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Literature / The Auburn Knight

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The Auburn Knight (Рыжий рыцарь, Ryzhiy rytsar') is a humorous Russian fantasy novel by Andrei Belyanin. Typical of the author, it's a Fish out of Temporal Water scenario full of adventure, Anachronism Stew, and magic.

A twelfth century Crusader named Sir Ned Hamilton, AKA the Auburn Knight (even though his hair is more dark blond than auburn), rides out into the Arabian Desert at the end of the Crusades in order to fulfill a promise made to Lady Roxolana, Baroness Sheffield, and bring her the head of a dragon. Then a Negative Space Wedgie transports him and his black stallion Delirium to a modern Russian city, where he meets the beautiful Lady Ilona.

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Ilona Shcherbatova is a college student and an aspiring model. One day, on a way home from a photo shoot that never happened, she is accosted by a bunch of drunk fellas only to be rescued by a man dressed as a Medieval knight on a big black horse. At first, she thinks he's a member of some historical club who takes his role a little too seriously. Then strange things start happening, and monsters begin appearing and attacking them. Together, along with Valery Lyustritsky, Ilona's neighbor and Gay Best Friend, the trio (and Delirium) embark on an adventure across time and space, fighting evil men and monsters, unknowingly being pieces in a deadly game played by an evil Queen and her ambitious son Knave, the rulers of the dark kingdom of Maldoror.


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The Auburn Knight provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alternate Self: When the heroes find themselves in an Alternate Universe, they encounter a female rebel fighter named Rada. After getting back to our world, they meet a girl named Dasha, who looks exactly like Rada, except more bookish. It's not clear if the two girls are actually duplicates, but they do look nearly identical.
  • Alternate Universe: The heroes end up visiting an After the End one, where Ilona and Valery's hometown is run by an oppressive Hindu-like cult after a nuclear war and dinosaurs roam the streets to be, occasionally, used as mounts.
  • Camp Gay: Valery Lyustritsky is a typical example. Throughout the book, he keeps insisting that Ned and he share a mutual attraction. Ned, for his part, assumes that "Sir Lyustritsky" is mentally ill.
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  • Cosmic Chess Game: The three heroes have no idea that they're merely pieces in a deadly game played by the Queen for her amusement. The game of the White Knight has been played by the Maldoror royalty for generations, but only as a table game. The Queen is the first one to try to bring it to life. Sir Ned Hamilton ends up getting cast as the White Knight, while Ilona is set to play the Beautiful Princess (despite not being even remotely princess-like), and the effeminate Valery Lyustritsky is the Brave Warrior.
  • Court Mage: Grosbeak is the latest mage employed by the Queen of Maldoror. Apparently, it's a position with low job security, as the rulers of Maldoror have a tendency to dispose of mages who don't deliver on their promises. His kind of magic requires the use of magical artifacts and various ingredients of the Eye of Newt variety (e.g. blood from the left butt cheek of a virgin girl).
  • Dark Is Evil: Played straight with Maldoror. It's a dark castle, whose knights wear black armor and ride of black horses.
    • Averted with Delirium, who may be black but is Ned's loyal companion and friend.
  • Deal with the Devil: As the legend goes, the kingdom of Maldoror was so evil that, eventually, its neighbors banded together and marched against it. In desperation, the king of Maldoror begged the dark forces to save his kingdom. And thus the Pact was signed between The Devil himself and the king, sending the kingdom into a Pocket Dimension and granting unimaginable power to whoever holds the Pact in exchange for the immortal souls of everyone in the kingdom. At the end of the novel, Valery accidentally uses the Pact as toilet paper. When the Queen summons a high-ranking demon to crush their enemies, the demon is disgusted and outraged when he finds out that the document that bears his master's signature has been sullied in such a manner, punishing the kingdom instead.
  • Depraved Dwarf: Subverted with Grosbeak, the Court Mage of Maldoror. While he is a dwarf (as in "little person" not a fantasy dwarf), he's not as depraved or evil as some may think. In fact, he's required by his position to engage in various nefarious activities, as he would otherwise be executed and replaced with another mage.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: A Medieval English knight finds himself in modern-day Russia. And this is just the beginning. The heroes will end up jumping across different time periods and even to alternate dimensions. Interestingly, Ned adapts fairly well to modern times.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The Queen is the latest in a long line of evil rulers of Maldoror. In fact, her being female has nothing to do with her evilness, as many of her male ancestors were just as bad, if not worse, including the one who originally signed a Deal with the Devil.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: Grosbeak uses a medallion made out of something called "black cast iron" to travel between dimensions. During his first encounter with Ilona, she ends up taking the medallion as a souvenir, unaware of its power. He is later forced to explain how to use it.
  • Klingon Promotion: The Knave is constantly scheming to get rid of his mother and take over the rulership of Maldoror. The Queen is naturally aware of that, since it's not uncommon for this trope to be invoked among the long line of rulers of Maldoror, but the fact that she possesses the Pact means that there is little the Knave can do, despite being in charge of all the knights of the kingdom. He is implied to succeed in the epilogue, after the Pact is ruined.
  • Mummy: The heroes end up accidentally awakening a priest of Anubis named Arshubanapul, who turns out to have the ability to take other people's bodies, usually leaving behind the clean skeleton of his previous victim. He ends up being the secondary villain of the book.
  • Playing Card Motifs: The rulers of Maldoror are only ever called the Queen and the Knave. This is never explained, and no one else's name fits the theme.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Averted. When the heroes find themselves on a World War II battlefield, the black knights of Maldoror track them down and try to charge the Soviet artillery emplacement that is busy fighting off a Nazi tank advance. Not only do the Soviets manage to repel the German attack, but the black knights end up getting chewed up as well.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: According to Ned's journal, the reason he named his horse Delirium is because, when King Richard saw what horse Ned had purchased (everyone else had been unable to tame it), he said that Ned must be delirious to want a horse like that. Ned decided that he shouldn't argue with his king and gave his stallion the name.
  • Take That!: When Ilona sends Ned to take a shower, she first suggests that he remove his armor and clothes, recalling a movie about time-traveling French knight who tries to shower in full gear. Ned simply shrugs and says that Franks were always dumb.
  • This Is My Boomstick: A cowardly Soviet army officer tries to threaten the rulers and knights of Maldoror with his pistol. He manages to kill one of the knights, and no one is quite sure what it is he did that made the knight die. However, the Knave quickly figures out that the strange object the officer is holding (a Luger taken from a dead German officer in an earlier battle) must be a ranged weapon of some sort. He kills the officer with a thrown knife and pockets the gun when no one is looking. He later takes the weapon apart and puts it back together enough times to figure out how it works and plans to use it as his secret weapon against his mother.
    • Partly played straight with a German Panzer that gets accidentally transported to the castle of Maldoror. While the knights are uncertain what this dreadful machine is, Grosbeak points out that it's merely a type of siege engine.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: As soon as the Knave tells Grosbeak that he is plotting to move against his mother the Queen, Grosbeak knows that his days are numbered. If he tells the Queen, the Knave (or his loyal servants and/or guards) will have him killed, if he goes along with Knave's plan, then either the Queen kills him after foiling it, or the Knave will kill him as a loose end after his services are no longer required. He then tries to Take a Third Option and find a way to survive.
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