.
  • Gladiator Games: Amorr has these, inspired by real-life Rome. Both professional gladiators and condemned criminals fight in the games, which are popular with the masses, though the better class of Amorrans tends to consider it more of a social necessity than a pleasure to attend them.
  • A Glass of Chianti: Silvertree is introduced with a glass of rare wine equivalent to elven champagne, magically treated to be superior to ordinary Amorran wines.
  • Glory Hound: Tribune Fortex, who engages the enemy in single combat despite specific orders prohibiting this. Because of this insubordination, Corvus has him executed—initiating a long chain of political developments which may well lead to Amorr's ultimate ruin.
  • God: The Church is monotheistic and believes that God is the omnipotent Creator, Judge of all men's fates and the sole truly divine being. There's no absolute proof that this is true, though (and various demons and evil gods also exist and have real power, though these beings are "gods" at most in the eyes of Church theology), leaving the believers with a situation sort-of mirroring real life in this respect. To be sure, there are various miracles that can be interpreted as proof of God, but not enough to satisfy the scientific atheists of the setting (or the believers in other gods, with regard to the non-divinity of theirs).
  • A God Am I: The Witchkings (who were sort-of transhumanists, but with magic instead of technology) had as their greatest ambition to realize this. They didn't quite succeed before the elves defeated them, though they did manage to make themselves quite inhuman.
  • God-Emperor: In the past. Laris Sebastius tells Corvus that he has ruled empires and been worshiped as a god many times over the millennia.
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Discussed in "Opera Vita Aeterna" when a much younger Bessarias sees a monastery of human monks slaughtered by demons. He wonders how God can permit such evil to strike His servants without protecting them. After meditating on the question, and living for additional centuries to see the end result of this great evil, he finds that the Lord's ways appear inscrutable, but are always right in the end.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: Laris Sebastius wears the white ecclesiastical robes of a priest. With his generally creepy nature, however, it appears more uncanny than saintly.
  • Gone Horribly Right: The Wahrkonigen. They were wizards who wanted to transcend their human limitations through demonic magic—and did.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The Savondir state wizards' experiment in controlling a red dragon with a partially reverse engineered elvish spell, ultimately aiming to create their own flying corps to match and surpass that of the elves. Instead of controlling the dragon, however, the spell enrages it, to the point where it kills a large number of wizards and partially destroys their central Academy.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Corvus, who holds true to Amorr's martial traditions and laws and enforces them with severity. However, doing so sometimes takes a terrible toll on him when the same clash with his own sentiments. Especially concerning the execution of Fortex.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Downplayed. Savondir is indeed portrayed as a stereotypically oppressive empire, ruled by an arrogant, privileged nobility and a totalitarian monarchy supported by a magic-wielding Secret Police — but its relatively more heroic rival, the Republic of Amorr, has a flawed democracy at best, as well as substantially medieval social values that won't always look sympathetic to present-day readers. So, instead of Black-and-White Morality applied politically, this is more of a case of Black-and-Gray Morality.
  • Good Shepherd: Pope Charity is the Church at its best: not merely not corrupt, but a faithful and devoted servant of all that is best in his religion. He is widely mourned after his passing.
    They knew their loss was Heaven's gain, of course, for if ever a soul had labored long and hard for the Kingdom of God, if ever a man had run the good race and fought the good fight, it was the Sanctiff Charity IV.
  • Good Witch Versus Bad Witch: If the Witchkings are very stereotypically evil sorcerers, and Savondir's wizards their empire's version of a typical State Sec in a more "Banality of Evil"-flavored way, the elvish Magisters are ... not quite saintly, but generally mostly decent people who prefer just to be left alone, but will fight evil if it becomes too powerful. However, the distinction is not always recognized In-Universe — Amorr in particular has a strongly enforced Ban on Magic across the board, with death by burning the penalty for all sorts of witchcraft and wizardry performed without special papal dispensation.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The Dalarns speak a language that sounds like a sort of Danish or Norwegian dialect, and their dialogue includes various untranslated words from it.
  • Gratuitous German: The Wahrkonigen and their people use a German-like fantasy language, which (much like the Latin in the story) has been adapted/modified from real German. The Dalarn language, some of which is also reproduced in the books, is related but not identical to it, being more Norwegian, and/or Old Norse in character.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Amorrans speak a Latin-like language, and a lot of related terminology colors those parts of the narrative that concerns them. The spinoff Summa Elvetica has especially much of this. Due to the fantasy setting, some of it veers off into Canis Latinicus territory.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Watchers. According to legend, they were the original evil who taught the races of Selenoth their racial sins (vanity to elves, greed to dwarves, bloodthirst to orcs, and so on). More directly, they seem to have contributed to the Witchkings in some way, perhaps even creating them, and in the present day they are behind the Ancient Conspiracy that is now causing war and strife across the continent.
  • Great Offscreen War: The war against the Witchkings a number of centuries back, which broke the back of the kingdoms of the elves and enabled the rise of Amorr and Savondir as the main great powers of the setting. Whether seen as history (by the humans) or living memory (by the elves), everyone still recognizes how important it was. In the setting, it's treated much like World War II is in real life, as a great defining political and cultural event, and the Witchkings are still invoked in rhetoric as the one supreme great evil, much like a sort of fantasy version of Godwin's Law.
  • Grew a Spine. Fjotra, as she grows more confident over the course of her story. After spending most of the first book doing little but what her brother, father, or Roheis tells her to, she ends up turning against the latter when she learns the truth (or enough of it, anyway) about Saint-Aglie and her alliance with him.
  • Grim Up North: Wolf Islands is a tough place, rougher and more primitive than even the borderlands in Savondir, as well as cold and inhospitable in winter. And lately, it's also seen growing populations of werewolves. Naturally, the Dalarn characters who grew up there Had to Be Sharp.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Bessarias. He is old even for an elf, and has many complaints about how terrible things have become in recent centuries. Whether it's about entitlement, complacency, dumbed-down education and culture, bad fashion, atheism, women in the military or any of a number of other things. Ambassador Silvertree is a downplayed example, who by and large shares the same opinions but doesn't really rant about them.
  • Gunship Rescue: The elves can use their giant hawks for this type of extraction. Bereth is saved this way when she is shot down behind enemy lines and hunted by the Horde's security forces.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Generally true for the Dalarn, who have their kingdom in the borderlands between Savondir and the savage hordelands. Fjotra is very marked by this, and when she visits Savondir, she can't help but constantly noticing how poorly prepared to defend themselves most people there seem to be. Though there's also a bit of a more positive contrast here between the free borderlanders and the cowed subjects of the Empire's central lands.
  • Half-Human Hybrid:
    • Elves and humans are compatible in this respect, and historically there used to exist half-elves in the setting. However, at the present time there appears to be none—both because the declining elf kingdoms now have rigorous laws against miscegenation, and because the historical Amorrans exterminated the half-elves during a patriotic hysteria when they were at war with the elves some generations ago.
    • The Witchkings are a special case, who used magic to infuse themselves with demonic essence as part of their transhumanist agenda. As a result, they essentially became a new species of extremely powerful magic-users.
  • Handsome Lech: Aulan, Severus Patronus' son, is always chasing women. Whether respectable, prostitute or slave.
  • Happily Married: Corvus and his wife Romilia. They have supported each other for many years as they have raised their family, and remain mutually devoted until the end.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Discussed. The books show that some slaves are treated in quite horrifying ways even in the "good" state of Amorr (horrifying to POV character Marcus as well as the readers), and these obviously aren't happy. However, slaves with masters who respect their human dignity can have lives that aren't really worse than those of most free people (and potentially better than many/most, depending on their specific role), and can thus be happy and loyal to their households. It helps that not all slaves are unskilled labor on plantations or the like; individuals can be anything from military officers in household troops to learned professionals such as doctors or educators, and their terms of employment rarely include the sort of everyday brutality and abuse most present-day readers will commonly associate with slavery.
    • Lodi is a bit of a subversion. He has been put through one of the worst slaveries (as a gladiator), and very obviously isn't happy about that, but serves Marcus loyally and without complaining when he buys him because he is a fair man who cares about his social lessers and keeps his word. He still jumps at the chance when Marcus eventually offers him his freedom, though, and promptly leaves Amorr to go home to his own country.
    • Played straight with Marcipor, who thinks his life as a (well-treated) slave in the Valerian household is better than whatever he could do with it in freedom, where as a freedman he would be a poor man facing perpetual insecurity, hardship and condescension in an unforgiving labor market.
  • Hard Truth Aesop:
    • Some enemies genuinely can't be reasoned with, and force is the only option when dealing with them (other than abject submission). You should still try reason first, and not assume they will automatically be this way—but do be prepared for it if they are.
    • Conversely, refusing to address someone's fair grievances may turn out almost as bad. Sometimes, it's better to swallow one's pride and acknowledge that the Villain Has a Point than to be a Principles Zealot.
  • Hates Small Talk: Corvus. He prefers to express himself briefly, and even more to have other people do so when addressing him. His taciturnity has become proverbial among the soldiers under his command, and even beyond.
  • Head-Turning Beauty: Almost no one who meets Lithriel fails to comment on her striking beauty. Literally no one fails to be struck by it. Whether the observer is an older, happily married man, an officer with Fantastic Racism against elves like her, or even another woman.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The elves have a somewhat downplayed version of Friend to All Living Things as a default. This may not seem extremely useful, but King Mahel brings it up to its full potential. A substantial fraction of the animals of the world turn out to be willing part-time agents for his secret service—thus giving him a supremely capable intelligence network, trumping even Savondir's Secret Police.
  • The Hecate Sisters: The nameless goddess the Witch Cult worships appears this way, as the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone.
  • Here We Go Again!: "The Wardog's Coin" ends with the protagonist successful in his mission, and his army in the battle, but as he knows full well, this really changes nothing in the big picture. Next year, he and his friends will be back campaigning again, together with new fresh recruits like he himself once was ... and that's how it will go on and on in the endless wars, until he dies himself.
  • Hero of Another Story: Lodi the Dwarf. Whereas the plot proper makes him a minor character, he has a background as a minor hero among his own people, fighting dragons and trolls and taking part in the legendary Siege of Iron Mountain.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: As part of it being strongly inspired by the values of historical Christianity, the Amorran Church bans homosexuality on pain of strict punishments, and considers everything related to it depraved. The fact that orcs and goblins tolerate homosexual relations is brought up as one of the arguments for its official position that they are soulless creatures without human dignity or worth.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Severus Patronus. While he is introduced with a healthy dosage of Kick the Dog to establish him as an evil villain, and remains one throughout, later chapters gradually show that he is not a completely immoral man. Patronus actually sincerely believes that his actions are for the greater good of Amorr, is a supporter of culture and honest in his personal dealings, even as he uses underhanded means to advance his political agenda. He also cares about his family.
    • Patronus' daughter Severa likewise comes across as little more than a spoiled brat at first, but is more thoughtful than she initially appears.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Multiple Watchers turn out to have been part of the cast of characters all along, masquerading as members of the lesser races in more or less important roles.
  • The High King: King Mhael. Elebrion is only one of the three extant elven kingdoms, but the leaders of the others acknowledge him as the overall ruler of all three.
  • Hollywood Atheist:
    • The philosophy of the Wahrkonigen as a whole can basically be summed up as Hollywood Atheism: hedonism, nihilism, amorality, materialistic demonology (described more like transhumanism than any sort of sincere religion), science-worship and, of course, militant atheism.
    • The elves have a downplayed variety, which is less overtly evil and simply decadent and apathetic with regard to higher things. Some are cynical, most simply don't care even that much. However, there are also a few elves who follow the Amorran religion—though this gives them trouble, both because of social prejudice and because their society is made for magic-users, whereas the Church forbids them to use magic.
  • Home Field Advantage: The elves in the Merithaim Forest when they resisted the historic Amorran invasion of their lands some centuries prior to the main storyline, using their local knowledge as well as their friendship with the woods and their beasts. The war turned into a mixture of Teutoburger Wald and Vietnam, eventually resulting both in one of Amorr's most catastrophic military defeats and in a reorganization of their military.
  • Hope Spot: In their first battle with the werewolves, the Savondir military inflicts a significant defeat on the monsters, since they used new tactics and technology that surprised them. The Savondir leaders (and for a while, even Fjotra) think that they will soon have the situation under control. However, it turns out that the wolves are quick learners...
  • Horde of Alien Locusts: The werewolves. Originally created by the Witchkings as a living weapon, they outlasted their creators and still seek to destroy their enemies, which would be all humanity. After lurking in the wilderness and evolving unpredictably, they have now emerged in large, almost supernaturally well-coordinated armies to wipe out, first the Dalarns, and then everyone else too.
  • Horny Devils:
    • A very creepy example with Scaum-Durna, who uses his demonic magic to appear as a beautiful woman. He becomes a Shameless Fanservice Girl, and enjoys a very active dating life while he remains in this form.
    • The female demon Baastiel is a more conventional case, who follows the traditional succubus routine, and eventually kills the unfortunate Speer in an encounter of this type.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Watchers, a race of fallen angels who turn out to be behind much of the crises in Savondir and Amorr. They are incredibly ancient creatures who (at least as seen thus far) outwardly appear as human, with a slight touch of Uncanny Valley about them, and have Complete Immortality as well as horrifying Mind Rape powers.
  • Human Resources: The Savondir wizards use candles made of human fat in their magical rituals, which is said to strengthen the magic, since human life energies linger in the material.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The Amorran Church's theology about Man's fallen nature assumes this as a matter of fact. After being exposed to more slavery and exploitation than he'd like, Marcus comes to reflect on this, and decides that it's probably true.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Played with. When Corvus fights the invading goblin army and slaughters the goblins by the tens of thousands, there is initially no indication that they are anything but evil minions. However, it is later shown that the goblins are more or less human-like mentally, and that they were Invading Refugees who didn't invade Amorr's borderlands out of pure evil, but because their own lands were devastated by the Horde. So while Corvus still wasn't exactly a monster, neither were the goblins.
  • Humans Are White: Since Selenoth is a Medieval European Fantasy world, there are no African or Asian human cultures in it, at least not on the main continent where the stories take place (the werecats in the South are vaguely Egyptian, but they aren't human). There is still a fair bit of diversity between cultures within the white races, though, from Latin-Mediterranean types to stocky Bavarian/Swiss analogues, gingers and Tacitus-inspired blond and blue-eyed Nordics.
  • Human Shield: Marcus becomes one when the ruthless assassin Zephanus puts a dagger to his throat and hides behind him to get at the elven king. He is saved by Caitlys.
  • Hyper-Awareness: Fjotra is always attentive to her surroundings because she has Had to Be Sharp, and so notices the weirdness of the fake guards at the party, who turn out to be assassins in disguise before anyone else does.
  • I Am X, Son of Y: Fjotra has a variation when she is introduced at Savondir's royal court. She doesn't specifically mention her father's name, because her sponsor has already done that, but does mention her lineage.
    I am Fjotra of Raknarborg, the last princess of the Iles de Loup. Tonight, I sing for you of the deaths of the fifteen clans and the triumph of the wolves.
  • Ideal Hero: Sextus Valerius Corvus starts out as one: an inspiring leader, brave officer, good husband and father who has much humane sentiment but is nonetheless completely devoted to the spirit and letter of the Amorran Constitution. Unfortunately, while he is a great general, he finds himself out of his depth in the capital's increasingly politics—making him in turns perplexed, frustrated, and finally desperate, severely testing his high ideals almost to the breaking point. And then far beyond it.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Late in the first book, Corvus reasons that if he hadn't deported the foreigners from the capital, things would have turned out even worse, with riots, chaos and fifth-column sabotage. So what he did was the least bad option. He still feels sorry for the people who suffer because of it, though.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming:
    • Chapters in the books are usually named for the POV character they're being told through.
    • The titles of the books take the form of "Article Noun Preposition Noun".
    • Summa Elvetica is the exception to both conventions. There, both the chapters and the work in sum have Latin titles, following the patterns of a formally written scholastic casuistry.
  • Ignorant of Their Own Ignorance: The Amorrans in general, due to their ban on magic, are for the most part very ignorant as well as suspicious of it—a little meanly put, they don't know what it is, just that they don't like it (though their Mage Killer organization specifically does have a fair bit of institutional knowledge about it). To cultures that do use magic and don't consider it evil, their preachings on this can make them seem like anything from simpletons to idiotic fanatics. For example, when Marcus pleads with his lover Caitlys (an experienced elvish sorceress, from a society where Utility Magic is safe and commonplace) to flee the vile sorceries, we don't get to see her precise thoughts, but the implication is that right then and there, at least, he comes across as more or less the fantasy equivalent of a tinfoil hat guy.
  • Immortality Immorality: Embodied by the Witchkings, who sought to transcend the limits of flesh and blood through demonic magic. Because of this (as well as for various other reasons, since they were Obviously Evil villains in general), everyone else hated them, and after they were defeated, the elves not only executed them, but used magic to utterly destroy their souls as well.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Fjotra is utterly selfless and willing to sacrifice almost anything to save her people. She turns down bribes, threats and intimidation by demonic monsters, and eventually goes against even her own friends and family to do what she believes to be right.
  • Industrialized Evil: Savondir has a full-scale Super Breeding Program in effect, which is oppressive enough to count as this. The State Sec screens children for magical aptitude, and press-gangs all positives. Boys are raised to be magic-using soldiers for the empire, while girls are used as breeding stock to increase the number of potential mages.
  • Inherent in the System: One theme that is explored several times in The Arts of Dark and Light is the human desire to pin all blame on one evil villain, and the idea that everything bad will go away if only this bad guy is killed. Of course, that isn't how it works in real life—indeed, killing the bad guy can often make things even worse than they were originally. If the problems have become so serious that people are that desperate, they are probably already far bigger than that sort of thing can solve.
    • In Amorr, several of the conservatives think killing Patronus will put an end to the expansionists. It works out quite differently when they try (and succeed, insofar as that single objective is concerned) to put this into practice, rallying his supporters instead.
    • In Savondir, everyone knows that the current King is bad news—but his sons are little better, nor is any noble powerful enough to have any chance to succeed him if they don't. And of course, the state wizards and their entrenched position in the government wouldn't be harmed in any way either.
  • Inhumanly Beautiful Race: The elves. Marcus, especially, notices this when he visits their kingdom and meets female elves for the first time, to the point of using quite a bit of Purple Prose to describe them.
  • Insistent Terminology: Played straight with the Wahrkonigen. This is how they refer to themselves, and how their followers refer to them. Pretty much everyone else calls them "the Witchkings" instead.
  • Invading Refugees: The desperate goblin horde Corvus' legions fight early in the first book. They seem to have been pushed out of their usual habitat by something else, invading Amorr in the process. Toward the end of the book, the something else makes its appearance.
  • In with the In Crowd: Fjotra's brother becomes almost a part of the corrupt nobility in Savondir, thinking that he has real friends there, whereas she herself remains true to her homeland's culture and ideals.
  • I Regret Nothing: The female Witchking literally invokes this when the elves are coming for her in one of the prequel shorts. All she wants as she passes away is a glorious pyre.
  • Ironic Name: Lithriel Everbright. It used to be a properly Meaningful Name for an optimistic young elf maiden full of wonder—but then she was enslaved by Malkans in about the most degrading way possible. Now, she is jaded, bitter and more than a little unhinged instead.
  • It Gets Easier: Discussed. It's downplayed slightly, in that good military men (such as the veteran Corvus) never get entirely comfortable with the violence of their chosen profession, but the general trend plays true. Even Marcus reflects sadly on how his own military experience has made him more hard-hearted.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Marcus feels disquieted in Elebrion, since the elvish city is so empty and quiet compared to a human metropolis like Amorr. It's beautiful and well kept, but there is almost no sound.
  • I Warned You: Savondir wizards trying to control a dragon with a jury-rigged spell typically used to charm birds (albeit large birds) doesn't seems like a very good idea to Lithriel when she is sort of working as a consultant for them. She tries to warn them that it might not work as intended. They arrogantly brush her off, and...
  • Jerkass: Sextus, Marcus' cousin, is a spoiled, arrogant nobleman who doesn't care about oppressive slavery, makes creepy jokes and treats the genocide of the half-elves very nonchalantly.
  • "Join the Army," They Said: Since a fair bit of the story covers military contexts, this comes up here and there. Fairly often, the recruitment propaganda is mocked by serving soldiers... but it's also noted that it keeps working, so the people behind it must be doing something right.
  • Jungle Warfare: The forests of the Merithaim aren't tropical rainforest proper, but thick enough that they might almost be, and warfare there otherwise follows the trope. The elves inflicted a crushing defeat on Amorr here a few generations before the main storyline, and part of the embassy's objectives in Summa Elvetica is to draw up a formal treaty of peace with them. The prequel short story "Birth of an Order" gives more info on the disastrous military campaign, told from the POV of a veteran.
  • Kick the Dog: Severus Patronus gets his Establishing Character Moment this way, ordering that his daughter Severa's servant girl be flogged and sold as a slave prostitute for carrying messages between her and her lover. As it turns out, he's right to be concerned for his daughter's safety, and this sort of punishment would be seen as fairly normal by historical Romans, but to modern audiences, he still looks very bad for treating a young woman like that. And certainly Severa is upset about it.
  • Knight Templar: Corvus increasingly becomes one in a He Who Fights Monsters way when the civil war breaks out, permitting and eventually even ordering quite terrible atrocities while desperately trying to hold his state together. He remains aware of (and pained by) how he has fallen, but still thinks he is making the right, indeed the only possible choice: letting the Severans win and impose their policies would be even worse.
  • Lack of Empathy: Sextus. If his flippancy about the genocide of the half-elves didn't tell, his further lack of care about wounded slave gladiators being euthanized makes the point.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Subverted, in the style of Tolkien. The books are absolutely full of cryptic hints, bits of backstory here and there, seemingly random details of little value to the plot and even a whole POV story arc (albeit a minor one) that appears almost completely detached from everything else. Of course, every now and then some of it does turn out to be plot-important....
  • The Legions of Hell: The demons that appear in various contexts are organized in a sort of hierarchy, though it is poorly understood by the humans. Scaum-Durna is said to be a prince among them, for example. Demons are the inferior offspring of devils, a rarer and more powerful sort of evil spirit.
  • Leonine Contract: Savondir is always happy to assist its neighbors when they are in trouble. Whether with advisors, mages or troops. If the local nobles should then completely voluntarily wish to join the Empire, once they see how efficiently it's run, they are usually generous enough to allow that, too.
  • Les Collaborateurs: When Savondir annexes new lands, it sets up puppet nobles to rule them as vassals to the Crown according to its ideology. One example is Sieur Charibert, the prime minister of Montrove.
  • Little Black Dress: At the reception for the Amorran embassy in Elebrion, this is one of the reasons for Marcus to notice Caitlys. Whereas most of the other elvish ladies wear very elaborate evening dresses, hers is a rather simple (though well made) design of this type.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The dramatis personae lists well over two hundred names for the first book alone. Other volumes add more, including additional POV characters (although partly to replace the ones that died in Book I).
  • Lonely at the Top: Even being Pope can be a high and lonely destiny, as is pointed out during the elections. If men knew just how much so, fewer priests would be eager for the honor.
    They were under the impression that they were elevating a man to a mighty office; but in truth, they were only offering up, as a sacrifice to the ineffable will of the Almighty, a broken vessel.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: The Watchers, supremely ancient beings who are human only to outward seeming. Their powers include Complete Immortality with a bizarre regeneration, Biomanipulation, Voluntary Shapeshifting (though usually including some subtle Red Right Hand clue), Mind Rape, and "ordinary" wizard-type magic far beyond what any mortal can manage.
  • Made a Slave:
    • Lodi. Since he was a military veteran, the Amorran slavers who captured him made him serve as a gladiator—including in reenactments of battles he served in. Marcus buys him, and eventually frees him.
    • Lithriel. In her case, the Malkans who enslave her are not just evil, but also outright dumb: Lithriel is a sorceress with much valuable magical knowledge, that the likes of the Savondir secret police would pay a mountain of gold for... but since she is also a beautiful elf, they can think of only one thing to do with her. She remains rather marked by her experiences well after Theuderic frees her.
  • Mage Killer: The Michaeline Order in Amorr, who have Anti-Magic powers and are employed to suppress wizards and other supernatural threats.
  • Magical Girlfriend: Caitlys to Marcus, overlapping with Action Girlfriend. She is an elf sorceress, and they meet when he is accompanying a diplomatic mission to her kingdom and she saves him from assassins trying to sabotage it.
  • Magic Is Evil: This is the belief of the Amorran religion, which thinks magic is Satanic. This limits them in some ways (they obviously can't use it, even though magic is both quite common and quite powerful in the setting), but on the other hand, God seemingly supplies them with Anti-Magic to lessen the disadvantage. Whether the Amorrans are actually right is not made clear; while there's nothing obviously evil or corrupting about magic in itself (which is fairly "materialistic" in this setting), most people who use it do seem to be fairly morally ambiguous at best. Savondir aside, even the elves are not so much good as morally gray, and the Witchkings at least were originally corrupted by their thirst for magical knowledge.
  • Magic Knight: Most Elven military wizards are essentially this, being both officers with ordinary military skills and training (including close quarters combat) and skilled sorcerers. Generally averted in Savondir, where most wizards are more like commissars with magic, although they do have some operatives who are more like this.
  • Magic Missile Storm: Caitlys really cuts loose with a spell of this type when an agent of the pro-war group in the Amorran Senate threatens Marcus, almost literally shredding the villain with a swarm of magical projectiles.
  • Magic Versus Science: Played with. In Selenoth, "magic" is for the most part repeatable and quantifiable, and thus treated more or less as "science" as we understand it (with controlled experiments, formal hypotheses and theories and so on). By contrast, religion is a purely "supernatural" power, with priests able to work miracles (or not—as noted, this is less predictable and mechanical) solely through divine grace. Thus, the "Science" part of the conflict is really played by the wizards, while the "Magic" is performed by magic-hating priests.
  • The Magocracy:
    • The Witchkings, since their magic was a racial trait, carried by the overcaste of their empire. They also had lesser, baseline human wizards (who were not Witchkings proper, although sometimes mistaken for such by others) serving them as officers and officials.
    • Downplayed with Savondir. Their empire is a hereditary monarchy, but their magical corps (basically a State Sec, including a Praetorian Guard) is extremely powerful in their society, much like the Party in a more modern totalitarian state.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage:
    • Marcus' relationship with Caitlys suffers from this, as both the elves and the Amorrans are various degrees of hateful toward mixed unions, and on top of that, most Amorrans murderously hate sorceresses like Caitlys. Marcus' reputation especially suffers for this—or at least that's how it seems, though this may be partly due to the plot and viewpoints focusing on Amorr rather than Elebrion.
    • Theuderic and Lithriel are a more downplayed example, since Savondir doesn't hate magic (and their official eugenicists don't seem to object very much to elvish blood, either). They suffer more what amounts to social prejudice, as opposed to the threat of lynch mobs. Possibly, Theuderic being a member of the powerful State Sec also has something to do with it.
  • The Man Behind the Man:
    • Although he can't prove it, Silvertree believes that First King Thule (the founder of the Witchkings) had Watcher assistance in his magical experiments, and that some faction among the Fallen helped create the Witchking empire for their own purposes.
    • Demonstrably, rival Watcher factions are also behind most of the present-day conspiracies in Savondir and Amorr, and are implied to be the power behind the Horde as well in the second book.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Roheis is an effective manipulator, who plays a major role in the anti-Crown conspiracy in Savondir. Exploiting outsiders like Fjotra may be relatively simple, but she also influences much more experienced power players in high society, including the Red Prince himself.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Marcus and Caitlys would be a somewhat downplayed example. Caitlys is not exactly unfeminine, but she is a Magic Knight from the elves' secular culture, while Marcus is a kind-hearted and devout scholar type without combat experience (when they first meet). She saves him from villains several times, including once when he tried to Save the Villain and got backstabbed for it (whereas she wanted to just kill the guy all along).
  • Meaningful Name: The Wahrkoenigen, the Witchkings' own name for themselves. The word is German-derived, and seems to mean "True Kings"—but there is a deeper meaning than that to it. As the books reveal, the Witchkings were devoted to a Nietzschean-style philosophy of transcendence that they identified with the Truth of all existence. So, their title really means Kings of the Truth. (Their transhumanist magic was similarly the Wahrkunst, or "Art of the Truth".)
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Played with, in that Amorr has a fair bit of Ancient Grome to it, but ultimately played more or less straight. Savondir is a late medieval/early Renaissance culture as far as aesthetics and technology go, and even Amorr has such things as cathedrals, High Middle Ages-style heavy cavalry and armor, and pants. The other human cultures are in roughly the same range (the Dalarns in the North are a little more primitive), while the elves are more of a typical Dungeons & Dragons culture (with more present-day social values and lots of Utility Magic that enables a fairly modern lifestyle, but still cloaked in medieval trappings).
  • Medieval Stasis: Averted. Although it has suffered various apocalyptic wars and such over the millennia that have retarded its development, Selenoth is advancing. Savondir, especially, is actively researching both magic and science, and their technology, although generally medieval, is still noticeably more efficient than Amorr's. Theoretical science is very highly developed compared to real life medieval times, with pseudo-Darwinian evolutionary biology, scientific eugenics (in Savondir) and atomic theory (assisted by magical experiments) that is closer to Rutherford and Bohr than Epicurus and Lucretius.
  • Medieval Universal Literacy: Downplayed. Literacy in Selenoth is fairly widespread, although still more limited than in the real-life present day. Books are somewhat rare and expensive, at least among the lower classes; Speer's peasant family is noted as somewhat unusual for owning seven volumes.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Both of the major human empires have several different influences in their naming conventions:
    • Amorrans of the upper classes for the most part have traditionally Roman-sounding names on the praenomen-nomen-cognomen pattern (such as the main protagonist, Sextus Valerius Corvus). However, other citizens often have only a single name, and sometimes one of Greek, Semitic or even Germanic origin that has been only perfunctorily Latinized (e.g.: Herwaldus, Ecclesiastes, Habakkus). Presumably, this reflects class differences, as well as the international culture of the powerful Amorran Republic.
    • Similarly, Savondir mixes names of several origins, though here they are adjusted to fit French patterns rather than Roman. Unlike in Amorr, most names here seem to be Germanic originally (Arnaud, Gerard, POV mage Theuderic), and the rest usually Greek (Pierre, Philippe), with relatively few Latin-derived ones.
  • The Men First: The elves care a lot more about their soldiers than the human powers and make every effort to minimize casualties if at all possible, whether it's by using cautious tactics or equipping them with expensive magical gear. In general, they also have the best supply services, medical establishment and such, with their government really investing in them. Apart from purely humanitarian concerns, this makes sense for a number of pragmatic reasons: their living standards (and similarly, expectations) are higher, with casualties thus more expensive politically; they are almost immortal if not killed in battle, so dying is a comparatively worse fate than for a human; and not least, they are a rich but small power in steady demographic decline, with their already limited manpower their most precious resource, and so just can't afford the losses the larger empires can easily weather.
  • Mercy Kill: Ar Dauragh regretfully kills his companion (with her full assent and cooperation) when the Witchkings are going down in defeat and the elves are storming their fortress-laboratory, so that she won't be captured and tortured to death and beyond.
  • Military Mage: Most factions have some sort of these, though Elebrion is particularly magic-heavy (elves being an innately magical race). Savondir stands out for organizing its mages in a special royal corps, which effectively functions as the empire's State Sec. Averted by Amorr, which bans all magic for religious reasons.
  • Military Maverick: Tribune Fortex, who disobeys direct orders when he thinks himself better qualified to decide when his unit should charge. Then Reality Ensues as this disorganizes the entire order of battle, and while the Amorrans are still victorious in the end, Fortex is nonetheless arrested and charged with insubordination.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Discussed at various points. Marcus, the most self-aware of the heroes, reflects on this at some length, and wonders at how men can feel much less for the deaths of faceless thousands than the sufferings of one friend.
  • Mind Rape: The Watchers have this as part of their powers. Corvus is horrified to find the new Pope Valens himself a wreck and helpless puppet in the hands of one of them.
  • Moral Myopia: More or less everyone has this going to a greater or lesser extent, whether due to Fantastic Racism, cultural supremacy, religious idiosyncrasies or other causes.
    • The Amorran Church thinks most of the "subhuman" races (orcs, goblins, trolls, werewolves, etc) are soulless, and so deserve no human consideration. Many of these species are in fact Always Chaotic Evil and sort of deserve the hatred, but others (notably the goblins) come across as more or less human-like and capable of self-awareness, feelings and morality when their POV is shown.
    • Savondir thinks the Dalarns in the North are more or less ignorant barbarians, and that it will be a blessing for their culture if they conquer them and bring modern civilization and efficient totalitarianism to them.
    • The elves think they are superior to everyone else due to their near immortality, magic and enlightened culture. They are more isolationists than supremacists, though, who don't want to conquer the human cultures, but mostly just consider them horrible and avoid them as much as possible. New supernatural evils rising? Well, we fought the last one, and that crippled our nation, perhaps forever. You handle it this time.
    • Finally, the Witchkings, the nihilistic transhumanist sorcerers who remade themselves into a partially demonic Master Race with god-like powers. Needless to say, they wouldn't give a fig for anyone else but themselves.
  • Mordor: The Wolf Isles. They were the heartland of the old Witchking empire, and remain bleak and wretched ever since the elves magically destroyed them in the war, with some of their leftover ruins and artifacts also still remaining—as does a growing infestation of the werewolves they also left behind, which are themselves becoming a significant threat to neighboring lands.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Roheis. She is not an Action Girl, but a skilled and ruthless intriguer who manages (thus far, at least) to come out ahead in Savondir's deadly politics through scheming and occasional violence.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Speer Gnasor's unremarkable peasant mother and father turn out to be this. His real progenitors were actually the last Witchkings.
  • Muggle–Mage Romance: Caitlys and Marcus: an elf sorceress and a lay scholar in a magic-hating church.
  • Multiversal Conqueror: According to the elves, at least, the ultimate aim of the Witchkings, after they had transcended humanity and attained Godhood, was to conquer the entirety of the Universe: the world and all the worlds, spiritual realms and material, everywhere. However, they failed to attain this, being defeated in this world by The Alliance before they could invade the Higher Realms.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Bereth and her mother. Since elves don't age, or at least do it very slowly, the mother looks only slightly older than her daughter, and they also share a Strong Family Resemblance.
  • Murder-Suicide: One murderer kills several priests, and then drowns himself. He was actually possessed by a demon, which explains his seemingly irrational actions.
  • My Nayme Is: Roheis (pronounced Rose). Justified, however, since it's not really the same word as the flower, but an old Germanic name (Hrodheid, originally) with a Gallicizing pronunciation and spelling.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Witchkings. Though while this is what most people call them, it's actually a nickname. Their own name for their group is/was the Wahrkoenigen, or roughly True Kings in their Germanic-sounding language.
  • Nature Lover: The elves, who live more or less in harmony with nature in their own kingdom. When they are poisoning wells to sabotage an invading army in the second book, Bereth hates this because innocent animals will also drink of the poisoned water.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Savondir is a totalitarian monarchy with expansionism, Darwinism and eugenics, purges, a powerful corps of mages who function as a State Sec, and a cowed local church that shills for its totalitarian government. Their surface trappings are medieval French, but otherwise they are closer to fantasy Nazis, with some touches of the Byzantine Empire.
  • Nerves of Steel: Bishop Claudo may be discomfited by assassins, sorcerers and haughty elfkings, but he never loses his wits, remaining at least outwardly calm and confident even when his life is directly threatened.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Roheis is a sort of subversion. She is nobility, of course, but other members of her family are largely ignored by the plot, implying that they play no important part in her plans or her power base. Given that she seems to hold the family's title, it's probable that she doesn't even have any close male relatives. Still, she is a very powerful influence in Savondir through her schemes, perhaps second only to Count Saint-Aglie.
  • Never Learned to Read: Severa's friend Falconatera, and this is apparently not uncommon for women. In a way, this revelation becomes a retroactive Pet the Dog moment for the otherwise villainous Patronus, who did teach his daughter Severa to read and write.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Church effectively has all the powers of the historical Roman Catholic Church at its height and then some, including an anti-magic police with wide-ranging enforcement powers and sizeable armed forces under its own flag. However, the Church has a (complicated) formal relationship with the Amorran Republic's government, so in Amorr at least it's not a pure NGO, but rather a quango.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Marcus, who is courteous to foreigners, common soldiers and workmen and even to the slaves, and addresses them by name, rather than insults or condescension. He also abhors mistreatment of anyone under his own power, whether this refers to servants, soldiers, or even captured enemies.
  • Noble Bigot: Overlapping somewhat with Innocent Bigot. When Marcus is sent with the embassy to Elebrion, he has already read up on the elves, and knows a fair lot about them, but still unreflectingly holds to a number of Amorran biases against them. However, he is still courteous and respectful in his interactions with them, and also comes to understand them better after spending some time among them.
  • Noble Demon: Bextor Fenwick, the lieutenant-commander from Ummat-Mor. He is a patriot for his own people, and thus a villain, and uses some rather underhanded tactics to promote their cause, but is fairly sympathetic personally. Notably, he resents the regime's genocidal policies, doing as little to enforce them as he can get away with, and indeed works actively to sabotage them behind the scenes.
  • No Blood for Phlebotinum: Both Savondir and at least some factions in Amorr want to invade Elebrion and plunder its magical wealth. Part of the heroes' task in Summa Elvetica is to stave off the plans of one such group, who seek to sabotage the Amorran embassy going there to negotiate a treaty in order to create a casus belli.
  • No Man Should Have This Power: Corvus works very hard, indeed desperately, to preserve traditional Amorr's relatively democratic republic, fearing above all that his beloved country will turn into a tyranny like Savondir. When his supporters then want to make him dictator before Patronus' party can take over, he is naturally horrified. Eventually, though, he basically goes along with it when there seems to be no other option.
  • No Mere Windmill: The rumors about werewolves and other monsters making trouble in the North are mostly dismissed, both in Savondir and Amorr, with both states too busy with their own cold war (and various internal power struggles) to care much. Even if the wolves are real and not just tall tales, they surely aren't very powerful just for destroying some small, outlying kingdoms.... Alas, things turn out to be otherwise.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Severus Patronus is an elderly political mastermind rather than a warrior, and leaves the field work to his sons and other allies. Though as it turns out, Patronus is not the real Big Bad of the story.
  • Non-Action Guy: Marcus more or less plays this role in Summa Elvetica, where he is much less impressive than Caitlys, the Action Girl who saves him from the villains. Generally speaking, he doesn't like fighting, being more of a peaceful man by temperament. However, he becomes more formidable in A Throne of Bones, where he serves on active duty as an officer and deals more proactively with the dangers he faces.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: The elves won't abandon troops caught behind enemy lines if they can help it; when breaking through on the ground is not an option, they'll try to extract them by air instead. Bereth is saved in one such operation, after she is shot down.
  • No-Sell:
    • It turns out that the new Archbishop Laris Sebastius provides this reaction when struck with Corvus' sword. Of course, by then the reader should have figured out that this person is an immortal Watcher.
    • Somewhat less predictably, the Count of Saint-Aglie suddenly shows that he is other than human when he shrugs off having a sword stabbed into his guts.
  • Not Always Evil: At least some of the "soulless" creatures can be this. Witchkings and werewolves are effectively hardwired with mentalities that are largely inimical to human society, due to their semi-deliberately designed magical origins, but although orcs and goblins are largely seen the same way by humans, they really aren't, or at least not quite. When the goblins get a POV, we see that they think in very humanlike terms, and that at least some individuals can even be downright selfless in helping others; and while orcs are to all appearances sociopathic as a race (by human standard), one of the short stories has a priest relate how even one of them had some good in him and was converted to the Church's religion by a dissident missionary who preached to his people.
  • Nothing Personal: The traitor false priest of St. Michael, Zephanus approaches Marcus this way. He was hired to kill him, but he has nothing personally against him—in fact, he rather likes him. It's just a job ...
  • Not So Different:
    • When Corvus joins the conservative conspiracy against Patronus and his ambitions, he does so with a heavy heart, being very much aware that breaking Amorr's laws in order to fight the men who would break them makes him and his fellows uncomfortably Not So Different from their adversaries.
    • Generally in the series, the question of the good guys coming to resemble the bad guys they fight recurs. For example, the Witchkings were extremely, horrifyingly evil, but the elves who eventually defeated them treated the Witchkings themselves pretty horribly as well (show trials, torture and execution, genocide). This may be another instance of deliberate allegorical commentary on World War II, when the Allies did some incredibly horrifying things to the Germans and Japanese during and after the war.
  • Now It's My Turn: When Corvus tries to kill the Watcher. Of course, his purely mundane efforts are not of much use with that, leading to this reaction.
  • No Woman's Land: Since Selenoth for the most part sticks fairly closely to "realistic" social models for a medieval world, women generally play a rather limited role in public affairs (except in the elvish kingdoms, which have more "modern" social norms). The one country that is absolutely horrible, however, is Savondir, which enslaves all women with any potential for magic in their blood and uses them for breeding stock for its magical State Sec. Of course, there's never even any question of teaching magic to women.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • Roheis, who for the most part is just one of the vapid young ladies at the court—at least seemingly. The perceptive Fjotra sees through this, noting that she is "no dull-eyed whore"note  despite very good efforts to appear like little more.
    • Fjotra herself also takes up a bit of this. She might be ignorant for real of much in Savondir, but it can also be a good thing if the nobles there think her more ignorant and useless than she actually is.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: These start piling up as the disorders in Amorr escalate. In particular, there is a tragic moment for Corvus when he feels forced to expel all foreigners from the capital district to prevent subversion, resulting in the dispossession of many thousands of innocent people along with the plotters—possibly, this is a deliberate reference to the internment of the Japanese during World War II, a topic the author has expressed strong opinions on elsewhere.
  • Obviously Evil: None of the setting's powers is anywhere close to flawless by modern standards, but Savondir comes across as far more outright evil than the merely flawed Amorran Republic. This is evident both in large things (e.g., totalitarian monarchy, brutal suppression of rebellions, women are forced under a particularly oppressive Super Registration Act) and in small (the wizards of their magical secret police burn candles of human fat as part of their unholy rituals).
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Marcus. He is a scholar originally before he becomes an officer, and so has an education. He is also a generally kind and courteous man who treats almost everyone he meets with respect.
  • Old Soldier:
    • Corvus is the Four-Star Badass version, an old general who feels he is getting too old for generalship. However, he is then forced into politics instead, a field which is far less straightforward and even more dangerous.
    • Lodi the Dwarf is a veteran of the famous Siege of Iron Mountain. In Summa Elvetica, he tells the story of it to Marcus and the rest of the fellowship.
  • Orcus on His Throne: The King of Savondir is a fairly passive villain, perhaps due to his advancing age, who is never seen outside his palace. However, his sons are rather more active, whether in conquering new lands or scheming against each other.
  • The Order: The Michaeline Order trains Amorran boys who demonstrate and aptitude for Anti-Magic as templars of the Church, who enforce the Church's Ban on Magic in Amorr and help its armies resist hostile sorceries in war.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Selenoth dwarves follow the standard fantasy pattern pretty closely. They are perhaps somewhat unusually advanced, with a fairly modern, militaristic social organization, trains and underground strongholds that are virtually self-sufficient arcologies.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Elves are an Inhumanly Beautiful Race with innate magical abilities, extreme longevity and otherwise fairly typical fantasy traits, though with some exceptions. They live in fairly normal societies, though with social norms closer to 21st-century "Western" standards than anyone else in the setting (there's far more equality for female elves than for women in any human state, for example). There are some bits of "uncanny valley" weirdness about them; for example, the sound of their laughter strikes humans as oddly disturbing. Also, magic is a Virgin Power for female elves. All elves do have souls, according to the Church, and it is forbidden for Amorrans to enslave them (though people in other states sometimes do this).
  • Our Mages Are Different: There are at least two different sorts of magic in Selenoth:
    • General magical aptitude is a genetic trait in this setting, and unequally distributed between different peoples and races (elves are much more magical than most humans, for example). This sort of magic draws on supernatural energies, which the user manipulates through his will to produce a variety of possible effects. Very powerful latent mages can sometimes spontaneously manifest some of these abilities, but in general, training is required for any sort of useful magic to be performed.
    • There is also a more arcane, "academic" magic that relies on invocations, forcing demons and other spirit-powers to work the wizard's will. This one seems to require only the knowledge of the proper formulae, as opposed to any inherently supernatural talent. Historically, the Witchkings used this type to upgrade themselves to the first one, by absorbing demonic materials into themselves.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Orcs in Selenoth are relatively humanlike but Always Chaotic Evil, in the sense that they are basically a race of sociopaths by human standards. They are also less intelligent than men, as a rule, though exceptional ones can be quite cunning. In any case, they are capable of cooperating, even holding fairly large societies together, though their politics are unstable and based on rather brutal dominance hierarchies. Orcs (and goblins, a closely related race) are soulless, or at least considered such by the Church, and may be killed or enslaved at will by faithful Amorrans.
  • Our Werebeasts Are Different: In addition to the werewolves, Selenoth also has the more enigmatic werecats. Unlike the former, they don't seem to have been created by the Witchkings, though other evil agencies are hinted to have been involved. Their society is much like that of a more intelligent sort of lion (or perhaps lions crossed with wolves), though the more powerful among them can also assume human form.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Selenoth's werewolves were created by the Wahrkonigen through demonic sorcery. The idea appears to have been to use them as soldiers, but they ran wild instead after their masters perished, eventually becoming a problem in their own right. As werewolves go, they are fairly typical in their abilities, occurring either in wolf, human or wolfman form, with some also able to shift between them. Some have additional magical powers, but most are "merely" ferocious fighters.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Witchkings, who are also Above Good and Evil. Generally, their philosophy is a mixture of amoral scientific positivism and Nietzschean transcendance, which in practice ends up as Transhumanism. During their reign, they tried to destroy the Church completely, though this ultimately failed.
  • Outside-Genre Foe: The Watchers. The revelation that ancient alien horrors are behind Selenoth's troubles really shakes up what had hitherto been a fairly low-key fantasy political thriller, and even powerful wizards in the setting aren't much use against their bizarre abilities.
  • Overlord Jr.: The Red Prince is basically a younger, handsomer and (perhaps) smarter version of his father. His younger brother Duke Etienne tries to present himself the same way, but is more of a regular Royal Brat.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Theuderic is quite a powerful wizard by human standards, and can be terrifying indeed for lower-level enemies to meet. He still cannot match powerful elven sorcerers of Silvertree's caliber, and far less someone like Bessarias. When he suffers Mind Rape from a Watcher, he is completely unable to defend himself.
  • The Paladin: The knights of the Order of St. Michael, who are warrior priests with Anti-Magic and the Church's main defense against the occult powers of the world.
  • Path of Inspiration: The forbidden witch cult in Amorr, that worships the Triune Goddess. It seems like rather standard neo-paganism, but at least some of its members turn out to have real occult powers. Severa joins the witches in secret defiance of her father when he mistreats her servant girl and has her lover killed.
  • The Patriarch:
    • Severus Patronus has his family well in hand, and governs it in a manner that might be described as (very) harsh, but fair. His children may be headstrong, but he is used to handling much worse opposition in the Senate.
    • The protagonist Corvus dutifully tries to live up to Amorr's patriarchal ideals, but ultimately comes across as rather softer than his rival. His children are somewhat less unruly, though, so he doesn't really need to be quite as hard on them.
  • People of Hair Color: Although Humans Are White in Selenoth, there is noticeable ethnic diversity between the different nations, from the mostly Mediterranean Amorrans to the blond, blue-eyed Dalarns in the Wolf Islands, with expansionist Savondir a mixed region in between. At the same time, while some racial types are clearly predominant in some regions, the boundaries aren't clear-cut, and there is a range of traits across the whole continent—for example, even in Amorr proper there are some blonds and redheads, though they are much less common there than in the northern lands.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: Malkan. It simply calls itself a Republic (without "People's"), but qualifies in every other way due to corrupt oligarchical politics, huge class differences, slavery and oppression. Basically, it's a fantasy version of the stereotype of medieval Venice.
  • Person of Mass Destruction:
    • The Witchkings were capable of burning whole cities or tearing down mountains with their magic. In the prequel/flashback story, we see one example of this onscreen: one Witchking's single-word spell suffices to conjure enough white-hot supernatural fire to destroy a great fortress in seconds, down to the very stones—which is basically nuclear-level firepower in real life terms.
    • A few of the greatest sorcerers among the elves are also capable of similar feats. In the present day, this would specifically include Bessarias and Amitlya.
  • Pet the Dog: Patronus sort-of gets one when he explains to Severa why he was brusque to her earlier about Clusius, and manages to show that he actually had good reasons to be angry. Considering that no mention is made of freeing Verapora, though, it's still a downplayed one.
  • Pimped-Out Dress:
    • Elvish fashion makes great use of these. The descriptions in Summa Elvetica make their evening dresses sound like something halfway in between the high Baroque and The '80s.
    • Elaborate dresses are also part of Savondir court fashion, in contrast to the conservatism of Amorr. When Fjotra has to wear them during her stay there, she finds them both embarrassing and yet oddly attractive.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Fjotra remains mostly subordinate and without agency through most of her storyline in the first book, following the leads of either her relatives or Roheis (though exceptionally, she does rather proactively interrupt an assassination attempt at one point). The culmination of her character arc is her deciding to turn against her mentor Roheis, now revealed as dubious at best, and make her own decisions, thus overcoming this trope.
  • Placebotinum Effect: There is some doubt In-Universe on whether female elves really need to be maidens to work magic, or if it's only the psychological effect of being Defiled Forever that makes them think they lose it. Theuderic speculates that it's really the latter, since he can't see why the two things should be connected, as indeed they demonstrably aren't in humans. If this is correct, there might be hope for Lithriel that she could be cured one day, and her magic returned to her. On the other hand, Theuderic is a materialist, and there may well be a spiritual dimension to magic that he and the other Savondir state wizards are missing—after all, they explicitly can't understand how much of elven magic works where other, more tangible things are concerned, either.
  • Poirot Speak: Savondir characters usually include a few words of their vaguely French language (and the occasional unnatural-sounding phrase that seems to incorporate some French grammar) when speaking Amorran. Likewise, Fjotra's Savondir French is somewhat broken early in the book, but gets better as she immerses herself in it.
  • Politically Active Princess: The Dalarn princess Fjotra tries to be this, but comes from a small kingdom and doesn't really understand how politics and high society work in a Byzantine empire like Savondir. A big part of her Character Development is to learn this, so she can to be one of these more effectively.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Duke Etienne holds very chauvinistic views about Savondir's neighbors, and perhaps the Dalarns in particular. He is also implied to be a rapist, and doesn't seem to mind marrying Fjotra against her will. More generally, Savondir's leaders tend to come across this way overall, due to their Darwinian ideology and contempt for all "lesser" beings.
  • Power Glows: Wizards often bleed off some light when they manipulate magical energies in the setting. Also, adding a supernatural touch to the Church, its senior clerics can occasionally manifest similar effects through their holiness.
  • Powers That Be: The Church believes very clearly in one God, but the elves play this more or less straight in their theology. As they see it, there is a multitude of gods, angels and spirits, some perhaps more powerful than others, but all part of the same continuum; and whom you invoke, if you feel like it, or by what name, probably doesn't really matter all that much.
  • Predecessor Villain: The Witchkings, in the sequence of the main story, being the last great threat that upset the peace everywhere and nearly destroyed the world. Some of their villainous legacies also still linger behind, such as the werewolves. They are also in the short story collection, which is mostly set earlier in Selenoth's history.
  • Prince Charmless: Duke Etienne, who becomes the crown prince of Savondir after his older brother's convenient death. He is as sociopathic as the rest of his family, but takes after his father in lacking his brother's charisma, and is nothing but creepy when he tries to force Fjotra to marry him.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Corvus. In a very real sense, the first book is his tragedy as well as that of Amorr, and his personal trajectory parallels that of his state fairly closely. Sextus Valerius Corvus starts out as one of Amorr's most respected and beloved generals, a solid traditional man and a firm opponent of political corruption and the Severans' ruthless policy of annexation. However, he is persuaded to stand for office and become a unifying force for the country as the political process degenerates—which fails spectacularly. In increasing desperation to save his beloved Republic, the tormented Corvus takes after more and more of his enemies' cutthroat methods, to the point that he makes himself military dictator and has many tens of thousands of people killed or exiled to secure his rule, after the civil war openly breaks out.
  • Psychic Strangle: King Mhael does this to a werewolf, showing the Amorrans that the elves can be not only cultured, but also dangerous.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Theuderic works for Savondir's royal wizards as a mid-level operative, and is more or less unreflectingly loyal to his seemingly Obviously Evil totalitarian empire out of a mixture of this, Deliberate Values Dissonance and My Country, Right or Wrong.
  • The Purge: Savondir has recently had one, following an attempted coup, resulting in a reshuffling of much of the civil service and higher nobility.
  • Purple Is the New Black: In-Universe example for a non-visual medium. Specifically, black magic effects are said to glow with a weird, dark purplish light.
  • Purple Prose: The author indulges in this occasionally, especially through the use of elaborate similes. In extreme cases, this leads to very long sentences.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The elves in the war against the Witchkings. Though they managed to destroy them eventually, they lost three of their seven kingdoms as well as much of their manpower in the remaining ones, and suffered a crippling postwar demoralization and depression not unlike Britain after the World Wars in real life. They never really recovered, and no elven kingdom has been among the major world powers since, seeing their former position eclipsed by Amorr and (somewhat later) Savondir.
  • The Quiet One: Corvus. While Amorran generals will usually hold florid speeches to inspire the troops, he keeps his very succinct. For example:
    Corvus: You can see that they're over there. Go kill them.
  • The Quisling: Any of the puppet noblemen Savondir sets up to administrate its annexed territories. The most prominent example would be Sieur Charibert, the effective ruler of Montrose.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Generally played straight, but especially so in the elven kingdoms, since it is so permanently crippling for female elves. According to Silvertree, the High King's servants will pursue offenders all across the world to administer justice, and no one doubts the truth of this.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Female elves in general wear their hair very long, enough so to step on it according to Marcus. Sometimes it is worn loose, though more often arranged in fantastic coiffures, at least for festive occasions. Those with work requiring any mobility naturally tend to braid or otherwise fasten it up in everyday life.
  • Rated M for Manly: A series about politics, intrigue and warfare in an epic fantasy world, with protagonists ranging from grizzled generals and stern priests to aspiring young officers and secret agent wizards (along with an occasional Politically Active Princess or Action Girl sorceress). In a medieval society, defending culture and civilization from the long night is a manly task, and he who cannot carry it out will have to learn, or else be found wanting.
  • Reality Ensues: Though the series strongly resists the genre deconstruction of recent grimdark fantasy, it does address some implications of fantasy conventions that not all authors think about (or if they do, care about). For example:
    • Unlike what is sometimes the case in fantasy, flying can be really uncomfortable if one is not dressed for it. Elven hawk riders wear heavy clothing for much the same reason as the Red Baron and his contemporaries did in real life, and Marcus finds it a chilling experience to be carried by one in his streetwear.
    • Trying to be a Military Maverick in real life often tends to bite back much harder than it usually does in fiction, and the same is true in Selenoth. Don't expect to be automatically Saved by the Awesome by any means, even if your half-cocked schemes happen to work out in the end. Tribune Fortex especially finds this out to his dismay.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Both Marcus and his father Corvus take their faith seriously, pray and study the Scriptures (in Marcus' case professionally, as he is a theologian by training). Both are also tough military commanders (Corvus a semi-retired one, Marcus an emergent one) who put their principles first.
  • Really Royalty Reveal: After spending much time as merely a talented commoner, Speer Gnasor eventually finds out that he is not only a latent mage, but also of royal blood. Though given what follows, this is not altogether a good thing in this case.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • All elves, who are practically unaging as humans reckon such things. Lithriel is eighty-six, physically appears barely out of her teens, and is considered young by her people's standards.
    • Taken Up to Eleven by the Watchers, who are (as a race and as individuals) older than human civilization itself—and possibly older than human language.
  • Recruiters Always Lie: The Sergeant in "The Wardog's Coin" reminisces on this, and how he got tricked into the business long ago. Not much seems to have changed since, he thinks as he meets the new recruits and listens to their stories.
  • Red Baron: The Red Prince in Savondir. His proper name and title are Charles-Philippe, Duke of Lutèce (and a slew of subsidiary titles), but he is almost never called that outside of court protocol.
  • Red Right Hand: The first Watcher's human form has a relatively subtle trait that shows he is not human. As an unnerved Corvus notes after he is revealed, his teeth are unnaturally white and perfect, like those of a baby, since his supernatural powers keep his human body in perfect health and won't admit so much as a stain to the enamel. It looks eerie, almost doll-like, when he grins.
  • Religion Is Magic: Played with. In fact, the Amorran religion is anti-magic: God grants its priests the power to detect and suppress magic to protect the faithful. But since this still implies very obvious supernatural abilities (and powerful ones, in a fairly magic-heavy universe), it effectively amounts to about the same thing.
  • Religion Is Right: Amorran exorcists can (often, at least, if not altogether reliably) suppress Functional Magic through faith and prayer alone, which would be proof that there is at the very least something very powerful behind their religion. This shocks the elvish magical scientists who first encounter the phenomenon. (They then begin to scientifically analyze the Amorran religion to figure out how it "really" works.)
  • Reluctant Warrior: Marcus, by education and temperament a scholar, doesn't really like the military (or even fit into it very well), but serves as the Amorran equivalent of a reserve officer anyway because he believes it is his duty to do so. Even as an officer, however, he tries to avoid violence when he can... even as he reluctantly accepts the necessity of it when he must.
  • The Remnant: "The Last Witchking" sees Dauragh, a descendant of the last Witchking proper, joining with a small band of ex-Witchking loyalists and diehards as he tries to rebuild their shattered empire.
  • The Republic: The Holy Republic of Amorr. It is nominally a theocracy, with the equivalent of the Pope as head of state, but in practice his secular powers are quite limited. Most real authority is vested in the Senate and the Republic's elected consuls.
  • Retired Badass: Bessarias. Even though he was one of the greatest archmages, he has long since retired and no longer makes use of magic. It remains to be seen whether the invasion of the Horde will make him compromise on this.
  • The Reveal:
    • Who (some of) the active Watchers are. One is significantly foreshadowed, but others come as more of a surprise.
    • Patronus' correspondence with the Thursians, once intercepted, shows that he isn't simply politicking anymore, but actually implicated in treason and planning a literal revolution.
    • In Summa Elvetica, Marcus' realization that the false Michaeline knight Zephanus is the hidden assassin within the embassy.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Several bits of seemingly largely irrelevant background detail in Summa Elvetica serve to set up major plot points in A Throne of Bones. For example, Marcus' interactions with Magnus include significant foreshadowing that Magnus is sliding closer to the bad guys politically.
  • Rising Empire: Savondir, which has used its magical might to conquer most of the other kingdoms of the North and is still expansionist. However, not all the conquered lands are entirely peaceful yet, so the state also needs powerful forces to hold them down and prevent new rebellions.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment:
    • In the present day, the "sides" are represented by Amorr and Savondir: a conservative, religious republic that values the old and true things as opposed to a Rising Empire totalitarian monarchy with Darwinism and scientifically managed magic.
    • Within Amorr, Corvus' conservative faction is Romantic, with its strong appeals to Amorran tradition and national spirit, while Patronus' expansionists want to annex foreign territories and modernize Amorr in a Savondiric direction.
    • For the work in general, the author seems to come down more on the side of Romanticism. Notably, all the clearly Enlightenment-aligned factions in the setting are either outright villains (e.g., Savondir, the Witchkings) or else tragically flawed and collapsing due to their misguided ideologies (the elves).
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The early ebook copy of A Throne of Bones was somewhat poorly proofread, and/or formatted, withmany words withoutproper spaces betweenthem and occasional misspellings of various words. This is corrected in the print edition, however.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Psychopathy seems to run in the royal family in Savondir. The King boasts about killing babies with his own hands, the Red Prince (who is probably the nicest of them) is a cold-hearted expansionist who thinks nothing of murdering other monarchs and stealing their lands, and his younger brother Duke Etienne is The Evil Prince who can't wait to see his brother erased from the line of succession—as well as an implied rapist.
  • Ruler Protagonist: Sextus Valerius Corvus eventually becomes one when he and his followers seize power in the Amorran Republic—and then comes to order increasingly atrocious actions in the war that follows. In his case, this is part of his Protagonist Journey to Villain.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Tribune Fortex, who appears only briefly before he dies. His death provides some very important characterization for Corvus, and also catalyzes the civil war that eventually breaks out.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Legate Saturnius, when he is eventually assassinated by Severan agents. He is built up for some time as an old friend and loyal ally to Corvus, and a mentor of sorts to Marcus, and his death really establishes the stakes of the conflict, as well as moving the plot forward.
  • Sadist: Lithriel seems to be one when she can't stop laughing while watching a magical experiment going awry and a squad of Savondir mages being gruesomely slaughtered by a rampaging dragon. Granted, it's none of her doing—in fact, she even warned them not to try that—and as most people see things In-Universe, Savondir mages pretty much deserve whatever they get by default, but even so...
  • Saintly Church: The Church in Amorr is presented as a flawed but ultimately well-meaning institution which affects the world positively despite drawing corrupt power-mongers.
  • Satanic Archetype: The Watcher who interacts with Corvus is the tempter type, a chthonic, Protean evil that offers him his heart's desire in return for his allegiance.
  • Savage Wolves: The werewolves are said to possess neither the nobility of true men, nor the gracefulness of true wolves. Everything about them is brutal, evil and somehow wrong.
  • Save the Villain: Marcus tries to save the false monk Zephanus when the elves want to kill him. He ends up taken hostage by the villain for his trouble, so that Caitlys has to save him instead.
  • Science Is Bad: A variation that has Functional Magic instead, but otherwise often plays the trope straight. Wizards are portrayed in much the same way as scientists tend to be in these works—sometimes as naive, otherworldly academics who work For Science! and would never dream that their research on splitting the calengalad could ever be misused to make terribly destructive weapons, other times as arrogant fools who of course know best and could never be tricked into releasing the demons they summon. And then, of course, there are the outright evil transhumanist wizards who want to ruin humanity and just don't care, as long as they manage to ascend themselves to godhood in the process.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Patronus is a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to make the changes to Amorr that he thinks the state needs in order to survive... but on the personal level he is honest and even selfless to some extent. When he served as governor of a province earlier in his career, his administration had almost no corruption—he left office a poorer man than when he entered it.
  • Screw You, Elves!: The humans are well aware that, their opulence and extant strength notwithstanding, the elvish kingdoms are a declining power, and various factions in both Amorr and Savondir are eagerly awaiting the day when they will be able to plunder their riches. Basically, the attitude of many policy makers toward the elves is much the same as that of leading circles in America toward the British Empire in the first half of the 20th century: an odd mixture of envy, resentment, admiration and increasing triumphalism.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Marcus, Corvus' son and the main character in one of the subsidiary tales. He is schooled as a theologian, and frequently makes use of this, as well as Spock Speak, tending to launch into extraordinarily overelaborate and polysyllabic terminology whenever afforded the opportunity. To be fair, he is called out on this several times, and tries to talk more normally as a result.
  • Sex Slave: This becomes the fate of Verapora, Severa's servant girl, when she helps her hide a flirtation with a slave from her father. (Specifically, he has her sold to a brothel, and the proceeds donated to charity.) Also, Lithriel Everbright was made one when she was enslaved by Malkans. This phenomenon in general is one of the major reasons why elves in Selenoth tend to think that the human societies in the setting are rather monstrous.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: A creepy, villainous example that shades over into Fan Dis Service. The demon Scaum-Durna at first impersonates one character's Love Interest. After revealing himself (but still keeping the same appearance), he takes to walking around naked—both to troll the humans and because he just can't be bothered to wear clothes if he doesn't need to.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The narrator in "The Wardog's Coin" is obviously traumatized by his experiences of medieval warfare... but he also knows that with the way he has changed, there is no longer any place for him left anywhere outside the Company.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat:
    • Marcus. Part of the reason he appears like this is his sensitive temperament (he notices the evils of the setting more than others even when they are familiar to him), but part is also due to his background: as a bookish scholar type aiming to be a priest, he has been less exposed to war, slavery and other nastiness than most others before he becomes an officer. His Character Development largely consists of learning to be an effective fighter for good in spite of these disadvantages.
    • Severa is sort of his counterpart among the Severans. She is younger, as well as a woman, and so has little direct experience of politics or violence before the feud between their houses escalates.
  • Shining City:
    • Amorr, capital city of the Republic of Amorr, is the shining beacon of liberty and true religion in the world. Or at least, that's the cliché. In reality, it's much more complicated, but they are still the leaders of what amounts to the "Free World" in their cold war with Savondir and its satellites.
    • Elebrion, though it has various problems, is still a peaceful and hauntingly beautiful white city.
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Caitlys does this with her magic when a renegade priest takes Marcus hostage, more or less literally blasting him to pieces.
  • Shown Their Work: The strongest part of the worldbuilding is Amorr, with the author demonstrating considerable knowledge of scholastic philosophy, Roman culture and even languages. The Latin-like Amorran language and nomenclature is particularly interesting, with Greek, Germanic and even Semitic elements incorporated in a way that suggests a long period of organic growth and borrowing from neighboring tongues. Similarly, the Amorran political system is very intricately constructed, building on the fading institutions of the late Roman Republic and adding tensions between the secular government and the powerful Church.
  • Shrinking Violet: Fjotra, at first, being quite shy and afraid of disapproval. However, she gradually becomes more assertive over the course of her story arc.
  • Single Tear:
    • Corvus, when he has to tell his wife Romilia about his nephew Fortex's death.
    • Witchking Ar Mauragh sheds one in defeat when he mercy kills his beloved so the elves won't be able to torture her.
  • Sinister Minister: Bishop Laris Sebastius is introduced as one as part of the first book's opening mystery. Toward the climax, there is The Reveal that he is really one of the Watchers.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Completely averted—true to actual ancient and medieval culture, slavery is simply a common and accepted fact of life to most people. Though like in the ancient world, the status and treatment of slaves can vary a lot, from horribly oppressive for prisoners and such to fairly comfortable for educated professionals. Everyone Has Standards also applies, so even if the heroic characters generally accept the system as such, they will be upset with people who mistreat their slaves.
    • Concerning Amorr and its allies especially, while the Church has no general ban on slavery, it also tries to enforce the rule that slaves should be treated well (by the standards of the time/setting). Also, for complex theological reasons, they do ban the enslavement of elves.
  • Sliding Scale of Gender Inequality: Most societies in the books are at Level 2 or 3, with women generally playing a fairly minor role in society (Roheis is exceptional for being politically active as a noblewoman in Savondir, and even then mostly behind the scenes), and they are often treated quite badly by 21st-century American standards. The elves are the main exception: their society is fairly equal in a "modern" way, about Level 5, even allowing women in the military—although this causes other problems instead. Not surprisingly, elves (and female elves especially) tend to think the human societies are terrible about this.
  • The Social Darwinist: Theoretical science in Selenoth is advanced enough that an equivalent of Darwinian theory has emerged, aided perhaps by magical experimentation. In Savondir, this is part of the state's ideology, to the point that it sponsors eugenics programs.
  • The Sociopath: The Red Prince, crown prince and second in command in Savondir. He is intelligent, recklessly brave and possessed of an intense charismatic presence... as well as a ruthless egomaniac who thinks nothing of personally torturing enemies, oppressing helpless peoples or murdering children with his own hands.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: Elebrion is a downplayed example. As the seat of the High King, it is the capital of the elven nations, and is still a very beautiful city, but its people is slowly sinking into decadence and despair as their nation declines.
  • Soldiers at the Rear:
    • Marcus is a borderline example. He does see some combat firsthand, but most of his work is staff or higher-level command where he isn't part of the fighting proper. Perhaps unusually, he is portrayed sympathetically, as a decent guy who does his best with a job that is important enough, and cares about the grunts. Of course, he then gets launched into the thick of the fight through a field promotion...
    • Cassianus Vopiscus is another subversion: a logistics guy promoted to command, who makes sure his forces are well equipped and supplied—and is thus actually pretty much the perfect commander for the desert campaign. When he has difficulties, it's not because staff officers suck, but because his enemy has literally supernatural help.
  • Soldier vs. Warrior: Comes out most clearly when Elebrion is invaded. The orcs have a brutal, hyper-militarized warrior culture that draws on the worst stereotypes of both Mongol hordes and Generation Kill, while the elves field a magic-heavy Elite Army of very skilled but far less bloodthirsty, mostly part-time citizen soldiers.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: The Witchkings were a more or less absolutely straight example, though less human than many, with demonic arch-sorcerers in dark towers plotting World Domination and even Taking Over Heaven.
  • Soul Eating: According to the elves, the Witchkings were in the habit of this, and this may have been how their magic could surpass even that of the elven magisters of their times. We never actually see them doing this when they appear in the short stories, though, so it's possible that this was merely elven propaganda.
  • Space Cold War: Between Savondir and Amorr, with Malkan as a sort of neutral in between (somewhat like Phezzan in Legend of Galactic Heroes). The Malkans enforce their neutrality quite strictly, wanting especially much to keep Savondir's royal mages out if they can help it. The elves, meanwhile, fear that they will be drawn into any "hot" war between the two great human empires sooner or later, and so work quietly to keep the peace.
  • Speculative Fiction LGBT: Although Amorr is intensely hostile to homosexuality (in fact, just like in many real medieval societies, it's punished by death), the magic of the setting also enables LGBTQAP+ characters in some ways. The main example is Scaum-Durna, a male demon who uses an assumed female form to sleep with men.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: To A Song of Ice and Fire, and what the author perceived as its nihilistic message. The first book especially uses quite a few of the basic plot points of A Game of Thrones for its own story—only to then take them in a completely different direction. For a few major examples:
    • The big defining point of A Game of Thrones is, of course, that Ned Stark fails and dies specifically because of his stubborn uprightness, following the series' general tendency toward No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. A Throne of Bones, which puts a similar character (Corvus) in a similar situation (poised to strike first against his enemies), instead has him give in to the temptation to break his values for the greater good, and apparently succeed—only to then go on to show that this really made everything much worse (for both him and everyone else) than playing by the rules would have.
    • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Church and religion in general are almost always a force of evil, whether presented as the sinister sorceries of Melisandre or the fanaticism of the Sparrow. In The Arts of Dark and Light, the Church, although realistically corrupt for such an institution, nonetheless is (on the whole) a major force for good in the world, complete with a canny but on the whole rather saintly Pope, and serves as a powerful restraint on the ruthless ambitions of the worldly politicians and nobles.
    • A Song of Ice and Fire presents dragons, the most fantastic of fantasy creatures, as dumb animals and almost solely as a tool for human use, a military weapon or—basically—glorified flying warhorses. When dragons appear in A Throne of Bones, they are splendid, fierce and formidable beasts, almost forces of nature, and Savondir's proud archmages fail utterly and ignominiously when, trusting in their own wisdom, they try to harness them for such a subservient role.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Marcus and Caitlys, since both Elebrion and Amorr usually look very unkindly upon human-elf relationships. Amorr's Ban on Magic doesn't make people there more accepting of the sorceress Caitlys, either. And of course, given their very different backgrounds, they also both have various personal prejudices that they must somehow overcome if they want to be together.
  • The Starscream: In Savondir, there are more than a few hints that the Red Prince has this attitude toward his father the King, possibly aiming at it by working together with Roheis. This is actually a Red Herring, with the real conspirator being Count Saint-Aglie. His younger brother Duke Etienne in turn behaves this way against him.
  • State Sec:
    • Savondir's corps of mages effectively function as one, regulating everything related to magic in their country (which is quite a bit, in a high fantasy setting) as well as supplying military mages and secret police. They are entirely separated from the usual feudal hierarchies, nominally slaves to the crown answerable only to the king, much like the janissaries of the Ottoman Caliphate. Also like the Janissaries, they are in reality a very powerful state within the state.
    • Amorr's Church Militant plays a role approximating this in the Republic, with the Church having immense political influence and control over vast properties, as well as its own military forces, network of intelligence agents and the special federal police enforcing the state's anti-magic policy.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: All the human cultures in the setting embrace this, following the example of the real medieval age the setting is based upon. Women do not fight as soldiers, nor are they trained in magic in Savondir (in Amorr, of course, magic is banned for everyone, period). Averted by the elven kingdoms, however, who allow female elves both in their magical colleges and their military. One of their military sorceresses becomes a POV character in the second book.
  • Stepford Snarker: Lithriel tries to shrug off her horrible experiences by appearing irreverent and jaded, but is actually deeply unhappy with what has happened to her life. She is quite good at pretending otherwise, and can fool most people, but Fjotra sees through her act right away.
  • The Strategist: Corvus has become a successful general because he realizes that proper planning, intelligence and deployment are the keys to winning a campaign, and is good at the same. He isn't useless or a coward in a more direct fight, but his true talent is in directing larger wars. Corvus also thinks this is true of Marcus as an officer: though he will never be the greatest warrior in single combat, he is already an excellent tactician, and appears to have the potential to be a great strategist.
  • Strategy Versus Tactics: The story illustrates this by comparing Corvus and Saturnius, his second in command. While Corvus has the grand vision to plan and administer a successful campaign, Saturnius is a master of battlefield leadership, expert at exploiting tactical opportunities and inspiring the men. Neither of the men is exactly terrible in the opposite role, either, but each is far better at his own specialty.
  • Straw Feminist: Severa, sort of, after she comes to resent Amorr's patriarchal culture when her father treats her and her servant girl extremely harshly (by modern standards). This makes her join an underground cult of witches who oppose the Church and worship a female deity, which is treated as clearly evil. She is a somewhat downplayed example, though, since she isn't really very evil personally—and by present-day standards, at least, she also sort of has a point when she complains about how women are treated in most of Selenoth.
  • Straw Misogynist: Savondir, due to its degrading enslavement of all potential female magic users. This is probably the one way the Savondir mages are actually worse than the Witchkings (who were at least nice to their own female-presenting members, even if they were jerks to everyone else).
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Magic in Selenoth is more or less consistent and rule-bound, and so can be investigated scientifically. This is done by all the major magic-using factions, who can also use magical instruments to aid their research into more ordinary science. For example, atomic theory is quite advanced thanks to magical equivalents of cyclotrons and the like.
  • Super Breeding Program: The monarchy in Savondir has a coercive one. All women with magical ability are impressed into it, with whatever degree of force necessary.
  • Super Registration Act: Savondir's royal wizards force all magic-users (potential or actual) to be part of their corps from an early age, stripping them of all family and other ties to serve only the state (and in particular, their own organization within it). Notably, this applies to men—women are also conscripted, but used only as breeding stock, and specifically not taught any magic, as that would make them more difficult to control.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: The Severans. In their POV chapters, they come across as much more reasonable and sympathetic (if still not exactly "good") than when seen from a Valerian viewpoint: Patronus at least has reasons and arguments for why he does his evil things, his sons follow him out of loyalty and because they think he's right, and Severa is basically an innocent child trying to be a grown-up and face her family's dangerous enemies with courage. Averted by Theuderic's POV chapters, however—both he and Savondir in general still fairly consistently come across as horrible there.
  • Sympathetic Slave Owner: Marcus. Like all Amorran noblemen, he owns slaves, but treats his well and even with respect. Since Marcus is the introspective scholar type, he still feels somewhat uncomfortable with slavery as such, even though it's completely normal in his society—especially when he is exposed firsthand to how less privileged slaves than his can be treated by less kind masters. Like some medieval theologians in real life, he reasons that this institution, although an evil one, is probably an unavoidable result of Man's fallen nature on this sinful earth.
  • Take a Third Option: When Marcus (now an officer) has trouble with local irregulars and the Amorran SOP calls for executing hostages to force their compliance, he doesn't want to do this, and tries to figure out a way not to have to do it. In the end, he compromises by having a few apprehended spies beheaded instead, who would have been sentenced and executed for their crimes anyway—thus technically going by the book while still sparing the innocent hostages.
  • Take Over the World: Savondir appears to aspire to this, and puts it into practice by conquering new lands more or less continuously from among its neighbors. Sometimes using legal fictions and trumped-up justifications, but other times by right of conquest alone. Before them, there were the Witchkings, who nearly succeeded at accomplishing this.
  • Taking Over Heaven: The transhumanist Wahrkonigen had this as one of their ultimate objectives: not just to make men into gods, but to storm the heavens and conquer the spiritual realms as well as the earth. However, they were stopped before they could actually do this.
  • Talented Princess, Regular Guy: Caitlys and Marcus. He is a scholar, and later an officer, but still rather less impressive than his beast-rider, Magic Knight elf princess girlfriend.
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: The Red Prince is this, being tall, dark-haired, in good physical shape (since he is a Warrior Prince), handsome and very successful with women.
  • Technicolor Fire: Magical fire can burn in all sorts of colors, depending on what sort of magical energies are used to power them. The system is not entirely explained, but generally speaking, mages from different factions produce different colors—fire summoned by goblin shamans tends to be greenish or "dirty" dark red, for example.
  • Technological Pacifist: Or Magical Pacifist, since magic plays an anologous role to science and technology in Selenoth. After he overcomes his youthful arrogance (and loses his confidence in the Masters of the Collegium), Bessarias ceases his research into calengaladian physics, thinking that the risk of his knowledge being abused is too great.
  • The Theocracy: Subverted. The Amorran Republic is a theocracy in theory, ruled directly by God—and in His absence, their equivalent of the Pope is the acting head of state as a sort of divine viceroy. However, he is more of a constitutional monarch or European-style president than an absolute sovereign: there is an elaborate system of checks and balances which ensures that in practice, most temporal power is really held by the elected Consuls and the Senate.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Caitlys doesn't take it well when a villain tries to use Marcus as a Human Shield, and more or less literally tears him to pieces with a Magic Missile Storm-type spell. Mhael, who is also present, sardonically remarks on her ferocity.
  • These Hands Have Killed: Bereth has a reaction much like this when she kills an orc in close combat on the ground—something quite different from the cleaner aerial warfare she is used to.
  • They Look Like Us Now: It comes as a shock to the Dalarns and their allies from Savondir to learn that the werewolves can assume human form. All the more so since they use this to infiltrate the Raknarborg and assassinate the allied commanders.
  • Thousand-Year Reign: The Amorran Republic in its modern form has lasted for some four hundred years. In his rhetoric, Patronus claims that if his reforms are implemented, the new, stronger Amorr will last at least another four hundred and surpass the glory of the first.
  • Throne Made of X: The titular Throne of Bones. It is the seat of the Pope, and made from the bones of saints and martyrs of the Faith. The King of Savondir, meanwhile, is seated on the Silver Throne.
  • Time Abyss:
    • The Watchers, mysterious beings who predate human civilization itself, and may be a sort of fallen angels related to the setting's demons. They are effectively immortal, have extremely powerful magic and are revealed to be running an Ancient Conspiracy that seems to be steering both Amorr and Savondir into conflict.
    • Some of the older elves approach this. King Mhael's grandfather is said to have ruled seven kingdoms when the races of men were still naked bands of hunters in the woods, which would be at least many thousands of years in the past. However, the Watchers were already ancient when elves were primitive tribes.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: This is Corvus' central conflict throughout his character arc, as he gets increasingly embroiled in the degenerating politics of the Republic. Should he follow tradition and law, and watch things fall apart when others increasingly don't, or use his opponents' own underhanded methods against them?
  • Together in Death: Witchking Mauragh and his companion, or at least they hope to be this. Even the Witchkings don't quite know for sure what ultimately follows death, but they are very insistent on finding out together.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: Patronus is earnestly convinced that only his annexationist policy can save Amorr. And if he has to destroy the Republic to save it, then so be it.
  • Tragic Hero: Corvus. He starts out as an upright man with faith in the Republic's institutions, but becomes disillusioned with the political corruption he sees after returning from the military. Joining a group of conservative senators fighting against Patronus and his expansionism, he witnesses Amorr's national polity unravelling around him, and becomes ever more desperate in his attempts to save his country. Eventually, he sacrifices his honor and conscience—and still fails to stave off the civil war, which he then has to fight out as the tyrannical dictator of the very Republic he was trying to preserve.
  • Tragic Mistake:
    • The execution of Tribune Fortex. This not only unbalances Corvus, so that he makes further and greater mistakes later on, but also alienates one of his critical allies. Arguably, everything else in his continuing tragedy follows directly or indirectly from this.
    • Also for Corvus, agreeing to the assassination of Patronus. Not only does this permanently kill whatever chances there still were to avoid war, this sort of crime also damages his own moral compass, making his further slipping into evil almost unavoidable.
  • Tragic Villain: The young Witchking Dauragh is originally well-intentioned, but the failure of the Witchking state and the influence of unscrupulous advisors drive him to make bad decisions. In the end, he loses both his own uprightness and the cause he sacrificed it in order to save.
  • Transhumanism: The Witchkings, who promoted an ideology of spiritualistic atheism and sought to use demonic magic to transform themselves into supermen. It worked—for a given value of success, anyway.
  • Translation Convention: All conversation in the book is assumed to take place in the languages of the relevant cultures, usually something close to Latin or archaic French (the languages of Amorr and Savondir, respectively). The author gives some subtle hints that different languages are to be read behind the English—for example, Savondir (the endonym) can instead be written in a Latinized exonymous form (Savonderum) when discussed by Amorrans.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Bereth, the elf hawk rider, is shot down and has to practice standard SERE technique for a while before a rescue flight can extract her.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: The senior nobility and royalty can easily gather fairly long lists of titles and offices, as can officials in the Amorran Republic (which has no titled nobility per se, although some families are still more esteemed than others). For example, here is Corvus' full style in the early chapters, before it gets added to:
    Sextus Valerius Corvus of the House Martial of Valerius, of the Order of Patricians, Commanding General, Legio XVII, Propraetor, Senator, Count of Vallyria, Appointed by the Senate Stragister Militum, and Dux Ducum Bellorum for the Senate and People of Amorr's Campaign against the Chalonu, Vakhuyu, and Insobru Tribes.
  • Übermensch: The Witchkings. Their philosophy is to transcend all human limitations and grasp eagerly for the Truth, wherever it may lead them. Naturally, they reject all religious beliefs and conventional morality. They are also transhumanists, using evil sorcery to upgrade themselves into monstrosities.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • Laris Sebastius did not expect Corvus to retain as much both of his courage and of his convictions as he does in their final confrontation.
    • Roheis is underestimated by everyone for being young and a woman, despite being one of the major political powers behind the scenes in Savondir. And she is quite smart enough to take advantage of this, too.
    • Amusingly, Roheis herself underestimates Fjotra for basically the same reasons everyone else tends to overlook her (as well as for being a foreigner).
  • Underhanded Hero: Theuderic is devious, ruthless and generally unheroic enough to qualify as a straight Villain Protagonist in every respect except that he isn't narratively treated like one. This comes across especially clearly in his POV story in the prequel collection.
  • Understanding Boyfriend: Marcus to Caitlys. His culture has Fantastic Racism against elves, and his religion teaches that all magic is Satanic, so he ought to hate her for being an elf sorceress, but doesn't.
  • The Unfettered: Lithriel. After all she has suffered, she just doesn't care anymore, and will do what she has to in order to make her way in the world.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Downplayed with Silvertree, when he gives Corvus (a short version of) the elves' inside story on the Witchking war. The prequel short stories reveal that while his story is generally true to what actually happened, he leaves out some events, and is mildly mistaken about a couple of others.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The Watcher who masquerades as Laris Sebastius. He/it is not particularly skilled using human weapons... but with the game-breaking innate abilities of his race, he doesn't really need such skills to be a threat, once he decides to reveal himself.
  • Useless Boyfriend: Marcus to Caitlys. He is a military reservist, but more a staff officer than a Sergeant Rock. And even if, he still wouldn't be very formidable compared to her sorcery. She saves him a couple of times when he is in trouble.
  • Utility Magic: Not used very much by the humans, with Amorr banning magic and Savondir giving priority to government and military uses for theirs. However, the elves have lots of magic, and use it for even quite trivial things, much as present-day humans use electricity for household appliances. (They also have industrial applications for it, such as alchemically altering the flavor and alcohol content of beverages.) The Witchkings also made use of this when they were around, being the most magic-heavy and utopian faction in the setting.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Patronus thinks it will be worth sacrificing Amorr's republican freedoms to secure its power. Corvus and his other opponents have a sort of heroic version of this: they disavow utopia, but are almost equally dedicated to preserving the status quo at all costs. This shades over into more or less explicit Not So Different as the plot advances.
  • The Vamp: Roheis uses her sexuality as well as her brains to manipulate the other powerful players in Savondir's internal politics.
  • Vice City: Malkan, the trading city in the mountain passes between Savondir and Amorr, has a strong whiff of this, run by merciless merchant lords and full of corruption, loose living and barely contained crime. Basically, it's an expy of ruthless Renaissance Venice, except it derives its wealth from caravan rather than maritime trade.
  • Villain Episode:
    • The POV chapters of the Severan characters in the main plot, which tell the same story as those given from the Valerian viewpoint, but with the perspectives and beliefs reversed: Patronus as a Necessarily Evil Unscrupulous Hero, trying to reform a hopelessly irredeemable political system as peacefully as possible, in turn opposed by the blinkered Evil Reactionary Corvus and his cohorts, who would rather bring Amorr down with them than accept their own obsolescence.
    • The prequel short story "The Last Witchking" shows the Witchkings from their POV. Since this is a fairly alien one, they still appear evil, but in somewhat more of a Noble Demon way (with strong touches of Blue-and-Orange Morality), and the titular last Witchking is presented as somewhat of a Tragic Villain trying to restore their defeated empire.
  • Villain Has a Point: Generally, the progressive Severans are actually objectively right about a fair number of the things they critize the Amorran Republic for, whether it's Patronus himself deploring its unwieldy constitutional procedures or Severa roasting some of its many double standards that keep women down. It's just that their preferred solutions tend to be little better, and often considerably worse.
  • Villainous Friendship: Theuderic is personally friendly with the King of Savondir, who entrusts him with some of his most important missions because he knows he can expect him to stay loyal to him (unlike most other senior officers).
  • Villainous Lineage: Speer Gnasor grows up as a normal boy in a little village in what is now Savondir—a little taller and, seemingly, a little smarter than most of his peers, but not obviously strange in any way. However, it turns out that he is a direct descendant of the Witchkings, who has inherited their demonic legacy, and one day it comes calling. A flashback shows this directly invoked concerning his heritage.
    Blood will tell. Blood will always tell.
  • Villain Protagonist: Several of the short stories feature protagonists who belong to villainous factions. In "The Last Witchking" in particular, the main character is a Witchking restorationist, who wants to save the remnants of their magical empire, while "A Magic Broken" stars a Savondir operative on a dark mission in the (near-)present day.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: Caitlys, as she is a military-trained sorceress and has the power to fight for her man if she has to. At least one villain who threatens Marcus comes to a spectacularly bad end thanks to her magic.
  • Virgin Power: Elves are innately magical beings in Selenoth, and all possess some magic potential, though it varies in magnitude between individuals. However, female elves lose their magic powers when they cease to be maidens. Male elves are not affected, nor do human magic-users of either sex seem to be.
  • Visionary Villain: Severus Patronus, the main villain (or main male mortal villain, at least) in the main plotline, is a political visionary who dreams of modernizing the conservative Amorran Republic and making it a powerful centralized empire that can contain threats like Savondir... by adopting at least some of their efficient methods. The major examples in the setting, however, were the Witchkings/Wahrkonigen, who pursued an Übermensch philosophy devoted to the search for unconditional, absolute Truth—no matter where it lead them.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Watchers can take on any form, since flesh is malleable to them.
  • Vote Early, Vote Often: The Amorran Republic is shown to have a fair amount of corruption in its elections, as is only realistic in a pseudo-Roman polity. However, Amorr is still easily the most democratic human state in Selenoth—it's just that that doesn't mean it's perfect by any means.
  • War for Fun and Profit: During the embassy to the elves, a coterie of senators and wealthy merchants in Amorr are trying to sabotage the peace negotiations, preferring instead the lucrative military contracts a renewed "hot" war will bring.
  • War Is Glorious: Discussed. The overall sentiment of the story is far closer to War Is Hell, but various characters remark that it can be glorious as well—at least in certain specific contexts. Its real elements of excitement, heroism, camaraderie, glamor and martial spirituality are acknowledged by the narrative, even as its waste and horror are portrayed fully. In-Universe, meanwhile, the militaristic propaganda of the various powers presents a straighter version of this, with characters sneering appropriately at that as well.
  • War Is Hell: Generally played very straight, some Ernst Jünger-like POV nods to war's awesomeness notwithstanding. "The Wardog's Coin" especially emphasizes this, but there is no shortage of examples in the main sequence. Good people die, innocent people die, people of all sorts are abused, crippled, driven from their homes, deprived of all they value in life, crushed and broken in spirit until this becomes almost too clear. The Church agrees, calling war one of the foremost evil fruits of a sinful fallen world (though it recognizes that just wars may still be necessary to defend good against evil).
  • Warhawk: Claudius Serranus and the wealthy senators who sponsor him. They are trying to sabotage Marcus' embassy to the elves and start a war with them, so they and their camarilla can profit off the military contracts and plunder the war will generate.
  • Warrior Monk: The Knights of the Order of St. Michael, the Order Martial holding the main task of enforcing Amorr's Ban on Magic. They are more or less a fantasy version of the Knights Templar, but gather their recruits exclusively from children born with the gift of seeing magic (without being magic-users themselves).
  • Warrior Poet: Bereth. She thinks deeply about the war, is saddened by its tragedy, and yet she can be struck by the beauty of the natural world around them and the deeper truths of the world.
  • Warrior Prince: The Red Prince in Savondir. To be sure, he commands rather than fights in the ranks, but he's still a Frontline General who sees his share of combat.
  • Warrior Princess: Caitlys. She is the granddaughter of a king, rather than daughter, and so not in the immediate line of succession, but still a princess—and while not professional military either, she is a trained reserve officer pilot who can fight if she has to, whether with weapons or magic.
  • Wartime Wedding: Severa is married to Sextus after the civil war breaks out, the marriage becoming even more important then to solidify the alliance between their noble houses.
  • We Are Everywhere: The witch cult has representatives in the strangest of places, as Severa finds out—including within religious orders that are at least nominally part of the Church.
  • We Have Reserves: In the Elebrion subplot. Even though the elves slaughter the orcs in every engagement, they are losing the war, since they are so vastly outnumbered. The orcs can afford to lose their troops at a twenty-to-one ratio and still come out ahead.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist:
    • Corvus' political opponent Severus Patronus honestly thinks the totalizing reforms to the Republican forms of government that he is trying to implement in Amorr are absolutely necessary if the state is to survive competition from Savondir and other growing threats. His enemies argue that this is merely a smokescreen for seizing power, but Corvus knows he really does believe what he says.
    • Ar Mauragh to all seeming believes in the Witchking ideology, and sees his villainy as justified by the search for knowledge and the quest to turn mankind (or the "worthy" element of it, anyway) into gods.
  • Wham Line:
    • Silvertree revealing the existence of the Watchers, in what has hitherto been a fairly mundane fantasy thriller:
      "We call them the Abandoned. But men, as well as orcs, goblins, and other breeds have usually called them by another name over the centuries. Your race, in particular, has been known to worship them as gods."
    • The Reveal of another Watcher, after the reader thinks he knows who the real villain is:
      Until it grew back again.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Several magical experiments in the stories sort of skirt this, but the major example is when Savondir's state wizards try to tame a fierce dragon with a (partially) reverse-engineered elvish incantation. It ends up with the dragon not merely not being subdued, but going on a rampage instead, resulting in many dead wizards and much destroyed property.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The Amorran religion plays this straight as far as most monstrous races and species are concerned, judging (for example) that goblins are soulless and so may be treated like brute beasts. In contrast, however, elves are apparently seen as especially holy (despite being magic-users and atheists who by and large hate the Amorran church), and get special treatment. There's even a ban on enslaving them—even though the Church accepts slavery for human races.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: In-story, almost no one (except Marcus) feels sorry for the hordes of goblins that are slaughtered by the Amorran military, thinking that they are only soulless subhumans anyway. The way the goblins are portrayed as savages tends to enhance this. However, a later POV segment shows the life of one of those very goblins, and that it has a fairly humanlike intellect. It behaves like a savage because it has had its loved ones killed, been pressganged, tortured, and then captured and enslaved by the Amorrans, until it went a little crazy from the trauma.
  • "What Now?" Ending: A Throne of Bones ends with Marcus and his legion out of immediate danger, but still trapped outside Amorr while the civil war escalates.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: For a given value of "hero" in this case. When talking with Theuderic, Lithriel (not extremely heroic herself) calls out Savondir on its oppressive magical breeding program, and how it's unfair to women who are conscripted into it (who are not even taught magic, though they could also learn it if people would let them). Theuderic treats it like a sort of Dirty Business, but argues that Savondir has no choice—they need all the wizards they can get to keep the conquered territories down and continue their expansion, or else the empire will stagnate and collapse.
  • What the Romans Have Done for Us:
    • Amorr, a declining great power facing constitutional crisis, is in many ways in a similar position to the United States in the 21st century. As such, it leads The Alliance of lesser states, protecting them against other powers (mainly Savondir). Though Amorr is relatively benevolent, it is also a target for local patriots in the small countries, who think the Amorrans are almost as oppressive as Savondir is. Some of them even demand votes in Amorr's Senate, on the logic that a state that is that big and influences them so much should be one they have a say in. Most Amorran citizens, of course, disagree sharply with this.
    • By contrast, Savondir puts an extremely thin varnish of bringing peace and civilization on their wars of conquest, but it's blatantly obvious to everyone (including Savondir's own rulers) that their only real justification is the law of the stronger.
  • What You Are in the Dark: At the end of the first book, the Watcher offers Corvus power to let him end the civil war, restore Amorr to the height of its former glories and rule it unchallenged, if only he will serve it. Even though Corvus has already fallen far, he refuses this.
  • When the Planets Align: The Watchers can only open their gateway to the Other World when the stars are right. The jyhad between their different factions is over who will control the gateway when they are, and whether it is to be opened or not.
  • White Hair, Black Heart:
    • Ar Mauragh and his companion are described in very Elric-like visual terms, as pale, white-haired and beautiful, and since they are Wahrkonigen, we may assume that they are evil, even if little of their villainy is actually shown onscreen.
    • Inverted with Fjotra, who is also white-haired, but a kind and selfless heroine.
  • Whole Plot Reference: While the details of the stories are quite different, the general theme of A Throne of Bones can be read as "What would A Game of Thrones have been like if Eddard Stark had had Cersei killed and taken over the kingdom, instead of sparing her and thus getting killed himself?" (In the equivalent situation in Amorr, things don't seem to turn out much better for the good guys when they try to be ruthless.)
  • Wicked Cultured: Although he is part of the "good guy" Valerian faction, Magnus gives a fair bit of an impression of this, being a cynical and worldly politician and a rather harsh master to his household, as well as an earnest devotee of philosophy and culture. He becomes a straight example after he defects to the bad guys.
  • Wicked Witch: Idumeta Venfica, who becomes Severa's first teacher in witchcraft, has most of the traits of one, being an old, ugly crone living outside the town proper and devoting herself to Black Magic.
  • Widow Woman: Roheis is a relatively young one at 26, having been married to the Duke of Aubonne, who is no longer among the living.
  • Witch Species:
    • The Witchkings were originally human sorcerers, but used a magical version of transhumanism to transform themselves and their bloodline into a new, partially demonic species with potent innate magical abilities.
    • Downplayed with the elves, who are naturally endowed with magical gifts, albeit less powerful. Not all of them can even be tactically useful wizards by any means, but they are still a much more magical species than any of the human races.
  • Won the War, Lost the Peace: The elves won the war against the Witchkings, but failed to capitalize on the victory politically. This, combined with their general exhaustion from the war and the heavy losses they suffered, led to the increasing decline of their surviving kingdoms.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Isabel, a young Savondir noblewoman who learns that she has been conscripted for the royal wizards' breeding program. Her life only becomes worse from there on—until she snaps, unlocking her latent magical potential in the process, and starts using those powers to take vengeance.
  • A World Half Full: Selenoth can often seem fairly grim, due to its relatively "realistic" portrayal of medieval conditions of life and of politics and human nature in general, from the flaws of the stolidly conservative Amorran Republic and the decadent liberalism of Elebrion to the brutal totalitarianism of Savondir. At the same time, however, the books go out of their way to show that even in the most evil states, most people are not monsters, but simply trying to get on with their lives as best they can—and that moreover, there are also many true idealists working hard to make their dark world a better place. Sometimes they can even succeed, in great things or small, perhaps by staving off a war or even saving just one innocent life. And should they fail, there is still the comfort that they tried.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": Zoth Ommog has a more or less official policy of genocide for hoblet populations under its control. Heroic examples include Amorr exterminating the half-elf nation, as well as the elves exterminating the Witchkings and most of their human followers.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The King of Savondir boasts about his willingness to do this.
    You can trust His Royal Majesty will personally strangle every child in Montrove with his own hands if that is what is needed to teach those rebels who is their righteous, God-given King.
  • Written by the Winners: Ar Mauragh invokes this about the anti-Witchking coalition and their version of history: rather than saviors of the world from ultimate evil, they were (as he sees it) nothing but small-minded reactionaries who held back the Wahrkonigen's scientific revolution out of sentimentalism, superstition and ressentiment.
  • You Are in Command Now: Despite being only a relatively junior staff officer, Marcus finds himself in charge of the 17th Legion after its commanding general and most of the rest of the staff are assassinated by enemy agents.
  • You Are Too Late: In "A Magic Broken" (in the Summa Elvetica anthology), the heroes do manage to save Lithriel from her kidnappers... but not before she has lost her magic.
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea: A rare heroic example. The desperate Amorran conservatives eventually manage to kill the Princeps Senatus, Severus Patronus — but much to their dismay, this doesn't shut down this person's followers, but rather creates an Inspirational Martyr.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Count Saint-Aglie doesn't use the exact words when revealing supernatural powers, but offers a Badass Boast which still makes clear to the conspirators that they really do have no idea what they are facing.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The unhappy Ar Dauragh eventually suffers this fate, realizing that he was really only a pawn for others behind the scenes. Specifically, the demons.
  • You No Take Candle: Downplayed, but Fjotra's early dialogue (notionally in Savondir's language) is presented with occasionally odd-sounding grammar to represent her limited familiarity with it. Her command of it grows noticeably over the course of the story, to the point that she speaks it virtually fully fluently by the second part of the first book.
  • Your Soul is Mine!: Spirits and souls can be captured and manipulated by powerful wizards. The Witchkings made themselves superhuman by infusing their own souls with ground-down demonic spirits; later on, the elves used special magical rituals to systematically destroy the souls of the dead Witchkings, so as to ensure that they would be Deader Than Dead.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Invoked. Are the rebels against the Amorran government heroic freedom fighters, or execrable traitors and renegades fit only for the gallows?
  • Zombie Advocate:
    • Downplayed somewhat with Marcus. While he isn't a literal "Monsters' Rights" guy, he feels much more sympathy for "subhuman" creatures than most Amorrans, and believes that elves, dwarves and maybe even goblins are thinking beings that deserve some kind of basic respect, and are precious in God's eyes.
    • Herwaldus and other monks of his order are straight examples, since it was founded specifically to preach to the monstrous races of the world. One monk even went to the orcs; it's said that they killed him, but also that he did convert one orc to the Church's religion, who came to live with the other monks at their monastery.


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