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A novel by Diana Wynne Jones. A powerful magical artifact from the center of the galaxy, buried on Earth, becomes active and distorts reality in its neighborhood.
- All Just a Dream: The entire first half of the book, pretty much.
- Affably Evil: Reigner One.
- Anachronic Order: The second mini-chapter takes place near what is chronologically the end of the book. And Vierran's introduction and visit to Earth actually takes place chronologically before the entire first half of the book. To be fair, there's an in-story reason for that.
- To be precise, the chapters really occur in chronological order, but the Bannus is blanking out people's memories and rerunning the scenario repeatedly in order to get the outcome it desires.
"This wood," Yam told him, "is like human memory. It does not need to take events in their correct order."
- Arthurian Legend: 'The King' Vierran speaks to turns out to be King Arthur.
- The Baroness: Reigner Three.
- Big Screwed-Up Family: Practically everyone is distantly related to Martellian Pender, the previous First Reigner. Ironically enough, the only two major characters who probably aren't -- Reigners Three and Four -- are sister and brother.
- The Chessmaster: Yam/the Bannus
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Once the Bannus's plot kicks into action, the Reigners are too busy trying to wipe each other out to wonder what's really going on.
- Decoy Protagonist
- Five-Bad Band: The Reigners
- Gambit Roulette: Yam. He says it himself, pretty much:
Yam: I wish you to know that every one of my six-hundred and ninety-seven plans of action was designed to end in your death.
- Mind Screw: When we say distorts reality, we mean it.
- Well, what do you expect when you've got a very angry Reality Warper involved? Figurative warping of reality?
- One-Winged Angel: Pretty much everyone turns into giant dragons for the final battle. Including the good guys.
- Smug Snake: Reigner Four.
- Tomato in the Mirror: "Ann Stavely"/Vierran Guaranty
- Training From Hell: Boy howdy.
- Fate Worse Than Death: What happens to the mothers of the Reigners' Servants.
- When He Smiles: Mordion
- Worthless Yellow Rocks: Flint, from Earth, is valuable elsewhere in the universe.