Thursday, 4 October 2012

Fantasy Review: 'The Tough Guide To Fantasyland' by Diana Wynne Jones

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.

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