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Literature / Tinker

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Tinker (or Elfhome) is a fantasy series with some science-fictional elements by Wen Spencer about Wrench Wench Tinker in a Pittsburgh that flips every so often from Earth to Elfhome and back.

Thus far consisting of

  • Tinker
  • Wolf Who Rules
  • Elfhome
  • Wood Sprites
  • Project Elfhome
  • Harbinger
  • Storm Furies (forthcoming)

Tropes featured in this work:

  • Accidental Marriage: Owing to human/elf customs differing; Tinker accepts a particular kind of fancy brazier as a gift from Windwolf, completely unaware that a) this signified her also accepting his marriage proposal and b) elfin custom considers accepting a proposal equivalent to just being married.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The oni and their subraces. Except the tengu. Half-oni are more complicated. All the ones we meet are criminals, yes, but it's treated as a matter of survival, and due to massive abuse by the oni they have a mass Freudian Excuse.
  • Always Someone Better: Younger elves have to deal with this constantly. Not only is anything they do likely to be compared against the work of some master in their craft who was born thousands of years before, there's a good chance that said master is still alive and still producing, making it virtually impossible for new blood to get out of their shadow. One subplot in Elfhome was a group of doubles (Elves with double-digit ages) who moved to Pittsburgh so that they would have a chance to make their mark in their chosen crafts.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Tinker and Windwolf don't appear in Wood Sprites at all. The focus characters are two of Tinker's sisters on Earth who she's never even heard of, much less met (They, like Tinker herself, were born from embryos implanted into foster mothers), and their struggles against their biological mother's evil step-relatives, who were briefly mentioned in Wolf Who Rules but had not appeared before. Project Elfhome is a short story collection about characters of secondary importance to the first three novels if they explicitly appeared at all.
  • Attempted Rape: Nathan attempts to force himself on Tinker shortly after her transformation. It's left a little ambiguous if it's truly this trope or a Near-Rape Experience; he does seem to be thinking better of it, but Tinker's bodyguard Pony intervenes before he can completely stop of his own accord.
  • Background Magic Field: This is how Elfhome's magic is powered. And it can leak into Earth and pool in certain locations, which is how the exiled Skin Clan elves have stayed alive all this time.
  • Blood Knight: They're disciplined about it, but it's an actual genetic trait of the sekasha to enjoy a good fight.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Sekasha are expected to put down their domana overlords if they go off the reservation. This actually happens in Wolf Who Rules.
  • Bodyguard Crush:
    • Elves consider it to be socially acceptable for domana nobles to take lovers from their sekasha bodyguards — even if the domana in question is already married.
    • When Oilcan is turned into a domana-caste elf, he hires his sekasha lover to be his First — as he knew she would reject a marriage proposal and this was a socially acceptable alternative to allow them to be together.
  • The Cavalry: Elves save Oilcan and Tinker from imposters at a Road Block.
  • Child Prodigy: Louise and Jillian, who are only nine but can hack anything in existence and run a film production company. Taken up to eleven by 'the babies', who are EMBRYOS and yet capable of causing ridiculous amounts of trouble.
  • Close-Knit Community: In Elfhome, especially, what they are aiming for for Pittsburgh.
  • Curse: A plague of bad luck is supposed to be impossible.
  • Damsel in Distress: Tinker contemplates this trope in the opening of Tinker.
  • Dirty Business: Windwolf really hopes that there are no oni children to be massacred with the rest.
  • Distressed Dude: Windwolf in the opening of Tinker.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Lain thinks she does. Tinker's dreams also show signs of this. Esme's prophetic dreams led to her changing her major to astrophysics and becoming one of the captains in the colonization effort, all to protect Lain. Since this particular talent is supposed to be passed from mother to daughter, it's not surprising that Tinker has the gift too. As does her grandmother and at least one other of her siblings, Louise.
  • Fantastic Racism: Oh yes. Pittsburgh has humans, elves, tengu and half-oni, and every group has a certain amount of contempt and/or outright hatred for some or all of the others. Even within the elven race as a whole there is this between clans.
  • Forced Transformation: The oni and, historically, the Skin Clan are very fond of inflicting this via their magical genetic engineering. The tengu are descended from humans who were forcibly combined with crows, while Lord Tomtom states that he could reduce a kitsune to a simple non-magical fox.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Harbinger attempts to provide viewpoints from every living previous protagonist and then some, including many characters previously only seen in short stories, meaning that the entire book takes place over less than 24 hours and no plotline can make any meaningful progress.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Tinker, who even from the beginning of the first book has invented hoverbikes and is draining off magic with large magnets, which no one else seems to have thought of.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Tinker's birth name is Alexander Graham Bell Dufae. This causes a great deal of confusion among those people who only know her name when they're looking for her, since they think they're looking for a man.
  • Genocide Dilemma: What to do with the oni.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Not much shows up regarding the half-elves, surprisingly enough, but the elves can get very sniffy about any of their own with parentage from two different castes or clans; both Stormsong (half-sekasha, half intanyei seyosa) and Bare Snow (half Wind Clan, half Water) get called 'mutts' a lot. Windwolf (half Wind, half Fire) gets a free pass due to being mind-blowingly powerful.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Besides plenty of half-elves, there are the entire Tengu species, thanks to evil magic, and the half-oni.
  • Hard Light: The Tengu's wings.
  • Honorary Aunt: Lain, who turns out to also be Tinker's real aunt. And Kitty for the twins.
  • Honor Before Reason: Windwolf.
  • Hufflepuff House: The Water Clan. We know that they exist, but while the Wind, Stone and Fire Clans have all contributed major characters, the only Water Clan elf to appear has only featured in a couple of side-stories contained in Project Elfhome and is implied to be very atypical of the clan. And even she is technically Wind Clan, just of partial Water ancestry.
  • I Gave My Word: Tinker admits to herself she would have followed through.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device:
    • The hyperphase gate functions as this.
    • The Skin Clan succeeded in breeding a caste of elves to function as this.
  • Kidnapped Scientist: The NSA agents from the first book came to Pittsburgh to warn Tinker that someone — later revealed to be the oni and Skin Clan — has been kidnapping and killing scientists who understand the science behind the hyperphase gate.
  • Lack of Empathy: A dominant trait of the oni.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: The opportunities for promotion among a domi's sekasha aren't so much limited as virtually nonexistent. Rank is determined entirely by the order in which they are hired, so a sekasha who is not hired as First right from the start cannot hope to obtain the rank of First unless either everyone senior to him dies, or his domi dies and he gets hired as First by someone else. This is the reason why very few domana have more than one Hand (five) of sekasha, as a sekasha hired as second or higher Hand has no real hope of ever achieving the rank of First Hand, let alone First, so as a rule only those domi important enough that the prestige of being in his/her service at all trumps the stigma of being in a lesser Hand can attract more than five personal retainers.
  • Little Bit Beastly: Some of the more fortunate half-oni end up looking like this; Tommy Chang can pass as human if he hides his cat ears. Others are closer to full-on Beast Men.
  • Magitek: Melding magic with modern technology is one of Tinker's hobbies. Her hoverbike invention in particular has paid off exceptionally well.
  • The Magocracy: Elven society. All elves can use magic, but the ruling domana caste are both by far the most powerful and the only ones who can cast spells using hand gestures rather than requiring Geometric Magic.
  • Mysterious Parent: Esme. Both of the twins' biological parents are also a big surprise to them, though the reader knows already by that point.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Tinker's grandfather loved to do this, naming his children and grandchildren Leonardo Da Vinci Dufae, Ada Lovelace Dufae, Alexander Graham Bell, and Orville John Wright.
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: The elves tend to have long, poetic names in this fashion which are translated in a slightly-abbreviated fashion for convenience as their Elvish name, and then shortened even further for a human nickname, in order to avoid humans picking their own worse nicknames.
    Louise: When elves are born, they’re taken to Summer Court and the royal fortune-tellers give them these amazing, lyrical names with great deep meaning. Their real names are really like ‘Pavana Gali Vento Ceyandalo Nagi Taeli,’ which kind of means ‘bare branches swaying in night wind.’ There are rich layers of meaning to the entire name, since most of the words don’t really have matching English words. Like ‘Ceyandalo’ means the ‘alive but not in foliage’ kind of ‘bare,’ not the ‘naked’ kind of ‘bare.’ Then the word order is different, so the name really is ‘moving back and forth to brush dark hair, branches that are bare from winter, in the night wind.’ All the elves in Pittsburgh are Wind Clan, so their ‘last name’ is always some form of ‘wind.’ Humans, being humans, started to shorten the elves’ names, chopping off the wind part and such like. Since most humans didn’t understand the nuances of Elvish, they were really butchering names and pissing off the elves. Like they accidently called that elf ‘Hairbrush.’ The elves started taking English nicknames to stop that.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Relating to the above, older sekasha and domana warlords, usually veterans of the rebellion against the Skin Clan, often have very ominous names. Some of the ones we hear include Wraith Arrow, Dark Harvest, Killing Frost and Iron Mace against Stone.
  • One-Word Title: Whether you call the series Tinker or Elfhome, it's one, and both are names of books in the series. Book 1 and three, respectively, with the fifth book being tentatively called Harbinger.
  • Parental Substitute: Oilcan semi-inadvertantly becomes one to a group of elf children in Elfhome, with the twist that - due to how elves age - they're all at least a couple of decades older than him.
  • Protagonist Title: Tinker, the Wrench Wench.
  • Rescue Romance: Tinker and Windwolf meet via saving each other. Multiple times. Sorting out who owes whom their life leads to complications.
  • Road Block: Tinker and Oilcan are stopped by a roadblock and asked for papers. When the men see Windwolf inside, they are ordered to kill them all.
  • Secret Legacy: Tinker and her cousin Oilcan and eventually, the twins and the embryos.
  • Shout-Out: Several. Most prominently, The Wizard of Oz is used as a major recurring motif in the second book.
  • Spell Book: The Dufae Codex.
  • Superior Twin Teamwork: Louise and Jillian Mayer, AKA "Lemon-Lime Jel-lo". While individually exceedingly brilliant Child Prodigies in their own rights, these two leverage their near-identical appearances and ability to cross-delegate tasks to each other's strengths to pull off a rather insane list of accomplishments. In their debut book, alone they plan and execute two successful heists (one of which is at the American Museum of Natural History), engage in cross-dimensional sleuthing, routinely hack everything from their Robot Dog nannybot to classified government databases, and strip the series Big Bad of most of his earthside liquid assets (over a billion dollars). They're 9 and the summer isn't even over yet.
  • Tactful Translation: Elvish being what it was, to English translations often invert this.
  • Talk About the Weather: When Tinker isn't sure how to behave on a first date, this is offered and eventually settled on as a safe approach.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Tinker at one point contemplates how wives do laundry.
  • Teen Genius: Tinker. Windwolf is also implied to be this in elven terms (he's over 200 years old, but in terms of maturity that's equivalent to about 20 years old in human parlance).
  • Tengu: Lain has a dream where Tinker brings her a Tengu, which she describes as a Japanese elf that is sometimes looks like a crow. The Tengu eventually become major players in the setting.
  • Trapped in Another World: The hyperphase gate is destroyed at the end of Tinker, permanently stranding Pittsburgh on Elfhome. This is a problem, because the Westernlands don't have enough resources to support 60,000 humans.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The series is set in 2031, though exact dates aren't given until Wood Sprites.
  • Unusual Ears: The elves, as expected, have pointy ears because the Skin Clan engineered it that way, to easily distinguish their slaves. The Skin Clan themselves have rounded ears, allowing them to pass as human.
  • Wicked Stepfather: Esme and Lain's stepfather is the Big Bad. Can't get much worse than that.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: The elves. Even the evil ones find it stressful and unpleasant to lie outright, and prefer to misdirect.
  • Wrench Wench: Tinker, very much so.