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Literature / The Balanced Sword

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The Balanced Sword is a fantasy trilogy by Ryk E. Spoor, consisting of the novels Phoenix Rising (2012), Phoenix in Shadow (2015), and Phoenix Ascendant (2016).

It is set in Zarathan, a world of heroes and wizards and demons, adventures and quests and magic. It is mentioned that Zarathan was once mystically connected to another world, though the connection was sealed off long ago. The lost sister-world was called Zahralandar, or by some people "Earth". (It is thus a companion series to the Jason Wood stories, which are set on Earth and have backstory dating back to when it was connected to Zarathan.)

The trilogy concerns three heroes in particular. Kyri Vantage, daughter of a family who have long protected the border of Southern Zarathan, seeks justice for her parents, slain by assailants whose identities and motives remain unknown. Tobimar Silverun, prince of Skysand, seeks the truth of his people's origins, a search which many a Silverun has set out on and from which none has ever returned. Poplock Duckweed, an undersized and often underestimated adventurer from a race whose members rarely stir far from their own doors, seeks knowledge, of the world in general and also specifically of a group of demon-worshippers whose activities prompted the beginning of his career.

As the story progresses, they find that their individual quests are connected to each other and to a massive plot being set in motion by the demon king Kerlamion Blackstar.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Kyri Vantage. Carries a greatsword that she uses to great effect, climbs mountains, and Guild Adventurer set on a vehement vector of vengeance (and justice).
  • Aliens Speaking English: Lampshaded and made a plot point in Phoenix in Shadow, when the protagonists discover a lost realm that's been cut off from the rest of Zarathan for thousands of years, inhabited by people who speak the same language as the protagonists.
  • And I Must Scream: It's mentioned in passing that one of the demon king Kerlamion's underlings is a demon who did a Heel–Face Turn and was punished by being placed under a curse that forced him to watch helplessly from inside his own head as his body went back to his old evil ways and destroyed everything he had tried to save.
  • The Archmage: God-Emperor Idinus, the most powerful wizard ever to live, who has ruled the second-largest nation in the world as an iron-clad theocracy for thousands of years.
  • Atlantis: The long-lost civilization of Atlantaea, which is implied to be the source of Earth's Atlantis myth as well.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Tobimar does this with both Xavier and Kyri.
  • Bag of Holding: Every well-equipped adventurer has a "neverfull pack". It's not actually true that they can never be filled up, but they do let you carry a lot more equipment around. At least once, Poplock produces an object from his pack that's larger than the pack is.
  • Becoming the Mask: Combined with Good Feels Good, this causes several undercover villains to either do a Heel–Face Turn or at least seriously question their goals, as pretending to be heroes gives them more happiness and acclaim than secretly working on the Big Bad's plan.
  • Big Bad: Kerlamion Blackstar, the King of All Hells, appears to be this at first. Later it turns out that his chief strategist, called Viedraverion, is a Dragon with an Agenda and the real threat.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: A common category of roaming monster in uncivilized areas, including the dreaded doomlock spiders, and a kind of giant carnivorous caterpillar thing.
  • Bland-Name Product: A visitor from Earth has a "LumiTainment Portable" gaming device in his kit, with a game called "Chrono Victory".
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: When Poplock's patron god, Blackwart the Great, enters the climactic battle in Phoenix Ascendant, he announces his presence using Poplock's catchphrase.
  • Catchphrase: "Fear me" (or, depending on the situation, "Fear me") is the phrase Poplock commonly uses when revealing his presence and entering a fight.
  • The Chessmaster: The Big Bad, running an elaborate scheme with many moving parts, and Konstantin Khoros, the mysterious wizard who shows up occasionally to give events a nudge in the service of his own plan for the Big Bad's defeat, are each described at least once as playing battlesquares with human pieces.
  • Civilized Animal: The Intelligent Toads, who can talk, live in houses, and use tools, but don't wear clothes and in many respects are just toads.
  • Clean Food, Poisoned Fork: Kyri is suspicious enough of a person who offers her a drink that she only pretends to drink it; it turns out that the drink itself was fine, but the glass it was served in was enchanted to knock out the person who picked it up. (Specifically, as the glass's owner explains during the ensuing Evil Gloating session, all the glasses in the set are enchanted to do a knock-out when touched to female lips, which saves him having to mess around with having one drugged glass for his guest and a safe glass for himself... and raises disquieting questions about why he would happen to own a set of glasses like that in the first place.)
  • Combat Clairvoyance: The ability to foresee an opponent's moves is one of the skills developed in the mystical martial art called Tor. The enigmatic mentor character Khoros is rumored to have developed the ability to the point that he can foresee and prepare for his opponents' moves years before the fight even begins, allowing him to become The Chessmaster.
  • Cool Sword:
    • Any sword made by the Spiritsmith; each has a name and a special power.
    • Poplock's sword Steelthorn is quite small (a larger person might even consider it a dagger), but it's enchanted to deal damage as if it were a much larger weapon.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Although most of the gods of Zarathan are unknown on Earth, their ranks include names from several different Earth pantheons; the dwarves worship Odin and Thor, and the patron goddess of Aegia is Athena.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Tobimar's patron god, Terian, is said to have once been a mortal man. This sets up the revelation at the climax of the trilogy that Kyri's patron god, Myrionar, is also an ascended human — specifically Kyri herself, who ascends to a higher plane and becomes Myrionar during the climactic battle; because gods transcend normal space-time, once Myrionar comes into existence, It always has existed, even before the moment of Its apotheosis.
  • Deuteragonist: Tobimar, to Kyri's protagonist. But Poplock has a tendency to steal the show, whenever he gets half a chance.
  • Doctor Whomage: The Wanderer, a mysterious wizard reputed to be from another world, who is known to be centuries old and has been seen with many different faces, makes a dramatic entrance in Phoenix in Shadow with a rhyming Badass Boast that's actually the first verse of the Doctor Who novelty single "Who Is the Doctor?".
  • "Down Here!" Shot: When Poplock (toad) and Tobimar (human) first meet in Phoenix Rising, Poplock has gone through a number of opponents of Tobimar like a whirlwind, but Tobimar never manages to see him.
    "Wh-what are you? Where are you? Show yourself!"
    "No need to shout." The voice from down near his feet was the same, but somehow less frightening, almost comical.
    Nonetheless, he jumped back, startled, and looked down.
    A small brown Toad — with, admittedly, a fair overlayer of red gore — looked up at him and waved. "Hello!"
  • Dragon with an Agenda: Kerlamion's chief strategist, called Viedraverion, has his own plan of which Kerlamion's plot is only a part.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: It's revealed in Phoenix in Shadow that the Big Bad has a recurring dream that he believes to be a premonition of his final downfall: he's fleeing, with no escape plan (and he's The Chessmaster, he always has a plan), from an enemy about whom he can never remember anything when he wakes except the gray eyes.
  • Dual Wielding: Dual-wielding a matching pair of curved swords is one of the hallmarks of Tor, a rare and mystical martial art dating back to Atlantaea which is the basis of Tobimar's fighting style. When he meets an opponent who fights with two similar swords and in the same style, they immediately stop fighting to explore their respective training backgrounds.
  • Eagle-Eye Detection: Used by Kyri to find the first clues on who killed her parents. However, due to inexperience she and her brother draw the wrong conclusions first.
  • Effortless Amazonian Lift: Kyri picks up a crate (containing stonesculpt hangings) weighing between 400 and 450 pounds by herself. Another had been giving two grown men and strong warriors trouble earlier.
  • Element No. 5: The people of Zarathan recognize five elements, which have symbolic significance in magic and other applications: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: This world is old, and there are countless creatures mutated by magic, either by design or mere exposure to magical energies. In towns and cities people are fairly safe, and the Sauran Empire maintains an extensive road system throughout the continent with cleared ground several miles on either side. Step away from that however, and you'll almost immediately get attacked by something with razor sharp teeth and extreme hunger. And there are places that are even worse.
  • The Exile: Tobimar Silverun. Under certain circumstances, a member of the Silverun family will have to leave their country of birth to quest for their ancestral lands and legacy. They must leave within a day of those circumstances coming about, and cannot return until they have succeeded in their quest, or twenty four years have passed, whichever comes first.
  • Eye-Obscuring Hat: Khoros's face is always hidden by the shadow of his hat, no matter what the lighting conditions or the angle you look at him from.
  • The Faceless:
    • Khoros's face is always hidden by the shadow of his hat, no matter what the lighting conditions or the angle you look at him from.
    • Terian, Tobimar's patron god, is always depicted with his face concealed by a blaze of light.
    • Myrionar, Kyri's patron god, takes it a whole lot further: As the god of justice, for all people regardless of race, gender, or category, It is referred to with a gender-neutral pronoun and never shows Its face nor allows Its face to be depicted, so that Its own categories (if it has them) are not apparent. It is always represented by Its emblem, a set of scales balanced on a sword tip. It's eventually revealed in the third book that Myrionar is female, and was once known as Kyri Vantage.
  • False Utopia: The protagonists are certain there must be some catch to the utopian society they discover in Phoenix in Shadow, and they're right.
  • Fantastic Fighting Style: Tor, a rare and mystical martial art dating back to Atlantaea, which enables its practicioners to pull off tricks like sensing the move their opponent is about to make, turning invisible, and killing demons with their bare hands.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: Zarathan has hundreds of gods, large and small; most people only follow one god or group of gods, though it's generally accepted that they all exist. Kyri follows Myrionar, God of Justice and Vengeance; Tobimar follows Terian, the Light in the Darkness; Poplock follows Blackwart the Great. One way gods show their power is by providing theurgical Functional Magic to their priests; Healing Hands and Living Lie Detector abilities are common.
  • Fantasy World Map: Vaguely L-shaped, with lots of mountains. Unlike many other fantasy world maps, it's created to be large enough that the heroes have no chance of visiting every place on it, and there's room for multiple epic adventures to be going on simultaneously.
  • Fictional Constellations: Zarathan has its own constellations. The titular Balanced Sword, symbol of the god Myrionar, has a constellation named after it, which gets mentioned several times.
  • Fictional Currency: The unit of currency in the lands that look to the Dragon Throne is the "scale".
  • Forged by the Gods: The weapons wielded by the Justiciars were forged by the Ultimate Blacksmith called the Spiritsmith (who is not technically a god himself but is such a great smith that no weapon forged by an actual god could be an improvement).
  • Forging Scene: When the Spiritsmith sets out to create armour and a sword for Kyri, though a lot of it is delivered as an explanation for why he intends to accomplish, why he does things, and why she has to help.
  • Functional Magic: All over the place, in many varieties.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Kyri breaks down into hysterical laughter after her personal encounter with Myrionar, and her aunt brings her out of it with a slap.
  • God-Emperor: God-Emperor Idinus, hundreds of thousands of years old and the most powerful wizard ever to live.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: The Black Star has taken steps to prevent the gods actively interfering in his scheming, so it's up to the mortals to figure out what's going on and put a stop to it. Most of the gods, anyway; he didn't bother with some of the smaller gods, considering them no threat — including Poplock's patron god Blackwart, which subsequent events suggest may have been a mistake. After Kyri's Rage Against The Heavens moment, her patron god Myrionar starts actively assisting her as much as It is able to.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Pretty much how Khoros operates. He misdirects and uses everyone mercilessly. Though he usually is courteous.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Virigar, who devoured and replaced Viedraverion centuries ago.
  • Healing Hands: Healing magic is a common sign of a god's favour.
  • Hero of Another Story: Xavier Ross and his friends come to the defense of Tobimar's homeland, and are vital in defeating the Big Bad, but almost all of their actions are offscreen and related only in summary in conversations with other characters.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: The ultimate mastermind behind all the actions of the Big Bad is revealed to be Virigar, the Great Wolf King, the Big Bad of the Jason Wood series.
  • Immortal Ruler:
    • The Dragon-King of the Saurans comes of a long-lived reptilian race and has ruled longer than the current human civilization has existed.
    • Also mentioned, but not appearing in the story, is the God-Emperor Idinus, the most powerful human wizard ever to live, who has ruled the Empire of the Mountain as unchallenged dictator for over a hundred thousand years.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: In one of the minor adventures the protagonists have while traveling from place to place, they're asked to investigate a murder, and the murderer gives himself away by mentioning a detail he shouldn't have known.
  • Insectoid Aliens: At least one of the sapient races on Zarathan are insectoid. Like the mazakh lizardfolk, they're disproportionately likely to show up as demon-worshippers and mooks.
  • Invisibility: Xavier Ross has the mysterious ability to become invisible at will. It's even more mysterious when it becomes apparent that he simultaneously becomes intangible as well.
  • Ironic Echo: The prologue depicts armored figures breaking down the doors of the Vantage house and entering with murderous intent. The first chapter opens with thunderous knocking on the doors of the Vantage house and the entrance of armored figures — not hostile this time, but as part of a ceremony welcoming Rion Vantage to the ranks of the Justiciars. There's an extra twist that doesn't become clear until later: Rion's parents were murdered by corrupt Justiciars — the intent may be different in the two scenes, but the group of armored figures is the same.
  • It Amused Me: Although the Big Bad's scheme will have an enormous payoff that he genuinely wants, part of his motivation for setting it up is that as a practically-immortal Chessmaster setting up elaborate and long-running schemes is how he keeps himself from getting bored. And he won't entirely mind if he gets beaten because it's been so long since anyone genuinely outwitted him that at least it will have novelty value.
  • Leaking Can of Evil: Moonshade Hollow, the dark and twisted land that is the source of the monsters that attack Kyri's homeland, is revealed to have become the way it is from the influence of one of the Elder Wyrms, dark counterparts to the Dragon Gods, that was trapped and buried underneath it centuries ago.
  • Legacy Character: The Justiciars carry weapons and armors that has been handed down for several thousand years. Each armor has a name associated with it — Bolthawk, Condor, Mist Owl, Shrike, Silver Eagle, Skyharrier, Thornfalcon — and a newly-chosen Justiciar is given the name that goes with the armor. After the Justiciars are corrupted, Kyri becomes the first new Justiciar in centuries, the Phoenix of the title, with new weapons and armor forged for her by the Spiritsmith.
  • Little Hero, Big War: The efforts of Kyri, Tobimar, and Poplock are an important part of the fight against the Big Bad, but only a part.
  • Living Lie Detector: Priests and other god-touched types are sometimes granted this ability.
  • Lizard Folk:
    • The mazakh are the bad-guy type; they're demon-worshippers and commonly appear as mooks. The point is made, however, that their unpleasantness is due to culture and upbringing, not inherent nature, and that non-evil members of the species can and do exist (though they tend to call themselves something other than mazakh).
    • The Saurans are a larger and more impressive type of lizard folk (the appendix uses the phrase "miniature Godzilla"), reputedly descended from dragons, who fill the setting's ancient and advanced civilization role.
  • Locked into Strangeness: When Kyri makes her pact with Myrionar, she is marked with multicolored hair in the god's colors.
  • Mad Scientist: Master Wieran is the magical equivalent.
  • Magical Seventh Son: Tobimar is "Seventh of Seven", the seventh child of a seventh child.
  • Magic Mirror: The bad guys communicate with each other using rune-engraved mirrors that act as magical videophones and can also be used to travel between places.
  • Miles to Go Before I Sleep: It's suggested that this might be the case for Khoros. When the protagonists meet a character who has been friends with Khoros since before his quest for vengeance turned him into a Manipulative Bastard, and Kyri remarks that she wonders how Khoros can live with the choices he makes in the name of the greater good, the other character replies that he suspects that Khoros doesn't intend to live with himself any longer than necessary to achieve his aim (which is to defeat the Big Bad so thoroughly that nobody else will have to become what Khoros has become).
  • Monster Is a Mommy: At one point Kyri visits a village that's under attack from giant centipede creatures; it turns out that they're only trying to retrieve their eggs, which one of the villagers gathered up thinking they were interesting rocks. Fortunately for all concerned, Kyri works it out in time to settle the matter before there's major bloodshed.
  • Mook Horror Show: The scene in which Tobimar and Poplock first meet, as Tobimar is rescued from attacking mazakh by a mysterious force that seems to attack out of nowhere and then disappear. The mazakh who aren't killed outright flee in terror, and even Tobimar is distinctly unsettled.
  • Murderer P.O.V.: Done on several ascending levels with the bad guys responsible for the deaths of Kyri's parents. The prologue of Phoenix Rising is the attack on Kyri's parents, with one of the attackers as the point-of-view character, without revealing their identity. Several interludes throughout the novel feature the leader of the attackers, again without revealing his identity; each interlude reveals more about him, but the audience doesn't learn who he is until Kyri does. In the second and third novels, interludes feature the Big Bad, again without explicitly revealing Its identity.
  • Mysterious Backer: Khoros, the wizard in the funny hat who shows up from time to time to give events a nudge. He has no scruples about putting people into danger with incomplete information, and on at least one occasion seems to have deliberately steered someone into getting seriously injured; the presumption is that it all works out for the best in the long run, but he attracts a certain amount of distrust and, from at least one character, intense and personal dislike.
  • Named Weapons:
    • Each of the Justiciars has a trademark weapon with its own name.
    • Poplock has his own named sword, called Steelthorn.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Poplock to Tobimar. Though Poplock will probably claim that Tobimar is his sidekick.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • The incident that led to Victoria Vantage's old adventuring colleague gaining the nickname "Bridgebreaker".
    • In the matter of Auntie Victoria's own nickname, we not only don't get the story behind it, we don't even get the nickname itself (beyond "V—") because she cuts off anybody who starts to say it when her niece is in earshot.
    • After the protagonists are inducted into the Adventurers Guild, any description of a long journey will tend to include mentions of minor adventures that befall them along the way when people ask them for help. Some of these mentions are straightforward, but others, such as "the mystery of the missing dinners", get into Noodle Incident territory.
  • Not Quite Dead: Happens to several characters, good and evil, throughout the last book, including Virigar several times in the same battle.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: In the Jason Wood series, Virigar, while often spoken of as one of the most terrifying things in existence, who most monsters wouldn't pick a fight with if they could possibly avoid it, is still the guy who lost a fight to a nerd armed with a bucket. In this story, where he's in his home universe and able to access his full powers, he's the Greater-Scope Villain, who had devoured a greater demon off-screen, came dangerously close to devouring a god, and took a truly incredible amount of punishment before he was forced to retreat, including two literal acts of divine intervention. And he was only thwarted and driven away, not killed.
    • Indeed, it becomes very clear that Verne's statement that the entire event in Morgantown was just a game to Virigar is absolutely correct. He set carefully defined rules of what he would and wouldn't do, of how powerful he would be and what manner of being he would seem to be, and he stuck with them. Jason Wood beat him within the scope of those rules, and Virigar accepted that as him losing the game. Had he approached it as a real fight, none of the heroes would have survived.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Xavier and his friends thwart Kerlamion's plans in the background while the story focuses on Kyri, Tobimar and Poplock's quest to stop Viedraverion (actually Virigar).
  • One Size Fits All: The Justiciar's armors have been passed from Justiciar to Justiciar for generations, and there is no mention of needing to have them refitted whenever the current wearer steps down.
  • The Paladin: Several of the gods have dedicated holy warriors; the Justiciars, dedicated to Myrionar, God of Justice and Vengeance, play a significant role in this novel. Rion Vantage, Kyri's brother, joins their ranks at the beginning, and Kyri herself becomes a Justiciar after his death.
  • Prophecy Armor: It's revealed in Phoenix in Shadow that the Big Bad has a recurring dream that he believes to be a premonition of his final downfall: he's fleeing, with no escape plan (and he's The Chessmaster, he always has a plan), from an enemy about whom he can never remember anything when he wakes except the gray eyes. He considers that he has nothing to fear from anyone until he meets somebody with those eyes. When it's pointed out that Kyri has gray eyes, he says that he doesn't believe it's her because she has the eyes of someone seeking vengeance for a recent wrong, not the controlled determination of the eyes in the dream. During the climactic battle at the end of Phoenix Ascendant, he looks into Kyri's eyes as they fight and her eyes still aren't the eyes from the dream, but they're a lot closer than he was expecting. He escapes with his life, but the implication is that one day they'll meet again.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Saurans, who greet each other formally with the armed bow, showing all their weapons openly. It is a major faux pas to be formally introduced without a weapon, to the point that the antechamber of the Sauran King's throne room is equipped with a collection of weapons specifically for lending to people so they don't insult the King by going into his presence unarmed.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: After Kyri learns the truth about her parents' death, she spends several minutes ranting at the sky, accusing her god of abandoning Its faithful and demanding an explanation. And then It answers her.
  • Rite-of-Passage Name Change: Poplock comes from a culture where a person is given one name when they are born, and chooses a second name that has some personal significance when they become an adult. His name-choosing occurs early in Phoenix Rising.
  • Shoulder Teammate: Poplock usually rides on Tobimar's shoulders (he switches shoulder regularly) once they team up.
  • Shout-Out: Xavier Ross, a visitor from Earth, makes a Pokémon reference the first time he sees a summoning crystal in action.
  • Slipping a Mickey: Kyri is captured by an enemy this way. Played with; she's cautious enough to only pretend to drink from the glass, but it turns out the knock-out stuff isn't the drink, it's magically incorporated into the glass itself.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Poplock Duckweed.
  • Starter Villain: The ringleader of the assailants who murdered Kyri's parents acts as the main villain in Phoenix Rising, and her confrontation with him is the climax of the novel; the Big Bad appears a few times in an advisory capacity but doesn't intervene directly in the plot yet. The novel was deliberately structured this way so that Kyri's story could have a degree of closure even if it didn't get a good enough reception for the publisher to greenlight the sequels.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: The insectoid creature Poplock encounters on his first adventure.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Used frequently. Poplock manages to charge batteries through magical means, and then there is the magical forensic examination after the Five broke out of an ultra-secure prison.
  • Summoning Artifact: Summoning crystals.
  • Summoning Ritual: Popluck's debut as an adventurer involved foiling a massive attempt to summon a powerful demon, featuring ritual movement, chants, symbols carved into the floor, and Human Sacrifice.note 
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The armor (and sword) that Kyri obtains from the Spiritsmith so that she can take on her parents' murderers.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: When Tobimar sets out on his quest, his mother gives him a (magical) pre-recorded message from his mentor, Khoros, who had foreseen that he would be chosen for the task, and furthermore turns out to have successfully predicted and incorporated responses to Tobimar's reactions while viewing the message.
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: Kyri does the inverted version on several occasions — "Lady Vantage is my aunt. Just Kyri will do."
  • Time Abyss: What with the gods, demons, Ancient Saurans, and a few extremely long-lived wizards, it's more common than you might think to come across a character casually mentioning how this reminds them of something that happened to them four hundred thousand years ago.
  • Tomato Surprise: The first chapter with Poplock as a point-of-view character goes out of its way to avoid mentioning, until the final sentence, that he isn't human.
  • Tongue-Tied: After Kyri realizes the truth about her parents' murder and Myrionar entrusts her with the task of putting Evanwyl to rights, she goes to ask the advice of Toron, an old family friend who is a high-ranking official in the court of the Dragon King. Toron suggests that he could easily persuade his king to raise an army and come over to sort things out. Kyri likes the idea but finds herself physically incapable of saying so. Toron concludes that Myrionar is preventing her from making the request because It knows of some reason why confronting the problem this way would only make matters worse.
  • Took a Level in Badass: After his initial introduction, Poplock doesn't reappear until several years have passed, in which time he goes from being a frightened small youngster to a seasoned fighter capable of taking on a room full of mazakh.
  • Tools of Sapience: Poplock doesn't wear clothes but does wear a sword belt and a pack with his equipment in. Both are actually spelled to prevent people noticing them if he doesn't want them to, because in his line of work there are times when it's useful for people to not realize he's sapient.
  • Trapped in Another World: One of the other groups of adventurers who occasionally cross paths with Kyri, Tobimar and Poplock is a quintet of teenagers who were brought from Earth by a mysterious wizard and charged with a quest to restore the link between the two worlds. They succeed offscreen near the end of Phoenix Ascendant, and the mystical aftershock provides a crucial distraction to the Big Bad that helps Kyri win. It's heavily indicated that Khoros arranged the timing to work out that way. The author has said that he intends to tell the full story of their quest in future.
  • Ultimate Blacksmith: The Spiritsmith, who makes weapons and armor so great that even the gods themselves commission work from him. Like many Ultimate Blacksmiths, he lives on a remote and hard-to-climb mountain.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Kyri and Tobimar, after they meet, are both attracted to each other but reluctant to say anything because they're not sure the other reciprocates and they're afraid starting a relationship will complicate their quest and so on. Thankfully, it's not dragged out until the end of the trilogy, largely because halfway through Phoenix in Shadow Poplock loses patience with them and bounces up and down shouting "Just kiss already!" until they admit their feelings.
  • The Usurper: What has happened in Evanwyl.
  • Utility Magic: Magic is used for many things that we use technology for: air conditioning, burglar alarms, surveillance, locks, printing...
  • Vampire Variety Pack: It's said that Zarathan has at least five kinds of creature covered by the term "vampire", with differing powers, weaknesses, and chances of being cured. The vampire who appears in Phoenix Ascendant is one of the Curseborn, the same kind of vampire that appears in some of the Jason Wood stories.
  • Villainous Crush: Aran Condor for Kyri.
  • Wham Line: Several. The third book has two in as many chapters in the finale, all relating to the true nature of the Big Bad.
    He's not a demon! Kyrie, he's a Great Wolf!
    • And again in the same chapter. Only I command my people, little Kyri Victoria Vantage. Only I, the Slayer of Gods, the Hunger without End, that whom the Saurans and Demons name Lurlonimbagas, the Lightslayer, the King of Wolves. Only I . . . Virigar.
  • World of Badass: The nature of Zarathan means professional adventurers are very common, and a necessary resource to protect more ordinary people. To the point that Tobimar's status as an exiled prince on an nigh-impossible quest is considered notable, but not particularly surprising (if nothing else, his family has been exiling one or two people every generation to go on that quest for thousands of years now).

Alternative Title(s): Phoenix Rising, Phoenix In Shadow, Phoenix Ascendant