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The series in a nutshell: cleavage and Cool Swords.
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Noah Kilmartin is no hero. He's so unheroic that he's been pining for his childhood friend Emma all his life, and when he finally works up the nerve to tell her about it it's just as she's about to get on the bus to leave town forever, and she pityingly rejects him.

And then things get weird. Some sort of vessel crashes into the bus stop, Emma is knocked unconscious, and a wolf-monster appears and attacks them. Noah picks up a sword from inside the craft and, more by luck than skill, manages to kill the creature. And then there's a flash of light and he's suddenly standing in a hall full of people wearing weird clothing and telling him that he's the universe's last hope against the evil goddess Lilith.

Now he has to pass five grueling tests to prove his worth, as well as choose five women to serve as his lovers and companions on a quest down through the Tree of Life to defeat Lilith and save the cosmos. Noah is certain that he can't do it - and it doesn't help that everyone around him, including Emma, seem to agree.

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Tsun-Tsun TzimTzum is a series of novels by Mike Truk. Of the two parts of the title, "tsun-tsun" is a character type common in Harem Anime, while tzimtzum is a concept from Kabbalah, making the two main inspirations for the story very clear (once you google one or both of the terms, that is). Three books have been published so far:

  • The Five Trials (2018)
  • The Hindering Ones (2019)
  • The Manifold (2020)


This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Amazonian Beauty: Valeria is tall, burly and absolutely stunning.
  • Ambiguous Gender: Blindness is always masked and wrapped in heavy robes and just generally so weird that it's impossible to tell if they're male or female. Noah eventually starts thinking of them as "he," but only after considering "they" or even "it."
  • An Axe to Grind: Valeria's weapon of choice.
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  • Arc Number: Five. Five companions for a Chosen One, five Trials for them to go through, five personal qualities that can be objectively measured by magic.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Brielle is an excellent warrior and spell-caster, and entirely too aware of it. Subverted in that her confidence and arrogance are actually her real power, as they allow her to browbeat and intimidate her way past challenges that she couldn't have fought her way past.
  • Battle Harem: Every Chosen must assemble one of these, selecting five powerful companions to accompany them on their quest. They must also have sex with each companion to form a life-affirming magical bond that lets them share each other's power. Though it turns out that it's not so much that they "must" as that it's better in almost every way if they do - Neveah refuses to sleep with Noah, but he still takes her as a companion since even without the bond he thinks her skills and strength will be invaluable.
  • BFS: Neveah wields a five-foot-long monstrosity of a sword, which is infused with dark magic to boot.
  • Big Bad: Lilith, the embodiment of universal evil and corruption. She commands seemingly endless hordes of horrific demons and wielders of Black Magic, but half the time she doesn't even need them - she's dangerously good at tricking well-intentioned people into serving her unknowingly.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Lilith and her creatures are pure evil, but everyone who fights her are fallible human beings who constantly have to deal with what seem like moral no-win situations.
  • Black Knight: Some of Lilith's martially inclined champions take this form. Valeria becomes one when corrupted by Lilith during her time in Ghogiel.
  • Black Magic: Hexen magic is drawn from Lilith and inevitably brings The Corruption for anyone who uses it. It turns out that that's not quite true: you can use it without being corrupted, but it requires a dangerous balancing act and careful self-control.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Imogen learned magic at one. Severe whippings and sexual sadism seem to have been routine forms of discipline.
  • Breast Plate:
    • A mild example, but Valeria and Brielle are both described as wearing "form-fitting" flexible armour that allows Noah to tell what their figures look like beneath it.
    • Averted with Sarah, whose full plate armour Noah notes makes her indistinguishable from a male knight when her visor is lowered.
    • Played very straight with Ghalesha, whose armour has so much cleavage that it's effectively useless. Since she's a magic-user rather than a warrior, it's presumably more of a fashion statement than for protection.
  • Broken Ace:
    • Implied with Valeria. She seems confident and stoical most of the time, and she's a supremely capable fighter, but there are hints that she suffers from a crippling lack of self-worth and that there is something in her past that she doesn't want to talk about - and since the parts she is willing to talk about involve fighting a Hopeless War against Lilith's forces where she lost her companions one by one until she was the only one left, it's likely to be a doozy.
    • Neveah is even more of an ace and also even more broken. She was the greatest warrior and the greatest mage among the Aspirants before leaving as the companion of a previous Chosen One, but something happened to her out among the spheres that left her with memory loss and the mark of corruption on her - and after returning to Bastion (which required her to cut her way through the massive army of demons besieging the place), she was put through six months of imprisonment and torture. At the time of the story, it's implied that she's holding herself together through sheer Heroic Willpower.
  • Brought Down to Badass: Neveah was practically The Archmage before her corruption at Lilith's hands blocked most of her magic. So now she's only a peerless, nigh-unbeatable swordswoman.
  • Brutal Honesty: Valeria is prone to it, which serves to make Noah's first hours as Chosen even more dispiriting.
    Noah: You don't really want to do this, do you. You're just doing this because you want to help save the universe.
    Valeria: Of course. Why else would I want to fuck you?
  • Bug War: Lilith's conquest of Valeria's world took the form of an invasion of a horde of insectoid demons known as babashti.
  • Can't Catch Up: A problem for Valeria, since she's surrounded by increasingly powerful battle-mages while being "only" a very capable mundane fighter. Her practicality and sense for logistics still make her a valuable asset, but it still does nothing for her already fragile sense of self-worth.
  • The Caper: In Tagimron the heroes find themselves having to steal a priceless magical artifact from one of the sphere's factions, leading to them executing an elaborate heist. Noah and Emma explicitly reference this kind of movies while planning it.
  • Cat Girl: Little Meow is a downplayed example. She isn't literally an anthropomorphic cat, but she wears a feline mask and certainly acts a lot like this trope.
  • Central Theme: The tricky balance between being good but impotent and being powerful but evil. On a personal scale, how do you assert yourself and try to satisfy your needs enough to avoid being a spineless Extreme Doormat, but not so much that you become a selfish Jerkass? On a larger scale, how much can you compromise your morals to defend yourself from Lilith's physical dominance without compromising them so much that you fall prey to Lilith's spiritual dominance?
  • Charm Person: Imogen is skilled in a discipline called psyche-imperium, which allows a certain amount of control over other people's minds.
  • Christmas Cake: Noah notes that Queen Shalarra is quite the Amazonian Beauty despite being in her forties.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Noah and his companions is subject to a harrowing session of it at the hands of the corrupt Bastion leadership. Though that's nothing compared to Neveah, who's endured months of the same treatment.
    • After defeating the raiding party that destroyed Hidden Hope, Victor has all the prisoners tortured to try to make them reveal what they did with the village's children.
    • And then there's Noah's treatment at the hands of Sandovar during Imogen's manifold trial. It starts with having his foot in boiling water for half an hour and only gets worse from there.
  • Contemptible Cover: In 2020 the author changed the amazon.com cover from the original (see page image) to a more dramatic and serious one, since he believed that it was keeping prospective readers from giving the book a chance as a genuine Epic Fantasy story instead of just a Harem Anime novel using epic fantasy trappings.
  • Cool Sword: As the Chosen, Noah gets to wield Shard, a sword so cool that it almost makes up for the fact that he's got absolutely no idea how to use it. Neveah's five-foot-long blade that can be summoned to her hand with a shout and which cuts through Hexen magic is pretty sweet too, and so's Brielle's Flaming Sword.
  • The Corruptible:
    • The fourth trial makes Noah realise that he's got a dark side he wasn't aware of and that this is something Lilith could use against him. It's a large part of the reason why he takes Emma as his fifth companion. Bastion is full of women who are better fighters, but no one who's more qualified to help him keep his moral compass. Sure enough, when he grows steadily more callous in the second book it's when he's separated from Emma, and once they're reunited she quickly sets him straight again.
    • The prophesies Shalarra makes at the end of the first book shows that Valeria and Emma are also both fated to make a choice between serving and opposing Lilith, with no guarantees for what either of them will choose. Valeria fulfils the prophesy in the second book, when a long string of harsh necessities and seemingly unavoidable compromises leads to her becoming lost to corruption and serving as a Black Knight for Lilith.
    • Ultimately, every crusade led by Victor, or the thing wearing Victor. Over time, they go from the last few good people left in a dying world to, in the man's own words, a "bunch of rabid degenerates" under the influence of his charisma.
  • The Corruption: Lilith spreads a spiritual corruption that gradually turns good into bad. It's dangerous enough to make integrity one of the necessities for anyone who wants to fight her.
  • Creepy Good: Blindness, who is never seen out of their bizarre suit of armour (which includes a helmet shaped like a horse's head with antlers, with no visible openings to see through) and has unsettling habits like carrying on multiple conversations at once.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The cosmology and philosophy are roughly based on Kabbalah, the magic is based on yoga, and the divination the characters receive involves Tarot Motifs. Semi-justified by the revelation that all proper spiritual disciplines flow from the Tree of Life.
  • Dark Action Girl: Neveah has been touched by Lilith's corruption in some way no one is sure of, and uses a dark artifact in battle, but she's still on the side of good.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Imogen practises Lilith's brand of magic, despite knowing the dangers involved.
  • Dark Messiah: Victor has gathered the last free people of Ghogiel into a crusade to retake the Black Tower that serves as a gate between worlds, in the hopes of eventually transforming the world back into Chokmah again. And he'll do anything to pursue that hope. Anything. He's actually possessed by one of Lilith's servants, and his crusade is just meant to draw out the last loyalists and lead them to their doom.
  • Diagonal Cut: As of The Manifold, Neveah can slice through enemies so finely that they only fall into several pieces a few seconds later.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once: Every time a savior fails, a sphere is lost, seemingly forever. Every time The Corruption touches someone, they are lost to the enemy forever, with supposedly no hope of redemption.
  • The Face: Brielle's role in the party. She's an expert on Break Them by Talking, and she can also manage sweet-talking and diplomacy when necessary. Played with in that she comes across as having No Social Skills most of the time, since she's actively trying to say the most insulting thing possible at every turn.
  • Face on the Cover: The original covers of the first three book each showed a different companion - Brielle for The Five Trials, Imogen for The Hindering Ones and Neveah for The Manifold.
  • Fallen Hero: The "lich" that pursues the party at the end of the first book is revealed in the second one to be Pelleas, the first Chosen to attempt to defeat Lilith.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Advanced technology does not work in the worlds that are part of the Tree of Life. In fact, it turns out that it only works in our world because we believe it should.
  • Fauns and Satyrs: One of Lilith's lesser minions are a race of malicious goat-men that she uses as cannon fodder.
  • Fiery Redhead: Brielle has red hair and always seems to be yelling at someone.
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Hero: Noah, our mild-mannered Unlikely Hero.
    • The Lancer: Brielle, who's as arrogant and temperamental as Noah is (initially) timid and repressed, who was raised from birth to be a great warrior and fight Lilith while he stumbled into it unprepared, and who makes sure to tell him every time he screws up.
    • The Big Guy: Valeria, a solid presence who looks to the practical and is also the physically largest of the party.
    • The Smart Guy: Imogen, ex-librarian and Badass Bookworm.
    • The Chick: Emma, the only one lacking combat skills but also the least troubled and neurotic one.
    • The Sixth Ranger: Neveah, who isn't technically a companion since Noah and her never formed a bond, and who no one (including herself) exactly know what to make of.
  • Flaming Sword: Brielle carries a sword that catches fire in battle. Also, Shard tends to burn white when used against demons.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Noah at one point recalls that after Michael died, he was so busy first helping Emma deal with her grief and then guiltily hoping that maybe she'd develop feelings for him now that Michael was gone, that he never actually took the time to mourn his best friend.
  • Functional Magic: Magic is practised by attuning to the different sanskaras (chakras) in the human body through meditation. Each sanskara, once accessed, provides access to a number of different abilities which can be studied and mastered in successive degrees. These abilities are fueled by an energy that builds up in a person's spiritual reservoir over time, and which must be continously purified through mental discipline.
    • Muladhara is the lowest sanskara, which must be opened before any of the others. It represents stability, security and our basic needs, and provides one of a number of different combat magicks.
    • Svadhisthana is the second sanskara, representing procreation, seduction, life and growth. It provides access to nature magic and virility.
    • Manipura represents personal power, and provides enhanced physical abilities as well as Flight.
    • Anahata represents the connection between the physical and the spiritual, and is used for healing and warding.
    • Vishuddha represents verbal expression, and provides the ability to influence others and find the truth.
    • Ajna represents intuition, and provides abilities of extrasensoral perception and dream magic.
    • Sahaswara is the highest sanskara, representing enlightenment and connection to the Source. It provides the ability of vastly enhanced mental abilities and potentially the ability to create things out of thin air.
  • Gaia's Lament: Ghogiel is a world where almost all plants and animals have died and ash keeps falling from the sky, since Lilith has blocked the vital energies that are supposed to flow in from Kether.
  • Girl Next Door: Emma, who Noah grew up with and who is the only companion who isn't in some way scary as hell.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: While the Source is pretty open-minded, any form of sex that degrades and humiliates either of the parties, even if technically consensual, is implied to be of Lilith and certainly a favourite pastime of most of the villains. Though precisely how kinky you can be without risking The Corruption is, like many other things, a grey area.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Valeria and Emma have blonde hair and are the most straightforwardly good and upstanding of the characters. Conversely, Neveah and Imogen have dark hair and have both been subjected to Lilith's corruption in different ways. Subverted when it turns out that Valeria and Emma are both at risk of falling to Lilith at some point in the future, whereas Neveah and Imogen both receive more hopeful prophesies.
  • The Heart: Emma isn't a mighty warrior or trained sorceress like the other four companions... but she is a talented, gentle peacemaker who works wonders in helping the various standoffish personalities in the party to get along.
  • Hell Hound: Gray Mongrels are giant hairless wolves covered in tattoos. They hunt and kill things for Lilith.
  • Heroic Bystander: Emma ended up in Bastion just because she happened to be close to Noah when he was summoned. While he gets outfitted with a Cool Sword, has the support of a growing number of formidable companions and at least had some fighting training beforehand, Emma is just a regular person trying to adjust to an insane situation. She nonetheless manages to play a key role in freeing the others from imprisonment, and generally does a better job at staying calm and helping others see reason than either Noah or any of the battle-weary Bastion inhabitants.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: It turns out that Imogen suffers from a quiet version of this. She is so selfless because she genuinely believes that she doesn't deserve to even exist, much less any sort of consideration or reward.
  • Heroic Willpower: Neveah's specialty. Noah is in horrified awe at just how far she can push herself when needed. Noah himself also turns out to have a bit of it.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: A frequent danger when fighting Lilith, who is good at making sure that the only way to effectively resist her is to become increasingly like her.
  • Hidden Purpose Test: Several of the Trials are this.
    • The Third Trial is designed to seem entirely impossible to pass, because the real test is whether the group can keep struggling even against impossible odds.
    • The Fifth Trial appears to end with Emma's death, whereupon a creature of Lilith offers to bring her back if Noah abandons his quest.
    • Noah at one point hopes that the Fourth Trial is just about refusing to kill an innocent even when told that it's the only way to win, but it turns out that you do have to commit some sort of act of depravity to pass. The solution is for the Chosen to brutalise and humiliate one of his companions (with her consent), thus fulfilling the requirement without doing anything that's actually immoral.
  • The High Queen: Queen Shalarra rules Bastion with honour and wisdom. Subverted. She tries to be this, but she's fallen prey to arrogance and rigid thinking. Part of that is due to the influence of her advisers, though, two of whom have been corrupted by Lilith, while Shalarra is at least redeemable.
  • Hypocrite: Taniel is one of the people upholding Bastion's zero-tolerance policy against the practice of dark magic, but he has secretly taken to studying it himself, for the same reasons as Imogen did but with far less success in keeping his mind uncorrupted.
  • I Know Karate: Downplayed. Noah has taken a variety of martial arts classes and even won a few minor tournaments. While this does end up helping him somewhat, because at least he has some kind of idea of how fighting works, it's frequently made clear that it doesn't put him within miles of being an actual warrior. What does help him most is the knowledge of meditation, and the memories of his sensei, Rocco.
  • I Lied: In the second book, this is used to show that a hero is currently being less than heroic. When under the influence of an evil artifact, Noah swears by the Source to Salathis to set him free if he can save Imogen from a sorcerous parasite that is killing her. Salathis does so, and Noah promptly kills him, declaring that a promise to one of Lilith's creatures doesn't count. Since he broke a vow made on the Source, this cripples his abilities as the Chosen for a time, and Noah feels horrified once the artifact's effects wear off.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Downplayed with Brielle. She does see herself as superior to most people, but she's haunted by the conviction that her older sister (who martyred herself saving their world in an impossible act of magic) was even better and that whatever she does, her sister would have done better.
  • Inherent in the System: Neveah learned to her cost that her world of origin ran on this trope when she tried to change it. She ended up leading one rebellion against the corrupt government, then leading a second rebellion against the corrupt government that replaced it, then leading a third rebellion to put the original government back in charge because as bad as it was, it was at least better than the other two. It's implied that her mother and grandmother each made the same demoralising discovery in their own youths.
  • In Vino Veritas: Rosanna gets Noah drunk and makes him spill the beans about being the Chosen, causing him to be taken by Lilith's minions the next morning. Some Hexen magic may also have been involved. And sex appeal.
  • I Owe You My Life: The Dead Men are based on this. You get recruited when one of them saves your life, and you become a full member by recruiting someone else in turn.
  • Kabbalah: The world consists of eleven spheres, each of which is at once a physical place, a philosophical concept and a phase of the universe's creation. Each one also has a Qlipothic Evil Counterpart, which Lilith is trying to make dominant. For example, Bastion is located in Kether, the highest sphere which represents undivided unity. If Lilith conquers it, it will become Thaumiel, the state of absolute division.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Neveah has no coherent memories of anything between leaving Bastion along with her Chosen One, and fighting her way back into Bastion a month later. According to Imogen, she is under the effects of some kind of Hexen magic that is blocking her memories. All she can recall is that something happened to her party in the sphere of Belial, and later, that Victor must be killed at all costs. He may or may not have killed her saviour... and she may or may not have helped him.
  • Last Bastion: Bastion is this, a single fortified tower in the sphere of Kether that still holds out against Lilith, who otherwise rules all the spheres in the universe.
  • Legacy of the Chosen: Noah is only the last in a long line of Chosen. All the previous ones failed at stopping Lilith, so now it's up to him.
  • Les Collaborateurs: A lot of people in Ghogiel have agreed to obey Lilith in return for being spared at least for a while longer.
  • Love Triangle: Noah was in one before the story began, as he was pining for Emma while she was in a happy relationship with Michael. Then Michael died, and he was left with a lot of mixed-up feelings.
  • Magic Knight: Neveah and Brielle both employ a combination of sword and sorcery to great effect. Noah also develops into this as he learns to use levenbolt and gets better at wielding Shard.
  • Manchurian Agent: As in turns out, Neveah. The right incantation turns her into a great winged she-demon with overwhelming power that will try to destroy everything in sight.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Blindness, who chose the name since they had to make themselves blind to all the suffering and atrocities in Ghogiel in order to be able to stay in hiding and not charge off into an unwinnable fight. After seeing one blasphemy too many, they reclaim their true name and then charges off into an unwinnable fight.
    • Obviously, this isn't the first time a guy named Noah has been charged with saving all life from extinction...
    • "Valeria" means "strong and brave."
  • Necessary Evil: Lilith. She exists to enable every other soul in the universe to refine itself by resisting her attempts to corrupt it. When every other living creature has reached enlightenment and merged with the Source, she will drift alone through a lifeless cosmos until she finally repents, finds redemption, and becomes the Source of a new universe.
  • Never Trust a Title: Only one Hindering One actually appears in The Hindering Ones, and it just attacks the heroes briefly and then leaves. The true hindering power of that sphere is far, far more subtle and dangerous...
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Noah's power as the saviour is constantly growing, letting him manifest new abilities at dramatic times.
  • Nice Guy: Deconstructed with Noah. He's been super-nice all his life, but there's a strong hint that part of that was due to being too afraid to stand up for himself and maybe offend someone. Over the course of the first book, he gets more assertive... but that also means that some not-so-nice parts of his personality that were previously hidden by his meekness start shining through.
  • Nightmare of Normality: At one point, Noah is thrown into a false reality where he's back in Ohio and his adventures were just a vivid dream he had while in a coma after a bus crash.
  • Ninja Maid: By a fantastic coincidence, Imogen's war-mage uniform looks exactly like a French maid outfit.
  • No Social Skills: Social skill is one of five personal qualities that can be objectively measured by magic. Noah is somewhat deflated at finding out that his score is... seven. Out of a hundred. And that's after he's presumably absorbed some from his companions.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: After a few days of traveling across the desolate lands of Ghogiel, Noah starts quietly wishing for a monster to just ambush him already.
  • Party Scattering: Noah is separated from all his companions other than Brielle at the end of the first book and it takes most of the second for him to find them all again.
  • Plot Tumor: Done deliberately with Victor and his army during the second book. After all, that whole sphere is about grinding you down and hindering your progress...
  • The Powers That Be: The Source is implied to be sentient in some way, and it does things like annoint Saviours and may possibly have a plan for the universe... but it does not speak directly to people and certainly never explains itself, so it's always up to interpretation what is and is not "the will of the Source."
  • Public Execution: Victor has Noah assist with executing captured prisoners before the eyes of his army.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Whenever Brielle opens her mouth, there's better than even odds that one of these is about to come out. There seems to be barely anyone whose suckiness she isn't able to make a very articulate case for.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Victor's crusade is made up from common people who have lost everything to Lilith. When they get their hands on Lilith's servants, the results are rarely pretty. Victor isn't happy about it, but he doesn't think he can put an end to it without risking mutiny. Or so he claims. He's actually actively encouraging the savagery.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Valeria tries to get a crowd of people in Bastion to show Noah some respect by asking who among them can claim to have killed a Gray Mongrel (like Noah did at the start of the book). Most of the crowd is suitably daunted, but someone at the back pipes up to say that actually, he's killed one too.
    Valeria: (annoyed) Fine. Aside from Kaiden.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Brielle's family, the Isladis, have in fact been very active and done an awful lot to resist Lilith for generations, something Brielle isn't shy about reminding people of. Even in the present day, she's an Aspirant to companionhood, and her brother Hawke is an officer in Bastion's armies.
  • RPG Elements: There are five personal qualities that can be objectively measured by magic, in a way that is pretty clearly inspired by roleplaying games. The "stats" of the series' world are: physical fitness, magical potential, social skills, willpower and integrity. At the time he is tested, Noah has (on a scale of 1 to 100) physical 18, magical potential 5, will 37, integrity 32 and social... 7.
    • At one point Noah is told that he must go down into a multi-levelled basement infested with monsters. He notes to himself that it's basically a dungeon.
  • Shapeshifter Guilt Trip: Emma's manifold trial involves being confronted by a vision of Michael who tries to put her through the Sadistic Choice of either wishing that he hadn't died, and that her relationship with Noah thus would never have happened, or declaring that she's glad that he's dead since it freed her to be with Noah. Emma defeats it by stating that what the manifold fails to understand is that what she has with Noah does not cheapen what she had and could have had with Michael.
  • Shining City: Peruthros used to be this, even being nicknamed "the Shining," but that was before Lilith took it.
  • Shock and Awe: The magical discipline of levenbolt, used to good effect by Imogen and later by Noah.
  • Shown Their Work: For a series that seems to be mostly about the Fanservice, there are a lot of well-researched descriptions of Kabbalistic theory.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: At one point the Elegiac Enigma shows up and claims to have an offer to make, but he never gets to make it - Neveah banishes him while he's still busy taunting the others, and the group decides to get out of there before he turns back up and starts complaining about their rudeness.
  • The Social Expert: Victor leads his army not so much with his skillful tactics as with incredible charisma that yokes them together. This is not a good thing, such armies turn to rabid degenerates under his influence, and he ultimately leads them to their deaths on purpose.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Characters tend to speak in borderline-Purple Prose one moment and say things like "what the actual fuck?" the next. Possibly justified in that the setting is likewise a mix between high-minded concepts and sordid realities.
  • Spotting the Thread: Valeria is the first one to notice that it's awfully strange that Victor brutally tortured a score of prisoners to find the whereabouts of some captured children that he had previously been willing to leave to their deaths.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Imogen switches pretty freely between teasing and snarking and being genuinely helpful and compassionate.
  • Teeth Clenched Team Work: Valeria is not at all happy to be working with morally dubious characters like Imogen and Neveah, at least at first. Also, no one is happy to be working with Brielle - a sentiment that Brielle frequently makes it clear is mutual.
  • Teleport Spam: Salathis fights like this, and so does some others of Lilith's magic-users.
  • That Came Out Wrong: It is quickly agreed by everyone that while it's cool that Noah can create telepathic channels to the companions, referring to it as him "opening their apertures" just sounds too skeevy.
  • Title Drop: A stealth one in the first book. Imogen, who is a pretty severe and sarcastic character, tells Noah that the black parts of her uniform represents the tzimtzum (a kabbalistic term meaning the contraction of energy prior to creation) of divine presence - which would make it a tsun-tsun's tzimtzum.
  • Torture Technician: Guillarm is a jailor in Bastion who took the job because he hoped to find fellow sadists among the other jailors. He didn't, but he was pleased to discover that no one really cared what he did to the prisoners. Taniel is even worse, he just hides it better.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Harthome is a peaceful village, though the villagers are wary of outsiders since most of their men have left to fight in the war and they are surrounded by monsters they must keep at bay through magic. The cautious visitor should note that no one ever said what sort of magic, or what side of the war the men went to fight for...
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Victor embodies this for Noah, and the rest of his army. Noah compares him to someone who pushes you off a cliff with a smile on their face... then asks you for a second chance when you climb back up.
  • Training from Hell: Noah goes through weeks of magical training under a group of villains, while being mind-controlled into doing his absolutely utmost to learn. Horrible as it is, he ends up getting a lot better at magic in a hurry.
  • Unlikely Hero: Noah is amazingly nondescript and absolutely no one's (including his own) idea of a chosen saviour of the universe. Given that he's the tenth Chosen so far (the previous nine fit the heroic image better, but all failed) it's implied that Kether is really scraping the barrel at this point.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Noah has carried a torch for Emma their entire lives, but she only had eyes for Michael. The events of the first book causes some changes in their relationship, but it's unclear whether they go far enough to make her return his feelings or if he's still unlucky.
  • Vagina Dentata: Imogen informs Guillarm that since the Power Nullifier that has been placed on her only prevents her from directing magic outside of her body, anything he puts inside of said body will be electrocuted.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Lilith never conquered Tipphereth. She didn't need to. Once the sphere turned into Tagimron, the embodiment of disharmony, the Source-worshipping people who lived there promptly formed five competing factions and starting fighting each other over how to fix the situation.
  • We Can Rule Together: Victor tries this on Noah at the end of the second book, claiming that once Lilith has finished destroying the universe, they will be in a position to shape the next one.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Brielle really lays into Noah about getting them captured because he couldn't keep his mouth shut. While Brielle is always laying into him about something, in this case he has to admit that she's pretty much completely right.
  • World of Badass: Everyone in Bastion is a supreme badass, using either weapons or magic or both. None of them are particularly happy that their last, best hope is Noah, whose only claim to not being a complete Non-Action Guy is that he used to take some martial arts classes.
  • The Worm That Walks: The Ur-grouths are people who can turn into giants made entirely out of worms. An Ur-grouth is all but invincible and your best bet is to Kill It with Fire.
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