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Literature / Tortall Universe

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The Tortall-verse consists of several sets of young adult fantasy novels by Tamora Pierce:

  • Song of the Lioness follows Alanna of Trebond and the time between her Twin Switch with her brother to her knighthood and subsequent adventures; for the first two books she must also disguise her true gender.
    • Alanna: The First Adventure
    • In the Hand of the Goddess
    • The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
    • Lioness Rampant
  • The Immortals centers around Daine, a young girl able to communicate with animals as the world once again has to deal with the Immortals who had been sealed away centuries before.
    • Wild Magic
    • Wolf-Speaker
    • Emperor Mage
    • The Realms of the Gods
  • Protector of the Small follows Keladry of Mindelan, the first girl to train openly for Knighthood after Alanna and her struggle to keep up with those who want to see her fail and constantly move the goalposts. She's the only protagonist so far not to have any magic.
    • First Test
    • Page
    • Squire
    • Lady Knight
  • The Trickster's Duet follows Alianne, Alanna's daughter, and her involvement in the underground movement in the Copper Isles to install a new Queen to replace the Royally Screwed Up monarchy and free the repressed native people.
    • Trickster's Choice
    • Trickster's Queen
  • Beka Cooper is told in first person from the point of view of the title character, George Cooper's ancestor 200 years before Alanna's time, and her time in the proto-police force known as the Dogs on the streets of Corus.
    • Terrier
    • Bloodhound
    • Mastiff
  • Tortall and Other Lands is a collection of short stories written over the years, which was published in 2011. It includes eleven stories, six of which take place in Tortall.
  • Tortall: A Spy's Guide is a collection of sensitive documents rediscovered by George Cooper. These documents include profiles on important characters like Numair Salmalín, as well as notes on immortals and personal communications.
  • The Numair Chronicles follows Numair's days at the Imperial University of Carthak and eventual flight to Tortall.
    • Tempests and Slaughter

Many others are upcoming. Has a character page.


In 2019, it was announced that Lionsgate and Playground Entertainment were working on a TV adaptation of the series.

Tropes present throughout the series:

  • Acceptable Feminine Goals and Traits: Most of the feminine goals and traits can be observed throughout each of the series, though not all by the same person. Mostly this is done to prove that women do not have to give up their feminine personalities to do great things.
  • Action Girl: The cast is full of them. Alanna trained as a knight since she was ten, is an expert swordswoman, and can handle herself with a manner of other weapons and even unarmed. Daine is an excellent rider and archer, though her ability to transform into any animal understandably gives her a leg up in a fight. Kel, like Alanna, is a trained knight (with a particularly notable skill at the lance), and can wield a heavy glaive with ease. While Aly prefers to use stealth to fighting, she is more than capable of handling herself. Beka, meanwhile, was a cop and excelled at using the baton or her fists.
    • It's noted that Shang Warriors, elite fighters trained from childhood to be experts in almost every weapon but especially in hand-to-hand combat, are composed of both men and women. Most female Shang apparently don't like flashy titles, preferring to keep it practical, but the legendary Shang Unicorn was apparently "all steel".
  • Aerith and Bob: Among others, we have Alanna, Jonathan, Gary and Raoul alongside Veralidaine, Numair (or Arram) and Keladry. Pierce also has distinct countries and regions with their own naming traditions, and people from the same country generally follow the same naming style; for example, quite a lot of the Tortallan names sound close to English, while Gallan names have a -sra (or -sri, in Daine's case), and obviously, Yamani names are like Japanese names. She actually subverts this trope, or at least doesn't flaunt it like many other authors.
    • Among Tortallans, most of the "Bob" names (George, Frances, Roger, along with those already named) were introduced in the first quartet. Tortallans from later books tend to have "Aerith" names (Keladry, Merric, Wyldon, Alianne) or Aerith-names that abreviate to Bob ones (Nealan) — although there are some exceptions (Owen). In fact, many of the "Aerith" names are variations on real-world names from Europe, England especially. "Wyldon" is a variant of "Weldon", for example, and Keladry could be seen as a variant of Kelly. "Alianne", of course, is named after King Jonathan's mother, Lianne.
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  • Artistic License – Sports: Tamora Pierce's portrayal of jousting is hilariously inaccurate in both the rules as well as the equipment. While the differences in rules can be Hand Waved by Tortall not being Medieval Europe, so it can have its own rules for sporting events, what can't be hand-waved is the fact that unless they are fighting honor-duels with the intent to kill, knights tilt in nothing more than a helmet, a shield, and a gambeson (padded shirt), even though plate armour is the norm when knights step out onto an actual battlefield. In real life, anybody who jousted with anything less than a full suit of plate armour would probably die from the first hit they took, and most knights heavily reinforced the left side of their armour anyway, just to make sure.
  • Ascended Extra: Kylaia al Jmaa, who was first mentioned offhand by Liam in Lioness Rampant as the Shang Unicorn and later became the protagonist of "Student of Ostriches", a short story. You'd be forgiven for thinking she was a new character.
  • Author Appeal: Animals. Every protagonist has at least one animal companion, more than that if you count the knights' horses, and they all get their own personality.
  • Better as Friends: In series with Triang Relations, the unpicked partner usually ends up as this.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Usually played straight, though the Beka Cooper books don't always look that way, and the gods are... greyer. (See Jerkass Gods, below.) The morality seems to be getting less clear-cut as the series goes on.
  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: In the first series, Alanna becomes the first female knight, but this isn't publicly known until after she's done it, because she disguised herself as a boy. As a result of Alanna's achievement, however, Kel (in the third series) is then able to become the first girl to train openly (and she insists on wearing dresses at dinner to ensure people don't forget that she's a girl).
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Each of the series follows its protagonist as she finds or creates her place in the world. Although Aly and Beka are at the age of adulthood in Tortall already (sixteen), their stories still have them go from youthful inexperience to maturity and confidence.
  • Continuity Drift: The rules of magic change over time.
    • In the Song of the Lioness quartet, George says that the Gift acts as a shield against those with the Sight. Three miniseries later, Alianne has the Sight so strongly she can see a great many things about people with the Gift.
      • George notes that his sight isn't very strong, though he can still notice when she's around. This may also be because she was a chosen of the Mother Goddess, or that her Gift specifically protects her, like how some people can't scry, but can throw fire and lightning.
      • It could also be the Gift in Alanna's genes augmenting the Sight in George's passed down to Aly — she notes that the strength of her Sight is due to her mother's Gift, so it could just be another effect of that mix.
  • Continuity Nod: Every single new series is packed with references to the previous series, mostly through the reappearance of old characters. In First Test, one moment concerning Numair from Wolf-Speaker is mentioned. One of the best things about this series is that characters age and change between books and series, and it's always good seeing what the heroes from previous books are up to. Beka Cooper, while a prequel trilogy, has a great number of relatively subtler calls to books written earlier. Well, and the Cat.
  • Continuity Snarl: A Spy's Guide has a listing of what is supposed to be all of the kings of Tortall from its founding to the series' present. Among other things, ordinals reveal there are at least four missing (the first and third Bairds and Jonathans), and some of the historical events don't match up with things stated in previous books.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Alanna is a noble who pretends to be a boy to become a Magic Knight, Daine is an orphan who become a Nature Hero, Keladry is a normal (noble) girl with normal (noble) parents who becomes a Badass Normal lady knight, Aly is a Guile Hero spy, and Beka is a commoner who works as a police officer.
  • Cosmic Plaything: All of the protagonists thus far. Usually they are chosen by one of the gods to either fulfill a specific purpose or just do their work generally.
  • Cyanide Pill:
    • Suicide spells.
    • Fire-flower vines contain a poison that will kill you if you don't maintain contact with it.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The kindest, fairest, and least biased of the Fantasy Pantheon is the Black God, their God of Death.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Multiple characters end up naming their children after deceased characters, not just limited to the royals. Among the more notable examples are Alanna's children Thom, Alianne and Alan, the latter two named after both her father and the name Alanna she went by during her Masquerade.
    • Rikash and Sarralyn, Daine's children, named after the Stormwing she befriended and her late mother (who became a goddess).
    • Most, if not all, of Jonathan's and Thayet's children are named after dead guys. Roald and Jasson after Jonathan's father and grandfather, Liam after the Shang, Kalasin and Lianne after Thayet and Jonathan's mothers.
    • Aly and Nawat have triplets in "Nawat". Apparently dead-guy-junioring isn't done in raka tradition, so instead of Ochobu, Ulasim and Junai, they name the kids... Ochobai, Ulasu and Junim.
    • All of the above are truly and spectacularly outdone by Coram and Rispah, who name their children: Jonthair, Alinna, Thomsen, Mylec, Daran, Liam, and Thayine.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The approximate age of adulthood in Tortall and its neighbors is sixteen, which includes marriage and having kids, as well as going to war, killing, and dying. Slavery is openly practiced in the Immortals, Trickster and Beka Cooper books, and Word of God says that neither Carthak nor the Copper Isles intends to abolish it even after gaining Reasonable Authority Figures as monarchs. Punishments are harsh and include forced labor, maiming, and boiling in oil, just in case you thought medieval times were fun and romantic. (Fortunately, they do not follow medieval medical practice. Magic takes care of that.)
  • Desecrating the Dead: The entire purpose of metal-winged immortals called Stormwings is to defecate on and claw battlefield corpses to pieces to leave a stinking, rotten mess. (They were created by a mage in an effort to deter humans from warfare, but it didn't work.)
  • Does Not Like Magic: There's at least one character in each series who has a strong aversion to magic, whether it's a fear of it or the idea that it's somehow "cheating".
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Several of the male love interests. Although not all of the relationships work long-term, this tactic is shown as a perfectly reasonable way to start one with the heroine.
  • Earth Drift: Zig-zagged. The first quartet introduces a pretty simple Low Fantasy universe where people mostly have names like George and Roger, chess is played, and there's a desert city that just happens to be called Persepolis. Starting from The Immortals, made-up names become the rule (and made-up terms for real things become more common), the world-building is a lot more elaborate, and you get the general sense that the author would retcon out some of that Early Installment Weirdness if she could. However, Protector of the Small, while broadly following the same trend, also introduces a very close Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Japan that unabashedly uses words like "kimono", and the Trickster's Duet and Beka Cooper draw so heavily on Spy Fiction and Police Procedurals that it's hard not to see constant parallels to the real world.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Played with. In a fictional universe based around medieval, European culture, there is no problem with a 12-year-old girl (Alanna) that has just had her first period being given birth control by an older woman so she can have sex without fear of pregnancy. The nobility, at least, pays lip service to "men can do what they want, women should be virgins until marriage". On the other hand, we see several noblewomen, good and bad alike, taking lovers in a more modern "dating" fashion. Kel's books say that commoners don't hold with all this nonsense and sleep with whomever they like... but the endless, endless negative terminology thrown at Kel suggests that the commoners don't approve of women sleeping around either! In the end it seems most like modern life, double standards and conflicting messages and all.
    • In Bloodhound, set several centuries before the series proper, we begin to learn of the rise of the worship of the Gentle Mother aspect of the Goddess which supports demure, virginal, separated, and stereotypical female medieval ideas and aspects. Predictably our heroine thinks its nothing but idiocy, but considering it's supported by nobles there's not much she can do about it!
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Tortall itself has, geographically, much in common with Spain, although its names and culture look a lot like England/France. Its immediate neighbors — Galla, Tusaine — are similar. Like France, Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, these countries have a shared history as part of an ancient collapsed empire.
    • The Bazhir are Bedouins.
    • The Roof of the World and its people are modeled after the Himalayan cultures (Tibet, Nepal, etcetera). Sarain is roughly equivalent to Mongolia.
    • Carthak is an African empire; the part that Daine and Numair visit is akin to North Africa.
    • The Yamani Islands are Japan right down to the language. Ancient China is implied to be on the other side of the sea and so far haven't been seen.
    • Scanra is Scandanavia; it has berserkers, blond and blue-eyed people, and "wolfships" that aren't hard to imagine as Viking longships.
    • The Copper Isles are a mix. They're fairly analogous to India and Southeast Asia, right down to the types of dress and foods but one could also make the for Hawaii with its history, theology, and customs.
    • None of these are 100% copied, but the flavor is there. (Details on Carthak, K'miri, Sarain, and Copper Isles, can be found here).
  • Fantasy Contraception: Anti-pregnancy charms are widely available for purchase, some better quality than others. Every protagonist either buys one or is mentioned as owning one at some point in the story.
  • Fantasy World Map: At the beginning of each book, although the last Lioness book's map doesn't show a large part of the world Alanna traveled through.
  • Fantasy Pantheon: Covered in the Song of the Lioness quartet; half the point of The Immortals.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Pierce wanted there to be more badass female fantasy protagonists, so she sat down and wrote about some.
  • First Love Interest Wins: About half the time for the main characters.
  • First-Name Basis: Many, many characters, including the royal family. However, most main characters are nobility who don't differ significantly in rank, and Tortallan nobles go by fief rather than an actual last name like commoners do (e.g. Alanna of Trebond).
  • Functional Magic: Has a whole bunch of different examples.
    • Inherent Gift: While there are many different sub-sets of magic, all of them require you be born with the talent for them. The most common form of magic is literally called the Gift.
    • Rule Magic: The Gift has elements of this. There are certain boundaries that cannot be crossed, overuse of magic results in physical exhaustion, etc. That said, the Gift seems to be quite malleable in its uses.
    • Device Magic: Plenty of magical artifacts are present in the series — some are made from the Gift, some came from the Gods, others have unknown but ancient origins. One example would be the Dominion Jewel, which gives a king/ruler great power over the land, but there are also things like magic locks which can be used by anyone.
    • Necromancy: Possible through the Gift. The gods do not like it.
    • Transmutation: Possible through the Gift and other, rarer types of magic.
    • Equivalent Exchange: To an extent, all magic — if you put more energy into a spell than you have, you'll die. Very high levels of the Gift also show this. (For example, if you turn a man into a tree, somewhere else a tree will turn into a man.)
    • Nature Magic: What's called "Wild Magic". At its most basic it gives a close bond with animals, then the ability to communicate with them, then "ride in their mind", and finally, transform into them. It also has elements of Rule Magic despite the name, as there are certain boundaries (shapeshifting into an immortal is permanent, you can use Animal Talk but there is a distance limit), but there are also things about it that are beyond the user's control. Daine, for instance, can inadvertently affect animals with strong emotion and spending too much time around them results in Amplified Animal Aptitude because she's unusually powerful.
    • White Magic: Comes with the Gift.
    • Black Magic: Also possible via Gift.
    • There's also a final form of magic that doesn't quite fit any of the categories: the Sight. Seems to be quite weak and limited, but allows a person to sense lies and deceptions, and stronger abilities might allow you to see far away. Aly has her father's gift of Sight, but the strength of her mother's magical Gift, which is very strong indeed. As a perk, it comes with superhuman vision that Aly can adjust at will.
  • Genii Locorum: The Chamber of the Ordeal, Chitral.
  • God Was My Copilot: Faithful/Pounce in both the Lioness books and Beka Cooper novels. He was affirmed as a god at the end of The Realm of the Gods, the last Immortals book. It distinctly points out that Daine met a black cat with purple eyes. He was annoying the Goddess. This was first hinted at in the epilogue of Lioness Rampant. It could also be interpreted, using information from Terrier, that Faithful and Pounce are one and the same constellation. That last interpretation was confirmed in Trickster's Choice by Aly, who mentions in passing to someone else that "the star-Cat became a real cat, and taught [her mother] things as she grew up." Incidentally, Pierce said in an interview that the character took the "copilot" role because he was bored. Typical cat.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Tortall's currency is based on this. All three metals are divided into "nobles" (big coins) and "bits" (smaller ones).
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Very consciously averted. Word of Godinvoked is that the reason almost none of her heroines are blonde is precisely because of this trope. In Song of the Lioness, the blonde princess, Josiane, is evil. However, in her namesake trilogy, the heroine Beka Cooper's hair is described as dark blonde, and Aly's hair is strawberry blonde (red gold), too.
  • Hero of Another Story: Alanna, Daine, and Keladry become this after the completion of their books. It's made clear that they are still active and doing very important things for Tortall, but since Pierce likes to write Coming Of Age Stories, she moves onto new characters once the protagonists have sorted themselves out and moved onto adult life.
  • Hit So Hard, the Calendar Felt It: The years are counted in the "Human Era", starting from when the immortals were banished by Carthaki mages. This is kept up even after their return.
  • Honor Before Reason: The lady knights.
    • Kel runs into enemy territory in the middle of a war to rescue the refugees who have been abducted from her camp. Admittedly, she's been explicitly told, by what amounts to a god, that it's her fate to face off with the perpetrator, which is a pretty good sign that she'll win. If she doesn't go save them, the number of nigh-unstoppable killing machines assaulting the border will quintuple, because they're powered by the souls of murdered children- given that they're already losing the war...Just to top it off, when Kel finally gets where she needs to be, she is told that the odds of success are fifty-fifty. Since the speaker in question is a seer who can function as a medium when the gods want to talk to Kel...
    • The rise of worship for the Mother aspect of the Goddess that takes place during Beka's time. Girls are taught to be dainty, feminine, gentle, ladylike, celibate, loyal, et cetera, et cetera. It's essentially a Shout-Out to and blatant berating of what "the perfect young lady" of eras before equal rights were like. They never speak out against their husbands and dedicate themselves to the home. However, that doesn't stop Beka from using this to her advantage.
  • Humble Heroine: Most of the protagonists tend to shrug off or dismiss compliments.
  • I Call It "Vera": Alanna names her first sword "Lightning", while Kel names the sword that Alanna gives her "Griffin".
  • Indentured Servitude: Legal in Tortall. In one quartet, the protagonist buys the two-year indenture of a servant boy who was being abused by his current master.
  • Jerkass Gods:
    • Mithros and the Threefold Goddess/Great Mother Goddess/Goddess, as well as some less prominent members of the pantheon. They have no problem using even young children as disposable pawns in their power struggles and seem genuinely unable to comprehend how important human problems are to humans... so at one point, the Mother Goddess is supporting a house that throws the children of rebels into a piranha-filled moat, because the rebels are favored by her rival brother.
      "Uh oh," whispered Trick, "Gods not good. Gods sly."
    • Inverted with the Black God, who is described in several of the books as the kindest and most merciful god and forgives even the worst transgressors.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Alanna, Kel and Sabine are female examples. Seen best when Alanna and her apprentices have to defend the Bloody Hawk tribe from being attacked.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: Alanna's exploits become famous throughout the Eastern lands even before her quartet is over, and she is a direct inspiration to Keladry. Daine, too, becomes quite famous.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Every book from Squire onward has had a cast list in the back — as the pagecount has gone up, so has the number of people each protagonist encounters in their story. Characters from previous series are frequently seen alongside of new faces.
  • Magical Sensory Effect:
    • The Gift, or the main type of magic in Tortall, manifests in a color fairly unique to the user.
      • Family members can have similar colors, like Alanna and her twin Thom (who both have a violet Gift), and Duke Baird and Neal of Queenscove (Baird has emerald green and Neal's is described as "very dark green").
      • Duke Roger has orange (until Thom resurrects him, at which point his magic turns dark to reflect the corruption of his soul and indicates that he Came Back Wrong. It actually becomes a mix of his natural orange and Thom's darker purple.
      • Numair, easily the most powerful magic user in the series, has an unusual Gift described as "black with white sparkles".
    • Wild magic, the far less common nature-specific variant of magic, is copper in color.
  • May–December Romance: Pierce likes large age gaps. Alanna, Daine, and Kel are all more than five years younger than their main love interests. Pierce has admitted openly that this is Author Appeal.
  • Mind-Control Device: Numair and his eyes. Blayce and his thing. Numair explains that they need your attention but sufficiently powerful mages don't need an object. Often: Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!.
  • Mind Rape: The Chamber of the Ordeal, which must be faced by all would-be knights (and, as shown in Lioness Rampant, the heir to the Tortallan throne in order to become King), is a big box of this. It will show you your worst fears in an attempt to break you emotionally. People have walked out of it without their sanity. People have failed to walk out of it at all. To win the Ordeal, a knight candidate must defeat these fears in a fight, in silence. Duke Gareth lost a finger without screaming.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Phrases like "Alanna swore colorfully" are used until the Beka Cooper books, where the actual curses are printed.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Everyone good is this, everyone bad is not. We keep being told by the huge cast of nobles who care about commoners that it's atypical in Tortall for nobles to care about commoners. The only main cast member to do this is Kel's friend Merric, who, while certainly not cruel or miserly, tells her and Neal at one point that they're too concerned and generous. This is corrected in Beka's books, however, since she has to deal with loads of annoying nobles (and even upper middle-class commoners) who are offended at being questioned by a member of the unwashed masses.
  • Nobody Poops: Completely averted through small mentions of characters going to the bathroom in the middle or end of a scene, and latrines. In Lady Knight Kel volunteers to clean the lantrine in 'lead by example' humility. It's taken Up to Eleven in Mastiff. Beka describes often and at great length the many times her scent hound Achoo finds a spot where their quarry relieved himself on the road. And then of course we had Saucebox demonstrating his opinion of Pounce's high opinion of himself.
  • No Periods, Period: Completely averted by frank discussions of feminine issues and magical birth control.
  • Oh My Gods!: "Goddess" most commonly replaces "God", though some characters swear by multiple gods; Numair says "Mithros, Mynoss and Shakith!" quite a bit.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted for royal dynastic names; one royal Big Bad is named Roger, but there was a better Roger in the trilogy set two centuries earlier, as well as dutiful Baird of Queenscove and roustabout Baird of Conté. Fully in force within each series, however, where there is usually only one living person of each name at a time, the sole exception being Duke Gareth the Elder of Naxen and his son Sir Gareth "Gary" the Younger. (Pierce justified this in one fan conversation by saying that Tortallans think it's bad luck to name a kid after a living relative.)
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: While murder without provocation is a big crime, knowledge that a character is a rapist clues the readers in that they have crossed the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Reality Ensues: In Emperor Mage and Trickster's Queen, two separate nations (Carthak and the Copper Isles respectively) that practice slavery are taken over by more moderate, reasonable leaders after overthrowing the previous tyrants. However, in both cases, slavery is not abolished by the new leaders, as it is quickly pointed out by everyone involved that the economic impact of suddenly freeing every slave in the country and being forced to provide them with wages instead of just room and board would be catastrophic. Thus, while it's implied that the new rulers are slowly working to phase slavery out, the system itself remains in place for the time being.
  • Redshirt Army: it is mentioned that the Tortallan army uniforms are maroon. In the war with Scanra, there are huge numbers of corpses in uniform.
  • Relationship Ceiling: Inverted with Daine and Numair, who seem to be more, if not just as, in love with each other after ten years of being lovers, than they were at the beginning of their relationship. Word of Godinvoked claims that they would never tire of each other, although they didn't know that, which is why they wouldn't "trap each other in a marriage" initially.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Tortall Universe follows the feudal system to a T. The serfs would work on the land owned by their lords, and the lords would train to be warriors (aka, knights), who would defend the kingdom against invaders; Kings were expected to be strong warriors to defend their holdings and inspire the men around them.
  • Ruling Couple: Jonathan and Thayet.
  • Saved by the Awesome: It's practically an initiation ritual in Tortall for the heroine to screw the rules and do what's right, save everyone, and get commended.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Many female characters get at least one of these. Kel does it intentionally as passive-aggressive protest against all the "girls can't be knights" crowd.
  • Shoot the Mage First: Kel often remembers her teacher's advice: When in doubt, shoot the wizard.
  • Shout-Out: Gainel, god of dreams, is one to Neil Gaiman.
  • Shown Their Work: One of the major virtues separating the books (particularly from The Immortals onwards) from the swathes of other feudal-set sword-and-sorcery series is Pierce's attention to detail. Daine may be able to communicate with, transform into, and heal animals through magic, but Pierce's descriptions of the animals, their behaviour and biology is all thoroughly well-researched. The cultures of the fantasy lands outside Tortall also demonstrate the kind of authentic detail only possible through conscientious research into their real-world counterparts.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: There are many examples of highborn women who are not to be trifled with. Queen Thayet is one, as is Kel's mother, who earned a lot of prominence for her family and an alliance with the Yamani people by defending sacred artifacts from pirates during a raid.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • The heroines are usually this to the Big Bad of their series, but special mention goes to Alanna and how she brings down her enemy's plots, twice. It helps when The Hero possesses powerful magic of her own and has the (inadvertent) assistance of the Eldritch Abomination in the Chamber of the Ordeal, not to mention help from the gods.
    • The Chamber of the Ordeal has been known to make itself into a spanner whenever something threatens the natural order and pushes both Alanna and Kel in the right direction.
  • Standard Royal Court: While it differs from series to series, several protagonists spend quite a lot of time at the Tortallan court - especially Alanna and Keladry, as they are nobles training to be knights. Even in series that do not have a noble main character (like The Immortals) the court and how it functions is quite relevant to the plot. Really the only series that shows almost nothing of the Tortallan court is the Trickster's Duet, because it focuses mainly on the court of the Copper Isles.
  • Stock Aesops: There are many aesops to be found but the most prevalent one is: Women are just as good as men.
  • Straw Misogynist: Joren. On the one hand, he's really over the top with his hatred of Kel and it's his chief feature. On the other hand, there are plenty of men in Real Life who share his toxic opinions about women and poor people, and if you're a woman trying to do something they deem unfeminine, that's all you're going to see.
  • True Sight: The Sight can detect illusions and some other kinds of information. Griffin feathers held over the eyes have a similar effect.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Many a villain when he's drawn into the open.
  • War Is Hell: All but the Beka Cooper books involve warfare at some point, and it's always shown as being thoroughly unglamorous, brutal, and nasty. The prospect of death and being forced to kill are not treated lightly, and the addition of Stormwings (creatures who desecrate the dead to punish humans for waging war) just makes it worse.
  • Wife-Basher Basher: This is strongly implied to be one duty of warrior priestesses of the Goddess' temple, along with sheltering female abuse victims.
  • World Building: Each subseries adds considerably more detail to the world of Tortall, both in Tortall itself and its neighbors. Some elements (like the Ysandir and "The Old Ones") are discarded, but others like the Copper Isles are fleshed out considerably.
  • Writer on Board:
    • The first quartet can get preachy sometimes, on the subjects of both gender roles and religion.
    • Protector of the Small as well, especially with Joren staying in the story long after he's served his purpose of giving a face to the worst aspects of the misogynist culture Kel is fighting.
  • Wutai: The Yamani Islands are basically Japan; island nation, naginata, kimono, the emphasis on stoic politeness etc.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: The friends Kel makes in the Yamani Islands; polite and graceful and can kill you with a decorative fan. One of them winds up married to her best friend. Another winds up married to the Crown Prince of Tortall.
  • You Mean "Xmas": Tortall celebrates "Midwinter", a feasting and gift-giving holiday. Averted with Beltane, which is a real holiday.

Alternative Title(s): Tortall


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