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Literature / The Secret Texts

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A Heroic Fantasy series of three books by Holly Lisle (Diplomacy of Wolves, Vengeance of Dragons, and Courage of Falcons), and a Prequel, Vincalis the Agitator.

Once upon a time, The Empire of Hars Ticlarim was a place of beauty. The world of Matrin was run on magic. There were underwater cities, cool airships, and floating cities.

All powered by a gazillion billion jillion forsaken people. But Utopia Justifies the Means, right?

Vincalis the Agitator is what happens when a few people (and a deity) decide to stop this process...leading to The End of the World as We Know It.

The trilogy takes place a thousand years later, where most people have been Scarred into looking like very random animal mixes via magic, Magic Is Evil (but some still do it anyway), Fantastic Racism abounds, and the souls of the Dragons from the first book are trying to take over the world again. But this time there's a secret society dedicated to stopping them, and a prophesied Messiah is supposed to come and save them all...


Warning: this series plays straight and subverts the entire Fate and Prophecy Tropes page.

Provides Examples Of:

  • After the End: well, a thousand years later after it for the trilogy
  • All Men Are Perverts: cited by Yanth and Jain in a conversation about how the first thing any man notices about any woman is if he'd nail her.
  • Ancient Tradition: the Falcons, though they aren't so much passive so much as they don't believe in offensive magic.
  • Animal Motifs: Dragons for the really really evil magic users, Wolves for the evil magic users that come after them, Falcons for those who don't abuse others in order to do magic.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Hasmal is fated to have a horrific end that leads to good things for everyone else.
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  • Best Served Cold: Any character who thinks s/he's going to get revenge on all who screwed them over is brutally thwarted. Especially Danya, who kills her own kid and basically gives up everything to be able to go home and slaughter her rapists and any Family members she can find...but by the time she gets home, they're all dead already.
  • Break the Cutie: Danya's story starts out with being kidnapped, tortured, raped, impregnated, magically changed beyond recognition and thrown out into the cold. And it only gets worse from there.
  • The Captain: Ian. Rrru-eeth steals his ship and takes over the title later.
  • Cassandra Truth: by the time Wraith finally confesses the truth, nobody cares in the slighest.
  • The Chessmaster: most characters, though Luercas particularly stands out.
  • Chick Magnet: part of the power of Karnee is giving off a yummy scent that turns on most of the opposite sex and makes your own gender pretty friendly to you as well. Kait finds being liked for this rather than for her personality to be a Blessed with Suck sort of thing. Hasmal is immune to it, though.
  • Curse: The Karnee curse. Which would mostly be a Cursed with Awesome (much better chances of survival, and they don't get further cursed in appearance by magical rehwah) if not for the fact that being caught as a Scarred is not only an automatic death sentence for you, but for your entire family as well.
  • Dance of Romance: done repeatedly in Kait and Ry's dreams.
  • Demonic Possession: well, wizard possession
  • Disguised in Drag: Wraith has to get dressed up as a woman (by his cheerful crossdresser employees) to get out the door without attracting attention.
  • Doomed Hometown: Oel Marinias, Oel Artis, and eventually almost all towns in the Hars Ticlarim. Calimekka isn't totally gone, but it pretty much gets magically mowed over by a new magical city being formed on top of it.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Hasmal
  • Exact Words: Ry uses this when he's forced to swear loyalty to Rrru-eeth. He swears loyalty to "the true captain of this ship" to get around the spell, since he plans to bust her and turn her over to Ian anyway.
  • Fantastic Racism: in Ibera, anyone who doesn't look 100% human is executed publically and horribly, along with their families. Doesn't matter if the fact that you look like a giant beast is due to magical rebound forced upon you.
  • Fate Worse than Death: soul annihilation happens. Frequently. Constantly.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Brotherly, anyway. Crispin is the pretty one and Anwyn is the smart one. In a huge state of confusion, you will find yourself cheering for the pretty one before his end.
  • Great Big Book of Everything: Vincalis's Secret Texts that prophesize everything that happens a thousand years after they were written. Supposedly.
  • The Grotesque: pretty much anyone Scarred by magic that they didn't do.
  • Guilt by Association Gag: thousands of people who got rounded up for public execution by the Hars Ticlarim.
  • Heroic BSoD: the Falcons in general go through this after Solander's death.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Velyn. When she saves Jess's life for Wraith, she ends up falling in love with him. When she refuses to marry and have children with him because he's not a real Blue Blood, the Blue Blood she marries beats the crap out of her and refuses to let her carry any pregnancies to term. When Wraith gets her away from Luercas (but refuses to get back together with her), she throws a shit fit and squeals on him to everyone she can, and gets Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves.
  • Long Lost Sibling: Ian Though played with in that the characters in question know they're related all along, but the reader and everyone else in the story is surprised.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Dughall is personally responsible for drastically upping the birth rate in the Imumbarran islands. No, really, he has hundreds of kids and got declared a fertility god.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Solander loves Jess. Jess loves Wraith, but settles for Solander for awhile. Wraith loves Velyn. Velyn loves Wraith but boinks pretty much every male in her vicinity too. And then won't even marry him when he proposes.
  • Magic Is Evil: presumably the rule of Matrin after the Wizards' war, but that doesn't stop people from practicing it in secret anyway. And the Falcons's magic isn't.
  • Morton's Fork: Wraith's dilemma is that he wants to save the Warreners from soul annihilation...but doing so will destroy the entire setup of the world and kill even more innocent people. In the execution, thanks to the other side's Phlebotinum Overdose, it gets even worse than planned.
  • No-Sell: Wraith is the only magical immune in a magical society, which enables him to stay alive and conscious enough to survive the place of his birth.
  • Opt Out: the top two Dragons quit in disgust over the use of human souls for fuel.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Karnee mostly turn into werewolves, but can develop fins or wings under duress (i.e. drowning or jumping off something high).
  • Overly Long Name: Kait's full name is a mouthful. Ulwe's isn't all that short either.
  • Rape as Drama: Danya. The Hellspawn Trio love to rape pretty much any male or female that gets near them.
  • Rapid Aging: Alarista after giving her life energy to Dughall
  • Red Right Hand: Danya gets an equivalent of this after murdering her son.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Danya is so set on getting revenge for what she has had done to her that she murders her own son because he'd make the world peaceful and thus she couldn't get revenge.
  • Roma:: The Gyru-nalles. They also believe in Words Can Break My Bones and don't give out their true names.
  • Scars are Forever: played straight and subverted.
  • Screw Destiny: Kait takes this attitude after Solander's death, figuring that since ALL prophecies have been proven wrong, they still have a shot.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Hasmal runs away to avoid meeting up with Kait again. After a random series of events leading him farther away from Halles, she finds him again on a ship they're both on heading for another continent.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Most of the time, Kait is the only female in the group of male characters. Subverted on Ian's ship (where Rrru-eeth is the Token Girl until Kait arrives) and later on when Alarista joins the group.
  • Straw Traitor: Rrru-eeth is a Scarred who hates Kait once she finds out that Kait is also Scarred. (Well, that and Kait's boinking the guy she loves.)
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Jess though she seems to become the victorious version of this by the end
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: many of them, but several are cited for the fall of the Hars Ticlarim for being too distracted by a cheating girlfriend, etc. and not checking out the magic thoroughly before using a deadly spell.