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Literature / Wind and Sparks

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"He who chases the wind will find the storm.
He who sows the storm will reap the hurricane.
If the hurricane brings you to revenge — dig one grave for yourself."

The Cycle of Wind and Sparks (aka The Chronicles of Hara) tetralogy by Alexey Pehov (often spelled "Pekhov") is a loose sequel to The Chronicles of Siala set millennia later in the new world created by the winner of The Game. New readers won't miss much, but those who read Siala trilogy will enjoy some Mythology Gags, Continuity Nods and Late Arrival Spoilers.


Many centuries ago the War of Power devastated the world of Hara, but failed to resolve the conflict between Heaven-powered Walkers and Hell-powered Necromancers. Both sides retreated to the opposite ends of the last habitable demon-infested continent and tried to mind their respective businesses. The last major conflict — The War of Necromancers, when southern necromancers and renegade ex-Walkers invaded the Walker-controlled northern Empire of Falcon — happened five centuries ago. Now The Damned invaded the Empire again, and this time they may win.

Caught in the crossfire are:

  • Luk and Ga-Nor, the only surviving soldiers from an imperial border fortress, tasked to deliver an important message to the Mother of Walkers.
  • Ness "Gray" and Layen "Weasel", a Battle Couple of retired assassins, nine years together and still madly in love. They want no part of the conflict, but nobody asks them.
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  • Shen, an enigmatic young medic who seems to have connections both among Walkers and in the criminal underworld. Sometimes he performs magic tricks no living person can perform, and next minute he may become as unmagical as any layman.
  • Tia "Typhoid", one of the Damned, a 500-something years old witch, who quickly develops a grudge against the latter three. She'd kill them on sight, but she needs them alive.

At a glance the cycle looks full of The Wheel of Time expys. The concept of channeling and weaving spells, super-powerful dark ancient mages, matriarchal magicians on the side of Light, even with their own White Tower, The Chosen One super-powerful magician, who cannot cast spells because there's no one to teach him except the enemies... It even suffered from Trilogy Creep, albeit not as severe. Yet, things aren't what they seem to be. The Walkers only care about personal power and allow the world to roll to its doom, the Damned are Well Intentioned Extremists trying to save the world and their necromancers sincerely want to help them, but cannot undo their ancestors' mistakes. Or maybe not. The creator of Hara seems to sympathize with goals of the Damned, if not their methods, but does not interfere. Anyway, the world seems to be doomed regardless of who wins, and only The Power of Love can save it. Of course, such suggestions are met with universal derision.


The cycle includes:

  • Prequel short stories Soul Eater and Price of Freedom, set over 30 and 9 years before the first novel.
  • Chasers of the Wind, published in English in summer 2014 (Wind in 2012 German version).
  • Wormwood Wind (Blitz in 2012 German version).
  • Reapers of the Wind (Donner in 2013 German version).
  • Sparks and Wind (Sturm in 2013 German version).

Contains examples of:

  • Action Bomb: Some necromancers like creating "fishes". It is a walking corpse covered by small scale-like pieces of metal, hence the name. It walks to a group of people and explodes, killing them with shrapnel. What's worse, when a powerful necromancer dies, "the breath of Abyss" starts raising nearby dead and some of them spontaneously become "fishes".
  • Action Duo: Luk and Ga-Nor.
  • Action Survivor: Luk, Rona, Al'ga, probably Rando. They all start as fairly competent, but totally outclassed and outnumbered.
  • All Myths Are True: Unless some Orwellian Retcon has been done. Which happens a lot.
    • Subverted, for example, with Je'arre claims to be the first inhabitants of Hara (Nirits are older, but don't bother to correct them), and the favored children of the creator (he seems to favor humans). Played straight when they call him Dancer and Thief.
  • All-Powerful Bystander: The Dancer. Unless he is bored or the world is in real trouble. Even then he does very little. Melot isn't much better. All he does is Walk The Earth preaching his code of conduct and providing a safe place in his cart for travelers who run into him. As for the war raging around him, he does nothing to stop it or help either side.
  • Ancient Artifact: Gift-extinguishing arrowheads and knife, the remnants of War of Power, made to kill magicians. Anything made by the Sculptor.
  • Anti-Hero:
    • Ness. Starts as Nominal Hero and Unreliable Narrator, a quintessential egotist wishing only to grab his money and run away and his home country may go to Abyss for all he cares. His only redeeming quality is obsessively loving Layen. Through flashbacks it's possible to piece how the war against A Nazi by Any Other Name and serving under corrupt Upper Class Twits gradually eroded an Ideal Hero material to Pragmatic Hero and eventually to a misanthropic killer for hire. As the story progresses, he ends up being forced to fight for Walkers and Empire. Still later, when he gets to choose between fleeing or joining either side, he chooses to fight not for Walkers, but against Damned. Because they are the greatest evil. In the end he's an Unscrupulous Hero.
    • Shen starts as more of a Classical Anti-Hero. With heroic intentions and quite gifted, but with nobody to teach him and even with nobody he can fully trust. Then he loses his remaining idealism, learns to use his gift and starts to implement his teacher's (and teachers's teachers's) dream by any means necessary, but not too dark. Pragmatic Hero.
    • Tia is more of a Villain Protagonist.
  • Archer Archetype: Ness. He stays dangerous even without a bow and at melee range, thanks to a throwing ax and knives.
  • The Atoner:
    • Leprosy tries to be one by torturing herself with shaf (a drink she hates) and refusing to heal her disfigured and crippled accomplices. She only succeeds in making every capable Damned hate her. This backfires when she tries to negotiate peace with the Tower of the Walkers.
    • Meanwhile, Ginora "Cholera" adopted a dying girl, healed her, shortening her own lifespan, raised her as her daughter, taught her everything she could about magic, gave her weapons to kill the Damned. Incidentally, this did more good to their cause, than all other actions of all Damned.
    • Tia "Typhoid" ends up teaching Shen and Rona. For purely selfish reasons, she claims.
  • Batman Gambit: Possibly with a bit of Thanatos Gambit. 500 years ago when Ginora "Cholera" volunteered for Suicide Mission to save other Damned, she planned to retreat to swamps, fake her death and start anew in another place and without Walkers or Damned getting in her way. She gave other Damned the data how to defeat the super-weapon of the Empire in case their next campaign is more successful. This information was altered, ensuring that if Damned don't stop their warmongering, they would be destroyed. She died in the swamps, but the rest of the plan did work 500 years later.
  • Battle Couple:
  • Beast Man: Yumi. Cannot speak properly, can run on fours, can pass as a cat or giant squirrel if he shuts up and doesn't show his hands. A very cute green giant squirrel (or cat) with excellent tracking abilities.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Common for things built by the Sculptor. He frequently made large halls even larger and he loved adding disproportionately large secret rooms inside seemingly solid walls.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Chronicles of Siala were translated by Andrew Bromfield. Chronicles of Hara weren't that lucky. For the most part the translation by Elinor Huntington is adequate, but some mistakes (and deliberate changes) are ridiculous.
    • At one point Ness explains to Whip's gang that Blazogs tried their best damming the area and now it's flooded and impassable, save for the highway. In the English translation this has become "The Blazogs have tried to dam it, but you can't get through." The former implies that groups of the Empire inhabitants tend to keep to themselves largely ignoring neighbor's interests, which is the case.
    • Everybody drinks either alcoholic "hot shaf" or alcohol-free "cold shaf", which are similar In Name Only. The former intoxicates, the latter invigorates. The distinction is lost in English translation.
    • Some names are translated, some are left untranslated. There seems no reason to loosely translate "Dog Grass" as "Dog Green", but leave nearby "Spruce Forest Ford" untranslated. Unless the translator didn't bother to use a dictionary. By the way, "Luk" means "onion" (or maybe "bow" as a weapon, but that doesn't fit him).
    • Luk's favorite expletive "Screw a toad" originally was more like "Burst your toad".
    • Averted by German translation by Christiane Pöhlmann. It often strays further from the original text word-for-word, but seems to convey the meaning better.
  • Body Surf / Grand Theft Me: A powerful and experienced Healer can transfer souls between bodies. Or a ghost to another body. Two of the Damned want Layen's body for themselves. When this stops being an option, Typhoid aims at Rona's body. In the end Layen takes over Rubeola. On a related note, if a ghost of a magician managed to stay in the world of living, it can take over a mad person's body. A Healer can help with this too.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Pehov loves this trope, to the point of Footnote Fever in early chapters of his novels or when a new area is introduced, but translations try to keep it to minimum.
  • Children Are Cruel: Played disturbingly straight for Pork — a 20-something mentally retarded shepherd.
  • Chosen One:
    • Shen, obviously. He's the first male Healer in a thousand years. He's bound to do something outstanding.
    • For some reason the creator of the world of Hara chooses Ness.
    • Subverted for people calling themselves "Elects" — "the chosen ones". This is just the necromancers' official name.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Luk. Just an ordinary lazy fat guard and borderline gambling addict. When the fortress gets stormed his survival seems to be sheer luck. Then he manages to hack through several zombies. He is absolutely useless when traveling through the forest. Then he surprises Ga-Nor by giving him a very detailed description of enemy patrols in the occupied village: routes, numbers, timetables, even hidden ambushes and possible unobserved paths. He got this all just by sitting on the same spot in bushes and watching. Then he spends some time defending another fortress, and again is among the few survivors despite fighting on the front line. Somewhere on his way he levels up. By the end of the second novel he is still no match for Ga-Nor, but they easily dispose of a large Nabator patrol (2 footmen against 7 horsemen). And then there was the stunt he pulled with a solar demon...
  • Cold Sniper: Ness, especially shortly before he met Layen. Burnt Souls are a whole race of those, combined with Snake People, I am a Humanitarian and a touch of Omnicidal Maniac.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Everybody. Of particular interest is Shen, who learned to use a bow and melee weapons because he couldn't rely on his Gift.
  • Continuity Nod: To Chronicles of Siala.
    • Valiostor language was spoken by first humans on Hara. It's Harold's native language.
    • "Alistan's flutes" are ancient rocks that are easy to defend against superior enemy numbers. They were named after Alistan's Last Stand.
    • The system of magic. The Dancer simplified it, leaving only 3 elements (or Houses): Power, Pain and Love.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The attack on Corunna. But not the way you expect. The defenders are greatly outnumbered, both in soldiers and magicians, the attackers bring all their remaining armies. Then defenders activate the Spike and burn every group of enemies within view. After that it's just chasing and finishing the few survivors.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: When we get to see necromancers' POW, their art is no more evil than its practitioner allows it to be. On the other hand necromancers do believe they get their power from Abyss, Hara version of Hell, with sinners and demons. Actually it's The House of Pain, which isn't pleasant either. And it seems to offer much more ways to use Human Resources.
    • Soul Eater short story states that Walkers have significantly greater direct combat capability, while Necromancers are shifted more towards dealing with otherworldly creatures. Walkers inability to deal with those resulted in creation of the Red Order.
  • Dark Fantasy: After the End, Grey-and-Gray Morality, The Magic Goes Away. And even if the heroes manage to change the world for the better, most of them won't see the results in their lifetime. Not much emphasis on Dung Ages, though, even compared to other Pehov's works.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Ginora and Tia, or so the Dancer hints.
  • Decapitated Army:
    • Some Damned bitterly admit that their cause was effectively lost when they lost their leader Cherkana during the Dark Revolt.
    • Damned as a group lost coherence when their unofficial leader Retar and then the most capable magician Ginora were killed during the War of Necromancers. Tal'ki holds them together, but she cannot replace the former leaders and everybody pursues their personal goals rather than common ones.
    • With all Damned dead or missing Nabator-Sdis alliance falls apart and their invasion armies are easily beaten by what remains of the Empire army.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Rovan "Consumption". He loved his brother ("but not with a brotherly love"), but his brother loved a woman and died saving her. He never was very stable and the loss drove him mad. What was worse, he knew the woman was too strong for him to kill. Now the only fun in his life are murders, tortures and collecting dead bodies, with occasional rape.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Tough as nails Ness. To the point that in Price of Freedom he murdered a corrupt officer for selling supplies to the enemy, and claimed to have done it for money.
  • Elemental Powers: Walkers and Embers get power from Blessed Gardens, where righteous souls go, necromancers get power from Abyss, where demons and sinners reside. Only the Dancer says this is a misconception and magic is based on 3 Houses: Power, Pain and Love, which mages of Hara consider just convenient abstract symbols.
  • The Empire: Perhaps an inversion. The Empire ruled by Falcon family (no other name is given for it in the books, just "the Empire") is more like The Good Kingdom. Harsh, corrupt, unjust, affected by the stagnating Tower of Walkers, but still better than any viable alternative. Its arch-enemy, kingdom of Nabator, is more of a Vestigial Empire bent on revenge.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Rovan manages to seize a part of Al'sgara he gathers all the surviving defenders (less than a hundredth of their starting number) and frees them as a reward for bravery. Note that Rovan is insane, he tortures people for fun, and he just sacrificed many thousands of his soldiers to demons for being unreliable. Yet those defenders impressed him.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Everybody finds Je'arre obnoxious.
    • Burnt Souls generally view other races as potential food.
    • Je'arre and Burnt Souls hate each other passionately. Because Burnt Souls are former Je'arre, who revolted against their god, got cursed and transformed and drove the rest of Je'arre away.
    • Elves and humans hate each other passionately. Elves are arrogant, despise humans, view them as inferior, yet keep losing wars and lands. They vent their frustration by massacring civilians far away from battle zones. Humans admire elvish architecture and ability to understand forest, but would rather see them all dead. It's hinted that the conflict started when the refugees from the War of Power started encroaching on elvish lands.
    • Blazogs are considered dumb, because they have trouble learning other languages. All Blazogs in the novels are Funny Foreigners; then again the ones who leave their swamps are abnormal by Blazog standards. People with military background who saw Blazogs in battle have nothing but respect to them.
    • Surprisingly, despite the numerous wars there's little enmity between humans from Nabator or Sdis and Empire.
  • Fantastic Slur:
    • You may call Ga-Nor's friend a toad, but if you call his friend a Blazog you'll loose some teeth. (Unless the friend is a Blazog.)
    • Je'arre get various bird nicknames like "chickadees", Blazogs are "leeches". Jola and Ktatak allow each other and close friends to call them that.
    • The slurs for elves are insulting plays on "highborn".
  • Fantasy Jews: Je'arre, to a degree. They call themselves the chosen people of the creator. They were banished from their desert homeland, they are greedy traders and well-recognized artisans, everybody dislikes them, at one point there's a strong chance of Je'arre pogroms (entirely their leaders' fault). When they get a chance to get a chunk of land they could call their own for good and all, they name it "The Promised Region" and defend it ferociously. Oh, and their noses are huge.
  • Fish People: Blazogs, though they are, technically, toads. Quarter-ton humanoid toads with retractable poisonous spines, at least the males of the warrior caste. One interesting side of their Bizarre Alien Biology is that all young Blazogs are female, and only with age some of them become males.
  • Giant Spider: They spit glue and hunt in mated pairs. What's worse, if a wild forest has no giant spiders, then much more lethal elves are near.
  • A God Am I: Many of powerful magicians tend to look down on non-magicians. The Damned, being stronger than most and far more capable than anybody, look down on everybody. But Rovan "Consumption" stands out even among them. He absolutely loves killing, torturing and brainwashing the weaker. Meeting him makes Ness join the war against the Damned.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: All of Je'arre have feathery wings of different colors, but the white-winged support the necromancers.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: One side lets the world stagnate and whither to stay true to their principles and maintain order. Their enemies would rather kill many thousands in hope to change the world for the better.
  • Healing Hands: Shen's most reliable spell by the start of the story. To be more precise, the only spell he was able to apply more than once, everything else usually failed.
  • Heroic Fantasy: Probably no, but the fate of the world has been decided by two epic battles, four duels and two shots in the back.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • Ashan, the apprentice demonologist. The pattern he had drawn was imperfect and rather than let the demon continue his rampage through the city, he stepped inside it to correct the flow of energy. He did kill the demon and he had a chance to survive, but he wasn't strong enough.
    • During the penultimate battle Gis, the demonologist magister, causes the volcano to erupt and fire spirits to attack the enemy army. He calculated this precisely and knew he had no chance to survive the eruption. Seems to be a common theme for demonologists.
    • Layen fought the Damned and lured them away from the place where her husband Ness was locked.
    • During the War of Necromancers the army of Ginora "Leprosy" provided a distraction (read: attacked unprepared cities and had drawn superior Empire force) to let the rest of the Damned armies escape. Neither Ginora, nor any of her people survived.
  • High Fantasy: Close, but subverted. Not very epic and Evil Overlords have good intentions, they're just very bitter.
  • House of Broken Mirrors: Alenari rei Vallion, a beautiful noblewoman, received disfiguring scars during the Dark Revolt. (For them she was nicknamed "Pox".) The only capable healer, Tal'ki, refused to help her. Alenari had a mask crafted from a precious alloy. She breaks every mirror that reflects her new face, earning her the title "Executioner of Mirrors". Her hatred is so strong, that she would rather break mirrors than save her life. On a related note: she is rumored to kill every beautiful woman she meets, which is probably untrue.
  • Humans Are Special: They are the best magicians of Hara. Other than them only elves can use the Spark, but humans are far better. Because the creator of the world decided so.
  • I Have Many Names: With their original given names and disease-themed nicknames every Damned has half a dozen titles or more. Some are poetic, like "Daughter of Night", some reflect their greatest achievement, like "Murderer of Sorita", some show a characteristic quirk, like "Executioner of Mirrors". Tia is frequently forced to read the start of her list. Because nobody recognizes her in Pork's body.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Since Harold is alive and well and still looks middle-aged despite thousands of years, you can easily guess how Chronicles of Siala ended for him.
  • Lethal Joke Character: Yumi. At first he's just a shy cat-sized Ridiculously Cute Critter covered with green fur, who incessantly babbles something about a dog. Gbabak claims to understand him, but he must have gone crazy from too much time locked in the cell with Yumi. A hundred pages later Yumi turns out to be a decent tracker. Later he proves to be able to eavesdrop on people and retell everything to Gbabak, who can retell it in a language heroes understand. Still later he makes himself a blowgun and demonstrates just how deadly he can be, and even kills a necromancer who targeted Ness. And he's good at finding safe way through swamps.
  • Light Is Not Good: Walkers and Embers believe they get their power from "Blessed Gardens", their version of Heaven. Actually they connect to The House of Power, which isn't good or evil by itself. The evil comes from never-ending power games with chronic backstabbing.
  • Living Legend: Gray, the human assassin, who during the war routinely infiltrated elvish forest and killed high-ranking elves. Elves claimed to have killed him at least thrice, but he always came back. He disappeared when the peace treaty was signed, either retired, got executed for murdering a traitor with connections, or went searching for an assassin (who almost wrecked the peace talks) and disappeared. Actually, there were four of them, and elves did kill three thanks to human traitors. The fourth one was Ness "Gray", who barely avoided the execution and decided to disappear after completing his task. He usually claims to have no relation with "the other Gray".
  • Louis Cypher: Leigh-Ron "Plague". Used to be called "Lightbringer". Became lame after being literally thrown out of the Tower of the Walkers. Now he is the most efficient military leader of the Damned. Though he is not their leader.
  • The Magic Goes Away: The Damned aren't necessarily stronger than Walkers or Elects, they just learned in better conditions of 500 years ago. The spark of the world is fading, because it has been artificially divided. And The Power of Love has been totally forgotten.
  • The Magocracy: Sdis, ruled by necromancers ("Elects") and the Damned ("Superiors"). They seem to be the most level-headed and progressive people, despite widespread use of Human Sacrifice and their brand of magic being a dead end. Averted for the Empire, where Walkers have enormous authority and can make anybody listen to them (because Might Makes Right), but in the end are subordinate to secular government. Other countries have few if any magicians and for them magocracy is out of question.
  • Mama Bear: Layen's stepmother in an odd postmortem way. When Layen meets Damned, implanted weaves activate and Ginora's memories and reflexes may take over. Ginora foresaw that Damned will probably try to take away Layen's spark or body. This has probably cost her several months if not years of her short life.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Tseira Asani, the current Mother of Walkers. She is partly responsible for many troubles of Ness and Layen in the first novel and previous nine years. In short: she allowed Layen to avoid being caught when she first came to Al'sgara; then she provoked some gang to target the best archer for Mols to assign Layen to guard Ness; all to create an archer-magician team so that she could hire them to kill her competitor when the position of Mother became vacant. When she decided to find Layen's teacher and use her knowledge for herself, she told Mols to suggest to Joch to put a price on their heads and then arrested them for killing Joch.
    • Tal'ki "Leprosy". More of an Informed Ability. She did manage to hold the Damned together for centuries. She did start secret peace talks with the Tower. Some odd coincidences in the novels are ascribed to her, but this time a different person set them in motion:
    • Mitifa "Rubeola".
      • During the War of Necromancers allowed herself to get in trouble, forcing Retar and Tia to come to save her. Retar got killed as planned, though Tia survived.
      • At the start of the current war claimed to have found a clue to Sculptor's papers on teleporters, splitting Damned and sending them in different directions.
      • Won over Tal'ki's necromancers, read mail between Tal'ki and Tower and used it to make other Damned execute Tal'ki for treason.
      • It was her failure to persuade Sorita or catch her off guard that provoked the fight, her murder and then the Dark Revolt and the War of Necromancers. Did she honestly try her best? Or did she want Sorita's death so much, she failed deliberately? No answer is given.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: After the End of a Magitek civilization.
  • Medieval Stasis: There seem to be no changes in non-magic technologies in a millennium or two. And magic has been in decline all that time. From magicians being unable to learn complex spells of old, to a Magitek sewer falling into disrepair.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard:
    • Ginora to Layen: kindled both her Light and Dark Sparks, started to teach and died from old wounds, leaving her with the dream of creating Grey School where both sides of the gift are taught.
    • Layen to Shen: kindled his Dark Spark, started to teach and got killed, leaving the task of creating Grey School to him. As well as a quest for vengeance.
    • Retar to Tia in backstory: he brought her to the dark side, taught her everything he knew, then died saving her, leaving her with their dream of Grey School. Her road to redemption starts when she finally admits she failed him.
    • Tia to Shen and Rona: continued where the previous teacher left, incidentally rediscovered her humanity, explained how previous attempts to create Grey School failed, then got killed.
    • Very odd inversion for Al'ga and a nameless old necromancer woman. First Al'ga killed her, then the necromancer started haunting her dreams with variations of their duel where Al'ga had each time to invent a new way to defeat the enemy. This Training from Hell made Al'ga the most versatile and dangerous Walker alive. Then the necromancer said she had taught her all she knew and finally departed for afterlife.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Not that it's necessarily bad. After having to share a body with a village fool Tia begins to feel emotions she hasn't felt for centuries. And eventually re-evaluates her life.
  • Mindlink Mates: Ness and Layen, close enough. There's nothing special about Ness, but Layen is the world's only telepath (she can't read thoughts, only messages deliberately aimed at her).
  • The Necrocracy: Possible in Sdis, in theory. Some top-sphere necromancers choose to become liches and continue to live that way. Some don't like the idea and prefer to die of old age. The latter includes the current ruler of Sdis, Gafur, because of the events in Soul Eater. It is directly stated that liches are outlawed and hunted vigorously, yet Damned discuss the possibility that Gafur's successor may become a lich.
  • Never Found the Body:
    • Ginora "Cholera" in the backstory.
    • Alenari "Pox". Everybody reasonably assumed the body sunk deep underground and probably got destroyed with all the destructive spells being flung. Very much alive in the epilogue.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: A necromancer spell can create a very localized version, when undead are fighting the living and the fresh corpses join the undead army. It's quite hard, few necromancers can control more than ten bodies at once, and even for the strongest the limit is around 30-40 bodies. But when a strong necromancer or Damned dies, all his powers are converted to such spells and nearby dead start to rise spontaneously and attack every non-necromancer. As one character puts it: "They don't kill necromancers in Sdis. More trouble than it's worth." For Damned the affected area may span hundreds of leagues, approaching regional Zombie Apocalypse. And it isn't limited to just walking dead: a few of them may become "fishes" — see Action Bomb above. This goes on until they run out of energy (weeks or more) or until a necromancer puts them to rest. Cutting heads off works too.
  • Noble Savage: Ga-Nor is an Arctic barbarian serving in imperial army. Yumi is for all intents and purposes a fur-covered pygmy hunter who left his Hungry Jungle to see the bigger world. Gbabak is a toad man, a retired officer of the imperial army, but he keeps insisting that he's civilized, just unfamiliar with local customs.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Usually in-universe Artifact Titles:
    • The Sculptor. His talents probably included the ability to make beautiful statues, but none appear in novels. (Unless the Emperor's Spike is one). His most remembered creations are buildings and fortresses, Walkers and Damned also remember of his magical research, especially teleporters.
    • The Emperor's Spike or the Spike of Corunna. (A spike as in "a spike of wheat". In the original Russian there's also a pun on "colossus".) Its descriptions are deliberately vague. It is either a statue or a building in the capital city Corunna, it's so tall it's visible tens of leagues from Corunna, it is very beautiful, it's a weapon only the emperor can control, it has never been used.
    • The Walkers. Originally this meant Light magicians with enough finesse to control teleporters — Paths of Petals — and able to walk through them and guide other people. The teleporters ceased functioning 5 centuries ago, but the name is still used. They had a different name back before Paths of Petals were created, but nobody bothers to remember it.
    • So-called Healers. Yes, they can heal with magic, and if a patient is alive, a Healer can fix anything. But where Healers truly shine, is creative new ways of using magic, bordering on Crazy Awesome Mad Scientists. The Sculptor was a Healer too.
    • The Steps of the Hangman. The "steps" part is understandable for the mountain pass, but even the Damned have no idea why "hangman" — they can't recall any noteworthy hanging in the area's history.
    • The Dancer. If you haven't read Chronicles of Siala, it's hard to figure his dance is a jig.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Everything the Sculptor made. He was such a genius, he needed no prototypes, and all his known documents were somehow destroyed. Because he was using both light and dark Spark and Walkers want to keep the fact secret. Which raises the value of any surviving documents.
  • Not Quite Dead: Tia "Typhoid", after the fight with Layen, Shen and Ness. She becomes a ghost controlling dead bodies or a dim-witted shepherd. Later Layen becomes a similar ghost.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Mitifa "Rubeola". Very convincingly pretends to be the dumbest and most useless of the Damned. See Manipulative Bastard above.
  • Our Elves Are Better / Screw You, Elves!: The "better" part is averted or subverted at every opportunity.
    • Their kingdom is a Vestigial Empire with every House plotting against others. Del'be (their king) sees the advantages of peace, but the clans of professional executioners living far from the battle zone wouldn't have it.
    • They consider bows a weapon unbecoming to men. Only women are allowed to use them, which means shorter range and lighter arrows. Crossbows are OK, but their rate of fire is much lower.
    • They seem to be the ones attuned to nature like nobody else. At one point an elf demonstrates a superhuman ability to "listen" to the forest sensing events miles away. Then a Badass Normal human beats him at his own game.
    • Despite centuries of decline elvish magic is still inferior to human magic.
    • They are being ravaged by human diseases, but are too arrogant to use human medical knowledge.
    • They are A Nazi by Any Other Name like orcs of Siala, but they aren't even Wicked Cultured. The coup in Price of Freedom is poorly thought-out and executed. Their talent for inventive torture is an Informed Ability, they seem to only go for quantity. It's obvious why Hara has only elves, but no orcs, but absence of evil cousins seems to be to elves' disadvantage.
    • Their ancient architecture is nice. But they don't seem to build anything new.
  • Physical God: Gods of Hara are quite real. We get to meet the creator of Hara — The Dancer, who calls himself Harold — and the chief god of The Empire — Melot, who calls himself brother Lerek.
  • Portal Network / Teleporters and Transporters: The Paths of Petals created by the Sculptor. Very probably a reimplementation of some ancient weave. Each set of petals looks like a mosaic of a flower on a stone floor surrounded by yard-high curved stone fangs. A Walker steps onto the petals and imagines where she wants to go, then she and everybody on the petals are moved to the petals in the place she imagined. An empire-wide network has been "grown" when the Sculptor was alive, but none more after he died. During the Dark Revolt the Mother of Walkers supposedly "put the petals to sleep" to prevent the rebels from escaping. She was killed, and nobody has ever figured how to wake the petals. Actually, they were switched off by the rebels' leader in case Mother calls for reinforcements. She also got killed, and neither Walkers nor Damned know the truth. Since then most Petals were destroyed, only a few hundred remain.
  • Posthumous Character: Kavalar the Sculptor, thanks to excerpt from his biography written by a god. Ginora and to a lesser extent other conspirators through flashbacks.
  • The Power of Love: Kavalar the Sculptor wrote a lot about how powerful love is, but nothing about how to harness that power. Probably he never did it. Everybody discards that bit as useless. Yet the heroes unwittingly manage to use it several times. Only in the end the Dancer explains everything to Ness. To teach the gray spark well the teacher has to sincerely love somebody. Ginora loved her stepdaughter to the point of shortening her life to save her, Layen loved Ness and frequently risked her life for him, Shen started teaching Rona after they fell in love... This also applies to the rebels before the Dark Revolt. The Damned, on the contrary, grew too bitter, wallowing in their grievances too much, the sparks they kindled were flawed, if not outright dark.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The Damned were in their twenties to sixties when they learned the power of the dark side; five centuries later they don't look any older. Leprosy, the oldest of them, has just started to feel the effects of old age, but the rest have many more centuries to live.
  • Red Shirt: Too many to list. For example, of all borderguards introduced in the first chapter only Luk and Ga-Nor make it to the chapter's end. It's a no-holds-barred magical war, where not burning everybody on sight is already merciful.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified / The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The Dark Revolt started as an attempt of peaceful parley that quickly deteriorated into a bloody fight with hundreds of dead on both sides. The War of Necromancers was many times bloodier and the Damned lost despite a wide popular support. On the contrary, previous two coups one organized by the Sculptor and one by his enemies were so quiet, hardly any non-Walkers knew when they happened, and all deaths (if any) were passed for natural causes.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Some of Je'arre, the winged people, joined the Damned and attacked the imperial army from behind, because they were afraid Empire was going to forcefully relocate them. But their ancient enemy — Burnt Souls — were already working for the Damned. When the conflict started, Consumption allowed Burnt Souls to kill and eat as many Je'arre as they wanted. And then killed some more For the Evulz. And then sacrificed many thousands of them to demons of Abyss to use a short path to Al'sgara and to get demon larvae to use against Al'sgara. Traitorous Je'arre cannot even desert, the clans that stayed loyal to the Empire will massacre them.
  • Save The Day Walk Away: The Grey School played a crucial role in defeating the Damned. But when the war is over, they would be hunted as apostates. They cannot stay in the Empire.
  • Shown Their Work: The Siala trilogy was frequently criticized for its unrealistic depiction of crossbows, all the more jarring compared to the accurate handling of melee weapons and firearms. In Hara novels we see frequent stringning/unstringing of bows; bowstrings getting damaged by water; thorough aversion of Improbable Aiming Skills, Bottomless Magazines (not only the supply is limited, the arrows and bolts are also heavy), No "Arc" in "Archery" (both gravity and wind are taken into account) and Annoying Arrows (although Only a Flesh Wound is sometimes played straight, thanks to Healing Hands). Also Burned Souls archers, whose bows approach RL sniper rifles in range and power, work in pairs much like RL snipers.
  • Snake People: Shay-za'ns or "Burned Souls". Upper torso of a human without ears and nose, short snake tail below. The front cover illustration from Chasers of the Wind is accurate enough. They don't crawl, they fly with magic, albeit no higher than 2-3 yards above ground. Desert dwellers, unsurpassed archers (of Cold Sniper variety), who like to eat sentient creatures, especially Je'arre. According to legends they used to be winged people Je'arre, but revolted against their god, the Dancer, and he took away their wings and souls; they die the final death and don't go to Blessed Gardens or Abyss. Considering the Dancer's general disposition, one has to wonder what the Abyss did they have to do to anger him. Or maybe that wasn't the Dancer at all.
  • Sssssnaketalk: The few Blazogs that can speak human languages tend to replace guttural sounds with "kv" (one could say they quack). Thus "game" becomes "kvame" and "can" becomes "kvan". Somehow, they manage to correctly pronounce their own names like Ktatak or Gbabak.
  • Start of Darkness: Flashbacks about the preparations for Dark Revolt. There was a chance that the reformers would win the elections, but they were the people who got the job done, without enough experience in political games. After that there was a chance to discuss it all peacefully and at least get the permission post factum. After that the rebels tried to imprison the few most rigid leaders and hope to talk sense into the rest. After that they had a chance to kill all their opponents in the Tower and hope the rest would obey (this one almost succeeded). After that they only could start an all-out war. The experience changed them so much, they no longer fit their own ideals.
  • Stop Worshipping Me: The Dancer is either lazy or takes freedom of will seriously, therefore he doesn't interfere. When somebody is persistent, he refers them to Melot.
  • Stealth Expert: Ness is an archer. Ga-Nor is a scout, good at quietly disposing of ambushes. He trained Luk too.
  • Tarot Troubles: There are no Tarot cards on Hara, and their equivalent uses mind-bogglingly convoluted rules nobody bothers to explain. Layen and Ness each get a reading from Jola, then Ness starts seeing cards in his dreams. Of course, each time this foreshadows something.
  • Theme Naming: Empire nicknamed the Damned after diseases: Rubeola, Plague, Delirium, Consumption, Cholera, Pox, Leprosy, Typhoid.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted with Rona, Healers can cure mental scars just as well as physical ones, and even Damned can do it. Played straight with Damned — in 5 centuries they never bothered to heal each other. Maybe they were that vain, maybe they didn't trust each other enough.
  • Trilogy Creep: Planned as duology. Ended up as 4 1/3 novels.
  • Took a Level in Badass: All younger heroes:
    • Luk starts the novel as a fairly competent footman trained to defend a fortress, but little more than that. In a few months he routinely ambushes and defeats mounted parties. (Albeit, together with Ga-Nor, but 2 footmen against 7 mounted knights aren't good odds no matter who your partner is.)
    • Shen starts barely able to heal and never sure if his next spell would work or fizzle. By the end he's on his way to surpass The Sculptor.
    • Rona starts as a capable young Walker, but no match for Damned, or even top-tier necromancers. In the end she can hold her ground against almost anybody, and even make them retreat.
    • Her sister Al'ga becomes just as dangerous, and more importantly, she manages to stay untainted and not afraid of Walkers' checks.
    • Layen doesn't seem to have progressed as much, but revealing all those hidden memories and living as a ghost attached to Ness and then forcing a Damned out of her body probably counts for something.
    • Ness is already a master archer and expert woodsman. His progress is about using his expertise for the good of others rather than staying away from the conflict.
    • No changes for Ga-Nor, Gbabak and Yumi. They are already good.
  • Unequal Rites: There's an inborn Gift called Spark, which can be trained in several incompatible ways, there are secondary inborn talents, that can enhance the spark in different ways, and then there are wizards, who have no gift, but still achieve much through training:
    • First, there are Walkers, who were born with a Spark, get their power from Blessed Gardens (heaven) and are able to weave complex spells. Their name comes from the ability to control teleporters, even though they were switched off 5 centuries ago and nobody figured how to switch them back on. Almost all Walkers are women, unless they are Healers.
    • Next to them there are Embers, who also were born with a Spark and connect to Blessed Gardens. They lack Walkers' finesse, but may surpass them in brute power; more importantly they can share their energy with Walkers, making their Spark brighter. Embers can be of either gender.
    • Healers are a very special kind of Walkers, who happen to be good at healing. Female Healers can use the same weaves other Walkers use, but they have their own, Healer-specific weaves, unaccessible to other Walkers. Out of many thousands of people with a spark there's one man with Healer talent (as well as a Walker). Most weaves of male Healers are drastically different from anything else. But what makes Healers really important, especially male ones, is their predisposition to invent new weaves. The last male Healer was Kavalar "Sculptor".
    • All gifted children born in the Empire are forced to join the Tower of Walkers.
    • On the opposite pole are Elects — the necromancers of Sdis. They are also born with a spark, but get power from Abyss (hell). As the name implies, they can create zombies and become liches, but again their gift is more versatile. Gifted people born in Sdis and neighboring countries can only learn to use the dark spark.
    • Gray magicians are the ones able to use both sources. When the world was created, all magicians were gray and there were many of them. But they started arguing which side was better — Light or Dark. The resulting war devastated half the world and split the magic in two incompatible schools. Since then the power of magicians and their numbers gradually decrease, save for a brief resurgence when the Sculptor was alive. By the start of the story the six surviving Damned were the only gray magicians and for some reason they had trouble teaching anybody to use both sparks. Oh, and gray magicians age so slowly, none of them died from old age.
    • Wizards (or demonologists, or House of Scarlet, or The Scarlet Order) are born without a spark, but use rituals, elixirs and drawn symbols. Considering the parallels with shamanism from Chronicles of Siala they might be able to rival the power of people with spark. But they use their powers exclusively to kill or drive away demons coming from Abyss. There's a joke that with due diligence even a monkey can learn to master demons.
  • Verbal Tic:
    • Luk's expletive "Screw a toad" (in the original and in German translation it's more like "Burst your toad").
    • Yumi's nonsensical phrase about a dog.
    • Whenever Ness needs to shoot somebody dangerous, in conditions far from perfect and to do it fast, he mumbles a poem about a little pig.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Luk's "Screw a toad!" Probably. What else could it be?
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Actually, some means block the path to utopia.
  • Weaksauce Weakness:
    • Most demons are weakened by water.
    • Alenari's hatred of mirrors. To the point that she would rather break mirrors reflecting her face than fight for her life.
  • Winged Humanoids: Je'arre. Not Bird People, but often called that in-story. With ugly faces and small thin bodies, possibly to justify their flight. (On the other hand, their close relatives Burnt Souls have no wings and fly with magic.) Very definitely not angels, but with a touch of Space Jews, see Fantasy Jews above.
  • World of Snark: Possibly because all its gods we've seen (both Dancer and Melot) are Deadpan Snarkers.
    Melot teaches us to forgive our enemies. Especially the ones already dead.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mitifa "Rubeola" got her name for mass murder of ten-year-olds. She later claimed that was Delirium's order, but there's no way to check if she told the truth.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Apparently, top Walkers of old clung either to their principles or to the authority they already had too much to learn the dark spark.

The hurricane doesn't extinguish all sparks.
It may turn some into the flame.

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