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Literature / The Darksword Trilogy

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There will be born one to the Royal House one who is dead yet will live, who will die again and live again. And when he returns, he will hold in his hand the destruction of the world...
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A trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman consisting of Forging the Darksword, Doom of the Darksword, Triumph of the Darksword, and Legacy of the Darksword. Also has an associated Tabletop RPG, Darksword Adventures, and a (now hard to find) companion book, called The Darksword Companion.

In the magical land of Thimhallan, Magic is considered to be the same as Life. Those born with no magic are considered Dead. As an ancient prophecy tells of the destruction of the world by one who is Dead, those born without magic are routinely killed. However, royal-born protaganist Joram manages to escape this fate. Joining with a group of unlikely allies such as the elderly scholar Saryon and the erratic trickster Simkin, he plans to forge the magic-consuming Darksword and retake his royal position, unaware that doing so may bring the prophecy to fruition.

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Tropes:

  • Adult Fear: The Deathwatch and ensuing murder of all children born Dead. Saryon is understandably traumatized when he has to participate in such rituals, where a parent's child is killed ten days after they're born just because they, the child, are different.
  • Alien Invasion: The Hch'Nyv in the fourth book. In this case, they go for the total extinction of mankind.
  • Black Magic: Techno-magic, which draws power from death.
  • Black Widow: The Duchess D'Longeville, subject of number of Simkin's anecdotes.
    Simkin: Never take tea with the Duchess D'Longeville. Or, if you do, make certain she doesn't serve you from the same pot she serves her husband.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Very subverted: What ends up saving the world is not the Darksword. It gets lost partway through the fourth book and is never seen again.
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  • Classical Chimera: Chimeras are one of Thimhallen's Warchanged creatures, animals created or altered during their civil war as living weapons that escaped their creators' control. Darksword Adventures details the creature more thoroughly. It has the forequarters of a lion, the hindquarters of a goat, the tail of a viper, and three heads (lion, goat, viper) each possessing a poisonous bite. It was created to be the ultimate sentry, capable of spotting an approaching enemy from multiple directions and combining the ferocity of all its component creatures. Unfortunately, its three heads operate independently of one another, meaning a consensus must be reached for its body to do something. While not a problem when facing a single opponent, multiple opponents can confuse the creature and cause it to wildly attack any target close by.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Simkin is a self-described "fixed point of insanity in any sane situation".
  • Deadly Euphemism: Those born Dead (i.e., without magic) are "allowed to slip out of the world" — it's implied that this means starving them to death.
  • Death World: Beyond the Border, Thimhallen is this, complete with raging storms and deadly aliens.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The Hch'Nyv from the fourth book fill this role perfectly. They are alien invaders who plan to destroy humanity, but weren't mentioned at all in the first three books.
  • Distinguishing Mark: The scars Joram acquired as a baby.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: The complete version of the Darksword prophecy, which the prophet died in the middle of delivering. The government then began the infanticide of low-magic newborns. Poor Communication Kills... babies.
  • Enemy Mine: In the fourth book, the only reason Earth's army hasn't lost the war yet is that they've allied with evil mages who need to save the world so that they can conquer it.
  • Fainting Seer: The seer who made the Darksword prophecy died in the middle of speaking it.
  • Fake Wizardry: Not being a wizard is punishable by (sorta) death. Joram is taught sleight of hand as a child to escape this.
  • The Fool: Simkin is strongly associated with this archetype, being symbolized by the "Fool" tarok card while Joram is represented by the "King of Swords".
  • Foreshadowing: After the readers already know, through Saryon, of Joram's heritage, the following exhange takes place:
    "So now the curse becomes the blessing, just like in the House Magi's tale," said Simkin, a smile playing on his lips. He smoothed his mustache with one finger. "Our frog becomes a Prince..."
    "Not Prince," said Mosiah, exasperated. "Baron."
  • Ironic Echo: Simkin is mistaken for a pocket of residual magic by technomancers. Later when he is asked who he is he replies that he is a pocket of residual magic, then goes on to explain that if you don't believe in him it doesn't matter what he is.
  • I See Dead People: Gwendolyn gains the ability to speak to the dead... but loses the ability to speak to the living.
  • Life Energy: In Thimhallan, Magic is considered to be synonymous with Life. They're wrong.
  • Lost Technology: The ninth form of magic, technology, was claimed to be responsible for a devastating war. It was banned and systematically destroyed. Only two libraries (one in the empire's guild and one in the Coven of the Wheel) survived to limited extent.
  • The Magic Goes Away: In the third book; the fourth deals with some of the repercussions.
  • The Magocracy: To the point where anyone without magic is exiled or outright killed.
  • Meaningful Name: The city Merilon, which is eventually revealed to be so named because it contains Merlin's tomb.
  • Medieval Stasis: The failure of Thimhallan to advance at all due to the prevalence of magic is an important theme. The third novel repeatedly uses the metaphor of mice sealing themselves in an attic with unlimited food and water where cats can't reach them, then dying of suffocation.
  • Meet Cute: Gwendolyn, via Simkin, meets Joram when she rescues him and his party from the Duuk-tsarith.
  • The Millstone: Simkin ruins many a plan with his flamboyant carelessness.
  • No Sex Allowed: Sex is forbidden; all procreation in Thimhallan is carried out through magic.
  • Noodle Incident: The majority of things Simkin says. In a private conversation with the Emperor bystanders overhear the phrases "Contessa", "chafing dish", and "unfortunately discovered naked".
  • Nothing Can Stop Us Now!: During the final battle, Simkin is present and in shapeshifted disguise as an inanimate object. Being a Large Ham, he waits for the Big Bad to declare victory before revealing himself.
  • Not So Above It All: Whatever Simkin told the emperor about the contessa and the chafing dish and nudity, his regal facade crumbles into helpless laughter. Simkin is that powerful.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: The Empress of Merilon. Due to the political situation, everyone spent a year pretending that she was still alive.
  • Power Nullifier: The enforcers have a Null Magic ability that incapacitates any wizard, because they're not used to moving around without the aid of magic.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: Turns out the missing last line completely changes the meaning.
  • Punch a Wall: Or rather a tree. Or rather Simkin disguised as a tree. Oops.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The various revolutionary groups that appear through the series are all Black Magic users who are just as bad (or possibly even worse) than the ones they're rebelling against.
  • Science vs. Magic: All technology is forbidden in Thimhallan, even the use of simple tools like levers.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Everything done to avert the Darksword prophecy ends up being responsible for bringing it to pass.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the 3rd Dragonlance book, Tasslehoff finds a map with "Merilon" listed as a major city.
    • Also "Saryon" is the name of a major character in another fantasy setting by the two authors, The Death Gate Cycle.
  • Taken for Granite: A ritual method of execution, eventually used on Saryon.
  • Tarot Troubles: Simkin can predict the future with tarok cards. His reading of Joram has him drawing the Death card twice, reflecting the prophecy: One who is dead yet will live, who will die again and live again...
  • The Unpronounceable: The Hch'Nyv, an alien race appearing in book 4.

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