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Literature / The Silerian Trilogy

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The original cover of the first book.
A trilogy of fantasy novels by Laura Resnick, also known as The Chronicles of Sirkara (another name for the series' titular land). It is set on the island of Sileria, a land which has long been ruled by foreign invaders. After many centuries, the struggle for freedom at long last begins under a savior called the Firebringer. Yet the Silerians are almost as dangerous to each other as their foreign oppressors...The first book, In Legend Born, was released in 1998. The second, In Fire Forged, followed in 2003, split into two parts: The White Dragon and The Destroyer Goddess. Another book in the same world, called Arena, was promised initially, but fell through as the result of a contract dispute being Resnick and the publisher. However, she released a short story which is set in the books' universe and featuring one character from the books in the collection Blackguards: Tales of Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues, entitled "Friendship".

This trilogy provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Mirabar is a fierce young woman with a hot temper who fights using her fire magic.
  • The Alcoholic: Ronall, Elelar's husband, is a hopeless drunk and drug addict. He only sobers up when imprisoned by the Valdani, and the withdrawal was apparently quite hard on him. The very first thing he does after being released is go get drunk once again.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: It's believed that people such as Mirabar, with red hair and/or golden eyes, are demons. However this turns out to be a lie spread by the water lords-it's actually a sign they're especially blessed by their goddess.
  • Always Lawful Good: The Beyah-Olvari are all benevolent pacifists who live peacefully together, so much that they can't even bear people acting angrily in their presence.
  • Back from the Dead: Zarien is killed by a dragonfish, but revived with the goddess Sharifar's power.
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  • Bath Suicide: Borall slits his wrists in the bath rather than be punished for inadvertently giving state secrets to rebels.
  • Because Destiny Says So: The whole plot of the trilogy is built on this trope. Josarian will drive out the Valdani as the Chosen One-because destiny says so. Elelar will give birth to the new Yarhdan (king)-because destiny says so. Mirabar's daughter will be his Guardian-because destiny says so. Etc., etc...
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Zigzagged. The zanareen are religious fanatics whose members seek to prove how they're the Firebringer by fasting, prayer and eventually throwing themselves into a live volcano. The rest of the religious characters are smart and level-headed however. Even the zanareen belief this is what the Firebringer can survive is true, they're just wrong about it being any of them.
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  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: The fire mage Yarhdans used to be this for Sileria. Elalar's son is prophesied to be the next one, with both fire and water magic, uniting the Guardians and water lords.
  • Big Bad: Kiloran, one of the water lords who rules his people with an iron fist.
  • Blood Brothers: Shallaheen Silerians commonly adopt family through blood pacts, not just siblings but any kind of relations. Josarian and Tansen become blood brothers early in the first book. Earlier Tansen had an adopted blood father too.
  • Blood Oath: Shallaheen bind themselves through ritually cutting open their palms. This can be for adoption, marriages, or vowing revenge.
  • The Casanova: Zimran is a shameless womanizer who continually seduces, beds and abandons numerous women (much to his cousin Jondalar's disapproval). He eventually falls for Elelar, who is very similar to him in terms of her sexual habits (yet with different motives).
  • Category Traitor: Betraying your own people is viewed as the worst thing any Silerian can do, and they punish it with death by slow torture.
  • Cessation of Existence: Discussed by Tansen and Josarian. The latter thinks the Otherworld might not really exist, and that spirits whom the Guardians call up could be just illusions. Josarian denies this though, and Tansen later concedes. This is the fate of anyone taken by the White Dragon too.
  • Child of Two Worlds: Elelar and Mirabir both conceive children who are intended to be this. Their children will both have fire and water magic, healing an ancient rift between both types of magic users.
  • Child by Rape: Zarien turns out to be one due to Kiloran's rape of his mother.
  • The Chosen One: Josarian, the Firebringer. Armian was believed to be this, but turned out not to be, and he didn't want to throw himself into a volcano to prove it as required. Ronall, of all people, is the sea king, prophesied as the sea folk's monarch and consort to their goddess.
  • Civil War: After the Valdani leave, Sileria's factions devolve into a power struggle between the Alliance and shallaheen versus the various water lords.
  • The Clan: Silerian society is divided into these, with many swearing vendettas and fighting each other over many generations, to the point of them being nearly wiped out in some cases.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Valdani punish Silerian rebels with death by torture-slowly being disemboweled. Later the Silerians use it on traitors also.
  • Dark Fantasy: A people as occupied with killing each other as winning liberty, versus a brutal empire which rules them, fairly ruthless "heroes" leading them, and evil wizards who extort others for the simple use of water. The chosen one dies at the end of the first book, and once the empire leaves, the newly free country falls into civil war.
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: Like most poor Silerians, Mirabar is dark-skinned, but also has bright red hair as a mark of her favor from their goddess (though most people initially believe this means she's a demon).
  • Death by Childbirth: Calidar, Josarian's wife, died while giving birth to their baby (who died in the process as well). He mourns them throughout the first book and it's part of his motivation for leading a rebellion, with nothing to lose now.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Josarian, the Firebringer, is prophesied to at last free Sileria. At first he leads the struggle and seems well on his way to doing this. Then he's betrayed and murdered as part of a deal to get the Valdani out, and revenge for killing Kiloran's son. Tanses takes up his role in the next books and serves as the main protagonist.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Kiloran has no apparent goal beyond becoming the tyrant of Sileria, using increasingly harsh methods to achieve that end.
  • Dirty Coward: Koroll thinks of Borall contemptuously as showing "all the courage of a spring lamb" when he kills himself rather than suffer the consequences of Elelar gleaning state secrets from him.
  • Disappeared Dad: Tansen's father was killed in his childhood during a blood feud with another clan. His maternal grandfather then served as something of a father susbstitute for him. Unfortunately, the old man later was tortured and killed by Valdani soldiers.
  • Divide and Conquer: Tansen uses this tactic when fighting the Society, setting various waterlords against each other with false flag attacks.
  • Driven to Suicide: Borall, after hearing that Elelar's appeal is going to be heard in Valda, kills himself knowing it will be revealed how much information Elalar got from him unwittingly. Alcinar drowned herself after Zarien was born, due to apparent trauma from being raped.
  • Dual Wielding: Tansen wields two swords, and the difficulties with this are explicitly stated. Those who do it need special training-he recounts seeing a Valdan noble cutting himself apart trying to once.
  • Elective Monarchy: The Yarhdans, Sileria's rulers in the old days, were chosen by the Council of Guardians.
  • Elemental Powers: The Guardians have the ability to control fire, and the water lords... Well, the name kind of says it all.
  • Elemental Weapon: The shir, wavy-edged daggers waterlords craft from pure water for their assassins. All are bitterly cold and burn to the touch of anyone aside from the waterlord or the assassin who receives it, except for an assassin's killer. Wounds from the shir also burn and harm worse than ordinary weapons, requiring longer healing (waterlords can heal them however).
  • Emissary from the Divine: Mirabar is one of the Silerian goddess Dar, prophesying the Firebringer, then the next Yarhdan, who her own daughter will aid.
  • The Empire: The Valdani Empire, which strongly resembles Rome. An expansionist power, they are trying their level best to conquer everyone around them. Though the story itself focuses on Sileria, an occupied island country to their south, wars they wage against larger neighbors are also important in the background. One Valdan character thinks about how they desire to conquer the world, which he desires a part of. However, it's heavily implied they have taken on more than they're capable of by the end, and may go down in defeat on the mainland.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Josarian is completely devastated when he finds out that he was sold out by his cousin, whom he was close as a brother to.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Kiloran seems genuinely baffled that Baran harbors such a grudge against him over abducting and raping his wife.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Kiloran's one redeeming quality seems to be the fact he cares about his son, swearing revenge on Tansen after he kills him.
  • False Flag Operation: Tansen and his men pretend to be assassins, leaving shir at the scenes of attacks against waterlords which implicate others, setting them against each other.
  • Family Honor: This is taken very seriously by Silerians, resulting in many vendettas.
  • Fantasy Contraception: In spite of how much unprotected sex she has, Elelar never gets pregnant and concludes she's infertile. She's happy with this, because she never slept with a man whom she'd wanted to have a child by. However, it turns out she's been kept from conceiving by Dar, her people's goddess, as she's destined to bear the next Yarhdan, so having children with other men presumably was an obstacle to that. After she meets and is seduced by the man destined to father the Yarhdan, Elelar gets pregnant at once.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Sileria has many similarities to Sicily-feuding clans, powerful crime syndicates which extort and murder people, plus a succession of foreign rulers.
    • Valdania meanwhile has a resemblance to the Roman Empire, and it also has the same geographic relation of mainland Italy to Sicily, plus it's religion may be a vague Christian counterpart-it apparently involves "the Three" with a "sign of the Three" and believers say "Three into one!" On the other hand, its priests sacrifice goats.
    • The Moorlands mirror Scotland or Ireland somewhat, with the description of its people, the moors obviously and having a clan-based society.
    • Kinto, however, does not appear to have a counterpart, though it has vague similarities with some East Asian nations (e.g. the Palace of Heaven evokes China perhaps, plus it's language terms seem distantly Japanese).
  • Femme Fatale Spy: Elelar is a straight example, and surprisingly effective, gaining state secrets from the head of the Valdani administration in Sileria through seducing him to become his mistress. She's glamorous, an aristocrat and very beautiful. He's also not the only or first man she's used her wiles on. Pillow talk is enough to be told all kinds of things, often in passing.
  • Feudal Overlord: Sileria has suffered through a series of these, starting with the Moorlanders, then the Kints, and finally the Valdani. It's the impetus for the rebellion, to finally be rid of them. Unfortunately then the water lords try to take their place...
  • Feuding Families: Sileria has been torn apart by clan warfare for most of its history, with it explicitly being stated as the major reason they stayed unable to unite against their foreign rulers. Later this is used to the rebels' advantage, by having a blood feud sworn against the Valdani as if they were just another Silerian clan.
  • Fiery Redhead: Mirabar is a redhead with a hot temper, though she mellows over time.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Tansen and Josarian, after fighting the Valdani together. Also blood brothers.
  • Foreign Ruling Class: The Valdani were this for Sileria over centuries before the events of the books. Before that, it was the Kents, which they replaced. The Kents in turn displaced the Moorlanders, the first foreign rulers of Sileria.
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: Before the conception of Baran and Mirabar's daughter, we only hear of male water magic users. There is a reason they're named "waterlords" after all. No "waterladies" appear or are mentioned.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Ronall is the son of a Valdan man and Silerian woman. As he laments, Silerians view him as a Valdan, even though he's lived in Sileria all of his life. Valdani, meanwhile, view him as a Silerian. Both dislike him for his heritage.
  • Heroic Seductress: Elelar seduces many powerful men in order to get useful information which helps the Alliance.
  • Heroic Suicide: Tashinar kills herself to stop Kiloran torturing vital information from her that would endanger the rebels.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Tansen, the hero, grows to love red-haired Mirabar, and eventually she reciprocates.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Najdan is a good man aside from the killing people for a living thing. He started it to support his family, and only kills bad people in the series, which helps.
  • Honey Trap: Elelar's espionage work is done almost entirely through seducing powerful men, then getting useful information from their loose lips after she becomes their mistress.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Josarian, after becoming the Firebringer, is betrayed by his closest relative and then eaten alive by a monster. Also, his soul cannot move to the afterlife until the monster's maker is killed.
  • I See Dead People: All of the Guardians have this ability, and it's the main thing they're known for besides their fire magic.
  • Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot: Ronall slowly goes from being an abusive, lecherous drunk and becomes a hero.
  • La Résistance: The Alliance is explicitly this, while the Honored Society resists the Valdani for selfish reasons, with the shallaheen rebels also qualifying. Things get fractious when they attempt to resist the Valdani together, and even worse after they leave.
  • Kill 'Em All: The Valdani resort to this when the rebellion is growing, massacring entire villages which support rebels. After they leave, Silerians begin murdering Silerian-born Valdani en masse in revenge.
  • The Magocracy: The water lords essentially rule Sileria in part due to their control over its water supplies. Even the old official rulers have to give them tribute or they'll cut it off. Once the Valdani leave, their goal is absolute rule of the island.
  • Making a Splash: The waterlords, whose magic lets them control this, with the most powerful of them able to make an entire river fold back on itself and starve a city dry.
  • Marital Rape License: Ronall using this is (mostly) why Elelar hates him, though he regrets it later.
  • Mercy Kill: One of the rebels, Amitan, has Tansen end his life when he's dying slowly of a stomach wound, sparing him a long death in agony over several days.
  • Mixed Ancestry:
    • Ronall is the son of a Valdan man and Silerian woman.
    • Mirabar's daughter with Baran. She is a Guardian (fire magic user) and he's a waterlord (water magic user), while their daughter will have the ability to use both as a result. This is significant as the two groups have been deadly enemies for many centuries.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Elelar goes from conception into full-term pregnancy over just a few days or weeks at most. It's an explicitly supernatural event caused by their goddess, though she still gets pregnant through normal sex.
  • Nay-Theist: The Society in regards to Dar. Although they acknowledge she exists, none of them worship Her.
  • Necromancer: Guardians have the ability to call up spirits from the Otherworld on people's behalf. Doing so requires having something personal of theirs, and it can be difficult to reach some. Not all spirits are able to be called either, with some just never making it there. This doubles as pyromancy, since the spirits appear in the flames of a fire.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: This is the Silerians' motive for rebelling.
  • The Order: The Guardians, magic users who control fire and speak with the dead, in service of their goddess. Also the Sisterhood, who are somewhat like nuns and care for the sick or injured at Sanctuaries.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Ronall loses his unborn child with Jalilar when she's killed. He laments that it's probably the only child he'd ever have.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Mirabar's parents apparently abandoned her, given the superstition about her kind, but she doesn't remember them so it's unclear what happened.
    • Elalar's parents died when she was little. After that, she was raised by her grandfather.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: The Beyah-Olvari are naturally pacifists, and live in perfect harmony (albeit hiding underground) together.
  • Persecution Flip: The Valdani oppressed the Silerians for centuries while ruling Sileria, up to massacring entire villages. Once they withdraw, Valdani who remain behind there are then massacred in turn by Silerians.
  • Playing with Fire: The Guardians' ability is controlling fire, along with Calling the dead.
  • Pregnant Badass: Mirabar isn't slowed down as a fighter even when heavily pregnant (it's helped by the fact she does this with magic). In fact, she even gets stronger, since her unborn baby daughter starts helping her with magic she's inherited that Mirabar lacks.
  • Questionable Consent: Elelar is initially willing to have sex with Cheylan, but he shows no signs of taking "no" as an answer later.
  • Rape as Drama: Elelar's rape by Borell after he finds out she's been spying on him.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Valdani start using terror tactics as the rebellion increases, leading to many entire villages being destroyed and the inhabitants slaughtered by the end. They also did this to Tansen's village before while hunting Armian. Later, Silerians take revenge on the Valdani left in the country with the same means.
  • Really Gets Around: Zimran and Elelar both frequently have sex with people. In Zimran's case, it's simply for pleasure. Elelar though only seduces powerful men to gain useful information, taking no enjoyment from it.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Elelar gives one to Borell after he rapes her when she's found out as a spy, revealing how much information he unwittingly gave her and all her true hatred of him.
  • Screaming Birth: Elelar has one. Justified since it was a supernatural event that involved lava flowing out of her womb. Ouch.
  • Seers: Mirabar is given prophecies of the future through her spirit advisor the Beckoner.
  • Sex Slave: The Valdani soldiers' brothels use captured women from the Moorlands. Most are said to not survive more than a year.
  • Shout-Out: The Honored Society, a play on the “Men of Honor” name the Mafia uses for themselves, and they are even worse. They're “honored” by people because otherwise they'll remove your water and leave you to die of thirst.
  • Slave Liberation: The rebels under Josarian free the slaves in Valdani brothels, not so much out of anti-slavery sentiment as to hurt their morale (which it does, badly). Even so, the slaves are sent home. However, Elelar sadly wonders if anything except disgrace and poverty is waiting for them there.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Water wizard Kiloran wants to be this for all of Sileria. He takes over one of its cities to begin once the Valdani depart the country.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Beckoner for Mirabar.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: Suicide is anathema to Silerians. When some Silerian men are imprisoned, they find it ludicrous that the Valdani took steps to prevent them from hanging themselves.
  • Suicidal Pacifism: The Beyar-Olvari, who are an extremely fragile, peaceful species and can't even bear the mention of violent acts, let alone do any themselves, manifest this. It seems this is their inherent nature, so they can't change that. Rather than fight, some manage to survive by hiding underground from the encroaching humans.
  • Superpowerful Genetics: The ability to do magic is often (though not always) inherited. Several magic user characters have either a parent or grandparent with the same ability.
  • The Syndicate: The Honored Society is a fantasy version, where water wizards extort tribute from most people by controlling their water supplies, cutting it off if they refuse. Additionally, they have assassins who will kill whoever displeases them, but can also be hired to get revenge on others' behalf, though it's extremely costly to do. They're divided into competing factions under individual water lords with their own territories. While banned by the foreign Valdani who rule Silerian, they can't really be stamped out given their absolute control of the water supplies. After the Valdani leave, they move to rule openly over the entire island.
  • Unequal Rites: The Guardians (fire mages) and waterlords (water mages) are old, deadly enemies. As you'd expect, the latter is more powerful. However, by the end of the series people who have both abilities appear.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Kintish Kingdoms, which once ruled Sileria. In the past they were far more powerful, but have become overshadowed by the Valdani recently. The Valdani eventually invade them.
  • Water Is Womanly: Inverted. In contrast to common association of water with femininity, water magic users are only male, being named "waterlords". However, it later gets played straight as Mirabar's daughter is prophesied to be the first female water magic user.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: It is explicitly stated that one reason Sileria has been ruled by foreigners for so long stems from them fighting each other constantly, and when they finally do manage some unity, this only lasts long enough to win their independence before it falls apart with civil war breaking out.


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