So I really did mean to take part properly in Jenny’s Diana Wynne Jones Week, but due to work and other personal (not nice) stuff I didn’t really get the chance, although reading The Tough Guide to Fantasyland certainly cheered me up no end during what turned out to be not a great couple of days
So, to the book, and it does what it says on the cover: provides budding participants in the Tour through Fantasyland with everything they will need to know to navigate their way through the whole Quest thing.
Because on a quest is what they will surely be (and that is so ungrammatical, but I don’t care).
It is also extremely funny. You can probably enjoy this if you’ve read little fantasy, but it is so much more fun if you’ve read a lot, and gosh I seem to have done that over the years.
So all the familiar stuff is here – there is a Map (wouldn’t be fantasy without a Map), the details about your companions on the quest, whole chunks explaining magic, and the important topic of catering, which basically comes down to eating a lot of stew.
One of my favourite entries was the description of a fairly regular companion-type, the Female Mercenary, who has been inspired by her unpleasant past to become a mercenary and is good in a fight. She conforms to a certain physical type (tall, thin, wiry, silent) and is neurotic. And for the detail:
You can rely on her absolutely in a fight. She can usually kill two people at once while guarding your back in between. The rest of the time she will irritate you with lots of punctilious weapons cleaning and a perpetual insistence that a proper watch be kept. […] You will end up grudgingly admiring her.
Made me laugh out loud anyway. And the rest of the book is just like this.
I may never be able to read fantasy in the same way again, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.