Tough Travels: Non-Human Heroes

Tough Travels is a monthly meme hosted by Fantasy Faction, which, inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, spotlights each month a different fantasy trope for us to compile lists and have fun with. Last month we discussed ASSASINS. This month’s topic is:


NON-HUMAN HEROES

The Tough Guide assures us that HEROES are ‘mythical beings, often selected at birth, who perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against all odds.’ Furthermore, ‘if you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human, with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely)’.

HOWEVER. For good or for evil, some of fantasy’s most memorable Heroes are not human at all. Some look human, but aren’t. Others may look monstrous, but be ‘human’ on the inside. Others still never pretend to be anything other than what they are – and why should they? In nearly all cases, we are likely to Learn Something from them – usually that appearances can be deceiving, or that the concepts of both ‘Human’ and ‘Hero’ are entirely subjective’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


This is another topic that I missed the first time round, therefore it is great to have another chance to have a go at it. Especially as I love a non-human hero…particularly if they are a cute, furry, talking animal! Here are a few of my favourites (this is by no means an exhaustive list…I could of gone on and on):

Bilbo Baggins
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

If you read this blog regularly, then you probably saw this one coming. I adore this book! Bilbo may look like a small human or child, but he is in fact a hobbit: small, curly-haired, pointy eared creatures, with big hearts and appetites to match. This little hero leaves his comfortable hobbit-hole for a magical adventure to claim back the dwarves’ long lost home from a dreadful dragon.

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Reepicheep
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

The Chief Mouse of Narnia is small, furry and rather cute, but don’t be fooled he is famed for his courage and deadly skill with a rapier. We first meet him in Prince Caspian, when he fights for the young prince and later in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when he travels with the now young king to the end of the world, where he bravely continues on alone to Aslan’s Country; the last big adventure.

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Remus Lupin
Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts, we are introduced to his third new Professor of the Dark Arts: Remus Lupin. He is a clever, patient, compassionate and highly skilled wizard, however as a child he was attacked and turned into a werewolf. Yet he never lets this stop him. Instead using his curse to infiltrate a dangerous werewolf gang and he is selfless to the end.

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Oy
The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Finally but certainly not least, we have Oy the talking billy-bumbler: a small, furry animal akin to a cross between a dog and a raccoon. We first meet him in the third book in the series, The Waste Land, where he quickly steals hearts. He is not just small and cute, but also fiercely loyal and will lay his life down for his friends. I so wish that billy-bumblers were real!

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What non-human heroes can you think of? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Come back next month for: ADEPTS.

New Read: The People the Fairies Forget

Back in 2015, I read The Wanderers and The Storyteller and Her Sisters; two charming fairy tale re-imaginings from Cheryl Mahoney’s Beyond the Tales series. I loved them both so I am sad that it has taken me this long to finally get round to reading Mahoney’s third novel: The People the Fairies Forget.

This book follows the adventures (or miss-adventures) of a fairy called Tarragon, better known as Tarry, but Tarry is not your typical fairy. No granting wishes; no bestowing Christening gifts; no little, gossamer wings and definitely no sparkles…ever! However, against his better judgement, he does find himself the reluctant champion of the common folk when he makes a bet with his infuriating cousin Marjoram. Who like any ordinary, self-respecting ‘Good Fairy’ simply tramples common folk underfoot in the rush to bring a ‘Happy Ever After’ to someone wearing a crown.

And, so ensures a fantastical and raucous romp through the fairy tale world, although the stories might not be quite as you remember them. First, there is Jack, a poor goat herd, fighting his way through a mass of thorns for his true love Emmy, a maid in an enchanted castle. Then Catherine, an innkeeper, who has no desire to marry a very un-charming prince just because her shoe size matches some girl he danced with. Finally, Anthony, who finds himself trapped in a far away castle with his youngest sister Beauty and a Beast with some serious anger issues. All of which is brought to life beautifully by Cheryl with some great description, imagination and humour.

As for our main characters of Tarry and Marj, we have met them before as minor characters in Cheryl’s previous novel, The Wanderers. Tarry as I have said above is not your typical fairy and I love him for it! He would much rather be eating or partying than meddling in human lives. While Marj is very much your typical ‘Good Fairy’, with wings and sparkles…lots of sparkles. And it is her meddlesome ways that force Tarry to set down his supper, brush up on his magic and wrangle his own kind of ‘Happily Ever After’ out of her mess. Together they are hilarious and I had a lot of fun getting to them better. Never fear if you haven’t read previous books though, because these are all new adventures you could enjoy on their own.

Overall, I thought The People the Fairies Forget was another well written, witty and charming adventure, that gently pokes fun at the traditional fairy tale tropes. Both refreshing and comforting to read. Next, I look forward to reading Cheryl’s fourth novel: The Lioness and the Spellspinners. Great read.

Have you read this? What other fairy tale re-imaginings do you think I should try?

Tough Travels: Assassins

Tough Travels is a monthly meme hosted by Fantasy Faction, which, inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones, spotlights each month a different fantasy trope for us to compile lists and have fun with.

This month’s topic is: ASSASSINS


‘Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even dull-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money)’

Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


This is another topic that I missed the first time round. It is great to have another chance to have a go at it, however I don’t generally read books with the obvious sort of assassin in it…so I have had to think outside the box a little for some of these:

Alys
Best Left in the Shadows by Mark Gelineau & Joe King

Alys is a streetwise, kick-ass spirit who grew up in Lowside, the poor and dangerous underbelly of the kingdom of Aedaron’s capital city. After training in the academy, Alys didn’t join the city guard but instead uses her lethal skills to bring down corrupt leaders.

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The Assassins Guild
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

In Ankh-Morpork, the capital of Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld, there is a whole guild for the training and regulation of assassins, because you can’t just have anyone running round, willy-nilly assassinating people.

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Draco Malfoy
Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

Later in the series, Draco becomes the Dark Lord’s unlikely weapon within Hogwarts against Dumbledore, but his heart isn’t really in it.

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Dorothy Gale
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Okay Dorothy is the most out-of-the-box of my choices, however she is sent by the Wizard of Oz to kill the Wicked Witch of the West, in return for a way home. What else do you call someone paid to kill another than an assassin?

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What literary assassins can you think of? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

Come back next month for: NON-HUMAN HEROES.

Tough Travels: Beginnings

Blog - Tough TravelsMy fellow bookworms and fantasy lovers, I am so pleased to announce that the Tough Travels meme is back! For those of you that haven’t heard of it before, it was a weekly meme featured over on the Fantasy Review Barn, that was inspired by The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. Now it is returning as a monthly meme over at Fantasy Faction, but otherwise it will follow the same format of spotlighting a different trope and invite other bloggers to compile their own list of examples.

Without further ado, our first topic is: BEGINNINGS.

I missed this topic first time round, so it is great to have another chance to share with you now some of my favourite beginnings:

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort.’

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Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

‘Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.’

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The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

‘When Mr Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.’

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Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

‘The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills.
The night was as black as the inside of a cat. It was the kind of night, you could believe, on which gods moved men as though they were pawns on the chessboard of fate. In the middle of this elemental storm a fire gleamed among the dripping furze bushes like the madness in a weasel’s eye. It illuminated three hunched figures. As the cauldron bubbled an eldritch voice shrieked: “When shall we three meet again?”
There was a pause.
Finally another voice said, in far more ordinary tones: “Well, I can do next Tuesday.”‘

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Do you like these? What are your favourite beginnings of fantasy novels? Please link in the comments below if you have taken part in this month’s topic too.

New Read: Faith and Moonlight: Part 2

Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to start a third thread of their epic series with Faith and Moonlight and to continue it with this: Part 2.

In the previous instalment, we were introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay: best friends who had travelled together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestigious School of Faith, to become a legendary Razor. At the start of this instalment, passing the entry test is not the end of their trials, as they are now both thrown deep into the vigorous training regime and are tested in dangerous one-to-one combats. Through out which Roan and Kay are finding themselves growing further and further apart.

The protagonists Roan and Kay are still young, naïve and vulnerable, which gives us, the reader, the opportunity to watch them grow. It is in this second instalment where we see more clearly that these best friends are now on very different paths. Roan excels in his training and is determined to succeed, so as not to return to his brutal past. While Kay struggles with the dark, powerful magic growing within her; and fears the price she paid to get into the School of Faith may have been too high. I still definitely felt the most for Kay as Roan seems to be leaving her in his wake.

This majority of this young adult thread is set in the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass. Where there is the opportunity for fame and glory but this can come at a great cost, and in this instalment we are also introduced to the  dark, bloody fate that could await those who fail in the fighting pits. The authors, Gelineau and King, have certainly ramped up the ante with the fights, danger and power for the characters in this – I think I may have read this one even quicker than the one before!

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight: Part 2 continued this highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series very well. Sadly I have no more instalments from this series…get writing Mr Gelineau and Mr King, I want more! Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

New Read: Faith and Moonlight

faith-and-moonlight

Last year, I read and enjoyed four of Mark Gelineau’s & Joe King’s novellas from two threads of their fantasy series, Echo of the Ascended. So much so I didn’t wait long into this year to continue my reading with Faith and Moonlight; the first novella in a third thread of their epic series.

Previously I have read about Elinor a brave orphan girl who rose to be the King’s Reaper; in the A Reaper of Stone thread. Also, I have read about another orphan Alys, who is a hardened survivor of the dangerous, poverty-stricken underworld of the capital city; in the Best Left in the Shadows thread. Turns out these orphans all originally knew each other and this novella takes the reader back in time to the tragic fire at their orphanage which saw them separated and scattered across the kingdom.

In Faith and Moonlight, we are introduced to teenage orphans Roan and Kay. Who have been torn from the only home and family they’ve ever known, after a terrible fire destroyed their orphanage and killed most of it’s inhabitants. Now, Roan and Kay are journeying together to the city with hopes and dreams of entering the prestige School of Faith to train to become a legendary Razor. However, on arrival they are given just one month to prove their worth by passing the entry trial of pushing past the veil and touching the magical power within. Failure will mean an end to all their dreams and the prospect of life out in the cold, dark and dangerous world alone.

Unlike the previous novellas I have read, Roan and Kay are not grown up orphans but instead they are still young, naïve and vulnerable. This gives the reader the opportunity to watch them grow and, hopefully, follow their path to success like their fellow orphans Elinor and Alys. It also cleverly gives Gelineau’s and King’s series a young adult thread. Ronan and Kay are very close to each other and have promised to face everything together. Yet on arrival they find themselves divided, as Roan excels in his training Kay desperately struggles to keep up. I really liked them both and found myself willing them on, particularly poor Kay.

Like previous threads this new one gave me a view of another area/side to the kingdom of Aedaron. First, I was taken out onto the wild Marshlands; then I was taken to the dark, seedy Lowside; while this took me to the beautiful and serene School of Faith – a place of peace, education, power and history, with its marble buildings and lush green grass, where there is the opportunity for fame and glory if Roan and Kay are allowed to stay! I enjoyed having this pleasant and safe setting however don’t get thinking this means there is nothing scary. Just outside the gates the bustling, dangerous world threatens and Kay is terrified of going back there.

Overall, I thought Faith and Moonlight was another highly enjoyable young adult thread to this epic fantasy series and I look forward to reading Faith and Moonlight 2 soon! Good read.

Thank you to the authors for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of the other Echo of the Ascended novellas?

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas

wendy-darling-2

Last year, I read Wendy Darling, Volume 1: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of Oakes’ new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s ‘Neverland’, and I didn’t have to wait long to read this, Volume 2: Seas, released later the same year. I actually finished reading this at the very end of last year but I have only just got round to sharing my full thoughts on it.

In the last book, Wendy and her brothers were whisked away by the wild, magical Peter Pan through their nursery window, past the stars and on to Neverland! A fantastical land of turquoise seas, glimmering beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. However, Wendy discovered all was not at all as it appeared which forced her to flee with her youngest brother, Michael, in tow. Only to discover, at the beginning of this book, that they have fallen straight into the clutches of the dreaded Captain Hook aboard his fearsome pirate ship, Sudden Night. Now Wendy must negotiate pirate feuds, mermaids and spies whilst also hiding from Peter, who will stop at nothing to get her back.

As a female myself, it is nice to see Oakes choosing to tell her re-imagining from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who in the first book, I found to be naïve and emotional weak – I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake – yet she was also kind and had the potential for more. I am thrilled to say Wendy did grow as a character in this second book. Although her old faults were still there she did also show more strength, intelligence and resourcefulness, especially when trying to protect her adorable little brother Michael. Whilst thankfully her other brother, the thoroughly dislikeable John, stays with Peter so we don’t have to see him much.

While I can’t always say I ‘like’ Oakes re-imagined characters, I can say they are more realistic and much better fleshed out than the originals. And, none is a better example of this than the infamous Captain Hook, who we meet for the first time in this book. I was expecting something different as Oakes has already given us a twisted, maniacal Peter, which to be fair if you were stuck as a boy forever you would probably become pretty crazy too! Yet Oakes hasn’t chosen to give us a completely good, hidden hero in Hook. Instead she has given us a well-balanced and interesting character with nuances of light and dark – who I think is my new favourite.

Previously I have read and loved another of Oakes’ series, Queen of Hearts, which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s ‘Wonderland’. While I have not loved this new series quite as much as the previous these are still very enjoyable books. With the beautiful description I have come to expect from Oakes. I really could imagine the roaring seas, gleaming beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, the intoxicating Mermaid Cove and Hook’s awe-inspiring Fallen Night with its macabre bone staircase.

Overall, Wendy Darling, Volume 2: Seas was another enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of ‘Neverland’. I hope volume 3 of this and the Queen of Hearts series come out soon! Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other books inspired by ‘Neverland’?