The Darkness series is fantasy following a very strict historical script, based on World War II. It is set on the continent of Derlavai on an unnamed planet. The continent is divided up into several kingdoms which adopt many of the customs of medieval Europe. Unlike our world, magic works here, and the study of magical arts fills a role similar to scientific inquiry in our world.
Parallels between the Darkness world and our ownEdit
The countries in the Darkness stand for actual countries in the Second World War - unmistakable in most cases, but ambiguous for some. However, each of these countries has the language (and some social and cultural traits) of quite a different actual country.
- Algarve is Nazi Germany (language: Italian)
- The Duchy of Bari is Austria
- Forthweg is Poland (language: Anglo-Saxon)
- Gyongyos is Japan (language: Hungarian)
- Jelgava combines various versions of Spain. The Jelgavan government is a repressive one like Francoist Spain. However, its geography and role in the war mirror Spain's role during the Napoleonic Wars (language: Lithuanian)
- Kuusamo is the United States (language: Finnish)
- Lagoas is Britain (language: Portuguese)
- The Land of the Ice People is North Africa (language: Biblical Hebrew)
- Ortah is Switzerland (language: Aramaic)
- Sibiu is Norway, Denmark, and/or the Netherlands (language: Romanian)
- Siualia is Sub-Saharan Africa
- Unkerlant is USSR and China (language: German)
- Valmiera is France (language: Lithuanian)
- Yanina is Italy and the Balkans (language: Greek)
- Zuwayza is Finland (language: Arabic)
Kaunians represent the Roman Empire, and the Jews. However, unlike the Jews and Gentiles in Europe, Kaunians share the same beliefs as the other members of the nations they reside in (the "powers above" and the "powers below.") The only distinct difference between the two groups is that Kaunians are blonde and possess fairer skin.
Nonetheless Kaunians were treated with the same contempt within Algarve and Forthweg as Jews were by anti-Semites in Germany and Poland. As the Derlavaian War progressed, the Algarvians began enclosing all Kaunians within their homeland and Forthweg into confined areas of towns and cities. Later, after Algarve invaded Unkerlant, a specific quota of Kaunians was taken from these areas on a regular basis, then shipped off to the west. These groups were temporarily held within concentration camps before they were killed to allow Algarvian mages to use their life energy against Unkerlant. (Unkerlant later adopted the same tactic using its own criminals and peasants in place of Kaunians.)
- "Sticks" are used instead of guns. They operate on magical energy that only a mage can replenish. When no other source of magical energy is available, soldiers in the field sometimes resort to killing prisoners of war so as to make use of their life energy - a usage tacitly accepted by the higher command. In the army of Gyongyos, soldiers are known to voluntarily sacrifice themselves and let their life energy be used to recharge the sticks of their comrades in arms.
- Soldiers are armed with long sticks, the equivalent of automatic rifles; police carry shorter sticks, the equivalent of pistols; heavy sticks are an equivalent of artillery.
- "Eggs" are explosives. They are used as bombs, artillery shells, and land mines. An egg-tosser is another equivalent of artillery. (Note: use of the term "egg" is never explained. When these explosive eggs are first introduced, it is suggested that natural dragon's eggs might be explosive and that mages went on to emulate them artificially; this is never stated explicitly, however.)
- Dragons are aircraft. They drop explosive "eggs" as bombs and breathe fire in place of machine guns. Their hides are coated with silver to deflect beams from enemy sticks. Brimstone and quicksilver are used as their "fuel." Dragons are considered as nasty and stupid animals, of which even their riders are not fond, and cleaning dragon excrement which is highly acid is among the most unpleasant duties with which ordinary soldiers might be saddled.
- Behemoths are large rhinoceros-like animals used as tanks and artillery. Some use egg-tossers while others carry large sticks.
- Leviathans are described as being a mix between a whale and a crocodile that serve as submarines. Using spells that allow the rider to breathe underwater, a leviathan rider can dive below the surface, stalk an enemy ship, and then plant an explosive egg along its hull. Unlike dragons, leviathans are intelligent and affectionate creatures, and form deep emotional bonding with their riders. (Note: "Leviathan" is a Hebrew word, used in the Bible as the name of a legendary sea creature and in contemporary Israel simply as the word for "whale".)
- Crystal Balls are used, in various contexts, as the equivalent of telephone, radio and television.
- Magic is the main source of energy instead of electricity. This energy may be found along "ley lines" that cover the land or by extracting the life energy from a human sacrifice.
- Habakkuk is a giant iceberg combined with sawdust that was used as a dragon-carrier.
The World of DerlavaiEdit
Most of the action in the series takes place on the main continent of Derlavai, located in the southern hemisphere on the unnamed planet it is on. There are also some lesser land masses and island chains mentioned in the story and on the map included in the novels. The planet also has the smaller continents of Siaulia and The Land of the Ice People.
There are only 12 independent countries: Algarve, Forthweg, Gyongyos, Jelgava, Sibiu, Kuusamo, Lagoas, Ortah, Unkerlant, Valmiera, Yanina, and Zuwayza. There are also three dependent territories (Bari, Grelz, and Rivaroli). Populations are for the most part homogeneous enough that a difference in hair color is easily enough to make one stand out. The vast majority of the members of a given Derlavaian ethnic group have the same hair and eye color combination. All nations in the Darkness series are monarchies with the exception of Kuusamo, in which seven princes have a hereditary power-sharing arrangement. While by no means all absolute monarchies, in all of them kings (or princes in Kuusamo) seem to have the executive power. There are foreign ministers, but no prime ministers and no cabinets - a foreign minister evidently reporting directly to the King. None of the people have family names, even if they are members of the nobility. To the extent that monarchs are limited in their power, the limitation comes mainly from hereditary aristocracies which still maintain many privileges of feudal times.
The nations in the Darkness series do not have randomly-invented names for their people and locations. Rather, each nation has personal and geographical names taken from a real nation on Earth. Turtledove has, however, mixed up the attributes so that any given Derlavaian kingdom is not instantly recognizable as a cognate of the countries which took part in World War II. For example, Unkerlant has Germanic (German, Low German, and Frankish) place and personal names. Forthweg has a Germanic language, Old English. Similarly, the Algarvic nations all speak Latin-derived languages: Algarve speaks Italian, Lagoas has Portuguese, and Sibiu Romanian. Kaunian languages are based on modern Baltic languages - Lithuanian is Classical Kaunian and Latvian for Valmerian and Jelgavian
The series has six volumes:
- Into the Darkness
- Darkness Descending
- Through the Darkness
- Rulers of the Darkness
- Jaws of Darkness
- Out of the Darkness
One of the most interesting features of this series is the complex analogy between the participants in the Derlavaian War and their Second World War counterparts. The various cultural and political features of each Derlavaian kingdom, as well as the role it plays in the Derlavaian war, have different counterparts. (For example, Kuusamo plays the role of the United States in the war, but its people speak Finnish and - far from being descended from colonists - are very outspoken in affirming themselves to be the original and indigenous inhabitants of their land). lists The result is a quite amusing quilt, sometimes lovely, sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes insipid.