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Literature / Truth in the Dark

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Truth in the Dark, a novel by Amy Lane, is an exploration of the beauty and the beast fable, with a couple of twists: first, the lovers are gay; and second, the "beauty" is actually homely, clubfooted, and embittered by his miserable life. The cursed nobleman Aerie-Smith, believing that he needs a pure-hearted man to reverse the spell that's turned him and the people he rules into partial or full animals, finds crippled woodworker Naef (better known as Knife) on a northern island and brings him home. In exchange for a year of company, not intended to be sexual, and "one regrettable task" at its end, he'll give Knife's sister the money she needs to marry her beloved and move out of the family's miserable fishing village. Once in reach of the island's spell, Knife himself transforms, not into a beast, but into a beautiful, healthy young man who reflects his inner self. While living on the island, Knife and Aerie-Smith fall in love, and Knife begins to dread performing the "regrettable" task that will return life to normal.

Truth in the Dark contains examples of:

  • 100% Adoration Rating: Aerie-Smith, at least among his subjects.
  • The Atoner: Aerie-Smith.
  • Attempted Rape: By a visiting sailor, on Knife. It ends very badly for the sailor.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Aerie-Smith realizes that his arrogance led him to kiss an elf against her will and indirectly caused his subjects' terrible predicament. He vehemently stalls Knife's attempt to excuse his behavior.
  • Beast and Beauty: The whole story is an adaptation and subversion of this trope. What makes Knife special is his inner beauty; the island's magic merely makes his body match it.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Subverted in the ending, when Knife's body reverts to its original form, but the people he's come to know realize that he's just as good a person as he ever was.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Beautiful Gwen suffers permanent scars from her (ultimately successful) fight with Naef's rapist.
  • Berserk Button: Aerie-Smith is terrified of storms. Not so surprising, given that he's part cat, although the given explanation is a childhood experience with cannon fire.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Do not hurt Knife with Gwen or Aerie-Smith around.
  • Blade Enthusiast: Knife, appropriately enough. He makes tiny wooden knives to throw at people who are rude to him.
  • Body Horror: The book doesn't shy away from the implications of having sex a lion-human hybrid.
  • Cat Folk: Aerie-Smith. Unlike the spell's other victims, he can transition from a full-on lion form into a human-lion hybrid, meaning that the novel averts the tradition of leaving beauty-beast affairs unconsummated.
  • Cool Big Sis: Gwen. After the village bullies raped and beat Naef nearly to death, she took revenge by castrating the ringleader and letting him bleed to death from the wound.
  • Defiled Forever: Averted. Aerie-Smith specifically says that rape "never counts," and none of the humans (or semi-humans) in the story seems overly jealous of past consensual affairs, either.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Naef thinks the elves' treatment of Aerie-Smith is this. By contrast, Aerie-Smith seems to think he deserves it.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Averted. Naef's rape by the village bullies left him bleeding internally and drove his sister to kill one of them.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Aerie-Smith. He'd much rather have a normal name, but he doesn't get to change it, probably because he's in the nobility.
  • Funny Animals: Most of Aerie-Smith's subjects. Largely justified by the fact that they were once humans.
  • Geas The reason for Aerie-Smith and the islanders' predicament.
  • Groin Attack: Gwen castrates a man for sexually assaulting Naef. Later, Naef kicks a would-be rapist in the crotch.
  • Hello, Sailor!: There's a good deal of this aboard Aerie-Smith's ship, and it also pops up with visiting sailor Ban.
  • Human Sacrifice: Demanded to end the curse on Aerie-Smith's island. Actually, this wasn't the fairies' intent, but it became necessary when humans misinterpreted the original requirements.
  • If You Kill Him, You Will Be Just Like Him!: No one who knows Aerie-Smith or Gwen believes this.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Naef as a young boy. Being constantly abused for his deformities turned him into a very bitter young man.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Knife and Kyln.
  • Kids Are Cruel/Teens Are Monsters: A major factor in Naef's early life.
  • Large and in Charge: Aerie-Smith.
  • Meaningful Rename: Naef (probably a take on "naif," a naive person) started going by "Knife" when he was twelve.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: The longer Aerie-Smith's islanders remain in animal bodies, the more closely their personalities approach those of the relevant animals.
  • Misplaced Retribution: The elves didn't just take revenge on Aerie-Smith for kissing an unwilling elf; they cursed everyone in his village.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Rejected by Aerie-Smith, although the situation in question involves a forced kiss rather than full-on rape.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Gwen and Aerie-Smith do this to a rapist and a would-be rapist, respectively.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: The story is basically built around this Aesop.
  • Sex Slave: Knife's family worried that Aerie-Smith wanted to turn him into one, an idea that Knife considered ludicrous until the spell turned him into a beauty. Aerie-Smith still didn't want him for a sex slave and was horrified that Knife thought he would.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: Subverted. Lot interpreted a ceremony's requirements this way, but it actually called for a man of pure heart. Oh, and it was intended to use tears, not blood.