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Literature / The Years Of M

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The Years of M is an Urban Fantasy novel by Stevie Barry. It's the fifth book in The M Universe

A tale of recovery both global and personal, told in three parts.

  • Plague: Thorvald might be dead, but his is a gift that keeps on giving.

  • Tanzania: The Donovan-Duncans head to Tanzania, to meet youngest brother Mick's in-laws. It's exactly as good an idea as it sounds.

  • Guardian: The afterlife is not what Von Rached expected. Having nearly everything he could want has led to stultifying boredom, until Earth's chief deity bombs into his life and assigns him a task he is in no way prepared for. There's a reason 'may you live in interesting times' is meant as a curse.


This novel provides examples of:

  • A Father to His Men: Gavin is this to his gang, and trying to take care of the sick eventually drops him from exhaustion.
  • A World Half Full: The world has been badly damaged by the War, but it's on its way to recovery when the plague hits, and hits hard.
  • Accidental Murder: Von Rached didn't actually mean to kill Sigyn: he panicked, grabbed her too hard, and accidentally broke her neck.
  • The Aloner: Von Rached is alone in the afterlife, until the Lady gives him a cat.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Lady asks Von Rached several of these — the first being why he kept his first name despite hating it so very much.
  • Badass Boast:
    Lorna: The thing about rules, Ashley, is that good people don't need them. You picked the wrong day to find out why I do.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Von Rached finds the afterlife rather dull. Unfortunately, when events conspire to make his existence more interesting, they also make it far more difficult.
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  • Big Damn Heroes: The airships, which arrive in time to help evacuate the area around Kilimanjaro.
  • Blood from the Mouth: A common feature of the plague, and generally (though not always) a sign a character is not long for the world.
  • Busman's Holiday: Thanks to the eruption of Kilimanjaro, many of the Donovans wind up doing variations of their ordinary jobs.
  • Came Back Wrong: Lorna fears that she did. The Resurrection Sickness really doesn't help.
  • Chekhov's Volcano: Kilimanjaro, of course. Its eruption is artificially induced.
  • Culture Clash: Mostly averted, thanks to the Donovans brushing up on Tanzanian culture, and Mick's in-laws brushing up on, well, Donovans.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The cat, Creature, in spades. She and Von Rached often engage in Snark-to-Snark Combat.
  • Disappeared Dad: Pat is this for Lorna the Younger, to his everlasting shame.
  • Dishing Out Dirt: Terrakinetic terrorists cause the eruption of Kilimanjaro.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Sigyn, as was only fitting for an ambulance driver in World War I. It's also a Donovan thing, and it winds up becoming useful in the evacuation. Both Pat and Siobhan manage where others fail.
  • The Fettered: Lorna is this. The Big Bad considers it a form of weakness, though she comes to regret it in a hurry. She shortly discovers that Lorna's self-fettering is a very good thing, because if she became The Unfettered, she'd be a living nightmare. Lorna essentially mind rapes her into a coma to get all the information the DMA needs.
  • First Love: Sigyn was this to Von Rached, though he does his level best to deny it to himself and everyone else. Understandable, considering he accidentally killed her.
  • Healing Hands: Siobhan develops them, and nearly kills herself through overuse (due to inexperience). This has a tendency to happen to less experienced healers.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: While nobody actually says this, the sick people all bundle up in blankets (this is common in real life, since fevers can make a person feel cold).
  • The Immune: Sharley and the zombies, obviously, given both are dead and thus incapable of acquiring any sort of illness.
  • In the Blood: Several people are worried this might prove to be the case for Mairead. The Blank is also very much a case for the green-eyed Donovans; Lorna has to try to find a way to aid the younger members of her family without traumatizing them like she was.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: While a cough isn't an automatic death sentence, it is if it's paired with cyanosis.
  • Instant Illness: Once a person falls sick, symptoms progress very rapidly. Those it kills are generally dead within a day or two.
  • King Incognito: More like 'Norse God in Very Bad Disguise.' A giant, bearded, ginger weather-manipulator shows up to train Saoirse after she almost electrocutes half her cousins, calling himself 'Taranis' (the name for the Celtic thunder god). Everyone pretends they don't know who he really is. Sharley is...bemused.
  • Lack of Empathy: Still very much a feature of Von Rached's, and he's well aware of it.
  • Large and in Charge: Gavin, who's taken over running the DMA in the three years since the end of the last book. He stands at 6'3" and is bald, making him also a Bald of Authority.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: In-univere, the Big Bad says this to Lorna, who she views as inferior because she has so much power she refuses to use. She is...very wrong, because Lorna does indeed do it, and can't even be sorry about it.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Nobody knew about Pat's eldest daughter (also called Lorna), because he was so ashamed of the fact that he utterly botched everything to do with her and her mother. The rest of the Donovans are thus very surprised when Lorna the Younger and her mother turn up at the DMA.
  • Loophole Abuse: All telepaths, including Mairead and Jerry, are forbidden from using their telepathy on anyone who hasn't explicitly agreed to it, but Lorna never said anything about not observing the world through another's eyes. Mairead makes use of this more than once.
  • The Lost Lenore: Von Rached is so adamant in his refusal to accept Sigyn as his Lost Lenore that the Lady basically forces him to confront it via memory-dreams.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": the general reaction when they work out that the virus is Thorvald's doing, however unintentional it was.
  • Mind Rape: Lorna does this to the Big Bad, and is somewhat worried by the fact that she feels no remorse about it.
  • My Greatest Failure: Pat considers his relationship with Grania and their daughter to be his. He freely admits that its failure was his fault, and has regretted it ever since. Von Rached would consider Sigyn his, if he actually let himself think about her without being forced to.
  • Mystical Plague: Courtesy of Thorvald. It's a remnant of the disease that wiped out most of the Gifted a thousand years before.
  • Never Gets Drunk: Played with. While it's possible to get a Donovan drunk, it takes a surprising amount of booze to manage it: the Marwa men attempt to get Pat drunk, and fail utterly. They also aren't totally immune to hangovers, though it takes quite a lot of alcohol to give them one.
  • Oh, Crap!: All over the place. Happens in the DMA when they realize the extent of the terrorism attack, in Tanzania when Kilimanjaro is about to erupt, and again when they realize someone's set it off on purpose.
  • Omniglot: Von Rached was one, and the fact that Lorna becomes one is a sign that there's a bit of him left in her head.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Pat's eldest daughter is also called Lorna, which leads to a fair amount of confusion until they start being referred to as Lorna the Elder and Lorna the Younger. Lorna the Elder is not terribly amused.
  • Parental Substitute: Lorna and Ratiri become this for Charlese, after Caleb dies.
  • Personalized Afterlife: How the afterlife works in this universe. Von Rached comes to find his to be a terribly dull Mundane Afterlife, because nothing he does or studies or discovers will amount to anything at all.
  • Power Incontinence: Suffered by all the Donovans with the Blank. They're all strong enough that this makes them a real danger to themselves and others.
  • Quarantine with Extreme Prejudice: Winds up not being necessary, as North America self-quarantines (though considering every place in the Northern Hemisphere is potentially infected, there wouldn't be any point even if someone wanted to).
  • Running Gag: Prior to the Donovans' arrival in Tanzania, everyone says that it's a terrible idea. Turns out, they're all very right.
  • Scary Black Man: Though Gavin normally doesn't like exploiting that trope, he's willing to do it to intimidate their captured terrorists. Unfortunately, it works a little too well on one guy, who pisses his pants.
  • Shout-Out: Lorna's Badass Boast to Ashley is a subtle one to Doctor Who.note 
  • The Sociopath: Ashley, in spades. She's willing to kill thousands upon thousands of people if it means she can take out one particular person.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: In a sense. The echo of Von Rached that was left in Lorna's mind can take over to a point, when she's working with anything medical.
  • Talking Animal: Creature, the fluffy cat the Lady gives to Von Rached, though it takes quite a while for her to actually speak.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill: The Big Bad was willing to set off Kilimanjaro, and potentially kill tens of thousands of people, just to kill Lorna.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Lorna the Younger's mother, Grania, is in remission.
  • Unknown Rival: Ashley, the Big Bad, is this for Lorna. What baffles Lorna is that Ashley is an incredibly powerful telepath in her own right, but instead of embracing it, she's pissed that there's someone out there stronger than she is.
  • Vacation Episode: The Donovans all head to Tanzania, which is no more ready for them than they are for it.
  • World War I: All of Von Rached's memory-dreams take place during the First World War.