There's also the fact that due to changes in political and philosophical thought, geopolitics in Malê Rising go away from the typical nation-state paradigm and more towards supranational institutions. And the TL is very Afro-centric, which alone should make it very distinct from the Euro- or Amero-centrism typical in TLs here.Common, yes, but not as universal as you'd think. In Europe, the big exception was the Catholic Church, which traditionally exerted a lot of influence within states regardless of what their monarchs thought. One big driver of the Reformation was the prospect of more fully asserting national sovereignty, not to mention confiscating the land and other property the Church owned in states across Europe.
And this concept is being challenged again in the modern day, with the idea that states that commit human rights abuses against their own people can't hide behind the idea of state sovereignty, and at least in certain cases, the international community can choose to step in to address such problems. I never actually read Male Rising, but I infer that some consideration like that comes into vogue earlier than in real life, where states' authority within their borders is challenged.
Corollary to Punching Bag Spain: the Philippines are treated as an afterthought in most TLs (not unlike Latin America, come to think of it) and they just change colonial masters during the 19th century during the Inevitable Disintegration of the Spanish Empire. Like can we see it go independent earlier once?I think they mean in timelines that aren’t Greek focused. Often Bulgaria seems to be the space eating country of the Balkans in your average timeline, often taking Eastern Thrace and sometimes Greek Macedonia instead of the Greeks along with other bits and pieces. Not really a trope but it’s happened commonly enough I’ve noticed it.
As for actual tropes, in almost every timeline past about 1750 Spain becomes a joke of a country everyone ignores until the USA, Germany, or both mug them for their remaining colonies. I know Spain couldn’t maintain its height but surely they could avoid their OTL quagmire and maintain a decent secondary power status. Someone who every Enemy of France would try to Ally for a two front war.