Paladin of Shadows
A modern military fiction series written by John Ringo, focusing on Mike "Ghost" Harmon, a former Navy SEAL, and all-around Anti-Hero. The first book is a self-admitted author wank piece with a significant focus on BDSM that was originally not intended for publication. However, between fan response to a snippet posted on Baen's Bar, and the head of Baen Books (at the time, Jim Baen, who has since passed away) insisting that it be printed, it was published for release to the public. Works later in the series (starting with Kildar), however, tend more towards, as described elsewhere in the comments to the linked LiveJournal entry, below, "man builds stuff and gets lots of pussy".
- Affably Evil: Kurt Schwenke is fairly polite man who's hobbies happen to include torturing prostitutes with various chemical concoctions, killing people with said chemical concoctions and being a Master of Disguise and expert assassin.
- ...And Show It to You: Mother Lenka, in Unto the Breach, rips the heart out of a captured Chechen fighter, and bites into it, the last thing its former owner sees before dying.
- Autobots Rock Out:
- The slaughter of the bunkers guarding the retreat path in Unto The Breach were taken out to the accompaniment of DragonForce.
- Mike occasionally uses music to help boost the morale of his allies.
- Author Tract: Mike's warped mental commentary on the politically correct history class he'd just had. Although, John Ringo admits he wrote the character to be as negative as possible.
- OTOH, the scene in question was a screening of Roots, which Mike gets thrown out of for laughing out loud during the "whites chasing and capturing blacks" scene. He'd done enough library research to know that slavers usually bought the slaves directly from the tribes.
- Badass Creed: Mike's Restraining Bolt - Protection of the Innocent. Courage in Battle. Loyalty to the King.
- Badass Family: The Keldara.
- But You Screw One Goat!: Father Ferani, in Unto the Breach. See also Never Live It Down.
- Byronic Hero: Mike is a self-confessed would-be rapist, held back only by his warrior code. His restraint of his own dark impulses compels him to do absolutely awful things to those who don't control those impulses. Katya is essentially his Distaff Counterpart, but as we get to hear very little of her internal struggles, she just comes off as his protege in sadistic heroism.
- Cold Sniper: Lasko Ferani.
- Dying Dream: John Ringo said that at one point he was tempted to make the entirety of the series be the dying dream of the protagonist as he died of hypothermia and anoxia while hidden in the nose wheel well of the airplane he snuck aboard in Ghost. He joked that what made him not take that route was that many of his readers (especially of this series) tend to be well armed.
- Empty Quiver: Three nukes are the weapons of mass destruction that are claimed to have been stolen by terrorists in Unto the Breach, to the US president, instead of the actual theft, due to the sensitive nature of the stolen material. Not really a subversion, though, as the reader is aware from the start about the real WMD that's been stolen, as the theft scene is at the very beginning of the book.
- Evil Counterpart: It's a thin line between Katya, the sadistic, murderous whore and Kurt, the sadistic, murderous rapist. Their scene at the end of Choosers of the Slain even starts to slide into Worthy Opponent when they fight to a draw. Though there is mutual respect of sorts, they don't hate each other any less.
- Exact Words: In A Deeper Blue, Mike promises to not kill a terrorist that he was interrogating. After getting the desired information, he kept his word. Oleg delivered the killing blow.
- Eye Scream: Katya talks about gouging out several "bad guy" eyes and injecting the poison weapon she's given in Unto the Breach into them, but doesn't actually get to do it until near the end of A Deeper Blue, to the drug smuggler who was working with Islamic terrorists to sneak VX into the US.
- Fan Nickname: Katya, aka "Whoreverine".
- Fat Suit: Unto the Breach has superspy Jay donning a fat suit as part of a disguise during a mission.
- Gatling Good: The Dragon, from Unto the Breach, has 4 Gatling guns mounted to fire forward. The other Hind has the more conventional loadout of a minigun to each side for defense, in the troop transport role, as is done in Real Life. The young woman who's death caused Mike's Heroic BSOD (well, OK, for certain values of "heroic", given Mike's Anti-Hero status) was killed while manning one of them on a medevac mission.
- Guilty Pleasure: Main point of the series which John Ringo admits.
- Hot Amazon: Katya
- Informed Flaw: Mike's knees are said to be bad, which forced his retirement from the SEALS, but other than brief mentions it doesn't seem to really slow him down all that much.
- It's Raining Men: The SEAL team sent to rescue Mike, in the first section of Ghost, performs a HALO (not that one, High Altitude Low Opening) drop from a B-2 "Spirit". Yes, you read that right. Rule of Cool is fully in control at this point in the story.
- Literary Allusion Title:
- Master of Disguise:
- Jay, in the books after Ghost.
- Kurt Schwenke is suggested to be this, in A Deeper Blue.
- Katya is working on becoming one, under Jay's tutelage.
- Mathematician's Answer: From Choosers of the Slain:
"Be careful what she teaches her," Adams said, without looking up. "You might get a very nasty surprise."
"Are you talking about Anastasia teaching Katya or the other way around?" Nielson asked, grinning.
- Memetic Mutation:
- All together now... "OH JOHN RINGO NO!" Also, Mike "collects hookers like cats!"
- That's not a harem, it's a fucking entourage.
- Mighty Glacier: Shota. He may be dumb as a box of rocks, but he's shown at one point wearing armor so heavy that opening a explosive-trapped door just knocked him on his ass, his favored weapon is a rocket launcher, and when an enemy made it into the trench where the Keldara were fighting, Shota just picked him up and bashed him against the wall until he stopped squealing.
- Money, Dear Boy: Ringo originally didn't even want to write the first book, but it was preventing him from writing anything else until he got it out. When he did so, he originally was not going to publish it under his own name, not even with his usual publisher, until his regular publisher read it and waved money under his nose. And Ringo had a mortgage to pay.
- More Dakka: Plenty to be found throughout the series, but particularly demonstrated by the slaughter of the bunkers mentioned above, and the improved M-60s used at the end of the battle with the Chechens.
- Never Mess with Granny: Mother Lenka demonstrates this in Unto the Breach, leading the women Keldara in a suicidal blitz of a group of Chechens blocking the way for their men to return home... and then cuts out and eats the heart of one of the Chechens, while the guy was dying.
- Old Shame: Ghost was John Ringo clearing his head of ideas that he couldn't shake. His gleeful participation in the "OH JOHN RINGO NO" meme should show you what he thinks of it. Word of God says that the working title was The Wanker Piece before marketing forced him to drop it.
- Outside Ride: Mike, at the beginning of Ghost, does this on the van that's being used to kidnap coeds.
- Pink Mist: What the commander of a Chechen Islamic army was turned into by Lasko, in Unto the Breach. Live on international television. From roughly two miles away.
- Profiling: In A Deeper Blue, middle eastern terrorists are threatening to unleash VX on Florida. As the situation spins closer and closer to deadline, the situation isn't helped by the fact that the local law enforcement is concerned that the media would accuse them of it if they prioritized suspects based on nationality or color of skin, bringing up issues related to racial profiling.
- Proud Warrior Race Guys: The Keldara. Descendants of the Varangian Guard who've taken extensive efforts to retain their warrior culture in the ass-end of Soviet Georgia. To put it simply, they're Vikings.
- Punch Clock Hero: Mike's team, Keldara and otherwise are this. They are mercenaries after all.
- Retired Badass: Mike, for pretty much the entirety of the first novel, aside from an occasional gig as a "troubleshooter" for the government.
- Rule of Cool: Leave your disbelief at the door. If it's cool, it's in, practicality and reality be damned. The author has even acknowledged that "REALITY DOESN'T WORK THAT WAY". Specifically if it was realistic the main character would be dead on page 6 of Book 1 (Ringo even joked that he was considering ending the series with the revelation that he DID die and that everything else was a Dying Dream).
- Running Gag: "Georgia (the country, not the state)"
- Sherlock Scan: Jay does this to Katya when he's first introduced to her, in Unto the Breach. He doesn't, however, reveal how he deduced the assessment, which the reader only knows to be true from previous info given about her.
- Shout-Out: A particularly funny one in Ghost: "Like a Doom scene, up to your knees in gore."
- Stealth Pun: In A Deeper Blue, Mike's crimson-red sports car is damaged, so he has it repainted in the Mountain Tiger colors. He had a red Ford, but he wants to paint it black.
- Strawman Political: The French internal security representative in Part III of the first book of the series. The college Co-Eds in the first part are a very borderline example, being mostly typical upper-middle class American teenagers.
- Too Kinky to Torture: In A Deeper Blue, Anastasia is kidnapped and tortured for information, but as she's a hardcore BDSM submissive, the beating only turns her on, allowing her to engage in some impromptu information warfare (see Torture Always Works, below).
- Torture Always Works:
- ... except when being done on on someone who gets off on being given pain. Anastasia, mentioned above, is questioned for names of Mike's team, but she instead gives the interrogator a list of his own goons.
- Elsewhere in the series, particularly A Deeper Blue, this trope is played straight.
- To the Pain: In Unto the Breach, the captured Russian microbiologist invokes this trope when explaining to his captor why he was bracing for an impact and nervously checking his watch:
Dr. Arenski: Because as you were bundling me about and threatening me I was slipping three small needles into your thigh. ...You probably didn't notice the slight pain what with everything else. One of them was coated in a product derived of argot. That's bread mold to you. It causes a reaction called Saint Vitus' Dance. Think of it as LSD. Psychotropic, hallucinogenic, very effective. You're probably already feeling the effects; it's fast stuff. If that didn't get you, the second was coated in a nasty little microbe that is found in sink drains world-wide. Very rarely kills anyone despite that; most people don't eat food they pick out of the sink drain. However, if it is cultured by an expert and then stuck into someone's thigh, it will spread through the bloodstream rather fast. Oh, it's not going to kill you for three or four days, but that one was guaranteed . The last was, I'm pretty sure, botulinus toxin. One of the tins of meat you left us was rather swelled and the resultant culture sure looked like botulinus. And botulinus is nasty. A teaspoon would kill a city. The amount I gave you would only kill, say, an elephant. By the way, that would have killed me if I'd eaten it. Such great care you took, too... (cue car crash)
- Afterward, to his rescuer, on his captor's condition:
Dr. Arenski: Let me give you one piece of advice. Take it for what you will. Piss off terrorists, piss off mobsters, piss off your president if you wish. But never ever piss off a microbiologist.
- Title Drop:
- Mike, at one point, recites the Shakespeare quote that gave the book Unto the Breach its name.
- Mike is said to be listening to Paint it Black at one point in A Deeper Blue, with the relevant part of the song the opening quote of the prologue.
- Truth in Television: Wait... given the Rule of Cool entry, above, how?! The sex trade is very much a real problem, especially eastern Europe. Ringo and Luc Besson were not just making that up for the sake of the story.
- Weapon of Mass Destruction: A common item of contention in the series. And now Mike has one, as well as a former Russian bio-weapons scientist.