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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,752 ratings  ·  427 reviews
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 find: Evil, the Dark Lord, Stew, Boots (but not Socks), and
Paperback, 234 pages
Published October 5th 2006 by Firebird (first published 1996)
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Aug 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
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).

Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour, draíocht, 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
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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 sty
Jul 07, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: cheerful-mood
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
Olga Godim
Aug 18, 2013 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
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:

Aug 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, 2008, 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
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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) ...more
Dec 30, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2_nonfiction
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.
Pam Baddeley
Jul 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
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
Feb 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
Just great. Even better the second time, now that I've actually read more fantasy than just Narnia and LOTR.


(90 pages later...)

May 15, 2012 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
Dec 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humour, fantasy
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.
Aug 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
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. ...more
Laura Hughes
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bloody brilliant. Can't believe it's taken me so long to read this bad boy! ...more
Jul 22, 2008 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
Sep 06, 2008 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. ...more
Nov 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
colleen the convivial curmudgeon

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 tim
Mandy Dimins
Mar 27, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, humour
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,
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, humour
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 gui ...more
Mar 05, 2011 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 01, 2007 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?) ...more
Mar 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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. ...more
Peter Tillman
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Anna Elizabeth
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
“MAP - We must emphasize again here that no Tour is complete without a MAP. Further, you must not expect to be let off from visiting every damn place shown on it.”

I laughed out loud at several of the tropes Jones reviews in her toughpick. If you’ve ever read a fantasy novel, you’ll laugh and feel rather silly for not noticing how familiar these stories can be, from genre to genre, author to author (“management to management”). Indeed it feels as if these stories all take place in the same land.
Jul 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This right here is the reason I don’t normally read fantasy. Not the book, of course, but these default tropes and their brainless mix-and-match use. I mean, it’s hilarious and also a bit disconcerting to read a whole glossary full of the silliest stereotypes that each practically scream out the name of a “classic of the genre” that cranks it all the way up. This is why I have only been able to read people who are aware of all these problems and either subvert/reexamine them (Stross, Abercrombie ...more
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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 ed ...more

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81 likes · 10 comments
“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.” 101 likes
“Settle for what you can get, but first ask for the World.” 63 likes
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