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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 (forthcoming)

Tropes featured in this work:

  • Accidental Marriage: Owing to human/elf customs differing.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Anxiety Dreams: Tinker has them.
  • 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.
  • Baleful Polymorph: By magic, of course.
  • 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.
  • Close-Knit Community: In Elfhome, especially, what they are aiming for for Pittsburgh.
  • Contemptible Cover: The series is unfortunately plagued with awful-looking, and often inaccurately lurid, covers. It starts in earnest with Elfhome. However, despite how bad the covers get, they all actually do depict a scene from the book.
  • 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.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Tinker.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Magic A Is Magic A
  • 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.
  • The Maze: In her dreams.
  • Mysterious Parent: Esme.
  • 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; Tinker's bodyguard, for example, is named Galloping Storm Horse on Wind. Or, for everyday use, "Pony".
  • 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.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum
  • Secret Legacy: Tinker and her cousin Oilcan.
  • 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.
  • Tactful Translation: Elvish being what it was, to English translations often invert this.
  • Talk About the Weather: On a first date.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Wrench Wench: Tinker, very much so.


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