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A series of novels by writers Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and David Freer. They are Historical Fantasy novels set in an alternate Venice in the 1530s. The point of divergence from our history (other than the addition of Functional Magic), was Hypatia being converted to Christianity and stopping the mob from destroying the Library of Alexandria, eventually splitting the Church into the Petrines, under her own and St. Peter's doctrine, and the Paulines, under St. Augustine and Paul's doctrine.
It's also shown that the Mongols are doing much better in this world than our own: the Ilkhanate still exists nearly two centuries after its real-world demise ... and holds Jerusalem. There doesn't seem to be an Ottoman Empire, or any prospect of one, at all.
The first novel, Shadow of the Lion, focuses primarily on the character of Marco Valdosta, heir to the presumed destroyed great house Valdosta of Venice. It borrows elements from Romeo and Juliet, for Marco falls in love with Katerina Montescue, last scion of the house that has feuded with Valdosta for two generations. In it, Marco, his half-brother Benito, their friends, and Prince Manfred and his bodyguard Erik of the Holy Roman Empire must defeat an invasion by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland, headed by the demon Chernobog in the body of Grand Duke Jagiellon.
(Much of Shadow of the Lion is a fantasy reworking of Lackey's contributions to the science fiction shared-world "Merovingen Nights" begun by C. J. Cherryh, several passages taken almost word-for-word. Maria Garavelli and Caesare Aldanto start as expies of Cherryh's characters Altair Jones and Thomas Mondragon, but diverge when Caesare betrays Maria. Mondragon would've betrayed anyone else to protect Jones. Marco and Benito Valdosta are based on Lackey's Rigel and Deneb Takahashi.)
The second novel, This Rough Magic, focuses on the characters of Maria Garvalli and Benito Valdosta, and borrows elements from the tale of Persephone (and Orpheus) from Greek mythology. Both characters find themselves in Corfu just as the island comes under siege by the Kingdom of Hungary.
The third novel, A Mankind Witch, is a solo work by Freer. It follows the adventures of Prince Manfred and Erik between the events of the first two novels.
The fourth novel, Much Fall of Blood, puts the Valdostas mostly in the background, and follows Manfred and Erik to Romania and Ukraine (but under different names in-novel). Also, a new major character is the grandson of a ruler closely resembling Vlad the Impaler, including the title "Drac."
A fifth novel is planned in the series, titled Great Doom's Shadow. It will return to Benito Valdosta.
These novels provide examples of:
- Accidental Marriage: Erik, due to not knowing much of Mongol culture.
- Allohistorical Allusion: Nobody in-story seems to think of Vlad's grandfather as a vampire, but Vlad unknowingly plays out a Dracula image when an assassination attempt fails. Somebody shoots at him and misses (though sincerely believing he hit Vlad square), and Vlad says lead bullets aren't enough to kill him. The fellow reports that as a statement that only silver could do the job. Then Vlad comes walking out of a burning building; he's dressed all in black and his skin is very pale because he's been held in a dungeon for several years ... and he's carrying the corpse of a voluptuous woman, her throat ripped open (the missed shot hit her, apparently by ricochet).
- Svanhild is murdered in the same way as the character of the same name from The Saga of the Volsungs.
- Anti-Villain: Count Mindaug. Smart, learned. "He needed power—preferably great power—simply because he could ill afford to let anyone else have it."
- Armor Is Useless: Subverted. The Knights of the Holy Trinity wear archaic heavy armour, which everyone admits is not too useful with plenty of firearms around. However, it is still a very useful defence against magical forces, which they regularly fight against.
- Arranged Marriage: Marco Valdosta and Angelina Dorma. It doesn't work.
- The Atoner: Fortunato Bespi.
- Badass Princess: Bortai.
- The Berserker: Erik is capable of entering this state, but once there can't tell friend from foe, so prefers not to do so when allies, particularly Prince Manfred, are around.
- Vlad goes berserk at times. He has no memory of what happened during one such occasion; he just saw a traitor draw a knife, and he snapped out of it once he'd drowned the fellow in a bucket of liquid waste. He didn't harm any of his loyal people, or, apparently, even look as if he might.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Manfred.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Benito and Maria.
- Blood Bath: The character Elizabeth Bartholdi bathes in blood to keep herself eternally young in an attempt to avoid the price of her deal with the Devil.
- Blood Magic: The ritual to summon the Winged Lion requires the sacrifice of life. In Marco's case, just being willing to end his own life was enough.
- Chosen One: Marco.
- Coitus Uninterruptus: How Francesca saves Erik and Manfred from the schiopettieri.
- Crowd Song: In the battle against Emeric in the end of Much Fall of Blood.
- Deliberate Injury Gambit: Marco faces a better fighter with a longer reach in a knife fight. He wins by impaling his own left hand on the blade of his opponent's dagger, rendering it useless and allowing him to slay the man.
- Evil Mentor: Caesare Aldanto to Benito. He helped kill the Valdosta boys' mother and only helps them because of the money he gets from their grandfather. He's a ruthless assassin and plotting to help the city fall to the coming invasion.
- Fake-Out Make-Out: With Erik, Manfred, and Francesca. There was nothing fake about it, either.
- A Father to His Men: A few people are uneasy about swearing allegiance to young Vlad when he mentions that his title among his people is Drac, meaning Dragon. He tells them that the Dragon protects his treasure, and his people are his treasure. If they swear fealty to him, they'll be his treasure, too. That does it; they drop to their knees in tears and kiss his hand. They've longed to serve a ruler who understands how to be loyal to his people rather than just demanding they be loyal to him.
- Heroic BSOD: Erik, after Svanhild is killed.
- High Class Call Girl: Francesca, although she trades up to Imperial Advisor the second she gets the opportunity.
- Historical Fantasy / Alternate History
- Identical Grandson: Vlad physically resembles his grandfather, this history's version of the Impaler.
- Ignore the Fanservice: The biggest reason Lucretia wants Eneko and Marco dead.
- Immortality Immorality: Countess Elizabeth Bartholdy.
- Jerkass: Caesare.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Caesare ends up shipwrecked by one of the ships he helped sabotage. What happens to him next is more of a Kick the Son of a Bitch from Chernobog.
- Le Parkour: Benito's favourite way of getting around in Venice. He later uses a variant to escape pursuers in a forest, climbing a tree and then jumping to another when they climb up after him.
- Literary Allusion Title: Each title is part of a line from Shakespeare - e.g. This Rough magic from The Tempest and Much Fall of Blood from Macbeth.
- Love Across Battlelines: Kat and Marco in The Shadow of the Lion. Their subplot includes several Shout Outs to Romeo and Juliet. There's an explicit reference to them having ended one of the worst feuds since the "Capuletti and Montague in Verona."
- Love At First Sight: Kat and Marco. Erik and Svanhild.
- Low Fantasy
- Music for Courage: Used several times, mostly with battle hymns. The most notable example is in the final battle against Emeric in Much Fall of Blood.
- Noble Fugitive: Plenty. Marco and Benito in The Shadow of the Lion. Vlad, Bortai, and their respective sister and brother in Much Fall of Blood.
- No Immortal Inertia: Elizabeth Bartholdy. Somewhat justified in that the immortality treatment had to be maintained at regular intervals.
- Orphean Rescue: Benito for Maria in This Rough Magic. He one-ups Orpheus in resisting the temptation to look back by following his other companion, a knight who is wearing shiny, mirror-like armor; letting him see that Maria is behind him without having to look.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: In Much Fall of Blood, they are the result of a willing sacrifice between man, wolves, and natural forces, and fully in control of themselves and the transformation. An involuntary sacrifice will generate loup garou, who hungered for blood and were hard to kill.
- Rags to Royalty: Marco and Benito in The Shadow of the Lion.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: A common man is coerced into betraying the guerrilla fighters led by Erik when Caesare and the Shaman kidnap his young son. When they outsmart the trap and find out the man's son was killed (and eaten by the Shaman in his dog form), they give him the gnawed on thigh bone and tell him to spread the word about what the invaders do to children. This, in turn, helps raise up the populace against the invaders and drive them out.
- In Much Fall of Blood, Vlad suspects that a merchant from whom he bought supplies for his people is a spy for Emeric. When his suspicion is confirmed, some of his subordinates are ready to hunt down and kill the merchant, but he tells them he still owes the man some money for the supplies. Only once that is paid will he deal out justice for the betrayal.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: What Benito is about to go on in the end of This Rough Magic.
- Silk Hiding Steel: Katerina and Francesca.
- Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: Type X (Fantastical Alternate History), and due to the large scale of the change and how long ago it happened, probably a type II (Hard/Soft Alternate History) when the series start, mainly due to good research.
- The Sneaky Guy: Benito Valdosta.
- The Stoic: Erik.
- Tsundere: Maria, very much so.
- Sorcerous Overlord: Jagellion of Lithuania/Chernobog
- Sudden Principled Stand: How Erik saves Kat in The Shadow of the Lion.
- Word of Saint Paul: In-universe, Christianity gained another early high-powered missionary and organiser in Hypatia, and thus split into two groups, based on different Words of Saint Paul: the Pauline branch and the Petrine branch.
- Your Mom: Your mother is a tortoise. Subverted when it's made into a running gag in Much Fall of Blood.