Emberverse

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The Year: 1998. The Date: March 17. The Time: 6:15 p.m. PST.

An enormous electrical storm of unknown properties encompasses the island of Nantucket and transports it back to the bronze age. The resultant time shock causes everyone on Earth to suffer an intense migraine at the exact same moment. The far more important consequence is that any device run off of electricity, gunpowder, explosives, internal combustion or steam power ceases to function. Permanently. In a single instant, humanity has been, metaphorically, bombed back to the Stone Age.

Thus begins Dies the Fire, the first "Novel of the Change," by S.M. Stirling. The Novels of the Change, aka the Emberverse, concern what happens to the modern world after the island of Nantucket is hurled back through time in Island in The Sea of Time, the other side of the Emberverse coin.

The Emberverse currently consists of two completed trilogies, the first two volumes of a concluding tetrology, and one short story ("Something for Yew").

The first trilogy consists of:

  • Dies the Fire (2004) - After the Nantucket Event, Michael Havel and the Larsson family make their way from Montana to the Larsson estate in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, picking up survivors on the way, and eventually forming the mercenary outfit "The Bearkillers". Meanwhile, in Corvallis, the Oregon State University "faculty senate" rallies the city survivors to their banner, while Juniper Mackenzie and her neo-pagan "Georgian Wiccan" coven form the "Clan Mackenzie" in the hills south of Lebanon, Oregon. Finally, history professor Norman Arminger rallies the members of his local branch of the Society for Creative Anachronism and the criminal element of Portland to his "Portland Protective Association", based on a feudalistic monarchy with some minor Mordorian influences. All this is accomplished amid the backdrop of billions dying as most of the world's mass food production capabilities and rapid transport fail, leaving everyone to fend for himself.
  • The Protector's War (2005) - With the various factions of the Willamette Valley relatively settled, Lord Protector Arminger sets his sights on conquering the rest of the valley, something the Bearkillers, Mackenzies and Corvallans want no part of. This marks the start of the Protector's War
  • The Meeting at Corvallis (2006) - The Protector's War ends, and peace finally comes to the Willamette Valley...for a time.

The second trilogy takes place 22 years after the Change, after a 12-year Time Skip:

  • The Sunrise Lands (2007) - Ingolf Vogeler, a traveler from Readstown, Wisconsin, arrives at Dun Juniper, the capital of the Clan Mackenzie, searching for a man known as "The Son of the Bear Who Rules," so the Wisconsinite can take him to obtain "The Sword of the Lady," after a vision he received while visiting the island of Nantucket. He is pursued by assassins from the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), a religious cult who view the Change as punishment from God. Rudi Mackenzie, son of Juniper Mackenzie and Mike Havel, long ago prophesied as "The Lady's Sword" at his naming ceremony, leads Ingolf, Mathilda Arminger (his childhood friend and heiress to the PPA throne), her vassal Odard Liu, Rudi's sisters Mary and Ritva (both Dunedain Rangers), and Father Ignatius (a warrior-monk of the Benedictine order of Mount Angel). Together they embark on a cross-country quest to recover "The Sword of the Lady," which waits for Rudi back at Nantucket.
  • The Scourge of God (2008) - The CUT gains in power, land and influence, apparently aided by otherworldly forces, threatening the entirety of the Willamette Valley and all of what used to be the United States. Meanwhile, Rudi and company make their way across the Midwest, and arrive at the Provisional Republic Of Iowa.
  • The Sword of the Lady (2009) - Rudi and his companions finally arrive at Nantucket, and obtain the titular sword, as the war between the CUT and the Willamette forces takes a turn for the worse.

A new tetrology is in progress, which promises to wrap up the war with the CUT, and track Rudi and co.'s journey back to the Willamette to complete their quest:

  • The High King of Montival (2010) - Now in possession of the Sword, Rudi - Artos - must journey back to the eastern lands he'd left behind, and muster from them an army to rescue his homeland. Both he and his people back home work to consolidate the newborn kingdom, should they prevail against the Cutters.
  • The Tears of the Sun (2011) - The kingdom of Montival takes firmer shape under Artos's leadership, the disparate groups within drawing together to meet the CUT threat. Allies from the eastern lands, as well as from the former Canada, provide vital support. Part of the war effort includes sowing dissension in the enemy ranks, with the goal of taking the CUT's ally Boise out of the war.
  • Lord of Mountains (September 2012)
  • The Given Sacrifice (TBA)

Tropes used in Emberverse include:
  • Action Girl: Lessee... Astrid Larsson, Eilir Mackenzie, Ritva and Mary Havel, Virginia Kane, Mathilda Arminger, Asgerd Karlsdottir.
  • Affably Evil: Both Norman and Sandra Arminger do a nice line in this.
  • Angel Unaware: While none have actually shown up, the Mackenzies (who are Wiccans) they treat every visitor they have as if they are these.
  • Annoying Arrows: Averted in Dies the Fire. With guns no longer working and no one wearing serious armor yet, people swiftly learn to fear someone carrying any kind of bow or crossbow.
  • Anyone Can Die: Mike Havel in A Meeting in Corvallis.
    • Chuck Barstow in the The Scourge of God.
    • Odard Liu in The Sword of the Lady
    • Astrid Larsson Loring in Tears of the Sun.
  • After the End: The setting of the series, once the change occurred.
  • Alien Space Bats: Most of the characters assume that these caused the Change, lampshading it to the point of referring to the trope by name.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Don't tell Tiphaine d'Ath that, unless for some reason you feel the urge to die a quick and bloody death. However, Estella Maldonado and Aaron Rothman each labor gallantly to uphold this trope. As does Rigobert, who would be just as provoked, and as dangerous, as Tiphaine if you chose to make an issue of it.
  • All Myths Are True: Seen to be the case with the Mackenzies' Wiccan/Celt faith in the first trilogy, and with other religions, including the familiar, the ancient, and the new, in the second.
  • Alternate History: On 3/18/98, no one in the Emberverse was worrying about Y2K or the performance of their tech stocks...
  • The Apocalypse Brings Out the Best In People: It also brings out the worst, more often than not.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 2, as most of the world's existing civilizations are destroyed during "the dying times," to be replaced by entirely different ones.
  • The Archer: As an expert shot and original trainer of the Mackenzie archers, ex-SASer Sam is deservedly known as "Aylward the Archer." As he ages, his son Edain proves a worthy heir to the title.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted hard as the world re-learns why people used to wear chain mail.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Norman Arminger, Mike Havel, and Abbot Dmwoski, for starters -- given the world, for good reason. Averted with Juniper Mackenzie, who is a charismatic leader but only a fair combatant, and even more so with Sandra Arminger, who is small in stature and repeatedly described as lacking experience with weaponry.
  • Badass Adorable: Ten-year-old Rudi Mackenzie is beautiful and charming. And he deals out almost as much damage to his would-be kidnappers as do his two adult bodyguards.
  • Badass Creed: Clan MacKenzie's war chant:

We are the point!
We Are the edge!
We are the wolves that Hecate fed!
We are the bow!
We are the shaft!
We are the bolts that Hecate cast!

  • Badass Damsel: Kidnap Mathilda (or try to), and you have an excellent chance of finding yourself facing the sharp pointy end of her sword.
  • Badass Long Robe: Abbot-Bishop Dmwoski of Mount Angel, who leads his Warrior Monk troops both spiritually and in battle. Also Father Ignatius, though he generally does not wear his robe into combat.
  • Badass Princess: Mathilda is among the most effective warriors of her kingdom, and plays important roles in some key battles.
  • Balkanize Me: Most of the world that we see, outside of the 'States.
    • Divided States of America: I mean, come on. We have at least five or six new little nations pop up in Oregon ALONE.
    • Interestingly, Great Britain stands as a significant exception.
      • Actually, it seems that the remaining monarchies, that were not in dead zones, survived by rallying around their respective monarchs.
  • Battle Couple: Mike and Signe. Rudi and Mathilda. Aoife and Liath.
    • Many/most of the members of Rudi's fighting tail are in this kind of relationship.
  • Battle Cry: Many, including the PPA's "Haro Portland!" and "Holy Mary for Portland!", the Bearkillers' "Hakkaa paalle!" (based on the real-life battle cry "Hakkaa päälle!" of troops serving under 17th-century Swedish ruler Gustav II Adolf), Mount Angel's "Jesu-Maria!", Rudi Mackenzie's "Morrigu!", Odard Liu's "Face Gervais, face death!", Virginia Kane's "Sweetwater forever!", and the United States of Boise's "U-S-A! U-S-A!" And of course the Church Universal and Triumphant's uncanny scream of "CUT! CUT! CUT!"
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Right after the Change, Mike Havel discovers that his gun is not working. Signe says, wistfully, wouldn't it be wonderful if all guns had stopped working? Well, about that, Signe....
  • The Beard: In the homophobic PPA, Lady Delia de Stafford (lover of Lady Tiphaine d'Ath) and her gay husband Rigobert play this role for each other. They even refer to one other as "my beard" in Tears of the Sun.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Having been chosen by The Powers That Be, Rudi has very little choice but to lead the fight against the CUT, and unify a group of diverse peoples.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ian Kovalevsky is one of the nicest people in the series (when he's not in a fight, that is).
  • Bi the Way: Before taking up with her girlfriend Liath, Aoife Barstow was in love with a boy. Estella Maldonado, occasional lover of Delia the miller's daughter (before Delia became Tiphaine d'Ath's lover), admits to having a girl in "half a dozen or so" villages, and "boys in one or two."
  • Big Bad Wannabe: several of the petty thugs and warlords Mike Havel disposes of at the beginning of the series qualify, including the white supremacist survivalists (the first people to attack his party) and Iron Rod (who was quite effective terrorizing a convent--against the Bearkillers, not so much).
    • Mary Lui, who tries to outwit the Lady Regent. Uh, yeah, good luck with that....
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Mack and his friend and boss Eddie Liu. Arguably applies to John Hordle and Alleyne Loring as well, though Alleyne is not small compared to anyone but John (or Mack).
  • Blood Brothers: Eilir and Astrid. Proving that the trope isn't exclusive with romance, Rudi and Mathilda also get this.
  • Bob Haircut: Tiphaine d'Ath wears her hair this way. She'd prefer it shorter, but in the PPA it's barely acceptable at the length it is. Since said haircut is also known as a pageboy, it's not surprising that this style is also worn by her pages.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: John Hordle fits it to a T.
  • Brains and Brawn: Eddie Liu (brains) and his friend/dragon Mack (brawn).
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: In the first book, Juniper's friend Chuck Barstow gets the idea to raid the Eugene history museum's Living History exhibit and steal a wagon and horses during the chaos. Juniper's other friend Dennis' brother is an amateur blacksmith (who lives on Nantucket and gets flung back in time along with it), and during the escape from Corvallis, Dennis arms Juniper and himself with swords and axes his brother made for him.
    • In areas where they have survived, the Amish are now highly-valued technical experts.
  • The British Empire: Not only did the Royal Family, SAS and other remnants of British society manage to survive the initial chaos. they managed to eventually rebuild "Greater Britain" as a hybrid Medieval-Victorian-Postmodern state. Though not before "Mad King Charlie" tried to turn it into a Renaissance Fair.
  • Brown Note: I...see...you
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Astrid believes that the Lord of the Rings stories are actual histories. But she's a kick-ass fighter and wilderness scout and also has both the charisma and organizational ability to turn her delusion into an actual organization and quasi-religion.
    • Norman Arminger is a former SCA dork, uses Sauron's Mordor banner as his flag, and is probably more than a bit crazy himself. With how he is numerically the most effective leader immediately post-Change and willing & able to kill almost anyone hand-to-hand, no one under him really has much to say about it...
    • In-universe, Lawrence Thurston is regarded as one for his insistence upon restoring the United States (an idea seen as completely impractical by just about every other leader on the continent). However, he does manage to preserve at least the state of Idaho as a coherent political entity (in part by keeping the pre-Change state legislature intact), build a post-Change army (along the lines of the Roman legions) from the remnants of the US military in the area, and overall is one of the more effective and humane leaders in the series. Of course he had to die...
  • Butch Lesbian: Tiphaine D'Ath
  • Camp Gay: Aaron Rothman. Mike Havel suspects that Aaron is deliberately camp in reaction to the puritanical attitudes of many post-Change societies.
  • Celibate Hero: Father Ignatius.
  • The Chessmaster: Sandra Arminger. Oh dear Lord, Sandra Arminger. Signe Havel also shows some aptitude for this. Mary Liu attempts it, but isn't quite smart enough, especially not for going against Sandra.
  • The Chosen One: Rudi Mackenzie. Duh.
  • Church Militant: an apt description of the Mormon church in New Deseret. Given they have the CUT for neighbors, it's understandable.
  • Clock Punk: Especially in the third trilogy. Bicycle-powered trains anyone?
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Norman Arminger is seen practicing this. (Though he doesn't need much practice, as he appears to have a considerable natural talent.)
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Sir Nigel Loring, sometime of the Blues and Royals. He helps to save the Queen and the Royal Family, trains troops in the new fighting methods, protects the families of his soldiers, escapes royal custody, fights heroically in a battle at sea (where he's instrumental in saving the Crown Prince), and outwits the Lord Protector -- all before he links up with the main plotline!
  • Corrupt Church: The Roman Catholic Church in Portland, in the days of Lord Protector Norman Arminger, has its own "pope," burns heretics and dissenters, and supports the PPA's brutal tyranny. Its opposition includes Mount Angel and its Warrior Monk order, who believe the Catholic Church should uphold what Abbot Dmwoski calls "the best of our long tradition."
    • Note that Arminger so very much wanted his own tame Pope to go along with his Norman-England fetish. Thus Pope Leo was given his own inquisition and was mainly in existence to increase the Big Bad's powerbase.
    • The Church Universal and Triumphant evolves from a fringe (but relatively harmless) New Age religious sect into an all-conquering Religion of Evil with nothing but enmity toward its neighbors.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Norman Arminger. He's a professor of the feudal early Middle Ages. This suddenly becomes a quite relevant skill when everyone is living it; when Mike asks him how he figured out and built up the PPA so rapidly, he almost gleefully responds that "I was a man who realized what the Change meant." It's heavily implied that his over-the-top Dark Lord behavior in Dies the Fire is solely in furtherance of this, particularly as it comes to impressing and subordinating street gang leaders who are a lot more dangerous than he actually is.
    • He's so genre-savvy that he includes the Evil Overlord list in the manuals he makes for each of his initial followers. Because he's that badass.
    • Briefly turns into Wrong Genre Savvy at the end of the first book when the Bearkillers and friends hammer Norman's troops with a mix of technologies - horse archery, a trebuchet and observation balloons and hang-gliders - that troops & fortifications modeled on the 11th century have no answer for.
  • Dark Action Girl: Tiphaine d'Ath and Katrina Georges.
  • Days of Future Past: Several societies fulfill this trope although it also has a foot in Fantasy Counterpart Culture as supernatural elements creep in during the second trilogy. The Clan Mackenzie is based on a New Age interpretation (much against the liking of its founder) of a Celtic clan, while the Portland Protective Association was deliberately created by an SCA member as a copy of a medieval feudal society with trappings of Mordor. The oddest example are the Dunedain Rangers, founded by a mildly insane Tolkien fangirl who has a quasi-religious reverence for his books. There are also several "Indian" tribes many of whose members have, at best, only nominal amounts of First Nations ancestry and Norrheim and Kalksthorpe, Viking-style nations founded by Asatru. Additionally, the remnants of the American military in Idaho have formed into a hybrid Roman Legion. Meanwhile, over in England, "Mad King Charlie" tries to turn what remains of his nation into something of a vast Rennaisance Faire, although his subjects draw the line at Morris dancing.
    • in A MEETING AT CORVALLIS, a graffiti in the city of that name reads: "Help! I've fallen into the RenFaire and I can't get out!"
  • Dead Guy, Junior: Several. Rudi is named for Juniper's first husband, who died on the day of the Change. Nigel's late-in-life daughter Maude is named for his first wife. Ritva and Mary Havel are named for their paternal and maternal grandmothers, respectively.
  • Determinator: She is Tiphaine d'Ath, and you are in her way.
  • Did Not Do the Research the author gets much credit for his knowledge of siegework and Tolkien as well as various religions. He fails at Geography, chemistry, and several other areas. Especially when there's a large Mennonite group in the middle of the communities in the real world. (It is, of course, possible they may not have survived, but given the detailed discussion of the area, one might have expected their existence to be mentioned at some point.)
    • Although Portland itself is perfectly accessible to ocean-going vessels, the author keeps mentioning the PPA seaport at Astoria, almost 100 miles away. Curiously, the importance of Portland as transit point for grain exports is mentioned in the first trilogy.
      • Before modern navigational aids the Columbia Bar was a deadly menace known as the "graveyard of ships" due to current and tide conditions; over 2000 ships have been wrecked there since 1792. Even when you've gotten past the bar, beating upriver against the current as far as Portland is hard for sailing ships. It can be done, but there's a reason Astoria is where it is.
      • Any ships on the Columbia River at the time of the Change would have been disabled and would themselves become navigational obstacles. Barring a salvage operation that would be extremely time-consuming and expensive with the technology available, Astoria remains the only viable port for Portland. Portland's docks remain important for upriver transportation and the transshipment yards are still useable, however.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Rudi (and, on at least one occasion, Ignatius) versus any given High Seeker. Especially after Rudi retrieves the Sword.
  • Damsel in Distress: Signe, early in the first book. It's this experience which prompts her to Take a Level In Badass.
    • Mathilda is also taken hostage at least three times during the series. Justified in that as the Protector's daughter she has high political value to her potential captors. She also becomes quite capable of rescuing herself when necessary as she gets older.
  • Dude in Distress: Ingolf gets captured with alarming frequency.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: "Son of the Bear Who Rules"... "Sword of the Lady"... Where have we heard those before...
  • The Dragon: For Norman Arminger, Conrad Renfrew; for his wife Sandra, Tiphaine D'Ath.
  • Dung Ages: massively and deliberately averted. Although the overall tech level of the Emberverse is pre-industrial if not completely medieval, modern medicine and sanitation (and the relationship between sanitation and public health) are still well-known and widely practiced.
  • Eldritch Abomination: whoever or whatever is controlling Sethaz and the rest of the CUT High Seekers definitely qualifies.
  • Enemy Mine: Rudi invokes this when he decides to warn President-General Thurston of the Cutter ambush, and again when urging Thurston to ally with Deseret against the Cutters. (Thurston had previously refused to do so on the grounds that he was opposed to theocracies.)
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Boy, is it!
    • Lampshaded in A Meeting at Corvallis, where some young fighters actually sing the song of the same name.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Mary and Ritva Havel have each had to bounce many a Lipstick Lesbian from their respective beds. At least once Ingolf is looking on laughing.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: If he is to be believed, Rigobert was apparently such a hot guy in his high school days that even straight guys were willing to sleep with him.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Though admittedly, even shamelessly, evil herself, Sandra Arminger gives Mathilda a religious and moral upbringing, and says the young woman is one of the few good things she has ever done.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Norman Arminger's Castle Todenangst is deliberately designed to be ominous, imposing, and intimidating.
    • And yet it has a food court and the elevator (powered by a serf in the basement) plays Muzak.
  • The Evils of Free Will: This is the major point of contention between the factions of the Universal Mind.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: An average-sized man with a giant reputation, Sam Aylward gets this reaction a lot.
  • Feudal Overlord: Norman Arminger, to the PPA. Very, very deliberately.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: Ultimately averted. Though Sandra Arminger and Tiphaine d'Ath are presented as atheists for much of the series, both eventually realize that it's an insupportable position in a world where there is objective evidence for the existence, and influence, of deities. In Tears of the Sun, Sandra actually rejects this trope by name.
  • Foreshadowing: In Dies the Fire, Mike is extremely concerned about the injuries or mutual death that almost always result from trying to kinfe-fight anyone who isn't completely incompetent. Two books later, he challenges Master Swordsman & Big Bad Norman Arminger to single combat. Both of them die.
  • Four-Star Badass: President-General Lawrence Thurston puts together an army and a country largely through the strength of his will. Oh yeah, and if there are any other assassins in his guard detail, he dares them to take your best shot (said while unarmed and unarmored).
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Norman Arminger started as an undistinguished history professor and SCAdian, and became one of the most successful (and brutal) despots in the post-Change world.
  • Gaydar: When two male Corvallan guards are made to look as if they were overcome by alcohol whilst making out, Aaron Rothman smells a set-up, as he is quite certain the guards in question are straight. When Mike Havel questions his certainty, Aaron answers archly, "Radar may not work any more, but my gaydar, I assure you, is fully functional."
  • Genre Shift: The series begins as an apocalyptic disaster thriller with brutally realistic consequences of the loss of much of the US' infrastructure. In short order it evolves into medieval structures. The actual destination is the closest kin to a fantasy world one can do with Alien Space Bats.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: Hallgerda of Greater Britain manipulates her mad husband and places her royal stepsons in harm's way in an effort to ensure her own children will inherit the throne. She eventually kills King Charles when he refuses to disinherit his older sons in favor of her children. Interestingly, the trope does not apply to Lady Regent Sandra of Portland. Ruthless as she can be, she is constrained by the need to avoid alienating her subjects thanks to an open-borders policy. She also sincerely loves her spouse and is devoted to her daughter.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: During the Dying Time, Oregon and Idaho deal with mass starvation (some of it quite deliberate), imposition of slavery by strong-arm rule, outbreaks of the Black Death, rampant Rape, Pillage and Burn including massacres of children, and an infestation of cannibal bands. After all that, no one believes - or recounts to the reader - the stories they are hearing from bicycle refugees from California and St.Louis.
  • Granola Girl: Signe, before the Change. She's a vegetarian and thinks the prospect of a world without guns is wonderful. Then she lives in that world....
  • Handicapped Badass: Eilir, who doesn't let her deafness interfere with -- well, anything. She's a kickass fighter and wilderness scout, who thanks to her mother's early training is very good at stealthy approaches.
  • Happily Adopted: Chuck and Judy Barstow's children Sanjay, Aoife, and Oak, whom Chuck and Judy adopted from the group of children Chuck found abandoned on a school bus, just after the Change. Juniper speculates that before the Change "those three didn't really have parents, only people who paid the bills."
  • Happily Married: Applies to many of the married couples in the series, notably including Big Bad Norman Arminger and his wife Sandra.
  • Heroes Want Redheads / Redheaded Hero: The Mackenzies, mother and son. Redheaded Juniper, a charismatic and courageous leader, attracts a couple of heroes. Later her redheaded son Rudi is seen to be even more charismatic, and a warrior born. He draws not only the interest of the heroic Mathilda, but also the attention of a number of other females.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Mike Havel
    • Only the first of many. The heroic body count has since increased to include Odard Liu and Astrid Larsson in later volumes.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Astrid Larsson and Eilir Mackenzie.
    • Arguably Edain and Rudi, or Little John Hordle and Alleyne.
  • Honest Advisor: Conrad Renfrew and Sandra Arminger are the only advisors with the nerve (and the license) to tell Norman Arminger when he's wrong.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: And how. "This is the City that Works." The Bearkillers, proto-Clan Mackenzie and other towns encountered also turn away people they can't feed in the Dying Time.
    • It is actually Word of God that the biggest reason Oregon is almost uniquely inhabitable is that the PPA directly and indirectly eliminated the disorganized surplus population. In other words, what Norman does is the better outcome...
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Right after the Change, groups of cannibals, called "Eaters", are one of the most common bands of survivors, particularly in larger cities. They take the place of the post-apocalyptic zombie horde in parts of the first book, but through a combination of disease and madness have largely removed themselves from events by the second book.
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: Sandra wears a full-length ermine cape to the first Meeting in Corvallis. Juniper notes that it would be too heavy to carry/wear for any length of time, but Sandra's carriage pulls up as close to the exit as possible so that she won't have to walk far.
    • In The Sunrise Lands, Mathilda tells the Thurston daughters that she doesn't wear her formal gowns while traveling because she wouldn't be able to ride or fight well in them.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The scout the Cutters have tracking Rudi's band is, in fact a Boy Scout -- or at least, a member of a settlement based on the Boy Scouts. Oh, it's justifiable; a member of such a group would be likely to have the right skill set. It is, however, still a groaner.
    • Also a case of Not So Different in that the two members of the band the scout encounters are the two who are infamous for taking the Lord of the Rings as literal history and see themselves as revived Dunedain. They regard the scout, who almost certainly was a Boy Scout before or during the Change, as some deluded lunatic with a lot of badges. The fact that he was nearly their equal at fighting and tracking and only lost the fight because he was outnumbered seems to just barely register with them.
    • In-universe, Delia uses a series of dreadful puns to get the attention of Tiphaine d'Ath.
  • Lady of War: Signe Larsson and Tiphaine D'Ath
    • Astrid Larsson as well -- perhaps even more so, given the emphasis she places on style.
  • The Lancer: Sam Aylward, for one.
    • His son, Edain to Rudi as well.
  • Les Yay: In-universe. For a time, close friends Astrid and Eilir are rumored to be lovers. They find the rumor "inexpressibly funny."
    • Eddie Liu asks "Have you found the Ring of Power in her Crack of Doom yet?"
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Delia, Tiphaine's lover.
  • Masters of the Sword: Rudi Mackenzie, Tiphaine d'Ath, Norman Arminger
  • The Magic Comes Back: Hinted at in the first trilogy, full blown in later works.
  • Magic Knight: Father Ignatius. Rudi even more so.
  • Manly Gay: Rigobert, Delia's husband and father (via turkey baster) of her four children.
  • Magical Native American: Several are seen. Played straight in that all myths and religious traditions are equally valid (and have real, demonstrable power) in the Emberverse. Subverted in that the surviving Native Americans use as much pre-Change technology as possible...down to a group of Sioux having a portable medical laboratory with their encampment and their chief (a pre-Change university graduate) being just as aware of the implications of the situation as any other successful leader in this setting.
  • Meaningful Name: For some reason, Artos leaps to mind....
    • There's also Kaur and Singh of Vogeler's Villians.
  • A Million Is a Statistic: In High King of Montival, Rudi's party is exploring the long-abandoned CN Tower in Toronto when they discover the skeletons of a woman (apparently a suicide) and her cat. Though they live in a world in which billions died at the time of the Change, they are powerfully moved by the evidence of these particular deaths. Rudi is quite aware of the nature of their response, and of this trope.
  • The Mole: Kuttner
    • Also, Alex, Odard Liu's manservant who sells out Rudi's party to the CUT as part of Mary Liu's failed power grab.
  • Nemean Skinning: Michael Havel, Lord Bear of the Bearkillers, wears the head of the bear that earned him and the outfit their names on his helmet. Subvertes the trope by making Havel nearly get killed by the bear, and tanning is done by specialists off-page.
    • Further subverted by Havel being totally against the idea in the first place (thinks it's too hokey), until he realizes it will serve the purpose of something for his people to rally behind.
  • Nobody Over 50 Is Gay: Dr. Aaron Rothman begs to differ -- and thinks you look quite fetchingly butch with that little scar on your chin.
    • Rigobert is probably in 50-plus territory based upon statements made in Tears of the Sun. Given that Ingolf (himself no softie) considers Rigobert an extremely dangerous man, the latter qualifies as a Badass Grandpa as well, at least by virtue of age (he's not literally a grandfather yet).
  • Non-Action Guy: At over 60, he's not much use at hand-to-hand combat, but Ken Larsson is the husband of one Action Girl (Pam), the father of two more (Signe and Astrid) plus a young Badass (Eric), and the father-in-law of Lord Bear himself. He's also the Bearkillers' premier engineer and one of Lord Bear's most trusted advisers.
  • Not So Different: Averted in The Scourge of God. Rudi Mackenzie is describing Chuck Barstow's actions at the time of the Change, including survival-motivated fighting, deception, and theft (see Break Out the Museum Piece, above). Odard Liu, thinking of his own brutal sire's actions at that time, is about to invoke this trope, with a side of Our Parents Only Did What They Had To Do. Rudi shuts him down by pointing out one more thing Chuck Barstow felt he "had to do": rescue and take in a group of stranded schoolchildren (including his son Oak, whom Odard knows personally), something that Eddie Liu would certainly never have considered.
    • Many of the new nations that arise after the Change are inspired by old movies and books, and the residents of each one seem to think of all the others as acting upon some strange fantasy. Even nations like Boise, Corvallis, and Iowa, which have retained more of the pre-Change world's forms and systems than the others.
  • Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering: Corvallis's contentious Faculty Senate is sometimes shown this way. The Protectorate manipulates their politics in an effort to keep Corvallis from entering the War of the Eye. Nice try.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: Inverted in many places, as many societies (Clan Mackenzie, PPA, Norrheim, Indian tribes, ranches) went back to old fashions.
    • Played straight with Corvallis, Boise, and the surviving urban centers of the Midwest.
      • Doubly averted in the faux-medieval societies. PPA fashions derive from Pre-change SCA fashion resulting in a chaotic mix up of medieval, migration, and renaissance. Clan Mackenzie fashion owes more to Braveheart and Ren Faires than anything else. In Idaho bib overalls and cowboy boots have evolved into formal wear as farmers became the post-change power brokers.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Less-equipped and less-principled groups in the wake of the Change survive by killing and eating stragglers. And once they've started, it's not likely the proper societies will welcome them with open arms. On occasion these "Eater" societies reform on their own and remain outcasts, but more likely than not, they end up slaughtered by the more civilized groups or eating one another to extinction.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In his first encounter with Norman Arminger, Mike Havel takes advantage of the fact that Arminger thinks of him as a stupid jarhead.
  • Patronymic: A common form of identifier in some cultures Rudi's band encounters in their trek across the continent, including the Southsiders (e.g., "Jake sunna Jake"), Canadian neo-savages the London Bunch (Dik Tomskid), and the Norrheimers (Bjarni Erickson). The Norrheimers seem to be the only ones who also use this naming convention for women, whose surnames end with "dottir" rather than the masculine "son" (Asgerd Karlsdottir).
  • Powers That Be: The Change turns out to have been caused by what's best described as the Universal Mind having an argument with itself and coming up with the least awful option. Mind you this least awful option resulted in the worldwide collapse of civilization and the deaths of billions.
  • President Action: President-General Lawrence Thurston of Boise (see Four-Star Badass, above).
  • The Quest: A lot of characters, especially the aforementioned Tolkien fangirl comment on the auspiciousness of the fact that Rudi's journey will take him across the land to find a mythical sword and that he will have nine members in his group.
  • Rain of Arrows: combat strategy of the Mackenzie archers.
  • Religion Is Magic
  • Religion of Evil: The Church Universal and Triumphant edges on Path of Inspiration, but the fact that they're pretty openly out for world conquest and the way they keep followers in line by freaking them out with aural Alien Geometries plunks them in this category. Not to mention that they turn out to be a front for Eldritch Abominations that want to reduce the universe to nothing.
  • Rooting for the Empire: In-Universe. The PPA base their soceity around Mordor and Sauron, of all things.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Many. Norman Arminger, Mike Havel, and Astrid Larsson are war leaders; the multitalented Juniper Mackenzie is a bard, a high priestess, an expert weaver, and a pretty decent archer. Mathilda Arminger and Rudi Mackenzie, the heirs apparent, undertake the quest for the sword in the second trilogy, and fight in combat repeatedly.
  • Schizo-Tech: the survivors post-Change implement useable technology from all eras, from the Stone Age to the 19th and 20th centuries (among other things, knowledge of modern medicine and sanitation proves very helpful).
  • Shout-Out: In A Meeting at Corvallis, Arminger's Grand Constable, Conrad Renfrew, recalls a time five years ago (and five years post-Change) when PPA forces "were smoking a lunatic archer in green out of the ruins of Seattle." Guess what West Coast city DC Comics bowman Green Arrow has been known to operate out of.
    • In The Sunrise Lands, Rudi and his party return from a tiger hunt singing an old song, "a bouncy hunting tune." Appropriately enough, it's "Eye of the Tiger."
    • Rudi and his fellow Changelings don't understand why older people laugh at the suggestion that superb fighter Tiphaine d'Ath (a lesbian in a homophobic society) has an "I won't tell, and I'll kill you if you ask" policy.
    • Ritva and Mary Havel buy supplies for Rudi's journey at "A.E. Isherman's Fine Arms and Armor." Science Fiction author A.E. Van Vogt authored a famous story called, "The Weapons Shop of Isher." Stirling's shop and Van Vogt's even have the same slogan: "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free."
    • The original members of Juniper's coven debate whether letting newcomers choose their sept by dreaming is appropriate. Juniper jokes that perhaps instead the coven should enchant a hat, place it on the head of each new candidate, and let the hat shout the name of the candidate's sept.
    • The Protectorate's secret code book is a copy of "Bored of the Rings" by The Harvard Lampoon.
    • When he, Astrid, Eilir and Alleyne spring a surprise attack, John Hordle calmly informs their target, "Nobody expects the Elvish Inquisition."
    • While learning martial arts in The Scourge of God, some of the heroes unknowingly quote a couple of lines from The Frantics' audio-skit 'Ti Kwan Leep'.
    • In Dies the Fire, Juniper and several others of her group make a journey to discover the situation in the lands around them. On her return, she discovers that many in the group have adopted kilts and are halfway to becoming a full-fledged neo-Celtic clan. Her friend Dennis skips up to her with a cry of "'Tis Herself herself!" , and a sly "There can be only one."
    • At one point while the CUT is attempting to assassinate the main characters in the Republic of Iowa lines are almost directly lifted from the Conan story "The Hour of the Dragon" where Xaltotun convinces a man that his belt is a snake.
      • Conan the Barbarian gets another one in Tears of the Sun when a group of traveling performers is overheard delivering the opening narration ("Know, o prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities...")
    • Several major characters have names taken directly from The White Company. And the similarities don't end with the names...
      • Hence, Conan Doyle is consistently referred to as Donan Coyle to avoid the Celebrity Paradox.
      • And Donan Coyle's books have titles such as "The Free Companions" and "Sir Guilliame".
    • Let's not forget the mere existance of the Dunedain rangers and the fact that they have a quasi religious reverence for Tolkien's work.
    • The High King of Montival introduces several units of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are referred to colloquially as "the Force." When they join his troops, Rudi observes, gladly, "The Force is with us!" Being a Changeling, he has no idea why his older companions are snickering....
      • In Tears of the Sun, Lady Sandra indulges in a bit of Yoda-speak, even though her younger companion has no idea what her odd phraseology signifies.
      • The owner of Ford's Kyentse Cowboy Bar & Grill (The Scourge of God) resembles Harrison Ford. The eaterie is located in Wyoming, where Ford has a ranch, and it's rumored that the owner built the place with his own hands. Harrison Ford has worked as a professional carpenter. (Also, we get a fair amount of information on the character, for all that he appears in only one scene.)
      • Given that Harrison Ford would be well into his eighties by the time that scene takes place, his mere survival in this setting would qualify him for Badass Grandpa status far above and beyond the characters he's played.
    • In The Sword of the Lady some of the Bjornings listen to an ancestral tale. It's the first paragraph from The Long Ships by Frans G Bengtsson (originally written in Swedish and arguable one of the best Viking yarns to be found). Guess the Bjornings took that to heart a bit more than Tolkien.
    • The quote is actually from "The Broken Sword" by Poul Anderson, though "The Long Ships" is also excellent and they probably like that one, too.
    • In The Protector's War, one young Mackenzie is telling another a tale that ends with, "This is the most powerful war bow in the clan, and even I can't hold the draw forever. So tell me, punk, do you feel lucky?""
    • In The Scourge of God, Juniper sees in her vision something very like the witch hunt in King Solomons Mines where Umbopa (a Noble Savage and associate of the heroes) is singled out by the chief witchfinder, Gagool, for political reasons.
    • In Tears of the Sun, Lady Sandra notes the goateed Baron de Mosier's resemblance to "Evil Spock from the Mirror Universe."
    • Tiphaine and Delia's children are all named after characters in a book series that however remains unnamed so it's something of a stealth shoutout.
      • So, are you going to tell us or what?
    • Ingolf Vogeler and crew set sail for Nantucket from a cannibal-haunted ruined New England town named... Innsmouth.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Ritva and Mary Havel begin very much like this, though they develop/display more distinct personalities in the course of the second trilogy.
  • Smug Snake: Norman Arminger, Duke Iron Rod, Piotr Stavarov, Eddie Liu
  • Society for Creative Anachronism: Many of the founding members of the PPA were originally members of this.
  • The Southpaw: Rudi Mackenzie, after his right arm is wounded to the point he can't use it as well as he used to.
  • Storming the Castle: Happens a few times, although both sides dread the thought of having to do so.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Sword of the Lady reveals all truths, brings the influence of the good parts of the Mind into the world, and also can chop clean through anything from a gnarled tree trunk to an airborne hair.
  • This Is Reality: A lot of the early conversations between Mike and Astrid are variations on this theme.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Tiphaine d'Ath and Delia de Stafford. Tiphaine is the toughest woman -- arguably the toughest person -- in the Protectorate, dresses in male garb (usually a big no-no in that realm), wears her hair in a pageboy and would wear it shorter if she could, and doesn't like children. Her lover Delia is a complete creampuff, an expert weaver and needlewoman who never dresses in anything less than the height of feminine fashion, wears her hair long and lush, and loves babies. Naturally, they're inseparable.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Probably best exampled by a quote:

Signe Larsson-Havel: My husband was a good man.
Sandra Arminger: Mine was a monster. But don't think for a second that I loved mine any less than you loved yours.

  • Villainous Valour: Whether outnumbered and pursued by the Mackenzies, surrounded by Astrid and friends, or betrayed by a member of her own band, Dark Action Girl Tiphaine d'Ath earns her victories with remarkable skill, ingenuity, and courage. She's not a particularly likable person, and her objectives are often other than admirable, but her wit and her grit are outstanding.
  • The Virus: And if you think the CUT is chilling on general principle, you should see what happens when its influence is suddenly removed...
  • Woman in Black: Tiphaine d'Ath.
  • Warrior Monk: The local monastery becomes an order of these after the change. Lampshaded frequently, in that they draw comparisons with the Shaolin and other martial orders and lament that they cannot spend more time simply studying and praying.
    • Don't forget the Buddhist Monks in the Valley of the Sun where the party winters to heal Rudi's shoulder after he sustained a nasty evil arrow wound. The monks also train the party so as they all Take a Level In Badass.
  • Warrior Prince: Rudi Mackenzie. Also the brothers Thurston, though their father might dispute that description! Also Prince William of Greater Britain, whom Nigel encounters during a battle early in the series.
  • The World Is Not Ready: NOTE: The following spoiler explains the origin behind The Change. Do not read further if you want this to remain a mystery until the end of the sixth book. The Change was caused by the Powers That Be (see above) because humanity was showing more and more irresponsibility with its current technology levels. The god(s) decided the best course of action was a "do-over" in order for humanity to mature more as a species before inheriting their tech. This is why we were bombed back into medieval times, rather than having history wiped clean. The idea was to learn from the first time through, so we were better prepared for the next time.
  • Writer on Board / Author Filibuster : To varying degrees, though relatively low. That's S. M. Stirling for ya...
    • Although the premise spoilered above seems extremely high. And the human cost... **shudders**
      • Well, it's explicitly a compromise or something done 'behind the back' of the other powers "while Mind was divided", to avoid the futures where humanity goes extinct, and also to avoid a war between factions of the Mind that would destroy the universe - "something so terrible that only a greater terror made it possible to think it." The good powers didn't think this was a good option, just the least terrible one available - basically, the only one involving humanity surviving at all.
      • Consider that Heaven exists and is run by the collective souls of all sentient beings, including those who died in the Change, who may very well have agreed to the whole thing. Human cost starts losing its meaning under these circumstances.
  • You Fail Physics Forever - It's an acceptable breach, given that it's a fantasy work, but if the laws of physics were broken the way this novel broke them, the Universe would probably end up breaking and become less an apocalyptic wasteland, and more an Eldritch Location.
    • If you like that idea, try Steven R. Boyett's "Ariel" series, Stirling's inspiration for the Change.
    • it's remarked on in the books that if the Change had been a random event, it would probably have just turned everything into quark soup. However, it's done with "Clarke's Law" science by the the Universal Mind, so it's a localized and directed Change. Humans can't understand how it was done; the analogy would be trying to explain algebra to a dog.
    • The laws of the universe, or even Earth as a whole, haven't changed. The Mind is powerful and precise enough to constantly monitor the entire world, watch for people trying to use technology, and selectively suppress things just at the places and times where it's needed.
      • There's a damn good reason for its precision and omnipotence in this task, too: YOU DID IT.