Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What I am Reading: Instrumentalities of the Night series by Glen Cook

I decided to read Working God's Mischief. It's the 4th book in Glen Cook's fascinating Instrumentalities of the Night series. It's been sitting on my bookshelf for a while. But it's been a while since I read the first three books. So I decided to read all the books in the series. Instrumentalities has a lot of familiar aspects from other Cook series. It feels closest to the Dread Empire series and the protagonist reminds me a lot of Bragi Ragnarson from Dread Empire. Which for me is not a bad thing at all. 

Some readers complain that the setting is hard to understand with one of the key reasons being that there is no map or appendix and Cook drops us right in the middle of the setting and is extremely chary of adding in the sort of exposition that many authors use to introduce or explain unique setting elements to the readers. As a reader, you have to put some pieces together if you want a good sense of the geography or a better sense of the sources and inspirations for cultural details. That's not really new for Cook. He does the same thing in both the Dread Empire and the Black Company series. But the setting is initially smaller in the Black Company with detail on regions being added incrementally while in the Dread Empire several maps are provided that help orient the reader both geographically and politically. 

I confess to being lazy enough as a reader that I often prefer not to have to work quite so hard and on my first reading I'd have liked a map. On the other hand, putting the pieces together does add a level of intellectual challenge and as I've been doing that this time I thought I would share some of the work I've done. 

The setting is essentially an alternate earth with a few changes to the geology, physics, and metaphysics. The novels, at least so far, are concentrated in the areas around the Mediterranean Sea. The time period is similar to early 13th century Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The biggest departure from our earth is the existence of magical wells of power and the fact that gods and demons are real. The use of earthly geography, with some notable changes, is one reason the author may feel a map isn't really necessary. If you need a map, just Google "Mediterranean Sea" and your there...more or less.

There are some spoilers that follow, though I don't think most are too extreme nor are the geographical elements intended to be surprises to the reader. I've just about finished the second book in the series, Lord of the Silent Kingdom, so nothing in this post will be a spoiler for the 3rd or 4th novels. 


The first spoiler is that in the world of the Instrumentalities the  Straight of Gibraltar is closed making the sea level of the Mediterranean or Mother Sea hundreds of feet lower and the Black Sea basin with a lake a hundred feet below that. Note that the Mediterranean was actually landlocked multiple times in the distant past. If you want more details, read up on the Messinian salinity crisis.

In my list I tried to group countries that were adjacent or culturally or politically connected near each other. I'll probably do a follow up post after I finish the series listing the countries in alphabetical order.

Political and Geographical Equivalents

Andoray – Scandinavia: probably Norway, Sweden, Finland
Friesland – Denmark         
Iceland – Iceland
Grail Empire – also called the New Brothan Empire, analog to the Holy Roman Empire.
Duarnenia – possibly Poland, Lithuania, and/or Prussia, the Great Marshes are part of Duarnenia and it is the site of warfare between an the Order of the Grail Knights and pagans.
Shallow Sea – located in the north just south of the advancing ice this is probably the Baltic, by Book 2 it is frozen with only scattered pools of open water suggesting leaks of power from underwater wells.
  • Ormo Straight a site of vicious tidal bores is now an icy bridge; presumably this is the Kattegat.
Ocean - the Atlantic Ocean
  • Escarp Gib al Tar – straights of Gibralter, 1,000 years before the time of the novels (circa 300 AD) “the Old Brothan Empire had a hundred thousand slaves permanently raising and reinforcing the Escarp Gibr al-Tar" to keep out the Ocean from the Mother Sea.
Santerin – England including continental possessions, probably Normandy and Aquitaine
Arnhand – Northern France
  • Salpeno – seat of the Arnhander kings; Paris?
  • Themes – city in or near Tramaine, Arnhanders defeated by 
  • Tramaine – territory in dispute between Santerin and Arhand
Direcia – Iberian peninsula
  • Navaya - Aragon there were a number of Aragonese kings named Peter, Aragon borders Languedoc and Catalonia, and the crown controlled parts of southern and western Languedoc in the time before the Albigensian Crusade.
  • Platadura – Catalonia & Barcelona, King Peter of Navaya is probably the Count of Platadura.
The Connec - The Languedoc region of Southern France possibly including parts of Provence or Dauphine
  • Khaurene – Toulouse
  • Viscesment – Avignon
  • Antieaux – Lyon (probably not Antieaux, possibly Nimes, Montaubon, Valence)
  • Castreresone - Carcassone
  • Vierses River – cities along it include Parliers and Khaurene so this is probably the Garonne River.
  • Dechear River – probably the Rhone since it is between Connec and Ormienden
Ormienden – a confusion of principalities and feudalities some with obligations to the Grail Emperor; possibly Provence or medieval Dauphine
Dromedan – “a tiny Episcopal state tucked into a corner where the Connec, Grohlsach, the Firaldian dependency Seliné, and the Sorvine Principiate snuggled up to one another” possibly Comtat Venaissan
Grolsach – Switzerland
Seliné – possibly the Piedmont
Sorvine Principate – possibly Savoy
Plemenza – Duchy of Milan, the city of Plemenza is analogous to the city of Milan
Firaldia – Italy
  • Aparion – possibly Genoa
  • Dateon – an Italian maritime city state
  • Alicia – town near
  • Brothe – Rome
    • Castellas dollas Pontellas – headquarters in the city of Brothe of the Brotherhood of War
    • Teragi – river through Brothe, analogous to the Tiber
    • Remale-on-Teragi - Ostia
  • Sonsa – a naval power, probably Pisa since it can be reached by taking ship from Brothe downriver then north by sea to the Sawn River and then to Sonsa and by Book 2 is in decline much like Pisa in 13th century.
  • Sawn River – leads to the port city of Sonsa; probably analogous to the River Arno.
  • Calzir – Praman portion of Southern Firaldia (Italy, Apulia region) in Muslim hands, the area includes Sicily this is similar to the status of Italy prior to the establishment of the Norman kingdoms in the 10th century.
  • Alameddine - ? part of, a city of, or adjacent to the Calzir
  • Al-Khazen – major Praman city in the Calzier; stormed by the Crusade in Book 1.
Shippen – Sicily captured by Navayan forces in Book 1 as a prelude to the invasion of Calzir.
Artecipia – Corsica and Sardinia connected by a land bridge caused by the lower sea levels
  • Arn Bedu – stronghold in the western mountains of the southern (Sardinia) lobe of Artecipia.
Dreanger -The Caliphate centered on Egypt
  • Sha-lug are based on the Mamluks with some resemblance to the later Janissaries. 
Lucidia - The Caliphate centered on Damascus
Eastern Empire - Byzantine Empire
  • Hypraxium - capital of the Eastern Empire; Constantinople/Byzantium.
  • Crevaldia – a province of the empire the resembles Firaldia in culture and religion i.e. Episcopal; possible analog to Rumania.
  • Antal Land Bridges - separate the Negrine Basin from the Mother Sea, analog to the Dardanelles or Hellespont.
Negrine Basin - the Black Sea’s surface level is a hundred feet below that of the Mother Sea.
Rhun might be Russia
Staklirhod the main headquarters of the Brotherhood of War is island in the eastern Mother Sea, headquarters of the Brotherhood of War, probably Cyprus (1291–1310) or possibly Rhodes (1310–1523); Malta is later and not in the eastern Mediterranean or Malta (1530–1798), over which it is sovereign
  • Castella Anjela dolla Picolena – Brotherhood castle on the island of Staklirhod
Mother Sea – Mediterranean Sea this is actually much shallower than the earthly Mediterranean since the straights of Gibralter are closed off from the Atlantic Ocean which makes the Mother Sea hundreds of feet below the sea level of Ocean (Atlantic Ocean).


Great Sky Fortress - Asgard
Gray Walker - Odin
Trickster – Loki
Arsenul – Brunnhilde

Chaldereans – Christians
  • Episcopal – Catholic Church
  • Eastern Schism – Eastern or Greek Orthodox
Pramans - Muslims
Devedians - Jews
Dainshaukin - Orthodox Jews
Maysaleans – Cathars; the Cathar religion included the Consolamentum ritual, by which Cathar individuals were baptized and raised to the status of ‘perfect’ which is also a Maysalean title.
Brotherhood of War – Hospitallers or possibly an amalgam of the Hospitallers and the Templars.
  • The Special Office – a sub-cult inside the warrior order made up of sorcerers sworn to destroy the Instrumentalities of the Night. Using the Instrumentalities as their principal tool.
  • For generations most Brotherhood recruits come from Episcopal Chaldarean enclaves inside the Eastern Empire.


  • The Patriarchs Sublime and Immaculate are analogs to the Avignon schism where rival popes existed in Rome and Avignon, France. 
  • Indala al-Sul al-Halaladin is presumably Saladin. 
  • Tormond may be based on Raymond VI of Toulouse.
  • King Peter of Navaya is probably based on Peter II King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona.

Once source I initially used was this thread. The first post was helpful in adding some possible solutions, though I think the writer is wrong about the analog for Sonsa being Venice. 

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