The Tough Guide To Fantasyland
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The Tough Guide To Fantasyland

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  2,704 ratings  ·  221 reviews
This authoritative A–Z constitutes an essential source of information for all who dare to venture into the imaginative hinterlands. It provides acute insights into such mysteries as how HORSES reproduce, the varying types of VIRGIN and the importance of CLOAKS to those wondering about going on a quest with a fellowship (of the Ring or otherwise).

Features include:

A map (obv...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published by Vista Publishing (MN) (first published 1996)
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Keturah and Lord Death by Martine LeavittThe Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne JonesSorcery & Cecelia by Patricia C. WredeSummers at Castle Auburn by Sharon ShinnThe Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley
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51st out of 1,070 books — 2,782 voters
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4th out of 53 books — 9 voters

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Mar 21, 2012 Nataliya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: 2011-reads, favorites
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...more
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.

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...more
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
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.
Seak (Bryce L.)
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...more
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.
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...more
Olga Godim
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...more
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:

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
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?)
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.
Aug 24, 2007 elvedril rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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...more
Apr 25, 2010 Julie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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: 2010, fantasy, humor
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
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
Arielle Walker
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)
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...more
Amber Couch
Imagine if they built Jurassic park, but it instead revolved around the Fantasy World, a sort of Middle Earth. This would be your guide book or what to expect. IT IS HILARIOUS!!!! After reading this book you will realize how similar all fantasy genre books are and how many cliches can be found in them. For example:

"CLOAKS are the universal garb of everyone who is not a barbarian. It is hard to see why. They are open in the front and require you at most times to use one hand to hold them shut. On...more
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...more
Anne Barwell
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...more
Andrea Blythe
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...more
This book is filled with quite a few laughs and can change the way you perceive the fantasy genre. Written by someone who has been writing fantasy for years, The Tough Guide to Fantasy-land brings to light and openly mocks many cliches and over-used conventions in the fantasy genre. To people planning on writing fantasy, this book is worth your time. To those that don't want their ignorance violated, you might want to avoid this book. My head is filled with many more questions as I read through...more
Hilarious and yet enlightening this book gives any fantasy author a good idea of what cliches to avoid and which ones are worth keeping. Going through the guide you can see how J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S.Lewis' works have influenced this genre and how some of their concepts are now tired and worn out. If you think you are bringing new ideas to the genre, you'll know differently after reading this. However, by reading it you will start to see where you can develop new ideas or concepts within the gen...more
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.
I'd heard such great things about this book, but the reality just didn't really live up to the rumors. It was a cute idea, but it really got old after awhile--the joke was just stretched way too thin, and the actual number of times it made me laugh per chapter slowly decreased until finally I wasn't even cracking a smile most of the time.
The frightening thing about this book is how devastatingly accurate it is with respect to the vast mass of generic fantasy product. And it's funny, if in a slightly cruel way (as opposed to the gentle humor of Barbara Ninde Byfield's The Glass Harmonica).
All that really needs to be said is that this book had my friends and I in stitches, and that it was for a brief time passed around like a bong among stoners.
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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...
Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1) Castle in the Air (Howl's Moving Castle, #2) The Lives of Christopher Chant (Chrestomanci, #4) Charmed Life (Chrestomanci, #1) House of Many Ways (Howl's Moving Castle, #3)

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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.” 63 likes
“Settle for what you can get, but first ask for the World.” 32 likes
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