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Literature / Witchell: A Symphony

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Though he'd been awake for hours, it was still much to early to deal with Lyvance. In fact, it would still be too early to deal with Lyvance if he didn't make an appearance until eight in the evening. It would be too early if they encountered each other any sooner than sometime next week. No matter how curious Tavin was regarding Emmaliss's and Lyvance's sudden appearance, he wasn't curious enough to linger where Lyvance might find him. He knew his curiosity would be sated, and his relative peace shattered. There was no reason to hasten either event.
Witchell: A Symphony, Chapter Six
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Witchell: A Symphony is a Deconstruction of the Urban Fantasy genre, albeit with no classic werewolves or vampires. (The book hints at an explanation for such, but never provides it directly.) There is however, a great deal of magic, manners and intrigue, despite most of the characters fighting gamely against saving the world.


This book provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Amelia is an accomplished fencer.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: The more any of the Witchell's don't want to talk about something, the more formal and archaic their speech gets. A key admission from Lyvance is dressed in a particularly euphemistic style (probably to Get Crap Past the Radar.)
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: The contents of the closet upstairs, and also, the formal clothes of the mages.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Nicknames for mage children. More mature characters seem to go by out-dated but modern names, though historical characters seem to go by more fanciful monikers that are like the nicknames acquired in childhood. It appears to depend on the 'style' of the time.
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  • Becoming the Mask: Tavin tried to leave his life as a “Squib” behind and take on a mask of “normal” but he ultimately failed miserably.
  • Blood Magic: Shown in excruciating detail, slightly squicksome.
  • Camp Gay: Subverted, Ben is a Drag Queen. But he also seems to know quite a bit about keeping older cars running.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: Emmaliss was prepared to be the Empress, until the realm fell apart. Now she's trying to adjust to being merely well-off and at leisure.
  • Cool Car: Claude's Rolls Royce and Lyvance's Alfa Romeo. For some, Tavin's Buick might count, as may the vintage Vespa scooter. Ben's Volvo, the Honda and Amelia's clunker, however, don't.
  • Cool Crown: The Crown of the Lady Empress.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Lyance's dancing and Amelia's fencing.
  • Chekhov's News: Balled up in the kitchen trash. Too bad Tavin disregards it as actual garbage.
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  • Duet Bonding: it's strongly suggested that Tavin not only prefers this, but perceives music as emotions and even physical gestures, and therefore, this is THE way to his heart.
  • (Almost) Fatal Flaw: As Lyvance puts it, Tavin is usually the direct object in sentences, meaning that he lets things happen to him. This apathy nearly gets Ben killed and endangers Tavin's own life. Twice.
  • Femme Fatale: Margy's plans hinge on this. too bad she's aged out of the role
  • Foreshadowing: Everywhere.
  • Functional Magic: Witchell Hill is indicated to have quite a few 'standing' spells that allow the servants, were there any, to access magic spells that make their jobs and lives easier.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Witchells are heavily implied to harbor an ability to borrow other people's youth, and they have been pulling the strings for centuries. However it looks to outsiders, they actually go against their own desires for the greater good.
  • Humans Are White: Played Straight, but deliberately an Invoked Trope: Amelia is shocked by how white and European mages are, and Claude kindly explains the horrible history that makes this the case. However, it's left to reader interpretation as to whether there are other mage societies left in remote locations.
  • Magic Music: duh.
  • Magic Versus Science: Averted. Lyvance drives a new car with no ill effects, and Tavin uses a laptop computer. If anything, magic is treated as completely compatible with science by those who understand it.
  • Meaningful Echo: Ben's reprise of Coco's speech.
  • Not What It Looks Like: After attacking an overzealous school administrator (it makes sense in context) Tavin throws up from the stress at a local gas station. On Monday morning, while wearing very awkward clothing. He is decidedly not hungover.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Par for the course, Tavin doesn't really seem to realize he has a thing for corsets.
  • Official Couple: Someone should tell Ben that he's part of one of these...
  • Oh, Crap!: Amelia thinks she can beat Lyvance because she has a magical sword that remembers every fight. Unfortunately, Lyvance has a talent for controlling the actions of other people. Tavin and Claude have a moment of “Oh Crap” when they realize there is likely nothing they can do to stop what will be a grisly, horrible fight to the death.
  • Old, Dark House: Subverted. Witchell Hill is in various states of repair and probably looks like this to outsiders (Ben implies it), but to Tavin, it's his house and there is nothing old, creepy or dark about it.
  • One-Hour Work Week: Subverted with Tavin. He's living on a diminished trust fun, teaches cello to high school students and plays in the symphony. The bulk of the story takes place in September before he has a lot of students and before the symphony's season starts in earnest. Aversion with Ben – he's busy until he loses his job and his school leaves him a lurch.
  • Parental Abandonment: Subverted, averted and played straight. Tavin's mother was killed in a freak accident, his father committed suicide out of grief, leaving Tavin to be raised by his much older brother. Ben's father is an unknown quantity, but his mother died of cancer when Ben was in his teens. Amelia's mother is too wrapped up in planning her wedding to pay attention to her daughter, but the main subversion is that the characters are in their early twenties, making parents somewhat superfluous.
  • Power Glows: Well, Tavin's little cleaning bees certainly do.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Subverted – the Underworks are in nearly inoperable condition.
  • Refusal of the Call: Lyvance and Tavin both do this. Lyvance by 'dying' and Tavin by barricading himself in his house. Unfortunately, the Call (and everyone else important) Knows Where They Live because the Witchells have lived in the same house for 150 years.
  • Reluctant Hero: Tavin, in droves.
  • Screw Destiny: Tavin's attitude. See You Can't Fight Fate” below. In the end he manages to warp destiny just enough to avoid the worst of it.
  • Shipper on Deck: Lyvance and Amelia. Later on, Tavin.
  • Shout-Out: Nice and mostly subtle.
  • Spot of Tea: Tavin is an ardent adherent to the fixall properties of tea.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors: The Witchells are, and always have been the leaders of the Sanguinarians (not to be confused with Vampires) since they formed and have worn the 'old colors' since the civil war (implied to be some centuries prior).
  • Take That!: The author gets an affectionate dig in at romance novels.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: The closet upstairs at Witchell Hill and possibly the wardrobe Claude buys Amelia.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: A good chunk of the foreshadowing in the book comes from the classical pieces assigned to each chapter. Good luck!
  • Voice Types: Potentially the only example of vocal tropes in literature. Played mostly straight, but since the reader cannot 'hear' the book like an opera, the characters vocal types are usually suggested through the instrument they play.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Tavin knows this. He says so in the very first chapter. However you can kick and scream all the way to your destiny. Which he does.

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