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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

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The definitive edition of a cult classic by the legendary Diana Wynne Jones.

Imagine that all fantasy novels—the ones featuring dragons, knights, wizards, and magic—are set in the same place. That place is called Fantasyland. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is your travel guide, a handbook to everything you might Evil, the Dark Lord, Stew, Boots (but not Socks), and what passes for Economics and Ecology. Both a hilarious send-up of the cliches of the genre and an indispensable guide for writers, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland has been nearly impossible to find for years. Now this cult classic is back, and readers can experience Diana Wynne Jones at her very incisive, funny, and wildly imaginative. This is the definitive edition of The Tough Guide, featuring a new map, an entirely new design, and additional material written for it by Diana Wynne Jones. World Fantasy Award Finalist A Hugo Award Finalist (Nonfiction)

234 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Diana Wynne Jones

126 books10.4k followers
Diana was born in London, the daughter of Marjorie (née Jackson) and Richard Aneurin Jones, both of whom were teachers. When war was announced, shortly after her fifth birthday, she was evacuated to Wales, and thereafter moved several times, including periods in Coniston Water, in York, and back in London. In 1943 her family finally settled in Thaxted, Essex, where her parents worked running an educational conference centre. There, Jones and her two younger sisters Isobel (later Professor Isobel Armstrong, the literary critic) and Ursula (later an actress and a children's writer) spent a childhood left chiefly to their own devices. After attending the Friends School Saffron Walden, she studied English at St Anne's College in Oxford, where she attended lectures by both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien before graduating in 1956. In the same year she married John Burrow, a scholar of medieval literature, with whom she had three sons, Richard, Michael and Colin. After a brief period in London, in 1957 the couple returned to Oxford, where they stayed until moving to Bristol in 1976.

According to her autobiography, Jones decided she was an atheist when she was a child.

Jones started writing during the mid-1960s "mostly to keep my sanity", when the youngest of her three children was about two years old and the family lived in a house owned by an Oxford college. Beside the children, she felt harried by the crises of adults in the household: a sick husband, a mother-in-law, a sister, and a friend with daughter. Her first book was a novel for adults published by Macmillan in 1970, entitled Changeover. It originated as the British Empire was divesting colonies; she recalled in 2004 that it had "seemed like every month, we would hear that yet another small island or tiny country had been granted independence."Changeover is set in a fictional African colony during transition, and begins as a memo about the problem of how to "mark changeover" ceremonially is misunderstood to be about the threat of a terrorist named Mark Changeover. It is a farce with a large cast of characters, featuring government, police, and army bureaucracies; sex, politics, and news. In 1965, when Rhodesia declared independence unilaterally (one of the last colonies and not tiny), "I felt as if the book were coming true as I wrote it."

Jones' books range from amusing slapstick situations to sharp social observation (Changeover is both), to witty parody of literary forms. Foremost amongst the latter are The Tough Guide To Fantasyland, and its fictional companion-pieces Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998) and Year of the Griffin (2000), which provide a merciless (though not unaffectionate) critique of formulaic sword-and-sorcery epics.

The Harry Potter books are frequently compared to the works of Diana Wynne Jones. Many of her earlier children's books were out of print in recent years, but have now been re-issued for the young audience whose interest in fantasy and reading was spurred by Harry Potter.

Jones' works are also compared to those of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman. She was friends with both McKinley and Gaiman, and Jones and Gaiman are fans of each other's work; she dedicated her 1993 novel Hexwood to him after something he said in conversation inspired a key part of the plot. Gaiman had already dedicated his 1991 four-part comic book mini-series The Books of Magic to "four witches", of whom Jones was one.

For Charmed Life, the first Chrestomanci novel, Jones won the 1978 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, a once-in-a-lifetime award by The Guardian newspaper that is judged by a panel of children's writers. Three times she was a commended runner-up[a] for the Carnegie Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book: for Dogsbody (1975), Charmed Life (1977), and the fourth Chrestomanci book The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988). She won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, children's section, in 1996 for The Crown of Dalemark.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 434 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,566 reviews8,211 followers
August 7, 2020
Before there was TV Tropes, there was The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

In 1996, Wynne Jones created the ultimate epic fantasy trope list. Done in a time when the portal--through-the-doorway--fantasy was popular, the conceit is that Tourists in fantasy lands who will find the Guide useful in navigating through the world. However, even should one not be physically traveling through the fantasy realm of choice, this guide could come in very useful. (It would also apply to most fantasy video games).

The book opens with a large, generalized MAP ("these empty inland parts will be sporadically peppered with little molehills, invitingly labelled 'Megamort Hills,' 'Death Mountains,' 'Hurl Range,' and such") and follows with a list of symbols used throughout the text. The majority of the guide is an alphabetized listing of common terms/items/ areas/ beings/ etc. found in fantasy books. The listings are priceless, filled with a gentle sort of humor that pokes fun at the tropes and without outright mocking. For instance, take the entry on insects:

"INSECTS are practically non-existent, possibly as a result of the WIZARD'S WAR (see also ECOLOGY). Parasitic insects such as LICE and bedbugs have mostly been stamped out--although fleas are still popular--and only HOVELS occasionally manifest houseflies. Small numbers of bees must exist, since honey is often served... and so much silkworms, because so many persons wear silken garments. Otherwise, almost the only recorded insects are the mosquitoes all Tourists complain of in the MARSHES (in stinging clouds [OMT][official management term])."

The beauty of it is that it's true. There are never ladybugs in fantasyland, or wasps (unless they are the magical kind), or any other member of the insect family that should be so vital to pollinating crops and flowers that keep the realm functioning. They are usually only mentioned as a way to describe how horrid conditions are. Or take another example:

"DWARFS are short, muscular, bearded PEOPLE much given to mining and forging. They mostly live hidden inside hills, where they do their mining. Until recently, almost no female Dwarfs had been sighted, but now they are seen quite often... All Dwarfs, perhaps through living so long immured in DWARVEN FASTNESSES, have a very old-fashioned, surly demeanour. They bow a lot, but also grumble. They recite long epics about the marvellous deeds of their ancestors... they always keep their word once they have been induced to give it. They will join the forces of GOOD and supply ARMOUR, but before this the Tour may well have a difficult time with them. Dwarfs will take all Tourists prisoner for trespassing in their Fastness, and it will involve much persuasive talking to get them to be friendly."

Tell me that doesn't about describe every single dwarf population you've run into in fantasy. I'll wait while you check. She's spot-on, isn't she? Here, let's check one more entry under 'D':

"DUNGEONS are the first thing to be built when anyone is planning a large BUILDING. Even Town Halls tend to have them. The Rules state that Dungeons are damp and small and a long way underground. If the Tourist is being confined is lucky, there will be a small barred window too high up to reach, through which the contents of the moat trickle, and old (fetid [OMT]), filthy [OMT]) straw on the ground. There will be a thick door (locked) with a small shutter in it where what passes (only just) for FOOD can be thrown in at prisoners, generally dropping tantalizingly an inch out of reach, and there will always be rings in the walls carrying chains and sometimes old bones too. It is all designed to make you feel low. There may even be scutterings [OMT] that could be rats (but see ANIMALS). Do not, however, let this get you down. The average stay in such a place is, for Tourists, twenty-four hours."

Surprisingly, strangely true, particularly with regard to the stay. Because how else could the story progress? 

However, despite the amusement, this really isn't something that can be read straight through. It gets exhausting, much like reading any volume of the encyclopedia (for those who remember what that was like; for those that don't, it's rather like endless scrolling and clicking through a reference site). It is precious fun--I agree with a fellow GR friends that the entry on horses and cross-pollination if quite funny, although I'd note that most 'desert nomads' seem to be horse-breeders, so I'm not sure if that holds true--but more fun in a word-of-the-day sense over a straight read-through. Wynne Jones follows this up by writing her own ultimate portal fantasy called The Dark Lord of Derkholm, from the point of view of a (benevolent) Dark Lord and real parties of Tourists. 

So, rating: highly, for cleverness, completeness and humor, but less so for actual readability. Not really a book I feel motivated to add to my library, but that's probably how it'd work best, as a pick-up, put-down kind of read.

Note: nominated for the 1997 Hugos 'Best Related Non-Fiction Work,' which is hysterical all by itself. 

Pasted from blog, minus the links: clsiewert.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/th...
Profile Image for Nataliya.
781 reviews12.4k followers
January 20, 2022
If you have read at least a handful of traditional fantasy books, no doubt that most of the tropes found in this mock A-to-Z Fantasyland encyclopedia/travel guide (for a hypothetical tour of a Generic Fantasyland, organized by a sinisterly capitalized Management) will be familiar to you. You can read this book in a traditional way - front to back cover, or just pick up any entries at random - it's just as entertaining. It's hilarious and so true, and yet not condescending or malicious, and does not ever degenerate into ridicule.

The Guide touches on everything you expect to see in your generic fantasy epic adventure - from STEW ("what you are served to eat every single time") to HORSES ("It therefore seems probable that they breed by pollination") to MISSING HEIRS ("At any given time, half the COUNTRIES in Fantasyland will have mislaid their Crown PRINCESS/PRINCE") to BANDITS ("employed by the Management to make the early stages of the Tour more interesting") to CLOTHING ("Here, the colder the climate, the fewer the garments worn") to SCURVY ("Despite a diet consisting entirely of STEW and WAYBREAD, supplemented by only the occasional FISH, you will not suffer from this or any other deficiency disease") to WORK ("is seldom done as such in Fantasyland. When it is inevitable, it is always known as Toil") to COMMON COLD (“This is one of many viral nuisances not present. You can get as wet, cold, and tired as you like, and you will still not catch cold. But see PLAGUE”).

Anyone who has ever thought about writing fantasy should become very familiar with this book. So should fantasy fans who don't take themselves and the genre too seriously. I also highly recommend it to all my fellow Terry Pratchett fans out there - since we already laugh at fantasy clichés.

Also posted on my blog.
Profile Image for Shauna.
111 reviews86 followers
February 26, 2012
In The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones doles out such indispensable advice as how to tell whether a PERSON is good or evil by their COLOR CODING, what to expect during the various stages of your TOUR, the importance of NAMES (if you don't have one, you will always be killed sooner or later. Probably sooner.), what sort of PEOPLE makes the best companions (at least one or two LITTLE PEOPLE are reccommended- they tell jokes- though the most likely candidates would probably be FEMALE MERCENARY, MISSING HEIR, TOUR MENTOR, and perhaps LARGE MAN.) Neither does she shy away from the 'big' issues, covering ECOLOGY, ECONOMY, POLITICS, and even TROTS, THE.

What's great is that the guide is consistently entertaining throughout. I could lift section after section at random and each would recommend the book equally well. And I do find that often myself that, with this sort of book, you pick it up thinking 'what a charming idea', but then interest is exhausted about as quickly as the author's better ideas.

The next time I pick up one of my old favorite fantasies for a re-read, I will most definitely be whipping this guide out as a companion. I'm anticipating one absolutely hilarious experience there.

In case you're not quite convinced yet, here's a little A-B-C-D sampling:

APELIKE CANNIBALS are small, weak, white, and horrible, but where they exist they occur in great numbers, all bundled together like maggots.  They have small clawed hands and small sharp fangs, and it is by sheer numbers and persistence that they overwhelm the unwary Tourist, whom they will then eat raw.  They live underground, but not very far underground, often in
places like deserted farmhouses where travelers will not expect attack; though they seem to fear daylight, they will come out at dusk as soon as those in the farmhouse have relaxed.  Just occasionally they will attack a CAMP or a strayed Tourist in open country.  They have the look of degenerate humans.  Possibly they have strayed into Fantasyland via H.G. Wells’s Time Machine.

BAR SERVICE has not yet been invented.  Drinks and other orders are traditionally brought to you at your table in the INN by barmaids.  This is an enlightened arrangement by the Management because it prevents unemployment among young unmarried women and probably also keeps up the birthrate.
See also EUNUCHS, MAIDS, and WAR.

CHILDREN are not commonly found on a TOUR. If a Child appears and seems to wish to take part, be very wary.  She/he is likely to be either a God or the MISSING HEIR to a Kingdom. In either case this will make the Child unpredictable and capricious.  She/he will unquestionably involve you in a great deal of trouble.
See THIEVES’ GUILD for the only exception to this Rule

DARK LADY.  There is never one of these – so see DARK LORD instead.  The Management considers that male Dark Ones have more potential to be sinister, and seldom if ever employs a female in this role.  This is purely because the Management was born too late to meet my Great Aunt Clara.
DARK LORD (dread lord (OMT)).  There is always one of these in the background of every Tour, attempting to ruin everything and take over the world. He will be so sinister that he will be seen by you only once or twice, probably near the end of the Tour. Generally he will attack you through MINIONS (forces of Terror, bound to his will (OMT)), of which he will have large
numbers. When you do get to see him at last, you will not be surprised to find he is black (see COLOUR CODING) and shadowy and probably not wholly human.  He will make you feel very cold and small.  Actually, when it comes down to it, that is probably all he will do, having almost certainly exhausted his other resources earlier on.  You should be able to defeat him, with a little help from your COMPANIONS, without too much effort.  However, the Rules state that at this stage you will be exhausted yourself and possibly wounded by MAGIC.  So be careful.

Now for the full encyclopedic guide, you're just going to have to pick up the book (and if you're a fantasy lover I hope you will.)

**side-note **

Ireland gets a bit of a nod in this one (We are rather fantastical you know- our current president is, in fact, a leprechaun.)

PANCELTIC TOURS are normally taken separately from the rest of Fantasyland.  Here the MAP will be of only one COUNTRY, which has a Welsh name, and shows TOWNS called things like Dun Bhlaioinaidbth (pronounced Dublin) or Glas Uedhaoth (pronounced Glasgow) and rather more MOUNTAINS.  The Tour will, however, take place in the usual way, except that PORRIDGE will largely replace STEW and there will be rather more MAGIC.  But the WEATHER will be a great deal worse.  When it is not raining, everywhere will be hidden (shrouded (OMT)) in MIST. If you go on one of these Tours, you will not always find it easy to know either what is going on or what people are talking about. The Mist seems to get into everyone's brains.

PANCELTS are frequently red-haired. They wear plaids and have NAMES you must consult the glossary in order to pronounce.  By the Rules (pronounced GEAS) which govern them, they have to call ELVES Shee (pronounced Sidhe) and refer to the ENEMY as Shadow.  Otherwise they are nice people who drink a lot of the water of life (pronounced Uisce) and love to tell you LEGENDS by firelight.  They also fight a lot and rather well, since both men and women train hard from the age of ten.  But there is no such thing as an ordinary PANCELT.  Each of them is either a MAGIC USER or a BARD or a Druid (pronounced like a sneeze), or sometimes all three (in which case you pronounce it Merlin).  They are governed by strong and beautiful QUEENS called things like Maebdh Aeiolaien (pronounced Mad Eileen) or strong and serious KINGS called, for instance, Daibhaeaidhaibh MacAeraith (pronounced Dave Mate), and they appear to worship the Welsh Bard Taliesin. It is in this Bard's honour that they all sing so much, even more than the Shee/Elves do.  And, like the Elves, they are prone to go on about how very much better things were in the Old Days, when a HERO could walk in one day from Caer Dibdh to the sea by taking a shortcut through Tir n'an Og (pronounced The Many-Coloured Land).

The spelling/pronunciation had me laughing.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,630 reviews433 followers
August 30, 2020
-Otro de esos libros a reivindicar con menos fama de la que merecen.-

Género. Ensayo (muy particular, eso sí).

Lo que nos cuenta. El libro La guía completa de Fantasilandia (publicación original: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, 1996) ofrece un diccionario explicativo de todos aquellos lugares, seres, objetos, eventos, grupos y demás que se pueden encontrar en Fantasilandia. Pero, querido lector, esta obra es mucho más que eso.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Francisca.
188 reviews83 followers
November 9, 2018
I like this book. That said, this is not a novel, it's a clever collection of fantastic definitions and how you can best play with them when writing (and even reading) to have the most fun and punchy results.

It won't be an interesting read for everybody, but if fantasy books are a pleasure for you, Wynne Jones's Though Guide to Fantasyland can -surely will- bring some laughs and much needed understanding of some common and not so common topics and cliches in fantastic literature.

Wynne Jones style, which, if you have read Howl's Moving Castle or Castle in the Sky won't be a new thing for you, shines even when put down in short definitions and matter-of-fact paragraphs.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,449 reviews473 followers
March 3, 2014
Jones was working on a fantasy encyclopedia with some other guys, and they kept making jokes about fantasy tropes. One of them said she should write her own encyclopedia. So she did. And then, after that, she used the idea of other-world fantasy tourism as the basis for the two Derkholm books, which amused me no end.

So I like the ideas here (Food: it's always stew, never a steak, never an omelet), and I agree with Gaiman that if one were to write a work of fantasy it'd be a good idea to go through this first, to make sure you're not relying on the stereotypes.

But for sheer reading pleasure? Well, no, not really. Dip into it from time to time, but don't try to read it straight through, that'll bore you rigid.

Library copy
Profile Image for Olga Godim.
Author 12 books73 followers
September 1, 2013
This is hilarious, an absolute must for every fantasy writer. The book is a mock A to Z guide of the tropes of fantasy. Now and then, I just open it randomly for a dose of laughter, read a few entries starting with different letters, giggle, and close it again, till next time.
As I writer, I can say that if you write fantasy, you can't avoid at least some of the clichés described in all their ridiculous details in this book. It's up to you to use them in an original way, if at all possible. Of all the fantasy writers I've read, only Terry Pratchett succeeded at this task.
I'd love to quote from this book, but it's practically impossible to choose the best quote. The entire book is a book of quotes.
Marvelous and entertaining. Read it!
Profile Image for Pauline Ross.
Author 10 books305 followers
October 4, 2012
This is a wonderful, wonderful book. It’s the perfect antidote to all those terribly solemn tomes full of wizards speaking portentously, hidden heirs to the kingdom, the sort who instantly become amazingly adept with a sword, and tediously earnest quests for magic McGuffins. In the guise of a guidebook (with a map - naturally), it’s actually an encyclopedia of fantasy tropes. Instead of a proper review, I can’t do better than to give some examples:

NUNNERIES. The Rule is that any Nunnery you approach, particularly if you are in dire need of rest, healing or provisions, will prove to have been recently sacked. You will find the place a smoking ruin, littered with corpses. You will be shocked and wonder who could have done this thing. Your natural curiosity will shortly be satisfied, because there is a further Rule that there will be one survivor, either a very young novice or a very old nun, who will give you a graphic account of the raping and burning and the names of the perpetrators. If old, she will then die, thus saving you from having to take her along and feed her from your dwindling provisions; if a novice, she will either die likewise or prove to be not as nunnish as you at first thought, in which case you may be glad to have her along.
PRINCESSES come in two main kinds: 1) wimps; 2) spirited and wilful. A spirited Princess will be detectable by the scattering of freckles across the bridge of her somewhat tiptilted nose. Spirited Princesses often disguise themselves as boys and invariably marry commoners of sterling worth. With surprising frequency these commoners turn out to be long-lost heirs to Kingdoms.

Essential reading for all fantasy fans. Five stars.

[*] This reminds me of the very old joke - Recursion: see Recursion.
Profile Image for Sandi.
510 reviews279 followers
August 28, 2008
I'm cheating. I'm moving this book to my read shelf and giving it a rating even though I haven't finished it. I don't think you can finish reading this book any more than you can finish reading a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or a tour guide. I can't even tell you how much of this book I have read. This is like a mini-dictionary of fantasy concepts. You'll be reading an entry and it will refer to other entries. You'll read those entries and jump to yet other ones. The next thing you know, you've read this book, but in no orderly fashion. The entries are very funny, very true and very insightful.
919 reviews255 followers
February 19, 2014
Absolutely hilarious. The bit about the pollinating horses is probably my favourite. (No, I will not spoil it for you. You'll have to read it to see what I mean)
Profile Image for saïd.
6,316 reviews961 followers
December 31, 2021
TOUGH GUIDE. A book containing all sorts of advice that should not be attempted at home, but which should be kept in mind if one ever finds oneself sucked into a game of Dungeons and Dragons.
Profile Image for Pam Baddeley.
Author 2 books49 followers
July 16, 2019
This is a satirical 'dictionary' of the many cliches found in fantasy fiction, principally of the epic/quest variety.

I made the mistake of reading this right through - it probably comes across as much more humorous if dipped into occasionally. As I read it, like any overextended joke, it started to fall a bit flat.

I enjoyed the author's novel based on this idea of 'tours' in fantasyland - The Dark Lord of Derkholm - much more, to be honest. This I rate as a 3 star read; good in parts but a bit too repetitive if trying to read it in one, as I did.
Profile Image for Suzannah.
Author 31 books488 followers
February 4, 2022
Just great. Even better the second time, now that I've actually read more fantasy than just Narnia and LOTR.


(90 pages later...)

Profile Image for seak.
434 reviews473 followers
Want to read
December 19, 2012
I just got this and I've only read a couple paragraphs (not even a full page mind you) and I can't stop laughing. And I'm talking about what LOL means not what you actually do.

This is literally an A to Z reference book, or even more specifically, a dictionary. No chapters, unless you count the breaks between letters. I've just gone from one thing that was mentioned at the beginning and read a couple "definitions" that were semi-interrelated (as in one definition mentioned a word that I looked up elsewhere). Hilarity. I can already tell that I love this book.

Take this:

Gnomic Utterances These are traditional, and set at the head of each section of the Guidebook. The reason for them is lost in the mist of HISTORY. They are culled from the Management from a might selection of wise sayings probably compiled by a Sage - probably called Ka'a Orto'o - some centuries before this Tour begins. The Rule is that no Utterance has anything whatsoever to do with the section it precedes. Nor, of course, has it anything to do with Gnomes.

I guess I can't contain my excitement because who seriously starts writing their review after only having read a couple paragraphs? Crazy, I tell ya.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,015 followers
April 29, 2011
A Tough Guide to Fantasyland is a wry, fun look at fantasy tropes, which any aficionado of the genre with a scrap of awareness should have noticed by now. It's not the sort of thing you can sit down and read from cover to cover, generally -- it's a reference book. It's the sort of thing you dip into, and spend a half hour here and there perusing.

I miss Diana Wynne Jones, I really do.
Profile Image for elvedril.
18 reviews1 follower
August 25, 2007
This joking encyclopedia of fantasy tropes is filled with good jokes, and is really funny to browse through. However, like many works which rely upon a simple parody premise, the joke gets a little tired sometime before the end. As such reading it quickly is not encouraged.
Profile Image for Moira.
512 reviews25 followers
April 24, 2011
Any book that cracks me up, repeatedly, during the midst of a terrible black depressive episode gets five stars from me. A number of my Jones-fanatic friends don't like it, which surprised me. I think you have to have the right sense of nasty humour to truly appreciate it.
Profile Image for Scurra.
189 reviews32 followers
July 22, 2008
You'd never get the impression from reading her other books that Diana Wynne Jones could possibly write anything like this - not in the humorous element, because that's evident from everything she does, but in the viciousness with which she attacks and brilliantly dissects everything that's wrong in "fantasy"; even the acknowledged classics come in for a little bit of a subtle beating here.

I understand that the genesis for this book arose from research she did for the wonderful Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, which required her to devour countless volumes of good, bad and indifferent novels; this was the inevitable result of piles of research notes.

Every page is filled with gems (the entry on Horses is particularly fine, both for the observation about talking whilst riding and the one about pollination) and the fun of following the different trails as you almost create your own adventure is difficult to match.

Anyone who loves fantasy (yes, even the dreadful stuff) will adore this book, from Adepts to Zombies...
Profile Image for C..
496 reviews182 followers
September 6, 2008
At its best this is hilarious, piercing and painfully accurate. All of our favourite (and least favourite) fantastical tropes are impaled, pinned to the ground and ruthlessly ridiculed for the repetitive and overused cliches that they are. But it's also a little too much of a good thing. Hard as it is to believe, even laughing at bad fantasy gets tired after a while. Definitely one to dip into every now and again.
Profile Image for Sarah Reffstrup.
461 reviews14 followers
March 18, 2019
Eternal Quest. See QUEST, ETERNAL. (Page 72)
Quest, Eternal. See ETERNAL QUEST. (Page 153)

Den her bog er gennemført og morsom og et hyggeligt afbræk selvom dens underliggende kritik af fantasy i 90'erne er relevant for min opgave. Så alt i alt god læsning, hvis man er til satire og litteratur kritik i en smuk blanding.
Profile Image for Mandy Dimins.
373 reviews25 followers
March 28, 2022
Diana Wynne Jones has been one of my favourite authors since I was a child but this book really highlighted just how much wit she had and how much of it she probably had to hide since she’s most well known for her children’s books. This book is a parody of the entire fantasy genre pre-90s (this was published in 1996) with the tone of a very disapproving aunt.

FELLOW TRAVELERS: These are people who join the Tour for a short while and then leave or get killed. If they have NAMES and characters, then you will be sorry to lose them, otherwise not.

This book made me laugh out loud with delight, but also frequently tempted me to skim. A huge negative of the book is in its structure: that of an A-Z glossary of terms commonly used in fantasy, and DWJ’s hilarious definitions of them. It’s meant to act as a sort of ‘brochure’ for you, the reader, who is also the Tourist of Fantasyland, and introduce you to the sights and sounds and people you’ll meet on your ‘Tour’.

GAY MAGE may be one of your COMPANIONS on the Tour. He will be very beautiful and he will dress in gorgeous colours.

While this is a pretty fun premise, it got pretty tiring to read disconnected A-Z terms, especially when a lot of them refer to another term from a different letter (usually denoted with all caps). It could also be a function of me reading this on an e-reader and therefore unable to flip around like I could with a physical book, and perhaps that had been really how DWJ had intended for it to be read. As it is, though, my experience with it just felt very disjointed. For example:

Baths are the occasion for SEX with one or more of your FELLOW TRAVELLERS. No matter how irritating you have found her/him up to then, after or during the Bath you will find her/him irresistible. It is probably something in the WATER.

I kept thinking about how this book would be so much more fun if it had been sectioned off by themes and categories instead of be alphabets. For example, a whole section of Worlds or Settings, and then another on Peoples and Cultures. It could still follow the same premise of being a sort of travel guidebook for Tourists of Fantasyland, but having a more coherent line of thought as we go along.

However, I thoroughly appreciated how much DWJ called out the misogyny that was pretty rampant and typical of the fantasy genre of the time.

Yes, it is clear that only males get to visit the human islands and only females find their way to the Dragons. This is the tough, sexist way the Management wrote the Rules.

DARK LADY: There is never one of these—so see DARK LORD instead.

This book was also clearly heavily influenced by the Tolkien brand of high fantasy and I felt like a lot of entries were specifically poking fun at Lord of the Rings. I’m sure DWJ did this in a respectful and affectionate way though, seeing that she studied under Tolkien at Oxford when he was in the midst of writing Lord of the Rings. I also definitely felt like I could see her tropes applying to other series like Wheel of Time, and even the Farseer Trilogy, though that is much more recent.

Curses on RINGS and SWORDS: You have problems. Rings have to be returned whence they came, preferably at over a thousand degrees Centigrade, an the Curse means you won’t want to do this.

Nevertheless, a great book for any fantasy lovers to check out, especially if you’re more familiar with “traditional” fantasy tropes and conventions from pre-1990s titles. Get a physical copy if you’re able to, and you might want to save this as a “side book” to enjoy once in a while.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 8 books101 followers
April 21, 2015
As I mentioned while reading this book, I'm not sure how this is Dark Lord Approved as it says on the cover, but it's definitely Sarah-approved.

Essentially, this "fantasyland guidebook" lists a massive variety of fantasy cliches and tropes iin the format of an A-Z tourist's guide. It's highly funny in a sarcastic, laughing-at-itself sort of way that reminded me of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. It's also a must-read for fantasy writers, both to more or less directly show you what to avoid and to more or less indirectly give you ideas of what to try. (That's not to say that you should avoid doing everything this book mentions- after all, some things are done often simply because they work- but it's good to have warning of what could be considered a cliche.)

You probably won't want to try reading it in one sitting- or, then again, you might. I read it in bits and pieces as I had time, and it worked quite well for that since I could easily stop when I needed to. However, if I'd started it on a summer afternoon with nothing else I absolutely had to do, I probably could've read it all the way through with minimal stops. It's just that amusing.

The one thing that could've made me like this book better would be if it had been organized differently, with a section for people, a section for objects, a section for places, etc. However, the actual organization works fine, so that's a small quibble.

Overall, I would recommend this book to fans of Discworld and the Hero's Guide books, as well as frequent browsers of the TV Tropes website (which this book also reminded me of), fantasy writers, and anyone who loves fantasy and doesn't mind having their favorite genre poked fun at in a friendly-teasing sort of way. You certainly won't regret reading it- and you'll know exactly what to expect should you ever end up on a Fantasyland Tour.
Profile Image for Mary Catelli.
Author 52 books171 followers
June 15, 2015
"City of Wizards is normally quite a GOOD thing, since only Good WIZARDS seem able to live together. . . .There have been cities of EVIL Wizards in the past. You will occasionally come across the sites of these, reduced to a glassy slag during the ultimate disagreement."

Any reader of epic fantasy or sword and sorcery will find it hilarious. Any would-be writer of epic fantasy or sword and sorcery should probably regard it as required reading. Indeed, in an online discussion, one writer told how she had heard of it, gone to Amazon and read a review that mentioned "STEW and other food cliches." Whereupon she placed her order and went back to her manuscript to edit it even before she got her copy. . . .

Hits lots of other topics. Like Magic and Swords. Enchantress. Children. The Barbarian Horde. Mines. Minstrels. And all sorts of delights.

She goes a bit overboard in places. Yes, if you go traveling in Fantasyland, you will eat a lot of Stew. It can be easily made in large batches and kept ready to serve whenever the wayfarers happen to stick their noses in the inn. And how much of the Ecology and Economics would be transparent to a traveler who does, after all, have the Dark Lord to think about.

But those are quibbles. Even where she goes overboard, many fantasy writers go overboard on the other side of the ship, so it may be useful as a corrective, even there.
Profile Image for colleen the convivial curmudgeon.
1,155 reviews295 followers
July 11, 2018

A wry and amusing journey through many of the tropes of the fantasy world(s).

I quite liked the commentary about Management and what Management will put the Tourists through and how Management has seemingly little concept of how things like seasons and geography and astronomy actually work. (Management in this instance, of course, being the authors.)

I don't think this book is necessarily meant to be read straight through, or needs to be, but that's how I did it. It got a bit repetitive at times, with many of the entries referencing and pointing back to other entries. It might be fun, were I to read this again, to hop around a little and actually jump to the other entries it references. (Of course, that would be easier if the e-book version I had actually hyperlinked the "see also" bits, but they didn't. *sad face*)

Anyway -

It's especially amusing now that I'm reading a more traditional fantasy book and I'm finding all these bits that are lovingly mocked in the Guide. It's a little distracting for the book, but also amusing for me, personally. ^_^
Profile Image for Feles_et_libri.
53 reviews
October 13, 2019
Absolutely brilliant! A fun, inventive book and definitely a must-have for any fantasy lovers out there. It's not a story of course, it's in fact a dictionary/encyclopaedia about anything and anyone one would encounter during a classic fantasy adventure that pokes fun at all the tropes and clichés of the genre. From DARK LORDS to the obligatory STEW at the INN and the COLOUR CODING that always indicates the goodness/evilness of Fantasyland's inhabitants this book becomes the ultimate fantasy guide. Anyone who has ever read any piece of classic fantasy adventure will find themselves laughing rather frequently at all the tropes.
However it's not a book you can just read cover to cover like any other piece of literature. Since it's a dictionary it will probably get boring pretty soon, but you will find yourself returning to it when in need of a good laugh. Grab a bowl of stew and a tall glass of ale and enjoy! Definitely recommend!
Profile Image for Smilingplatypus.
94 reviews2 followers
March 14, 2011
This book is a must-read for anyone who reads fantasy books, especially of the Lord of the Rings/"let's go on a quest" type. Written as though it's a tourist guide to "Fantasyland", it hilariously lampshades the genre's recurring tropes and character types. Because of its format, it's not really the sort of book that you read from start to finish -- I tried that initially and kept getting sidetracked by the cross-references, so eventually I gave it up and chose entries at random. It would be more entertaining for people who have read (or at least watched) Lord of the Rings, but anyone who is even slightly familiar with the fantasy genre will find something to make them laugh and say, "it's so true!"
Profile Image for Lorraine.
387 reviews83 followers
August 2, 2007
Hilarious! This is a wonderful book. I loved the section on Ecology (hey, it works out so prettily) and in general, it's very clever and post-modern and what have you... not in a bad "look how clever I am" sense but a "look how cliched things have become" sense. To me the latter is always good... (though I have my stances on the irony, but that's another matter, isn't it?)
Profile Image for Brittany.
1,253 reviews132 followers
June 2, 2011
This hilarious dictionary lampoons the paint-by-numbers fantasy "epics" that have taken hold in the last 20 or 30 years. Great to read in quick snatches of time. Also, probably a good thing for aspiring fantasy authors to read to help them stay away from cliches and keep stories and events in perspective. A handbook for how not to write a fantasy novel.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,680 reviews344 followers
August 1, 2017
Finally came across a copy [2006], but not really my sort of thing, I'm sorry to say. Has moments, but DNF. Another example of the unpredictable nature of (alleged) humor. Sigh.
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