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Literature / The Seven Citadels

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A High Fantasy tetralogy by Geraldine Harris, The Seven Citadels tells the story of Prince Kerish, son of the Emperor of Galkis and therefore tracing his ancestry back to the god Zeldin (with some superhuman powers that follow), and his illegitimate half-brother Forollkin, who go on a quest to find the seven keys to the prison of a legendary saviour who will be able to save the empire from imminent invasion by its barbarian neighbouring kingdoms. Each key is in the possession of a wizard, whom it grants immortality, and each wizard will have to be persuaded to relinquish it and therefore his eternal life.

Consists of the books:

  • Prince of the Godborn (1982)
  • The Children of the Wind (1982)
  • The Dead Kingdom (1983)
  • The Seventh Gate (1983)

An example of a Plot Coupons quest that proves that Tropes Are Not Bad, the series is Young Adult fantasy, but can just as well be read by adults. In addition to much outstanding Scenery Porn, it focuses on Kerish's growth from spoilt Sheltered Aristocrat to mature hero, and the moral dilemma inherent in making the wizards give up their keys. Oh, and expect some Nightmare Fuel, too.

Tropes appearing in this work:

  • Action Girl: Gwerath
  • Anyone Can Die: Gwerath dies Taking the Bullet for Forollkin as the group are mistaken for enemies when crossing the border of Galkis in the last book. Kerish himself succumbs to thirst and exhaustion just as he reaches his goal; however, his spirit chooses to reincarnate and become the saviour of Galkis.
  • Badass Normal: Forollkin, contrasting with his Godborn half-brother.
  • Bittersweet Ending: More like "bitter with a tiny tinge of sweetness". Galkis falls to the invaders, Forollkin and the surviving members of the imperial house flee into exile across the sea, and Kerish himself dies of exhaustion and thirst just as he reaches his goal. The only silver lining is that Kerish chooses to be reborn and become the saviour of Galkis, rather than to ascend to eternal happiness in the afterlife. Incidentally, Harris wrote an epilogue that gives a more hopeful view of the future, but it was not published in the book.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: O-Grak, though he plays it up a bit around people.
  • Character Development: Kerish grows from a short-tempered, sometimes arrogant Sheltered Aristocrat into an intelligent and humble leader who puts the needs of others before his own.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Shubeyash's kingdom, as his magic has brought it back from ruin. It seems prosperous and festive, but is clearly an extreme autocracy, with some disturbing practices (upper-class boys and men have some of their fingers ritually amputated, while upper-class women wear cages around their hands so that they cannot do any work). And that is only what the regular humans in the group see. Kerish, with his Godborn ability to see through illusions, sees that the citizens are merely decomposing corpses which Shubeyash's magic is moving like puppets.
  • Decadent Court: Does Galkis even deserve saving with these guys in charge?
  • Eccentric Mentor: High Priest Izeldon
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Children of the Wind are strongly similar to Native Americans. While not as close a match, Galkis has a Far East tinge to it.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Empress Rimoka.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: An in-universe example. The Galkians have legends of an evil, seductive Enchantress in the jungle. This turns out to be based on distorted beliefs about the sorceress Tebreega, who, while misanthropic, doesn't harm humans and is quite content to hide in the jungle carrying out her biological research. Unlike the romanticised Enchantress, she is also very unattractive, and content to be so.
  • It's the Journey That Counts: When Kerish opens the door expecting to find the prophesied saviour, he finds a mirror on the other side.
  • Kissing Cousins: Kerish falls in love with his cousin, Gwerath.
  • Lady Land: Seld, which is ruled by women, while men are expected to be pretty, made-up concubines.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Most of the sorcerers, even those who aren't hostile, are quite happy being immortal and are not about to give up their keys to Kerish unless he can give them good reason.
  • Love Triangle: Kerish, Gwerath and Forollkin.
  • May–December Romance: O-Grak and Neeris.
  • Mystical White Hair: Kerish's hair has turned completely silver at the end of the journey.
    • The sorceress Sendaaka also has pure white hair despite her youthful looks. It is implied that the reason some women of the Children of the Wind (including Kerish's mother, from whom he inherited his skunk stripe) are born with white hair is due to her imprinting it on them.
    • Additionally among the sorcerers, Elmandis has white hair and Ellandellore silver, despite looking like a man in the prime of his years and a child respectively. All of Elmandis' subjects that the main characters meet also have naturally white hair; again, apparently through some mystical influence from their ruler.
  • Nec Romantic: Kerish's father spends his days mourning by Taana's sarcophagus. (Not to be confused with Shubeyash, who's a necromancer.)
  • Non-Action Guy: The number of times Kerish even touches a weapon, let alone fights, could probably be counted on one hand. He wins his victories through his intelligence, compassion, and spiritual understanding.
  • Older Than They Look: Ellandellore.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: O-Grak deliberately plays this one up in front of Galkians.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Sendaaka and Saroc used to be a couple until their relationship fell apart on account of their respective pride and arrogance. Sendaaka lives on a mountaintop in perpetual snow, while Saroc hides in a blazing desert.
  • Sheltered Aristocrat: Kerish, at first. While intelligent and not a bad person, he takes his privilege as a Godborn prince for granted. This even leads to him causing the deaths of many of his crewmen when assuming that Zeldin will intervene to save his ship from pirates in the first book. The realisation of his folly and irresponsibility gives him a kick-start towards maturity.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Kerish and Forollkin are half-brothers, but still embody this: Kerish is a sensitive, intelligent Non-Action Guy with mystical powers, whereas Forollkin is a practical, Badass Normal military man.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: When Saroc and Sendaaka, husband and wife, found out that only one of them could keep their key, Saroc tried to pull this on Sendaaka, ordering her to give up hers. While Sendaaka would have been prepared to make that sacrifice by her own choice, his arrogance made her refuse. Instead they separated, leading to mutual suffering.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Kerish, like all the Godborn, has purple and gold eyes. Forollkin, while not inheriting that trait, has green eyes with silver spots.
  • Vain Sorceress: Deconstructed with Tebreega. She was born very unattractive, which caused her suffering in her childhood and youth, and began to study sorcery so that she would be able to transform her body. Eventually, she succeeded, but when she saw the hypocritical respect and desire she now evoked from people who had despised her when she was ugly, she became disillusioned with human shallowness and fled into the jungle to continue her scientific research. She also returned to her former appearance, no longer seeing a need to try to be something she wasn't.
  • The Vamp: Zyrindella.
  • Where It All Began: Downplayed. The final sorceress lives in Galkis, but deep within an unexplored jungle, nowhere near the capital where Kerish has spent most of his life.
  • Winter Royal Lady: Sendaaka, of sorts. Her magic isn't particularly specialised in cold, but she lives on a cold mountaintop, has Mystical White Hair, and other characters describe her in terms of snow and frost.