Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tough Guide to Fantasyland

Book: Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

Description: 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. (from

My Thoughts: I thought it would be fun to continue the theme of last Monday's post (that is, books that poke fun at fantasy/fairy tale cliches) with Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Rather than satirizing simply fairy tale tendencies, however, it satirizes the cliches of the fantasy genre.

Jones exposes many of the cliches of fantasy writing, and many of its flaws. She points out a lot of common plot holes (or just illogical but accepted conventions) of fantasy. This book is often recommended to potential authors, so they don't fall into many of the common plot holes and cliches in their books.

I'll admit that I don't actually read that much fantasy literature, and I still thought Tough Guide to Fantasyland was hilarious. I've read enough to know that Jones's characterization is pretty accurate.

I'll also admit that I read Tough Guide to Fantasyland is almost one sitting, and wished that I hadn't. In small doses, it's a hilarious book; in large doses, I was reminded of C. S. Lewis's words on laughter and jokes (I believe in The Screwtape Letters), where some builds up and some tears down. In small chunks, Jones's writing comes across as playful and well-meaning ribbing at a genre that Jones knows and loves; in larger chunks, it came across much more as humor that was simply jaded and trying to tear everything down.

One final warning: there are a fair number of references to sex and demons/gods, in a very light, witty manner that grated after a while. Recommended, but with caution.

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