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Literature / The Monarchies of God

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The Monarchies of God is a series of High Fantasy novels by Irish author Paul Kearney.

The series consists of:

  1. Hawkwood's Voyage (1995)
  2. The Heretic Kings (1996)
  3. The Iron Wars (1999)
  4. The Second Empire (2000)
  5. Ships from the West (2002, rereleased in 2010 with a revised ending)

The series is set on the continent of Normannia and on the mysterious continent in the west. Normannia is dominated by the Five Kingdoms of the Ramusian faith: Hebrion, Astarac, Perigraine, Almark and Torunna, successor states which arose after the fall of the Fimbrian Empire, now an isolationist Republic located between the Kingdoms. To the east of the Ramusian kingdoms lie the Merduk sultanates which worship the Prophet Ahrimuz, and which have been laying siege to the Holy City of Aekir, the historical heart of the Ramusian faith, for years.

The story begins when Aekir falls at last to Merduk troops under the command of their sultan Aurungzeb and their great general Shahr Baraz; this event, and the subsequent invasion of the Merduks, drives multiple plot arcs throughout the series:

  • Young ensign Corfe Cear-Inaf, the last survivor of the Aekir garrison (and rescuer of the Church's previous Pontiff, Macrobius), gradually rises to a position of great military command as he continues to fight against the Merduks.
  • King Abeleyn of Hebrion, at odds with Prelate Himerius over the prelate's campaign to destroy the kingdom's Dweomer-folk, uses his ambitious noble cousin Murad to lead a colonization voyage to the mysterious western continent, captained by renowned mariner Richard Hawkwood.
  • In the religious capital of Charibon, two monks, Albrec and Avila, discover suppressed historical evidence that there is more to the story of Saint Ramusio, the faith's founder, than any Normannian knows.

Provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Ending: The book ends with Corfe sitting around a camp fire with Ramusio and Shahr Baraz. All three of them are dead at this point.
  • Antagonist in Mourning: At the beginning of the first book Shahr Baraz is seen weeping in front of the crucified body of John Mogen.
  • The Archmage: Aruan, who is the only human to master all branches of magic and even invents a new one.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Not so much the actual royalty, but the nobility are almost without exception greedy, vain, egotistical and more loyal to their own inflated sense of worth than their respective nations.
  • Badass Army: The Cathedrallers. Every man of them is recruited from one of the Hill tribes.
  • Blood Knight: Marsch and nearly all men from the Hill tribes do not seem to need a reason to fight.
  • The Chessmaster: lots of people want to be this, but the only ones who are very good at it are Jemilla, Golophin and Aruan. Most people who go up against Corfe want to be chessmasters, but are defeated when Corfe devises yet another Indy Ploy.
  • Cold Iron: To the Shifters — the iron need not be cold, but the trope is otherwise played straight.
  • Corrupt Church: The Ramusian church becomes one under Sinister Minister Himerius, though even at the story's beginning there are strong internal divisions and politicking among the Orders.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: St. Ramusio. It turns out that he's also Crystal Dragon Mohammed.
  • Determinator: so many, but Richard Harkwood, Albrec and Corfe Cear-Inaf are the standouts.
  • Elite Army: The Fimbrians. Later in the books the Army of Torunna also qualifies.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Shahr Baraz is very upset that the defenders of Aekir burned down their great library when they torched the town in order to not let it fall into the hands of the Merduks.
  • Faceā€“Heel Turn: Bardolin.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: the classic Medieval Europe and Arabia version, albeit with a more nuanced presentation of the latter than is common.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Avoids this one, with primitive guns and swords coexisting seamlessly. The guns are based on the earliest rifles - they are only able to be fired twice a minute (three times if the soldier is particularly well trained) and have a limited range, so arrows of various sorts are still useful, and traditional cavalry and infantry are the bulk of forces — although some characters have forebodings that guns will change the nature of war forever.
  • Good Shepherd: Pontiff Macrobius.
  • Gunpowder Fantasy: The tactical development of firearm use plays a major part in how the Ramusian-Merduk war progresses.
  • The Heretic: The two branches of the Ramusian Church each declare the other heretical; and Albrec's unrelated "heresies" are actually a truth that has been suppressed by the Church.
  • Kill It with Fire: the purge of the Dweomerfolk.
  • Knight Templar: The Inceptine Order.
  • Informed Ability: The reason the reader knows that John Mogen was a great strategist is that nearly every person Corfe encounters mentions this. The reader never sees him commanding his troops because the day the story sets in is the day of his defeat at Aekir, followed by his death.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map
  • Mad Oracle: St Honorius it turns out he's not so much mad as called that because he's inconvenient to the Church.
  • Malignant Plot Tumor: pretty much anything involving the mysterious Western Continent.
  • Memetic Badass: An in-universe example; Corfe Cear-Inaf becomes one over the course of the story. Also becomes a Four-Star Badass.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Ultimately deconstructed. Aruan talks a good game about wanting to create a better world for dweomer-folk, but it's pretty clear to anyone who pays attention that he's just using this rhetoric to gather followers and really only cares about power for himself. As a result, some of his own minions ultimately end up deciding that the best way to realize Aruan's stated vision for the world is by removing Aruan himself from it, and turn on him.
  • Ocean Punk
  • Our Homunculi Are Different: Homonculi are familiars grown without Ur-blood; they mature faster than Imps, but they have bad eating habits and are Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Shifting is a recognized discipline of the magic arts, though something of an outlier in that it is treated more like a disease than a skill, and shifters are considered incapable of learning any of the other six Disciplines. Unlike legendary lycanthropes, shifters can control their change, though this gets much more difficult if they are emotionally overwrought.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: The marriage between Nasir and Mirren is this.
  • Preacher Man: Albrec becomes this.
  • Rape as Drama: Corfe's wife Heria, Arja, and most women who sleep with Murad.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Definitely on the cynical end.
  • Turbulent Priest: Albrec and Avila, although Avila tends to follow Albrec's lead.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: at any given point, there are at least five major plot threads going on.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Republic of Fimbria was once the Fimbrian Empire, and ruled most of the continent. Most of the streets were built to march its armies. Now Fimbria is only one relatively small country. But don't worry. It is rising again.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men
  • Worthy Opponent: Shahr Baraz considers John Mogen to be this.
  • Zerg Rush: The strategy of the Merduks, after the deposing of Shahr Baraz.