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Literature / The Legendary Inge

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The Legendary Inge is a 2015 Heroic Fantasy novel by Kate Stradling, based on two ideas: what if Beowulf didn't want to be Adopted into Royalty? And what if Beowulf was a girl?

After an unfortunate stroke of luck makes Ingrid Norling an unexpected monster-slayer, King Halvard, thanks to initially mistaking her for a boy, decides to adopt her and name her his heir. Her protests ignored, Inge, as she's called, finds herself forced to adopt the guise of a preteen boy while trying to survive her newfound home in the Decadent Court. Befriending her erstwhile and begrudging bodyguard Colonel Leiv Raske and her clueless adoptive sister and "betrothed" Princess Signe, Inge soon learns that the monster she slayed was only just the beginning of her troubles.


  • Abhorrent Admirer: Princess Signe has Prince Osvald, her (and technically Inge's) adoptive brother. While she does love Osvald as a sibling, that's the extent of her affection; Osvald, in contrast, is completely obsessed with Signe and tried to get himself disowned by Harvald so he could marry her. When Harvald refused, Osvald fled the castle and swore vengeance.
  • Accidental Hero: Inge completely stumbles upon the original night-walker by chance and the only reason she was able to "slay" it is because when it attacked her, she tried to defend herself using a wooden training sword and wood happened to be the one material the night-walker wasn't impervious against.
  • Adopted into Royalty: Deconstructed. Inge is adopted into the royal family out of protest. She has no interest in being a "prince" and enjoying her new royal privileges because she already has her own family and responsibilities to take care of. It's later revealed that Harvald only adopted her to use her as bait and a distraction for Osvald; once the crisis has passed, he canonizes her princely identity and releases her to her former life with no protest.
  • Asshole Victim: Ulfred Rickardson, Inge's slimy landlord. As bad as he was, death by night-walker is a horrible way to go and Inge finds no satisfaction in his death when she learns of it.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Inge and Raske. At the end of the story, Harvald discharges Raske from the army and sends him to Inge so the two can get married.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Prince Osvald and the Dragon, Jannik Bergstrom.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Harvald disapproves of Signe's romance with Mikkel, as he believes that only a warrior should hold the throne. Later subverted, when it's revealed that he's actually perfectly fine with her marrying Mikkel. He just put up a front that he didn't because it kept Mikkel safe from being assassinated by Osvald.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Osvald is completely insane, but he doesn't believe in harming women and thinks men who do are the scum of the earth. When he finally meets Inge, he does not move to harm her because he already knows she's really a girl by then.
  • Excellent Judge of Character:
    • Inge, despite her lack of subtlety, can peg the characters of most people with little difficulty. She immediately recognizes that despite his fearsome reputation, Raske is a noble person and worthy of her trust. Conversely, she dislikes Bergstrom from the outset and can tell there's something off about him.
    • Torvald, Inge's father, was also a great judge of character, and King Harvald (who was one of his closest friends) remarks that Inge inherited this trait from him. Like Inge, Torvald was also able to tell what kind of person Bergstrom was.
  • Faking the Dead: Bergstrom, who fakes his death to get rid of Strength and fully take charge of the rebellion.
  • Foreshadowing: There are multiple hints to Bergstrom's true nature:
    • It's remarked that Bergstrom is a well-beloved and well-respected figure throughout the kingdom, yet he is mostly unpleasant to Inge during all their interactions together. This is because he is putting up a front from everyone else to earn their trust; Inge, as someone he does not feel the need to earn the trust of, is the only one privy to his true face.
    • The real name of Raske's Virtue Sword is "Mercy", but his mentor Bergstrom insists it should be called "Bloodfang" because it sounds more fearsome. Bergstrom disdains anything that he perceives as "weakness", so it makes sense that he wouldn't like the idea of a weapon being given a name like Mercy.
    • Upon learning the "virtue" Bergstrom's sword represents is "strength", Inge is unimpressed, remarking that her father must not have thought much of Bergstrom at all, as strength is a common virtue that any man can have, and one that can be easily abused. She is completely correct. The only thing Bergstrom truly values is strength and he has no issues abusing his relentlessly. After he is defeated and killed, it's revealed by Harvald that Torvald didn't want to make Bergstrom one of the Virtue Swords in the first place and only did so at Harvald's insistence; he speculates that Torvald gave Bergstrom Strength for exactly the reason Inge mentioned.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Signe is by far the kindest character in the story. That does not stop her from taking advantage of Osvald's obsession with her to slip a knife under his ribcage.
  • Heir Club for Men: Defied by King Halvard, who has every intention of leaving Signe the throne as his only trueborn heir, hence the "engagement" to Inge. Played straight with the nobility, however, who despise the idea of being ruled by a woman.
  • Legendary Weapon: The Virtue Swords, the magnum opus of Inge and Gunnar's father, Torvald Geirson. They are magical swords that represent a virtue their chosen wielders embody. Gunnar, Raske, and Bergstrom all wield one of these swords, and another two are designated for Gunnar and Inge's younger brothers Eirik and Einar when they're old enough to wield them. Inge does not have one, but she is able to destroy them using a failsafe if she believes they might fall into the wrong hands, much like everyone else in the family.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The Torvaldsons. The total number of children in the family is seven, with the oldest being Gunnar and Inge.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity:
    • It gradually becomes clear that Harvald is nowhere near as senile as people believe him to be and still as sharp as he was when he started ruling. He's just unusually paranoid and closed-lip. He later admits to Inge that he knew right from the beginning she was a girl, but he went through with the adoption because he needed her help anyway.
    • Signe is naive and kind-hearted, but not stupid. She figures out Inge is a girl quite easily and is more than aware that there is some strange plot going on in the castle.
  • Promotion to Parent: The main reason Inge objects to her adoption by King Halvard is because she has multiple younger siblings to take care of, her parents having died of illness several months ago. With Gunnar having enrolled into the army (and later, apprenticed to a blacksmith), she's the foremost authority in the house and is treated as such.
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • King Harvald is extremely paranoid, to the point that he often refuses to divulge the reasons for his strange decisions. And he's right to. Thanks to the divination spell he put on his castle, he's aware of everything said inside it and is well aware that he has plenty of traitors in his midst.
    • Torvald put a powerful resilience spell on all his children to protect them in case of mortal danger. This not only saves Gunnar multiple times, but it also saves Inge after she is seemingly fatally wounded by Bergstrom.