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Literature / Threshold

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Threshold is a fantasy novel written by Sara Douglass in 1997, and one of the prequels to The Darkglass Mountain Trilogy.

The story concerns a glassworker slave named Tirzah, forced into slavery because of her father's debts. She's tasked with helping building the eponymous Threshold, a pyramid made partially with huge glass panels. She meets a Magus named Boaz, hiding behind a Magi exterior a little too well. The Magi base a religion and magic power around the One, the number of all creation. And Threshold is being built to allow them to tap into the power of Creation and become immortal.


Once Threshold is completed, though, it... Doesn't go quite as planned.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Anti-Hero: Boaz.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: All of the Magi.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Sort of. Boaz names his and Tirzah's daugher Ysgrave, which was Tirzah's name before she became a slave. Tirzah was also named after Boaz's mother.
  • Death by Childbirth: Neuf.
  • Despair Event Horizon: One of Nzame's powers is to lock his victims into horror and despair via Mind Rape.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Everyone has to struggle hard to get their happiness, especially Boaz, who has to rewrite an ancient spell on the fly and call out to Tirzah to free him on a special night.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Nzame, a being from the Vale.
  • Eldritch Location: Threshold is a completely unnatural location.
    • The Vale is an Eldritch world not meant to connect to the human world.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Boaz's status as a Jerkass is cemented when he destroys Tirzah's masterwork creation simply to spite her. He gets better.
  • Extra-ore-dinary: Being an Elemental lets you speak to glass and metal.
    • Nzame's power turns people into stone abominations.
  • Formulaic Magic: The power of Magi comes from patterns such as math.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Threshold lets the Magi tap into the Vale... only it summons a demon that starts turning everything to stone.
  • Happy Ending Override: Darkglass Mountain, as Threshold becomes known, ends up holding much more evil than just Nzame.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Boaz, after he finally starts to see just how evil Threshold has become.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Anyone Nzame's power touches is turned into a stone soldier. Magi are further "blessed" by being turned to shrieking glass creatures.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted. One of the first things Tirzah sees after arriving in Gesholme is a newborn baby having its head splattered against a wall.
  • Jerkass: Chad-Nezzar.
    • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Boaz. His jerkiness is a defense mechanism created to hide his Cantomancer power from other Magi.
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  • Jerkass God: Nzame. Subverted, as he is simply a demon pretending to be The One. Not that The One is so kind either.
  • Magical Gesture: The swirling colors required to speak to the Soulenai.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Boaz enters Threshold entirely on his own, and we never get to see him fight Nzame.
  • Order vs. Chaos: With the Magi representing order and the Elementals representing the chaos of nature.
  • Precursors: Soulenai.
  • Rape and Revenge: Yaqob stabs Boaz in the stomach for the things he did to Tirzah. Also Revenge Before Reason.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Zigzagged. Tirzah is raped by her slaveholder at the beginning of the book, and she does not carry much resentment for it. However, other characters are incensed when the Magi rape women for their own spiritual enlightenment.
  • Secret Art: Elementals and Cantomancers.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Nzame's soldiers are Nigh Invulnerable. However, they are also so heavy they are incapable of getting up if they are knocked over. This makes them fairly easy to dispatch.
    • Nzame himself is unable to leave his pyramid. This makes him easy to approach and deal with once the Cantomancers are ready for him.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The Vale, when Tirzah and the others look into it.

Example of: