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Literature / The Night Angel Trilogy

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Pretty cover art to the original trilogy. No relation to that one video game. These guys don't have beards.

"Assassins have targets. Wetboys have deaders. [...] Once you've accepted the contract, whatever's left of the deader's life is just a formality."
Durzo Blint

The Night Angel Trilogy is a fantasy novel series by Brent Weeks, the author of The Lightbringer Series. It's about a boy from the slums who becomes an apprentice to a famed wetboy, assassins with magical talents, and who inherits a magical artifact which gives him a manner of supernatural powers. Lots of politics, war, and evil megalomaniacs. Major subjects include Kylar's feelings about his job, his love triangle, and the fact that bad things happen to good people.

In some ways the story reads like a strange adult-themed hybrid of Mistborn: The Original Trilogynote  and The First Law, with a bit of The Farseer Trilogy thrown in for good measure. From there things build to a study of faith, love, the cost of doing the right (and wrong) thing, what to do in an unfair universe, and a look at what immortality can do to a person. Add in a high amount of action, politics, and a multitude of plans conducted by multitudes of people of increasingly complexity and you have an idea of what the series is like.

The first book in the series is The Way of Shadows, second Shadow's Edge, third Beyond the Shadows. A novella was released in 2011 in audio or e-book format only called Perfect Shadow.

No relation to the movie Night Angel.

These books provides examples of the following:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Technically, Hu Gibbet is Vi's master, not her father, but it has the same effect. She was also raped by at least one of her mother's lovers, and her mother didn't give a shit. Her test to become Hu's apprentice was to kill them.
  • Hu Gibbet himself is also implied to be the product of this in the Perfect Shadow novella, when Durzo is contracted to kill two married, deranged wetboys who have been teaching their eight-yearold son Hubert their craft, and are in fact beating him when Durzo arrives, some twenty years before the main story of the trilogy.
  • Accidental Pervert: Kylar and Vi's wedding earrings create what are essentially highly realistic wet dreams. None of them amount to anything due to personal baggage, but they often involve one or both being a at least a little bit nude.
  • Aerith and Bob: The main cast includes names like Azoth, Durzo, Gwynvere, and Viridiana. It also includes names like Logan, Elene, and Dorian.
  • All There in the Manual: The compendium collects all three books and features a glossary and character list, both kept in-universe, and two chapters Weeks cut out of Beyond the Shadows explaining how Feir got in and out of Ezra's Wood alive.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The worship of Khali, God of Suffering, has turned the entire nation of Khalador into this.
  • Arc Number: Khali's black magic is associated with the number 13. The Krull organize into hierarchies of 13, and the God-King is the only person allowed to reach the 13th level of mastery with the vir.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • Viridiana appears in only one scene of The Way of Shadows before becoming one of the main viewpoint characters of the other two books.
    • Scarred Rabble is mentioned several times in The Way of Shadows as approximately the third-best Wetboy after Durzo and Hu Gibbet. He doesn't actually appear until Shadow's Edge, and returns for a slightly expanded role in Beyond the Shadows.
  • The Atoner:
    • Count Drake spent his life abolishing slavery in Cenaria, because he used to be the biggest slave trader in the country.
    • Durzo, after the Wolf brings him back for the last time.
    • Dorian, after becoming a Godking as bad as his father. It's specifically noted that this is his defining attribute pouring into Curoch at the end.
  • Back from the Dead: The bearer of the black Ka'kari experiences Resurrective Immortality that (usually) takes about twelve hours. There's a significant plot point in book 2 where two characters see its current bearer's corpse and arrive at very different conclusions because only one of them knows how it works.
    • Durzo. After being killed by Kylar, he is granted one final life 'for old time's sake' by the Wolf.
    • Ezra the Mad a.k.a. the Wolf seems to have designs on this, but isn't there yet.
  • Badass Creed:
    • "Life is Empty. Life is Meaningless. When we take a life, we take nothing of value."
    • The oath of the Night Angels definitely counts.
      "I am Sa'kagé, a lord of shadows. I claim the shadows that the Shadow may not. I am the strong arm of deliverance. I am Shadowstrider. I am the Scales of Justice. I am He-Who-Guards-Unseen. I am Shadowslayer. I am Nameless. The coranti shall not go unpunished. My way is hard, but I serve unbroken. In ignobility, nobility. In shame, honor. In darkness, light. I will do justice and love mercy. Until the king returns, I shall not lay my burden down."
  • Balancing Death's Books: Sure comes back to bite Kylar in the ass.
  • Berserk Button:
    • At times, Vi can get extremely sensitive about people touching her hair. At one point she turned two thugs into barely recognizable piles of meaty pulp with her hands, in a blind rage, just because they threatened her hair. She was suitably horrified that she was able to do such a thing afterward. This is in stark contrast to her numbness and apathy to much more intimate forms of contact.
    • Hu Gibbet, at times, when people say that Durzo Blint is the better wetboy.
  • Better as Friends: Dorian and Jenine really do try, but Jenine just wasn't that into it. Especially when she heard that Logan was alive.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Kylar's love triangle with Elene and Vi has elements of this - Elene is good and pure, but doesn't accept Kylar's rather violent world, while Vi is hostile, troubled, and initially an antagonist, but comes from the same world as Kylar and therefore understands him. Kylar loves Elene, but finds himself thinking about Vi as well. The situation is resolved at the end of the third book, when Elene has a Heroic Sacrifice after saying that she Wants Her Beloved To Be Happy with Vi after she's gone. It's implied that this is how things do indeed end up.
    • This is more a subversion of the trope as Kylar chooses Elene over Vi repeatedly in the third book even engaging in nightly sex and a secret marriage with Elene while still magically ringed to his "wife" Vi and it's clearly shown during a magical earring induced dream that his feelings for Vi were more superficial, based mostly on his attraction to her body as opposed to any real romantic love. In this light any potential pairing with Vi at the end is less out of any romantic feelings and more out of a desire to seek the comfort of a friend.
  • BFS: It's not mentioned much, as both are shapeshifting magic weapons, but both Curoch and Retribution are called such. Curoch in particular, being impressive to a Khalidorian Highlander who gets his hands on it without knowing what it is.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Most of the enemies are complete monsters, but none of the heroes are saints either. Kylar wants to do the right thing, but is responsible of the deaths of some innocents during his time as Durzo's apprentice, and doesn't hesitate to Pay Evil unto Evil. Even Logan had to give up part of his humanity when he was locked up in the Hole.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Terah Graesin, who is queen for a while, and her brother Luc.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Durzo teaches Kylar a philosophy of detachment, cynicism, callousness, and apathy - "love is weakness", and so forth. As time goes on, however, Kylar becomes increasingly willing to reject this doctrine.
  • Can't Have Sex, Ever: Kylar and Elene have this problem after Vi "rings" Kylar to eliminate Godking Ursuul. At least until Sister Ariel figures out a method.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: Several, such as Sister Ariel casually, almost pointlessly, bringing up the story of Trace Arvagulania.
  • Chekhov's Gun: One of the first things Logan says as Kylar's friend is about how a story about Ka'Karis interested him. Guess what one of the main plot devices is?
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Aleine Gunder IX. Played for laughs. Poor Aleine (or Niner as he is not-so-lovingly called by just about everyone) swears all the time. He can actually be quite creative there's only one problem, the only swear he knows is the word shit. Due to this fact, and his childish nature he is prone to rant for several minutes. This is so much the case that when he starts cursing everyone in earshot just tunes him out. It doesn't help much that he's the king and therefore no one will swear in front of him. Then along comes resident badass Durzo. It wasn't until after Niner saw the looks on his guards faces that he realized he'd been insulted.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Kylar inflicts some on Terah Graesin.
  • The Corruption: In a general sense, Khali's influence. In a more specific sense, the vir. Worship of Khali has turned Khalador into the worst country in the world and hardwired its rulers into serial torturers. Use of the vir damages the user in body and mind. There is a direct link between Dorian using his vir and his Face–Heel Turn into God-King Wanhope. Furthermore, the vir damages the Talent of those who use it. This initially opens new possibilities for the vir user, broadening their power. But over time, their Talent because worn and tattered, leaving unable to work anything but the most basic magic without the vir.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The One God. The way Elene and Count Drake act suggest that he preaches ideas very, very similar to what we would consider good Christian virtues.
    • There are at least two outright quotations from The Bible. Elene says the God's blessings are 'new every morning' (Lamentations 3:23, best known from the hymn 'The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases') and when Dorian wrestles with his conscience over whether to tell Jenine that Logan lives, the voice of God quotes Jeremiah 29:11 to him ("I know the plans I have for you"). For what its worth, Brent Weeks is an atheist-turned- Christian (though the story never becomes an Author Tract).
    • Count Drake also outright quotes Saint Francis of Assisi, saying, "A saint once said, 'Preach at all times. When necessary, use words.'"
    • There are also other gods that were/are worshiped before the One God. Nysos, the god of blood, wine, and semen whom Wetboys like Hu Gibbet worship. And Khali, the Klahidorian goddess.
  • Crapsack World: Cenaria is a country / city-state which is so endemically corrupt that the local crime syndicate is able to control who gets to be the King- and choose the bad King precisely because he is an incompetent, paranoid buffoon, and thus not someone who will crack down on crime. The poorer sections are rife with poverty and violence and most kids are in street gangs, regardless of age, and moving up the social ladder is officially illegal, though most nobles are less evil than ignorant of how bad things are.
    • Khalidor, to the North, is several magnitudes worse, a Religion of Evil- Magocracy / Theocracy literally built on suffering and war, where the God-Emperor is always a prolific serial torture-rapist-killer, and above him the God of Evil who controls the highly addictive and corrupting Black Magic that makes the country one of the most powerful and expansionist nations on the continent. Misogny is hardwired into the culture to the point where sexual slavery is the closest they have to marriage, and not beating and raping your sex-slave daily is practically revolutionary. God-Kings are chosen from a batch of the predecessors (male) bastard kids by his savagely abused concubines, who are "trained" on a diet of rape, torture and murder (the female bastards, their half-sisters, amongst the victims) and encouraged to plot and scheme against each other (to the point of murder, if they can get away with it). This has all been going on since the dynasty was founded centuries ago by a man one contemporary explicitly referred to as The Dark Lord, and its armies include a range of monsters and, in a pinch, demons, all of which require multiple ritual human sacrifices to create or summon for battle.
    • Most of the action of the story takes place in one or both of these countries (including when the former is conquered by the latter); the other nations, while far from perfect and having their own flaws, are much better by comparison.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Seems to be a trait among wetboys- Kylar and Durzo both start snarking heavily from day 1. The voice in their head is one too.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Zigzagged with God-King Wanhope. He believes his relationship with Janine is fated, and goes out of his way to excuse having a wife barely half his age, even though it's not unusual for a God-King (Garoth was in his fifties and had a fourteen-year-old in his harem). This is foreshadowing that their relationship doesn't really work. On the flip side, him raping a 13-year-old girl in front of her father as a show of dominance over their tribe is meant to be horrific, and Wanhope's read of the situation as a simple act of etiquette is a signal that something has gone deeply wrong with him.
  • Demonic Possession: At the end, Elene accepts this deliberately, and is then able prevent the entity from leaving again for long enough to make a Heroic Sacrifice which kills them both.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Rat. To be fair, he never considered raping boys until he was told to by Neph.
  • The Dragon: Vürdmeister Neph Dada functions as this for all three Big Bads in the series, which means, when they start to get wiped out, he winds up...
    • Dragon His Feet straight to the next one. And since by the third book he's weary of the whole process, he gets a bit more ambitious and becomes...
    • The Starscream, although his latest boss doesn't discover that.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending:
    • Kylar has to kill the love of his life. Dorian is forced to do a number of terrible things and embrace the perverse vir in order to ultimately, tear it out and lose his sanity.
    • Logan. His childhood love has screwed just about every boy their age, his family is slaughtered, his best friends were a spy for the underworld and one of the boys screwing his childhood love, his mentor was really a spy for a group of mages, he is forced to become prince against his will and enter a loveless marriage, his wife is murdered in front of them DURING their wedding night, and he is forced to leap into what is basically Hell Itself to survive. And that was just the first book... Justified since he ends up having the one truly happy ending.
  • Either/Or Prophecy: A lot of Dorian's prophecies seem to be like this - he sees possibilities rather than facts, and people have to decide how they react.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Krull. Magic users of Midcryu cannot call back the souls of the dead. What they can do is build a body of bones (and it need not be human-shaped) and magically call out to the Krull. They will come and dwell in the necromantic construct. Krull have strange morality, including a rigid hierarchy and a complete disregard for life (including their own; Krull seem to be aware that the body they inhabit is effectively a vehicle and that they can be resummoned in a new one if the current one is destroyed). No one knows where the Krull come from or why they answer a summoner's call, but legend connects them directly to Khali
  • Elemental Powers: Some of the Ka'kari provide control over the elements. The red, the blue, the brown and the green
  • Ethnic Magician: Khalador worships Khali, God of Suffering. She grants Khaladorans access to the vir, a pool of magic replenished by acts of cruelty and evil. For perhaps understandable reasons, no one else worships Khali, and thus no one else can call on the vir.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Neph and Khali are both undone because this. They could never understand that love is the basis for the black Ka'kari's power, and that selfish people like them could never wield it.
  • Faking the Dead: At the start of the second book, Kylar takes a job where he does this to aid his client's political ambitions. Unfortunately, his client actually kills him instead of pretending to do so. Kylar comes back from the dead, of course, but the price for it is Jarl's death
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Ceura seems to draw on [[note: but not be identical to]]medieval Japan, though with the standard medieval European setting as a base. Likewise with Ymmur and the Mongols, and Khalidor and parts of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Middle East.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death:
    • If Logan or Kylar, ever find Trudana Jadwin. They are going to things that would make Hu Gibbet squeamish.
    • A brief audio released by Brent Weeks on his blog set after the trilogy has ended shows Kylar is already after Jadwin and openly admits she is going to suffer for what she did to Serah, Mags and of Ursuul's victims. A Fate Worse Than Death is coming.
  • For Want of a Nail: Many of the events of the book occur primarily because the Sa'Kage, instead of supporting a revolution that would put a strong, intelligent, and incredibly competent man on the throne, one who would almost certainly bring prosperity to the kingdom if he were in charge, they instead make certain that the crown goes to a moron who is so idiotic that his reign will almost certainly cause the kingdom to spiral further into lawlessness and corruption. This would have the side effect of making their kingdom absurdly easy to conquer if anyone decided to attack them. Oh, and guess what, one of the most brutal, evil, relentless, and sadistic kingdoms in the history of fiction shares a border with them, and tries to invade on an absurdly regular basis. For want of a strong king, the entire kingdom falls apart, and is invaded by a foreign power who will not tolerate the Sa'Kage's existence, period, end of story, no negotiations, the majority of the leaders of the Sa'Kage are dead or in hiding by the end of the second book, and by the end of the third, the Sa'Kage as it was no longer exists.
  • Flynning: Invoked. Kylar, as Kagé, is entered into a sword tournament. He defeats his first opponent quickly and realistically, stunning the audience and impressing the judges. He's told before the next match that he has to play it up, because he's representing the Sa'Kagé to demonstrate their power to the masses.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Played with for Dorian. His first glimpse at his own future has informed him that he will eventually go mad, and so he avoids looking down the path to delay that inevitability. When it finally happens, it's neither looking into the future nor a Heel Realization that causes it, though.
  • A God Am I: Many gods are worshiped, but the only one we actually see tangible proof of is actually an immortal magician who has set herself up as the goddess Khali. And then there's the Godking, who is really seen as a god by some of his subjects.
    • Kylar has a few scattered moments of this after receiving the black ka'kari, allowing him to become completely invisible, effectively immortal through constant resurrection, and granting/boosting his magical powers. Subverted though in that Kylar realises this and wonders why Durzo Blint, the previous owner of the black ka'kari, didn't declare himself a God and use his power to rule. He decides that there must be a reason. It turns out there is one: the black ka'kari itself is sentient enough to decide someone worthy of using it, leaving Durzo Blint when it realizes his morals have fallen too far, and the knowledge of its very existence is a secret even to mythology and so must be kept secret to stop unwanted attention from people seeking the power of a ka'kari.
      • Incidentally, in the second book, Kylar starts running into people who do think he is a god and worship him as such- some of them actually think he Durzo, but since Kylar is his successor the truth probably wouldn't make much difference to them anyway, since fundamentally it is the Night Angel they worship.
    • In relation to the immortality: Kylar is careless at first, much to the horror and anger of the Wolf, but constantly reminds himself that such a power must come with a downside even if he cannot see it, and so avoids dying if possible just to be safe. It turns out there is a price: that with every time he resurrects he takes the life of someone he loves in his place (although the effect can be delayed by the Wolf, it cannot be prevented).
  • Good Shepherd: Count Drake, in spite of his dark past. This is later brought up when Kylar informs him that while he can see guilt and sin in people, Count Drake is empty of it, and is told that he is "clean." This makes him quite happy.
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Kylar loses his right arm during the climax of Shadow's Edge. He spends the first part of Beyond the Shadows using the Ka'kari as a prosthetic. He's still hell on wheels.
    • Brant Agon has to walk with two canes by the end of the series, which leads well to his Badass Boast:
    Agon: "You draw that sword and I'm going to feed it to you"
    Inspector: "But you're an old cripple!"
    Agon: "Which will make it all the more embarrassing when I do"
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Most of Dorian's arc in Beyond the Shadows deals with this. In his attempt to reform Khalador, he finds it bending him as much as he bends it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Vi is initially the apprentice of Hu Gibbet, a villain, and does a number of bad things in the first and second books. By the third book, though, she's turned good, although there's still tension for various reasons.
  • Heir Club for Men: The Godking has lots of sons, but they keep killing each other or dying during the tests of worthiness they are given. And those who do survive are potential threats that need to be eliminated.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Beyond the Shadows has Kylar very focused on Vi's fiery hair on several occasions.
    • A subversion since he was magically enslaved to Vi by the magical earrings she used to help kill the Godking, which are meant to permanently bond a husband and wife. Despite this, he still chooses to be with Elene rather than Vi in spite of the magical compulsion.
  • Heroic BSoD: Kylar is horrified when he learns the truth behind his immortality. Exaggerated when he is told that the next victim of said immortality is Elene.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold:
    • Momma K, Shinga (meaning she controls the entire criminal underworld) and Mistress of Pleasures (meaning she controls all the prostitution in the country), along with her bevy of whores, are actually shown as good-hearted people, and are even lauded as heroes by Logan for stirring up rebellion and taking out hundreds of Khalidorian soldiers, who were abusing and killing women daily, in the Nocta Hemata.
    • Also Jarl, who takes over her businesses and her position as Shinga when she retires.
    • The Order of the Garter.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Logan does this twice. First by swearing fealty to Terah Graesin. Later by killing Kylar
  • I Have Many Names: Durzo Blint's got a lot of them. Because he happens to be almost every hero from the past 700 years.
  • Immortality:
    • Resurrective Immortality: Kylar can be killed, but doesn't stay dead for very long. He's told that there's a price, but it only emerges in the third book what it is: every time he comes back, someone he loves dies in his place. Moreover, he is told which ones, and even more distressingly, which one will be chosen for his most recent revival: Elene, his true love.
    • Immortality Inducer: The Black Ka'kari grants immortality so long as you're bonded to it.
      • Also, Ezra the Mad. Although he implies that he has a limited lifespan, it's also implied that he can increase it by bringing powerful magical objects into Ezra's Wood.
      • Durzo mentions that bearers of the other Ka'kari simply stop aging. If killed, they stay dead. This is because the black predates the others. The rest were imperfect copies made by Ezra the Mad; he couldn't quite rival the original.
  • In Vino Veritas: Hu Gibbet supposedly confesses genuine affection for Vi with a drunken "bitches ain't shit" combined with something of a Full-Name Ultimatum. The actual verity of this is left ambiguous.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Elene. It goes at odds with Kylar's job as necessary evil incarnate.
  • Insistent Terminology: Although most people would call them assassins, the people who work for the Sa'Kagé in that capacity insist that the local term, "wetboy", be used instead. Unlike regular assassins, wetboys use magic.
    • Wetboys don't have targets, they have "deaders" as from the moment the Wetboy accepts the contract the deader's termination is a mere formality.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Though not as comical as the trope can be, when Logan and Jenine's consummation of their abrupt marriage is interrupted by Khalidorian troops.
  • Knight Templar: The Lae'Knaught order are anti-magic fanatics - possibly not without a certain justification, given what the Godkings did with magic.
  • La Résistance: Women and girls who were forced into prostitution secretly plot to kill and castrate dozens of Khalidorians. Though once word of Jarl's death gets around, many other brothels get in on it, resulting in the slaying of over 600 Khalidorians, topped off with genitals nailed to the doors like trophies.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Heavy use of Curoch's power tends to cause one's hair to start growing in white.
  • Lost Technology: Ezra the Mad created a lot of magical versions of this [[note: including most of the ka'kari]]. The black ka'kari is older than all of them, and the other ka'kari are imitations, although most characters are unaware of that fact, and its origins are lost to time. However, Ezra did tinker around with it and enhance its abilities- most notably, before he came along, holders of the black ka'kari were very much mortal, if still superpowered.
    • Feir rediscovers a lost method to reforge broken mistarille swords in order to make a 'fake' Ceur'Caelestos. It is strongly implied that he made the real Ceur'Caelestos- the reason it had never been found before being that Feir had yet to make it.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The Godking does this to Kylar and Vi. The first is just to screw with his mind, while the second is true - but it doesn't stop her killing him at the end of the second book.
  • Master Swordsman:
    • Lantano Garuwashi, who has 'Eighty two kills. At least half of those are in single duels.
    • Durzo Blint and Kylar are also considered masters in their own rights. Kylar still has room to improve.
  • Meaningful Name: Everywhere. To name a few, Kylar Stern, Hu Gibbet, Scarred Wrable, Durzo Blint was supposed to be one. The alias he was taking for his newest life was meant to be Durzo Flint, keeping with his Theme Naming tradition. But he was drunk when he said his name so it came out as Blint. He just rolled with it.
  • Mithril: Called "mistarile," and it has all of the usual properties of Mithril.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Once Dorian starts calling himself, "God-King Wanhope," he's crossed it.
  • Morality Pet: Deconstructed with Elene in the second book. She finds the idea of killing in any context abhorrent. Kylar makes a good faith effort to put aside his calling as the Night Angel, but still winds up moonlighting as a Batman Expy, trying not to kill anyone. The whole affair doesn't make Kylar any more good, but is instead a major source of conflict in their relationship. After being kidnapped by Khaladorans who intend to use her for Human Sacrifice, Elene kills one of her captors so that she and a young boy can escape them. This makes her come around to the idea that not all killing is murder.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Logan's initial reaction to hearing that Serah, the woman he was in love with since childhood, had sex with his best friend. Along with pretty much everyone else.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Two in the same scene, no less: Kylar gets his upon being told the price of his immortality is his loved ones' lives, and The Wolf gets his upon realizing that no, Kylar didn't know the price, he's been a dick to Kylar for nothing, and the next victim of Kylar's immortality is his one true love. No one gets out of the conversation unscathed.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: General Brant Agon, in working for bad king Gunder. Until he kills him, anyway. Long Live the King indeed.
  • Named Weapons: Curoch, the Sword of Power, and Iures, the Staff of Law. The former has a prominent place in one particular culture as Ceur'caelestos, the Blade of Heaven, while Iures spends most of the plot disguised as a sword called Retribution. It's implied that they may both have had other names and guises through the ages, too.
  • Near-Death Experience: When Kylar dies, he gets presented with two doorways - one goes to whatever comes after death, while another goes back to the world. If he selects the latter, he can never change his mind.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Uses 3a types in Durzo Blint and Kylar Stern. When wielding the Black Ka'Kari, they are given an inhuman immunity to all forms of poison and toxin, to include alcohol. Even after four full sacs of wine Kylar wasn't the least bit buzzed, and Durzo would spend ungodly hours at the bar to feel the least bit plastered.
    • When Kylar, as Azoth, "meets" Durzo for the first time, he's scrounging for coins beneath the floor of a bar. An assassin approaches to kill Durzo, saying to just let it happen since he says that Durzo has drunk several pints while he watched from the shadows. Durzo replies that he's had even more before the assassin even showed up! Leads to a Curbstomp Battle from Blint upon the assassins once the leader decides to bring in his friends.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Disastrously subverted. Kylar assumed that killing Khali would also return the army of Krull she just raised to its inanimate state. Cut to Sister Ariel shaking him awake, begging for his help because it definitely did not.
  • Not Quite Dead: The Wolf a.k.a. Ezra the Mad exists in the antechamber to the afterlife. His actions suggest he has a plan to come Back from the Dead.
  • Obviously Evil: Vurdmeisters. The vir is magic granted by Khali, God of Suffering. Those who use the vir, called Miesters, manifest it as a black, thorny mass that starts on their arms and spreads outward. By the time a Meister reaches the level of mastery to be dubbed a Vurdmeister, they have little skin left that isn't covered by writhing black thorns.
    • The God-King. As the only person allowed to reach the thirteenth level of communion with the vir, his crown is formed of its thorns, thrusting through his skin.
  • Our Nudity Is Different: Sethi consider showing ankles to be obscene but have no problem showing breasts. In fact, Sethi wedding dresses are almost more like wedding skirts from the description. Sethi who spend too long living away from home often have trouble readjusting their standards of modesty.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Kylar won't hesitate to kill and make suffer those who deserved it.
  • Power at a Price: Kylar tells himself that there must be a cost for his immortality. The price? Someone he loves will die every time he comes back.
    • The Godking wanted power from Khali, so he accepted two demons into himself. The first one was Pride, and it had no noticable side effects. So he did it again, and got Lust. And now, he's randy pretty much all of the time. He admits that while the first one was easy to bear, the second one is extremely difficult to live with.
  • The Power of Love: You'd never guess it while reading The Way of Shadows, but the Black Ka'kari runs on this. It specifically mentions that the reason Khali was never able to subvert its power is because she couldn't comprehend true, selfless love.
  • Professional Killer: Taken to a new level: Wetboys, as Blint illustrates in the page quote, are contemptuous of mere 'assassins'.
    "You know why assassins have 'targets'? 'Cause assassins sometimes miss."
  • Psychic Link: Kylar gets an involuntary psychic link with Vi thanks to some magic designed to permanently join husband and wife. It was originally intended for Kylar and Elene, but Vi applied it to him while he was unconscious because it was the only way she could break the Godking's compulsion to never harm him and kill anyone that tries.
  • Psycho for Hire: Hu Gibbet is considered to be quite psychotic in his violence even by the standards of his fellow hired killers.
  • Really 700 Years Old: He doesn't exactly look young, but it turns out that Durzo was practically immortal until the events of the books, and many of the famous heroes of history and legend were actually him. Bonus Points for being actually 700.
  • Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Brent says in an interview one of his goals with Vi was to subvert this.
  • Red Herring: A former member of Azoth's guild, Roth, becomes a prominent player in the second half of The Way of Shadows, and Kylar does remember him. Astute readers will have also noted him turning up during Azoth's days there. Except that Roth was killed and his identity taken by Rat, whose real name is apparently also Roth.
  • Red Mage: Dorian knows how to use both northern magic based on the vir and southern magic based on sunlight.
  • Religion of Evil: Khali gains her power from suffering. The extent to which this is understood and/or cared about is difficult to judge, given that her worshipers have little freedom to do anything else.
  • Rousing Speech: First, Jarl's "I Say Hell No" speech to the women forced into the World's Oldest Profession, then Logan's speech to the utterly distraught Cenarians, in which he puts the women of the Nocta Hemata back in good graces with their loved ones, announces their garters will be made of the enemy's battle flags, stirs up will to fight, and announces he will not marry notorious bitch Terah Graesin.
  • Royal Blood: Respect for royal blood is why the Duke Gyre didn't claim the throne. The lack of royal blood is also why Lantano Garuwashi feels such a need to prove himself despite already being a brilliant warlord and duelist - according to his culture, commoners can never achieve true greatness.
  • Rule of Three: Lessons at The Chantry are taught in threes, supposedly for ease of recall.
  • Scars are Forever:
    • Durzo is described as having divots in his face from some sort of poison. Elene's face is covered with scars from the beating given to her as Doll Girl by Rat. Speaking of Rat/Roth, Azoth cut off his ear and left him to drown. He was saved by a Vurdmeister, who partly melted his remaining ear as punishment for nearly dying.
    • Subverted with Elene. When possessed by Khali, the goddess healed her scars.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Black Barrow is a whole lot of evil, sealed in redundant, overlapping cans. It was once the site of a huge city from which the High King Jorson Alcestes ruled. After it fell to an enormous army of Krull, Ezra the Mad sealed the whole place up. It has weaves to block passage, more weaves that will kill anyone who draws on magic, and is topped off by a magical construct called the Hunter that runs like a cheetah and hits like a truck. The seal is so tight that, 700 years later, the bodies from that final battle haven't even decayed. This is intentional, as Krull can be given new bodies, but not until their old one dies; the weaves Ezra put down keep those Krull imprisoned in their dormant bodies, unable to be resummoned.
  • Self-Made Orphan: One of the first tasks that the Godking gives to his sons is to murder their mother.
  • Sequel Escalation: Lampshaded by Durzo.
    So first you kill a King who calls himself a god, and now you're going after a Goddess in truth? Unless you can find a way to kill continents next, you're going to have to retire.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Durzo, Kylar, and Vi are all deconstructions and/or subversions. Word of God says that one of his goals in writing this story was to deconstruct this trope.
  • Succession Crisis: The question of who gets to be king of Cenaria is important to the plot, and infighting between possible claimants hampers the fight against the invaders.
  • Supervillain Lair: The God-King's citadel is an ominous triangular castle carved out of a mountain. It is only accessible by crossing a bridge paved with human skulls.
  • Talking Weapon: The black ka'kari, although more than just a weapon, fits this.
  • Thieves' Guild: The Sa'Kagé, who supposedly control all crime in their area. In Cenaria, the main setting, the Sa'Kagé is extremely powerful, often moreso than the king - they could be considered the city's real rulers. In other places, the local Sa'Kagé may be little more than a few street thugs.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Logan has to decide the fate of Kylar after he kills a really bad person, a really bad Noble person, and is caught. He decides to sentence Kylar to death for Law, and send a wetboy to spring him from jail for Good. Kylar actually understood this trope in advance, and knew what the consequences would be.
    • Although had he known that the consequence was going to be Elene's life, it's a certainty he wouldn't have let himself be executed, regardless of the consequences to the world, as he had not yet become mature enough. It took Elene's acceptance of him and her courage to make him willing to make that sacrifice.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Wolf puts Kylar more at ease with killing Khali while possessing Elene by showing him what Cenaria will become because of it, a beautiful, flower-covered city of productive, happy people. More of an inversion, though, since the alternative was an outright Dystopia so Kylar didn't really have any choice, and Elene was as good as dead already anyway.
    • What really put him at ease was the knowledge that Elene had created an entire species of tulip for him as she died, a tulip that signified her acceptance and her love for him.
  • Virgin-Shaming: Logan] feels great shame over being an adult man who is still a virgin, especially through book two.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Dorian's rationale for becoming the Godking Wanhope and resurrecting his own vir in the third book. He does a great job of convincing himself it was the right thing to do, and it's not until the climax that he realises what he's done and tries to make amends.
    • To put things in perspective, near the end of the third book, he realizes that, in only a few months, he has committed as many, or more, heinous deeds than his father had in a life spanning decades.
  • Wham Episode: While it had been hinted at throughout the second book, the revelation that every time the wielder of the black ka'kari is resurrected from the dead, someone he loves is killed is still one of the biggest whams in the series. The fact that it's done by seeming coincidence helps keep this from being discovered early.
  • Wham Line: The Way of Shadows has one massive one for Kylar when he confronts Durzo at the end: " Rat didn't mutilate Doll Girl. I did." The trope was actually Invoked by Durzo: he lied so that Kylar would be mad enough to kill him and thereby fully bond the ka'kari.
    • Not to mention the letter he finds at the conclusion of Shadow's Edge, which functions as his own wham line, and the last sentence of the book smashes the point home in case anyone hadn't picked up on it yet: "Durzo was alive."
    • The Wolf telling Kylar who the next victim of his immortality is:
      The Wolf: "This time it's Elene."]]
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: For all the talk of wanting to hunt down Trudana Jadwin for the horrors she left behind, she never turns up again.
    • Actually partially answered in an exclusive audio short set after the series released on Weeks's website. Set a few months after Elene's funeral Kylar is hunting Trudana Jadwin down in order to make her pay for what she did.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Durzo emphatically argues for the drawbacks of immortality. Kylar frequently reflects on what a miserable cynic he eventually became when thinking about his own future.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Dorian is fairly normal until his vir comes into play. Then you may want to find the bunker.
  • World of Snark: Most of the less formal characters have a large amount of snarky banter.
  • Wretched Hive: Taken to its logical conclusion. What happens when the hive becomes so wretched that the local criminal organization, the Sa'Kage, grows so powerful that its corruption and influence extend everywhere in the city and government? The city and government become very vulnerable to infiltration and invasion by hostile foreign nations.
  • "X" Marks the Hero: Possibly the bane of Elene's existence is her set of scars from Rat beating her, partially consisting of a large X on her cheek, and a smaller x on her bottom lip.
  • You Can't Fight Fate:
    • Possibly. When Kylar learns that Elene is going to die (see under Immortality), he tries to say Screw Destiny, but it doesn't work. This might be fate, but some people might argue Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, too.
    • Another wrinkle is revealed by Elene before she dies, that she in fact had already offered her life in exchange for his in a prayer to her god, and that the Wolf and her god had both come to her and told her of her impending death and the potential sacrifice she could make for Kylar and the world.