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Literature / The Lighthouse Duet

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The Lighthouse Duet is a series of two fantasy books by Carol Berg.

In the land of Navronne, people with magical abilities (called "purebloods") live under tight restrictions, forced to register with the local government and sold into indentured servitude based on their talents. Valen, the son of the Cartamandua family, a line of cartographers and diviners, rebelled against these restrictions, running away and trying to make a living while using magic sparingly.

That didn't work out, and after being betrayed by a former business partner, he was left for dead at an abbey, his sole remaining possession of value being a book of enchanted maps that are said to lead people to hidden places. With nowhere else to turn, he becomes a monk, all the while plotting for how he will escape.

Of course, nothing is that simple, and it turns out that the abbey has secrets that may put his life in even more danger.


The series takes place in the same universe as The Sanctuary Duet.

This series contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Valen's mother Josefina is constantly plastered. It's been hinted that this is her way of coping with the increasingly grim visions that she's received of the future.
  • Alpha Bitch: Valen's sister Thalassa is a Sinduria - a high priestess of the elder gods - which makes her a very powerful woman in Navronne. Naturally, she lords it over him.
  • Big Brother Bully: Valen's eldest brother Maximus has always been a bully. Fittingly, he ends up serving under Prince Bayard.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The civil war that is tearing Navronne apart involves a madman who's turned to the dark arts to bolster his army, a brute who has joined forces with a fanatical cult, and a cowardly prat who'd sell out anyone to save his own hide.
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  • Black Sheep: Valen is an embarrassment to his extremely prestigious family.
  • Book Dumb: Valen is severely dyslexic, and his frustrations with learning caused him to reject all formal education. However, he has extremely good memory, and is excellent at thinking on his feet.
  • Bury Your Gays: Valen mentions that his former partner Boreas prefers the company of other men while searching for him. When he finds the man shortly afterwards, Boreas has been mortally wounded by the Harrowers, and all Valen can do for him is to administer the doulon so that his dying agony is turned into extreme pleasure.
  • Cassandra Truth: Josefina de Celestine is a powerful diviner, but because of her alcoholism, her predictions tend to be dismissed.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Karish are apparently Navronne's version of Christianity.
  • Dirty Coward: Prince Perryn of Ardra, one of the princes contending for the throne, will sell out just about anyone to save himself. When Bayard moves towards Palinur, Perryn's capitol, Perryn readily throws it away to buy time for his own escape.
  • Disease by Any Other Name: Valen repeatedly complains about his difficulties with reading, at one point explaining to another character that when he looks at a page, the writing seems to twist around before his eyes. It's pretty clear that he suffers from severe dyslexia.
  • Dung Ages: Navronne is a very realistic medieval landscape, plagued with famines, rain, and copious amounts of mud. Even Palinur, the richest city in the kingdom, is a borderline Wretched Hive.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: The Harrowers want to send the whole world back into chaos, to the point that they're even willing to kill the spirits of nature, even though doing so will cause irreparable harm to the world.
  • Eye Scream: In Navronne, people believe that losing your eyes before or after death will condemn your soul. Thus, the Harrowers frequently remove the eyes of their victims. Osriel's forces have also been known to steal the eyes of the dead for necromancy.
  • Fantastic Racism: Because of their ability to use magic, purebloods like Valen and his family are subjected to tight restrictions on the kinds of jobs they can do and even who they can marry. It's not entirely without benefits, however, as most purebloods are able to work the system in order to live comfortable lives.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Aurellia seems to have been based on Ancient Rome.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: The Lighthouse was created to preserve as much knowledge as possible into one safe place in the belief that the end of the world is coming soon.
  • Gut Punch: Towards the end of Flesh and Spirit, Valen returns to Gillarine, and finds that it's a ruin, most of his former sworn brothers are dead, and the magical spring that sustained the land has been defiled. And on top of everything else, he realizes that Gildas is responsible for it all.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Valen just wants to live an ordinary life, but this is impossible because of his family.
  • Indentured Servitude: All purebloods in Navronne are required to register with the Pureblood Registry, and nearly all of them end up in some form of indentured servitude to someone else.
  • Meaningful Name: A pureblood's surname signifies the type of magic that they excel at. For instance, Valen's surname, Cartamandua-Celestine, indicates that his family is full of cartographers and diviners.
    • Valen and his siblings are all named for geographical features, much to their chagrin. Since being named after islands and mountains can be terribly embarrassing, they've all adopted nicknames for themselves.
  • Mercy Kill: Having found Boreas mortally wounded, impaled on a spear, Valen finishes him off by administering the doulon so that he dies in ecstasy.
  • Mind Rape: As part of her Sinduria training, Thalassa learned a number of spells that allow her to alter or even remove people's memories.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: After Bayard and the Harrowers storm Palinur, they find a ready supply of new recruits among the servants working in the Pureblood households, who've spent years being mistreated by their masters with little recourse due to the Pureblood Registry's rules.
  • The Mole: The seemingly kindly and understanding Gildas is actually a Harrower.
  • Morality Pet: Jullian is able to compel Valen to act like a better person.
  • Odd Name, Normal Nickname: Valen and his siblings were all named by their cartographer father, who had little imagination and thus just named them after geographical features, forcing them to come up with less embarrassing nicknames. Valen himself was born Magnus Valentia de Cartamandua-Celestine.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: Sila Diaglou and her Harrowers want to kill everyone who doesn't adhere to their very strict notions of the proper order of nature.
  • Overly Long Name: Purebloods tend to have long names that include both their maternal and paternal family names. Valen's full name, for instance, is Magnus Valentia de Cartamandua-Celestine.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Abbot Luviar is willing to look past the fact that Valen lied about his past and concealed his illiteracy and his status as a recondeur, believing that he is still capable of being redeemed.
  • Religion of Evil: The Harrowers are fanatics who seek to "purify" the world by killing everyone who won't bow down to the Gehoum, the primal gods.
  • Stupid Evil: Bayard and his forces cynically employ the fanatical Harrowers to help them destroy Perryn's army and sack Palinur. They don't seem to have given much thought to what the Harrowers will do when there are no more Ardrans left to kill.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: During his visit to the town of Elanus, Valen meets a very attractive male prostitute. He is later perturbed to find that he keeps thinking of the lad, and even ends up having a wet dream about him that night.
  • Super Registration Act: The Pureblood Registry lays down a whole host of rules regarding how Purebloods are supposed to behave. It takes a carrot-and-stick approach; the punishments for non-compliance are severe, but they give a lot of power to the heads of Pureblood families, so there is not much of a movement to change them.
  • Talkative Loon: Janus de Cartamandua is quite mad, and much to his family's chagrin, refuses to be silent about it.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: The Pureblood Registry deliberately sets up purebloods with outwardly comfortable lives so that common people will resent them, in order to ensure that any pureblood who decides to run away from a life of indentured servitude will find very few people who sympathize with them.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Valen has such a bad case of claustrophobia that he suffers panic attacks when anything covers both his nose and his mouth. Naturally, of course, purebloods are required to wear masks that do precisely that.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Gildas murders Gerard.