Diana Wynne Jones describes (starting, of course, with a map) every sword-and-sorcery cliché in wickedly accurate detail, arranged alphabetically. Elves sing in beautiful, unearthly voices about how much better things used to be. Swords with Runes may kill dragons or demons, or have powers like storm-raising, but they are not much use when you're attacked by bandits. You can only have an Axe if you're a Northern Barbarian, a Dwarf, or a Blacksmith. Jones also tackles hard-hitting questions: how does Fantasyland's ecology work when there are few or no bacteria and insects and vast tracts of magically irradiated wastelands? Why doesn't the economy collapse when pirates and bandits are so active and there is no perceptible industry?
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (U.K. Edition) was a 1997 Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominee. It's a good companion to Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm, a fantasy about what happens when your land is turned into a theme park for questing tourist parties. Fans of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books will enjoy both. --Nona Vero