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Evil is a matter of perspective.
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Wraith Knight is a Deconstruction High Fantasy series by C.T. Phipps.

The King Below, Enemy of the World, is dead. Will his successor save the world...or rule it? Jacob Riverson was once the greatest hero of an age. Cut down during what should have been the final battle against the King Below, he was condemned to centuries of torment as a Wraith Knight in the service of said monster.

With the destruction of his master, Jacob finds his free will returning and discovers he is in a world torn by civil war between the King Below's former slaves and the heroes who "saved" them. Joining forces with the overly-idealistic but brilliant warrior Regina Whitetremor and sorceress Serah Brightwaters, Jacob must determine whether he has any place in the new world and whether his destiny is as a hero or monster. Or both.

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Books in the series:

  • Wraith Knight (2016)
  • Wraith Lord (2019)


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     The series 
  • Action Girl: Regina is a dragonriding, dragonslaying, sword-swinging daredevil. Serah can kill a hundred people with a single spell. It's implied there's literally as many of these as men in the setting too.
  • Affectionate Parody: A Downplayed Trope example as the story is entirely serious and really you need to know J.R.R Tolkien to get all the references but the entire book includes innumerable digs at the typical Tolkien pastiche as well as assumptions of the original work. These include Always Chaotic Evil races, the omnibenevolence of supernatural beings, the "Return of the King" being anything other than a usurption, Can't Argue with Elves, and that smaller weaker races wouldn't get swept up in events.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Deconstructed, Reconstructed, and subverted. The Shadowkind races were created to be plagues on the Lightborn races but have their own moralities as well as cultures. Generally, though, they did all of their atrocities on the orders of the King Below and because their homeland was an icy hellhole compared to the Southerner's nicer climate.
  • Ancient Tradition: The Shadowguard are basically the Grey Wardens or Night's Watch of the setting.
  • Antihero: Serah and Jacob both qualify.
    • Antivillain: From the perspective of the rest of the world, Jacob, Serah, and Regina are reading from the wrong script.
  • The Anti-Christ: How Jacob is viewed and his quest for the King Below's power. He's really the Anti Anti Christ, though, since he's a Dark Is Not Evil protagonist.
  • Arc Words: Arcus Maeharl a.k.a "Shadow aid, my brother."
  • Bad Powers, Good People: While antiheroes, both Jacob and Serah qualify for this status.
  • Berserk Button: Jacob is The Stoic in almost all things. Try hurting a child in his presence.
    • Regina goes Ax-Crazy around the Nine Heroes or their minions.
  • Black Knight: Jacob and the other Wraith Knights were this by nature. They were all undead Magic Knight warriors who served as the King Below's generals.
  • The Black Smith: Jacob is one of these, being a magical artificer and creator of weapons in addition to his status as a Magic Knight. Becomes The Ultimate Blacksmith when he creates Starlight as a gift for Regina.
    • Tharadon and Co'Fannon were, apparently, this.
  • Blood Knight: The Trickster says Jacob is secretly one of these. This seems somewhat of an Informed Attribute since he plays the role of The Stoic most of the book.
  • Blood Magic: Jassamine practiced this in addition to her Light Is Good powers.
  • Body Horror: Jacob has one of these moments when he realizes ''he doesn't have a face." He gets better.
  • Bi the Way: Regina and Serah are "lovers of men and women." They're also ex-lovers, which complicates their relationship with Jacob.
  • Cool Sword: Chill's Fury and Hopebringer. Regina throws away Hopebringer when she finds out its origins.
  • Corrupt Church: The Grand Temple during the time of Jacob's mortal days is a grand guginol of corruption, excess, and hypocrisy. Which is why Jacob lets its leaders be burned alive.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Played straight with the King Below and all of his armies. Subverted with the fact Jacob, once free, is perfectly decent.
    • Serah has struggled with this her entire life as the majority of people believe Bad Powers, Bad People.
    • Played with regarding the Formori, who are not Always Chaotic Evil but have been used as shock troopers by the King Below for millennium that their culture doesn't know much else but war.
  • Dark Messiah: The Trickster has chosen Jacob to be one of these. In fact, it better fits Jassamine.
  • Darth Vader Clone: More like a Witch King of the Nazgul clone with Word of God backing it up. Still, Jacob is also a Fallen Hero of a monster-hunting organization who is also a Magic Knight and The Blacksmith.
  • Deconstruction: A lot of the book is, essentially, a Deconstructive Parody of the Lord of the Rings starting with the premise of, "What if a Ringwraith survived the death of Sauron and decided to go back to being a hero?"
  • Expy: Jacob is an Expy of both the Witch King of Angmar and Boromir. Some reviewers believe he's closer to Anakin Skywalker, though.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Jacob and Jassamine's bloody reforms of the Grand Temple have a resemblance to the Protestant Revolution.
  • The Dragon: A rare double example for Jacob as he was first one for Jassamine/Prince Edward then one of these for the King Below while his spirit was enslaved. He becomes the Dragon Ascendant when he assumes the mantle of the King Below.
    • Jon Blackthorn serves as this for Empress Morwen. The Nine Heroes/Usurpers serve as this for Jassamine.
  • Dragon Rider: Regina is one of these and so are the majority of the Shadowguard now.
  • The Empire: The Anessian Empire is a pretty stanard version of this.
  • Evil Overlord: The King Below was this for the entire World Between. When he dies, there was much rejoicing.
    • Jacob is a subversion of this as everyone expects him to be but he really doesn't have the temperment for it.
  • Fallen Hero: Jacob Riverson was once the First Knight of the Shadowguard. He was then killed and his spirit transformed into that of a Dark Lord.
    • The Nine Heroes/Nine Usurpers may also be an example of this. They saved the world, only to promptly take it over.
  • Genocide Backfire: Albeit, one the Nine Heroes/Usurpers couldn't really have imagined would happen. They destroy the Duchy of Whitehall and then lay siege to the city of Accadia, essentially getting The Anti-Christ involved with two very dangerous women who now have a reason to go after the Usurpers.
  • Guns Are Useless: They exist but magic is so prevalent that they're not noticeably better than enhanced arrows or bolts which can be outfitted with runes to create explosions.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The four Dark Lords (or Wraith Knights) deliberately invoke this.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Serah, Regina, and Jacob all suffer from this.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Serah is this in every possible way. Oddly, also fits Dark Magical Girl despite her age given her crippling fear of loneliness.
  • Light Is Not Good: Jassamine turns out to be this way. As does the King Above.
  • Magic Knight: Jacob is one of these, possessing sorcery equal to his skill with a sword. It only gets more the case when he becomes a Wraith Knight.
  • Necessarily Evil: How Jon Blackthorn justifies his destruction of Whitehall and its inhabitants.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Jacob and Serah's shared philosophy on how to deal with the wicked.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Regina struggles with this as she wants to be a Lawful Good servant of justice but really-really hates the Nine Heroes/Usurpers.
  • Schizo Tech: A pretty big example of it as they still have bows, arrows, and mounted calvary despite having trains as well as electric lights. It's just the bows can shoot faster than guns, the arrows explode, and the mounted calvary is dragons. Oh and giant building-sized golems are serving as bulldoers.
  • Steampunk: The series is unusual example as it takes place in a High Fantasy setting but which has combined technology with magic after the last war between the Dark Lord and The Alliance. While the protagonist is effectively a Ringwraith, he has to deal with an enormous clockwork spider and the flying airship navy of the Empress.
  • The Stoic: It takes an almost inhuman amount to get Jacob to get angry.
  • The Trickster: The Trickster, natch.
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: Jacob and the Formor have this in common. It is one of their berserk buttons.
  • Vain Sorceress: Serah uses magic to make herself look beautiful. Justified as she's noticed that while people are pretty hostile to wielders of black magic in general, they're somewhat more tolerant of good-looking ones.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: The Nine Heroes/Nine Usurpers used their status as the heroes of the Fifth Shadow War to take over the Southern Kingdoms.

     Wraith Knight 

  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Serah gives one to Regina. Jacob eventually gives one to both.
  • Body Horror: Jacob suffers a case of this when he realizes he's got no face. Subverted when he realizes he can conjure a new body for himself by draining the life force of others.
  • The Fundamentalist: Both Jacob and Jassamine were this in their original times, being among the few to take the religion of the King Above seriously as the rest of their faith had become the Corrupt Church. They eventually led to a Protestant-style reformation before Jassamine Jumped Off The Slippery Slope and became a Knight Templar. Sadly, it's implied their god approved of this.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Jassamine was a Manipulative Bastard Well-Intentioned Extremist who is remembered as "Saint Jassamine." Contrast to Jacob's Historical Villain Upgrade.
    • Played straight with Eric the Great, who was a complete scumbag and The Pawn according to Jacob.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Sort of. Jacob Riverson was a sober, puritanical religious reformer in love with a single woman his entire life. He's remembered by history as a rowdy drunk Lovable Rogue lecher.
  • Killed Off for Real: Thomas Brightwaters is the brother to Serah, a Lovable Rogue, and seemingly part of the main cast but dies unceremoniously in battle halfway through the book.
    • This also happens to Creature toward the end of the book, showing Anyone Can Die.
  • Lovable Rogue: Jacob is remembered as one of these but was anything but. Thomas Brightwaters is a more straight example.
  • Love Triangle: Serah loves Regina but is attracted to Jacob who is falling for Regina but attracted to Serah. They all end up together in the end.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Regina takes down all of Jon Bloodthorn's sons and a small army to rescue Jacob's wounded form from the battlefield.
  • Rip Van Winkle: Jacob gets hit with this hard when he wakes up after two hundred and fifty years of mind-control.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Jacob's solution to the situation with the Formor's enslavement. Also, how he manages to resolve the love triangle between him, Serah, and Regina.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Jacob possesses this for Jassamine his entire living life. It changes when meets Regina and Serah.
  • Suicide by Cop: More like Suicide By Evil God Jacob is revealed to have done this when he discovered Jassamine, his one true love, murdered the royal heirs for their magical power.
  • Take a Third Option: Jacob does this when presented with the choice of enslaving the Formor to fight for him or letting the Nine Heroes/Usurpers run wild with their armies. He RECRUITS them to fight for him by breaking their magical enslavement.
  • Polyamory: Regina, Jacob, and Serah are all in love with one another to varying degrees by the end of the book. It requires Jacob becoming the God of Darkness to realize that they can just do what they want.
  • Trickster Mentor: The Trickster, appropriately enough. Though how much he's manipulating Jacob to do his bidding and how much he's just having fun trolling him is very much up to interpretation.
  • Victory Is Boring: The Trickster claims that this was why he eventually broke off his occupation of the human lands after winning the Third Shadow War. Once he realised that no great heroes were going to arise to lead a rebellion against him, he just went home and waited for the humans to recover enough to be worth invading again.

     Wraith Lord 
  • All for Nothing: The quest for Gewain fails as he's been tortured beyond the ability to recover.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Oghma are a group of wizards and witches who consider themselves an Ancient Tradition.
  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: Jacob as the God of Evil is far more moral and decent than the Nine Heroes.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Fell Hellsword and Thermic Redhand are a Teeth-Clenched Teamwork example.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Jacob has no interest in going to war with the Southern Continent despite many of his subjects (as well as Regina) pressuring him to do so. He is eventually forced to when the Nine Heroes plan a genocidal strike against his homeland.
  • Cool Sword: Fell Hellsword wields one of the Dark Lords swords that he's turned into a soul-stealing weapon.
  • City of Adventure: Kerifas is a city of deep social divisions, strategic importance, and a plot by the Nine Heroes.
  • Complete Immortality: Thermic Redhand believes he has this. Jacob, as a god, proves him wrong.
  • Dating Catwoman: Serah and Fell Hellsword used to have a relationship.
  • Doing In the Wizard: To a lesser extent as its discovered that The World Between is a planet colonized by ancient humans after they Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence. All the fantasy tropes and races are because the formerly physical humans found it amusing. It's essentially a giant MMO for themselves.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Ketra is a Flat-Earth Atheist who doesn't believe in the gods while talking to Jacob (who is a god).
  • Expy: Fell Hellsword is based on Elric while Thermic Redhand is based on Kratos.
    • Ice Demons are frozen versions of Balrogs.
  • Final Solution: Fell Hellsword plans to use ancient High Human weapons to wipe out the entirety of the Northern Wastelands people.
    • Thermic Redhand is trying to incite a pogrom against the Fir-Bolg in the city.
  • Magic Knight: Fell Hellsword joins Jacob as one while Regina gains these abilities as well.
  • Physical God: Jacob, Regina, and Serah are all now this after Jacob shared his powers with his wives.
    • Thermic Redhand is between this and a Demigod.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Nine Heroes believe Jacob will lead an invasion of their kingdom so they should strike him first.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Ketra is a university-educated political radical that has numerous views that are completely wrong.
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: Multiple. Rose is actually an agent for the Nine Heroes and Kana is more loyal to the Golden Horn. Even Ketra is unwittingly part of Fell Hellsword's plan.
  • Start of Darkness: It is implied that Regina as begun hers by destroying every member of House Rogers.
  • Steampunk: Kerifas and the Northen Wasteland are far more modernized than the rest of the world, even having electricity as well as gas street lamps.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Thermic Redhand is the only member of the Nine Heroes who isn't a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Regina is clearly traumatized by the destruction of House Rogers.
  • Your Soul Is Mine: Fell Hellsword can take the souls of those killed with his blade.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The Army of Free Peasants and the Golden Horn straddle this line. Jacob is having none of it.
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