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Literature / The Crimson Shadow

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The Crimson Shadow is a fantasy book series by author R.A. Salvatore. Sword of Bedwyr was published in 1994, followed by Luthien's Gamble and The Dragon King (1996).

In these novels, Luthien, heir to the island of Bedwydrin, departs from home after the tragic death of his friend and soon takes up with the swashbuckling Oliver deBurrows. They form a successful team of thieves, but soon turn their attentions to fighting the injustices around them...

Tropes present in the series:

  • Aerith and Bob: Ethan, Oliver, Siobhan etc. versus Brind'Amour, Shuglin, Morkney and far more.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The entire cyclopian people. We see don't see a single one that's anything but a bloodthirsty brute, though one solitary officer is a bit more refined in his tastes.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Duke Morkney sentences a man to lose a hand (plus all of his property) for stealing.
  • Bag of Holding: Oliver is given a sack with this effect by Brind'Amour. Things placed inside it will come to his hand by simply thinking about them too. It works due to being extradimensional.
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  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: Brind'Amour, after he becomes king of Eriador.
  • Big Bad: King Greensparrow, an evil wizard who rules Avon, Eriador and the islands nearby.
  • Big Good: Brind'Amour, the last of the good wizards from the old days.
  • Black-and-White Morality: There is basically no ambiguity in the sides during the series. On the good side are the people rebelling to be free against evil wizards with a wholly evil race as their minions. At worst, good guys Luthien and Oliver work as thieves, but even then their only victims are exploitative collaborating merchants. On the bad guys' side, there is a single female mage who's just misguided rather than purely evil.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Oliver is one, though unlike most examples, he's a little guy (a halfling, actually). He's always ready with a joke, loves to fight, and boasts often of his exploits. A lot of the last are doubtful, but he really does have genuine skill with sword-fighting, having trained at an elite school in his homeland, and gives Luthien a number of tips.
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  • Catch Phrase: Oliver, after any of his confident pronouncements falls flat, will come out with "I could be wrong".
  • Cavalry Betrayal: A rare inversion. During a naval battle between the Avonese and Eriadorans, ships come sailing over from Baraduine (an island ruled by Avon), making the former celebrate. Instead though they attack the ships from Avon, since it turns out that Baraduine would like to be free.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The merchants of Montfort seem to collaborate, along with Duke Morkney, who is apparently from there too.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The unnamed religion which people in both Avon and Eriador follow appears to be closely based on Christianity, though most details aren't explored. God is explicitly invoked, though with no mention of a Jesus figure, numerous cathedrals exist in major cities of both countries, the good mages considered themselves priests with their powers being a gift from God, the single priest who we see resembles Catholic ones, and the evil mages make pacts with demons to get increased magical abilities (much like what was believed about witches by most Christians once).
  • Cyclops: The cyclopian race. Due to having only one eye, their depth perception is very bad, so they are generally poor at using ranged weapons. One that we see makes up for this by having a crossbow that was equipped with small mirrors on each side to help him aim.
  • Damsel in Distress: Subverted. Luthien goes off to rescue Siobhan from slavery, only to learn she's quite capable of caring for herself, sneaking out of her master's house regularly.
  • Deal with the Devil: Greensparrow and his wizard minions made deals with various demonic monsters for power.
  • Devil, but No God: God is mentioned and worshiped, but never appears, only the good mage Brind'Amour (he says God is the source of his power) and a paladin. Meanwhile, evil sorcerers like the main villain Greensparrow and his minions are in bed with actual demons, who do appear. Brind'Amour's speech to Luthien on the matter may indicate this isn't necessary-if like he says good mages' power is (ultimately) from God, He doesn't really need to intervene (nor even send angels or whatever) since they will win in the end inevitably, being on His side.
  • Disappeared Dad: Siobhan's elven father abandoned her mother (a human) before she was born as he couldn't bear to see them both die before him of old age.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Duke Morkney sentences a man who stole from a stall to lose all his property and one of his hands.
  • Dragons are Demonic: Both dragons portrayed in the books are malicious beings. The second is even in league with the villain-they have a pact to share bodies, portrayed like the pacts with other demons his minions have.
  • Elite Mooks: The Praetorian Guard, who serve not only as Greensparrow's bodyguards, but his most elite troops.
  • The Empire: The kingdom of Avon under King Greensparrow.
  • Equivalent Exchange: The good wizards draw their power from the forces of the universe, Brind Amour explains.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Greensparrow and all his minions, save one who's just misguided.
  • Familiar: All of Greensparrow's wizard minions have demonic partners.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Eriador is pretty clearly a parallel for Scotland, with one of its famed heroes being named Bruce MacDonald, who has the city Caer MacDonald named after him. Avon stands in for England, with cities such as Newcastle and Carlisle which match actual English cities' names. Gascony is a clear parallel to France, not only with the pseudo-French names and having the name of a historical French province, but also its history in regards to people from there having invaded Avon (England) in the past. All three also share the same relative locations. An island near both may be the stand in for Ireland here, though we don't get much information on it. Isenland stands in for Iceland, with its people being raiders like the Vikings. Eriador and Avon also seem to follow a counterpart Christianity, though with no Jesus figure.
  • Gentleman Thief: Oliver deBurrows, a charming and chivalrous "highway halfling".
  • God: Unlike in most fantasy worlds, God is mentioned as the deity people believe in and focus of their religion (however, we get basically no details besides this). There's also no mention of a Jesus figure, though otherwise it seems to be a fantastic Christianity, with priests and cathedrals in major cities.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: It's said many elves and humans dislike half-elves, though we never actually see anyone express this in the books.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Siobhan, who's a half-elf.
  • Human Mom Non Human Dad: Siobhan had an elven father and human mother.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Luthien gets one, though it leaves behind a crimson silhouette wherever he was when wearing it, the source of the name "the Crimson shadow".
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter / Voluntary Shapeshifting: Greensparrow made a pact with a dragon to share his body in return for magical powers. Most of the time he can control this, but the dragon forces him to transform at times.
  • Irony: When Brind'Amour is magically spying on Avon's royal palace, he notices a cyclopian standing guard before a tapestry depicting men of Avon defeating cyclopians, who now rule their land under King Greensparrow.
  • Jesus Taboo: The people of Eriador and Avon seem to follow a fantastic Christianity. There is mention of God more than once, Brind'Amour relates that the old good mages considered themselves priests, cathedrals pretty much indistinguishable from medieval ones are shown, and a priest appears in the last book. However, there is never mention of a Jesus figure. In fairness, the series doesn't give any detail on the religion aside from the above.
  • Kangaroo Court: Duke Morkney presides over a court like this. He doesn't even hear any evidence, and no one is ever acquitted. The punishments, naturally, are excessive.
  • Karmic Thief: Oliver views himself as this, robbing rich merchants who grew wealthy from exploiting others.
  • Love Triangle: Between Luthien, his new lover Siobhan, and his old flame Katerin.
  • Made a Slave: This is the fate of all Huegoth captives. Some prisoners are also sentenced to slavery by Duke Morkney.
  • The Magocracy: Not only King Greensparrow but all his dukes are evil wizards.
  • Meaningful Name: Brind'Amour (love in French) and Belsen'Krieg (the name of a death camp plus "war" in German). Not subtle.
  • One-Winged Angel: Greensparrow takes on his shared dragon form for the climax of the trilogy.
  • The Paladin: A paladin is sent by King Greensparrow against Luthien. He fights honorably, giving Luthien his fair chance to beat him. After learning Greensparrow is really an evil sorcerer who's in league with demons, the knight immediately switches sides and goes down fighting a demon that attacks Luthien.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Oliver justifies his stealing from rich merchants this way, as they've grown rich by collaborating with the evil King Greensparrow who rules over their people.
  • Penal Colony: The mines near Montfort, where many dwarves have been sentenced to hard labor.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: Brind'Amour and Belsen'Krieg.
  • Praetorian Guard: Cyclopian soldiers named this not only guard King Greensparrow, but also serve as elite troops.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Siobhan, a half-elf, looks around twenty but is nearly sixty. Brind'Amour is four hundred, but he at least appears as an old man.
  • La Résistance: Starting from a small band of rebels led by Luthien, and then growing into a whole army which fights for Eriador's freedom.
  • Religion Is Magic: The good wizards considered themselves priests, Brind Amour relates, with their power also ultimately coming from God. In fact, it was they who built the great cathedrals which exist in Avon and Eriador.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Villified: The Eriadorans' rebellion is against an evil wizard king and his minions for their freedom. It's never once shown as anything except entirely justified and good.
  • Rightful King Returns: After Greensparrow is killed, the true queen of Avon (whose father he usurped, making her a duchess), takes over.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Brind'Amour put himself in stasis long ago, then awoke to find Eriador has been overrun by an evil wizard's forces.
  • Sex Slave: Female convicts in Montforst are implied to end up this way after they're sentenced to serve in the houses of wealthy merchants. Some might suspect this is how Siobhan served her master too, though the books don't say.
  • Sharing a Body: It turns out Greensparrow has an arrangement like this with a dragon. He can mostly control when the dragon takes over and transforms, but not always.
  • Slave Galley: This is where anyone the Huegoths capture ends up on. It's considered a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Slave Liberation: Subverted. Luthien, upon becoming smitten with Siobhan and learning she's a slave, sets out to free her. He arrives at her master's house, where he sees Siobhan sneaking out. It turns out that she does this regularly, and is part of a thieves gang. The title of this chapter is appropriately "Not So Much A Slave".
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Luthien has heard about many cruelties allowed by Greensparrow. He finds slavery especially wrong though, and can hardly fathom the idea.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: King Greensparrow, who rules Avon, Eriador and the islands nearby.
  • Thieves' Guild: Montfort has one, though Oliver and Luthien don't join (the latter worries they might drive them out, though it never appears). It remains unclear if other thieves they meet are members.
  • Urban Segregation: Montfort has a strict divide between economic classes under Duke Morkney, with the rich living in the inner city, which is behind a wall from the poor in the lower city.
  • War Is Hell: Luthien's father warns him that unlike in stories this is how it really turns out to be. Luthien later learns this is true for himself when he goes into real combat.


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