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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel Paperback – October 5, 2006
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"This brilliantly written satire perfectly celebrates and skewers the clichés of the fantasy genre. It is a highly recommended purchase…." —VOYA
About the Author
Diana Wynne Jones was the multiple award-winning author of many fantasy novels for children, teenagers, and adults. Her book Howl's Moving Castle was made into an Academy Award-nominated major animated feature by Hayao Miyazaki. She received the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Married to the medievalist J. A. Burrow, with whom she had three sons, she lived for many years in Bristol, the setting for many of her books. Diana Wynne Jones passed away in March 2011, after a long illness.
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In doing so, it humorously skewers all the clichés, conventions and tropes in the modern fantasy genre. Again in the words of TV Tropes – “the whole point of the book is to list and deconstruct as many fantasy tropes as the author could identify…and, pretty much to a one, subverted and lampshaded”. Let’s just say it playfully exposes some pretty big holes in the setting or world-building of modern fantasy- “why there are Dark Lords but no Dark Ladies, why casual sex in Fantasyland almost never results in pregnancy, and why male virginity is useless whereas female virginity is highly prized”.
And then there is one of my favorite rants about elves (and I am fond of rants about elves, so it has some stiff competition) – “Elves appear to have deteriorated generally since the coming of humans. If you meet Elves, expect to have to listen for hours while they tell you about this – many Elves are great bores on the subject – and about what glories there were in ancient days. They will intersperse their account with nostalgic ditties (songs of aching beauty) and conclude by telling you how great numbers of Elves have become so wearied with the thinning of the old golden wonders that they have all departed, departed into the West. This is correct, provided you take it with the understanding that Elves do not say anything quite straight. Many Elves have indeed gone west, to Minnesota and thence to California, and finally to Arizona, where they have great fun wearing punk clothes and riding motorbikes”.
RANKING: TOP 10 FANTASY BOOKS - STORIES & WORKS (FOURTH PLACE)
Inside this book, I can find most everything I need to create events, points and all the problems I hope I never encounter. The different items listed like an encyclopedia, in alphabetical order, accurate and to the point.
I recommend this book for writers, gamers and anyone who wants to read accurate information that will give them a laugh.
I do however wish this book were in Kindle edition, I would not have to replace it when the notes I add inside get too much for me to read the book, the spine would not become weak and the pages would not fall out.
If you've ever yelled at the stupidity of characters, groaned at deus ex machina situations or scowled at a cliche, this is the book for you.
Arranged as a "Travel Guide", this book takes you from A-Z, listing almost everything you could encounter in fantasy novels dating as far back as Robert E. Howard or Tolkien and as recent as the works of George RR Martin (ok, not so recent from him) or Robert Jordan/Sanderson.
As such, this is not so much a book that you read from cover to cover, as it is one that you are supposed to reference at random.
Ordinarily I'd find a book such as this rather pointless, except that A) There is some humor to be found and B) The author is very perceptive about quite a few things.
As for the humor aspect of this book, I only came across one part that had me laughing out loud. Want to hear it? Sure you do. It was the fake "Tough Guide" listed at the beginning of the book as "Gandalf's Tough Guide (includes instructions on how to lead Tourists into Dark Places and then leave them stranded."
But the author really showed perception by explaining things like the following:
With so little mention of cows, where does all the leather come from?
Why are the only spiders in fantasy novels the size of houses?
Where do all these fancy silk clothes come from?
What is so special about tents and secrets?
Why are some fantasy structures bigger on the inside than on the outside and vice versa?
Why is stew the primary meal?
Where did the building materials for all these giant stone castles and towers come from?
If you're not one of those fantasy purists and can tolerate your favorite genre being put under the microscope (or magic crystal), I think there's a certain amount of enjoyment ahead.