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"Flintlock fantasy" series by Django Wexler, covering five full-length novels thus far (The Thousand Names, The Shadow Throne, The Price of Valor, The Guns of Empire, and The Infernal Battalion) and three novellas (The Penitent Damned, The Shadow of Elysium, and The First Kill).
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The series chronicles the trials and adventures of a group of soldiers in the First Colonial Infantry Regiment of the Royal Vordanai Army, serving out punishment tours in the worst of Vordan's far-flung overseas colonies, which is currently being overrun by a gang of religious fanatics hell-bent on revolution. Things at home aren't rosy, either; Vordan is heavily indebted to the neighboring kingdom of Borel, the Ministry of Information has a nasty habit of snatching citizens off the streets, and the king is fatally ill, leaving his teenaged, painfully sheltered daughter next in line - and a perfect target for the evil duke who runs the spy service and is scheming for the throne.

And in some learned circles, rumors begin to travel about an old power, long suppressed by the Sworn Church: magic...

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This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Declaration of Love: Marcus promises to himself that he'll tell Raesinia that he's in love with her the next time they see each other, but when they do, she tries to get him to arrest Janus for her and he doesn't go through with the idea, growing angry and convinced that she sees him as little more than a tool to be used.
  • Action Girl: Loads: Winter, Jane, Bobby, Sothe, and the entire company of the Girls' Own for Vordan, the entire force of "bone women" Trans-Batarai who fight for Murnsk.
  • Aerith and Bob: Most Vordanai have common European names like Jane, Bobby, Marcus, Jennifer, Ben, James, and Anton. On the other hand, some of the more exotic names in the series include Sothe, Raesinia, and, most notably, Cytomandiclea (who was named after an ancient warrior queen).
  • The Alcoholic:
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    • Adrecht is drinking heavily throughout the The Thousand Names.
    • Johan Maurisk becomes one as his paranoia mounts over the course of the third book.
    • Jane shows evidence of heading this way as well as the series progresses.
  • All Myths Are True: Demons are real. And the Beast of Judgement is very, very real.
  • Always Someone Better: Janus felt this way in regards to his older sister, Mya.
  • Amazon Brigade:
    • The "Girls' Own" (officially the Royal Vordanai Fifth Volunteer Battalion) in The Price of Valor. Initially suffers from a massive amount of Ragtag Band of Misfits and Stay in the Kitchen due to the prejudices of male officers and rankers alike, later rises to become one of the toughest units in the Vordanai army.
    • The "bone men" of the Trans-Batarai region of Murnsk fight solely as archers, leaving their wives and daughters, the so-called "bone women" to act as spear-wielding infantry. A series of assaults by several thousand of them nearly destroys the isolated First Division in Guns of Empire.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Janus freely admits that he doesn't quite see the world the way that everyone else does, and that understanding how people will react to what he does sometimes eludes him. What, if anything, he has, is unclear, though he himself is obviously aware that something isn't quite right.
  • Ambiguously Brown: The Khandarai are actually grey-skinned, but otherwise this trope is played dead straight in The Thousand Names.
  • Ambiguously Evil: A number of antagonists claim that Vhalnich isn't the servant of the people he claims, and that he's only doing so because it helps him gain more and more political power. In the end, it turns out that he doesn't care about all that power, except as a means to an end. His real goal is to claim all the magical lore held by the Mages and the Black Priests, so that he can see if one of the demons known by either can allow him to resurrect his sister Mya.
  • And the Adventure Continues: For Janus, it does. The final lines of the series, after Janus is exiled, are of a mysterious gray-eyed foreigner in the southern kingdoms, leading a revolution to free the slaves from their cruel overlords, questing for the lost city of the gods.
  • Anti-Magic: The demon Snowfox can cancel out other demonhosts' ability to detect their kin if the latter are close to it.
  • Appropriated Appelation: "Girls' Own" started out as a mocking nickname, until Bobby made it this.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Played straight and played with. It's probably easier to list the members of the Vordanai court who aren't this, but their ostensibly democratically elected (many members - including the most bloodthirsty - appointed themselves as they were visible members of the various revolutionary groups that stormed the Vendre) replacements are arguably worse.
  • Arranged Marriage: Orlanko and the Black Priests plotted to marry Raesinia to a prince from a Sworn Church country so that Elysium could regain influence in Vordan. The King of Borel tries to marry Raesinia to one of his sons for his own reasons in the last book.
  • Assimilation Plot: The Beast can turn any human into its limb, and intends to become all of humanity.
  • Authority in Name Only:
    • This is a major problem for the Vordan monarchy. With the king on his death bed, Duke Orlanko essentially runs the country and it is clear that when Raesinia will become queen she will have no say in how the country is run. When Orlanko is overthrown, Raesinia becomes queen but most of her power is taken by the Deputies General, until Janus steps in after the Deputies General launch a Reign of Terror. Which results in him being absolute head of the military, and potentially in a position to overrule the Queen through force of arms, a matter which causes problems in the fourth book.
    • Since Captain of the Vordan City police is a political appointment, with the average post holder being promoted, dismissed or transferred after a year and a half, most authority in regards to day to day affairs has devolved to the second in command, who is a career police officer who's been in the service for twenty years.
    • After Maurisk's coup is stopped, the position he held in the government is maintained but is now occupied by an elderly priest who is respected but not very effectual. He is a figurehead without any real power.
    • The King of Borel has very little direct power, with most actual authority being wielded by a coalition of nobles and powerful merchants who he owes money to.
  • Badass Bureaucrat: Lieutenant Fitzhugh Warus, the man who actually makes the Colonials run. He coordinates the supply shipments, collects and collates the intelligence, and handles the paperwork for the entire regiment. He's also a very skilled officer in his own right.
  • Badass Gay: Nearly every gay character in the series (and there are quite a few) is deserving of the title of "Badass". Notable examples include:
    • Winter Ihernglass is a lesbian who is also an exceptional officer, a skilled and utterly badass fighter and host to one of the most powerful demons in the series.
    • "Mad" Jane Verity, Winter's old lover, is equally badass and leads an all female gang that takes no dirt from anyone.
    • Bisexual Abby also qualifies, and as revealed in book 4, so do Fitz and Cyte.
  • Badass Normal: Marcus. Of the other major characters, Raesinia has an insane Healing Factor, Winter's touch is deadly to demons and Janus is a straight-up genius. Despite that, Marcus manages to keep up with them and has some demonhost kills to his name.
  • Bad Dreams: Winter keeps having nightmares about various things that went wrong in her life, the precise nature of them changing as the plot develops.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • The Sworn Church attempts one with regards to Vordan; The Pontifex of the Black orders that Raesinia, the only living heir to the throne, be bound to an immortality demon, to prevent her imminent death, with the hope that the Church's ally Orlanko can find a foreign, Church-aligned prince for her to marry and so bring Vordan back under Elysian control; the expectation is that sixteen-year-old Raesinia will prove pliable and not resist. Unfortunately, Raesinia (and Janus) interfere. As the other Pontifices note at the end of book two, this plan only ended up making things worse for the church.
    • Ionkovo attempts one in book three; by capturing Raesinia, he intends to force Sothe (Raesinia's fanatically loyal spy/assassin/housemaid) and Marcus 'knight errant' d'Ivoire to go to her rescue, thus preventing them from stopping another Penitent from turning Vordan City into a firestorm and annihilating a large part of Janus's approaching army. Instead, Marcus and Sothe reason that since Raesinia is immortal, she'll be safe for a while, and move to stop the other Penitent.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Princess Raesinia and her band of conspirators plot a popular uprising to force the court to consider the plight of the common people, who are being starved out and systematically raped and looted by Borelgai "tax farmers" and hidebound Vordanai law. Their well-intended attempt quickly mutates into a Reign of Terror.
  • Becoming the Mask: Winter joined the army to get away from Mrs. Wilmore's Prison, but over time she came to embrace that life and become a very skilled soldier. A key part of her relationship with Jane falling apart in the third book stemmed from the fact that Jane couldn't accept that Winter took her responsibilities as an officer - all her responsibilities, to all of the people under her command, regardless of gender - seriously.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: A general has to use one to escape from an upper-story window to evade assassins. Then he says that the last time he'd done that was before his marriage - thirty years previous.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Duke Orlanko and the Pontifex of the Black are in an alliance with each other to return Vordan to the control of the Sworn Church.
  • The Big Guy: Corporals James Folsom and Drake Graff, who tower head and shoulders over practically every other soldier in the Colonials.
  • The Big Bad Shuffle: First, it's implied that Mother is the villain of the piece, but it turns out she's reacting to Janus, whose loyalties are put into question and who in turn turns out to be acting against Orlanko, who's the new Big Bad candidate. Then, it turns out the Pontifex of the Black is behind him. And finally, it's revealed that he in turn is listening to the Beast of Judgement, who takes the throne as the Biggest Bad.
  • Blood Knight: Captain Henry "Give-Em-Hell" Stokes, captain of the Colonials' cavalry battalion. Stokes is a pigeon-chested, bow-legged guy who frequently has to be physically restrained when the battle's joined, and firmly believes that there is no problem in warfare that cannot be solved by repeated application of cavalry charges and screams of "Give 'em hell!"
  • Broken Masquerade: As the plot goes on and increasingly more powerful demonhosts begin to show up, it becomes harder and harder for those "in the know" to conceal the existence of magic from the general public. And now that the Beast is out and about, it seems almost certain that the Masquerade is about to shatter in a spectacular fashion.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Janus is a strategic mastermind and one of the most intelligent characters in the series, but displays some very strange mannerisms and, by his own admission, has some problems with social interaction. In his Establishing Character Moment, he picks up a scorpion from the ground, gives a lecture on how dangerous that particular species is, and then tries to shake Marcus' hand… while still holding the deadly scorpion in his own.
  • The Captain: Captain Marcus d'Ivoire, CO of the First Battalion. Probably the series' most Lawful Good character; he's repeatedly characterized as a knight born into the wrong era.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The demon Caryatid does this. The host gains a supernatural Healing Factor, Super Strength and angel-like flight, but at a cost: using the power progressively turns the host into a marble-like substance, until she eventually winds up turning into a statue.
  • Casting a Shadow: Ionkovo's demon lets him melt into and appear out of shadows, traveling through a shadowy realm between. Raesinia kills him by setting off a flash bomb while he's in the middle of doing this, cutting him in half.
  • Catch-Phrase: Ahdon ivahnt vi, ignahta sempria (God bless us, the Penitent Damned).
  • Cavalry Officer: Captain Stokes (nicknamed "Give-Em-Hell" by the Colonials. He's generally portrayed as very over-eager and prone to bluster and overestimating the capabilities of his forces, but he's also effective, with his cavalry managing to start the rout of an enemy army in Book Three.
  • The Chessmaster: Janus is a fairly benevolent example, though he doesn't particularly care for the game itself. It's notable that the first time he stops scheming is in the fourth book, and then only because he's too ill to move. He even manages to manipulate the Beast after being possessed.
  • Church Militant: The Penitent Damned, who willingly bind demons (thereby eternally condemning themselves to Hell) in order to battle the Church's enemies, real or perceived. The novella The Penitent Damned explores their role in more detail.
  • Cliffhanger: Guns of the Empire ends with The Beast of Judgement taking Janus under its control. You can break out the F-words now.
  • Closet Key: Cyte only realizes she's gay after spending time with Winter and after some angst over it, comes to accept she's in love with her.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Janus bet Vhalnich, Count of Mieran. Starts out playing himself off as an Upper-Class Twit; later reveals himself to be a crazy brilliant strategist, deadly with just about any weapon you'd care to name, and a student of magic to boot. Later becomes a Four-Star Badass in The Price of Valor.
  • Corrupt Church: The Black Order of the Sworn Church, which routinely interferes with temporal affairs, is the power behind the throne to the series' Big Bad Duke Orlanko, and has no problem deploying demon-hosting secret agents to places it deems in need of "salvation." Most of the Black Order eventually gets wiped out by the Beast, leaving the more benevolent White and Red Orders in control.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Spike, which, ironically enough, was invented to make the executions more humane. It's basically a machine that drives a giant spike through your heart.
  • Da Chief: Captain d'Ivoire temporarily becomes this in The Shadow Throne, as Colonel Vhalnich has him seconded from the Army to command the Vordan City police forces.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Which actually manages to co-exist with a People's Republic of Tyranny in The Price of Valor.
  • Does Not Like Magic: Despite getting rather good at combating the demonhosts over the course of the series, Marcus feels very uncomfortable with the idea of magic and the existence of demons.
  • Double Standard: Marcus has a bit of this going on with regards to women, although he gets better after serving with them. When he first hears of the Girls' Own, he goes to Janus, horrified, and says they can't be allowed to fight because they might get shot. Janus dryly asks if he thinks the male soldiers are bulletproof.
  • The Dragon: The Bigger Bad's host. It's Mad Jane, which nearly gives Winter a Heroic BSoD.
  • The Dreaded: The Infernivore - and, by extension, it's host - has the Church absolutely terrified.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: By the end of the first book, it's implied that the Infernivore has given Winter some manner of superhuman strength. However, this is never mentioned in any subsequent books, and Infernivore's power is limited to the spiritual side of things.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Winter ends up as the top military officer in Vordan and in a public, committed relationship with Cyte. Raesinia is freed of her demon and Happily Married to Marcus, expecting their first child. The Beast is defeated and even the exiled Janus has, on his own, raised an army to start a revolution to free the slaves of the southern kingdoms.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Cyte's true first name is Temperance, which is why she insists that Cytomandiclea is the real one.
  • Emergency Transformation:
    • After Bobby suffers an apparently fatal gunshot wound, the Khandarai priestess Feor effects a demon binding as a last-ditch lifesaving measure (it's depicted as a Dangerous Forbidden Technique to boot). Played for Drama in that Bobby appears to be somewhat less than human afterward.
    • Winter binds the demon Infernivore as a last-ditch effort to save Vhalnich and d'Ivoire from a demon-possessed Concordat agent.
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Winter, once she binds the Infernivore. All it does is eat other demons—which is pretty useful and important, but doesn't kick in until she makes physical contact, meaning she fights like an ordinary human badass 99% of the time.
  • The Exile: Janus at the end of the series. Everyone in the know about what was really going on knew that he didn't deserve it, as he had been instrumental in stopping the war, but since he had been the face of the enemy while secretly undermining it, he had to be visibly punished, so it was exile or execution and they didn't want to kill him.
  • False Flag Operation: Maurisk uses a terrorist bombing that he ordered himself as grounds to seize control of the government and launch a Reign of Terror against everyone he doesn't like.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart:
    • The series on the whole takes inspiration from the Napoleonic Wars, with Janus in the role of Napoleon himself.
    • The Khandarai campaign in The Thousand Names looks an awful lot like the Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1880).
    • The rebellion against the Concordat is clearly based on the French Revolution, right down to the storming of a prison fortress to free political dissidents.
    • The Free Churches/Sworn Church schism stands in for Protestantism vs. Catholicism.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Khandar is a fairly obvious Expy of the Near and Middle East, complete with a crumbling, decadent Vestigial Empire, a whole bunch of religious fanatics bent on holy war, veiled women, nomadic desert tribesmen, and a bunch of not-European colonial forces trying to hold the whole mess together.
    • Vordan is Bourbon/Napoleonic France with a big pinch of Great Britain thrown in.
    • Hamvelt and the Free Cities League in general are the Holy Roman Empire; a loose confederation of semi-autonomous city states that share a common, Germanic-sounding language.
    • Both Borel and Imperial Murnsk seem to be based on Slavic Europe, with the latter in particular being an obvious stand-in for Tsarist Russia.
  • Fatal Attraction: d'Ivoire winds up falling victim to this in The Thousand Names. The woman he falls for turns out to be a spy and assassin, and bound to a demon to boot.
  • Find the Cure!: Winter's plot in the latter half of Guns of Empire centers around her chase after the demonhost assassin Viper, as killing her is the only way to neutralize the poison she's used.
  • First Kiss: Marcus and Raesinia's first kiss is the last scene before the epilogue in Guns of Empire.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The Beast is referred to in brief discussions of religion and numerous invocations of profanity for several books before it is revealed that it's real, and it's gotten loose.
    • In The Shadow Throne, Resinia notes mentally that Marcus would make a good archetypal "good king" if he wasn't a commoner. In Guns of Empire, she proposes to him, social rank be damned.
    • After Feor's naath bonds Bobby, her wounds heal with crystal-like substance. She dies by being wounded so heavily, she becomes a crystal statue.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Shortly after evicting Orlanko, the Deputies-General ends up launching a reign of terror that includes many of the policies that they had rebelled against when Orlanko was doing them, and several that are worse, such as mass execution of people accused of being foreign agents (i.e. being foreign) or working with foreign agents (i.e. objecting to the mass execution of foreigners just because they aren't locals).
  • Gambit Pileup: Arguably, the entire series is an extended one, but there's a truly impressive one in book 4. Janus, Raesinia, the Borels, Orlanko, and the Pontifex of the Black all have gambits going that clash in spectacular, destructive fashion. Surprisingly and fascinatingly, Janus loses.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The Grand Army of Vordan gets split in half when a demonhost melts a frozen waterfall and sends it rushing at them while they're crossing a bridge.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Beast of Judgement.
  • Great Escape: Winter's escape from Mrs. Wilmore's orphanage involved hiding in a cart full of laundry, scaling a twenty-foot stone wall, and hiding in the gutters until she could stow away on a coach to the nearest army recruiting station.
  • Growing Wings: Bobby's final Cayatrid transformation has her grow a pair of crystalline wings.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Marcus notes in Guns of the Empire that Janus' most frightening quality is that he can go from perfectly friendly to absolutely livid with no warning, and you can never be certain what will set him off.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: How Ionkovo dies. Cutting off a demon's power source in mid-usage has very nasty results.
  • Healing Factor: What Raesinia's demon does. It halts her aging, cures her terminal illness, heals any wounds she takes (including a drop from the top of a fortress onto underwater spikes, a cut throat, and being stabbed in the heart). The downside is that she still feels pain, and she doesn't know the limit.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sothe was the greatest black ops agent the Concordat had until she realized that her missions were not being done to help the kingdom, but to help the private agenda of Duke Mallus Orlanko. So she defected to Raesinia. However, she openly admits that this doesn't make her a better person, just a bad person in the service of a better master.
  • The Heretic: The Mages are a schismatic branch of the Karisian church. Where Saint Ligamenti sought to suppress all knowledge of magic, the Mages felt that this was only necessary if the demons and magic users wielded their power to do harm, and that those who used their powers for the people should be encouraged. Ironically, generations later, the Black Priests created the Penitent Damned, magic users who used their powers to advance the goals of the church hierarchy, often at the expense of the people, something Ligamenti would never have approved of in life (even his enemies admitted that whatever his faults, he was not a hypocrite).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sothe allows herself to be used as a host for a Naath to fight through to the Beast so Winter can use the Infernivore, giving her life against the last of the Penitent Damned.
  • Hidden Depths: Janus displays a lot of this when he's rambling in fever in Guns of the Empire. Among others, he has a dead loved one, Mya (his older sister), most of his actions might be a plot to bring her back, and heavily implies that he feigns a lot of his eccentricity to make himself more likeable to people.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The Mountain is a Hidden Demonhost Village, kept pleasant by one demon and hidden from other demonhost's senses by another.
  • Highly Conspicuous Uniform: Concordat agents wear floor-length black leather greatcoats. And everyone knows this. This actually makes it easier for the Concordat to spy on people, as it means that all they have to do to stop looking like Concordat spies is hang up their greatcoats, and can swell their apparent numbers by having clerks put on some extra coats they have in storage.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The below-mentioned antitheft mechanism of the Names being really heavy also makes it very hard to protect them should the enemy take the place they're being kept in. Our heroes briefly lose them this way.
  • Hollywood Density: Averted.
    • The Thousand Names are engraved on steel plates that are eight feet high and roughly six feet wide, which would weigh about one ton each. The fact that moving that much weight is not a trivial exercise gets mentioned on multiple occasions. In fact, part of the reason why they were engraved on enormous steel plates in the first place was to make them too heavy to easily steal.
    • The Preacher has some of his artillery students work out exactly how much powder would be needed to create the blast that destroyed a public square in the third book. Then looks at their figures and points out that that if their math was right, the bomb contained more powder than could possibly fit into the space where the bomb was planted. This turns out to be a clue - the explosive was a special, more powerful type of gunpowder that most powder mills in the area couldn't make, providing the first lead into tracking down who planted the bomb.
  • Hollywood History: Raesinia deliberately glosses over some of the details of Vordan's history during her speech to the Deputies-General about how the throne's power derives from the people (like the fact that the original Deputies-General were untitled landowners, not peasants, and their objections to the nobles had nothing to do with the oppressed peasants and everything to do with the nobles usurping the landowner's prerogatives).
  • Honor Before Reason: Marcus d'Ivoire, all the damned time. He's frequently characterized as a Knight Errant born into the wrong century, and it shows as he repeatedly throws himself into all manner of danger in the name of duty.
  • Hostile Weather: When Winter and her group are making their way to Elysium, the Church has the Old Witch throw constant snowstorms at them in an attempt to stop them. Several of Winter's girls die this way.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Fitz Warus is a miracle of a man with insane talent for both guessing his superior's thoughts and wishes and translating them into proper army orders. Marcus notes to himself that if it wasn't for him, the entire Colonial Regiment would've collapsed in on itself long before Janus arrived.
  • I Lied: A few seconds after making its Join or Die pitch, the Beast cheerfully declares that it lied about "Join" being a possibility.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The Sworn Church believes that Raesinia must be overthrown because she's host to a demon - casually forgetting the fact that they were the ones who put the demon in her (Without seeking her consent) in the first place, and using magic to interfere with politics is the reason they were thrown out of Vordan in the first place. To their credit, the Pontifices of the White and the Red note that this was the Pontifex of the Black's plan in the first place, and call him out for it.
  • Instant Sedation: After being scraped by Viper's poisoned nails, Janus collapses unconscious within seconds. In contrast to the usual way this trope goes, it takes him several weeks to get back into anything resembling healthy state.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jane takes things way, way too far, but it's true that Janus can be very manipulative, and that the unquestioning devotion he inspires is probably not entirely or even mostly a good thing.
  • Keystone Army: Few souls can survive contact with the Beast for long, which means that the bodies of those possessed by it are dependent on its continued presence to remain functional.Janus uses this against the Beast after being possessed, managing to find a way to help Winter get back to Vordan City while convincing the Beast to have its primary body take the field while fighting to take it. This provides Winter an opportunity to fight her way to the Beast and feed it to Infernivore, reducing almost the entire invading army to mindless husks.
  • King Incognito: While hiding from Maurisk in the third book, Raesinia poses as a courier girl working for the Exchange. Funnily enough, she's the one who has to remind Marcus not to treat her like a queen.
  • Knight Templar:
    • Maurisk and his supporters reach this point by halfway through the third book, seeing traitors everywhere and killing them all in the name of the revolution.
    • The Pentitent Damned are the very sort of people that the Pontifex of the Black was created to contain, but they condone their actions and create more because their actions are done in the name of god.
  • Know When To Fold Them: When Marcus openly thwarts Janus' plans to allow Orlanko to murder a number of key figures on both sides of the peace conference, he takes it as a sign that he's gone too far, and then agrees to step down from command of the army and retire to his estates once the treaty is signed.
  • La Résistance: Several, including Raesinia's own band of students, as well as the Leatherbacks and the Docksiders.
  • Lady and Knight: Raesinia Orboan and Marcus d'Ivoire.
  • Legacy Character: The Steel Ghost, a notorious Khandarai guerrilla leader. No one has ever seen his true face, as it's always hidden by a full steel mask, and he's described as having the demonic power to appear anywhere in Khandar instantly, wreak gory ruin on his victims, and vanish into the desert without a trace. Colonel Vhalnich twigs to the real "magic" far before anyone else does: it's a combination of assumed identity and Magic from Technology.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Part of the argument the Mages tried to use against Ligamenti's agenda was that if all magic was suppressed, people would forget about it, and thus forget how important it was to keep the demons that absolutely could not be controlled sealed away. Sure enough, by the story's present day (nine centuries later), only a handful of people outside the Black Priests knew that the Beast of Judgement was anything but an allegory for sin.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Janus played a key role in breaking this in Vordan. As of the first book, the notion of commoners becoming officers at all was a fairly recent innovation, and even then the odds of a man without a title rising above Captain were pretty much negligible unless they were willing to spend their entire career in a backwater posting where the noble-born high command could pretend they didn't exist. For that matter the Vordan military didn't officially have any ranks above Colonel before Janus came along, just an informal arrangement where if multiple regiments fought on the same battlefield, everyone would follow the lead of the most prestigious regiment (which would invariably be commanded by the man with the most prestigious title). When Vhalnich was given control of the military, he reorganized it so that there was an explicit chain of command for formations larger than a single regiment, and started appointing people to those roles according to his belief in their competence, regardless of their social rank (and in the case of Winter and the Girl's Own, gender).
  • Little "No": This is Marcus' first answer to Raesinia's marriage proposal.
  • Living a Double Life: Before the Vendre, Raesinia is the Princess Apparent of Vordan by day and a student leading a revolutionary clique at night. Suffice to say, some of her more anti-nobility friends are rather furious when they find out about the former.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: By the fourth book, Marcus is the only major character who doesn't know that Winter is a woman.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In the fourth book it was revealed that Marcus' sister Ellie was removed from his family home before the Concordat burned it down, though her present whereabouts are currently unknown. The fifth book reveals that Ellie D'Ivoire remembered nothing after the fire that killed her family and it has been Winter this entire time.
  • Love Epiphany: Marcus has one after Andy asks him if he's in love with the Queen and he finally admits to himself that yes, he's been for a while.
  • MacGuffin: The Thousand Names usually serve as an object to be found, defended or recovered. They only get used once, when Winter gained Infernivore at the climax of the first book.
  • Magic A Is Magic A:
    • Demons are bound to humans by reading the demon's name aloud. Once bound, the demon is stuck with that human for the rest of the human's life; the only known method of removing a demon from a person without killing the host are to feed the demon to the Infernivore, which reduces the host to a mindless vegetable (This tends to be eventually fatal as well) unless the host freely surrenders the demon and doesn't resist or being taken over by the Beast of Judgement, which is basically replacing the original demon with a much nastier one.
    • Individual demons' powers also follow this: Infernivore can kill other demons, but Winter actually needs to be touching the host for this to happen; Cinder from The Price of Valour can generate and manipulate fire, but she still needs fuel; Wren can improve his sight or hearing, but (it's implied) only one at a time; Ionkovo can walk through shadows, but he has to use existing ones.
  • Man on Fire: When Bobby and Winter are trapped in the burning building, only Winter manages to get to relative safety of the upstairs. However, Bobby's Healing Factor means that she pops up again, on fire.
  • Marry for Love: Marcus tells Raesinia that he won't marry her if she asks him about it as the Queen of Vordan, because he doesn't want to be her tool, and while she's busy becoming let down, he adds that he will, however, marry Raesinia Orboan, the girl he's fallen in love with, if she asks him.
  • The Masquerade: Thanks to the Sworn Church murdering or kidnapping every magic user they can get their hands on, the general public is unaware of magic being real, and demonhosts hide their powers from them. Becomes more and more broken as the story goes on, to the point of Winter being chosen to head a government ministry for the control of magic when the war is over.
  • May–December Romance: In the epilogue, Captain Vakherson marries a female artillery officer he trained, who is more than twenty years his junior.
  • Meaningful Name: It's fitting that Janus, who is quite possibly playing everybody and is in the thick of massive sociopolitical upheaval, is named for a literally two-faced god of change.
    • Bobby's demon is called Caryatid, which is also the name of a stone column carved to look like a woman. The way the Healing Factor it bestows on her works eventually turns her to stone.
  • Military Maverick: Andy, or Andria, feels free to ignore military procedure and has a What's Up, King Dude? approach to talking with all the superior officers, but Marcus keeps her as his Number Two because she's an excellent staff lieutenant.
  • Mood-Swinger: Janus has some symptoms of the bipolar disorder, or emotional lability; he can go for weeks being perfectly calm, then have a period of mania where he's either extremely cheerful and affable or jumps into raging fury at the drop of a hat, only to be perfectly friendly and nice the following day.
  • Motive Decay: The Priests of the Black were originally only supposed to be containing dangerous demons. Then Saint Ligamenti brought about the doctrinal change that all use of magic is inherently evil, and they started imprisoning every mage they could capture. Then once they started running out of demons to imprison, they started meddling in politics - and using the demons they were supposed to be locking away for the public good as tools to advance their private agenda.
  • The Neidermeyer: Captain Adrecht Roston, CO of the Fourth Battalion. An alcoholic, effete ladies' man who's actually a decent officer when he makes the effort, but generally can't be bothered to do so. After nearly losing his entire battalion to negligence (after which only the other captains' intervention saves him), he finally gets cashiered for mutiny and is forced to march into the desert, along with all the mutineers he led.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Raesinia's demon regards alcohol as just another threat to be neutralized. She once drank a gallon of potent rotgut to see if she could get drunk, all that happened was that she really needed to visit the privy afterwards.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The Penitent Damned can detect other demon hosts who are nearby, so they realize how close Winter is getting to Elysium, mistakenly think that the entire Vordanai army is with her, leading the Pontifex of the Black to release the Beast of Judgement in desperation.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Johan Maurisk steadily morphs into Maximilien Robespierre as the third book wears on.
  • Not Good with People: While Janus is very personable, he has trouble gauging other people's emotional reactions, which kicks him in the arse several times over the course of the story.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Getting the Deputies-General to agree on anything, even such trivial matters as whether to break for meals, can take forever.
  • Number Two:
    • Marcus goes through a few - first Fitz, then Giforte, and finally Andy.
    • Marcus himself slowly morphs into Janus' Number Two. By the third book, they make the arrangement official.
    • Before things go sour between them, Jane is Winter's second-in-command. Later, when she becomes a general, Winter appoints Cyte as her staff captain, and leaves her in charge when she has to leave.
  • Odd Job Gods:
    • Leaders of the Redeemer Cult rename themselves after angels. One person who works with them wonders what they'll do when they run out of angels with impressive portfolios like Vengeance and Victory and are left with lesser ones like the Angel of Small Crafts and the Angel of Sisterly Affection.
    • A whole bunch of the demons contained in the Pontifex of the Black's cells fit this trope as well. Very few demons come with combat-useful power sets; most tend toward the mundane, such as "Woodworking skill #14" and "Empathy #3."
  • Older Than They Look: Raesinia's demon-induced Healing Factor also keeps her from aging, which means she still looks the age she was when she got sick and the Black Pontifex put it in her. She uses her youthful appearance to make people underestimate her, but it also increasingly bothers her that she'll never look like a grown woman, and she knows it's going to cause some really inconvenient questions a few decades down the line.
  • Old Flame: Mad Jane starts off as this to Winter. They pull off a Relationship Upgrade in the second book, but are on the rocks by the third.
  • Only Friend: Marcus is the only person who comes close to being Janus' friend and confidant.
  • Only I Can Kill Him: Winter's Infernivore is the only thing that can possibly kill the newly released Beast of Judgement.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Give-Em-Hell and Preacher are both almost exclusively referred to by those nicknames, and it's practically only Janus who calls them Stokes and Vahkerson. When he referres to the latter by his surname for the first time, it takes Marcus a while to realize whom Janus is talking about, and he notes at one point that he often forgets that Give-Em-Hell isn't Stokes' actual name.
  • Open Secret: Among Girls' Own, it's widely known that Winter is a woman, but they agree to keep it secret from the rest of the army.
  • One-Winged Angel: Bobby turns into crystalline humanoid with wings after she's damaged too severely, and manages to save the day (or salvage what little can be salvaged) in this form before succumbing to the crystal and freezing forever.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The Royal Benevolent Home for Wayward Youth, popularly known as "Mrs. Wilmore's Prison." Ostensibly it provides shelter and education to orphaned girls in Vordan City; in reality it's a grim penal institution with a nasty habit of selling its inmates as sex slaves or worse. Winter is an escaped inmate, as is Mad Jane.
  • Overranked Soldier:
    • Through a combination of lucknote , skill, and coming into the orbit of the greatest general of the age, Winter goes from common Ranker to Division (one star) General at twenty-three. note  What makes Winter remarkable is that she went from Ranker (Private) to Division-General (the third-highest rank in the army) in one year, partly though proximity to Janus, partly through that proximity letting her display her competence. And she has yet to be shown as having reached the limits of her abilities - she's only lost one battle, and that was to the greatest general of the previous generation (a defeat that was due to the other general's extreme competence and a subordinate screwing the pooch rather than any mistake she made herself).
    • Many soldiers who joined up after the Vordanai Revolution are similarly young (again, somewhat true to history) - Cyte and Bobby are Staff Captains, being twenty and eighteen respectively (at the oldest); Abby isn't much older and is a full colonel in command of a regiment.
  • Parting-from-Consciousness Words: When Janus is poisoned, his last words before falling unconscious is "I don't feel very well".
  • Plucky Middie: Corporal Bobby Forester, who is painfully gung-ho and spit-and-polish, and repeatedly described as "only a boy" by the other Colonials. Bobby's boyish appearance makes a lot more sense when it's revealed that "he" is actually a girl named Rebecca.
  • Poisonous Person: Viper is a Penitent Damned whose claws are covered in some form of extremely fast-acting, deadly poison.
  • Precision F-Strike: After Janus is outmaneuvered by Maurisk putting a new general in charge at a critical point in a siege, he drops a particularly scathing one, accompanied by a thrown and shattered wine bottle.
  • Prison Riot: Mad Jane armed the entire population of Mrs. Wilmore's (a hundred-odd girls and young women) with improvised shivs and coshes, marched up to the prefects and demanded to be let out or else. The prefects complied; it was the first time someone had actually had the wherewithal to defy them in numbers. The escapees went on to form the Leatherbacks, with Mad Jane at their head.
  • Putting on the Reich: Uniformed Concordat agents wear black and silver military uniforms with black leather greatcoats. Just in case you had any questions about their level of evil.
  • Rank Up:
    • Winter goes from Ranker (this universe's equivalent of Private) through Senior Sergeant, earns a battlefield commission as a lieutenant, and eventually ends up a Division General (roughly equivalent to a Brigadier General in RL army ranks).
    • Bobby and Graff start out as corporals and end up as lieutenants.
  • Rags to Royalty:
    • Marcus goes from a captain commanding an understrength regiment in the proverbial end of the world to the king of Vordan by marriage.
    • Winter goes from an orphan who enlisted in the army and shipped out to said regiment at the end of the world in order to escape the orphanage to a general, a government minister, and the queen's sister-in-law.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: During the first battle with the Redeemers in The Thousand Names, despite Marcus and Janus's orders for the regiment to regroup outside of the Redeemer camp, a good number of men from several different companies raid the camp. Winter, Bobby, and Folsom find the bodies of several women posed in horrific and obvious positions. Winter and Marcus both note that that's just how war is, but both of them are disgusted by it, and even Janus is not pleased.
  • Real Name as an Alias: Raesinia uses her own name for an alias (with a false surname) while posing as a schoolgirl revolutionary, on the logic that since there tended to be a fad for naming one's child after a recently born royal, there are literally thousands of girls approximately her age named Raesinia in Vordan. It also means she doesn't have to train herself to respond to a false name and not her real one.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica:
    • For any Vordanai soldier, a posting to Khandar is this. Officers get there by means of screwing up their careers just short of being cashiered, while enlisted are sent there on punishment tours. End result: the First Colonials are very much an Army of Thieves and Whores, until Vhalnich cleans them up.
    • In the fourth book a noble threatens a Borel general with being stripped of command and being banished back to his estates. The general counters that he'd been trying to retire to his estates for over a decade, but the king kept recalling him, so that wasn't much of a threat.
  • Recursive Crossdressing: In The Shadow Throne, Janus sends Winter undercover to infiltrate the Leatherbacks, a notorious all-female band of terrorists and crime lords in Vordan City. Winter comments amusedly at first that she's a girl passing as a guy who's going undercover as a girl, but actually panics when she first goes out in public wearing women's clothing. She's not sure which scares her more: being busted as a male (and blowing her assignment), or being busted as a female (and getting thrown out of the Army).
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Anyone possessed by the Beast.
  • Red Herring: Throughout the chapters in the first book from the viewpoint of the natives, there are repeated mentions that a naathem (local term for a demonhost) among the Vordan troops that arrived. They think its Janus. Everything in the story implies that its Janus. Its Jen, the clerk.
  • Religious Bruiser: Captain "Preacher" Vahkerson of the artillery battalion, who has the entire Wisdoms of Karis the Savior (this universe's version of The Bible) memorized, names each of his cannons for a passage out of the Wisdoms (said passages then being engraved on the cannons), forbids drinking, smoking, swearing, gambling and wenching in his battalion. Write him off as a pious kook at your peril; he's a frighteningly competent artillery officer (and later an instructor turning out even more frighteningly competent artillerymen).
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Raesinia Orboan, both as Crown Princess (she routinely sneaks out of the castle to help foment political reforms among the university students of Vordan City) and as Queen (where she's actively working with the heroes to avert a civil war and fend off invasion by magic-powered foreign armies).
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Black Priests were created to imprison a super-demon known as the Beast of Judgement in a mortal body and then keep said demon locked away where it can do no harm. The Pontifex lets it loose in an effort to stop Winter from attacking Elysium, and it promptly runs rampant.
  • Secret Keeper: Janus agrees to keep Winter's true gender a secret, as he notes that revealing it would be a bad way to repay her for saving his life. She still notes that as long as he knows, he has a certain degree of power over her.
  • Secret Police: The Concordat, the enforcement arm of the Ministry of Information. They even have their own paramilitary "Special Branch", which functions as Duke Orlanko's private State Sec.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Bobby and Feor know that Winter is a woman from the start, but only reveal that they know when Winter tries to reveal this to them.
    • Likewise, Janus and Raesinia's father knew about Raesinia's demon, as the latter had his own intelligence agents, and asked the former to try to find a way to get it out of her without killing her. Sadly, Raesinia only finds out after her father dies.
  • Seeing Through Another's Eyes: There is magic that can do this, specifically The Beast through the eyes of its thralls. Janus finds a way around this by writing and sealing orders without looking at the paper.
  • Sergeant Rock: Winter, after her Field Promotion in the beginning of The Thousand Names.
  • Sick Episode: Janus spends a decent chunk of Guns of Empire semi-conscious and bedridden after an assassination attempt.
  • Sinister Minister: Any priest of the Sworn Church has a decent chance of being this. Taken Up to Eleven with the Obsidian Order.
  • The Sleepless: Thanks to her demon, Raesinia is no longer capable of sleeping. The closest she's gotten is being knocked unconscious by head wounds that would be instantaneously fatal to anyone else.
  • Snow Means Cold: The sudden drop of temperature in Murnsk is signalled by snow starting to fall.
  • Spare to the Throne: Raesinia had been one until her brother got himself killed in a war against the Borel a few years before the story started.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Raesinia's immortal, thanks to her demon. Since this is a closely-guarded secret, she's the princess, and people like her, however, people regularly fling themselves into mortal danger for her anyways. She's so sick of it that she finally tells Marcus, because that way he'll let her go into danger directly instead of having more people sacrifice themselves for her.
  • Survivor Guilt: Raesinia gets hit with a particularly acute version of this, because she will always survive, and any Heroic Sacrifice made for her is automatically a Stupid Sacrifice.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Graff develops this for Bobby, who eventually drops the disguise after transferring from the Colonials to the Girls' Own.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Winter, as well as Bobby. It's implied they're not the only ones, either.
  • Taken for Granite: Bobby ends up as a crystal statue.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Massively understated; the Deputies General, ostensibly elected to provide a counterweight to the Vordanai Deadly Decadent Court, quickly sets its leader up as Regent for Life and kicks off a Reign of Terror.
  • The Squad: The Colonials, as befits a military series.
  • Touch of Death: Winter's touch has this effect on the demonhosts - the Infernivore obliterates the demon, sending the host into a coma that usually ends in death. If the host surrenders the demon voluntarily, then the host stands a good chance of recovering.
  • Universal Poison: Viper's demonic poison causes fever and, after some time, total organ failure of apparently any living creature that comes in contact with it.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Orlanko's sanity deteriorates a lot between The Shadow Throne and Guns of Empire.
  • The Virus: The Beast is unique among demons in that it can control anyone it touches who is not wielding the power of Infernivore, even if it can only truly possess one person.
  • Weather Dissonance: During the Murnsk campaign, it suddenly starts snowing heavily in the middle of June, which even the Vordanai - who are used to thinking of Murnsk as the land of Endless Winter - find suspicious and unusual. It is; it's been caused by the Church to slow their progress.
  • Weather Manipulation: The demon nicknamed Old Witch of the West can cause snow to come even in the middle of the summer and last for the whole year.
  • We Can Rule Together: When Beast-in-Jane's-body and Winter meet for the first time, the former tries to play the love card to get Winter to join them. Winter has none of it.
  • White Collar Crime: Raesinia's revolutionary group gets its funding through a combination of a member named Cora being very good at playing the stock market and the inside information that Raesinia brings out of the palace. At one point they make a fortune on advance knowledge of Janus winning the war in Khandar, causing a drop in the price of Khandar trade goods. At another they crash a Borel bank by giving away thousands of bank drafts, causing a run on their holdings - and actually make money on the plot, because they also ran a short sell on the bank's stock simultaneously. Then in the final book, Cora uses her financial acumen and Raesinia's contacts to construct a fraud capable of collapsing the entire Borel economy if exposed in a matter of days, which the queen uses as leverage to extract concessions from their government.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: When Winter could legitimately drop the disguise after becoming CO of the Girls' Own, she chooses not to, as by that point she'd spent almost half her life passing as male, and she's worried that the female soldiers will all be cashiered after the crisis has passed. Plus, due to the sexism of the army, it helps their credibility to have a male commander.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Explored with Princess (later Queen) Raesinia. She's host to an immortality demon as the result of an Emergency Transformation (a deadly childhood illness forced her father King Faris to explore less-orthodox methods of curing his daughter), and as such cannot die. She's repeatedly thrown off towers, shot in the head, dumped in the river and worse, and invariably ends up none the worse for wear only minutes later.
  • To Win Without Fighting: Janus ends up quoting a passage from the universe's equivalent of the Art of War, which states that the perfect battle is one where the winner is so obvious ahead of time that there is no need to actually fight it. A book later, after watching religious fanatics make a hopeless charge and get slaughtered, he bitterly notes that the writer forgot to mention that such a victory depends on both sides being able to recognize and acknowledge how one-sided the fight is in advance.
  • Wing Pull: Cayatrid's wings show up out of nowhere, with no previous indications that they are even a thing. Partly justified by this being the demon's One-Winged Angel transformation.
  • Wowing Cthulhu: After Bobby emerges from a raging inferno burning like a human torch and yet still murdering the Black Priests like it's no big deal, the best response the Beast of Judgement can muster is an "Oh? That's unexpected."
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Vhalnich turns out to be an absolute master of this, whether on the battlefield or at court. His nemesis, Duke Orlanko, is too, and Princess/Queen Raesinia gets in on the action as well, leading to a Gambit Pileup by mid-series.
  • You Are in Command Now:
    • Marcus started the first book as de facto commander of the First Colonial because their Colonel was dead and he had seven minutes seniority over the next ranking Captain (the difference in time it took to get from d'Ivoire, Marcus to Roston, Adrecht when reading out the names at the Academy graduation ceremony). Then Janus arrives and relieves him.
    • Winter's first experience with command is when her useless lieutenant has the company wander too far away from the army's main body while on patrol, then panic and get himself killed when he actually finds the enemy he was looking for. After rallying the troops and getting most of them back to camp alive, Vhalnich officially puts her in charge of the survivors and promotes her to the rank of the job she'll be doing.
  • You Killed My Father: Sothe was the Concordat agent that Orlanko sent to murder Marcus' parents because they refused to sell some of their business interests to him. He refrains from killing the agent upon learning this due to previous times they had been of use to each other and the Enemy Mine circumstances of the moment, but there's no guarantee he'd make the same decision should they meet again. In the end, she ends up making a Heroic Sacrifice before the matter comes up.
  • Your Costume Needs Work: In the second book, Marcus spends some time working with Winter while she's "undercover" as a woman, and thinks that "he" doesn't make a very convincing girl. But he doesn't have the heart to say so.

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