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Literature / The Sundering

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For other works titled "The Sundering", see here.
Malthus the Counselor leading Haomane's Allies to war

When the unknown is made known, when the lost weapon is found, when the marrow-fire is quenched and Godslayer is freed, when a daughter of Elterrion weds a son of Altorus, when the Spear of Light is brought forth and the Helm of Shadows is broken, the Fjeltroll shall fall, the Were shall be defeated ere they rise, and the Sunderer shall be no more, the Souma shall be restored and the Sundered World made whole and Haomane's Children shall endure.
Haomane's Prophecy

The Sundering is a fantasy duology by Jacqueline Carey. The two books are Banewreaker (2004) and Godslayer (2005).

The Sundering tells a story deliberately very similar to J. R. R. Tolkien's stories (The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings), but with the twist that it is told from the perspective of the "villain" characters.

It is not a true case of Villain Protagonists, though, because the story makes clear that the "evil" characters are really not evil at all, merely misunderstood.

This series provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Contrary to their usual stereotype, the Dwarves. They eventually try their hand at war and are victorious in a skirmish, but are so horrified that they leave the battlefield and tend to the wounded for the rest of the battle.
  • Bad Moon Rising: A red star starts rising in the western sky the day the light-side starts fulfilling the prophecy. Satoris and company believe it comes from the Shapers across the sea as a herald of war. Cerelinde and company believe Satoris put it there (he's west of everyone else) as a herald of war.
  • Berserk Button: Do not blame Satoris for the Sundering, especially not to his face. He doesn't take it well.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Tanaros was second in command to King Roscus Altorus, who seduced his wife and fathered a child on her. Tanaros killed his wife and leige both. Centuries later, when the descendants of Altorus are discussing this, naturally only Tanaros' betrayal is remembered. Which makes sense, as murder is more memorable then adultery.
  • Child by Rape: Ushahin Dreamspinner is the child of a human lord who forced himself on an Ellyl lady that was part of a visiting embassy.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Ushahin is clearly meant to look like David Bowie.
  • Consummate Liar: According to Haomane's Allies (the "heroes"), Satoris is this. According to Satoris, Haomane himself is this. The "heroes" also call dragons this, while the "villains" think that the dragons are the only ones who really know what is going on.
  • Cool Sword: In-universe example with the male madlings being infatuated with Tanaros' sword.
  • Crossing the Desert: Malthus is occupied early on with fulfilling the "unknown is known" portion of the prophecy, setting off into the vast unmapped desert created when Haomane burned Satoris with the sun.
  • Damsel in Distress: The dark-side plan is to invoke this situation for a preemptive strike. Cerelinde is kidnapped from her own wedding, but a false trail leads the light-side to believe a different dark-side nation to blame. Haomane's Allies will rally and attack that nation, putting them in perfect position to get attacked from both sides and end the war long before the Allies or their prophecy get any steam going.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Satoris is a dark lord over a shadowy land completely shrouded with clouds and mists... because Haomane once bent the sun to burn Satoris to a crisp, blackening his skin until it refused to heal, and he'd rather not allow that avenue of attack again.
    • The Fjelltroll are massive ugly brutes that are shown creating beautiful detailed sculpture using just their hands and claws to work and shape the stone. A lot of them work for Satoris simply because he's often kind to them.
    • Satoris' home, the vale of Gorgantum, is a twisted place as a side-effect of Satoris' presence that he cannot help. His unhealable wound constantly bleeds ichor, and it's been bleeding out of him so long the earth is infused and dead from it (blocking the sun probably didn't help either). Strange new life is adapting to the ichor-earth though, and Satoris keeps a garden.
  • Deconstruction: Of the Evil Overlord trope and Tolkienesque fantasy as a whole.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Satoris, sort of. After treating Cerelinde well as his "guest", he eventually lets her kill him (for the sake of the prophecy) without provocation, thus robbing her and her side of their claim to a moral high ground. Only after this does she consider the possibility that Satoris might be telling the truth, but by then it's too late.
  • Downer Ending: The light-side is almost completely victorious. Satoris is dead by Cerelinde's hand, without any resistance on the Shaper's part. Tanaros, the dark side general the plot focuses most on, is dead. Ushahin escapes, possibly to begin anew, so despite all the deaths nothing is truly resolved. Cerelinde is left in despair, and wonders whether the victory of light is worth the cost.
  • Dragon Ascendant: Ushahin Dreamspinner takes up Satoris' mantle.
  • Evil Overlord: Deconstructed. Satoris is a dark lord, and has called the outcast, the wounded, the wronged and bitter, and all of the mistreated races of the earth to his side. His alliances and power base are based on friendship, respect, and honor, however. If he operated through domination and fear, he'd have far less strength and no allies at all.
  • Expy: Many characters and elements are drawn from Tolkien, although due to the Perspective Flip, most dark-side characters are new.
    • Malthus, as the last light-side wizard, is very clearly Gandalf, and the closest to Captain Ersatz we get.
    • Satoris is a sympathetic version of Morgoth, as the setting's "evil god", with the other Shapers as counterparts to the Valar.
    • The Soumanie, gems of light and power, are described much like the Silmaril.
    • Cerelinde, of an immortal elf-like race and marrying a mortal, is a substitute Arwen.
    • Aracus Altorus, human king of a long-lost kingdom, for Aragorn, although as he's already a leader among men, draws from Boromir as well.
    • Lilias as a sorceress and distant Satoris ally ends up playing the role Saruman does in the plot, although her origins and motives are different.
    • Tanaros is a combination of Túrin Turambar (a former member of the good guys who flees and turns dark after killing a family friend, possessed of a black sword that can cut through the swords of his enemies) and the Witch-King of Angmar (chief commander of Satoris's forces, the one who wiped out a mighty kingdom of Men and turned them into rangers).
    • Malthus' Company for the Fellowship of the Ring, complete with archer, ranger, knight, wizard, and hobbits, and questing for the Plot Coupon while the armies run off to war.
    • Ushahin Dreamspinner becomes one for Sauron by the end of the story, as the single surviving lieutenant who escapes his master's ultimate defeat and takes up his mantle.
  • Forged by the Gods:
    • Not deliberately but accidentally forged, The Godslayer is a dagger formed by the cracking of the Souma - as though it sensed the Shapers were about to kill each other and responded to their desires. It's the only weapon that can kill Shapers, and Satoris has managed to hold onto it after being stabbed in the leg with it. Most of the wars on Satoris over the millenia are attempts to overwhelm him, retrieve Godslayer, and finally use it on him.
    • The Spear of Light, the Helm of Shadows, and the Arrow of Fire, three weapons shaped by Haomane and given to his Counselers. Satoris is wounded by them, but in the end two Counselers die, the Spear broken and the Arrow lost, and the Helm claimed by Satoris for his own use.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ushahin Dreamspinner is the result of the rape of an Ellyl woman by a human man, and was reviled by both his families. He is notably misshapen, although how much is due to mixed heritage and how much was being beaten to the edge of death is an open question. Cerelinde is deeply afraid her and Aracus' children will be similar, and clings to the belief that it was because Ushahin was a product of lust and not love.
  • Harmful Healing: Performed by Satoris on Ushahin Dreamspinner.
  • Hobbits: In contrast to many other elements in this series, the Yarru-yami are strikingly different from Hobbits. Sure they're short and go barefoot, but they are dark-skinned and live in the middle of a desert rather than the idyllic Shire.
  • Humans Are Special: Invoked. Haomane and Arahlia shared the gifts of thought and love between Ellyl and Humans, making them semi-equals, even though the Ellylon were ageless. Then Arahlia sought Satoris' Quickening for humans as well, since Humans weren't ageless, and with all three gifts humanity ended up far outnumbering the Ellylon or any other race.
  • Hungry Jungle: The kidnapping decoy party that's supposed to report to Lilias ends up stuck in an oppressive delta marsh and runs afoul of Malthus, quicksand, reptiles, madness (the tracker starts rambling they have to get to the center to get out), and finally, the dragon hiding in the center. The only survivor to get out was one guy taken captive by Malthus.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Tanaros to his unfaithful wife, strangling her with his bare hands. He killed her lover, his king, as well, but couldn't bring himself to kill their child.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Justified for the Ellylon, since they have no sex drive. This trope could have been averted had Haomane, creator of the Ellylon, accepted the Gift of Satoris for his children.
  • Interspecies Adoption: After the Ellylon refused him at birth, his human family neglected him, and finally some random strangers beat him to a broken pulp, a nameless Half-Human Hybrid child crawled into the forest to die. He was found by the Grey Dam of the Were, taken in and cared for, and given the name Ushahin.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Ushahin is nearly stoned to death by a group of children when he's a child of no more than seven or eight, all because he's a Half-Human Hybrid.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Satoris' one truly evil act (although not unprovoked) indirectly leads to his death.
  • Last of His Kind: By the end of the book, it's implied that there's only one dragon left. It's likewise stated that the other races besides men are dwindling rapidly, leading in particular the Fjeltroll and Were towards this path.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • Malthus, the light-side wizard, collapses a magical tunnel and buries both a dark-side army and his own army, killing an untold number of his own people just to prevent the tunnel from being used against him.
    • Cerelinde confronts Satoris, asking why he would split the world rather than remove his gift as Haomane had asked. Satoris responds with a vision of Haomane's world of perfect order - sterile, unchanging, nearly lifeless, with Haomane's chosen children ruling over all the races and none of them "exceeding their place", until the world itself grew cold and died.
  • Mark of the Supernatural: Ushahin's mismatched eyes mark his psychic powers.
  • Misplaced Retribution:
    • The world mythology reads like this, as Haomane blames Satoris' gift for destroying his vision, and destroying most of his children the Ellyl. Arahlia's humans did much of the destroying however, and despite seeking Satoris' gift for her chosen race, she is not blamed for breaking the balance, and Haomane chooses destroying Satoris rather than accepting his gift for the Ellyl.
    • Satoris is named the Sunderer by the mortal races of the light-side, but Haomane actually performed the Sundering, splitting the Shaper's home from the rest of the earth to prevent Satoris from winning their first battle.
    • This extends to much of the Shaper War - Haomane's and Satoris' disagreement had immediate consequences on their source of power that they appear equally responsible for, yet the first physical blow was another Shaper stabbing Satoris. Despite quite a lot of defending himself (though his hands aren't exactly clean), Satoris is blamed for starting the whole thing.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Only the Bearer of the Yarru-Yami can carry the Water of Life from the center of the desert. Literally - it's infinitely heavy for any other person.
  • Orcus on His Throne:
    • Justified for Satoris, since he has been wounded and bleeding for millennia, and is not as powerful as he once was.
    • Also applies to Haomane, who is never actually seen at all, but has allies and a wizard acting on his behalf.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Actually averted on a couple of points; the Dwarves are an Actual Pacifist race, and they are also more closely associated with orchards and fruit than the usual Dwarven mines.
  • Our Elves Are Different: They're called "Ellylon" (singular "Ellyl") here, but otherwise deliberate clones of Tolkien's Elves.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: The Fjelltroll are less intelligent than humans, but very loyal, honorable and not inherently evil.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: The Were are a race of wild wolf-men that are fond of the hunt. They're not shapeshifters, and have some small magics related to death, but otherwise fit most of the classic werewolf image.
  • Perspective Flip: We get to see "Big Bad" Satoris as a character, but "Big Good" Haomane remains unseen.
  • Pieces of God: The Shapers and the dragons were birthed from the dying of the world-god Uru-alat, and the world itself is named after him and considered to be his corpse. Each of the Shapers' gifts are drawn from Uru-alat — Haomane was born from his head and represents the mind, Arahlia from the chest and representing heart, Satoris from the loins and standing for sex and the body.
  • Plot Coupon: The Water of Life. Satoris stuck the Godslayer in a font of eternal flame so he could stop worrying about armies coming for it, as any mortal would be burned to ash. So Malthus' Company need the Water to extinguish it, and the bearer to carry it. It also gets them past the dwarves test to get the Arrow of Fire back.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Brutally justified, because the "heroes" think the "villains" are consummate liars, and don't realize that if they just ignored the prophecy that the "villains" would just leave them alone.
  • Power Trio:
    • Haomane sent his Counselers (wizards), Malthus, Dergail, and Ardreth, each with a holy weapon, to arrange the last attempted war against Satoris. Two of them died, leaving only Malthus in the current age.
    • Satoris created his own Trio of Tanaros, Ushahin, and Vorax, as a dark mirror of Haomane's Counselers, and their areas of responsibility as general, spymaster/mage, and logistics fall into Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth as well.
  • Pride: Haomane is blinded by his own pride, leading to his refusal of Satoris' Gift and the war, or so Satoris believes.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Subverted. While all the conditions for the end result of the prophecy are fulfilled, Ushahin stealing Godslayer prevents the actual end result from taking place, meaning that the prophecy's end result was averted for a reason that had absolutely nothing to do with the necessary conditions the prophecy mentioned, and that all attempts to fulfill or avert those conditions were pointless.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The "good guys" win and Cerelinde is rescued, but the last part of the prophecy is unfulfilled, so the Rivenlost are still stranded and the other races are still separated from their gods.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Were have supported Satoris in the past, and the Grey Dam, Ushahin's foster mother, is eager to avenge her lost family against the Altorus line by suicidally attacking the wedding party. Once the memories and title of the Gray Dam pass to another, though, the new leader has no interest in war, and withdraws support from Lilias. This is the first item to go wrong in the dark-side plans, and fits the prophecy to boot.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Cerelinde, particularly when she's first kidnapped and confronted with the lack of evil in all the "evil" things around her, brings up any number of battles or ruins or deaths to justify her hatreds. She is surprised to be constantly called on it by Tanaros, having ignored or rationalized away any light-side attacks as "Because of Satoris," an excuse so quickly and often repeated even she starts to doubt it.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Satoris' attempts to avert Haomane's prophecy (when he does attempt to avert it at all) only serve to further its fulfillment.
  • Sex Is Evil: The rift between Shapers is based on this. Satoris' gift to the world was the Quickening - basically sex, passion, and procreation — which he gave to many races, and was asked to give to humanity, Arahlia's children. Humanity made war on the Ellyl, Haomane's children, and Haomane blamed Satoris' gift, refusing to accept it for the Ellyl and demanding Satoris remove it from humans. Satoris' refusal started the Shaper War. There are still references to "the Sunderer's Gift" by the light-side as though it were a poison.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Even after all the effort Haomane's Allies put into fulfilling the prophecy they still don't get what they want, meaning that they basically killed Satoris for nothing.
  • Standard Fantasy Races: As a work heavily inspired by The Lord of the Rings, the standard races are present, though, apart from the humans, under different names: the Ellylon are classic, Tolkien-esque elves, the Fjelltroll are noble orcs, whereas the Dwarves are actually closer to hobbits than Tolkien's dwarves, being a pacifistic gardening race. There's also a Were, who, despite their name, are a race of non-shapeshifting wolf-men.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Godslayer, the only weapon that can kill Satoris for sure, and the strongest source of magic on this continent besides, so Satoris has held on to it and protected it. Endlessly pursued by pretty much everyone not on his side, so Satoris finally built a fortress around it and stuck it in a font of endless fire besides, so only he can reach and use it.
  • Sympathetic P.O.V.: The whole premise. Though the main characters do make some pretty stupid (or at least dubious) choices that pretty much doom them from the start.
  • That Liar Lies: Haomane's Allies are fond of using this trope on the "villains", to the point that you wonder how the "villains" keep from flying into an uncontrollable rage.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: Satoris doesn't know if conquering the whole of Urulat would be wise or would be enough to stand up to Haomane. After millenia of being a target and a victim, none of his fellow Shapers crossing the sea to support him, with Haomane's Allies gearing up for war, again, and trying to invoke the prophecy that fortells Satoris' end, he tells Tanaros he's more than willing to find out.
  • The Unreveal: The books never say exactly what the "Great Pattern" is and what knowledge the dragons have.
  • We Are as Mayflies: The Ellylon do not die from old age. As such, those somewhat over 1000 years old are still considered young.
  • Wedding Smashers: Cerelinde of the Ellylon and Aracus Altorus fall in love and plan to get married, finally kickstarting the prophecy of Satoris' fall. Naturally, Tanaros and a disguised squad break it up with lethal force and steal the bride.
  • What a Senseless Waste of Human Life: And Ellyl life, and Fjeltroll life, and Were life.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's unclear at the end of the book if Dani is still alive or not.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Both Ushahin and Vorax say this to Satoris, and eventually try to do it themselves. According to Satoris, it would not matter anyways since supposedly she is not the only female descendant of Elterrion and therefore killing her would only delay the prophecy, not prevent it.

Alternative Title(s): Banewreaker