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Literature / The Reynard Cycle

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The fiddler was late . . .

The Reynard Cycle is a series of Low Fantasy adventure novels by David R. Witanowski based on the medieval Beast Fable of the same name, but featuring human beings rather than animals. Reynard begins the story as a Loveable Rogue who steals from the rich and . . . pockets the loot. All is well and good, but then he sets his sights on robbing the beautiful Countess Persephone and Hilarity Ensues, sometimes more realistically than the reader might initially expect. The tone of the series is deeply seated in Grey-and-Gray Morality, and occasionally borders on outright Horror whenever the more fantastical elements of the books rear their ugly heads, but in general it stays true to its Swashbuckler roots. You can expect at least one Duel to the Death per book.

The current entries in the series:

  • Reynard the Fox (2011)
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  • The Baron of Maleperduys (2012)
  • Defender of the Crown (2013)

"The Reynard Cycle" contains examples of:

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  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Isengrim No-Father's sword, Right-Hand. On several occasions it cuts through (or breaks) swords of inferior make.
  • Abusive Parents: Reynard began his life of crime in order to support his mother, a drug addict who beat him whenever he came home empty-handed.
  • The Ace: Many, many examples. The crew of the Quicksilver in Reynard the Fox alone features folk who are all renowned for their excellence. Amongst the crew? The world's greatest archer, thief, strongman, swordsman, and psychopath.
  • Action Girl: Hirsent can kick some serious ass when necessary. In The Baron of Maleperduys, Rukenaw becomes one in training. By Defender of the Crown, she's become a full blown Dark Action Girl.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Reynard is far from a saint, but compared to the rapist that pisses on children's eyes until they become blind from the original Beast Fable, he is almost heroic.
  • Adult Fear: Hirsent can face down Chimera with aplomb and marches off to war without hesitation, but she is terrified by the prospect of miscarriage. Understandable as she has already lost a child due to it. She becomes very protective of Pinsard as a result.
  • The Alcoholic: Bruin has a drinking problem, and tends to turn into a Berserker when he's had too much. He drinks before battle to take advantage of this.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Women are drawn to Reynard for this reason.
  • Alternative Calendar: Though no dates are ever mentioned, months have names like Pearlmonth, Bloodmonth, Reaping, etc.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Calvarians regularly field companies of these.
    • By Defender of the Crown, a significant portion of Reynard's army is made up of women, with Rukenaw in command.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Thunderclap, a sword once held by the kings of Aquilia. It was supposedly unbreakable, but is now in thirteen pieces.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: A major part of Duke Nobel's plan in the first book. It works.
  • Animal Motifs: Given the initial source material, there's quite a lot of this present. Some of it is quite overt, especially when the primary cast of characters is concerned, though there are a few subtler instances of it as well.
    • For instance, Duke Nobel's coat of arms depicts a white lion, his father's name is Leo, and he aspires to be the king. On the other hand, in spite of her being raven-haired, living in a figurative gilded cage, and hailing from a city with a raven as its symbol, it can still be easy to miss that the Countess Persephone is oft likened to a bird.
  • The Anti-God: Hydra the Destroyer is this to Fenix the Firebird. Similarly, Wulf the Watcher to Sphinx the Lioness.
  • Anti-Hero: Both Reynard and Isengrim qualify as this.
  • Anyone Can Die: Each book in the series has a fairly high body count, and anyone other than Reynard himself seems to be fair game. Being a Mauve Shirt or a Tagalong Kid seems to be an almost certain death sentence.
    • Gods help you if you are a horse.
  • Appropriated Appellation: In Defender of the Crown, Rukenaw is called The Fairlimb, a name she shares with the morningstar she wields in battle. The origin of the nickname? A bad pick-up line. The guy was referring to her legs.
  • Archer Archetype: Played straight with Tiecelin.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played fairly straight in Reynard the Fox, which features Duke Nobel and Count Bricemer as Reynard's enemies (and the Countess Persephone as the exception.)
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Hirsent lands a good one on Isengrim during their reunion in Reynard the Fox. He takes it in stride.
    • In The Baron of Maleperduys she aims another one at him for endangering himself. He catches her wrist before it can land.
  • Army of Thieves and Whores: Reynard ends up leading one during The Baron of Maleperduys. By Defender of the Crown it's turned into an Elite Army.
  • Arranged Marriage: This is par for the course for the nobility. As a result of this, the Countess Persephone ends up marrying the man who (inadvertently) killed her father. The union is surprisingly civil.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Muraille, a series of fortresses connected by a wall over a hundred miles long. It's been breached so many times that it's been completely abandoned.

  • Badass Boast:
    Reynard: "You may hit me as much as you like, as long as you realize that I will one day hit you back."
    Isengrim: "You may try."
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Duke Nobel gets everything he wanted by the end of the first book.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The chimera tend to form these. A particularly nasty one attacks the Quicksilver in Reynard the Fox.
  • The Baroness: Rukenaw has turned into one of these by Defender of the Crown. She's the Sexpot type.
  • Bat Out of Hell: Bats are generally considered to be creatures of The Watcher, the god of death, and are thus generally considered an ill omen. In The Baron of Maleperduys, Hermeline recalls that the castle of Maleperduys had to be cleared of a swarm of them before Reynard and companions could call it home.
  • Batman Gambit: Reynard is a master of these, and often comes out on top due to his ability to predict how both friends and foes will react.
    • For example, in The Baron of Maleperduys, a major portion of his plan to defeat Drauglir relies on his confidence that Tybalt will inevitably betray them to the Calvarians.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Reynard the Fox features one that appears to have fallen on hard times. Fighting there is punishable by death via robot.
  • Beast Fable: The series is very clearly inspired by medieval folk stories of the same name: Reynard the Fox. Reynard's origin as a Fantastic Fox is lampshaded in his first appearance, though it's not hard to guess the origins of many of the other characters: Isengrim is a wolf, Tybalt a cat, Chanticleer a rooster, Nobel a lion, etc. etc.
  • Beneath the Mask: Reynard is generally a Deadpan Snarker, who likes to trade Witty Banter with his foes while engaging in dramatic swordplay. When he loses his cool however . . .
  • Berserk Button: Reynard clearly has one, and it appears to be tied to the guilt he feels due to not being able to protect his mother when he was young.
  • Big Bad: The Twist Ending at the end of the third book makes it obvious that Reynard has become this.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Baron of Maleperduys features the Battle of the Samara and the siege of Maleperduys.
  • The Big Guy: Bruin, who is a Class 4. His hands are described as being larger than the protagonist's head.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Persephone's cousin, Celia Corvino. In public she's gracious, thoughtful and kind (and is considered a great beauty to boot.) Privately, she's been plotting her cousin's death since she hit puberty.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Reynard acquires one during The Baron of Maleperduys.
    Reynard: "Someone once told me that my body was a weapon. A truer statement in my case than most."
  • The Blacksmith: Isengrim. He explains that the blood-guard must forge their own swords before they are considered members of the order.
    • The majority of the priesthood of Fenix are smiths of one sort or another. Their High Priest carries a ceremonial hammer.
  • Bling of War: The great lords of Arcasia are depicted as riding into battle wearing ornate armor that relies heavily on Animal Motifs. The Calvarians, being more practical, eschew this, though their uniforms are still described as being rather sharp.
  • The Bluebeard: Gaspard, the reputably insane Count of Lorn has married, and suspiciously lost, three wives. This trope is one possible explanation for this. (The other is that the wives are being assassinated by the Count's younger brother, who wishes to inherit the family title.)
  • Bluff the Imposter: Reynard enters into one of these with a shapeshifter who has done its research during Reynard the Fox. The one thing it fails to mimic is Reynard's complete contempt for authority, even in the face of death.
  • Body Motifs: Reynard loses his left hand during The Baron of Maleperduys. It is later replaced by a semi-functional iron hand, which often moves when Reynard is agitated or angry, seemingly against his will. He calls it his "ghost hand."
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: The Graycloaks that Reynard surrounds himself with in Defender of the Crown are no match for him. Whenever he is directly threatened, he tends to wave even their captain aside.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Bruin: Loud, often drunk, and described as a bear of a man. He's Dumb Muscle, but he's fun at parties. Just don't get him too drunk . . .
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Chanticleer soils himself when he is put into a pit with two chimera.
  • Broken Bird: Hirsent.

  • Cain and Abel: Tybalt is said to have killed his own brother in order to claim the leadership of a band of outlaws.
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: In The Baron of Maleperduys, Reynard and company find themselves trying to stay ahead of an advancing army, when a rainstorm begins to slow them. Sheltering briefly in a thicket, Reynard urges everyone to take food and drink, stating that they will press on as soon as he returns. When asked where he is going, Reynard replies: "To take a piss."
  • Camp Follower: Nobel's army in The Baron of Maleperduys is accompanied by several stripes of these. Some are the highly respected priestesses of Sphinx, while others are clearly sex slaves. The majority of them are run of the mill prostitutes.
  • The Captain: Roenel, captain of the Quicksilver. Call him anything other than "captain" at your own peril.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Captain Roenel and his First Mate, Pelez, play this very straight.
  • Catch Phrase: "He/She/They had some skill," is Isengrim's. It usually refers to someone who he's just killed, and is meant as a genuine compliment.
    • Tiecelin (and his pets): "Doom."
  • Cats Are Mean: Tybalt (the self-styled Prince of Cats), is a selfish, callous, Jerkass.
  • Characters Dropping Like Flies: By the end of Defender of the Crown, all but five of the characters introduced in Reynard the Fox are dead.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In Defender of the Crown, Reynard follows the trail of an assassin to the garden of a herbalist, where he meets with an assistant. It is later revealed that the herbalist is Hermeline, Reynard's scorned ex-lover, who uses the opportunity to sell Reynard poison rather than a sleeping drug. As a result, Reynard ends up accidentally killing the Queen.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: After the death of his father, Prince Lionel is named king at the ripe old age of three.
    • He is murdered before he can turn ten. Next in line for the throne? A four-year-old-girl.
  • Church Militant: The smith priests of Fenix the Firebird appear to engage in this. Besides the faith maintaining a monopoly on the production of the tools of war (weapons, armor, etc.), there are apparently "battle priests" present during the Battle of the Samara in The Baron of Maleperduys. Naturally, they wield war hammers.
  • The City Narrows: The Anthill, Calyx's slum quarter, is a perfect example.
  • City of Adventure: Calyx, Reynard's hometown, is clearly one, even though most of Reynard's adventures there took place prior to the novels. Maybe in the prequels?
  • Cliffhanger: Most chapters end on this note, and each book in the series ends on a fairly big one.
  • Les Collaborateurs: Mosca is a Southerner who seems to willingly be serving the Calvarian general Drauglir in The Baron of Maleperduys. He's treated fairly well by his boss, even though he still calls him a "southern dog."
    • A large number of these turn up when Drauglir offers a hundred thousand gold coins for Reynard's head. One of them is Tybalt.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Duke Nobel threatens to subject Hermeline to this in order to get Reynard to comply with him in Reynard the Fox. Given the severity of the crime (harming a priestess is a crime punishable by death no matter who you are), it's unclear whether or not he would have gone through with it.
    • Ghul, a Glyconese Torture Technician, plans to make Reynard suffer very slowly before killing him.
  • Colour Coded Castes: In Calvaria, you can instantly determine anyone's general profession and rank in society based entirely on the color of their clothing:
    • Children, and people of the service class, wear white.
    • Artisans, engineers, and laborers wear tan.
    • Members of the military wear gray. Non-Calvarians sometimes refer to all Calvarians as "the Grays" due to the fact that they've never seen one who wasn't a soldier of some kind.
    • The blood-guard (Calvaria's State Sec) wear black trimmed with red.
    • The Judges (the law makers and arbiters of justice) wear red trimmed with black.
  • Color Motif: In Arcasia, white is closely associated with death (it doesn't help that the moon looks like a giant skull.) This becomes especially apparent in Defender of the Crown, when the author himself begins to use the color as a form of foreshadowing.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Just about every Calvarian officer depicted in the series is prone to this, but Drauglir is a particularly good example. Given that Calvarian society is essentially one large armed camp, this is not surprising.
    • Ironically, the one Calvarian general who orders the torture of the civilian population in order to draw Reynard into a fight with him is depicted as being a man who would rather be home with his sweetheart, sipping tea.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: Defender of the Crown forces Isengrim to choose between his friendship with Reynard (who is rapidly approaching the Moral Event Horizon) and his own notions of right and wrong.
  • The Consigliere: Count Bricemer is this to Duke Nobel. He's got a far cooler head than his boss. Later, he serves Persephone in the same role.
  • Consummate Liar: Reynard is a natural, which serves him well as a Master of Disguise. He often resorts to lying via omission when he can't tell a bold-faced lie.
  • Costume Porn: Each entry in the series features at least one scene where what characters are wearing is described in lavish detail.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Tybalt's suggestion to escape the Calvarian navy via a passage inhabited by a sea monster in Reynard the Fox is finally accepted using this sort of logic.
  • Creepy Crows: Tiecelin's pet raven, Prophet, can talk, but only knows one word: "Doom!"
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: It's implied that this is why the Muraille, a string of fortresses connected by a wall a hundred miles long, is currently abandoned.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Let's just say that the Chimera have the tendency to eat people while they are still alive. And some of them may rape you first.
  • Cuckold: Subverted in Reynard the Fox. Baron Gallopin not only knows that his wife is having an affair, he's absolutely thrilled, as it's given him the license to fool around on his own.
  • Cultural Posturing: In spite of the fact that Calvaria, his country of origin, is clearly The Empire, and is policed by an organization that murdered his infant son, Isengrim still can't help but point out the many ways that Calvarians are superior to the rest of the world.
    • When asked if he misses the place, he says "no" in the Southern tongue, pauses, and then says "yes" in the Northern tongue.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Reynard, obviously.

  • Deadly Decadent Court: Reynard views the court of King Lionel this way in Defender of the Crown, and not without reason.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Reynard snarks so much that he engages in Witty Banter even when he is fighting for his life. It generally annoys the heck out of his enemies. When he stops doing this it's usually a very bad sign.
  • Death by Irony: Ghul becomes the victim of his own poison. The Calvarians are defeated by an army of mercenaries who are paid with the gold that they were offering in exchange for Reynard. Acteon is killed by a Chimera that he intended to kill the Queen with.
  • Deconstructor Fleet: The series is a very clear deconstruction of the Loveable Rogue trope.
  • Defensive Feint Trap: Drauglir crushes Nobel's numerically superior army with one of these in The Baron of Maleperduys.
    • Faelas lures Reynard into one of these in Defender of the Crown. Unfortunately, Reynard saw it coming and he ends up riding into one himself.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The priestesses of Sphinx, the Lioness, are the greatest healers in the land, and highly respected. They're also prostitutes, some of whom are as young as fourteen.
    • One of them is given to a King as a gift in Defender of the Crown. The King in question is nine years old. It's implied that she'll become his personal mistress as soon as he hits puberty. His mother finds this a little odd, but quickly reflects that racking up some experience in bed might make his future Queen happy.
  • The Determinator: Reynard.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: In Defender of the Crown, Reynard foils a conspiracy to kill the Queen by drugging her with a sleeping potion that causes her to appear as though she were dead. When the conspirators attempt their coup, he's waiting for them. Problem is, he inadvertently poisoned her, she's actually dead, and this information is revealed in a room full of witnesses who now need to be silenced. Some of whom are children.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Reynard the Fox ends heavily on this note.
  • Disappeared Dad: Reynard's father abandoned him when he was very young. Later, he came down with a bad case of Missing Mom, leading to a full blown case of Parental Abandonment.
  • Disney Villain Death: Nobel falls prey to this in The Baron of Maleperduys.
  • The Dog Bites Back: In this case, it's a partially-reptilian, two-headed dog the size of a RV. Good luck, Calvarian mooks!
  • The Dreaded: The Calvarians are regularly described as being the terror of the North.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • The Calvarians are prone to this due to their being a Proud Warrior Race, who would rather die than live with the shame of failure. In The Baron of Maleperduys, over half of the Calvarian survivors of a battle that ended in defeat request permission to fall on their own swords. Their commanding officer turns them all down, but only because he can't afford to lose any more soldiers.
    • Moire, the second mate of the Quicksilver, succumbs to this in Reynard the Fox when it dawns on her that she is pregnant with at least one Chimera child after having been subjected to a horrifying sexual assault at their hands.
  • Drop the Hammer: The smith priests of Fenix wield war hammers when they go to battle.
  • Due to the Dead: In Defender of the Crown, Reynard shows a defeated Calvarian army a measure of respect by laying their dead to rest according to their custom: The dead are laid out respectfully in concentric circles with their weapons planted in the dirt near their heads. Ironically, his own army sees this as a sign of deliberate disrespect, as the convention in the South is to burn the dead. Leaving corpses out in the open is something they only do to criminals. It's implied that Reynard knew the effect this would have, and is having his cake and eating it too.
    • Later, he requests that Isengrim be treated in a similar fashion (in the same location no less), but one of his Graycloaks objects, because "a blood-guard should be laid to rest with his own sword", and Reynard was going to lay him to rest with the blade that killed him. Reynard refuses to comply, stating: "He was no blood-guard." It's implied that he meant this as a compliment.

  • Easily Forgiven: Subverted in The Baron of Maleperduys. Reynard welcomes Tybalt back to the team, stating that the latter's betrayal was an integral part of his plan to defeat the enemy. He then goes on to tell Tybalt that if he even so much as suspects him of turning against him again, he will have him cut into pieces and fed to Tiecelin's Shrikes. In the next book, Tybalt is depicted as loyal, but absolutely terrified of Reynard.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Calvarians can construct entire functional cities underground. They do this due to the harsh weather of their homeland.
  • Eldritch Location: Vulp Vora, a land twisted and broken by ancient Demonic sorcery. Its cities rot beneath toxic jungles, wastelands burn with invisible fire, and mutants and monsters that defy easy description prowl in the shadows. It says a lot about the place that its best known functioning settlement is the haunted city of Carcosa. Needless to say, no one is keen on the prospect of traveling there.
  • Elemental Eye Colors: Most Calvarians (including Isengrim and Hirsent) are depicted as having icy blue eyes.
  • Elite Army: Each regiment of the Calvarian army functions this way. A force of about seven thousand of them crush an army over thirty thousand strong in The Baron of Maleperduys.
    • By Defender of the Crown, Reynard has whipped his Army of Thieves and Whores into one capable of beating the Calvarians at their own game.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Hirsent's poor mastery of the Southern language is portrayed this way. She lapses back into Calvarian several times in order to speak more eloquently.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Calvarians will kill foreign men, women, and children en masse without compunction, but they abhor rape and torture. The fact that their propaganda depicts ALL foreigners as rapists and torturers (amongst other things) is a large part of why they see nothing wrong with wiping them out.
    • For example, in The Baron of Maleperduys, Reynard and Hirsent discover the bodies of three Calvarian soldiers who were hanged by their own kind for the crime of raping a Southerner.
      • Of course, they also killed the victim.
  • Everybody Hates Hades: Partially subverted. The lunar deity Wulf is a trickster figure, as well as a god of death, and he is admired for being cunning. One of his schemes even led to the creation of humanity, and people raise a toast to him whenever they sit down to a drink or a meal . . . But it's also believed that his motivation for doing so was so that he could inflict suffering on the human race in order to amuse himself, and that speaking his name draws his attention, so most people avoid mentioning him directly, calling him The Watcher.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Wulf, the god of death, is also called the Winter-King. The North and its inhabitants are considered inhumanly evil by many Southerners (and not without reason.)
  • Evil Overlord: Stormbringer, the Demon King. The plot of the first book revolves around the recovery of a living gem that he wore in his iron crown.
  • Evil Stole My Faith: Isengrim explains that a horrific series of famines drove Calvaria to this trope. The country is now exclusively atheistic.
  • Evil Uncle: Corvino, the Countess Persephone's uncle by marriage, is perceived to be this. Persephone herself believes that he was the source of the numerous attempts on her life over the years. Turns out, it was actually her cousin, Celia, who wanted her dead.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: This happens to an entire army in The Baron of Maleperduys, though replace "bear" with "terrifying wolf monsters."
  • Expy: Isengrim and Reynard / Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. A tall Northerner paired up with a diminutive trickster.

  • Facial Horror: Hartnet is an otherwise attractive young woman who had her nose cut off during wartime. She wears a veil (and later a helmet with a nose guard) to conceal it, but people are still unnerved by the sight of her.
  • Fake Arm Disarm: Reynard's Blade Below the Shoulder suffers this during the climax of Defender of the Crown.
  • False Flag Operation: In Defender of the Crown, Reynard captures the fortress of Kloss using this technique. It helps that all Calvarians wear uniforms, even the civilians.
  • Famous Ancestor: Duke Nobel claims to be descended from Aquilia, the man who delivered the killing blow to Stormbringer, the Demon King. He considers this to be proof of his claim to the throne of Arcasia.
    • Tartarin, Count Terrien's heir, will happily tell anyone he meets that he was named for his ancestor, Tartarin the Lionslayer. Both Rukenaw and Hirsent are bored to tears by this during a sea voyage.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention:
    • Surprisingly for a series chock full of dueling clans, none of the Southern characters have family names. When a second name is applied (Celia Corvino, for instance), the intention is to differentiate the person from another family member with the same name, and is taken as shorthand for X, son or daughter of Y. So Celia Corvino would be known to be Celia, daughter of Corvino.
      • Calvarians do have secondary names, but they only serve to tell you the order of their birth (Drauglir Seventhson) or whether they were an unwanted child (Isengrim No-Father). As Calvarians are only permitted to have half as many children as they have personally killed in battle, having the last name Fifteenthson is a pretty clear indication of someone's pedigree.
      • The royal family of Solothurn do have a family name, Vargr, but it's really more of a title than a name, as it is an indication that the person is descended from Wargs.
  • Fantastic Rank System: The Calvarian army:
    • Each Regiment of ten thousand soldiers is commanded by a Latteowa, which we would consider a Colonel.
    • Heafodcarls are equivalent to Captains of companies a hundred strong, assisted by a Lyftcarl, or Lieutenant.
    • The role of sergeant is performed by a Prafost.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: There are several good examples:
    • Arcasia is clearly inspired by France of the late Middle Ages, though it appears to be one that was built on top of an Expy of mythological Greece. The naming conventions reflect this (Count Bricemer is married to the Countess Pucelle, and their son's name is Acteon). Oddly, the people of Arcasia are generally depicted as being Ambiguously Brown, rather than Gallic.
    • Calvaria is a feared northern country that appears to be a fairly even mixture of ancient Sparta, the Roman Empire, and Scandinavia. Needless to say, many of its citizens are Proud Warrior Race Guys (Gals as well.) It's worth mentioning that it is the only country depicted as being populated by caucasians.
    • Solothurn is inspired by Slavic culture and mythology.
    • Mandross, a neutral country protected by mountains with a reputation for providing mercenaries is an Expy of Switzerland.
    • Glycon, a theocracy that fields slave soldiers, bears some similarity to the Egyptian Mamluk Sultunate. With dragons.
      • Also, given their monotheistic fanaticism and penchant for torture, Spain during the Inquisition.
    • Tyris is a distant tropical continent that is currently being colonized by the Glyconese, who are enslaving its tribal inhabitants and forcing them to labor in plantations and mines. Sound familiar?
  • Fate Worse than Death: Lady Moire commits suicide after being raped by a tribe of Chimera in Reynard the Fox. What finally sent her over the edge was the realization that she was pregnant with a Chimera child.
  • Feuding Families: Arcasia has been split into three separate countries for over a hundred years due to a conflict between the Dukes of Arcas and the Counts of Luxia. In Defender of the Crown it's revealed that the origin of the feud is over a thousand years old.
  • Fingore: The fingers of Reynard's left hand are broken during a fight with a Chimera in The Baron of Maleperduys. Later, a mercenary steps on said hand and twists his heel.
  • First-Name Basis: This is played with throughout the series.
    • For much of Reynard the Fox, Reynard and Isengrim refer to each other as Fox and Laruwa (Calvarian for "Master"), as their relationship is highly adversarial. In fact, Isengrim doesn't even know Reynard's real name. By the end of the novel, they drop the pretense altogether as a sign of genuine friendship.
    • Reynard insists that his followers refrain from calling him Lord, or Baron, for much of The Baron of Maleperduys. During the novel's conclusion, he forces Tybalt to refer to him by his formal title as a sign of submission.
    • In Defender of the Crown Reynard has been heaped with titles and honorifics, and its clear that only Isengrim, Hirsent, and Rukenaw are given leave to speak to him informally. He does make an exception for a priestess, however.
  • Five-Man Band: Reynard is leading one of these by Defender of the Crown, though this doesn't become clear until the end of the novel.
  • Flipping the Bird: Arcasian characters (especially the rougher sort) are described "flashing their fingers" when perturbed. It's highly implied that they are making the V-sign.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Health care in Arcasia is provided primarily by the Priestesses of Sphinx, who also happen to be professional barbers and temple prostitutes. Having a sexual relationship with your doctor is not only encouraged, it's pretty much expected.
  • Foil: Reynard and Isengrim are a Red Oni, Blue Oni example.
  • Food Porn: One scene in Defender of the Crown plays this very straight, featuring a page long description of a royal banquet.
  • Founder of the Kingdom: The Kingdom of Aquilia was named after a legendary hero with the same name. Calvaria was founded by the first member of its State Sec, Vanargand No-Father.
  • Four-Star Badass: Drauglir.
  • Funetik Aksent: The rougher characters tend to say "Yer" and "Ya" instead of "Yes" and "You", and at one point Hirsent calls a squirrel a sqirrl.

  • Genre Shift: The series is a scathing deconstruction of both the Loveable Rogue trope, and the concept of the Standard Hero Reward, but you wouldn't know it from the first novel, which plays both tropes rather straight.
  • Gilded Cage: The Countess Persephone is held prisoner by Duke Nobel in Reynard the Fox, but has leave to wander the palace during the day, and is still treated like a member of the nobility. She is treated so well that Reynard is genuinely surprised to find that her windows are actually barred, and that the locks on her chambers are there to keep her in rather than to keep others out. Ironically, during Defender of the Crown, Reynard throws her back into one of these, and treats her worse than Nobel ever did.
  • Gold Tooth: Grymbart has a silver one.
  • Gray-and-Grey Morality: The series draws the very clear distinction that behaving heroically doesn't always directly translate to behaving ethically or morally. It also portrays the majority of its villains as driven by understandable (occasionally even laudable) goals and motivations. That said, several uncomplicated villains help keep things fresh.
  • Great Offscreen War:
    • At the outset of the series, there has been a civil war raging in Arcasia for over a hundred years. The Countess Persephone's father was slain in it, Duke Nobel proved his skill as a military commander during it, and Bruin, Tiecelin, and Grymbart fought in it, occasionally referencing battles, camp life, what the weather was like before an engagement, etc. The war drove an entire region to famine so extreme that its people had to resort to eating their own children, and yet its over before page one of Reynard the Fox.
    • More cryptically, there are occasional references to "The Glyconese Rebellion", an ancient war in which dragons were involved.
  • Grim Up North: Calvaria is so inhospitable during the winter that its people live underground, and have developed into a genocidal race of Blood Knights just to survive. They don't welcome tourists.

  • Had to Be Sharp: A combination of brutal winters, recurrent famine, and the resultant decree that its citizens are only entitled to have half as many children as one has personally slain in combat has transformed the Calvarians into a Proud Warrior Race. Want to be the mother to a bouncing baby boy? Better become a Blood Knight . . .
  • Half-Human Hybrid: All of the Chimera are this to one degree or another, though their ability to breed with anything can lead to creatures who are only human in that their great great grandparent had a human head.
  • Harmful to Minors: Young Martin and Rukenaw witness the slaughter of their friends and family in The Baron of Maleperduys. Later, Martin's own violent death transforms Rukenaw into a Broken Bird.
    • In Defender of the Crown, the Glyconese ambassador has one of the Myrmidons break a fellow slave's neck to make a point to an eight-year-old boy.
  • Hate Sink: Tybalt is universally hated by fans of the series.
  • Haunted Castle: The palace of Carduel has this reputation due to all the horrible things that happened there over the years: Mass poisonings, cannibalism both accidental and deliberate, people being entombed alive behind the walls, etc., etc. Even Madam Corte, a born skeptic, is convinced the place is haunted.
  • Heal It with Booze: Hirsent must resort to this in The Baron of Maleperduys, due to having been separated from her surgical kit.
  • Heir Club for Men: The nobility of Arcasia adhere to the Agnatic-Cognatic Succession model: Persephone is a Countess who inherited her title due to a lack of living brothers.
    • The Telchines dynasties that preceded them were both matriarchies, and Glycon (a nation populated by the descendants of the Telchines) is ruled by a theocracy made up of priestesses.
  • Heroic Bastard: Reynard is a Heroic Bastard who is also a heroic ''bastard'', as well as a Magnificent Bastard.
    • Unsurprisingly, given their Red Oni, Blue Oni relationship, Isengrim turns out to be one of these as well.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Played straight with Reynard
  • High-Class Call Girl: Defender of the Crown features Precieuse, who is a temple prostitute and companion to the King. Even his mother approves.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In The Baron of Maleperduys, Drauglir offers an enormous bounty for Reynard's head. Reynard responds by hiring an equally enormous army of mercenaries that ends up overwhelming Drauglir's army. He then pays them with said bounty.
  • Hollywood Tactics: This is often averted, especially in The Baron of Maleperduys, where an army is able to defeat an army three times its size due to the skilled use of formation, combined arms, terrain, and the superior morale of the men and women fighting. The one castle assault depicted in the novel is also justified in that the castle in question was a lightly defended ruin, and the army besieging it had access to cannons.
  • Honor Before Reason: All Calvarians are extremely prone to this. One of their common sayings is, "Death before dishonor."
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Hermeline plays it straight.
  • The Horde: One of the many reasons that Vulp Vora is so dangerous is due to it being inhabited by the Chimera, who breed to the point where they must expel a portion of their population in this fashion. Their "neighbors" the Calvarians build their fortresses near choke points in order to defend themselves against these.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Given how completely blind she is to the villainy of both her cousin, and later, Reynard himself, Persephone is an excellent example of this.
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: How the Chimera reproduce. Many of them appear to not be above kidnapping humans as unwilling lovers.

  • I Call It "Vera": Reynard calls his sword Cut-Throat. It ends up living up to the name.
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Gate of Tears, an artificial sea channel that has become the lair of a sea monster that is over two hundred years old. Even the Calvarians are scared of it.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: Reynard orders Rukenaw to wear the Chainmail Bikini version of this in Defender of the Crown, in order to win over the . . . hearts of the male population of Calyx. She's relieved that the breastplate doesn't have actual nipples on it.
  • In It for Life: When you become a Calvarian blood-guard, you are considered one until you are dead. Of course, you may die before you get that far.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The Red Death causes this, as well as Blood from the Mouth. The disease is so feared that sufferers of it in The Baron of Maleperduys are locked aboard prison barges and left to starve.
  • Infant Immortality: This is averted very early on in The Reynard Cycle, when Persephone makes it clear that a famine in Engadlin has become so bad that people are resorting to eating their own babies. Later, we discover that Isengrim's first born son was killed at birth. Still later, King Lionel, an eight-year old, is stabbed in the heart.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: Count Bricemer receives at least one message this way during The Baron of Maleperduys. Reynard has a far more useful asset in Tiecelin's winged Chimera brood. Not only can they deliver letters, they can talk.
  • Invulnerable Horses: Averted many, many times, especially during mass battle scenes. To date there is only a single named horse that has managed to live through more than one book in the series, outliving even its owner.
  • Ironic Echo: After Isengrim defeats his lover Hirsent in a bloodless duel, Reynard asks him why he didn't let her win. "When you fight," he answers, "Fight to win." "Even against the ones you love?" Reynard asks. "Especially then," Isengrim replies. "For you will never know a more dangerous foe." Two books later Reynard and Isengrim duel to the death, and repeat the conversation.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Both Duke Nobel and Count Bricemer make it very clear that Hermeline will be killed if Reynard does not cooperate with them in Reynard the Fox. He mentally apologies to her when he comes to believe that the Quicksilver's mission will fail.


  • Kicked Upstairs: Count Terrien is named Lord High Admiral after leading an entire army into disaster. His fleet, it turns out, is only thirty ships strong and doesn't participate in the war.
  • Kick the Dog: Tybalt does this so much that it's one of his defining traits. In Defender of the Crown he is even described as stalking off, "Looking no doubt for a dog to kick."
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: In Reynard the Fox, Reynard reveals that when he young, he drugged his mother's pimp, along with his associates, barricaded the building they were in, and then burned them alive in a fire.
  • King of Beasts: Duke Nobel's coat of arms depicts a white lion, his father's name is Leo, and he aspires to be the King. Later he has a son named Lionel.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Subverted by Tybalt, who is one of the few characters besides Tiecelin who is depicted as having a pet (it is, of course, a cat.) Later, this trope is played straight when Hermeline adopts the cat.
  • Kissing Cousins: Two of the suggested brides for King Lionel are his cousins by his aunt. No one raises any objections over this.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Played with. Early in Reynard the Fox, Reynard claims that he bows to no man, Duke Nobel in particular. When he is finally made to kneel before Nobel, however, he is delighted to do so, as he is being made a member of the nobility against Nobel's will.
  • Knight Templar: The Calvarians view all outsiders as inferior at best, and subhuman monsters at worst. (It doesn't help that some of them actually are subhuman monsters.) Subsequently, they see themselves as heroic warriors battling the forces of darkness, and don't bat an eye when slaughtering and/or enslaving foreigners. This ideology is enforced by the blood-guard, a State Sec whose function is to ferret out dissent and quash unlicensed breeding. Even high ranking Calvarian generals have one constantly looking over their shoulders.

  • The Lancer: Isengrim is this to Reynard.
  • Last-Minute Baby Naming: Pinsard is named shortly after birth, when he repeatedly pinches his father's skin (his name translates to "Pincher.") The act is justified by the fact that his mother had previously lost a child during childbirth, and she wanted to wait to see if her child would survive the pregnancy.
  • Left-Handed Mirror: Reynard and Isengrim's Red Oni, Blue Oni relationship with each other evokes this trope in the names of their weapons: Isengrim's sword is called Right-Hand, while Reynard's Blade Below the Shoulder is called Left-Hand.
  • Line in the Sand: Reynard does this twice during The Baron of Maleperduys. Given the tone of the series, it's difficult to tell whether or not he is being sincere.
  • Lost Technology: The crew of the Quicksilver encounter robots and electric lamps while in Carcosa. They interpret both to be the product of dark sorcery.
  • The Lost Woods: The forest of Maleperduys has this reputation, and for good reason. It's a literal maze inhabited by Wargs.
  • Loveable Rogue: Reynard himself in the first book. Subverted in the sequels.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Reynard's dogged pursuit of the Countess Persephone leads him to sacrifice the lives of several of his companions and murder enemies both real and imagined. When it all turns out to be for naught, things take a turn for the worse.
  • Low Fantasy: Grey-and-Gray Morality? Check. Anti-Hero? Check. An almost complete lack of magic? Check. It would actually be easy to mistake the setting of the series for Europe of the mid-1400's if were not for the presence of a polytheistic religion, as well as the chimera, giants, sea monsters, etc.
    • There is some fan speculation that the setting is our own world, long After the End.

  • Mama Bear: Hirsent becomes one of these after giving birth to Pinsard. It's understandable, as she's already lost two children.
  • Masquerade Ball: The opening chapter of Reynard the Fox revolves around the titular character taking advantage of one of these in order to commit his latest heist. In a nod towards the series' origins all of the guests are dressed in costumes that resemble the animals of their heraldry (Lord Chanticleer, for instance, is dressed up as a bantam rooster.)
  • Master Poisoner:
    • Reynard himself is the best example from the series, though he uses poison exclusively to knock people unconscious.
    • Ghul, Chanticleer's primary assassin, is able to poison the entire crew of a ship for weeks without anyone knowing. Almost anyone it turns out . . .
    • Baron Dendra studied abroad to become one of these. When Persephone is poisoned, his fellow conspirators assume it was his work.
    • Barsine, one of Chanticleer's assassins, is this. She is apparently persuasive enough to get her victims to drink mysterious liquids knowingly.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Reynard has this reputation due to a double being hanged in his place.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Almost every character and location has one of these. They're very easy to spot if you are familiar with French, Latin, and Mythology in general. The etymology of Reynard's name, for instance, suggests that he is wise, clever, and resourceful. Which he is.
    • Count Bricemer's son Acteon is named after a hunter from Greek Mythology who was turned into a stag and brought down by his own hounds. His family's emblem depicts a stag, and he meets a very similar fate.
      • His sister is named Faline, which is a Shout-Out to Bambi. She is described as being doe-eyed.
    • Calvaria is latin for skull. The entire country tends to be rather grim.
    • Glycon, a fanatical theocracy that worships dragons, shares its name with the "deity" of a real life mystery cult that essentially worshipped a sock puppet. In this case, the dragons are real, but its very likely that they're not gods.
    • Starting with Isengrim, the majority of the Calvarian characters have wolf names: Fenris, Garm, and Ulfdregil, etc. Unsurprisingly, Isengrim begins the series as a lone wolf.
    • Much like her counterpart from Greek Mythology, Persephone is a captive who marries her captor.
  • Medieval Prehistory: Aurochs, a pre-historic breed of cattle, are used for labor in Calvaria.
  • Mentor Archetype: Reynard and Isengrim play this role to several characters throughout the series. Notably, Isengrim mentors Reynard, and vice versa.
  • Mercy Kill: Reynard provided this to his own mother, after she lost her mind and was still being used as a prostitute. A lot of other people end up going with her.
  • Missing Mom: Reynard has a bad case of this. ( She died.) Also, his father abandoned his family when he was even younger, making his background a full blown case of Parental Abandonment.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The Chimera can breed with anything, and their offspring are a blend of the two creatures.
  • Mood Whiplash: The entire series hinges around this. Many readers are cheering for Reynard by the end of the first book. By the end of the third . . .
  • Monument of Humiliation and Defeat: The Calvarians build these in excess. The gem of Zosia is a part of one that depicts a Calvarian standing on a pile of dead Arcasians.
  • Mook Horror Show: In The Baron of Maleperduys, a particularly likable Calvarian foot soldier wakes up after a battle, only to discover that he and many of his fellow mooks have been taken prisoner by Reynard, who is going to hang the majority of them, and then feed their corpses to Tiecelin's Shrikes.
  • Morality Chain: Persephone is this to Reynard. Which is ironic, given that the majority of the reprehensible things he does throughout the series are motivated by him wanting to possess her.
  • Murder, Inc.: The country of Glycon has a famed Assassins Guild. The majority of expatriates from their country are freelancers killing people for money.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: Isengrim is prone to this throughout Defender of the Crown. Eventually, he realizes that he can no longer go along with the program, and performs an abrupt Heel–Face Turn.

  • Names to Run Away From: The Demons: The Ruiner, The Wanderer, Skindancer, The Hollow Maiden, Duskwalker, The Dreamer, and Stormbringer, The Demon King.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: In this case, never bring massed cavalry to an artillery fight.
  • Noble Bigot: Isengrim is consistently portrayed this way, even though he's rejected the society that made him what he is. Old habits die hard . . .
  • Non-Indicative Name: In The Baron of Maleperduys, a mercenary company called The Seventy Seven Shields turns out to be made up of one hundred and thirteen people.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: Having a working knowledge of French, Greek, and Old English helps, but even the primary cast members have names that fans can't agree on. Is Tiecelin pronounced Tee-cell-in or Ty-cell-in?
  • Noble Fugitive: The crew of the Quicksilver assumes that Isengrim is one of these. ( He isn't.) In Defender of the Crown, the Princess Larissa becomes one after her mother and brother are murdered.
  • The Nondescript: Reynard is described as being extremely average looking when not in disguise. Basically, his face is a blank slate that can be molded into almost anything.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Prophet, Tiecelin's talking raven in Reynard the Fox. "Doom!"
  • Not a Mask: Reynard the Fox features a "masked" lotos merchant doing business in the ruins of Carcosa.
    Bruin: "How do you know it was the same merchant? Did he wear that weird mask?"
    Captain Roenel: "That was no mask. No mask."
  • Not So Different: Upon being told that the Calvarians committed a racially motivated genocide upon the people of Solothurn, Cointereau says that their entire race should be wiped from the world for doing such a thing. Isengrim, a Calvarian, points out the hypocrisy of the statement.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: The nobility of the series can't seem to get more than two of them into a room without this happening. Of the two major council meetings depicted so far, one third of the participants leave the proceedings dissatisfied. At one point, Reynard reflects that if the nobles could only put as much effort into fighting their enemies on the battlefield as they do with each other, they would be completely unstoppable. This is all justified by the fact that prior to the events of the first novel, a very long and very bloody civil war had been raging, and there is still a great deal of animosity between various factions and families.

  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Reynard portrays Rovel (one of his aliases) as somewhat dim in order to seem less suspicious.
  • Obligatory War Crime Scene: Tybalt's men rape and torture prisoners of war in the second chapter of Defender of the Crown, leading to a confrontation between Tybalt and Isengrim. Reynard himself cites War Is Hell to get Isengrim to stand down.
  • Older Than They Look: Pierrot, Nobel's fool is this. When Isengrim refers to him as a young man, Persephone corrects him, letting him know that he is old enough to have been entertaining Nobel (who is at least in his 20s at the start of the series) since childhood.
  • Old Master: Isengrim has become one of these by Defender of the Crown. He wipes the floor with three skilled duelists who initially scoff at the idea of three men against one.
  • Old Retainer: Madam Corte, the Countess Persephone's cantankerous chaperone, is this. Naturally, Duke Nobel has a few of them himself. His steward is so old that he is blind.
  • Old Soldier: Grymbart, a mercenary with a wife in every major city, plays this straight. He's the first man on the Quicksilver to befriend Reynard.
  • One Steve Limit: There is only one character, Celia Corvino, who shares a name with another person in the series, and that character is her grandmother, whom we never even meet.
  • Only Child Syndrome: Justified in the case of Hirsent. She had three children, but the first two died.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Even though the Calvarians snicker at the concept, and know Reynard's real name, they consistently call him "The Fox" when referring to him.
  • Otherworldly and Sexually Ambiguous: In Carcosa, the robotic Lotos seller's voice is described as being neither male nor female.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons are cold-blooded creatures who are only found near the equator. Only the females are winged, the males are referred to as drakes, and they are venomous rather than fire-breathing. The Glyconese worship them, and believe that the end of the world (by deluge) will be preceded by a mass slaughter carried out by dragons.
  • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: The deep-men, who are cannibalistic albinos who live beneath the earth. Southerners call them ghouls. Even Isengrim is scared of them.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The Naga are aquatic Chimera who blend human features with that of fish, serpents, whales, etc., etc. Some of them are depicted as having the ability to charm men to their deaths by drowning, but most of them just want to eat you. In Reynard the Fox, the Gate of Tears is the lair of one that has grown larger than a war galley, and has its human features mixed with those of a serpent, a giant squid, and a sea lion respectively.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Wargs are Chimera who mix human features with that of canines in general, and wolves in especial. Of all of the Chimera, they are the most feared. They cannot infect you, but they can get you pregnant.
  • Outside-Context Problem: If the backstory is to be believed, the Demons "fell from the heavens" and enslaved the entire world in seven days. And there were only seven of them.

  • Panicky Expectant Father: Isengrim, normally calm to the point of seeming inhuman when facing down death, begins to sweat, leans against a wall for support, and finally indulges in a drink or three when Hirsent goes into labor during The Baron of Maleperduys.
  • Parental Abandonment: Reynard has a Disappeared Dad and a Missing Mom.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: This is so common amongst the nobility that it's practically their language. The females of one family wear it as their hat. Only the Countess Persephone seems to be above resorting to it.
  • Pet Monstrosity: Tiecelin's flock of Shrike Chimera. They're utterly loyal to him, and generally leave his allies be, but they are unsettling bird creatures with human faces, and they feed primarily on human corpses. Understandably, most people are uncomfortable around them.
  • The Plague: The Red Death, a disease which causes the Incurable Cough of Death, as well as Blood from the Mouth. The disease is so feared that sufferers of it in The Baron of Maleperduys are locked aboard prison barges and left to starve. Given the description, it's probably meant to be Tuberculosis.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A lot of tragedy could have been avoided if Persephone had only made it clearer to Reynard that though she finds him charming, she would never consider having a relationship with him.
  • Praetorian Guard:
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Shortly after the attack on Dis, Drauglir had to stop his men from hanging Mosca, his Southern translator. He may consider the man to be less than a dog, but he was of the opinion that training another translator would take too much time.
  • Precursors: Three major civilizations have come and gone by the time period of the novels (and possibly more if the fan theory that the series is set long After the End is ever confirmed.):
    • The golden skinned Telchines, a matriarchal culture that coexisted with Giants. The castle of Maleperduys was built by them. Their rule came to an end rather abruptly due to . . .
    • The Demons, who enslaved the world in seven days. They created the Chimera, built functional robots, and would have ruled for an eternity were it not for their apparent inability to get along with each other. A civil war (implied to be nuclear) weakened them to the point that the last of them was slain by the founder of the Kingdom of . . .
    • Aquilia, a kingdom that eventually splintered into several dozen countries after the last member of the royal family drowned at sea a thousand years prior to the beginning of the saga. They built some truly impressive structures using the technology of the Demons, but seemingly forgot how to use it as the years went by (either that, or the technology stopped working and they had no idea how to fix it.) Duke Nobel claims to be a direct descendant of the royal family, but it's unclear if this is just part of his public relations policy.
  • Pretty Boy:
    • Tantilis (a man who brought an entire kingdom down in flames) is described as being more beautiful than most women. Apparently, female actors are always hired to portray him during theatrical performances.
    • Julien, Lord Laurent's son, is described as being one of these. He's still tough enough to be considered skilled in combat by Isengrim.
  • Pride: Duke Nobel's ultimately fatal flaw. Given that his character was based on an anthropomorphic lion, this character trait is a Stealth Pun.
  • Private Military Contractors: Mercenaries abound, both in the form of professional companies who operate independently as well as government sponsored troops who get loaned out to countries in need of extra fighting men. In The Baron of Maleperduys, Reynard has Bruin recruit an entire army's worth of hired swords in order to combat the Calvarians.
  • Private Tutor: Lionel has two: Alberich (who is a Private Teacher), and Precieuse (who is The Academic Coach.) He is quite smitten with Precieuse.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: Reynard begins the series as a Loveable Rogue. By the end of the third novel he has morphed into a full blown Big Bad. And he did it all for love.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Calvarians, whose entire country is run like an armed camp. You have to have killed at least two people in personal combat in order to have more than one child there. In spite of that, they lean heavily towards being Proud Soldier Race Guys (and Gals).
  • Psycho for Hire: Ghul, a Glyconese assassin and Torture Technician.
  • Puppy Love: Lionel has a very obvious crush on Precieuse, his personal doctor / hairdresser / future mistress. She's fourteen. He's eight.


  • Rags to Riches: Reynard started life as a street urchin, but became fantastically wealthy due to his superior mind. The money doesn't satisfy him, though. By the end of the third book, this is starting to become a case of From Nobody to Nightmare.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Who to send into the heart of Calvaria, the terror of the North, to retrieve the gem of Zosia? If Duke Nobel sends his own men, and the mission fails, he may inadvertently start a war he has no hope of winning. Hmmm. Better send in some expendables who have no clear tie to the Duke . . . Fortunately for Nobel, he happens to have an extremely capable group of Boxed Crooks on hand for the job.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Pretty much every army in the series commits atrocities of this kind on a regular basis. Even Reynard's own. He knows about it, but shrugs it off with a War Is Hell attitude.
    • Engadlin, the region directly between warring Arcas and Luxia, has had this done to it so many times that the regional character trait is swift capitulation and a disturbingly relaxed attitude regarding cannibalism due to enduring a hundred years of famine. Even when it's the Other Other White Meat.
    • The Calvarian army does this as a matter of practice, though they omit the rape. Their culture views rape and torture as utterly vile, something you wouldn't even do to an enemy. So, the good news is: You won't be raped or tortured. The bad news? You will be massacred to the last man, woman, and child, and everything you ever cared about will be burned to the ground. Mainly because inferior architecture annoys the average Calvarian.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: In the fierce northern country of Calvaria, this attitude has expanded to encompass women and well as men. You have to have killed at least two people in personal combat in order to have more than one child there. Always wanted to have a large family? Better become a Blood Knight . . .
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Reynard is named the Baron of Maleperduys at the end of the first book, an underpopulated fief that's mostly a forest with dangerous Chimera living in it. It's also basically behind enemy lines. The gesture was meant as an very unsubtle insult by Nobel, and no one actually expects him to go there, let alone rule. He does, leading to a fairly spectacular Reassignment Backfire in the next book.
  • Reassignment Backfire: As described above, Nobel, feeling that much of his thunder is being (rightfully) stolen by Reynard, names him The Baron of Maleperduys, a place which is not only little more than a forest full of monstrous Chimera, it's also located behind enemy lines. Meant to be a meaningless title at best, and a very unsubtle insult at worst, he doesn't really expect Reynard to go there, let alone rule. Reynard promptly does so, and ends up becoming a war hero in The Baron of Maleperduys due to the actions he is forced to take in order to survive there.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: This series features more than a few, and all of them are leveled at Reynard, usually once people wise up and realize that he's not as lovable a Lovable Rogue as people seem to think he is. Hermeline's are, by far, the most blistering.
  • Red Right Hand: Ghul, a tattooed, golden-skinned man with mismatched eyes. One is hazel, the other brown. Oh, and did we mention he's a Torture Technician?
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Reynard and Isengrim respectively. Reynard is a thief with no respect for authority, is a borderline pyromaniac with a terrible temper (when unleashed), and favors the color red. Isengrim is from the icy north, is a stoic (being almost supernaturally calm, cool, and collected), and has bright blue eyes.
  • Religion of Evil:
    • The Glyconese worship Hydra, a multi-headed dragon goddess that they believe will bring about the end of the world via deluge. They don't even think they'll be spared.
    • The Hivans apparently worship the seven Demons that once ruled the world, and believe that one of them, The Dreamer, slumbers beneath their capital of Metnal. Ritual human sacrifices meant to awaken him/her/it are carried out by the royal family, who function as the high priests of the religion. Weirdly, the country is otherwise a fairly progressive place for the setting.
  • Replacement Goldfish: If he is to be believed, after the events of Defender of the Crown Reynard plans on replacing Persephone with her own daughter, Larissa.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: All of the male nobility are expected to be warriors, as well as serve as the judicial authority of their domains. When the men are off to war, or when a woman inherits a title due to not having any brothers, they are expected to serve in the second capacity, and act as military strategists if not participants.

  • Sacrificial Lamb: Maxon, Lord Chanticleer's steward and POV character of the first chapter of Reynard the Fox, suffers an offscreen death shortly after the conclusion of said chapter.
  • Scars Are Forever: Reynard loses his left hand and his right eye during the course of his transition from Lovable Rogue to Big Bad. His metallic artificial limb complete with Blade Below the Shoulder is an early indication that he is acquiring a Red Right Hand. A Red Left Hand in his case.
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Siege: The climax of The Baron of Maleperduys features a fairly spectacular one. Our heroes are hopelessly outnumbered and the bad guys have artillery in a world where castles are not built to withstand cannon fire. It ends when The Cavalry arrives, revealing that what had appeared to be a hopeless situation was actually a trap that Reynard set, using himself and his friends as living bait.
  • Silent Snarker: Pierrot, Nobel's fool, becomes one after Tybalt cuts out his tongue. He's able to have arguments with Arlequin without saying a word.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: In addition to being the home of a fanatical doomsday cult that worships dragons, brainwashes soldiers into becoming near automatons, and being world renowned for the skill of its assassins and torturers, Glycon tolerates and practices slavery. After zealotry, this practice is usually the second thing that someone will decry about the place. Before the whole dragon thing even.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: We're leaning towards the cynical side here, folks. Seemingly to ram the point home, the first three entries in the series all feature the horrifying death of a young, idealistic, innocent character who finds out the hard way that life is really really unfair.
  • Smart People Play Chess: In The Baron of Maleperduys, Reynard and Isengrim competitively play Campraeden, a board game that resembles Risk. Reynard wins most of the time, in spite of Isengrim having played since childhood. As Reynard himself points out, this is because Isengrim tries to defend everything, and ends up defending nothing, while Reynard is willing to sacrifice his pieces for the ultimate victory . . . Information that ends up foreshadowing the later revelation that, in spite of their Red Oni, Blue Oni relationship with each other (with Reynard as the Red Oni, and Isengrim as the Blue), Reynard is actually the one with the cold, calculating mind, and Isengrim is the one ultimately ruled by his heart.
  • The Sneaky Guy: Reynard.
  • Snow Means Death: Wulf, the Watcher, the god of death, is also called the Winter King.
  • Sociopathic Soldier: Token Evil Teammate Tybalt leads an entire company of these in Defender of the Crown. Most of them are Jingos and Broken Soldiers (when asked why they are torturing captives, two of them explain that they witnessed their loved ones being slaughtered by the enemy and now it's payback time), but more than a few are outright Psychopaths.
  • Soul Jar: It's implied that the gem of Zosia may be one of these.
  • The Spartan Way: The blood-guards of Calvaria are trained this way. Only ten percent of the children selected to serve in the order survive the process.
  • Standard Royal Court: The series features two of these combining into one, and all of the lingering resentment, bickering, and petty backstabbing one would come to expect from two factions of previously bitter enemies being forced to make nice. Passive-Aggressive Kombat is practically the default manner of speech there, with very few exceptions.
  • The Starscream: Tybalt, who plays the role of Commander Contrarian to Reynard while waiting for him to trip up so he can kick him while he's down. He's even managed to get away with it once.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: This is played straight and inverted. The Arcasians have this attitude, but their enemies the Calvarians are a gender neutral meritocracy capable of fielding entire companies of female combatants. Then Reynard adopts the Calvarian model when building his Army of Thieves and Whores and ends up with one fifth of his own army being women, some of whom are later made Chevalier (Knights) for their efforts. This doesn't sit well with the more traditionally minded Arcasian nobility.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Though she doesn't exactly love him in the traditional sense, this trope explains how the Countess Persephone and Duke Nobel ended up in what would generally be considered a fairly healthy marriage. A captive of war, her original quarters in the palace were essentially a Gilded Cage. By The Baron of Maleperduys, she actually has to be reminded that he was the man who (indirectly) killed her father.
  • The Stoic: Isengrim is consistently described as being stony-faced, grim, and almost-supernaturally calm. He is very much the Blue Oni to Reynard's Red Oni.

  • Taking You with Me: As soon as Reynard's trap is sprung in The Baron of Maleperduys, dooming the combined Calvarian army, Drauglir immediately makes a bee-line for Reynard, hoping to kill him so that all of his soldiers deaths will not have been in vain.
  • Talking Animal: Tiecelin has a pet raven called Prophet that can speak. Though it only knows one word: "Doom."
  • A Taste of Defeat: Reynard is profoundly changed throughout The Baron of Maleperduys due to a series of major setbacks. Not only does he fail to convince Persephone to run off with him, he also ( loses his left hand due to infection.) Much of his former snark is gone by the end of the novel.
  • That Man Is Dead: Isengrim invokes this, referring to his past life as one of the Blood-Guard.
  • Theme Naming: Most characters have the names of fictional animals. In some cases the French or Latin word for the animal is used, making this a case of Bilingual Bonus for savvy readers.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: In Reynard the Fox, a shapeshifter is slashed, stabbed, struck by an arrow, beheaded, and struck repeatedly by two of the crew before it finally dissolves. Captain Roenel insists on washing it off the deck, just to be sure.
  • Third-Person Person: Glim, the Glyconese ambassador, speaks this way in Defender of the Crown. He refers to himself as "This One."
  • Thunderbolt Iron: The Demon King's sword was made of this. Its name was Thunderclap.
  • Thwarted Coup de Grâce: At the end of The Baron of Maleperduys, Drauglir has Reynard down on the ground and is about to finish him off when Rukenaw and Martin barrel into him. Drauglir is unharmed, but he gets distracted enough that Reynard manages to regain his feet and stab him right between the eyes.
  • Title Drop: The titles of the series all refer directly to Reynard, and all of them get significantly dropped close to the end of each novel.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Tybalt. Reynard's continued association with him in book three is a pretty big red flag that all is not well.
  • Took a Level in Badass:
    • Reynard starts the series as a flashy duelist who's more thief than fighter. This becomes apparent after he duels Isengrim for the first time and gets his ass handed to him without landing a single blow. Years of training with Isengrim slowly transforms him into one of the deadliest duelists on the planet.
    • Rukenaw is introduced as a peasant farm girl. One book later she's become a captain of men (well, women) who personally stove in an enemy general's skull with her morning star.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Reynard is portrayed far less sympathetically as the series goes on, committing acts that rankle even his best friend. This is one of the main features of the series, seeing as it is a Deconstruction of the Loveable Rogue trope.
  • Torture Technician: Ghul is introduced as being so good at Cold-Blooded Torture that his victims don't have a mark on them afterwards. Even though they're dead.
  • Training from Hell: Both the Calvarian Blood-Guard and the Glyconese Myrmidons go through this in order to become walking talking murder machines. Only one out of every ten child recruits survives the Calvarian process.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: This happens to Reynard and Hirsent after a particularly disastrous battle in The Baron of Maleperduys. Somewhat ironically, they end up having to fight a group of mercenaries that were originally on their side.
  • Trickster: Reynard is this in spades. He particularly enjoys Batman Gambits.
  • Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: His Royal Highness, Lionel the First, King of Arcasia, Duke of Arcas, Lord of Calyx, and Protector of the Realm.
  • Truce Zone: Reynard suggests turning the recently captured fortress of Kloss into one of these in order to facilitate trade between Arcasia and Calvaria in Defender of the Crown.


  • Vestigial Empire: The Kingdom of Aquilia has shrunk down to one third of its size, and isn't even called the Kingdom of Aquilia any more due to the fact that the remaining third split into two warring halves long before the events of the first novel. One of the antagonist's primary motivations is a desire to reunite the Kingdom, and restore the Empire.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: The Fetch are shapeshifting assassins originally created by the Demons. In their natural form they look like featureless, translucent humanoids with colorful luminescent fluids inside of them. One of them infiltrates the Quicksilver during Reynard the Fox. It's unclear if there are others existent in the world, or if that one was the last of its kind.

  • The Wall Around the World: Deconstructed by the Muraille, a series of fortresses connected by a wall meant to serve as the eastern border of Arcasia. Unfortunately, the finished product was Awesome, but Impractical: It could never be fully manned, and has been breached so many times that the whole thing has been abandoned.
  • Wandering Minstrel: All of the priests and priestesses of Wulf, the Watcher (who is the personification of death), are wandering minstrels of one variety or another. Their grim songs and stories tend to make most people uncomfortable, but they are highly respected, and are given food and shelter wherever they go. They are also occasionally hired by the wealthy to perform concerts, or perform theatrically. The mysterious disappearance of one who plays the fiddle opens Reynard the Fox.
  • War Hawk:
    • Duke Nobel is the most notable example from the series. He believes (perhaps correctly) that only superior military force, and the will to use it, will reunite the fractious nation of Arcasia.
    • In Defender of the Crown, Count Terrien calls for war on no fewer than three separate occasions, even against a country that is allied with his own. Cooler heads prevail in all three cases.
  • War Is Hell: Between a civil war that's thrown a third of the nation into a famine so bad that people are eating their own children, the general acceptance of rape and pillage as a byproduct of standing armies, and the realistic depiction of battle as being mentally scarring for pretty much all of the participants (much of Reynard's own character development in The Baron of Maleperduys revolves around this), it's safe to say that this trope is in effect.
  • Warrior Monk: The smith priests of Fenix field "battle priests", who are present during the Battle of the Samara in The Baron of Maleperduys. Naturally, they wield war hammers.
  • Warrior Prince: Duke Nobel, who personally leads his men into battle throughout the series. We never see him fight on page, but the fact that he manages to survive the Battle of the Samara implies that he has at least Taken A Few Levels In badass.
  • Weapon of Choice:
    • Reynard favors a rapier called Cut-Throat as his primary (right-handed) weapon, and wields a parrying dagger with his left. After he loses his left hand, he fights with a Blade Below the Shoulder called Left-Hand.
    • Isengrim wields his Absurdly Sharp Blade, Right-Hand.
    • Hirsent wields a sword called Harrower. She thinks it's ridiculous that the weapon has a name.
    • Tiecelin, being an Archer Archetype, uses a bow, one of the only unnamed weapons of the protagonists in the series.
    • Tybalt strongly favors throwing daggers, but he also wields a sword named Catspaw.
    • Bruin, the team's Big Guy, wields an axe named Mauler.
    • Grymbart is one of the few characters that fights with a sword and shield.
    • Ghul, a Glyconese, is deadly with his pair of short swords. The Myrmidons of Glycon favor the same weapon pairing, implying that Ghul might have been a Myrmidon in training at some point.
    • Rukenaw fights with a morning star called The Fairlimb, a nickname she shares with her weapon because of her shapely legs.
    • Celia Corvino, and her henchman, the Baron Dendra, both favor poison.
    • Stormbringer, the Demon King, wielded a "soul-crushing" blade called Thunderclap, which went on to become a part of the royal regalia of the kingdom of Aquilia.
    • The Arcasians and Luxians seem to favor pikes, crossbows, and cavalry armed with lances when going to war, while their Calvarian adversaries wield javelins, sword and shield, and field superior archers as well as artillery.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The reader is never explicitly told what weapons the Demons fought with during the civil war that ended their domination of the world, but given just how screwed up Vulp Vora (which used to be the heart of their empire) is currently, it's probable that they access to weapons equivalent to nuclear bombs. An entire desert of Vulp Vora has been blasted into glass.
  • Weather of War: In The Baron of Maleperduys, Bruin mentions that it is raining the same way that it did before a battle he fought in, reminiscing that the soggy terrain bogged down the heavy cavalry. He personally witnessed one of the chevalier (knight-equivalents) drown in a pool of water. Sure enough, soft ground and a swollen river play a big role during the Battle of the Samara.
  • Wretched Hive: The Anthill, Calyx's slum quarter, is the size of a small city. The Calvarians, Isengrim in particular, tend to view all Southern cities this way.

  • You Are in Command Now: When asked how he rose to his command, Thrym, a young Calvarian general in The Baron of Maleperduys, explains that he was the only senior officer left standing after a particularly vicious battle.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Isengrim is a Calvarian exile. Later, Hirsent joins him.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: This is how Count Bricemer intends to reward the crew of the Quicksilver once they've returned with the gem of Zosia in Reynard the Fox. Reynard is Genre Savvy enough to see this coming from a mile away.
  • You're Insane!: Tybalt levels this at Reynard during one of climactic sequences of Reynard the Fox. Is he crazy, though? Well, crazy like a fox at the very least . . .
    • Later, in Defender of the Crown Isengrim does the same. Whether he is right or not is still up for debate.

  • 0% Approval Rating:
    • The Calvarians are universally despised by every country they interact with, which is not surprising seeing as their normal method of dealing with other countries involves invading them and then wiping out the native population in order to replace them with "pure" Calvarian citizens. They are constantly forced to put down rebellions wherever they've gained a foothold.
    • Glycon is also generally reviled, being a country of fanatical, dragon worshipping, slavers whose main export seems to be professional assassins and psychos for hire.


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