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Literature / Transcending Limitations

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No one sees Death coming

The problem with fighting death is that you will eventually lose.

Eric has provoked the fury of no fewer than three grim reapers and now they're after his life. Leading the charge is his old foe, Gruffle. Flanked by an army of ghosts and nature spirits, and supported by Lord Death himself, Gruffle's victory is guaranteed. Eric's only hope of survival is to transcend the limitations of both mortality and magecraft and fight the hostile gods as an equal. Chaotic deities support him in his endeavor but they might be a greater danger than the reapers.

Transcending Limitations is Brian Wilkerson's fourth novel and the fourth story in the Journey to Chaos series. The next book is The Highest Power.


Transcending Limitations contains these tropes

  • Above Good and Evil: Neuro declares that his patron deity, Lord Death, is this. Explicitly, "Death treats all the same. From his position above good and evil, above chaos and order, only Death is truly fair; only Death is truly just". When Lord Death appears in person, he is apathetic to the concerns of mortals. The psychopomps and clerics that work for him are expected to emulate his example because they are not this by nature.
  • Benevolent Boss: Part of Eric's problem is that Gruffle's new boss is protective of his subordinates and especially of his Wish Reapers. The fact that Wish Reapers are a thing in the first place is another facet of his benevolence.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Cremia and Ash Aelios are both clerics at Central Hearth, the capital of Fire worship on Tariatla, and perform both rituals and guard duty together. This led to a moment of confusion when Ash referred to her as "Sister Cremia" before clarifying that she is also his biological sister.
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  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Basilard punishes the assassin who went after his daughter by turning said assassin's blood into acid, thereby melting all of her internal organs. Zettai herself is horrified by this.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: This trope is zigzagged because there are a lot of reapers here.
    • Samael is an antagonist but only in an Inspector Javert sense because Eric has run afoul of many of her society's laws.
    • Gruffle is a vindictive thug but he was already like that when he was mortal.
    • Reno Grade is mentioned as the kind of stereotypical Everyone Hates Hades reaper that embarrasses the clergy.
    • Neuro really wants to be this trope but still has more to learn about how to balance the mercy and compassion of death with the necessity that everyone dies eventually, regardless of how "fair" it is.
    • Lord Death himself is shown as being merciful, understanding and reasonable, but will not break rules for anyone (not even his drinking buddies).
  • Enemies with Death: Gruffle is a long time foe of Eric's that has recently become a reaper. Before, he was annoying. Now, he is a bigger problem.
  • Heroic Suicide: A necro priest can kill themselves in order to absolve others of Death Violations. This is part of Lord Death's mercy.
  • Immortals Fear Death: Zettai outmaneuvers an opponent who outclasses her in every way by exploiting this trope. Omnias is immortal but can still be killed by things like necrocraft and so he dodges involuntarily when it is aimed at him. This forces him to abandon a strategic position and lose the confrontation.
  • The Kindnapper: Elves practice something they call "changeling duty", where they kidnap human infants and replace them with substitutes so the parents don't notice the switch until the elves are long gone. Some of it was just because It Amused Me but by the time of the main narrative it is exclusively used in areas dominated by ordercraft. They see it as rescuing the kids from a life of slavery-via-mind-control.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: For three consecutive books, Gruffle has tried to kill Eric. It has finally become his Unfinished Business. Then he succeeds but unbeknownst to him, Eric plotted with another reaper to thwart him. This reaper felt indebted to Eric and so travels to the Abyss to revive Eric moments after Gruffle took his disembodied soul there.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Annala makes this declaration to her latest opponent, who thinks they are about to fight "Annala Enaz", the schoolgirl and novice cleric. She corrects their misconception while also making a Badass Boast.
    “I am a veteran cleric in the service of Lady Chaos. For five years, I have wandered the Veins of Noitearc, and I have never met my equal. I have killed monsters, demons, and fiends. Reapers avoid my path and sowers seek my aid. The power of ordercraft fades in my presence. I am Priestess and I will not let you pass.”
  • Organ Theft: The concealed Evil Plan centers on this trope. Kaiba Gunrai wants to kidnap Annala and extract everything from her, organs included, because she has been Touched By Volrons and he wants to replicate this for super soldiers that he can sell, in addition to boosting other industries, such as magical reagents. The victim isn't killed because her Healing Factor means she can't be killed, and more importantly for her captor, he can collect multiple copies of each organ.
  • Racist Grandma: Out of all of Annala's relatives, her great-grandmother Mildred is the most displeased by her dating a human. She refers to the entire race as "skin-shedding temps". Much of her generation and the following one are like this because of their experience in The Conversion War.
  • Takes One to Kill One: Eric's plan at the start of the series is to become a god (partly) to be better able to defend himself from Gruffle, who is now a Grim Reaper.
  • Teach Him Anger: Sister Saggart encourages Annala to dig deep and cultivate as much anger and rage as she can because it is necessary to use malevolent holy chaos magic. This results in Killing Intent that makes a monster's madness seem tame in comparison. Her natural compassion means she can already use benevolent holy chaos magic.
  • Teleportation Misfire: A side-effect of Annala's Touched by Vorlons experience is random teleportation. To better manage her new power, she wears items that store the power and spiritual essence in other dimensions, and a result of this is occasionally being pulled into one of those dimensions.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Neuro of the Brotherhood of Death faces this dilemma. He must obey the rules of Lord Death while also granting the mercy of Lord Death because going too far in either direction can lead to problems with the circulation of souls. In Zettai's case, the lawful decision is to execute her for her many death violations but the good decision is to pardon her by killing himself instead. He ultimately chooses good.
  • Too Smart for Strangers: A parodied example is present here. Nosiop, a poison master, has a habit of testing his recipes on the unsuspecting. He offers a piece of candy to Zettai, the pre-teen daughter of one of his guild fellows, and they have this exchange.
    Zettai: Dad told me not to take candy from strangers.
    Nosiop: I'm not a stranger. I work with your dad all the time.
    Zettai: That's what he told me you'd say.
    Nosiop: More for me. *eats the candy*
    Zettai: You mean it wasn't poison?
    Nosiop: Of course it wasn't. I don't poison the kids of my co-workers. *Noisop gives Zettai a second piece of candy, and, just before she eats it* That one might be poison.
    Zettai: *Stomp on his foot*
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: Reapers are a fact of reality. Defeating them is unthinkable for most mortals and even if you do they'll just respawn in the Abyss and come after you again. Even if you somehow permanently kill them, that will just put you on their boss's shit list.
  • Uniqueness Value: Kaiba Gunrai seeks out the unique all the time and spends much in the way of time and money in this pursuit. It's part of his eternal hobby. Except, he hates unique things. Unique things can't be mass produced and commoditized and thus they represent something outside of his sphere of influence. He seeks unique things so that he can copy them and thus strip them of their unique status. This is why he seeks out Annala, who has been Touched by Vorlons and thus unique in all of creation.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Eric is enraged by the Ordercrafter Hunters kidnapping human infants in Sueno. They see themselves as The Kindnappers and he sees someone separating a child from their parents.
    • Annala is struck and berated by Meza and then scolded by Sagart for launching depopulation arrows at ten towns as a Mercy Kill for the hopelessly mentally dominated people living there. Once she comes to her senses, she has a My God, What Have I Done?. Fortunately, her future self steps in and saves the towns.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Hosting Lady Chaos herself within her own body and soul has made Annala one of the most powerful characters in the series. It also warped her sanity and moral compass so much she needed a dressing down from her mentor and several power limiters to become functional again.

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