The Darkness series is fantasy based heavily (though not completely) 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.
The series has six volumes:
- Into the Darkness (1999)
- Darkness Descending (2000)
- Through the Darkness (2001)
- Rulers of the Darkness (2002)
- Jaws of Darkness (2003)
- Out of the Darkness (2004)
The World of Derlavai
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 12 kingdoms: 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 kingdoms with the exception of Kuusamo, where 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. 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.
Parallels to World War II
Within the series, most kingdoms are analogs of the main participants of World War II. There are some countries that play multiple roles, and not every analog is based in World War II.
- Algarve is Nazi Germany (Linguistically based on Italian)
- The Duchy of Bari is Austria and Sudetenland
- Forthweg is Poland (Linguistically based on Anglo-Saxon)
- The Duchy of Grelz is Ukraine
- Gyongyos is Japan (Linguistically based on Hungarian)
- Jelgava is Spain - although its politics, and its role in the war, mirror the Spain of the Napoleonic Wars, rather than World War II. (Linguistically based on Latvian)
- Kuusamo is the United States (Linguistically based on Finnish)
- Lagoas is the United Kingdom (Linguistically based on Portuguese)
- The Land of the Ice People is North Africa (Linguistically based on Biblical Hebrew)
- Ortah is Switzerland (Linguistically based on Aramaic)
- The Marquisate of Rivaroli is Alsace-Lorraine
- Siaulia is Sub-Saharan Africa, and possibly the Indian subcontinent
- Sibiu combines Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands (Linguistically based on Romanian)
- Unkerlant is primarily the USSR, and secondarily China (Linguistically based on German)
- Valmiera is France (Linguistically based on Lithuanian)
- Yanina is Italy, Romania, and Hungary (Linguistically based on Greek)
- Zuwayza is Finland (Linguistically based on Arabic)
Kaunians represent the Jews, though their ancient empire resembles the Roman Empire. However, unlike the Jews and Gentiles of 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 blond 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 progresses, the Algarvians begin enclosing all Kaunians within Algarve and Forthweg into confined areas of towns and cities. Later, after Algarve invades Unkerlant, a specific quota of Kaunians is taken from these areas on a regular basis, then shipped off to the west. These groups are temporarily held within concentration camps before they are killed to allow Algarvian mages to use their life energy against Unkerlant. Unkerlant later adopts 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 acidic, is among the most unpleasant duties with which ordinary soldiers might be saddled.
- Behemoths are large woolly 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 War Between the Provinces, a fantasy epic, in three volumes, that parallels the American Civil War. In this case, the Detinan Civil War follows the analogy much more rigorously than the mixed-and-matched World War II metaphor of the Derlavaian War.
- After the Downfall, a stand-alone fantasy involving a conflict broadly (and self-referentially) based on World War II.
- "None So Blind," a short fantasy story involving dragons, scientifically-based magecraft, and a looked-down-upon blond tribe with quasi-Lithuanian names.