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Literature / Winter's Tale (Emrys Vaughn)

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Winter's Tale is an Urban Fantasy Web Serial Novel by Emrys Vaughn. Starting in late 2014, it updates regularly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with interlude chapters posted on Saturdays. The story focuses on Winter Wolf, an asocial carpenter who may or may not be a werewolf. Although initially fairly typical for the genre, the story soon takes a more political turn, drawing heavy inspiration from mythology.

Not to be confused with the Shakespeare play or novel.

Winter's Tale provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Tyrfing, to the extent that it's something of a surprise when it doesn't cut through something.
  • Affably Evil: Loki is generally polite, and seldom really gets upset. He's also one of the more feared deities in the setting, largely because of what happens when he does get upset.
  • The Ageless: Many, if not most, of the main characters are effectively immortal. It's not uncommon for characters to be hundreds or thousands of years old.
  • Beneath the Mask: Aiko seems as cheerful and lighthearted as you could ask for, but it's a cover for deeply seated issues. Under the surface, she's as messed up as the rest of the major characters.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Loki jokes around a lot, and generally doesn't take himself to seriously. Give him a reason to, though, and he can absolutely kill you in horrible ways just for annoying him.
  • Blood Knight: Several characters, but Snowflake is probably the best fit. In her interlude, she mentions being literally addicted to violence, to the point that she goes into withdrawal if she goes a week without a fight.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Tyrfing is so clingy that it's basically impossible to get rid of. Of course, it's also Made of Indestructium.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: This happens so many times that Winter eventually starts critiquing their technique.
  • Crapsack World: And how. Monsters outnumber the humans, any real attempt to fix things is met with hostility and outright violence, and the deities are uncaring at best. Even the people trying to keep things under control end up doing some pretty questionable things, because there's no other way to get the job done.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The interlude chapters each focus on another character. This could be anyone from a major character to a completely unknown one, and they range in length from a couple of pages to a full novella.
  • The Dreaded: Several, but special mention goes to Fenris. Just walking into a room in a bad mood is enough to send normally unflappable people running for the door.
  • Evil Weapon: Whether Tyrfing is evil is open to debate, but it definitely isn't good.
  • Exact Words
    • The fae, being unable to tell a direct lie, tend to rely on this.
    • Loki is fond of it too. He keeps his side of a bargain, but generally it winds up so twisted that he might as well have broken it.
  • Extreme Omnisexual: Winter's mother Carmen was infamous for it. He even refers to her as being more omnisexual than bisexual.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Her name is Snowflake. She's a Siberian husky that happens to have a particularly strange entity in her head, and as a result is at least as intelligent as most humans. She's also a Blood Knight that loves to hunt and kill basically anything, and frequently suggests a more violent approach when Winter would rather leave someone be.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The people in charge of the major factions are more concerned with preserving the status quo than the people that get hurt as a result. The people who try to change things tend to have some valid points, but the methods they use are questionable at best, and many of them are more interested in personal power than fixing problems. Really, it's hard to even say which side is a lighter shade of grey.
  • Inherent in the System: Comes up a lot in the context of politics. The system is intrinsically unfair and encourages people to be indifferent to the suffering of others, or worse. Horrible things are tolerated because any attempt to really change the way things work would upset the current balance of power, making the whole situation even worse.
  • Jerkass Gods: Loki is at best indifferent to the suffering of mortals, and doesn't think anything of murdering people just to make a point. From what's been seen in various interludes, it seems like the other gods are just as bad.
  • Not in My Contract: Samuel Black, to the extent that he won't bother to pass on critical messages if his employer forgets to include that in his contract.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: Winter mentions having nightmares about some of the more unpleasant things he's seen.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Tyrfing.
  • Sharing a Body: Snowflake shares hers with the disembodied spirit of a wolf that was tortured, murdered, forced to possess a werewolf, and twisted by a demon. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Walking Armory: Winter doesn't even leave the house without a sword, a gun, several knives, and various magical utility tools. And that's before he gets paranoid.