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Literature / The Shadowspawn

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The Shadowspawn is a Gothic Punk Urban Fantasy trilogy by S.M. Stirling, set in a world where the Shadowspawn, a vampire-like Mage Species, secretly rule the world. In many ways, the series is a sort of Spiritual Successor to Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think, or at any rate heavily inspired by it—though with Stirling's familiar emphases. You Have Been Warned...

With three volumes published, the series, though ending on a cliffhanger, is by all accounts complete. They are:

  • A Taint in the Blood (2010)
  • The Council of Shadows (2011)
  • Shadows of Falling Night (2011)

The background: In ancient times, there existed a subspecies of humanity that, thanks to strange quantum-scale interactions, possessed essentially supernatural abilities. Since this humanity was also essentially autistic and sociopathic, psychologically resembling solitary predators much more than anatomically modern humans, they were defeated and exterminated by the team-working Homo sapiens, but not before there was some interbreeding between the species, producing human psychopaths as well as occasional mildly magic-using genetic reverts.


Fast-forward to the nineteenth century, when infant modern genetics rediscovered the admixture of the witch species, now dubbed the Shadowspawn, in the human race. A French nobleman and occultist, the Duke of Bealoup, then took it upon himself to sponsor a breeding program to isolate and refine the vampiric race. Within only a few generations, this produced a species of nigh-immortal, bloodthirsty sorcerers, who seized control of the US Federal Government at some point during or just after World War I, and most of Europe not long afterward. Simultaneously, various human and dissident vampire elements secretly organized an anti-conspiracy, the Brotherhood, to resist them.

By the present day, 20 Minutes into the Future, the main plotline commences, focusing on Adrian de Brezé, a pureblood Beauloup descendant and Reluctant Monster, and his girlfriend Ellen, who are tormented by his not-at-all-reluctantly monstrous sister Adrienne. Initially, Adrienne kidnaps Ellen to annoy and manipulate her brother, and he marshals his Brotherhood connections to help him free her; later, thanks to Adrienne's machinations, he becomes aware of the Shadowspawn plot to seize power openly and depopulate most of the world. Being a hero, he naturally sets about to do his best to prevent this, gathering additional allies along the way. Ironically, this is precisely what his sister wants, since she, despite being a senior Shadowspawn agent, doesn't want to destroy civilization—Just rule it forever. While Adrian and the Brotherhood bash heads with the master vampires on the Council of Shadows, she prepares her own plans to capitalize on the outcome and replace whoever turns out the victor as the supreme power in the supernatural underworld...


The Shadownspawn contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Played with. Adrian and Adrienne's parents were, by all accounts, quite loving and affectionate, in a somewhat restrained, "Old World" style, as is Adrienne to her own children... But they also raised them to be murderous vampires as a matter of course, which has left them both various degrees of mentally damaged, at least by human standards.
  • Action Girl: Ellen becomes one eventually, both out of inclination and necessity.
  • Action Survivor: Also Ellen, especially in the first book.
  • Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil: A really weird treatment which straddles the line between the tropes. Many/most of the Shadowspawn are actually quite courteous, friendly and even genuinely nice—among themselves. For example, Adrian's parents are still caring and solicitous for his welfare, and perfectly willing to forgive him little trifles like killing Council operatives and ruining their plans, ascribing such things to youthful rebelliousness. On the other hand, they also don't mind politely discussing how fun his (human) girlfriend would be to kill. And sometimes when she's present, too.
    • Adrienne is quite friendly and helpful explaining the world of darkness to Ellen, and generally in many of their interactions. At other times, she's horribly abusive in the worst possible ways. It's not quite clear how much of this is deliberate, and how much is just craziness, and/or severe in-universe values dissonance, though generally, she seems to know what she's doing and why.
  • All Myths Are True: Or at least many, with stories of everything from obscure Japanese deities to Celtic folklore having their ultimate origin in the prehistoric Shadowspawn.
  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Adrienne.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Resulting from the psychological traits of the original vampire species, which was an essentially solitary predator, as opposed to a social animal like modern humans. Modern Shadowspawn tend, in varying degrees, toward symptoms and characteristics reminiscent of sociopathy, sadism, autism, abnormal sexualities and a whole slew of other diagnoses. They're weird and difficult people to be around at the best of times, and the more intelligent among them recognize this as a problem in the running of their conspiracy. That said, there is a lot of variation, with individual examples ranging from mildly quirky to dysfunctionally Ax-Crazy and everything in between.
  • Animal Motifs: The Shadowspawn are shapeshifters, pseudo-werebeasts as well as vampires, and often assume the forms of predatory animals. Adrienne's favorite non-human shape is that of a dire wolf; Adrian's is a saber-tooth tiger.
  • Anti-Magic:
    • To really resist vampire magic, one needs the ability to do counter-spells. But it is possible to put these on indefinite hold, subject to activation on certain triggering conditions. Such spells, when rightly deployed, can offer a location or non-wizard an at least somewhat effective protection against hostile magics.
    • Also, silver. It disrupts the vampires' ghost-forms, as well as most forms of magic. Radioactive substances can also have similar effects, and they are, moreover, usually extremely poisonous to vampires of all flavors.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Adrienne is the darkest type imaginable to her brother.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: The Brezé family are old high nobility, and every single one of them is a horrible monster, and/or a vampire, too. Except Adrian.
  • Asian Airhead: Michiko is the darkest type imaginable. Also a subversion, since she's not nearly as stupid as she wants you to think.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Given the predatory nature of the vampires, whoever in charge will be the one strong enough to keep the others in line. Frequently, this will be the elders, since their powers continue to grow slowly with time, though the young purebloods can give all but a handful of them a good match.
  • Author Appeal: As customarily for Stirling's works, there is a prominent strong but girlishly beautiful lesbian character, and lots and lots of semi-creepily (though not explicitly) described rape and assorted horrors.
  • Bad Boss: When Adrian uses a magic-enhanced disguise to pass for his sister, he throws around a lot of silky death threats and physical abuse to her attendants. Another agent notes that he's doing OK with the characterization, but still bowdlerizing it: the real Adrienne has a much lower threats-to-action ratio, and would have killed someone by now, if annoyed enough to complain that much.
  • Badass Normal: Ellen is one by the second book. Harvey Ledbetter would be one, except that he has a few minor magical abilities, too.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The Shadowspawn collectively, some exceptions notwithstanding. Justified, as they are the product of deliberate eugenics, and/or magic.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: While real vampires are mostly a recent rediscovery, various historical figures have inherited more or less expressed fragments of their powers. For example, Adrian and Harvey speculate that Hitler had some such powers, which allowed him to survive the entirety of World War I and the street battles of the 1920s, as well as achieve his revolutionary political successes in the 1930s. This would then also explain his nocturnal habits, as well as his vegetarianism.note  Likewise, other figures from Joan of Arc and Gilles de Rais to Joseph Stalin are ascribed similar lineages.
  • Being Good Sucks: For starters, when the bad guys rule the world, it means you have to live the life of a refugee in hiding. And if you are a vampire, it means you need to subsist off packed blood, which supposedly tastes absolutely horrible.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Council of Shadows is pretty much as mustache-twirlingly evil as they could be if they tried, but the Brotherhood is morally gray at best. It does include some genuine idealists, but also anti-heroes of every caliber from Knight Templar to Nominal Hero.
  • Blood Magic: Shadowspawn don't metabolically require blood, but they do use it to mystically power their sorceries.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Since most of the vampires are probability warpers, hunters are advised to use really rugged equipment with as few delicate moving parts as possible, or else it can be highly likely to malfunction when needed. Going in with assault rifles is downright suicidal, and semi-automatics and even revolvers are in trouble when facing an elder. So fighters on both sides tend to use very simple, old-fashioned guns, or even crossbows and melee weapons, rather than anything built after World War I.
  • Broken Ace: Adrian, when introduced. He used to be a top Brotherhood operative, but gave up and retired in shell-shock and despair, fed up with killing other vampires in a struggle that led nowhere. However, Ellen's abduction pushes him back into the game.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: It's strongly implied that Adrienne raped Adrian in a backstory encounter, making him the father of her children.
  • Cain and Abel: Adrian and Adrienne. They're exactly alike, except that she's a girl. Oh, and she's an evil, murderous villain and he, well, isn't, so they don't exactly get along. They're also on opposing sides in the shadow war between two ancient conspiracies, one that wants to destroy the Shadowspawn and another that wants to destroy the world. (No extra credit for figuring out who is with whom.)
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Adrienne and Michiko are totally self-aware about it, casually discussing torture and murder over lunch in among the other girl-talk. All with a playful wink.
    Aren't we awful?
    • ... And then, when we think they're over the top, we meet the older Brezés, who take it Up to Eleven and make them look almost restrained by contrast.
  • Crapsack World: Every country is secretly ruled by a global conspiracy that siphons off the wealth of the world to feed a spoiled supernatural elite. Worse, they're nearly all of them sociopathic serial killers with magic powers who are accountable to no one and treats anyone and everyone as they please. Good luck getting any help if you catch their attention. Democracy is a sham, the stock markets and media are controlled throughout, and the only La Résistance of any consequence is basically made up of the vampires who weren't pure enough to qualify for admission to the Order of the Black Dawn.
  • Creepy Twins: Adrienne's children.
  • Cultured Badass: Most of the leading Shadowspawn, who are well-versed in languages, culture and the humanities, as well as food, drink, fashion and other such accoutrements. It helps that most are raised as nobility, and further that their vampire genes give them above-average intelligence and superior linguistic ability.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Adrienne and Michiko, to their respective parents.
  • Dark Action Girl: Adrienne, of course. Also Michiko.
  • Depraved Bisexual: All Shadowspawn are this genetically. Even Adrian, supposedly, though in his case it is an Informed Attribute merely. His sister plays it very straight, however.
  • Determinator: Harvey Ledbetter, who will finish his last mission, even should he, the Brotherhood and all the world perish for it. And he will allow nothing and no one to stop him.
  • Dhampyr: Technically all Shadowspawn are these, since they are bred from human hybrids, and even the purest still have a lot of human material in them. Older vampires are perhaps a quarter to half vampire, while the purebloods are there by 75-80 % or so.
  • Dirty Commies: In this storyline, Communism was a plot by the vampires to take over Russia, and they regret its eventual failure.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The vampires, or at least the older ones, tend toward racism (fantastic and otherwise) and various other foibles, but there does not appear to be any real discrimination against women among them. Presumably justified, in that their supernatural powers are not in any way sex-specific, and they can use humans for reproduction, lessening the functional differences between the sexes. (And indeed, once they attain their etheric form, they can choose freely what sex they wish to be on any given day.)
    • Adrienne feels that they are discriminating, since there are only a few women on the Dark Council. But in practice, neither she nor Michiko ever experience any problems because of their sex.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The vampires, being various degrees of either autistics or sociopaths by human standards, don't really understand human emotions all that well, and empathy in particular. Adrienne is better than most at it, but even she has to fake it at several points.
    • Though Adrian, the White Sheep among the Brezés, does get it, suggesting that the condition is at least not completely genetic.
  • Evil Counterpart: Adrienne to Adrian, obviously.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Adrienne does it totally on purpose. She can also be cool and controlled when she desires to.
  • Evil Is Petty: Constantly demonstrated by the Shadowspawn. Early in the first book, Adrienne uses her powers to give a beggar that annoys her a stroke.
  • Evil Luddite: The Shadowspawn elders, who want society to be the way it was when they were young, and hate modern technology and culture shift. Their preferred solution to the problem is to kill off 95 % of the world population and destroy all advanced technology, reducing life back to the simpler and better model of the (early) 19th century or thereabouts.
  • Evil Old Folks: The Japanese Tokairin, a Shadowspawn elder who displays his age and is rather obviously old-fashioned in many ways. Though relatively speaking, he is a lot less evil (or less obviously so, at any rate) than most of his peers, precisely because he considers himself bound by a bunch of archaic honor rules.
  • The Evil Princess: Adrienne is evil, if that wasn't already clear, and scheming to dethrone, kill and replace the reigning Duc de Beauloup.
  • Evil Reactionary: See above under Evil Luddite.
  • Family-Values Villain: The vampires generally care very much about their own families, and to a lesser extent those of their familiars. Neither sentiment gets in the way of regularly killing humans they don't personally care about. Or mentally/physically/sexually abusing the familiars themselves, within "accepted" limits.
  • Fate Worse than Death: When he kills someone, a vampire can catch his quantum-mechanical "soul" in his own mind, and keep it trapped there in a hallucinatory environment under his complete control. Effectively, this serves as a living hell for however long the vampire wishes. (It can equally easily be a paradise, but, well, they generally aren't inclined to do things that way.) Making it worse, it also runs on Narnia Time, so the perceived torments last subjective orders of magnitude longer than the vampire's physical life, measured in real years.
  • Filler: Extensive descriptions of food, wine, interior decoration and various other snobbery, as well as repetitive gratuitous villainy and semi-introspective discussion by the vampires that does nothing to advance the plot, serve to pad out the trilogy.
  • For the Evulz: The vampires have rational enough objectives to justify most of the big things they do, but they also commit all sorts of random, petty evil as they go along. Usually just for fun.
  • Gaslighting. Poor Ellen gets it from Adrienne. With various flavors of telepathy, reality warping and shapeshifting at her beck and call, as well as a nasty imagination, she can do this in a lot of creative ways.
  • Gratuitous French: The main villainous characters are both Old World nobility and actual Frenchmen, and so make not altogether inconsiderable use of this. Notably, while sometimes gratuitous it's still mostly good French, correctly spelled and composed.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Adrian and Adrienne, to the point that even Ellen can't always initially tell them apart. Even when they aren't impersonating each other.
  • Hand Cannon: Harvey Ledbetter's custom-modded pistol.
  • The Heavy: Adrienne drives the plot, with the heroes largely reacting to her schemes. There are other, higher-ranking vampires (who are also heavier hitters), but they generally play a less active role in the battles with the Brotherhood.
  • Heel–Face Mole: Adrienne's other gambit to turn Adrian back to the dark side, besides We Can Rule Together. Maybe being good isn't quite so boring; it might be worth trying out, if it means they can be together... She never goes through with it beyond mere words, due to not deeming it worth the effort, and/or Adrian not buying it.
  • Here There Were Dragons: It is believed by those in the know that the gods, god-kings and monsters of legend were vampires or shapeshifters of increasingly impure blood. This would also explain why such entities frequently demanded human sacrifices of their followers, and why they became rarer and less impressive over time, until they finally disappeared and became mere myths.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Leopold II of Belgium was a rather crooked and greedy monarch in real life, but here he's portrayed as a murderous vampire.
  • Hypocritical Heartwarming: Killing any given human doesn't even raise an eyebrow in vampire society, but killing or hurting someone else's human without permission is frowned on, and a valid excuse for a death duel.
  • I Am a Monster: Adrian. Adrienne is quite more monstrous, but she rather likes it that way.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: Senior vampire familiars are forced to perform a human sacrifice to show that they are serious in their commitment to the Empire of Shadow.
  • Impersonating the Evil Twin: At one point, Adrian impersonates Adrienne as part of a rescue mission, and fools her lieutenants. They are Half-Identical Twins, but it also helps that he can use magic to look even more like her.
  • Invisible to Normals: The astral form of any Shadowspawn, if he wants it to be.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Supernatural example, with the Japanese Shadowspawn (an originally separate tradition, based more on animesque ninja sorcery than vampire lore) taking over the Western United States from the Brezé clan. Hajime even killed Adrian's parents, and they're still upset about it decades later.
  • Japanese Politeness: The Tokairin expects it of all supplicants, and offers it in return to those who deserve it.
  • Knight Templar: Harvey Ledbetter, Adrian's old Brotherhood mentor, who has gotten more extreme with time. Also several other Brotherhood characters.
  • Lack of Empathy: Several vampires feel obliged to point out to Ellen that she is the sort of person that would be extra fun to kill slowly and painfully. Some think it's quite fun just to see how she reacts. And others are crazy enough that they don't even notice that they're making her uncomfortable.
  • Mage Species: The Shadowspawn are descended from supernatural humanoids who managed to admix their genes into the human population before being defeated by mankind. The Shadowspawn can assume the form of any creature (the individual, as well as the species) whose DNA they have ingested, which has given rise to the werewolf and vampire myths of Europe.
  • Manipulative Bitch: The first book has Adrienne ingratiating herself with the Brezés, pulling a palace coup on Tokairin Hajime, retaking the West Coast from the oni clan and pulling Adrian's strings to make him play the role she needs him for in order for her plots to come together. Toward the end of the series, she is manipulating both Adrian, the Council of Shadows, the Brotherhood and their rogue splinter faction to play out their plots against each other and sweep up the pieces once the dust settles.
    • But even she is outplayed by Great-Uncle Arnaud, who is even more of a Manipulative Bastard.
    • While Adrian can't match his sister, he does play both several of the vampire elders and a number of more mundane agencies quite adeptly. But he is more of a Guile Hero, naturally.
  • Moral Myopia: Adrian is the one Shadowspawn who seems to give any bit of a damn about ordinary humans. Well, he and Wilbur, to some extent.
  • Narcissist: All Shadowspawn, though in varying degrees, due to the mental disposition of their non-human ancestor species.
  • Nominal Hero: Many of the people in the Brotherhood are borderline Shadowspawn who would have liked to be part of the Order of the Black Dawn, but are of insufficiently pure blood to qualify. So now they fight the "real" vampires out of resentment more than anything else. As well as safety in numbers, since lone Shadowspawn quickly tend to become the prey of others.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Adrian thinks he is this to Adrienne. Several other characters beat him over the head with the fact that he really isn't, not being, you know, a crazy mass murderer and all that.
  • Older Than They Look: Vampires age more slowly than normal humans, even before they become fully supernatural ghosts. Adrian is in his sixties, but looks barely half his age.
  • Our Vampires Are Different/Our Werewolves Are Different: Biological, pseudo-scientifically justified vampires/werewolves/witches/ghouls/etc, who are basically low-level Reality Warpers with a certain fondness for human blood. They have a number of odd abilities, including shapeshifting, probability manipulation (conscious and otherwise), low-level precognition and psychic powers, and the ability to assume an extra-super-powered ethereal form upon physical death. Vulnerabilities include silver, sunlight (the ghost form only) and radioactivity. Vampirism is an innate genetic condition, and not contagious or otherwise transferable, except by really wonky technobabble.
  • Parental Substitute: Harvey Ledbetter to Adrian. He led the Brotherhood team that abducted him, and later raised him to be human, rather than a monster.
  • Pet the Dog: Adrienne gets one in the second book, when she reads a fairytale to her children (though she does put her own touch on it). It's also mentioned that she sometimes plays with them by shapeshifting into a giant wolf and letting them ride on her back, though this is not seen here.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: The Shadowspawn elder, Duke Brezé de Bealoup, considers Europeans mere cattle, but the colored races aren't even that to him: more like vermin, if they deserve any appellation at all. He also thinks the Germans are little better than barbarians. Justified to some extent, in that he grew up in the late 19th century, when racism and national chauvinism were at their all-times high, and imbibed that whole atmosphere, only adding vampiric arrogance and sociopathy to the mix.
    • And then there's the German vampire lord, who's a literal Nazi werewolf.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Adrienne and her "Young Turks" faction among the Shadowspawn, who oppose the genocidal and ultra-reactionary plans of the Council of Shadows. Not because they care about the people, of course; peasants are a dime a dozen. But they do like modern conveniences and high living standards, and realize that a large and advanced human economy is needed to supply these, so killing off 90+ per cent of the population and banning electric power will cause problems.
  • Private Military Contractors: Adrienne has a whole company devoted solely to protecting her assets and residences. For her personal bodyguard, she prefers gurkhas for its human component.
  • Reality Warper: Shadowspawn can mentally manipulate the quantum-level functions of mass and energy, somehow, which allows for everything from shapeshifting to telepathy and more.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Inverted. In several ways, the Shadowspawn resemble the Drakas, the villains in one of Stirling's most famous series, once these become fully post-human predatory space cyborgs. Adrienne also more personally resembles the female lead in the late Drakas books, except that she's even more over the top.
  • Sadist: Again, one of the hereditary traits of the Shadowspawn. Though this, too, varies between individuals.
  • Sailor Fuku: Michiko, sometimes. Mostly to annoy her conservative vampire ancestor and clan leader, who prefers traditional Japanese dress.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Adrienne, though strictly for fun.
  • Shapeshifting Squick: Also done deliberately by Adrienne, for the same reasons.
  • Shout-Out: The mention of an author of speculative fiction in "this very state" (New Mexico), who discovered the Shadowspawn, and indeed wrote a book about them decades ago.
  • Sliding Scale of Vampire Friendliness: Very unfriendly. Shadowspawn are attractive, noncontagious and relatively blood-independent... But they are also very powerful, as well as Always Chaotic Evil to a massive and gratuitous extent, with very few exceptions.
  • The Sociopath: All Shadowspawn (except, apparently, Adrian) have at least elements of sociopathy in their personality. Though some are a lot worse than others. The higher-class ones (e.g., Duke Bealoup, Adrienne, Seraphine) are the suave, charismatic archetype.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: Great-Uncle Arnaud, at least as we see him: cool, calm, poised and polite, even in the middle of killing a man. Hajime's wife, a vampiric Yamato Nadeshiko, also seems to be one.
  • Status Quo Is God: In-universe example. Adrienne lampoons the Shadowspawn elders for being silly reactionary dinosaurs who want the world to be just like it was when they were young, and stay that way forever. Adrian agrees, but points out that she wants the exact same thing, except that she wants it to stay the way it is now, rather than first revert back a century or two.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The Brezés share one, due to some inbreeding in feudal times, and more recently in Duke Beauloup's eugenics program. The Duke himself appears much like Adrian's older brother, and he and Adrienne are Half-Identical Twins. More generally, vampires tend to share certain vaguely "Mediterranean" features, since this was somewhat like how their species originally looked.
  • Super Senses: Shadowspawn have enhanced normal senses, in addition to supernatural ones. This is one reason why they tend to be gourmets: an extra-sensitive sense of smell and taste.
  • Super Supremacist: The vampires, or at least the Brezés, will generally give at least a modicum of courtesy and respect to anyone who shares their powers, even downright enemies. By contrast, no one cares a whit about ordinary humans, except that it is considered rude to kill or otherwise hurt them without permission if they have already been claimed by someone else. It is, naturally, taken absolutely for granted that only the vampire race is fit to rule the world.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: The vampire genes, which, when assembled together, grant Psychic Powers. As well as sharper teeth and a number of other, smaller augmentations.
  • Take That!: Various historical figures the author presumably does not like are painted as murderous sadists, Satanists and vampires. Among those explicitly named are Leopold II of Belgium and William Randolph Hearst, and there are subtler references to others.
  • Thicker Than Water: The Brezé twins. While they were friends as children, Adrienne now wants to torment and annoy Adrian for various reasons, and has done enough of this (and hurt various other people enough in the process) that, by mid-series at the latest, he quite sincerely wants her dead in return. But neither of them has quite given up on turning his sister/her brother to the "right" side, either; both keep trying to reach out to each other.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Ellen, who persuaded Adrian to teach her to fight, since she did not want to be caught helpless again by the vampires if she could help it. She still does not stand much of a chance against Adrienne or her associates themselves, but now she can at least deal with their human flunkies if not outnumbered by too much.
  • Tortured Monster: Wilbur Patterson, the vampire elder whom Adrian impersonates to gain admittance to Adrienne's ball. While it is hinted that he, too, was a murderous vampire in younger days, he fell in love with a human woman, and by all tokens quite sincerely. When he was unable to save her, he became depressed and moved into complete isolation, finally staying up to watch the sun rise when he could no longer bear it.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Adrian thinks this is true of Adrienne. The rest of the Brezés think this of him: He was such a nice boy before he joined the good guys...
  • Vegetarian Vampire: Adrian. The new Michiko presumably becomes one, as well.
  • Villainous Friendship: Adrienne and Michiko, who are best friends forever as only girl-vampires can.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Shadowspawn can assume the form of any creature whose DNA they have ingested, which has given rise to the werewolf and vampire myths of Europe.
  • We Can Rule Together: Adrienne with Adrian. No more kooky old vampire lords and their plans for global genocide, just the two of them ruling the world of darkness for the next few thousand years or so. They can do it relatively benevolently, even, if he really must insist on it.
  • We Didn't Start the Führer: In this setting, Shadowspawn race admixture is the explanation for the ruthlessness, high intelligence, nocturnal habits and uncanny luck of many historical dictators, and Hitler is said to be one example. Mildly subverted, in that he wasn't either a full Shadowspawn or in any way in on their massive global conspiracy; if anything, he fought against it, the Western Allied nations and the Communist USSR being its firmest strongholds. He just had some unusual abilities and talents that helped him seize and keep power.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Adrian and Adrienne used to be very close when they grew up together, but Adrian was kidnapped by the Brotherhood and raised by them, thereby learning to care about the ordinary humans, and so coming to recognize the villainy of the Shadowspawn. Adrienne, raised into the family traditions, obviously never did, and continues to serve the Council of Shadows (at least insofar as she ever "serves" anything or anyone). While they have racked up good reasons to hate each other over the years, both still very much regret that they must be enemies, and that the other was raised by such stupid and evil people and twisted into someone they shouldn't be.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The vampires' human helpers consider the Brotherhood to be little better than terrorists, since the latter consider them traitors to humanity, and very expendable in their war against their masters.
  • Your Vampires Suck: There is a fairly unsubtle Take That! to Twilight in the first book. Dracula gets a minor one, with characters on both sides commenting on the assassination of a very Dracula-like Roumanian vampire elder, to the effect that while his style (sleeping in a crypt guarded by Gypsies, etc) might have worked in the 19th century, it's not very up-to-date in the 21st.