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Literature / The Braided Path

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The Braided Path is a fantasy series by Chris Wooding. It consists of three novels: The Weavers of Saramyr, The Skein of Lament and The Ascendancy Veil.

Kaiku tu Makaima is having a bad day. She's just died for the first time, only to be brought back to life by her misanthropic, shapeshifting, possibly-lesbian handmaiden, in her demon-besieged home where her family has just been killed. Not knowing who is responsible, or for what reason they died, she barely escapes with her life and swears vengeance in the name of her fallen kin. Problem is, her only lead in the mystery pits her squarely against the absolutely evil, conscience-lacking, nigh-unstoppable Weavers, an insular, male-only monastic sect that has spent the past 200 years ingraining itself into her people's culture and directing the flow of social evolution. But how can a young, fresh-faced noblewoman like Kaiku fight men with the power to control the fabric of reality itself?

The story takes place in a world that borrows heavily from Asian and Renaissance cultures. Most of the action takes place on the continent of Saramyr, where the Empire of Saramyr and its nobility have entered into an informal compact with the Weavers, who seek to seize control of the Empire while maintaining a facade of obedience and servility. In addition, the land has been struck with a mysterious blight that poisons crops, kills livestock, corrupts nature and twists children in the womb to produce Aberrants, reviled creatures who are killed without remorse upon detection. The poor and rich alike are despairing over the future of the land, and it is bleeding into conflict in major cities across Saramyr. Into this powder keg comes news that the Heir-Empress, the Empress's only daughter and heir to the throne, kept sheltered from the land for nearly a decade, is herself an Aberrant. Kaiku's journey uncovers a web of treachery and lies that will shape the fate of Saramyr for years to come.

This series contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Tane's father not only physically abused him and his mother, but sexually abused Tane's younger sister. This latter abuse is why Tane poisoned him.
    • When Mishani refuses to assassinate Lucia with a bone fever riddled night dress, her father quickly disowns her and attempts to have her killed several times.
  • Aerith and Bob: Justified in-universe. Names like Lucia, Asara, Saran and Anais come from the Quraal settlers who originally landed in Saramyr over 6000 years ago, while more current names, like Tane, Kaiku, Mishani and Cailin were borne of Saramyr's own linguistic evolution. Asara takes advantage of this to remain beneath suspicion.
  • Alien Sky: Saramyr has three moons. When they come together, moonstorms occur, which greatly hinder Kaiku's escape from the shin-shin in the first book.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Weavers. This is a group who, after Weaving, lose themselves to a post-Weaving mania that can be satisfied in a variety of ways including painting or singing, but more often than not takes the form of rape, necrophilia, coprophagy, torture, cannibalism and any number of other depravities that they no longer have the conscience to inhibit. This is in addition to their overall goal of transforming the world into a barren, volcanic, mortal aspect of a god of destruction who wants to kill all the other gods and conquer existence.
  • The Atoner: Tane became an acolyte of the Earth goddess Enyu to atone for poisoning his father. Although, see Abusive Parents above.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Empress Anais and Emperor Duran do not have a happy marriage. This is mostly down to Duran's drunken womanizing and hatred of Lucia. Things only get worse between them when it turns out Lucia is not actually his daughter.
  • Body Horror: The Weavers' True Masks give their wearers great power while simultaneously taking everything from them, both mentally and physically. The longer a Weaver wears a Mask, the more grotesque and diseased he becomes, to the point where Vyrrch is basically melted and flabby on one side of his face, while the other is missing most of its skin, revealing parts of the skull underneath. The book's description is much, much more disgusting than this..
  • Book Ends: The Weavers of Saramyr begins and ends with Kaiku fleeing the shin-shin during a moonstorm.
  • The Chosen One: Deconstructed into bloody shreds. Lucia is special as you get but ten years of crushing expectations ruins her life and bargains with dark powers for victory even at the cost of many soldiers because she feels she can't let down the army as a whole, only to force her own death and die mourning how she has never been able to live her own life.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Avun tu Koli betrays Blood Amacha, Blood Kerestyn and Blood Batik in order to become Blood Emperor. And then has the audacity to consider Mishani disloyal.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: At least two Blood Emperors (technically one Blood Emperor and another who would have been crowned Blood Emperor had he not been set on fire, fallen off a tower and pecked apart by pissed off crows); Durun and his father Mos. Their deaths are not pleasant, but it's hard to feel sympathy for them, considering what they've done in their arcs.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Vyrrhic versus Cailin in the first book. She's at a level of weaving he can only dream of and his mind has become twisted after years of exposure to witch stone dust. He never stood a chance.
  • Determinator: Kaiku, as shown when she goes to the island monastery of Fo. A horrible storm comes in as she's about to ascend the mountains to reach said monastery, prompting Asara to try and dissuade her from going any further. Kaiku ignores this and ploughs on, relying purely on her own will and a bit of prayer to make it, and even then, she only just survives. This is repeated during the Final Battle with the Weavers and the witch stones where she holds the witch stone's structure together so the other sisters of the Red Order can use it to destroy all the witch stones.
  • Distaff Counterpart: The Red Order are essentially female Weavers. Once they are forced out into the open by war, their leader Caillin does whatever she can to try and win the public's trust so they will not suffer persecution as a result of the Weavers' actions.
  • Driven to Suicide: A common occurrence throughout Saramyr. Aberrant women like Kaiku, Cailin; kana-wielders who outwardly appear normal but retain Aberrant powers will often kill themselves out of shame of being Aberrant.
  • The Empire: The Saramyr Empire started as an expansionist monarchy, committing genocide on the native Ugati, but once it became the only remaining power on its continent, it contented itself with maintaining its borders. Technically, though, the Empire is not quite an empire, for that matter; it functions more like a Darwinian game of Musical Chairs, where the strongest Bloods (families) are able to seize power and retain it for as long as they can fight off future usurpers. Theoretically, the Bloods act as vassals to the ruling family which rules by descent, but Saramyrrhic politics never work that way, especially not during the period covered by the books.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Aricarat. The witchstones grant control over the power of creation to its servants, but slowly mutate them into horrific, inhuman monsters. The Edgefathers and Weavers count as well, acting as vassals and victims of the power of Aricarat.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Poison is considered a perfectly acceptable way to assassinate someone among the Saramyr nobles. Killing someone with a disease, however, is considered incredibly dishonorable. A combination of this and meeting Lucia in person leads to Mishani disobeying her father, and the fallout that ensues between them.
  • Good Counterpart: The Red Order to the Weavers. They weave better and don't suffer from post weave mania (most likely due to their abilities being inborn and them not having to rely on Masks). They are also dedicated to protecting Aberrants like the Heir-Empress, Asara and Kaiku rather than slaughtering them. And their goal is to put an end to Aricat's plan to terraform Saramyr.
  • Have You Tried Not Being a Monster? Asara gives Kaiku what can only be described as a "coming out of the closet speech", urging her to accept her powers and be proud of them. Ends with the two of them getting hot and heavy before being interrupted by a bunch of dude who are literally armed with pitchforks and torches. 'Coming out of the closet' indeed.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Inverted and partially justified: Kaiku is more comfortable using rifles, swords are not her strong suit. None of the other main characters use swords except Asara, who only uses them once in the final book because they head into the close-quarters environment of the Forest of Xu. Tsata uses special blades adapted for close quarters combat, however, called 'kntha.'
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tane protects Lucia from being shot by some over zealous guards and dies from the resulting wound.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Weavers terraform Saramyr but this process creates Aberrant women. This then leads to the creation and rise of the Red Order who are far better at Weaving than the Weavers, leading to their defeat.
    • Avun tu Koli's neglect of his wife and lack of interest in her work results in him failing to realize the end of her adventure series where the hero dies and is reunited with his son in the afterlife, is actually her telling him she is going to die soon. Sure enough, his wife poisons him and then herself shortly afterwards.
  • Karma Houdini: Asara is a selfish murderer and manipulator who gets away with everything she ever wanted.
  • Mutants: What the Aberrants are. Aricarat is advancing evolution by inducing mutations of people and animals, as it tries to terraform the world.
  • Open Secret: Most people quickly realise the fallout between Mishani and her father by the second book due to the protagonist in her mother's novels suddenly discovering he has a dead son and mourning his passing.
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: The Weavers can and will do it.
  • Public Secret Message: Mishani's mother sends her messages about the Weavers' plans through the novels she writes. Only Mishani spots the messaging because she notices the narrowing gap between books and the increasingly sloppy prose.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Whenever members of the Red Order use their kana, their eyes turn red.
  • Seen It All: How Kaiku is able to infiltrate the monastery in Fo without raising suspicions. A Weaver who doesn't speak is one of the less bizarre sights in the place.
  • Sickbed Slaying: Happens to Chien in book two.
  • Sole Survivor: Kaiku (technically); she's the only one of her family to escape death at the start of the series. Asara saved her, however, and would have died just the same if not for her abilities.
  • Taking the Bullet: Tane takes one for Lucia, when some Aberrant hating guards realise who she is.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Kaiku (the tomboy) and Mishani (the girly girl). Both prove to be vital in the fight against the Weavers as Kaiku both investigates what they are up to and uses her kana to fight against them, while Mishani uses her diplomacy skills to gather the extra allies they need to fend off their forces.
  • Trauma Conga Line: The first books opens with Kaiku being brought back from the dead, discovering her entire family has passed on, fleeing from demons, watching her home go up in flames to escape said demons and accidently setting her handmaid on fire the following morning due to the trauma of the previous night activating her kana for the first time.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Long term exposure to witch stone dust takes a very heavy toll on the mind. Vyrrhic, despite being one of the most powerful and capable of the Weavers slips up and eventually loses to Cailin because his mind is so addled and muddled he cannot think straight. Even short term exposure can have nasty consequences as Kaiku discovers when she uses the mask for the final time. She ends up lost within the Weave until Asara is able to bring her back.

Alternative Title(s): Weavers Of Saramyr