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Literature / The Withering Sword

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The Withering Sword is an Epic Fantasy novel written by Jimena Novaro and posted in serial form on her website. It takes place in the fictional empire of Gyoto and chronicles the empire's dissolution from the point of view of various characters, including the sons of the empress, the royal princes who lead an uprising in one of the subjugated kingdoms, a priestess who struggles to reconcile the differences between the cultures of the conquerors and the conquered, and a cunning ambassador.


Inspired by ancient Chinese history, it has very little that can be defined as actual magic, politics, war, assassination, complicated backstories, a huge cast, and giant birds that destroy entire villages.

The author updates the story with a new chapter, each one told from the point of view of a different character, every Sunday. It can be found here and here.

The Withering Sword provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Yamo, captain of the Imperial Military, and Myogo, a Tyovadh warrior trainee. Presumably also Celari, the pirate princess, although so far we haven't seen her in action. Also Gyara, the young Pehm nomad who captures Demys.
  • Actual Pacifist: Priestess Iriwe and most of the Miihing natives. At least until a certain empress takes away their favorite prince.
  • The Alliance: What Ambassador Xemyo manipulates the feudal lords of Hassal into forming to fight the empire. Also what Yamo suspects Miihing and Leiyang want to form.
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  • Ancient Tradition: The Tyovadh warriors, who choose children as trainees based on supposedly mystical indicators. No one can refuse if they're chosen.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: In the first chapter, we see Princess Avaho find out that she's going to marry one of her mother's councilors. However, she doesn't have any real issues with being married off until she starts to discover more about her fiancé.
  • Anyone Can Die: Characters have been dropping off like flies, including, so far, two point-of-view characters.
  • Badass Boast: The Myagadhars seem prone to do this. The current empress' father reportedly said "Gods may fall before our dynasty does" right before he died of poisoning.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Amraxes has this for his younger siblings, and later on for his second cousins Nerion and Silaron as well. Silaron, despite being technically younger than his brother (they're twins), spends most of his time keeping Nerion from getting himself killed.
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  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Xemyo is an ambassador tasked with keeping the peace between the empire and one of its subjugate territories, Hassal. She seems pretty inoffensive until she starts playing the Hassali lords against each other and ends up starting a war... on purpose.
  • Black Sheep: The oldest and youngest children of the empress are both imperial, commanding, and pretty well-respected. The middle sibling, Demys, is a bumbling bookworm whom everyone makes fun of.
  • Born in the Saddle: The Pehm nomads.
  • Break the Cutie: Ebeya starts out as a young, naive servant who worships the empress and wants nothing more than to comb the empress' hair. Then she kills a woman to protect the empress, and it all goes downhill from there.
  • Broken Pedestal: Ebeya has spent all her life looking up to the empress. She kills for her, risks her life for her, and ends up discovering the empress has been a puppet for Helor Liwing for who knows how long.
  • The Casanova: Nerion.
    Nerion: She looks unfriendly. And apparently uninterested in male companionship. I take that as a challenge.
  • The Cassandra: Scholar Geyas might be this, or he might just be nuts.
  • The Chessmaster: Ambassador Xemyo.
  • Feathered Fiend: The mountain birds are the size of a man and so far have destroyed several villages, killed soldiers, and generally terrorized the empire. The dawn bird is supposedly even bigger and smarter.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Nerion (foolish sibling) and Silaron (responsible sibling) fulfill this trope nicely.
  • Initiation Ceremony: The Tyovadh trainees put Nerion and Silaron through one. They have to make their way across rocky terrain in the dead of night, blindfolded and naked. Nerion enjoys it (apparently, he's had to do something similar before while also drunk). Silaron tolerates it.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: Prince Demys reads about the legend of the dawn and dusk birds and thinks it might be an explanation of why the mountain birds are attacking the countryside. No one takes his theory seriously, since it's "just a legend."
  • Low Fantasy: There's not much overt magic, and the world as a whole is decidedly grey, with touches of black.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Amraxes constantly berates himself for allowing Ahiri to cloud his judgment, but can't really do anything about it.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Near the beginning, Amraxes sees a hawk that he thinks is his reincarnated sister. Later on, a hawk saves Demys from getting torn limb from limb. Helor Liwing's intimidation techniques are also an example of this trope.
  • Moody Mount: Gyara's black stallion. Despite being an expert horsewoman, she often has trouble staying in the saddle. It's implied that she rides him as a matter of pride.
    One of Gyara's men: That's why little girls shouldn't ride bad-tempered stallions.
    Gyara: Keep quiet. He doesn't like being called bad-tempered.
  • Nerd: Demys, essentially. He's a Bookworm, he has No Social Skills, and he's a decidedly Non-Action Guy.
  • North Is Cold, South Is Hot: Hassal is farther north than anything else we see in the novel, and characters have to wear furs constantly to keep warm. Silaron and Nerion, who are from Miihing, in the south, suffer the cold when they travel north to Gyoto.
  • The Prophecy: The previous emperor was worried about one that predicted that two people would bring about an end to his dynasty. According to a priest who acted as his adviser, those two people were born twenty-seven years before the novel begins.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Minister of Miihingese Culture and Religion is much more willing to hear Iriwe out than the officer at the outpost near her village.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Amraxes and Demys, the two imperial princes, are a moderate version of this trope.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Yarod stabs a man he's just poisoned.
    Xemyo: He'd already eaten poison.
    Yarod: It was taking too long to act. I couldn't listen to him any longer.
  • The Unfavorite: There's no question as to which of her children the empress cares about the least. She doesn't even consider making Demys her heir, and has an overall poor opinion of her middle son's abilities—actually, everyone seems to have a poor opinion of Demys' abilities, including Demys himself.
  • Unlikely Hero: Demys is a bumbling scholar who can't wield any weapons and is terrified of riding a horse, but at least Scholar Geyas seems to think he'll be the one to save everyone.
  • Warrior Prince: Amraxes, who commands the Imperial Fleet. At least until Avaho dies and he becomes the heir to the empire.