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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  3,862 Ratings  ·  304 Reviews
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 find: Evil, the Dark Lord, Stew, Boots (but not Socks), and what passes for Economics and Ecology. Both a hilarious send-up of the cliches
Paperback, 234 pages
Published October 5th 2006 by Firebird (first published 1996)
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Mar 21, 2012 Nataliya rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites, 2011-reads
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 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 f
Feb 26, 2012 Shauna rated it really liked it
Shelves: draíocht, humour, fantasy
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 ...more
DWJ Book Toast, #5

Diana Wynne Jones is one of my favorite fantasy authors, growing up and now, and I was saddened by the news of her death. I can't say I'm overcome with emotion - as personal as some of her work is to me, its not like I knew her after all - but I wish I could put into words how I feel about her no longer being out there, writing new adventures and laughing at all of us serious fans thinking so hard about her words when we should simply get on with the business of enjoying them.

Mar 03, 2014 Kaethe rated it liked it
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 throu
Pauline Ross
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:

Olga Godim
Aug 31, 2013 Olga Godim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
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 a
Aug 27, 2008 Sandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008, fantasy, funny-stuff
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 ...more
Arielle Walker
Feb 18, 2014 Arielle Walker rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy-unusual
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)
Dec 18, 2012 seak marked it as to-read
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 u
Sep 06, 2008 C. rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 28, 2011 Nikki rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, humour
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.
Sarah Taleweaver
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 a
Mary Catelli
"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
Jul 22, 2008 Scurra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
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
Moira Russell
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.
Mar 13, 2011 Smilingplatypus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, humour
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 mor ...more
Aug 02, 2007 Lorraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funandeasyreads
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?)
Aug 24, 2007 elvedril rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Pratchett
Shelves: fantasy
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.
Aug 12, 2009 Alisha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
I love thumbing through this book in my spare time and imagining Derk in some of the more outlandish themes. Derk of course being from ‘Dark Lord of Derkholm’ it does make me wonder, with Mrs. Jones’ evil imagination, why or how did he ever survive being a Dark Lord? :)
In any case this book seems to be written much like I imagine the actual ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ would be written. It’s full of Mrs. Jones’ wry humor and it’s extremely hard to put down once you’ve picked it up.
Just to l
Mar 22, 2010 Charlotte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The end is near - for clichees and overdone elements of fantasy that seem to be reoccuring in every second novel or RPG. Be it the omnipresent stew - because from Dragonlance to Name of the Wind, people only ever eat stew! to invisible but barking dogs in towns or rusty, nasty traps in hundred-years-old dungeons, mysteriously working without the slightest problems when our heros enter the place - in this hilarious lexicon you will find them all. Not only a good read that leaves you wiping your t ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fantasy lovers
Recommended to Julie by: Hey, it's Diana Wynne Jones, what more do you need?
Shelves: fantasy, humor, 2010
Diana Wynne Jones provides a humorous, tongue-in-cheek guide for Tourists of Fantasyland, a generic fantasy world incorporating every element of every fantasy novel ever... The guide gives and advice on and reveals pertinent information about all sorts of topics (from Adepts to Zombies) as well as describing how any circumstance will likely turn out. (Will you die during the Pirate Attack? Will you lose a Tour Companion in the incident involving Leather-Winged Avians? Is the red-haired girl in y ...more
Thiago d'Evecque
Jun 22, 2016 Thiago d'Evecque rated it it was amazing
Uma enciclopédia de A a Z com os maiores clichês da fantasia. Deveria ser leitura obrigatória para todos os escritores do gênero, mas também recomendo para os leitores afim de se divertirem com os tropos mais genéricos que a fantasia tem pra oferecer.
Nov 13, 2015 Hobbes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sff

Taking a Tour in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is a little like reading a gamebook without the dice rolling.

I've been dipping into this for years and attempted to skim through the entries to discover any I had missed but found myself on a lengthy tour reacquainting myself with fantasy tropes.

There is lots to laugh about and ridicule... yet unlike other Gollancz parodies, Diana Wynne Jones highlights pitfalls or cliches that any fantasy writer would be wise to consider.

A few Toughpicks to samp
Jan 11, 2012 Robyn rated it really liked it
One of the reviews on the inside front cover of the book is quoted as saying: "Fantasy fans with a sense of humor should enjoy this one. Ex-fantasy fans, who came to their senses, should enjoy it even more." (Analog)

This is completely true. This book is like for fantasy books, a loving send-up of the genre. I especially enjoyed reading this right after having re-watched the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, because it reminded me just how many of these tropes are present in Tolkien's
Oct 08, 2010 Robin rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, fantasy
Finished reading!

Some entries randomly picked from the Guide:

'ENCHANTRESS is another word for "seductress", only with more punch.'

'MISSING HEIRS occur with great frequency. At any given time, half the COUNTRIES in Fantasyland will have mislaid their Crown PRINCESS/PRINCE, but the rule is that only one Missing Heir can join your Tour at a time.

Yours will join as a COMPANION selected from among the CHILD, the TALENTED GIRL, or the TEENAGE BOY, and as a part of your QUEST you will have to get them
Mark Schlatter
May 03, 2015 Mark Schlatter rated it liked it
I picked this up because I thought the author would be covering different fantasy lands (e.g., Middle Earth, Narnia) from the viewpoint of a visiting tourist. The visiting tourist perspective was correct, but Jones describes a "typical" fantasy world and does so primarily in a dictionary format. (So, for example, the entry on "Female Mercenary" is followed by one on "Ferry".) The effect is much like reading a ton of entries on TV Tropes --- you get a ton of insight into the stereotypes of fantas ...more
Maria Arazo
Jan 16, 2016 Maria Arazo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, 2016
Un libro muy interesante que por lo visto y por desgracia se conoce poco. Básicamente es una recopilación de lo que uno puede encontrarse en una novela típica de fantasía (y no tan típica también, que algunos tópicos parece que han venido para quedarse y terminan apareciendo donde menos te los esperas). Resulta útil y entretenida, tanto para el lector medio que sólo pasaba por ahí como para aquel al que a veces le da por escribir (y que, asumámoslo, tira de tópicos más de lo que está dispuesto a ...more
Anne Barwell
Aug 11, 2010 Anne Barwell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: library
This was a fun read. It sends up everything in the fantasy genre. I did however, find it more of a book to dip into rather than read start to finish so it's been sitting while I did that here and there over a few weeks. Most of the entries were very familiar, having read exactly that in a fantasy novel or written that. That was the fun part with this, how much you could relate to. The tone of it is brilliant, written like an actual tough guide but very much a piece of fiction.

One I'd recommend a
Andrea Blythe
Jul 09, 2011 Andrea Blythe rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
This mock travel guide gives the reader advice on how to "tour" Fantasyland, a generic world based on all the tropes and cliches from numerous fantasy novels. The result is part criticism, part loving tribute, and more often than not a humorous poking fun at cliches of the genre the author clearly loves.

As much as this book will be enjoyed by readers of fantasy, it is also rather invaluable to writers of fantasy, as its a rather thorough list of all the things that have been done before, done s
Sep 05, 2016 Peat rated it it was ok
I was told this book was my invaluable guide to the tropes of Generic Fantasy.

If it is, its solely because its the only thing trying to do so. Its less guide, more good natured mockery of various tropes. I wouldn't mind so much but it doesn't even do that well if you ask me; other people have sent up Generic Fantasy in far funnier ways. Leaf through a friend's copy and fair enough if you think I'm on something - humour is incredibly subjective after all.
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Diana Wynne Jones was the author of more than thirty critically acclaimed fantasy stories, including the Chrestomanci series and the novels Howl's Moving Castle and Dark Lord of Derkholm.

For Diana Wynne Jones's official autobiography, please see
More about Diana Wynne Jones...

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“Horses are of a breed unique to Fantasyland. They are capable of galloping full-tilt all day without a rest. Sometimes they do not require food or water. They never cast shoes, go lame or put their hooves down holes, except when the Management deems it necessary, as when the forces of the Dark Lord are only half an hour behind. They never otherwise stumble. Nor do they ever make life difficult for Tourists by biting or kicking their riders or one another. They never resist being mounted or blow out so that their girths slip, or do any of the other things that make horses so chancy in this world. For instance, they never shy and seldom whinny or demand sugar at inopportune moments. But for some reason you cannot hold a conversation while riding them. If you want to say anything to another Tourist (or vice versa), both of you will have to rein to a stop and stand staring out over a valley while you talk. Apart from this inexplicable quirk, horses can be used just like bicycles, and usually are. Much research into how these exemplary animals come to exist has resulted in the following: no mare ever comes into season on the Tour and no stallion ever shows an interest in a mare; and few horses are described as geldings. It therefore seems probable that they breed by pollination. This theory seems to account for everything, since it is clear that the creatures do behave more like vegetables than mammals. Nomads appears to have a monopoly on horse-breeding. They alone possess the secret of how to pollinate them.” 86 likes
“Settle for what you can get, but first ask for the World.” 44 likes
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