Guardians of the Flame
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Guardians of the Flame is a long-running series by author Joel Rosenberg and is arguably his best-known work. The series is about a group of college students who participate in a fantasy role-playing game, and are magically transported to the world of the game by their gamemaster.
The first book, The Sleeping Dragon focuses on the former students struggling to survive in the world of the game. The series progresses with the students choosing to live in the 'game world' and forming their own community, which is in part based on opposition to the ubiquitous slave trade.
In the later books, the focus shifts from efforts to destroy the slave trade and on to various characters dealing with the changes in the fantasy world wrought by the former students (now mostly 40-somethings). The final three books shift focus to a new set of protagonists, relegating the 'Other Siders' to supporting cast and cameo appearances.
There are ten novels in the Guardians of the Flame series:
- The Sleeping Dragon (1983)
- The Sword and the Chain (1984)
- The Silver Crown (1985)
- The Heir Apparent (1987)
- The Warrior Lives (1988)
- The Road to Ehvenor (1991)
- The Road Home (1995)
- Not Exactly the Three Musketeers (1999)
- Not Quite Scaramouche (2001)
- Not Really the Prisoner of Zenda (2003)
The first seven novels also have been reprinted in three omnibus editions collecting books 1-3, 4-5, and 6-7. The Science Fiction Book Club's omnibus editions of the first five books are titled Guardians of the Flame: The Warriors (Books 1-3, 1985) and Guardians of the Flame: The Heroes (Books 4-5, 1989). The Baen Books omnibus editions are titled The Guardians of the Flame (Books 1-3, 2003), Guardians of the Flame: Legacy (Books 4-5, 2004), and Guardians of the Flame: To Home and Ehvenor (Books 6-7, 2004).
Karl Cullinane is the leader of the students that come from our world (referred to in the series as the Other Side), gaining mighty fighting skills in the transition. After promising the Matriarch of the Healing Hand Society (the leader of the Hand cleric sect) to end slavery in This Side (the term for the world they find themselves in), he and the others build Home, the first semi-democratic settlement in the history of This Side. In The Silver Crown, he takes over the country of Bieme and defeats the nation they're at war with, Holtun, becoming the first Emperor of Holtun-Bieme. He is killed fighting a large number of slavers on the beaches of the island, Melawei, in The Heir Apparent.
Walter Slovotsky is one of the students. In transition, he gained expert thieving skills, including his often-used sneaking abilities. He has a trademark grin, described in many different ways, in general terms his "all-is-right-in-the-world-because-Walter-Slovotsky-is-in-it" grin. After Home is established, he becomes something like Karl's right-hand man, generally using his knowledge as a former agriculture student to benefit whatever place he happens to be. Walter is still alive by book 10. He is a highly sexual guy, generally attempting to bed any woman he meets that's attractive.
Louis 'Lou' Riccetti is one of the students. Originally, after reaching This Side, he was a somewhat powerful wizard called Aristobulous. He gave up his wizardly powers to revive his comrade Ahira from death, promising to use his skills as an engineering student to technologically revolutionize This Side. He succeeds to an amazing degree, introducing things such as gunpowder and the telegraph. He is known as the Engineer and has begun to train students to go into the world and create. To date, he is still alive.
James Michael Finnegan (a.k.a. Ahira) is one of the students. He is one of the few of them that originally preferred it in the new world (in our world, he was crippled with muscular dystrophy, while there he is a powerful dwarf berserker). After the founding of Home, he begins as a Home warrior and eventually ends up as Mayor, though he is replaced by Lou Riccetti later on. He spends a brief time in Endell, a dwarf warren, with his best friend Walter Slovotsky before returning to Karl's service. To date, he is still alive.
Doria Perlstein is one of the students. She gained the abilities of cleric in transition. Halfway through the first book, she is gang raped by a group of slavers and enters a near-catatonic state shortly after. She is delivered to the Hand Tabernacle, the headquarters of the Healing Hand Society, and reappears in The Heir Apparent, where she has recovered. She gives up her powers in the end of the book to save Karl’s son, Jason, from death. She later takes up residence with the Cullinanes.
Andrea Andropolous Cullinane is one of the students. She became an amateur wizard in transition, eventually becoming a pretty powerful wizard. Originally Karl’s love interest, she (technically) married him in the second book after they discovered she was pregnant with his child. After the first book, she tends to take back seat, appearing only when Karl is either at Home or, later, in the Imperial Castle. She takes an important part in The Road to Ehvenor, where she is instrumental in sealing a breach between the Other Side and Faerie that was allowing monster back into the world, though it burned out her powers.
Ahrmin is a master in the Slavers Guild, primary antagonist for books 2 through 4, and Karl’s arch-enemy. Karl killed his father, Ohlmin, and he holds a deep desire for revenge. In at the end of the second book, he is hideously burned in Melawei by Karl, who thought he was dead, and he remains such until the end of book 4, when he returned to Melawei and was shot in the head by Karl’s son, Jason. The party he brought over managed to give him revenge from beyond the grave, as its attacks led to the death of Karl.
Jason Cullinane is the son of Karl and Andrea who first appears in The Silver Crown. He suffers from having to live under his fathers shadow and, after fleeing from his first battle as a Home warrior, feels that the only way he can redeem himself is to kill his father’s arch-enemy, Ahrmin of the Slavers Guild. He succeeds, though the events following led to the death of his father. He surrenders the crown his father left him and instead becomes a baron, though he still manages to get into trouble in one way or another.
Jason Parker (a.k.a. Einar Lightfingers), one of the Other Side students, transitioned as a one-handed thief named Einar Lightfingers. Shortly after their arrival (in the first book), he was the first of the students to die after attempting to pick the purse of the lordling of Lundeyll, who took extreme exception to the deed. Jason Cullinane was named in his memory.
Ellegon is one of the last dragons in the Eren regions (the area of This Side where the stories take place). He was captured and taken to Pandathaway, the closest thing to a main city the humans have, where he was forced to flame their waste in the sewer or else be buried by them. Karl freed him, and the dragon stayed with him out of gratitude, becoming an integral part of first Home and later the Empire. Ellegon, like all dragons, is not only a giant carnivore, but can also read and speak through minds.
Chak is a Home warrior and the first slave Karl ever freed. Originally introduced as a fighter in the Pandathaway Games who Karl defeated in the first book, he later returns as a Home warrior after being rescued by Karl and Walter. He is killed destroying gunpowder belonging to slavers in the third book.
Tennetty is a Home warrior/Karl’s personal bodyguard. She was one of the first slaves that Karl rescued, and she joined him as a warrior shortly after. She is a ferocious fighter, good enough for Karl to put her in charge of a raiding team. She is fanatical about killing slavers, particularly Ahrmin, who killed the man she was in love with. She died in The Road to Ehvenor.
Aeia Eriksen Cullinane is Karl’s adopted daughter and one of the first slaves he rescued. She was sexually abused by the time she was rescued (at age 11). When she grew up, she fell in love with Walter Slovotsky, though Holtish Baron Bren Adahan also tried for her hand.
Zherr Furnael was a Baron of Bieme. Starting with the second book, he acted as an ally for Karl's group. When it became clear that the Prince of Bieme had abandoned his barony, Zherr joined Walter Slovotsky in an attempt to usurp the throne. The Prince killed him with a hidden dagger, and Walter was forced to make Karl the Emperor.
Beralyn Furnael is the wife of Baron Zherr Furnael. She despises Karl for leading her son Rahff to his death and accidentally leading to her husband's death in a plan gone wrong. She eventually becomes Dowager-Baroness and, when her son Thomen becomes Emperor, a powerful figure in the Empire. She hates all the Other Siders and is paranoid to a nearly insane degree about Jason taking the throne back.
Thomen Furnael is the son of Baron Zherr Furnael. After his father dies in book 3, his mother becomes the Dowager-Baroness. During Book 4, he is Baron Furnael and a judge in the Biemestren court. Jason eventually abdicates the crown of Prince to him after realizing that he's not cut out for the job.
Rahff Furnael, the elder son of Thomen Furnael, was sent to Karl as an apprentice in order to gain a better chance for survival. However, Rahff was some time later killed in Melawei by a maddened slaver; his violent death scarred Karl for the rest of his life.
Bren Adahan is a Baron in the land of Holtun. He originally tried for Aeia’s hand, but gave up and married Walter Slovotsky’s former wife, Kirah. He has studied under the Engineer and has also described himself as a student of Karl Cullinane. To date, he is still alive.
Durine, Kethol, and Pirojil are three guards under Imperial employ, called the Three Musketeers by Walter Slovotsky. They are the focus of books 8 through 10. Over the course of the books, Durine is killed and Kethol is transformed into a Holtish nobleman, leaving Pirojil alone.
Arthur Simpson Deighton (a.k.a. Arta Myrdhyn) is originally introduced as a college professor and a gamemaster. It is eventually revealed that he is an insanely powerful (and possibly powerfully insane) wizard who wants to use the students to achieve his plan. In particular, he has left a sword that stops all spells for Karl’s son in an effort to kill his enemy, Wizards Grandmaster Lucius. He does seem to legitimately care for the students, displayed in particular when sobbing as he realizes that Karl Cullinane is dead.
Wizards Grandmaster Lucius is possibly the greatest wizard in the entirety of the Eren region. While he is never shown in the books, Lucius is mentioned several times. His most prominent contribution in the series has been the creation of the Waste of Elrood. It was formerly the Forest of Elrood until he had a duel with Arta Myrdhyn (a.k.a. Arthur Deighton).
Ohlmin was a vicious slaver and master swordsfighter who lost a swordsfight competition to Karl in Pandathaway (first book). In revenge he pursued Karl and his friends and captured them, and he and his gang proceeded raping Andrea and Doria. After freeing themselves, Karl and Walter went back to finish Ohlmin and succeeded in killing him and the rest of his band, but he was survived by a son, Ahrmin, who as a consequence sought revenge for his father's death on Karl.
Repeated references to the Flame are made in both the series title and at the end of many of the books. The Flame is the flame of freedom, as explicitly stated in most of the book endings, and the students act as the guardians of the concept that slavery is evil. Thus, they are the Guardians of the Flame.
Factions in Guardians of the Flame
The Slavers Guild is based in the Slavers Guildhall in Pandathaway. While it is shown that not all of them are completely evil, members of the Slavers Guild make up a large portion of the antagonists. Their Guildmaster is Guildmaster Wryn. Member of the Guilds Council.
The Wizards Guild is based in Pandathaway, and as such is generally an ally of the Slavers Guild. However, they suffer something of a falling-out after Karl uses Arta Myrdhyn's sword to kill one of its members, and they become less eager to help out. Their Guildmaster is Grandmaster Lucius. Member of the Guilds Council.
Home is the semi-democratic nation that serves as the home base for the students as they attempt to destroy the Slavers Guild. It is on the borders of the elven nation of Therranj, which spends most of the third book trying to absorb it. After Karl becomes Emperor the base technically moves to the seat of the Empire, Biemestren, though Lou Riccetti remains in Home.
Pandathaway and the Guild Council are the greatest human city and its government. Pandathaway is a massive city, home to both the Slavers Guild and the Wizards Guild. As the name implies, the Guild Council is a collaboration by every one of the numerous guilds to form a government. Gradually throughout the series, Pandathaway's massive influence begins to shrink.
The Empire of Holtun-Bieme is a relatively new power in the world, even compared to Home. Holtun-Bieme was formed when Karl became Prince of Bieme after Walter assassinated the former Prince and turns around the ongoing war against Holtun, completely taking it over. Karl, during his life, was attempting to slowly move it from an empire to at least a very limited monarchy, bringing democratic elements in with him. It is currently ruled by Thomen Furnael, though his mother Dowager-Baroness Beralyn Furnael holds a significant amount of sway.
Faerie is another realm, ruled by the Faerie Queen Titania. They generally look down on the inhabitants of the Eren region and rarely interfere in the region. Titania helped Karl reach Melawei in an effort to ease her own boredom. At the end of The Road to Ehvenor, monsters escape from a rip into Faerie and begin to populate the world again.
The Hand is the sect which Doria Perlstein or Doria of the Healing Hand belongs to, whose matriarch is said to be able to raise the dead. Located in the direct center of the waste of Elrood.
There are various independent cities and powers in the Guardians of the Flame world, but these are the major ones.