In the first book, Westmark, King Augustine has fallen into despair after the presumed death of his only child, Augusta. He has turned administration of his kingdom over to Minister Cabbarus while he focuses on spiritualism and other means of trying to commune with his daughter's spirit. Cabbarus has slowly instituted a police state, and suppresses all attempts to print 'sedition' against him. When Theo attempts to resist the soldiers attempting to shut down his press, he kills one of Cabbarus' soldiers and ends up on the run. His new life brings in contact with the swindler 'Count Las Bombas', his assistant Musket, the street urchin Mickle, the pamphleteer-in-hiding Keller, and a group of revolutionaries led by a man named Florian, who dreams of overthrowing Cabbarus and putting a republic in place of the kingship. His adventures inadvertently lead to the discovery that Princess Augusta is still alive, and she is restored to the throne.
In the second book, The Kestrel, Theo has withdrawn from Augusta's new administration, trying to determine his purpose in life. Abruptly, the kingdom to the East launches an invasion to overthrow 'the false Queen' and re-install Cabbarus as their viceroy. The surprise attack forces Queen Augusta from the capital. While she leads her forces in the field, Theo rejoins Florian's revolutionaries and becomes the bloodthirsty partisan known as the Kestrel.
The culmination of the trilogy is The Beggar Queen, in which Queen Augusta and Theo must not only overcome the Regian occupation, but deal with the fact that Florian's revolutionaries, though fighting ferociously against the Regians, have no intention of allowing the monarchy to return to power.
This series includes examples of:
- Abdicate the Throne: The last book examines the potential consquences of an abdication. In the end, Queen Augusta steps down.
- Action Girl: Mickle acts as one early in the first book, before her traumatic past starts to overcome her amnesia. Zara and Rina, of Florian's revolutionary band, engage in open combat when they're not acting as spies-slash-washerwomen.
- Anyone Can Die: Many of the sympathetic characters introduced in the first book do not live long enough to see peace come back to Westmark.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Zara foresaw interrogation if captured. She chose to die rather than betray Florian's Children.
- Bittersweet Ending: The trilogy ends with the country retaken, the people finally given a democracy, and Theo and Mickle married after years and two books of waiting; but with half the supporting cast dead including all of Florian's "children" besides Theo and the companions going into semi-voluntary exile.
- Broken Bird: Justin starts out as a handsome, confident youth. After the disfiguring face wound he takes in Westmark, he descends into a fanaticism that isn't entirely sane.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Constantine and Mickle/Queen Augusta are both competent monarchs, but Mickle is a Tomboy Princess and Constantine tends to act like an Upper-Class Twit.
- Darker and Edgier: The first book is a fairly light-hearted story, although it does have its serious moments. The second and third books, though, deal very heavily with War Is Hell.
- Evil Chancellor:
- Fantasy World Map: Westmark has a map of the three countries, The Kestrel has a map of Westmark, and The Beggar Queen has a map of capital city Marianstat.
- Friend or Foe: In The Kestrel, a battle-mad Theo shoots a Regian soldier before he realizes it's actually his queen (and, to make it worse, his betrothed) Dressing as the Enemy.
- Friendly Enemy: Florian is a republican, but he and Mickle are pretty good friends.
- Heroic BSoD: Theo in The Kestrel after Stock dies.
- Kill 'Em All: Any character with a name had a fifty-fifty chance of making it out of book 3 alive. There were more deaths than in the previous two books combined—and the second book took place during a war.
- La Résistance: Florian's children are a subversion. They're a republican military force and Voice of the Resistance in an absolute monarchy, but they work alongside the monarchy rather than fight it directly, especially once Mickle takes over.
- Lovable Rogue: Las Bombas is a scoundrel and a fraud, but he's a good friend.
- Noble Fugitive: Florian, as it turns out, was the child of an aristocrat.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Constantine is particularly great example of this.
- Rags to Royalty: Mickle, though actually it's royalty to rags to royalty again.
- Rebel Leader: Florian is an examination of the trope. He's absolutely convinced that monarchy is stifling Westmark, and believes a peaceful transfer of power to be impossible. Even when Reasonable Authority Figure Augusta takes the throne, he sees conflict as inevitable.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Queen Augusta is determined to improve Westmark's living conditions. Once war begins, she takes the field (much to the horror of her advisers) as 'the Beggar Queen'.
- Significant Anagram: All of Las Bombas's aliases are anagrams.
- Street Urchin: Mickle, Sparrow, and Weasel are all examples. Cabbarus' administration has left Westmark with plenty of dispossessed children scavenging to survive.
- Upper-Class Twit: Constantine is a subversion. He acts like one, but is actually anything but a twit.
- Voice of the Resistance: Keller's newspaper, one of the few that dares to criticize Cabbarus.
- War Is Hell: The Kestrel is all about the effects of war upon those who fight it, most especially Theo himself.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Justin's unhappy with the compromises Florian is willing to make with the monarchy.