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Literature / The Bridge Kingdom Archives

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The Bridge Kingdom Archives is a fantasy series written by Canadian author Danielle L. Jensen.

Maridrinian princess Lara was raised in seclusion and trained to become a perfect spy and assassin. Now she is going to marry Aren, king of Ithicana - ostensibly to fulfil the provisions of the peace treaty between the two nations. In reality, however, her job is to infiltrate Ithicana and find the way into the bridge, an imposing structure that allows trade between two continents divided by stormy Tempest Seas.

However, when she arrives in Ithicana, Lara begins to realize that not everything she has been taught is true and she has to make a difficult choice between Maridrina and Ithicana.

The series consists of:

  • The Bridge Kingdom (2018 as Audible Original, 2019 in book form)
  • The Traitor Queen (2020 both as Audible Original and in book form)
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  • The Inadequate Heir (spin-off about Lara's brother Keris, 2021 as Audible Original, to be published in 2022 in book form).

The series gives examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: King Silas Veliant of Maridrina. His daughters were taken from their mothers at the tender age of five, brought to an isolated compound and subjected to literally deadly training - while he planned all the time that only one of them will get out of the compound alive.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Ostensibly, the aim of Lara and Aren's marriage is to end the conflict between their nations. As a part of the same treaty, Aren's twin sister Ahnna was to marry the crown prince of Harendell—but the Harendell side does not press it and Ahnna herself is very unhappy with the idea. Overlaps with Arranged Marriage.
  • Anti-Hero: Lara, "the little cockroach". While she's not evil, when she has a goal, even as noble as rescuing Aren and liberating Ithicana, she will stop at nothing to achieve it. At one point she considers killing innocent merchants to get supplies she and Aren need, and she has absolutely no problems with stealing and generally causing mayhem when necessary. Aren is more of a traditional hero.
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  • The Atoner: In Traitor Queen Lara desperately tries to undo the damage that she has unwittingly done to Ithicana. She is even ready to die to allow Aren to secure alliance with the Empress of Valcotta.
    "She'd die before she walked away, regardless of how Aren felt about her. Because freeing Ithicana from her father's yoke was something she needed to do to live with herself."
  • Batman Gambit: Lara's brother, prince Keris Veliant, is, as he himself states "playing the long game" to achieve his goal, which is first of all, surviving, as his father does not really like him as his heir, and then also getting the Maridrinian crown for himself. And he knows exactly which buttons to push to get people to do what he wants them to do.
  • Braids of Action: Lara and her sisters usually keep their long hair braided, as they are warriors and fighters.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Aren and his twin sister Ahnna used to fight together, protecting Ithicana from raiders.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A letter to king Silas that Aren begins to write soon after his marriage to Lara (and never finishes) turns out to be very important near the end.
    • Near the end Lara realizes that a necklace she got from Aren and which used to belong to his mother, is really a map of Ithicana, which she uses to find her way to Eranahl.
    • A vial of narcotic that Lara retrieves from the compound saves her life later on.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Basically, everything Lara learnt during her training in the compound comes in handy sooner or later.
    • As of Bridge Kingdom, it has been established that Aren is very good with a heavy crossbow, which really helps during the escape from Silas's palace. Also, Ithicanian skill in making explosives, only hinted at in book one, gets really important in Traitor Queen.
  • The Chessmaster: King Silas of Maridrina. His plans take over 15 years to come to fruition.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Serin uses it in his attempt to get information on how to conquer Eranahl.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Lara and her sisters can use anything as a weapon and playing fair is not something that bothers them, only winning (or at least surviving) counts. Subterfuge, disguise, poisons—anything is allowed. That's how they were taught in the compound.
  • Crossing the Desert: When Serin guesses Lara's plans, she and Aren have no choice but to cross the Red Desert, without any proper preparation to boot. It almost kills them.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Lara is certainly able to take care of herself.
  • Deadly Dust Storm: While crossing the Red Desert, Aren and Lara barely survive one, only because they stumble upon the complex where Lara grew up. Their pursuers are not so lucky.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Keris in his conversations with Aren, which makes the latter really mad.
  • Determinator: Lara in her quest to free Ithicana. Nothing and nobody can stop her, neither wounds nor being left alone on an island without a boat, not to mention a mere sandstorm.
  • Disney Death: In Traitor Queen it turns out that Aren's cousin Taryn has't been killed while trying to escape Midwatch and was kept as a prisoner instead.
  • Dysfunctional Family: If what king Silas has can even be called a family. He has a harem of wives and uses his daughers as bargaining chips in his dealings with nobles and outside powers, with no regard for them as people.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: Silas's spymaster Serin is called "Magpie" not without reason—his voice sounds very unpleasant. And he is the mastermind behind most of his king's schemes.
  • Faceplanting into Food: The first book begins with a dinner, during which all king Silas's daughters at the compound (with the exception of Lara) fall victim to a powerful narcotic. Marylyn lands with her face in the bowl of soup and then Lara moves her face so that she does not suffocate.
  • Face Your Fears: Lara, who was brought up in a desert, cannot swim, gets very seasick, and most of all, is desperately scared of the sea. So she decides to spend some time every day in a canoe on the water, just to get used to it.
  • Fantastic Light Source: Jars with glowing algae.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Maridrina is loosely based on Arabic caliphates, with their harems, general disregard for women and treating them as property of their fathers and later husbands. Also, it is not proper for a woman to be alone with a man who is not a member of her family. Geographically, most of the land is barren desert, which can only be crossed by caravans with camels and the kingdom is constantly fighting with its neighbour Valcotta over a thin strip of fertile land on the coast.
  • Fashion-Based Relationship Cue: A woman from Maridrina gets a pair of marriage knives on the day of her wedding ceremony. They are supposed to be used by her husband to defend her honor and they are more often than not very decorative (jewel-studded hilts and sheaths and so on) but not very practical (or even sharp).
  • Foreshadowing: In a conversation with king Aren, Magpie mentions that if Aren does not like Lara, Maridrina could send him another wife, more to his liking, of a more pleasant character and blonde. And then it turns out that Marylyn felt she had been cheated by Lara and, bent on Revenge, went to her father and Magpie, who later sent her to kill Lara and Aren.
  • Forever War: General Zarrah Anaphora describes the war between Valcotta and Maridrina as such.
    Zarrah: "For nearly five years I’ve been on the front lines of the war with Maridrina, watching as we fought and killed over the same pile of rubble, the same ten miles of coastline. Back and forth with no end in sight. And why should there be an end, when we’ve been fighting this same war for hundreds of years? No one even knows what it’s like not to be at war."
  • Gender Is No Object: In Ithicana, virtually everyone needs to fight to protect the bridge, so women train and fight alongside men. Women also make up a large proportion of Watch Commanders. Since in Maridrina women stay at home and raise children, Lara finds it amusing that roughly half of warriors that her father's army fought in the past were female. The same goes for Valcotta, which has an Empress and whose army in oft-contended coastal town is led by a female general.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Turned Up to Eleven, since there were twelve sisters raised and trained in the compound (initially even more) and only one could become the queen of Ithicana. What most of them did not know was the fact that only one of them was planned to get out of the compound alive.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: Maridrina may be ruled by a greedy despot and his spymaster, but its people are known for their honesty. Ithicana is basically a totalitarian regime, with the subjects' rights secondary to the one and main goal—protecting the bridge, even though Aren (and his mother before him) would like to change it. And the Empress of Valcotta, even though she was a friend of Aren's mother, is quite content to let Ithicana bleed out, as long as it weakens Maridrina enought for her to conquer it.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Lara is ready for several thorought Traitor Queen, including the one at the end, when she jumps on her father's ship to kill him, even though Ahnna tells her they will not be able to get her back. Still, she always survives.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Lara. At first everyone in Ithicana thinks she's a typical Maridrinian woman, meek, not very intelligent and good only for bedding and raising children.
    • Keris. Dismissed by his father because of his "unmanly" love of books and philosophy, he is in fact level-headed, intelligent, manipulative—and does not mind a bit of backstabbing now and then to achieve his goals. And he is successful.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Elements needed to create a heavy crossbow, including the bolt, are hidden as a piece of abstract art, behind glass and in a frame, which itself hides rope.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: King Silas never thought that his 11 surviving daughters, trained as spies and assassins, would ever dare to turn on him. In the end Lara dares him to fight her in front of his soldiers, which he cannot refuse, and kills him.
  • Improvised Weapon: At one point Lara successfully uses a broken wineglass to fight a soldier.
  • Insult of Endearment: Lara is called "a little cockroach" by her weapons master, which is actually a compliment on her ability to survive. Later on, her sisters use this term, too.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Aren's grandmother Nana once tells Lara that as a young woman she was a spy and was taken into Lara's grandfather's harem. Lara is astonished, since only the most beautiful women make it into the harem, to which Nana answers that she didn't always look like "the last prune left in a bowl".
  • Karma Houdini: Keris. Even though he finally betrayed Aren and Ithicana, causing countless unnecessary deaths, Aren still thinks he would be a good ruler and does not plan any retribution.
  • The Lad-ette: Aren's twin sister princess Ahnna, Commander of the Southwatch. Always dressed to fight (although once she tries on Lara's gown, out of curiosity, as she explains), likes to drink, uses foul language and is a very capable warrior. By the end of book one, she also sports a big scar on her face. The same goes for Lia, Aren's former lover and a member of his personal guard.
  • The Leader: Aren is this to the whole of Ithicana, so much that when he is captured, it's very hard for them to fight on.
  • Leave No Witnesses: King Silas has everyone in the training complex killed (apart from his spymaster Serin), even mute servants and his faithful weapons master Erik, because he cannot allow anyone to learn that he's been training his daughters as warriors and spies—as this would undermine his Altar Diplomacy schemes, not only with respect to Ithicana.
  • Let the Past Burn: In a symbolic gesture, Aren burns the house on Midwatch that he shared with Lara and where her betrayal came to light. The fact that it was used by Maridrinian soldiers for almost a year and it shows probably helps him make that decision.
  • Lost Technology: The bridge itself, which seems to be made out of concrete. On seeing it, Lara muses that no human could create it and locals have tales that it just rose out of the ground.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Prince Keris of Maridrina and general Zarrah Anaphora of Valcotta—Maridrina and Valcotta are even greater enemies than Maridrina and Ithicana and their war has been going on for hundreds of years.
  • Low Fantasy: There is no magic in the world, no races other than humans and no magical or mystical creatures. And the main conflict is over the bridge and trade, powered by greed.
  • Made of Iron: Let's see. At the end of Traitor Queen Lara has been badly wounded in the leg, lost a lot of blood, had the wound stitched, climbed a pier of the bridge, jumped from it into the sea, sailed a boat without any crew, climbed a steep cliff, ran until the stiches started to give up, fought and killed her father while receiving a wound across the chest, swam across shark-infested waters, got thrown at iron bars by a strong wave, and then almost drowned—and just a few days later is able to get up from bed and get to work.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Not everyone in Ithicana thinks it was a good idea for Aren to marry the princess of Maridrina, especially as the older generation remembers vividly the cruelty of Maridrinian raiders before the treaty. And some even suggest he should arrange an "accident" for Lara to get rid of her.
  • Mama Bear: Harem wives are very protective of harem children, both their own and born of other wives. Which is why they particularly hate Serin and have given him the nickname "Magpie" (it's not only that his voice is so grating—magpies are known to kill young songbirds, which Aren learns from a book left him by prince Keris.
  • Marriage Before Romance: Aren and Lara. They were married because it was a part of the peace treaty between their nations and had no chance to get to know each other before the wedding ceremony.
  • Mood Whiplash: By the end of Bridge Kingdom Lara arrives on Eranahl and declares her plan to save Aren... only to be put summarily into dungeon as a traitor.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: Lara's main motivation, even when she realises her father lied to her and manipulated her.
  • Near-Death Experience: Lara has one near the end but Aren brings her back. Mostly by doing CPR. She describes it as climbing through darkness and fear and then hearing his voice calling her name and ordering her to fight.
  • Neck Snap: How Lara finishes her fight with her sister Marylyn. Also how Aren kills Emra. Doubles as Mercy Kill, since he did it only to save her from Serin's torture.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Nana, king Aren's grandmother (from the non-royal side of the family). A healer of some renown, she is also ruthless, shrewd and extremely foul-mouthed. Oh, and she keeps venomous snakes to produce remedies. Even Aren is afraid to disobey her summons and his honour guard gets sent to do various tasks around Nana's house.
  • Offing the Offspring: What king Silas has planned for all his daughters raised and trained in the compound - with the exception of the one chosen to marry the king of Ithicana. In ''Traitor Queen", prince Keris is afraid his father and Serin would kill him, as they do not think he would make a good heir—and his father's own law dictates that he should be named one.
  • Ornamental Weapon: A married woman from Maridrina is supposed to wear two ornamental daggers, which her husband is supposed to use to protect her honor. Lara gets her set from her father when she gets married to Aren and they are really beautiful, their handles and scabbards are set with famous Maridrinian rubies. Subverted in that they are only a decoration, real weapons, small throwing knifes, are cleverly hidden inside their handles.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Aren and Lara gradually seem to become this, following a long period of distrust after their politically-motivated marriage.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Most of the tragic events at the end of book one (and, consequently, the whole book two) could have been avoided, if only had Lara been a little bit more forthcoming to Aren.
  • Poison Ring: Lara has a "cleverly designed bracelet", which allows her to hide a vial of chosen poison—although she mostly uses narcotics to induce sleep.
  • Politically Active Princess: Ahnna of Ithicana plays an important role in her country's politics, since as a commander of one of Ithicana's garrisons she's on the council.
  • Pretty Princess Powerhouse: Lara is not very tall, has long honey-colored hair and blue eyes, can dance gracefully and looks really beautiful in silk dresses—and is a trained and accomplished fighter.
  • Princesses Prefer Pink: Subverted. When we see Lara for the first time, she is wearing a pink dress—but only because her teachers think that she looks good in this color, she herself is not fond of pink.
  • Rage Helm: Ithicanian army wears helms resembling savage animals, which — as Aren says — was his grandfather's stroke of genius, even though they are uncomfortable to wear. But they hide the identity really well, which allows Aren himself to go on spying missions, as well as hiding the fact that a large proportion of Ithicanian military are women.
  • Really Gets Around: Aren, before his marriage to Lara, had a lot of lovers, including his friend and personal guard Lia. However, Ithicanian marriage vows demand faithfulness from both sides and Aren intends to keep them. In general, Ithicanians seem to perceive sex without marriage as something normal.
  • Revenge: Marylyn feels she had been cheated by Lara, decides to take her rightful place in their father's plan and kill Lara and Aren. And Lara really wants to get even with her father for everything that happened to Ithicana.
  • Royal Harem: King Silas of Maridrina has a lot of wives, all chosen because of their looks. As a result, he also has a lot of children, including daughters that he uses as bargaining chips.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Royal family in Ithicana. Royal twins Aren and Ahnna both fight to protect their homeland from raiders and often get wounded in the process.
  • Scars are Forever: Lara bears many scars from her training - as well as from lashing she received from her teachers. Aren does not react very well to seeing the latter. And Ithicanian warrior Taryn has scars on her ribs from being bitten by a shark.
  • Scream Discretion Shot: When Silas tortures a woman in front of Aren to make him talk, we see only a glint of metal and then hear her wordless screaming.
  • Sea of Sand: The Red Desert is described as a deadly sea of sand dunes, with occasional sand storms and only a handful of oases.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Lara is seriously considering it at one point. And she finally kills her father at the end of Traitor Queen.
  • Sex in a Shared Room: At one point a group of Ithicanian soldiers arrive at a safehouse. There are too few beds for all of them, so Lia and Gorrick, who are a couple, volunteer to share a bed. And then make use of it. Most of other soldiers are asleep at the time and anyway, the Ithicanian culture is not very prudish, so nobody seems to mind.
  • Sibling Murder: What Lara seems to be doing at the very beginning and what Marylyn attempts to do at the end.
  • The Spymaster: Serin, also called "Magpie", orchestrates all plots for the king of Maridrina. He's shrewd and ruthless, a master of secret codes, but his manner is so irritating that Lara can't stand being near him.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: While the twelve princesses have different mothers and therefore different complexion and hair color, they all have their father's azure eyes, which are a signature trait of Maridrinian royal family.
  • They Do: Aren and Lara, after he shows her that all she was taught was a lie and then saves her life.
  • Thirsty Desert: The Red Desert. Stifling hot during the day, deadly cold at night, no water for miles on end, just a scattering of oases. And then there are occasional sand storms. It's so bad not even vultures show up.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: King Silas personally killed one of his wives Lara and Keris's mother when she dared to escape from the harem to look for her daughter who had been taken by Serin.
  • Tongue Trauma: A woman tortured by Silas in front of Aren turns out to have had her tongue removed so that she could not tell him she wasn't Lara.
  • Torture Technician: Serin is very good at getting information out of his victims, as he himself claims "he's made something of an art of this over the years."
  • Training from Hell: All princesses in the compound undergo this, they learn how to withstand pain and torture and also have to fight for their life. Twelve survive to the end but it is mentioned that there were more.
  • Trial by Ordeal: According to Ithicanian custom, traitors are hung in chains in the sea and then the water is churned to attract sharks (which are for Ithicanians a kind of sacred animals, as they protect the islands' shores). If the sharks kill the accused, he or she has been guilty—but if they don't, it means that the person is innocent. Which does not happen very often, of course.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Turns out Keris was one in his father and Serin's plan to conquer Ithicana. So unwitting, in fact, that he was bound up by his own escort not to interfere. Naturally, he is not very happy about it.
  • Warrior Prince: Mostly princesses, since Aren is now the king. Both Ahnna of Ithicana and the 11 daughers of the Maridrinian king are accomplished warriors. Keris of Maridrina is also a fighter, but mostly of necessity, as he would prefer to study philosophy.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Aren mentions at one point that the Empress of Amarid, one of Ithicana's enemies, is crazy.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Maridrinian soldiers have no problems with killing children during their invasion of Ithicana.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Aren decides not to kill a young boy, even though that means he is leaving a witness to his presence in a certain place and could be risky for him. And then he states outright "I don't murder children".