Robyn's Reviews > The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones
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Nov 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: sci-fi-or-fantasy
Read from January 07 to 11, 2012

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 tvtropes.org 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 books and therefore in every book that's derivative of his work.

I've loved Jones for years, and her voice is strong in this. I find myself wishing that my books weren't all in storage, because I think it would be a lot of fun to re-read Dark Lord of Derkholm after reading this. I'm certain that she used a lot of these purposely in that book, with a wink as it were. I read this book straight through, from the first A entry (Adept) to the final Z (Zombies), but it would also be fun to pick through at random, reading entries that cross-reference each other.

I could quote one entry after another, but I'll just settle for this one, which is especially humorous to those of us who have owned horses and read much fantasy: "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 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 something 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. It also explains why the Anglo-Saxon Cossacks and the Desert Nomads appear to have a monopoly on horse-breeding. They alone possess the secret of how to pollinate them."
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