Follow TV Tropes


Literature / World of the Five Gods
aka: Chalion

Go To
The gods have no hands in this world but ours. If we fail Them, where then can They turn?
— Ingrey kin Wolfcliff, in The Hallowed Hunt

Three loosely linked novels and twelve tightly-connected self-published works by Lois McMaster Bujold set in a reasonably historically accurate counterpart to medieval Europe, with a pantheon of five gods (the Father, Mother, Daughter, Son, and Bastard) — fairly activist gods, but ones who are incapable of acting directly on the physical world, requiring them to work through willing humans.

In publication order:

  • Novels:
    • The Curse of Chalion (the Daughter's book)
    • Paladin of Souls (the Bastard's book, direct sequel to Curse)
    • The Hallowed Hunt (the Son's book)
  • The Penric Stories (about a sorcerer of the Bastard and his demon)
    • Penric's Demon
    • Penric and the Shaman
    • Penric's Mission
    • Mira's Last Dance
    • Penric's Fox (interquel set after Penric and the Shaman)
    • The Prisoner of Limnos
    • The Orphans of Raspay
    • The Physicians of Vilnoc
    • Masquerade in Lodi (interquel set after Penric's Fox)
    • The Assassins of Thasalon
    • Knot of Shadows
    • Demon Daughter

The series as a whole won the Hugo Award for Best Series in 2018; individual works have also been nominated for and won several awards:

  • The Curse of Chalion won the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel, Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.
  • Paladin of Souls won the Hugo Award and Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.
  • The Hallowed Hunt was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel.
  • Penric's Demon and Penric and the Shaman were nominated for Hugo Awards for Best Novella.

    open/close all folders 

This series as a whole contains examples of:

    World of the Five Gods 
  • All Are Equal in Death: Almost every soul is picked up by one of the gods at their death, regardless of status or faith, and which god is shown in a miracle at their funeral. This is explored in the third book, where certain souls are shown to be impossible for the gods to pick up, and the trouble is about how to make them pickable again. The Assassins of Thasalon and Knot of Shadows feature characters that the gods actively refuse to accept, sundering them.
  • Anachronic Order: The overall timeline of the books doesn't correspond to publication order, and within the Penric series, several stories have been inserted into the timeline. In-universe timeline order would be Hunt, the Penric stories (with Penric's Fox and Masquerade in Lodi placed after Penric and the Shaman), then Curse and Paladin. However, each individual book generally takes place in order.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Most souls are taken up by the appropriate god upon death, and the gods offer a small miracle at each person's funeral rites to confirm just Who took the soul up. When a soul isn't taken up, it's Serious Business, not just for the mourners, but for the gods as well. (And a major theme running through most of the books in the series.)
    • In the case of shamans and spirit warriors, the animal spirit linked to the dead person's soul needs to be called out by a (living) shaman before the soul can be taken up by the gods. This creates a puzzle — what happens to the soul of the last shaman left? Even the gods aren't sure.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A recurring theme in the context of praying to the gods for an outcome.
    Ista: The gods' most savage curses come upon us as answers to our own prayers, you know. Prayer is a dangerous business. I think it should be outlawed.
  • Black Magic: More death magic. With the twist that it's actually a miracle when properly done. Only trying death magic is illegal, for good reasons.
  • Blessed with Suck: If the gods bequeath a supernatural gift on you, even if it looks good on paper, it's going to make your life very uncomfortable/painful.
    Umegat: If you are become their tool, it is for a greater reason, an urgent reason. But you are the tool. You are not the work. Expect to be valued accordingly.
  • Blood Magic: Shamans pay for their Weirding Voice with this. Ingrey has a Wound That Will Not Heal, and Horseriver coughs up blood afterwards. Penric, as a sorcerer using shamanic magic, gets a major nosebleed for even a minor geas on a dog; giving several commands to a human causes him to cough up at least a cup of blood. He's found that trying to use sorcery to heal it just causes more problems later, and it's better to just pay the blood price up front.
  • Cessation of Existence: A possible fate if one's soul is sundered from the gods (either by choice or by other supernatural cause) and cannot be claimed by one in a reasonable time. This also happens immediately to any soul placed in the Bastard's Hell, an extremely rare event.
  • Compelling Voice: This is one benefit of being a shaman, as Ingrey discovers when he stops a raging ice bear with nothing but a firm verbal command. Horseriver — being a bit more powerful and a lot more experienced — can employ even more complicated tricks, overlapping with Jedi Mind Tricks and Mind Control. Once he works with Inglis, Penric picks up this skill as well.
  • Continuity Drift: Magic abilities and availability shift over the course of the series, ranging from almost none in Curse to the Penric stories about a highly-skilled sorcerer. Some specific shifts:
    • In Paladin, the primary way of removing demons was to give the demon to a strong-willed divine who was about to die. By the Penric stories, demon-eating saints are fairly common, with three different ones showing up so far. This may be justified by the Roknari killing off saints of the Bastard and destroying knowledge about sorcery.
    • Some mind-affecting magical abilities given to sorcerers in Paladin and Hunt (Umerue's beguiling of Arhys, Hallana's enchantment of Boleso's retainer to think he's a pig) seem to be solely shamanic magic in the Penric stories.
  • Corrupt Church: Averted due to having rather active gods. Very few "divines" are actively corrupt, and they are generally weeded out promptly.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Between Cazaril and Ista. They understand each other perfectly well. It's Ista's ladies in waiting who think they're babbling nonsense.
    • In general, between any two people touched by the gods. Cazaril remarks on this a few times: that the only person who can really understand a living saint "talking shop" is another such.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Quintarian faith, while its theology is different and well-developed, fills the cultural role of the medieval Catholic Church. The Quadrene religion is closely related to Quintarianism but disagrees on a few very significant points, making it somewhat parallel the relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. (Politically, it specifically parallels the medieval conflicts between Christianity and Islam in Spain.)
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique:
    • Death magic is not only forbidden by law; if successful it results in the death of both the target and the perpetrator.
      • Technically, it's only attempting death magic which is a crime — it's essentially attempted murder. If you succeed, the theology of Chalion rules that you have been granted a literal miracle of justice by The Bastard, one of the Gods. But you're still dead, and your corpse still needs to be burnt before sunset in case something else takes possession of it. Unless you're Cazaril, that is, who is deeply uncomfortable with the implications of his survival.
    • Sorcery is dangerous mostly due to the very thin line between possessing a demon and demonic possession; also, lethal cancer is a common side-effect of utilizing demonic powers without sufficient understanding.
    • For sorcerers, directly killing another human with sorcery will cause your demon to be reclaimed by the Bastard. Penric meets two sorcerers who attempt it: one tries and fails to kill Penric and gets lectured for it, and the other has been set up as a one-shot assassin who kills with her demon then is given another one.
    • Possessing a spirit-animal gives one great physical strength and speed. Taking one of the "great beasts" gives one many supernatural powers, comparable to sorcery, but can drive the bearer mad, and will leave them sundered from the gods at their death — unless another shaman is available to exorcize their soul.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Father's colors are black and grey, but he's the god of fatherhood, leadership, and justice.
  • Divine–Infernal Family: Quadrenes feel that the Bastard is an evil demon, but acknowledge that he is a son of the Mother, the Goddess of Summer. (Quintarians consider him more of an Odd Job God to be propitiated rather than sought, as he is still lord of demons and Hell.)
  • The Dreaded: Demons are terrified of the gods. Even Desdemona, who more or less received an official blessing from the Bastard to stay with Penric, does the spiritual equivalent of curling into the fetal position when a god's presence manifests.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Demons are creatures of chaos and disorder. Their powers can be used for constructive purposes, but this creates a "debt" that has to be paid by creating an equal amount of chaos. Fortunately, killing fleas, rats and other vermin counts; but unscrupulous sorcerers can injure humans and destroy villages if they want to discharge chaos more efficiently.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Inverted in the story of the Bastard's origin. His father was a powerful, murderous demon that consumed the soul of a completely unselfish human, and promptly had a conscience forced upon him. Cue My God, What Have I Done? followed by Heel–Face Turn.
  • Fantastic Naming Convention:
    • Chalionese noble names are "dy Place", where Place is the area that they are from and/or the area they are nobility over, whether a town or fort or some other location. The possibility of ennobling someone comes up in Paladin and the suggested "noble name" comes from their home town.
    • Wealdean noble names are referred to as 'kin names', where someone of a suitably high rank is referred to as 'kin Clan' for whichever clan they are associated with. By Penric's era, names like 'kin Jurald' are possible where somebody from outside the Weald married the heiress of a kin rank. Traditional Wealdean kin names are of the form "animal+geographical feature" like "Horseriver" or "Wolfcliff" or "Badgerbank". This reflects the animal souls that the old Wealdean spirit-warriors would have transferred into them by a shaman.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The setting evokes Europe in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, except rotated 180 degrees, flipping it both north-to-south and left-to-right.
    • The Ibran peninsula corresponds to the Iberian peninsula in the late Reconquista, with the map flipped around so that the Moors (that is, the Roknari) are in the north rather than the south. Ibra is Aragon, Chalion is Castile, and Brajar is Portugal.
    • The Weald is German/Germanic central Europe.
    • Even though it hasn't been visited on-screen, Darthaca corresponds to France.
    • The mountainous and mercenary-exporting Cantons are the Switzerland of the setting; Martensbridge is Zurich.
    • Present day Cedonia is the Byzantine Empire, while the Old Cedonian Empire represents the Roman Empire (with some features of Ancient Greece). Capital city of Thasalon is Thessaloniki.
    • Lodi is Venice, canals and all.
    • The far-southern barbarian prince Jokol comes from a culture with a lot of similarities with viking culture (far-north on Earth), and summer is stated to come earlier in the northern region of Porifors.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Map: The setting's map resembles Europe rotated 180 degrees. Cultures in the world accordingly are Fantasy Counterpart Cultures to the European cultures they are positioned as.
  • Flip Personality: Demons. Those with second sight can see who is in control of a body.
  • The Four Gods: Not specifically the Chinese ones—they are a Father, Mother, Son, and Daughter—but similar in some respects, for instance in ruling the four seasons. Quintarians also believe in a fifth god, the Bastard, for "all things out of season."
  • Ghostly Animals: The stories The Hallowed Hunt and "Penric and the Shaman" have ghost animals. These spirits of dead animals do not exist independently of the shamans and spirit-warriors who have taken them up, however, except at the very end when the shaman or spirit-warrior dies. At that point the animal spirit needs to be separated from the human ghost, or else both are Barred from the Afterlife.
  • Give Me a Sign: One of them generally will, though you may regret asking.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: The reason why Deus ex Machina aren't flying around everywhere. Explained in-story that a person who manages to open themselves to the Five Gods is an empty vessel, having surrendered their will completely. Harder than it seems, and not nearly a comfortable thing — see the notes for Blessed with Suck above.
  • Hell: The dimension where demons come from, the equivalent of traditional "hell", appears in Paladin of Souls, and to oppose the gods' plane of existence which is a beautiful, pure and peaceful realm of spirits and energy free of all flesh and materiality, the demons' plane of existence is a thrashing and obscure mess of "non-being", where things are devoid of any shape, personality, individuality or cohesion - the ultimate destruction of any kind of "self" or "existence" as it all becomes pure, raw chaos.
  • A Hell of a Time: It's implied that if you're claimed by the Bastard for a lifetime of service to his church, you get this. If you're, say, a gluttonous, cowardly, would-be rapist on the other hand...
  • Insistent Terminology: As the Bastard's dedicats will tell you, it's a Death Miracle, not magic. The misnomer persists, however.
  • I See Dead People: When they die, most people are taken up by one of the gods, but some hang around for one reason or another, gradually fading away. One of the side effects of sainthood, and possessing a demon, is the ability to see them.
  • Kill the Host Body:
    • The standard method used by the Roknari to kill sorcerers. They either ritually bind the demon to the sorcerer-host and then burn the sorcerer, or else toss the sorcerer-host overboard at sea with a leaking cushion and sail away to let the sorcerer eventually drown. One problem is that these methods don't always work.
    • The animal spirits bound to spirit warriors and shamans cannot be removed at all except by the host's death. A further complication is that the soul of the dead host is Barred from the Afterlife unless another shaman releases the animal spirit from the ghost.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The Bastard's speciality.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Right-justified, in this case, because it's a map of Europe rotated 180 degrees.
  • Light Is Not Good: Played with. The Bastard's associated color is white, and he's the lord of demons and god of disasters, who people tend to try to appease rather than worship. However, his role is to rein in and control demons so they don't hurt humans, and he's also the god of unexpected blessings. Further, most of his "disasters" are either plans to eventually better humanity's lot, or desperate measures to control the damage caused by the other gods' meddling. Paladin of Souls suggests that the Bastard maintains the balance between order and chaos, keeping the world between frozen stasis and destruction.
  • Mission from God: The crux of every book.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Apparently a minor hazard of becoming a priest of the Bastard. Which becomes a major hazard when dealing with the Roknari, as both homosexuality and worship of the Bastard are forbidden among them and the punishments for both start with cutting off your thumbs.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: There's a few different versions of the Bastard's origin floating around. It's not clear whether the Mother had sex with a demon (or how voluntary said act was) or if he is more of a magical construct they created together.
  • Order Versus Chaos: They're opposed, but it's an unusually polite and amicable conflict since the god of chaos, the Bastard, is part of the family, just as interested in maintaining the balance as anyone else, and willing to play nice as necessary.
    • Though this conflict is played more seriously when it comes to the opposition between the gods, who are order personified (and as said above, even the chaotic trickster-god of the pantheon maintains a form of balance) ; and the demons, who are manifestation of a destructive and all-devouring chaos. When Ista sees where demons come from in Paladin of Souls, she realizes that the gods must fight a constant battle to not have the world being engulfed by their Chaotic Evil dimension.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons answer to the Bastard, who is like the House of Hufflepuff when it comes to taking up souls. He takes almost anyone not covered by the other four gods and is the patron of homosexuals, bastards, and all things out of season; His worshippers regard him as necessary to hold the world in balance between total stasis and total destruction. Demons are not inherently malicious, but they are creatures of disorder and their abilities reflect it. This is acknowledged in Chalion, but mostly means that possession of (or by) a demon puts you under the temple's purview. You're allowed to keep it if you display the right temperament to keep it under control and not abuse its powers. The Roknari, on the other hand, consider the Bastard to be the the equivalent of Satan, and the Quintarian religion heresy. They cut off the thumbs, tongue and genitalia of people thought to worship him.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Everything about magic is based on something to do with the soul. Living beings are one of the only points where the spirit and material realms cross over at all, and so are the only vessel through which spiritual forces (AKA, magic) can manifest in the material world. Thus divine miracles must come through a willing soul; sorcery is the product of demon possession; and the Wealding shamans bonded animal souls to human to grant strange powers from the mix.
    • As for the general trope details: If you lose yours, you die. They can be damaged and destroyed, but they can also be borrowed from without too much harm. Mind, body, and soul are all distinct but interconnected, such that memory and even wounds can go with them. Ghosts are damaged souls or those of people who willingly turned from the gods — not just disbelievers, but from active hatred. More than one soul can inhabit a body, but bad things tend to happen.
  • The Plan: The gods can mostly only interfere in the world by nudging people, so they do a lot of these.
  • Quieting the Unquiet Dead: One of the most important duties of the clergy is to help direct the spirits of the dead to the correct god. This is because after someone dies their spirit has only a short amount of time to get to its god before it is "sundered" and doomed to slowly fade away. This is considered to be literally a Fate Worse than Death.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: As nearly every major character is a noble or high-ranking priest, most of the good guys of each book count as this in some capacity, often to each other. Cazaril was set to be one for Iselle as her tutor and secretary, and became one of the highest ones in Chalion as her chancellor, responding to Ista's pilgrimage plans with a full purse, the dy Gura brothers, and a note wishing her well. Most of the villains are defined by something having made them quite unreasonable, if only on a particular matter — Earl Horseriver was as decent a lord as you could ask for, when you weren't in the way of his plans.
  • Religion is Magic: Especially if one of the gods takes an interest in you. Also, death magic actually consists of praying to the Bastard to help you commit a murder-suicide.
  • Religion Is Right: For the most part, though it isn't done in an anvilicious way: the church isn't completely immune to corruption, and The Hallowed Hunt presents a character with very legitimate reasons to hate the gods. As a rule, faiths in the world are right but incomplete thanks to the limitations of both gods and humans (to act and to understand, respectively):
    • The Quadrenes exclude the Bastard, but the gods do acknowledge Him as one of them in visions. Otherwise the Quadrenes are mostly right.
    • It was a Quintarian kingdom that conquered the Wealdings and converted them by the sword, failing to understand that the Weald's shamans practiced different ways to seek the same gods, and the gods could and would respond.
    • And the Old Wealdings clearly didn't understand as much about the nature of souls and communication with the gods as the other faiths do, resorting to sacrifice — even human sacrifice — in a way that the other faiths have clearly found unnecessary if not outright horrifying. Their methods do work, they're just kind of scary.
  • Satan Is Good: Well, the Bastard is more akin to Loki. He may have a rude sense of humor and assist in the occasional (justifiable) murder-suicide, but his church runs orphanages and is largely responsible for the enlightened views of homosexuality that most of Chalion's world has.
    • In the competing Quadrene theology, the fifth god is conventionally evil, and all those "out of season" things in his domain are damnable sins (e.g. illegitimate children, homosexuality, demonic possession, etc).
  • Sliding Scale of Divine Intervention: As the name suggests, the gods in the World of the Five Gods are active and important parts of the stories, and even frequently characters in the books, almost making the series a 4 ("God Walks Among Us"). The specific theology of the World of the Five Gods does push the setting more towards being a 3 ("God Works In Mysterious Ways"): A point made throughout the series (and a basic tenet of Quintarian theology) is that the gods' ability to affect the world of matter is fundamentally limited, and that human free will—the power of "the lowest slave" to "exclude them from his heart"—is a profound limitation on the power of even the gods. Nonetheless, the reality of the gods—and the reality that they take an active role in human affairs—are (within the setting) basically beyond question; multiple characters directly interact with various of the Five Gods, and the whole series is more about theology than it is anything else.
  • Sparing Them the Dirty Work: In The Curse of Challion, Princess Iselle is betrothed against her will to Dondo. As he's a womanizer, attempted rapist, and a murderer who had attempted to kill Iselle's tutor and had successfully killed her brother's tutor, this would certainly be a fate worse than death. Her friend and handmaiden Betriz conspires to assassinate him, seeing it as the only way to save Iselle and asks Cazaril to teach her how to use a knife to do so, but he convinces her to hold off and attempts death magic himself (actually a 'death miracle', in which one trades their life to The Bastard, a god, to right some wrong via good old smiting), trying to both save Iselle and stop Betriz from having to dirty her hands. It works, though not in the normal way. Dondo does die via Death Magic and Betriz doesn't kill him, but inexplicably Cazaril doesn't die either. Instead, the demon's and Dondo's souls are both trapped in Cazaril's body (along with his soul, of course) in the form of a tumor by a second miracle granted to Iselle by the Daughter. Later, when Cazaril is stabbed in the tumor, the demon and Dondo are released and the soul of the person who stabbed him is also taken up, leaving Cazaril alive.
  • Taking You with Me: The essential nature of death magic. You conjure one of the Bastard's demons to kill someone, but the demon will take you too. It's a last resort "miracle of justice" when all mortal justice has failed, but the suicidal nature of it makes damn sure you are serious down to your soul about needing it.
  • Trickster Mentor: The Bastard. He even exults in His chosen railing against Him because it means they're thinking about the crappy situation they're in where even a god needs their help. And because it amuses Him.
  • Uniqueness Decay: Hallana was a unique physician-sorcerer in Hunt; by Penric's time, one of the primary responsibilities of sorcerers is to make their demons better able to assist with medicine.
  • You Are Not Alone: Part of the motivation of all the Five Gods. They regard every human soul, "Great Souled" or not, as precious, and spend much effort to get a saint, sorcerer, or shaman in the right place to help sundered souls pass on.

The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls contain examples of:

    Chalion sub-series 
  • Adipose Rex: Roya Orico is both obese and sickly, frequently with food stains on his clothing. In fact he is diabetic and the disease is only held off by the menagerie. He is a peripheral force for good at best and his moral weakness puts major characters in peril.
  • Altar Diplomacy: In The Curse of Chalion, Royesse (Princess) Iselle arranges her own marriage — for rather urgent political reasons — to the crown prince of a neighboring kingdom whom she's never seen, pausing briefly to collect the rumor that he is "well-favored" (which she cynically says people will say about any prince who isn't a perfect fright), before returning to more important practical considerations. When she finally meets him, they've practically already bonded over their shared love and admiration for the main character, Iselle's heroic secretary, and by the morning after the wedding, he observes that they look like a couple madly in love.
  • Always Second Best: Illvin to Arhys. Illvin doesn't mind though, since his half-brother has a bad case of "Well Done, Son" Guy towards his dead father; Illvin's father was always there for him during his childhood.
  • Another Man's Terror: In Curse of Chalion, Cazaril prays for a death magic miracle. If it succeeds, it will kill both himself and his target. After he completes the ritual, he hallucinates that he is his victim, who chokes to death on his own tongue.
  • Badass Boast: "Welcome to [my gates]. I am the Mouth of Hell." Bonus points for being literally true.
  • Badass Bookworm: Technically Cazaril is Royesse Iselle's tutor and he is very erudite. He's also a dirty fighter and will stop at nothing to help "his ladies", supernatural curses, supernatural tumors and evil chancellors be damned.
  • Balancing Death's Books: Death magic. Basically it's just a prayer to Bastard to kill someone. If Bastard decides that the intended victim indeed deserves death, he'll send his demon to take the victim's life—and the demon will also take the life of the petitioner.
  • Barefoot Captives: When Ista surrenders herself to the Jokonans they remove her sandals to humiliate her: "You will walk barefoot and bareheaded into the presence of the August Mother, as befitting a lesser woman and a Quintarian heretic." As an aversion, they leave Illvin his boots, driving home his inability to protect Ista.
  • Bears Are Bad News: In Paladin of Souls, a bear shows up, Foix dy Gura kills it, and the demon that was possessing the bear jumps into Foix.
  • Body Horror: A demon can manifest in you as a magical tumor... which, one physician theorizes, may eventually grow teeth and claws and tear its way out of you (a theory founded on the physician's discovery of teratomas, which can contain hair, teeth, and bone matter). The idea was terrifying for Cazaril until it turned out he had a +5 Holy Tumor Of Evil Chancellor Slaying.
    • The really bad part was that Cazaril was less disturbed by the demon than by the soul of Dondo dy Jironal, said Evil Chancellor's rather more evil kid brother, who is stuck in the same tumor, happens to be vocally upset over the whole matter, and may be "leaking".
  • The Book Cipher: Used in The Curse of Chalion when Cazaril and Iselle need to communicate privately over long distances.
    • This requires printed books—and we see Penric inventing magically produced printing plates in his, chronologically earlier, series.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: The contents of Cazaril's saddlebags are "a change of clothes, a small fortune, theology, and arguable treason".
  • Bump into Confrontation: Two such incidents play important roles in The Curse of Chalion. In the backstory, Ser dy Naoza "the celebrated duelist" claims the "only son of a provincial wool merchant" jostled him in the street and demands satisfaction, with "the usual result". The young man's father later resorts to death magic against dy Naoza in order to avenge his son's death, which both introduces the concept of death magic to the reader, and also plants the idea of it in Cazaril's head. Later, another high-born bravo, Ser dy Joal (one of Dondo's men) attempts to stage such a confrontation against Cazaril, with the clear intent of "accidentally" killing Cazaril in a simple duel "to first blood". Dy Joal is quickly reminded that the royesse's apparently mild-mannered secretary-tutor is both an experienced soldier and has muscles hardened by months pulling an oar on a Roknari galley. The would-be duelist-assassin is given a painful and humiliating (though not fatal) lesson right then and there.
  • Bury Your Gays: In The Curse of Chalion, Ias and dy Lutez both died in the backstory, although they were both probably bisexual. Umegat's partner also was killed trying to escape Quadrene lands. (Probably.) Umegat himself survives, though.
  • Cassandra Truth: Ista was labeled insane for years — turns out she was just truthfully recounting the visions the gods were sending to her.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In addition to the merchant's diary, there are a quite a few.
    • Chekhov's Gift: Dondo probably did not intend to save the life of Iselle's betrothed when he gave her an extravagant strand of pearls.
    • Cazaril carries both Chekhov's Tumor and Chekhov's Scars.
    • Chekhov's Army: The Order of the Daughter. Who knew a bunch of hardened soldiers sworn to the service of the Goddess of Virginity could help the maiden princess defend herself from unwanted suitors?
    • Chekhov's Skill: Iselle and Betriz are scolded by their guardians for their unladylike habit of riding horses like they're on fire; but when everyone believes them irretrievably besieged by Martou dy Jironal's forces, they just tear off into the night with one escort, into friendly hands and a perfect strategic stronghold before anyone even realizes they're gone.
    • The crow that Cazaril feeds towards the beginning of Curse gets fired twice: first by flying to Cazaril to disprove an accusation against him, and then by providing the sacrifice needed for Cazaril to pray for a death miracle.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: 16 year old Iselle's bid to establish effective power gains extra traction from her youth, her beauty, the timely commencement of Spring, and the fact that all three are the domain of the Daughter. Many of her subjects took it as a sign of divine favor from the Lady; incidentally, they were correct.
  • Curse: The titular Curse of Chalion is an important element in both books—the curse itself in the first, and its aftermath in the second.
  • Dead All Along: Arhys died in the fight where the sorceress was killed, but Cattilara took the demon and shoved his soul back into his body.
  • Decadent Court: Roya Orico's court in Cardegoss, mostly due to his being a weak and accursed leader, and Martou dy Jironal an Evil Chancellor.
  • Defrosting Ice King: dy Sanda spends most of Curse of Chalion suspecting Cazaril's planning on stealing his job and lecturing Teidez on proper behavior (in the hopes of making him a better man). It takes until Cazaril sincerely warns him about the underhanded tactics of the court for him to ease up. Before long, he's saving Cazaril's skin from false charges and even helping prank Dondo. Sadly, it also gets him swiftly killed by Dondo's lackeys.
  • The Determinator:
    • Cazaril's not gonna let a little thing like having a deadly tumor infested by a demon and the sundered soul of a homicidal rapist in his stomach stop him!
    • Even though Ista rather dislikes Cattilara, she has to marvel at the sheer determination it had to take for an untrained young woman to assert her will over a demon of chaos, especially considering that she's totally ignorant and slightly stupid.
  • Deus ex Machina: Used judiciously. Most of the gods' works require human hands, but every once in a while they get to be the Big Damn Heroes.
    • Cazaril is host to two miracles. The Bastard granted his prayer for a Death Miracle, and the Lady of Spring restrained the demon which should have flown away with his soul and Dondo's.
    • Subverted at the end of The Curse of Chalion. Witnesses were left thinking that The Lady of Spring struck dy Jironal with a lightning bolt from a clear blue sky, for the crime of offering violence on Her day, when what they were really witnessing was the undoing of her earlier miracle.
    • Arhys' sundered soul is saved when The Father of Winter makes Ista his living door into heaven.
  • Disappeared Dad: Arvol dy Lutez is this to his son Arhys, having abandoned him and his mother outright to attend upon Roya Ias at his court as Chancellor (among much else).
  • Disease by Any Other Name: Multiple:
    • Paladin of Souls: Ista sees the youngest child of her Arch-Nemesis and describes her as having the characteristics of "those children born to a woman late in life" —- very clearly talking about Down Syndrome.
    • Curse of Chalion: A physician enthusiastically tells a horrified Cazaril that his tumor could have grown teeth or hair, i.e. a teratoma. He attributes it to a demon attempting to grow a body and escape into the material world.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: Thoroughly subverted in Paladin of Souls. Ista points out to Foix just how horrible a thing that sort of mind control would be to do to anyone.
    Ista: She would never again be sure if a thought or a feeling were truly her own. She would be constantly halting, second-guessing, turning about inside her head. Madness lies down that road. It would be less crippling and more loving if you should take a war hammer and break both her legs.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: It's Cattilara's main character trait.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Curse has no magic in it other than direct effects of the Gods: death miracles, prophetic dreams, miracles of protection, the titular curse, and two petty saints.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: A lot of characters. Cazaril is especially notable because the solution for the curse, requiring a man "willing to lay down his life three times for the House of Chalion," means he literally had to practice dying through multiple Near Death Experiences so his soul would be open enough for the gods to recover the power of the curse from the world.
  • Evil Chancellor: Martou dy Jironal, as a result of the curse. Roya Orico, knowing he was cursed to be a terrible ruler, handed the reins over to dy Jironal in hopes of circumventing his fate... but the curse is smarter than that, and perverted dy Jironal's ambition into corruption, making Orico's decision a case of terrible misrule in itself.
  • Evil Matriarch: Joen is well into Type 2, with Mind Control possibly even pushing her to Hive Queen status.
  • False Friend: Dondo dy Jironal wastes no time before currying favor with Royse Teidez in order to corrupt him and make him dependent on his brother Martou.
  • Flash Forward: Cazaril has a flash of insight as to how the curse will continue if he doesn't lift it, which is more or less what happened to Isabella and Ferdinand in the real world.
    They will be vastly unlucky in their children. He knew it, suddenly, with a cold clarity. The whole of their scheme for peace and order rode upon the hope of a strong, bright heir to follow them both. They would pour themselves until empty into children miscarried, dead, mad, exiled, betrayed…
  • Foreshadowing: Early in The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril reflects that Royse Teidez' tutor, by clamping down on the young royse's misdemeanors, is making himself unpopular but doing Teidez more good than another man might who chose to curry the royse's favor by indulging his baser urges. Later, Teidez falls into the hands of a patron who does take that strategy, with unfortunate results all round.
  • Foil: Paladin of Souls juxtaposes the hero, Ista, with the Big Bad, Joen—two highborn women in their forties, frustrated by the lot society has based on their gender and age. Ultimately, Ista finds a new relationship with her god, declares her independence from her keepers, and finds a noble purpose in life. Joen dives into sorcery and sin, enslaving her family to her will in a twisted attempt to fulfill not her own stolen destiny, but her father's.
  • For Want Of A Nail: In the original poem's sense. After Cazaril realizes the extent of the gods' manipulations, he wonders how many men they sent on the road to help Teidez as he was sent to help Iselle, and who never made it. In Paladin, the Bastard confirms to Ista that the Son of Autumn sent many, but all failed.
    • A prayer to the Bastard calls this trope explicitly, with indication that it's divinely inspired at the time:
    dy Cabon: And the Bastard grant our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain's peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word. In darkness, understanding.
  • Genius Bruiser: Foix dy Gura is far less simple than he looks.
  • Ghostly Goals: In The Curse of Chalion, the ghosts at dy Zavar's castle have Unfinished Business to warn Cazaril and his party, and then to help them find those being held captive.
  • A Glass in the Hand: Cazaril does the snapped-pencil version (with a quill pen, since pencils have yet to be invented in Chalion) when Betriz mentions that Dondo dy Jironal has been paying her unwelcome attentions.
  • Grande Dame: The Dowager Provincara dy Baocia is a Meddling Matriarch—her son moved his capitol and court from Valenda to Taryoon to get away from her, and much of her daughter Ista's flight at the beginning of Paladin of Souls is getting away from her even after she's died. Less than a month after her death, the following exchange occurs:
    "My lord dy Baocia — as the head of the family now, it's your place to insist she be more sensible!"
    "Actually," Ista noted, "He's been head of the family for a decade and a half."
    Dy Baocia snorted, and muttered under his breath, "Aye — anyplace in Baocia but Valenda..."
  • Heir Club for Men: Chalion uses Agnatic-Cognatic Succession. Attempts to provide an heir for Orico are significant in the backstory, up to and including having the dy Jironal brothers attempt to impregnate Royina Sara. Martou was courteous, at least; Dondo enjoyed humiliating her.
  • Heroic BSoD: Caz breaks down sobbing after spending almost two years as a galley slave, walking for a month across the mountains as an impoverished beggar then being welcomed into the Provincara's household and given a nightshirt, tooth brush and a soft, warm bed to sleep in.
    • And that's after spending months recovering from what sounds a lot like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (which was caused by spending 19 months in slavery rowing on a galley).
    • In the backstory, Cazaril went through this toward the end of the long, desperate siege of Gotorget.
      ... That night on the tower, tears of fatigue and despair — and yes, rage — running down his face, he'd torn [his Brother's medal] off and flung it over the battlement, denying the god who'd denied him. The spinning slip of gold had disappeared into the darkness without a sound. And he'd flung himself prone on the stones, ... and sworn that any other god could pick him up who willed, or none, so long as the men who had trusted him were let out of this trap. As for himself, he was done. Done.
      Nothing, of course, happened.
    Or so he thought at the time.
  • Heroic Fatigue: Poor Cazaril!
  • I Kiss Your Foot: Formal greetings in Chalion involve kissing the back of a person's hands, greeting one's superior (or someone you're grateful to see) involves kissing the feet too.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Arhys's "stunning first impression" on Ista involves him quite violently rescuing her from a band of captors, such that she's putting together a pleasant little fantasy of a Rescue Romance even while noting how he and his sword are covered in gore...
  • In One Ear, Out The Other: In Paladin of Souls Illvin says of Cattilara "Lovely girl, adores Arhys, but I'd swear that if she held up a lighted candle beside one pretty ear, I could blow it out through the other".
  • Inspired by…: Word of God says that Chalion was inspired by the history of Spain during the Reconquista period, specifically Isabella of Castile (Iselle dy Chalion) and Ferdinand of Aragon (Bergon dy Ibra). If you're familiar with the history of the period, this inspiration shows: most of the major characters and many of the events have real-life counterparts — including some events you'd think couldn't possibly have parallels.
  • Irony: Dondo dy Jironal — a man who promised rape and humiliation to his unwilling betrothed, Iselle — is placed in charge of the Daughter's order, whose patron goddess is the divine incarnation of virgin women.
  • Kill the Host Body: In Paladin of Souls, a demon in a ferret is dispatched by killing the ferret in the presence of a dying divine. The demon jumps to the divine, and the divine takes the demon with her when she then dies.
  • King Incognito: Ista's vaca-*ahem* pilgrimage in Paladin of Souls was taken under the alias of a minor noblewoman to avoid the entourage deemed fitting for a dowager royina, and the sister of a ruling provincar.
  • King on His Deathbed: Poor Orico, for roughly the latter third of Curse. It's suggested he dies well before it's officially announced, but that his wife and caretakers keep up the ruse that he's alive. All so Iselle is not formally starting a civil war against the man who is to be her regent, Chancellor dy Jironal, and to make it look like dy Jironal is instead overreaching.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The slavers on Cazaril's ship suffered particularly Gorn-tastic deaths.
  • The Last Dance:
    • Cazaril intends to use what time he has left to secure the safety of "his ladies" and the political stability of the kingdom.
    • Arhys waltzes into the enemy camp — well-outnumbered and expecting to die — gambling that his temporary immunity to injury will break their ranks and allow him to kill the enemy sorcerers.
  • Last Disrespects: Royina Sara wears festival garb to Dondo's funeral, and nobody dares call her on it.
  • Last-Name Basis: Many characters are referred to by last name; some go by nicknames based on them (Caz from dy Cazaril, Palli from dy Palliar). Caz especially prefers to go by his family name as his older brother mercilessly mocked his given name when they were children, so he much prefers not using it.
  • The Last Thing You Ever See: Very much averted, as Caz informs someone stupid enough to threaten him that if he wanted them dead, they'd never see it coming.
  • Made a Slave: Cazaril comes home fresh from the galley rowbanks at the beginning of The Curse of Chalion. And it had been so bad that after being freed, at first he starts weeping at the slightest cause. Yet his protecting of a fellow rower plays an important part in ending the curse.
  • Make the Dog Testify: A sacred crow is used to determine the truthfulness of a charge against Cazaril, by letting the Gods use it as a conduit. The crow, which Cazaril had fed and tried to teach to say his name, flew straight to him.
  • Mistaken for Pedophile: Cazaril's whip scars from his time as a galley slave cause this to happen to him, as whipping is the standard punishment for pedophiles in Chalion.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Bujold refrains from any enthusiastic descriptions of her heroes, but:
    • Wherever they go, men sworn to the Daughter's Order are generally looked well upon (and giggled over a lot), what with being gallant defenders of womankind, among other things.
    • In The Curse of Chalion, after the Ibran contingent's heroic cross-country ride to bring the groom to Iselle, "they were collecting Chalionese ladies rather as spilled honey collected ants..."
    • Arhys is able to make a world-weary middle-aged woman in the middle of traumatic circumstances suddenly rediscover her sexuality through his mere proximity.
    A stunning first impression was not the same as love at first sight, but it was certainly an invitation to consider the matter.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Cazaril, after his plan to get Iselle to marry out of the Curse results in Bergon marrying into it. As it turns out though, it was part of the Gods' plan to end the curse, as it turned his sacrifice to save Bergon on the galley into a laying down his life for the house of Chalion, so his death miracle against Dondo was the second time and being stabbed by Martou became the requisite third time.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Joen of Jokona who has a powerful demon under her thumb. And Dowager Royina Ista who eats that demon, sending it back to the Bastard's Hell.
  • No Man of Woman Born: The conditions of raising the curse in The Curse of Chalion are quite specific: a man must lay down his life three times for the House of Chalion. Actually dying is apparently not required until the third death; it's sufficient to be willing to die. Cazaril's first is when he is beaten nearly to death, and the second is when he is granted a death miracle, something that under ordinary circumstances would result in his death as well as the death of his target.
  • Non-Indicative Name: As is mentioned repeatedly in the story, Temple Square has five sides, one for each of the gods.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Dowager Royina Ista isn't young anymore, but she's still a good-looking woman. When she kisses Lord Arhys hard, directly on the lips, and he doesn't react at all, it tells Ista her suspicions about him were correct.
  • Off on a Technicality: Cazaril isn't arrested for death magic because it turns out only unsuccessful attempts are illegal.note  Plus the law is mainly there to curb people trying to fake it with poisons and other mundane methods.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Iselle's escape from Martou's forces at Valenda. The story quickly becomes the stuff of legend in Chalion, but we only get to hear a few brief descriptions of it after the fact.
  • Oh, Crap!: Cazaril's initial reaction to the job offer of Secretary-Tutor to Royesse Iselle.
    "Couldn't you give me a fortress under siege instead?"
    • The Provincara's response to that is to dryly note that a fortress under siege is almost exactly what her granddaughter is going to be.
    • Cazaril has this response, to greater or lesser degrees, to a lot of requests that are laid on him; Ista remarks that his admitted fear of them makes him wiser than those who either aren't smart enough to know just how far out of their depth they are, or are too proud to admit it.
  • Pet the Dog: dy Jironal gets a very brief one when Cazaril looks for him in his chancellory office, patting one of his couriers on the shoulder and encouraging him to do his best when the man reports winter snows making travel difficult.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Iselle and Bergon. As a bonus, it's actually self-arranged, sight unseen, completely for very important political reasons.
  • Pilgrimage: Discussed in Paladin Of Souls. Ista sets out on a pilgrimage as a way to escape the constraints of her home (gratitude), with her companions assuming it was for supplication (for a grandson). However, the real (and partly denied) goal for Ista was for forgiveness (atonement) for an old failure, but once she managed to forgive herself she found her true role (divination) and it turned into a pilgrimage of service.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: Discussed in The Curse of Chalion. Several characters say that a body slain by death magic must be burned before nightfall to prevent ghosts from possessing it; one describes such a possession, seen many years ago.
    I saw a case once, when I was a young divine. The degraded spirits are shambling stupid things, but it’s so very awkward to get them out again once they take possession. They must be burned...well, alive is not quite the right term. Very ugly scene, especially if the relatives don’t understand, because, of course, being your body, it screams in your voice...
    • In Paladin of Souls Ista describes Arhys as being a ghost possessing his own dead body.
  • Power Perversion Potential: In Paladin of Souls, Ista explicitly tells Foix not to use his sorcerer's powers to influence his relationship with Liss, pointing out that it would be a horrible thing to do to someone.
  • Prince Charming: The role Cazaril desired for Royse Bergon to play to save Iselle from the eponymous curse. It didn't quite work out as he intended, but it worked out exactly the way the Five Gods intended.
  • Quickly-Demoted Leader: Paladin of Souls is actually Ista's second Call to Adventure. The first time—before the events of the series—she sort of accidentally murdered a guy and went crazy, leaving it to her daughter to sort things out.
  • Raging Stiffie: Cazaril starts getting these watching Betriz swim around in a Sexy Soaked Shirt, which is why he tends to sit with his lower half underwater. It's a sign of his starting to recover from his trauma, both physically and mentally.
  • Rasputinian Death: Arhys. Strictly speaking he was dead to begin with, but the Jokonans made very sure he would not get up again once he stopped moving.
  • Rebellious Princess: Ista switches this up a bit by abandoning upper-class female expectations nearly a generation after her royal husband dies (and a couple of years after her daughter takes the throne). Rusticate in a peaceful manor? No, too many bad memories. Go to the capital and either play politics or bond with the grandkids? Even worse memories, pass. Declare a vocation for the least reputable deity in the pantheon and ride into a war zone to hunt demons? Coolness!
  • Rescue Romance: Ista self-consciously muses over this after Arhys saves her from raiders; the daydream is squashed when her identity is revealed to him and set on fire when she meets his wife.
  • Revival Loophole: This is Ias and dy Lutez's plan for breaking the curse. Arguably, this could have worked, as willingly dying three times would've given dy Lutez the right mindset to work as a conduit for gods. Unfortunately, he panicked after the first time and was unwilling to continue. Ias and Ista forced him into a second attempt, but he didn't revive, and Ista didn't (or couldn't) call upon the Mother for a miracle.
  • Romancing the Widow: Lord Illvin to Ista in Paladin of Souls.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The magical version — see title for The Curse of Chalion.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something:
    • Iselle, with a vengeance. The instant she becomes next in line for the throne, she starts laying plans so fast even Cazaril can't keep up. Also, The Fox and Bergon.
    • Orico is a subversion. He demonstrably doesn't do anything important because of his fear of the curse, which sometimes puts the protagonists into quite a pickle. But it turns out that his part in the gods' plan was simply to survive long enough to let the next generation come of age and have their own stab at removing the curse after Ista and Ias have botched their attempt, which he manages to do.
    • Ista's backstory is a painful subversion. She was touched by the Mother and became a saint, so she could learn what was necessary to break the royal curse. The attempt she, Ias, and dy Lutez made to break it ended in failure and dy Lutez's death, and a lot of stuff went wrong from there. It could very well be she wasn't meant to "do something" in this case and was meant to be the Gods' messenger to the right person at the right time, and so was always doomed to failure against the curse.
  • Rule of Three:
    • The eponymous Curse of Chalion can only be drawn back by the gods through the will of a man who would lay down his life three times for the House of Chalion.
    • Referenced, subverted, and played straight in Paladin of Souls. The second time Ista tells her story (to dy Cabon), she says "Perhaps some third occasion shall release me." The third time, however, doesn't; it's the fourth, where she's finally, fully honest with herself, that does. However, the first was in the previous book, so the final one is the third in this particular book.
  • Running Gag: There are a few.
    • In The Curse of Chalion, several characters comment on how old Caz looks with his beard.
    • In Paladin of Souls, when a Chalionese character mocks Jokonan Prince Sordso—nicknamed "Sordso the Sot"—for drinking, writing morose poetry, and in general being totally un-statesmanlike, they will almost always follow it up with a grudging admission that his poetry is actually quite good.
  • Scars are Forever: Cazaril has horrible overlapping scars on his back from being whipped during his time on a Roknari galley. Fortunately they turn out to be Chekhov's Scars and help Royse Bergon recognize him when they meet again in Ibra.
  • Secretly Dying: Cazaril after his death magic is prevented from Balancing Death's Books properly. He gets better, thanks to some more divine intervention at the end.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: A historical version of Underwear Swimsuit. To cope with the summer heat, Iselle, Betriz, and Cazaril go swimming in a sheltered pool. To maintain modesty, the girls wear linen shifts and Cazaril wears a linen shirt and trews, but wet, clinging linen doesn't actually leave much to the imagination. Cazaril realizes he's recovering from his trauma when he starts getting aroused at the view.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In The Curse of Chalion a young dedicat describes a book that is clearly a parallel-universe version of The Canterbury Tales.
    "It's a fine conceit," said Umegat. "The author follows a group of travelers to a pilgrimage shrine, and each one tells his or her tale in turn. Very, ah, holy."
    "Actually, my lord," the dedicat whispered, "some of them are very lewd."
    • The widow in the pilgrimage party that inspires Ista, who couldn't be more the Wife of Bath if she had that lady's name stamped on her forehead.
  • Smug Snake: Dondo dy Jironal makes his big brother look good.
  • Socially Unacceptable Collection: The physician Rojeras collects tumors, and asks permission to collect Cazaril's tumor after his death. Cazaril is both horrified and curious, and Rojeras explains that he keeps the tumors in jars of wine spirits to study. "I know it sounds gruesome, but I keep hoping… if only I learn enough, someday I will understand, someday I will be able to find some way to keep these things from killing people."
  • Spare to the Throne: The death of the rebellious elder son of the Fox promotes Bergon from spare to the Heir of Ibra—and to the top of Iselle's short list of potential spouses. Then the death of Iselle's brother makes her the Heiress of Chalion.
  • The Speechless: Umegat's assistant Daris is an elderly little man who is missing his thumbs and tongue. The missing tongue means that he can't speak, but he does make various mouthed hums, welcoming noises, and other sounds.
  • Take a Third Option: A Magnificent Bastardly subversion of this originates the enmity between Cazaril and Dondo.
  • That Was the Last Entry: Cazaril finds an encrypted diary belonging to a man who practiced death magic. The encryption is easy, but tedious, to crack, so when he finds himself wanting to practice death magic in turn, he realizes that he only actually has to read the last entry of the diary to figure out what worked...
  • Threads of Fate: In Paladin of Souls, The Father of Winter passes a mystic thread to Ista, who passes it in turn to Arhys. The thread allows the soul of Arhys to pass on to the Father through the soul of Ista, circumventing his previous status as Barred from the Afterlife.
  • Those Two Guys: Ferda and Foix dy Gura. Foix is promoted to a more regular secondary cast role in Paladin, while Ferda disappears for most of the book.
  • Translation Punctuation: Dialogue that is spoken in Roknari is bracketed with tildes instead of quotation marks:
    ~Blessings of the Holy Ones be upon you this day, Umegat.~
  • Turn to Religion:
    • In The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril is a man of reason who becomes a devotee of the Lady of Spring after hosting multiple miracles on Her behalf. Lampshaded when he asks Palli to pray for guidance before going to bed:
      Palli: And since when did you believe in prophetic dreams? I thought you always claimed it was nonsense, people fooling themselves, or pretending to an importance they could otherwise never claim.
      Cazaril: It's a...recent conversion.
    • In Paladin of Souls, Ista starts out with a case of Rage Against the Heavens, and after her adventures in the novel finds her calling as a Saint of the Bastard.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Cazaril feels this way about himself and Betriz. She, on the other hand, doesn't care about his premature aging, missing fingers, horrible scars or the fact that he's almost twice her age — but she does make him shave off his beard.
  • The Upper Crass: The Castillar dy Zavar lives in a castle rustic and dilapidated enough that the bandits who have just taken it over can pass as dy Zavar, and his followers to Cazaril, Royse Bergon, and their party until the ghosts warn Cazaril that it's a trap.
  • Unable to Support a Wife: Cazaril pleads this at one point.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Arhys to his father, the Chancellor dy Lutez, until the man's death. Notable in that Arhys never actually met his father, and thus spent his entire childhood waiting for the day when his father would summon him to court so that he could make him proud.
    "I had a real father. Arhys... had a dream."
  • Wham Line: In Paladin of Souls, Ista throws one at Arhys that applies both in-universe and to the reader:
    Ista: Lord Arhys, how long have you been dead?
  • You Shall Not Pass!: Cazaril attempts to hold a gate long enough for Iselle and Bergon to get away; ultimately, he is able to hold it long enough for dy Jironal to arrive and be taunted into giving Cazaril his third death, allowing the Daughter's miracle to proceed.

The Hallowed Hunt contains examples of:

    The Hallowed Hunt 
  • Amazon Chaser: Ingrey waxes almost poetic about Ijada's tall, statuesque form, and her ability to bash would-be rapists' heads in.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: On perceiving Ingrey's wolf-spirit through her demon, Learned Hallana says, “If that’s a wolf’s soul, I’m the queen of Darthaca.” Later on, Ijada gives Ingrey her opinion of Earl Horseriver's horse-spirit: “To quote Learned Hallana, if that’s a stallion, I’m the queen of Darthaca.”
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the heirs of Horseriver.
  • And Then What?: Ijada's extremely practical response when Ingrey offers to let her escape. Ingrey thinks she can escape into the woods and to her kin; Ijada thinks it likely she'll just end up eaten by a bear.
  • Ascended Meme: "Dratsab" originated on the Bujold mailing list as a way to avoid overzealous content filters; Learned Hallana uses it as a curse.
  • Attempted Rape: Boleso tries it on Ijada just before the beginning of the novel, which not coincidentally opens with Ingrey going to collect Boleso's body.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Ingrey becoming the hallow king for one night.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Fafa the ice bear isn't killed, but:
    Ijada: I was imagining the most bizarre things befalling you.
    Ingrey: Did they include a six-hundred-pound ice bear and a pirate poet?
    Ijada: No...
    Ingrey: Then they weren't the most bizarre after all.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: In the backstory, Hallana and Oswin spent every moment together arguing theology, right up until they married each other — and apparently carried on thereafter.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A rare example of this in Bujold's works, with Ingrey freeing the spirits of the Weald warriors trapped for four hundred years, but unable to free Wencel's or the other innocent souls from Horseriver before he achieves dissolution, and he's unable to help his own father's ghost pass on to the gods, though he does free his spirit animal.
  • Body Horror: The revealed form of Horseriver, which is only humanlike in outline, has the marks of every death he has died, and the screaming faces of all the imprisoned spirits cycling around his skull.
  • Curse: Important, but generally referred to as a "geas," another way of saying "magically compelled."
  • Cursed with Awesome: Ingrey's "defilement" grants some wicked cool abilities like Compelling Voice, superhuman strength and a general air of being angsty and tortured — the downside is, as the last known living shaman, he will be sundered from the gods when he dies. Penric and the Shaman shows that not only is there a new college of shamans, it's implied that at least one of them is Ingrey's descendant.
  • Decadent Court: Downplayed by the Hallow King's court, due to him being on a his deathbed, with much intrigue about the votes for his successor, mostly due to the machinations of Horseriver, who wants to delay the vote as long as he can to temporarily take back the Hallow King's power.
  • Deus ex Machina: A subtle one, but technically the Son of Autumn saved Ijada from Boleso's assault. As she fought Boleso off, she prayed to her father's patron god — the god of the hunt, and war. She tried to run, but could not. When she turned, she found the hilt of Boleso's war hammer under her hand...
  • Disease by Any Other Name: After a wolf-spirit sends the hero into a kind of metaphysical seizure, Hallana — a sorceress/physician acolyte — comments, "I have seen the falling sickness, and that was not it."
  • Dreaming of Things to Come:
    • Ijada has symbolic dreams of the Wounded Wood and what is needed for its healing.
    • Oswin, Hallana, and Lewko have dreams of the five people that need to accompany Ijada; upon meeting Biast for the first time, Oswin recognizes him from the dream.
  • Driving Question: "What makes the Hallow Kingship hallowed?" Ingrey finally finds the answer in the end: "Faith - keeping it." Horseriver's ultimate failure was denying his soldiers to the Gods, failing in his responsibility to those who had fallen in his name.
  • Drop The Hammer: Though it's unclear exactly how, the Son of Autumn and a leopard-spirit enabled maidenly Ijada to bash a would-be rapist's brains in with his own big-ass war hammer.
  • Due to the Dead: The climax includes Ingrey, in his temporary role as The Hallow King, aiding the ghosts of over four thousand Weald spirit warriors in removing their spirit animals and letting them pass on into the gods' hands. A little later he does the same for his late father, though his spirit had faded too much for the gods to take him up.
  • Enchanted Forest: In the Wounded Woods, in the Weald, everyone who sleeps in their bounds has mad, vivid nightmares that send them racing away in terror. It's the cursed site of a horrible massacre of thousands of spirit warriors who still haunt the place, centuries later.
  • Foul Medicine: An injured Ingrey receives two spoonfuls of an utterly vile-tasting syrup made of "willow bark and poppy, wine spirits, and a few other useful things" He almost spits it out, but he soon is feeling no pain at all.
  • Gargle Blaster: Jokol's men serve Ingrey a drink that is drunk in one gulp from a tiny glass and tastes like "pine needles."
  • Grand Theft Me: There has been only one Earl Horseriver, and his house's descent from the old Hallow Kings is not a coincidence.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Ingrey's lieutenant, Gesca, suggests this is the reason Ingrey finds Ijada attractive.
  • In the Blood: Downplayed. Earl Horseriver comments offhandedly that Ingrey's Wolfcliff ancestors also shared his penchant for being stoic and rather curt — or as Horseriver put it, his "singular surliness." And Horseriver would know. He almost certainly knew Ingrey's ancestors personally.
  • King on His Deathbed:The Hallow King, whose imminent death drives the plot, as Earl Horseriver takes advantage of the brief interregnum before Prince Biast takes the crown, to take back the full power of the Weald and finally achieve a permanent death and dissolution.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Ingrey is determinedly cynical, prompting some teasing from Ijada.
    "Now what makes you grow grim?"
    "To be sure."
  • Liminal Time: In the period between the death of Hallow King and the election of his successor, the Hallow King's ancient powers fall back to their original wielder, the Earl of Horseriver, who wishes to use this moment to spite the gods and finally achieve dissolution after involuntarily body snatching his descendants for four hundred years.
  • Luke Nounverber: Jokol Skullsplitter. Weald kin names are generally of the form Animallandscape; examples include Wolfcliff, Horseriver, Badgerbank, and Lynxlake.
  • Male Gaze: Used when Ingrey starts falling for Ijada. For the female readers, it doubles as an excuse to describe her pretty medieval dresses.
  • Meaningful Name: Jokol Skullsplitter, but it doesn't mean what you'd think.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Learned Oswin contrasts his wife having god-sent dreams with his own.
  • Out-Gambitted:
    • Horseriver. He almost succeeded in his revenge on the Gods, except that his chosen shaman was his heir as Hallow King, and severing Ingrey's link to Ijada (which he initially put in place) was what drew her and the five divine representatives to Bloodfield/Holytree.
    • Oswin and Hallana argue about going to Easthome after receiving prophetic dreams, with him refusing to let her go. Finally, she sends him off on his own. He realizes, fairly quickly, that without him to stop her, she'll be along just behind him.
  • The Plan: Horseriver makes many plans in his attempts to spite the Gods.
  • Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Jokol and his men are frequently subject to speculation that they are pirates. If they in fact are, they are the kind that go around singing, drinking and... that's about it.
    • They are fantasy Norsemen in a time where the Norse had a reputation as pirates, reavers... and merchants. Jokol is present in the Weald as a prince and representative of his people (and also to recruit a divine to perform his wedding back home), so while he and his crew may be talked about as pirates, it would be counterproductive to actually engage in any piracy.
  • Power Perversion Potential: Prince Boleso erroneously thinks that his spirit animals will give him power over the Weald and its kin—specifically he thinks Ijada can be his mind-controlled paramour. He gets his head bashed in, instead.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: The driving force behind Earl Horseriver's big plan. He's unspeakably pissed off at the gods turning their backs on the Wealdings long ago.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Earl Wencel kin Horseriver has been unwillingly stealing his heirs' bodies for four hundred years.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The Hallow King was meant to be one, a paragon of the old Wealdings. In the centuries since the Darthacans broke the Old Weald, the Hallow Kingship became a mere political office. Mostly because Horseriver had at least half the magical power of the kingship with him down through the centuries, and none of the kings since then had any idea there was anything to it nor how to use it.
  • Rules Lawyer: Learned Oswin is a medieval fantasy counterpart to a modern lawyer or barrister. He is often somewhat sardonically called a "most perfect servant of the Father," but all who know him respect his scholarly ability. Ingrey is infuriated when Oswin asks if Ingrey could be forced to remove Ijada's spirit animal after her hypothetical execution. When Ingrey implies he would resist (violently), Oswin points out to the judges that her execution would also include her eternal soul's sundering from the gods, a heinous sin if carried out. It is only after the fact that Ingrey realizes this is a powerful argument against executing her.
  • Running Gag:
    • The actual origin of Jokol Skullsplitter's name.
    • Whether Jokol is a pirate or a prince.
    • Hallana's beleaguered attendants constantly retrieving her braids, capes, and pins, and repairing the small things damaged due to her magical Wake of Chaos.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: The Old Wealdings used to practice Human Sacrifice as a way to speed their prayers to the gods. These sacrifices were willing, moved by desperation to make sure the gods heard their kinfolk's prayers when the gods took up the sacrifice's soul upon death. As the Darthacans invaded the Weald centuries ago, the Weald quickly ran out of willing sacrifices and started killing criminals and prisoners of war instead, and never stopped to think what kind of prayers these unwilling sacrifices must be taking up to the gods with them. No wonder the Five turned their backs on the Old Weald.
  • Shout-Out: Sealmaster Hetwar and his relationship with Ingrey has a lot in common with Simon Illyan and Miles Vorkosigan.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Hallana uses 'Dratsab' as a curse. The term was originally used on the Bujold mailing list to avoid overzealous content filters.
  • Spare to the Throne: Shows up peripherally, as the eldest and youngest sons of the Hallow King have already died. Succession politics aren't central to the plot, but they are a crucial detail.
  • Taking You with Me: In a really crazy villainous version, Horseriver wants to take the souls of his dead warriors into oblivion with him, to spite the gods.
  • That Old-Time Prescription: Ingrey was given a pain-reliving medication made from poppies (among other things).
  • Warrior Poet: Jokol.
  • When He Smiles: Ijada thinks Ingrey's smile is devastating.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Centuries of byzantine political plotting actually all boiled down to Horseriver trying to die.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Horseriver's plans tend toward this, as do those of the Gods. He knows the Gods will take every opportunity to foil him, so he has plans to work around whatever impediment they throw at him. We see several of his backup plans, such as the stag in his stables.
    Horseriver: Resisting the gods somewhat resembles playing a game of castles and riders with an opponent who can always see several moves ahead of you. But even the gods cannot see infinitely far ahead. Our free wills cloud Their vision, even though Their eyes are more piercing than ours. The gods do not plan, so much as take advantage.

The Penric stories contain examples of:

  • Affluent Ascetic: Downplayed. Therneas in Knot of Shadows lives a comfortable life and has a large fortune in stolen gold hidden under his floor. Potentially justified in that living at the level he could afford would have called attention to his theft.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Xarre estate is protected by (among other things) a large number of mastiffs. Penric manages to use the Weirding Voice on them to get past.
  • Assassination Attempt: Attempted on Adelis at the beginning of The Assassins of Thasalon, but thwarted by Penric and Desdemona. There were earlier ones that he didn't tell Penric and Nikys about, so as not to worry them.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Penric, in disguise as Mira in Mira's Last Dance, attracts several male admirers. It doesn't hurt that he has Mira's knowledge via Desdemona. It's also thoroughly established that he was already quite attractive to begin with.
  • Battle Butler: Lady Tanar's secretary/bodyguard Surakos Bosha definitely qualifies.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Much of the reason Penric is able to get so much assistance from Desdemona is that he treats "her" like a person, with thoughts and feelings of her own, not merely a dangerous, if useful, tool.
    Desdemona: You looked a god in the eyes. And spoke for me. There is nothing in my power that I will ever refuse you, after that.
    • He is the first of Desdemona's many riders to even give her a name.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Baron Wegae kin Pikepool is not just blind without them, but is still rapturous about being able to see with his glasses, years after first being fitted with them.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Penric and Nikys appear headed for romance after Penric's Mission, but her discomfort over how easily he becomes Mira in Mira's Last Dance throws this into disarray. They sort it out by the end of Prisoner of Limnos.
  • Bungled Suicide: The culmination of Penric's work for the Mother's Order in Martensbridge (where Penric was constantly pushed to his uttermost limits and saw many, many patients die) was when he attempted suicide in a manner that his demon couldn't circumvent. Desdemona did manage to circumvent it, narrowly.
  • Call-Back:
    • The Assassins of Thasalon has several:
      • The Bastard refusing to take Alixtra's demon reminds Penric of when the Bastard similarly refused to take Desdemona.
      • Lencia and Seuka from The Orphans of Raspay have grown up a bit and are dedicats at the Bastard's chapterhouse in Vilnoc.
      • Methani came up with the assassination plan after reading Kyrato's report on what happened at the end of Penric's Mission.
      • The Bastard's Order's motto, "No Hands But Ours", is from a line from The Hallowed Hunt, described as a quote whose source is lost.
        Ingrey: The gods have no hands in this world but ours. If we fail Them, where then can They turn?
      • Penric meets General Chadro again after their intimate encounter (with Penric dressed as Mira) in Mira's Last Dance.
    • Knot of Shadows also has a few:
      • All the way back in Curse of Chalion, it was mentioned that the bodies of those slain by death magic needed to be burned, lest a sundered ghost take up residence.
      • Penric talks about how exhausting it is to quarter a city with demonic senses extended to find someone, which he did in Masquerade in Lodi.
      • Penric and Alixtra, discussing ghosts, refer back to Wegae's aunt haunting her house until her husband was arrested for her murder, to Inglis sustaining Tollin's ghost with his own blood, and to Scuolla being sustained by his dogs until Inglis could arrive to cleanse him.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: While telling Penric the family history in Prisoner of Limnos, Nikys mentions her half-brother Ikos, who becomes important later.
  • Chekhov's Skill: One that takes several novellas to manifest: One of Desdemona's previous hosts, Mira, was a courtesan. Her skills are essential in Mira's Last Dance.
  • Continuity Drift: In Curse of Chalion, when a character is killed via death magic, the sacred animals not signing them for any god is surprising (previously it had been established that someone killed by the Bastard's death magic was, pretty much by definition, taken up by the Bastard). In Knot of Shadows, it's stated that generally the only people killed by death magic are those who would be sundered due to being horrible people.
  • Continuity Nod: As Penric and Oswyl leave Martensbridge early in Penric and the Shaman, they pass by the remains of Castle Martenden, which was heavily damaged at the end of Penric's Demon. A brief discussion of what has occurred after the end of the earlier story follows.
    • Penric's Demon includes short nods to previous books including: Penric wondering "where" a demon resides in him and wondering if he can feel it like a stomachache (referencing Caz's tumor demon in Curse); and a mention of the Hallow King's secretive royal shamans (implying Ingrey and Ijada managed to bring the shamans back after Hunt). This last is later confirmed in Penric and the Shaman.
  • Death of a Child: In Knot of Shadows, a four-year-old boy went missing two weeks ago. He was caught in the sewers and drowned.
  • Decadent Court: Cedonia is this world's version of the Byzantine court, with all the intrigue that implies.
  • Disguised in Drag: Penric, as Mira, in Mira's Last Dance.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Sci-Fi: Played fairly straight in Penric and the Shaman, where a shaman attempted to use the weirding voice to seduce Ruchia. Bearing a demon made her immune, but she ended up sleeping with him anyway.
  • Dramatic Spine Injury: In Penric's Fox, Penric ends his desperate fight against Baron Halber by doing a flip, laying his hand against Halber's lower back, and breaking Halber's spine with his sorcery.
  • The Dreaded: Other demons are terrified of Desdemona, because of how deep and dense she is.
  • Driven to Suicide: Kyem Soudei after he was accused of theft from the Customs House, possibly to protect his family from having their property seized if he was convicted.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil:
    • Master Bosha is very clearly not a nice person, and carries multiple poisoned weapons at all times. However, he's working for Adelis's intended, so once he confirms who Penric and Nikys are, he's on their side.
    • Minister Methani, on the other hand, is so thoroughly evil that none of the Gods will take him up when he dies.
  • Eye Scream: At the beginning of Penric's Mission a character is blinded by having boiling vinegar poured into his eyes. Fortunately only his eyelids and cornea are burned, and Penric is able to repair the damage with a great deal of "Uphill" magic.
  • False Friend:
    • Clee in Penric's Demon, who helps his elder brother kidnap Penric in order to murder him and steal Desdemona.
    • Velka in Penric's Mission, whose job was to confirm that Penric was the "Adriac spy" coming in reply to the Forged Message.
  • Foreshadowing: In Penric and the Shaman, Des complains about the cold Martensbridge winter and talks about the warmth and beauty of Cedonia. Penric's Mission, the next story written, takes place in Cedonia.
  • Frame-Up: In the backstory of Knot of Shadows. Therneas framed Kyem Soudei of theft from the Customs House, leading to his suicide.
  • Forged Message: A key part of the plot for Penric's Mission. Penric is delivering a reply to a forged message, allegedly from General Arisaydia to the Duke of Adria. The reply, which is legitimate, is used as evidence of the loyal Arisaydia's treason.
  • Ghostly Goals:
    • In the backstory for Penric and the Fox, Wegae's aunt haunted the staircase she was killed on until her husband was arrested for her murder.
    • In The Assassins of Thasalon, Methani's ghost wants to lead people to his body and show them his wounds, in hopes of his murderer being caught.
  • Grande Dame: The Princess-Archdivine of Martensbridge combines secular and spiritual authority in her district.
  • I Have Your Wife: Alixtra's son is held as a hostage to keep her obedient.
  • Heroic BSoD: Somewhere in the timeskip between Penric's Fox and Penric's Mission, Penric was recruited as a physician for the Mother's Order. There, Penric ran into a bad combination: sorcerous power, physician's knowledge, and a complete inability to say no. The Order higher-ups threw their very worst cases at him, the ones even beyond Desdemona's skill, for years, until Penric hit a breaking point. He's better now, but when Nikys suggests Penric take up being a physician again, he tells her calmly and deliberately that he would rather die.
  • I'm a Doctor, Not a Placeholder: In Mira's Last Dance Adelis cuts off a suggestion that he wear his sister's clothes again as a disguise with, "I'm a soldier, not an actor."
  • Idiot Ball: Justified at the end of Masquerade in Lodi, due to Penric's fatigue. After Tempting Fate by saying he hasn't been dunked in the canal yet, Chio asks him to hand her his mask, turns him to stand with his back to the canal, and yet he's still surprised when she pushes him in.
  • Infection Scene: In The Physicians of Vilnoc, Penric is bitten by a horsefly that carries the disease he's trying to treat. This gives him the insight he needs to resolve the outbreak while also infecting him.
  • Irony: Bosha, albino and fifth of five sons, was castrated to push him into the bureaucracy as the most likely way for him to be useful to the family. All four of his brothers died in a civil war, leaving his father to regret having his heir be incapable of having children.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Iroki describes Tronio's demon as tasting like a gangrenous limb.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: Penric goes all out on the imperial courier at the end of The Prisoner of Limnos, at the cost of about a cup of blood coughed up afterwards.
    I think you want to let me see that paper. You need to deliver that paper to me. (reads the paper) You have delivered your urgent message to the Customs-shed officer. You have done your duty. Now you need to take care of your loyal horse. And then go drink a flagon of wine. You've earned it.
  • Kick the Dog: Halber stomps on Wegae's glasses.
  • Kill the Host Body: A purely villainous example in Penric's Fox, when the sorceress Learned Magal is murdered. Her killer wanted vengeance against her demon for actions taken by its previous host, the now-dead Learned Svedra.
  • Loophole Abuse: In The Assassins of Thasalon. A sorcerer killing with their demon's powers causes the Bastard to reclaim the demon...but it doesn't mean the sorcerer can't be given another demon. Alixtra is used as a disposable assassin, recharged with even-more disposable demons. The Bastard makes his displeasure known, not to Alixtra, but to those who used her.
  • Lured into a Trap: Penric's Mission, and presumably part of the Cedonian plan in The Prisoner of Limnos.
  • MacGuffin Delivery Service: The titular mission in Penric's Mission is delivering a letter that the villain knows is coming because it's in response to a forged letter sent by him or someone in his employ.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: When Penric wakes up with some morning desire, he's about to "take matters in hand" when his female demon pipes up, interested to see what the experience is like from the other side. He decides he'd rather be frustrated for now.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: In Demon Daughter Penric and Nikys learn that their marriage is one because Desdemona has been using uphill magic to stop Penric's aging process. He asks Nikys if Desdemona should let him age naturally and she says no.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Penric uses his demon's magic to make printer's plates.
    • Later, he uses the Weirding Voice to get his toddler to go to sleep.
  • Mutually Exclusive Magic: Subverted; Penric, a sorcerer, learns shamanic magic as well, despite having a demon instead of a spirit animal. It still costs blood, though, and even more than it would a shaman.
  • Naming Ceremony: Penric performs a naming ceremony when giving a name to a sorcerer's demon. Kyrato thinks he's insane, but Alixtra provides the name she would have given her son if he'd been born a girl.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If Bosha had just done what Tanar had told him to do and left with Alixtra and Kittio, then the entire group would have been well away from the party by the time Methani's body was discovered. (Of course, then Pen wouldn't have met Tronio while trying to rescue Bosha, so it's possible that Bosha's decision was nudged by the Bastard.)
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: As Penric and Iroki are trying to figure out how to track down and arrest Tronio, he arrives with (among others) a petty saint of the Father who is able to discern if people are lying. Des comments that he's like a chicken that brought its own pot and onions.
  • Noodle Incident: In Mira's Last Dance, the courtesan Mira's secret method for leaving a client thoroughly satisfied without needing to remove any of her own clothing. Silk scarves are involved, but we don't get much more detail than that. Penric learns the full details off-screen, but subsequently refuses to discuss them, citing the courtesan equivalent of patient confidentiality (although possibly the real reason is that he's too embarrassed to talk about it).
  • The Pardon: The Bastard pardons Alixtra for her assassinations; the Cedonian regents are not particularly impressed with the idea, but also don't want to overtly annoy the White God, so she is exiled to Orbas.
  • The Plague: The Physicians of Vilnoc has Penric dealing with a mysterious disease ravaging the soldiers belonging to his brother-in-law Adelis.
  • Poisoned Weapons: Master Bosha carries several.
  • Possessing a Dead Body: The main story of Knot of Shadows is triggered when a dead body suddenly awakes, because the person was killed by death magic and a sundered ghost took up residence. Which leads to a search for the other body, since there are always two corpses after death magic.
  • Power Perversion Potential: In Penric and the Shaman, Desdemona tells Penric that a Weald shaman once attempted to seduce Penric's predecessor using his weirding voice. His voice failed to work on the sorceress. Though, incidentally, his seduction succeeded.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Justified - shamanism is Blood Magic, and when Penric uses it, he gets a nosebleed.
  • Remember When You Blew Up a Sun?: Adelis loves to tweak Penric about how much damage he did to the pirates.
    Adelis: Just how long have you been here?
    Penric: About six days.
    Adelis: Oh? And the city's not yet burned to the ground?
  • Revenge Before Reason: Halber's motivation in Penric and the Fox. He can't get back what he's lost, but he wants to get revenge on everybody who took it from him, even though there's no way it can end well for him.
  • Romancing the Widow: Penric and Nikys are headed toward a relationship at the end of Penric's Mission. They agree to start that relationship at the end of Prisoner of Limnos.
  • Run for the Border: The final third of Penric's Mission, all of Mira's Last Dance, and the final part of Prisoner of Limnos.
  • Running Gag:
    • People expressing surprise when they learn that Penric has given his demon a name.
    • Jokes about what inspiration the Bastard governs, which apparently includes dirty songs.
    • Desdemona's running tally of vermin she's exterminated to feed her need to produce chaos. Verges on Black Humor in Penric's Mission, as she moves up from lice and bedbugs to rats and at least one diseased cat to fuel all of Penric's "uphill" magic.
  • Scars are Forever: Adelis ends up with scars across his upper face and disconcerting red irises after Penric successfully heals his eyes. In the end he figures he can make it work with his reputation as a military commander.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Rina and Otta name Otta's demon "Atto" because Penric had said that it would become "like a mirror" to Otta.
  • Self-Surgery: Pen and Des get to try this when Penric is tossed in a bottle dungeon with a broken skull and has to trepan himself.
  • Shout-Out: On their way to Orbas in Mira's Last Dance, Penric, Adelis and Nikys stop in a town in time to observe the double funeral of two young lovers from feuding families.
  • Taking the Heat: Discussed in The Assassins of Thasalon - people are concerned that Bosha will falsely confess to murder, if he realizes who actually committed the murder.
  • Taking You with Me: In Penric's Mission, an enemy sorcerer tries to make his demon give Penric a heart attack, knowing that Penric's death will drag the sorcerer's demon to the Bastard's hell but leave him alive. It fails, and Penric gives him a very stern lecture about treating his demon more respectfully.
  • Tempting Fate: At the end of Masquerade in Lodi, Penric mentions that despite it being the Bastard's Day, he hasn't been dunked in the canal at all yet. Chio proceeds to fix this.
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Demon Daughter contains an In-Universe example. Ilpo, a ten-year-old boy, catches a rat and attempts to use it to scare Otta, a six-year-old girl. But the rat he caught was a cute, friendly juvenile rat, and instead of being scared of it Otta wants to keep it as a pet.
  • Turn to Religion: In Penric's Demon, Penric comes face-to-face with the Bastard, embodied in the Saint of Idau. Penric prays to the Bastard to spare Desdemona, and realizes that he will never be able to pray by mere rote again. By the next story, Penric and the Shaman, Penric is now Learned Penric, a full-braid divine.
  • Undead Child: Four-year-old Agno's ghost possesses Vissa's body after the child drowns.
  • Vestigial Empire: Cedonia - an in-universe equivalent of the Byzantine Empire, with a Deadly Decadent Court and a lot of independent former provinces like Orbas.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: A theme of the Penric novellas. Most sorcerers treat their demon as a thing or dangerous animal. Penric gives his a name and treats her respectfully, and she has reciprocated by becoming his friend. He's trying to spread the word and enact change, but it's difficult — many people assume his demon has made him Brainwashed and Crazy. The Assassins of Thasalon makes it clear that the Bastard agrees with Penric.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: There is no lack of suspects when Minister Methani is murdered.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Methani and Tronio threaten to castrate Alixtra's son and sell him as a slave if she doesn't do what they tell her to.
  • Worthy Opponent: Adelis's view of Alixtra. Penric describes it as the "mildly insane respect of a military man for an enemy who had almost succeeded in finishing him".

Alternative Title(s): The Curse Of Chalion, Paladin Of Souls, The Hallowed Hunt, Penrics Demon, Chalion