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Literature / Worlds of Shadow

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Worlds of Shadow is a trilogy by Lawrence Watt-Evans. It's the tale of an Unlucky Everydude and his friends and family as they find themselves caught up in a battle against an Evil Overlord who's taken over a fantasy universe and is attacking a sci-fi one. According to the author, "That would imply that the series is science-fantasy, blending two genres — but actually, it's more like horror, because in none of the three worlds do the good guys always win."

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They are as follows:

Out of This World (1993)

In the Empire of Shadow (1995)

The Reign of the Brown Magician (1996)


This series provides examples of:

  • Aliens Speaking English: Justified-there are an infinite number of parallel universes, but contact can be made only if those sending and receiving are of similar species and speak a similar language.
  • All Just a Dream: One character is convinced the events of the story are a dream, and suffers a mental breakdown as a result since it becomes a full on psychological delusion.
  • Anyone Can Die: Many of the starting characters don't make it through to the end of the series.
  • Artificial Human: The simulacra, people created by magic from samples of hair or blood from previous natural ones. Shadow used them to impersonate people in the Galactic Empire as spies. It is implied that the originals have been murdered. The simulacra seem just like normal humans, except they're completely obedient to their creator/master-the only thing that upsets them is the idea of not having one, or failing in a mission.
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  • Back from the Dead: The fetches and revenants. Neither are quite the same.
  • Benevolent Mage Ruler: Pel becomes one for the world of Faerie.
  • Boring Failure Hero: The reason (or rather, a reason) some people really, really hate the first book.
  • Cain and Abel: Raven and his brother. He's spent years uselessly struggling against Shadow, while his brother lives as a vassal holding their land.
  • Came Back Wrong: Fetches and revenants. There is a "spark" both lack. Fetches can't speak well, while both are entirely apathetic and will follow orders blindly.
  • Child by Rape: Amy gets pregnant due to being repeatedly raped by her owner Walter.
  • Covers Always Lie: The covers (especially the original ones) are very bad in most cases, with little link to the books' contents nor indication who the characters shown even are in some cases.
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  • Fantastic Aesop: Bringing your dead loved ones back from the dead won't work-they'll just be a soulless shell. So better make your peace with it.
  • Fantastic Racism: Telepaths in the Galactic Empire are all highly prejudiced against, as people are very paranoid about them spying on their thoughts, and called "mutants". The main character points out this isn't true, since they all descend from one woman so it's a hereditary trait which breeds true, rather than just a mutation, but he simply gets accused of "standing up for mutants".
  • Geas: Shadow places one on Pel compelling him to do and refrain from doing various things. However, he finds a workaround against Shadow nonetheless.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Raven and Shadow. The former is a man while the latter turns out to be a woman.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with Amy once she gets pregnant due to her rape. She decides to have an abortion quickly, waiting only until she's on Earth. Though she finds it unpleasant, she's not shown as regretting her choice or even hesitating much at all.
  • Humans Are White: Lampshaded in the sci-fi universe, where all the Imperials we see are Caucasians. Though they claim people of other races live there, but separately, none actually appear. It's made explicit that they are also white supremacists, disliking to see black people working at an equal level with whites on Earth, and thus other races in their empire are probably forcibly kept separate in an inferior position.
  • It's Personal: Villains rape and kill the main character's wife and prepubescent daughter.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Shadow turns out to be one, though she isn't so elegant as the usual portrayal, looking like an ordinary middle-aged woman.
  • Made a Slave: In the first book, the characters suffer this after their ship is hijacked by pirates. The main character is sold as a mining slave, the female characters are made sex slaves and raped repeatedly before the Empire comes to rescue them all. The main character's daughter is also murdered.
  • Mind over Manners: Played straight in that psychics follow it, subverted in that most people don't believe they follow it, and consequently don't trust them.
  • Muggle Power: The books here used the Warhammer 40,000 approach to psychics-they're tools, not people. Not because they are actually dangerous, mind you, but just because the society that has them considers them "mutant freaks."
  • The Multiverse: The story reveals alternate universes exist, and are nearly infinite in number. However only two others are actually shown: one is a sci fi style universe with an interstellar empire, the other a fantasy world. It's explained the universes you can visit must have features in common.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Shadow. However, it's revealed this was originally due to being shy. Later however it became appropriate in this sense as Shadow grew evil.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Shadow. For most of the series, Shadow's exact nature is not even known to the heroes, and never leaves the palace. Though some monsters are sent out to stop the heroes, Shadow never just intervenes to crush them personally. It turns out that she is bored and doesn't view them as a threat, concentrating on conquering another universe, with her power on the world of Faerie basically absolute, so this is not surprising.
  • Red Shirt: Characters with no first name have a poor survival rate. Interestingly enough, the main character considers himself a Red Shirt.
  • Refusal of the Call: Played with. Pel's at first very reluctant to join Raven's war against Shadow. He agrees to visit the other world temporarily, but then they get stuck there. His family get killed, and thus he goes into it for revenge.
  • Sex Slave: This is the fate of Amy and Prossie (not to mention, no doubt, many other women) when they get sold as slaves after pirates' hijack their ship. Luckily they are rescued by the Galactic Empire along with the rest of the slaves on the planet where they're being held.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Racist and imperialist though it may be, the Galactic Empire is still wholly opposed to slavery, punishing those who bought slaves with imprisonment after they take over a planet. Those who murdered them are hanged.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Shadow is one for Faerie, ruling with a cruel hand for centuries.
  • The Soulless: Shadow posits that fetches and revenants are "off" because of this. People on Faerie believe that their Goddess places a spirit in them, and thus these may be lacking it, which Shadow admits.
  • Space Pirates: The passenger ship which the characters are traveling on is hijacked by some. In addition to raping and murdering the hero's wife, they sell the rest into slavery on a nearby planet.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Shadow is revealed to be just a plump woman whose appearance is middle-aged, though she's actually centuries old.
  • This Is Reality: Not to mention something of a Take That! to two entire genres and their idealistic tendencies. The main character also qualifies as Wrong Genre Savvy.
  • Voodoo Zombie: Fetches, who were dead people raised by Shadow with magic. They can't talk well, mindlessly obey orders, are completely emotionless and have a slight smell to them, but that's it. None eats people, nor anything else. They thus have more in common with the original Haitian mythology.

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