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Literature / The Dark Wizard Of Donkerk

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The Dark Wizard Of Donkerk is a 2016 novel by Alexander Wales, written as part of the 2016 NaNoWriMo (although arguably, it was not technically a successful entry since he wrote some amount of it in 2015 as a NaNoWriMo).

Omarr and Hirrush, two dark wizards in the medieval kingdom of Donkerk, have acquired an infant boy from a local orphanage and plan to sacrifice him for great power. And, well, neither one of them can go through with it. And so they christen the child Henry and begin raising him in their ways, with the help of a local witch, Adrianna. Complicating things, they decide on one last kidnapping (previously their way of raising money), this time of the royal princess (due to her sex and her older brother, they assume that she will be worth a large ransom, but not enough for a manhunt). The kidnapping is successful, but not only does Henry find himself infatuated with the unexpectedly human princess, their crime also results in a massive manhunt for black magic (it was always illegal, but largely left alone as long as they restricted their harm to voluntary sacrifice). Further complicating things, it seems that there is a prophecy that the princess will fall prey to a dark wizard, and will be saved by an orphan, an orphan born in a destined place and at a destined time that match up with Henry...

This novel contains the following tropes:

  • Bad Powers, Good People: Regarding dark magic, Henry. And maybe Omarr... Dark Magic is based on sacrifice, but it is possible to do good things with it. The catch is that calculating whether a usage is ethical may involve calculating the worth of an individual life versus others, and some don't bother with the voluntary aspect of the sacrifice. Still, Henry tries to do good, and Omarr at least tries not to leave the world worse than it was before.
  • Bastard Bastard: Late in the novel, it's revealed that Rowan is not the King's son, which is why they were never truly considered for the line of succession. It fuels their resentment and their drive to master dark magics.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: The Boreal Crown cannot be taken from the rightful heir. Even if they throw it away, all they have to do is think of it, and it is once again on their head.
  • Disciplines of Magic: The world contains several very distinct sources of supernatural power, such as Oathkeeping that grants increasing Super-Strength and Super-Speed as participants keep vows of chastity, silence, etc; Mentalism that allows practitioners to organise their own thoughts and enter other minds to plant suggestions; or Dark Magic that uses sacrifices to attract help from spirits. Rowan finds a way to combine mentalism with dark magic, sacrificing memories in order to make mental constructs more powerful, but pillaging one's own mind like that has nasty side effects.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Omarr and Hirrush display no indication that they're in a romantic relationship with each other, but they are clearly committed to each other, having lived many years together in the same cottage, and later raising a small boy, and when Omarr dies in battle, Hirrush is inconsolable.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: There are several paths to power in the world of the novel:
    • Oathkeeping: By making vows, and following them, people can become stronger, faster, and forgo normal human needs. One's power increases with time and with having to sacrifice for the oath, to the point where it is possible to perform clearly superhuman feats like jumping higher than a building. The catch is that intentionally breaking any oath removes all of your powers and starts you again at square one, and the oaths do not grant any power to resist such temptation, which inevitably grows. There are two major factions who take these oaths, the Foresworn Sisters, who are theoretically part of the defense of the country but largely run humanitarian causes such as orphanages, and the Oathkeepers, who serve as guards and enforcers for the royalty of Donkerk.
    • Dark Magic: Dark magic is based on three concepts: a ritual to entice spirits, intent to decide the outcome, and sacrifice to fuel the magic. The more elaborate the ritual, the more likely it is to actually attract the spirit. Intent prevents one from doing dark magic accidentally. The sacrifice is sometimes specific to the spirit, such as requiring the incisors of a recently dead man with at least seven trueborn sons, but the magic only occurs if the sacrifice is great enough. Because the sacrifice is not necessarily a willing one, black magic is illegal and both the practice and instruction of it is illegal.
    • Mentalism: The least directly powerful of magics appearing, mentalism allows one to control one's own mind, and to travel to the minds of others, implanting suggestions and seeds of oneself to guide them.
    • Spirit Calling: The ability to call upon spirits, speak with them, and ask them either to become magic artifacts, or to free themselves from that state. Thought to be a lost art. Practiced by the Princess Sofia.
    • Elemental Binding: Unused in the novel, but apparently requires elements to manipulate.
    • Eloism: Unused in the novel, but implied to function upon "competition among equals".
  • Prophecy Twist: There is a prophecy that the princess will be wrapped in blood and bone, stood over by a dark wizard, protected by an orphan born in a certain time and place and raised by one who will shape his mind. Sofia is the princess. Henry is both the dark wizard and the orphan, raised by a dark wizard and a mentalist. He saves her while her spirit calling wraps her in blood and bone as armor.
  • Rightful King Returns: After King Aldric dies and Rowan takes over, Sofia learns that they are the true heir. They first try to reject their legacy, but eventually accept it and return to gain the crown.
  • Royal Bastard: Rowan is a bastard, and one descended of the Queen, not the King. Therefore, he is not in the line of succession.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: This is how Rowan poisons his father.
  • The Un Favourite: What drives Rowan to evil is that he realizes that King Aldric is not grooming him to be the heir. He assumes it is because King Aldric doesn't believe he is worthy, and favors his sister. In actuality, it is because he is not the king's son and therefore is not in the line of magic succession.