FANDOM


Farm-Fresh balanceYMMVTransmit blueRadarWikEd fancyquotesQuotes • (Emoticon happyFunnyHeartHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3Awesome) • RefridgeratorFridgeGroupCharactersScript editFanfic RecsSkull0Nightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out iconShout OutMagnifierPlotGota iconoTear JerkerBug-silkHeadscratchersHelpTriviaWMGFilmRoll-smallRecapRainbowHo YayPhoto linkImage LinksNyan-Cat-OriginalMemesHaiku-wide-iconHaikuLaconic

Incarnations of Immortality is an eight-book fantasy series by Piers Anthony. It tells the story of mortals who assume various immortal offices, becoming the Anthropomorphic Personification of varying concepts. The first five books deal with that person's life as he or she assumes the office, as well as his or her first encounter with Satan, who attempts to use their lack of experience to his own advantage. The series was originally conceived as being only five books long, but by popular demand the author wrote three more. The sixth book tells the story of Satan, and offers a Perspective Flip on some of the events of the previous books. The seventh book deals with a reoccurring character trying to save her baby's soul, and in turn, becoming the Incarnation of good (God). The last book deals with how Nox, aka Night, assumed her Office and became heavily involved in Satan's Xanatos Gambit (explaining some plot from prior books along the way). By the end of the series, all of the Incarnations are related to one another somehow.

The books and the incarnation featured in them are, in order:

  • On a Pale Horse featuring Zane as Thanatos, the Incarnation of Death
  • Bearing an Hourglass featuring Norton as Chronos, the Incarnation of Time
  • With a Tangled Skein featuring Niobe as Clotho and Lachesis (at different times), aspects of the Incarnation of Fate
  • Wielding a Red Sword featuring Mym as Mars, the Incarnation of War
  • Being a Green Mother featuring Orb as Gaea, the Incarnation of Nature
  • For Love of Evil featuring Parry as Satan, the Incarnation of Evil
  • ...and Eternity featuring mysterious stuff about God, the Incarnation of Good
  • Under a Velvet Cloak, which is largely a prequel to the main series, featuring Kerena as Nox, the Incarnation of Night

The series makes use of the following tropes:

  • All of the Other Reindeer: In For Love of Evil, Satan tries to meet up with the other Incarnations and make friends. With the exception of Chronos, they treat him utterly like crap, to the point of watching while Gaea has him raped by an ape.
  • Alternate History: Many minor details about the world are changed because of the existence of magic and divinities. Iraq and Iran are called Babylonia and Persia (but still have a war), India is a collection of unrelated sultanates, Islam is not mentioned (though Allah and Mohammed do receive very brief references in For Love of Evil), and "pigskin" (football) uses magic as part of the game, is measured in feet instead of yards, and is an all-female game.
    • Also, some historical events are changed in-series, up to and including Satan manipulating Chronos into preventing World War II and the Holocaust.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Pretty much the basis of the entire story.
  • Arrogant Kung Fu Guy: The martial arts master Samurai in With A Tangled Skein.
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Asian Clotho in With A Tangled Skein; she only falls in love with Samurai after he defeats her in combat and shows her her place.
    • That being said, she was using the Sword of War in the fight, and was therefore literally incapable of losing. She forfeited the match so that Samurai wouldn't be humiliated in front of his students.
  • Better the Devil You Know: After Parry abdicates his position as Satan, the other Incarnations agree that they vastly preferred him to his replacement.
  • Breast Attack: Through electrocution.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: Purgatory is like this.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Quite a few. Most notably Orlene, who serves only to set up Norton into becoming Chronos by dying, then becomes the main character of "...And Eternity."
    • Nicolai appears in "Being a Green Mother" as someone Orb meets during her travels (and is left to find a rich adoptive family for Orlene), but in "...And Eternity" he becomes an aspect of Fate.
  • Children Are Innocent: Mostly. Oddly enough, children can be "tainted" by their circumstances.
    • Thanatos supposedly alters this rule at the end of his book, sending one so-called "tainted" soul to Heaven on his own authority, but in (chronologically) later books, children are still shown as being tainted by the sins of their birth.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: The Incarnations of good and evil gain power by how many people believe in them. When religions fade away, so do their respective Incarnations of good and evil.
  • Completely Missing the Point: When Zane was still human, he was a photographer. He discovered how to take pictures of people's auras. He became depressed when his customers ignored the beautiful auras and only bought his photos because a side-effect of the aura-capturing technique was that the subject appears naked.
  • Cool Car: Death's car, Mortis.
  • Cool Horse: Death's steed, Mortis. War's steed, Werre.
  • Cool Old Guy: Nicolai and JHVH.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Molly Malone, Jolie, and Orlene.
  • Death Takes a Holiday: On a Pale Horse, naturally.
    • At the end of And Eternity, Death briefly takes a holiday again - and so do all the other Incarnations, for one hour, while they all select a new Incarnation of Good.
  • Did Not Do the Research: In Wielding a Red Sword, Mym says that the closest equivalent to Satan in Hindu terms would be Shiva. No. No. No. And more no. While Shiva is "the Destroyer", he is also a beloved and heroic deity revered by all Hindus. He's the destroyer of evil, and thus could hardly be more opposite to Satan.
  • Electric Torture: Luna gets this. Her kidnappers strip her topless and then zap her bared nipples. It's made explicit that it's very painful.
  • Everyone Is Related: The Incarnations make a pretty big tangle.
  • Fisher King: Gaea's feelings affect the planet. It rains when she cries, and her anger can cause earthquakes.
  • Fox Chicken Grain Puzzle: Presented as a Demon-Rapist-Girl Puzzle, with three women and three demons, and if the demons outnumber the women at any point they'll be raped.
  • Gambit Pileup: Satan, various Fates, Norton as Chronos, Nox, and the Archangel Gabriel have all set up plans and Roulettes, some hundreds of years long, to manipulate each other, the other Incarnations, and any mortal who might be useful in the final conflict, until everything finally comes crashing together in And Eternity. Subverted in the end, everyone won. And I mean everyone. Except Erebus, but who cares about him, anyway?
  • Gender Bender: Orlene getting temporarily turned into a man as described in I'm a Man, I Can't Help It below. There's also Nicolai turning into a woman when he becomes an aspect of Fate.
  • God Job: How the Incarnations work.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: The fact that Satan's agents frequently interfere in the mortal world, while God apparently does nothing, is initially attributed to God and the Devil having made an agreement to leave the mortal world alone, which the Devil of course immediately broke but God still keeps. (This eventually turns out not to be true, but it's initially portrayed as a straight example of the trope.)
  • The Gods Must Be Lazy: Or in God's case, zonked out on his own Divine Presence.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Lucifer sent Lilah to turn Parry, leader of the Dominicans and his deadliest foe, to evil. He succeeded...and Parry promptly overthrew him. Remember, Prince of Darkness, Evil Is Not a Toy.
  • Go Seduce My Arch-Nemesis: In addition to Lucifer's attempt in book 6, described above, in book 4, Satan tries sending Lilah to seduce and corrupt the new Mars. Once again, it ends up backfiring.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Satan prevents Hitler's rise to power, and only JHVH and himself remembers this.
  • The Grim Reaper: Subverted, as it's only a costume Thanatos wears.
  • Have You Seen My God?: The Christian God, who is the current Incarnation of Good, is inattentive because He is contemplating His own goodness to the exclusion of all else. In ...and Eternity, He is impeached and replaced by a new God.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Averted. To repay a debt to the Jewish God JHVH, Satan convinces Chronos through Reverse Psychology to prevent Hitler's rise to power. While there is still a war that Germany starts, it is as the restored Holy Roman Empire, and the Holocaust never happens.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Fate
  • High Heel Face Turn: Lilah, twice.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Vita from And Eternity.
  • Horny Devils: Lilah and Jezebel.
  • Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Incarnation Of War is accompanied by Famine, Conquest, Slaughter, and Pestilence.
    • The Incarnation Of Death, of course. The first book lampshades it with it's title being a paraphrase of the bible: Death rides "On a pale horse".
  • I Hate You, Vampire Dad: Plays a major role in the events of Under a Velvet Cloak, which leads to all the Incarnations being affected in some way.
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: In And Eternity, Orlene is transformed into a man and immediately becomes an aggressive, misogynistic, testosterone-charged boor, attempting to rape her friend Jolie. Upon having her female form restored, she and Jolie are horrified and conclude that "Men have passions that women do not", and that the reason all men are not constantly overwhelmed with violent lust is that "they have learned control".
    • Possibly subverted, as both Orlene and Jolie were transformed into a specific man (the grown version of Orlene's child) to show what his genetic affliction would do to him.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Because Orlene is a ghost when she assumes the Office of Good, Vita points out that this makes her a Holy Ghost.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Zane is interrupted by Thanatos and kills him, claiming the office.
    • Also the Asian Clotho in With A Tangled Skein ; she is preparing to commit suicide when the Fates swoop in and make her Clotho.
  • Living MacGuffin: Luna. Niobe to a lesser extent, before she stops being a chess piece and starts playing.
  • Living Motion Detector: Zane fights a demon like this in the first book.
  • Loophole Abuse: (Spoilers for the end of And Eternity) Aint No Rule that says a ghost can't hold office as an Incarnation. The rule only limits eligibility to those who remain in the mortal realm, which includes the ghosts.
  • Love Redeems: After falling in love with Orb, Satan tries to resign his position kills himself, thereby abdicating the Office of Evil. It doesn't stick, because everyone prefers Satan to his replacement and the Incarnations fish him out of his cell.
  • Louis Cypher: Natasha - Ah Satan, Backwards
  • Magic Feather: All the Incarnations' implements function more or less like this. They're symbolic of the Incarnations' power, but mostly act as tools of visualization and control; Death doesn't need his cloak for invulnerability, and Gaea and Satan use their music as an easy focus for their techniques. The only apparent exceptions are the skeins of fate, and possibly the Hourglass.
  • Magic Music: The Llano, a song that can do strange things. Nature and Satan use it.
    • Earlier, Orb learns the tanana, which is an erotic Gypsy dance with surprising efficacy on nonhuman entities (although this is more likely the result of Orb's nascent powers), and uses it on her quest to find the Llano.
    • Cedric Kaftan and his cousin Pacian (Orb's father) both have an inherited brand of magic that causes invisible orchestras to spring up with sparkly backing tracks whenever they sing. Niobe instantly falls in love with each of them in turn after hearing their singing.
  • Merlin Sickness: Chronos.
  • More Expendable Than You: When Cedric discovers a plot to kill Niobe, he decides to make the Heroic Sacrifice by taking her place without telling her.
  • Naked First Impression: Zane meets Luna when she is teleported out of the shower.
  • Noble Demon: Pretty much Satan in a nutshell. His reason for the war against God is that the system for determining whether a person goes to Heaven or Hell is flawed, and he gets too many good people. He makes a deal with the Archangel Gabriel to keep the war from harming mortals. He is friends with JHVH, the original Incarnation of Good.
  • No Name Given:
    • With a very few exceptions, none of the Incarnations other than the specific protagonists of each novel are ever named.
    • Despite getting a fair amount of screentime, Orb's bandmates in Being a Green Mother are only ever referred to as "the guitarist", "the drummer", etc.
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: In On A Pale Horse, Death decides to read his mail against the advice of his household staff, and one of the letters is from a girl who is afraid that she'll die in her sleep because her mother makes her recite this prayer before going to bed.
  • Now It's My Turn: When Cedric confronts four drunk college students who were attempting to rape Niobe, he deliberately allows them to strike him first, which has no effect. He then grins and says, "Now you have had the first blow, I'll have the last," and proceeds to lay out all four of them in seconds.
  • Omniglot: The previous Mars before Mym.
  • One Degree of Separation: Everyone's related! Justified by the Gambit Pileup revealed in the later books.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage
  • Pretty in Mink: An heiress in the beginning of the first book.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Satan, particularly as characterized in the later books, is just doing a dirty but necessary job in tempting humans to sin and punishing the guilty. Most of his predecessors really were genuinely evil, leading to some really ugly office politics before Orlene becomes Goddess and patches things up.
  • Retcon: Satan in the first four books appeared to be pure, irredeemable evil. In the fifth book, he gets cast more sympathetically, and after that he's a Necessarily Evil Punch Clock Anti-Villain.
    • Similarly, the succubus "Lila" sent to seduce Mars in book 4 turns out to be much more than a low-ranking Horny Devil: she was "Lilah", the same succubus that turned Parry to evil, and was also the "Lilith" of folklore who rejected Adam because he refused to acknowledge her as an equal.
  • Runaway Fiance: Asian Clotho in With A Tangled Skein; she runs away from her strict family because she doesn't like the husband they have chosen for her.
  • Sassy Black Woman: The African-American Atropos in With A Tangled Skein.
  • Satan Is Good: The sixth book's entire premise. (Sort of.)
  • Sapient Steed: Mortis.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell: A person's faith determines what afterlife it gets. Atheist souls disintegrate upon death.
    • Becomes a bit of a Family-Unfriendly Aesop, or possibly some variety of Take That at faith, when you realize that this means, as far as the universe of the books go, that those who believe will have to suffer for their sins... some intentional, many not... while atheists can be as evil as they want to be without any post-death repercussions.
    • On the other hand, atheists disintegrate. But that's what they're expecting, they don't consider it any kind of punishment or bad thing.
    • It is this system that Satan is opposing through the sixth and seventh books.
  • Sequel Gap: Under A Velvet Cloak was published seventeen years after the previous book.
  • Signs of the End Times: Plague, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions are all the result of singing the Llano of Chaos, which ends all living things within weeks of it being sung. Although one could argue that these are less signs of the end and more the cause.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The succubus "Lilah" goes by slightly different names at different points in the series, changing it depending on the persona she is assuming at the time.
  • Sympathetic POV: The sixth book.
  • Tangled Family Tree: A mild one as things go, but the Kaftan family still has to deal with time travel, prophecies, and temporary agelessness, leading to Niobe's daughter and first granddaughter being born about the same time, and Niobe herself screwing her second granddaughter's affair from the future. Come to think of it, we should be very grateful that Incarnations can't reproduce.
  • Theme Table
  • Time Stands Still: Chronos and Thanatos can both do this, though Thanatos only because Chronos lets him.
    • Mars can do it as well and its implied that all Incarnations can do it. One of the Office of Time's duties is to allow to the other Incarnations to stop time when it is necessary for them to perform their duties.
      • In fact most of Chronos' job seems to be helping the other Incarnations out when they need to fiddle with some matter of time or another. He does his other main job, making sure time, y'know, exists, just by being in office.
      • As, in fact, do most of the Incarnations. They make sure problems and important jobs are dealt with, and the small things happen automatically.
  • To Hell and Back: After Cedric sacrifices himself to save Niobe, Niobe travels to Purgatory in an attempt to make a deal with death and bring her husband back to life, even if it means she must die in his place. Sadly, Death is not convinced that her "but I love him!" argument outweighs the fact that Niobe's survival is crucial to the betterment of mankind.
    • All the Incarnations visit Hell at some point in their careers. Usually it's a trap, sometimes it's just to negotiate.
  • Twelve Coins Puzzle: Featured in the third book.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Zane, while not exactly ugly, is average at best, while Luna is one of the most beautiful women of her generation. Zane was also destined to marry a comparably beautiful and rich woman before a shady salesman tricked him into giving up this destiny.
  • Vapor Wear: Gaea (the one before Orb) and Lilah. Gaea because she doesn't really see the point in clothing, Lilah because she's a succubus.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Satan in Wielding A Red Sword when Mars threatens to start World War III and the Apocalypse early. Satan may have been faking, though.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Niobe for her generation, her daughter Orb for her generation, and her granddaughter (via her son) Luna for her generation.
  • Xanatos Gambit: By the end, things end up arranged so that Satan gets what he wanted regardless of whether Good or Evil ends up in charge of the world. If Good wins, God gets replaced by someone who is going to do the job properly. If Evil wins, Satan gets to take over. Either way, Hell stops getting souls who don't deserve to be there.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: The office of Death is transferred this way. This is also one of the ways the office of Evil can be transferred.
  • You Must Be Cold: Death gives Luna his cloak once.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.