Winter Is Coming: But What About Other Seasons?

A while ago on Fantasy Faction I attempted to answer the question: is winter in fantasy always evil? The conclusion I came to, in short, was no – but its arrival is almost always a double-edged sword: sometimes beautiful and enchanting, sometimes dangerous and sinister. An unnaturally cold or prolonged winter in particular signals dark forces at work, and the season does seem to spawn more fictional evil than any other (prime examples being A Game of Thrones and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). This makes sense, given the challenges winters have long presented for humankind, particularly in medieval Europe, which inspires many fantasy settings.

So I expressed my doubts as to whether the phrase “summer is coming” could ever strike fear or foreboding into the hearts of fantasy readers. But this got me thinking… wouldn’t it be interesting to see a focus on other seasons running rampant, instilling fear, or being manipulated in a fantasy world? Continue reading

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Tough Travels: Dragons

I don’t think you can get much more typical than this month’s theme: fantasy’s favourite scaled, flying, fire-breathing fictional beasts!

The Tough Travels feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

Here’s what the guide has to say about dragons: Continue reading

The Versatile Blogger Award

I’ve been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award – a big thank you to the bloggers who nominated me!: Bookneeders, Bookish Endeavours and The Bookloving Pharmacist. They write great posts and reviews (many of them about fantasy and YA books) so I highly recommend checking out their blogs.

And without further ado, here are my 7 random facts: Continue reading

Must Fictional Parents Always Be Absent?

I recently started a series looking at “uncharted territory” in fantasy fiction, and in the comments I.W. Ferguson very rightly pointed out that something you don’t often see in the genre is parents and their children doing things together:

“I rarely see children and their parents doing things together in fantasy. So often the parents are dead, missing, out of town, unhelpful or antagonistic, or even not mentioned at all. There are many, many books I haven’t read, but if you’ve also found this rare, I would enjoy a post about it. Also, I’d love to learn about examples showing how it can be done well.”

I’ve noticed how common it is to encounter orphan characters in fantasy, but this comment got me thinking about absent or evil parents in general, and I wondered if it would be possible to find examples of more positive, visible parent-child relationships in popular fantasy tales. Continue reading

Tough Travels: Strongholds

It’s the first of the month, so time for a bit of tough travelling again! This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

This month’s theme is strongholds: Continue reading

Where Are All The Female Magical Mentors?

Earlier this year I was hunting for examples of good fantasy beginnings for a Tough Travels post. The topic for that month’s feature was inspired by a quote from Diana Wynne Jones, which pointed out that the typical fantasy protagonist usually starts out in poor circumstances until they are contacted by their Mentor:

“you will be contacted by your TOUR MENTOR (normally an elderly male MAGIC USER with much experience) who will tell you what to do, which is almost certainly to discover you are a MISSING HEIR.”

In my hunting, I tried to find an example of a book that flipped the cliché a little bit, and had a magical mentor character that was neither elderly nor male. The elderly part I managed, but finding a female magical mentor? Harder than I thought it would be. Continue reading

Uncharted Territory: Things I Rarely See in Fantasy

Because I write and think about fantasy fiction quite a bit (as the title of this blog might suggest), I occasionally notice interesting spots of “uncharted territory” in the stories I read and watch – i.e. concepts, ideas or character types I rarely come across. I don’t mean obvious things that no one would expect in the genre anyway, but small, specific things that I try to find examples of and am intrigued when I come up with close to nothing. So I thought these might provide good inspiration for a series of posts. Continue reading

How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

I’m not averse to a few fantasy clichés on a book cover – they let me know at a glance that I’m looking at a fantasy fiction novel, and can be nice if used in creative or appealing ways. As with all clichés, however, they become eye-roll-worthy when used en masse, i.e. when several standard tropes are all packed into the one artwork. If a book tries to cover too many bases, it can start to look a little silly.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a nice level of unprofessional shine to my examples. Continue reading

Tough Travels: Adepts

I’m on the road doing a little real-world travelling at the moment, so I’m glad to still be able to join in for a little fantasy travelling too. This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it puts the spotlight on a particular fantasy trope, theme or cliché, and invites bloggers to list stand-out books related to that week’s theme.

This month’s theme is adepts:

The Tough Guide defines an Adept as ‘one who has taken what amounts to a post-graduate course in Magic. If a Magic User is given this title, you can be sure he/she is fairly hot stuff. However, the title is neutral and does not imply that the Adept is either Good or Evil.’

Ah, the study of magic – who doesn’t secretly want to be trained as a witch or wizard? Sadly I don’t have that option, so here are three well-trained fictional magic-wielders through whom I’ve enjoyed the vicarious experience of magical excellence: Continue reading

An Unexpected Potter Pilgrimage

I recently visited a friend of mine in Edinburgh, and although I didn’t know much about the city beforehand, I did remember it being mentioned in relation to J.K. Rowling. In particular, I’d heard there was a café there where she wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book. So when my friend asked if there was anything specific I wanted to do, I mentioned that I’d quite like to stroll by. I didn’t really expect anything too impressive or Potter-ish, though – it was just a café, after all.

Fortunately, my friend turned out to be far more knowledgable about Rowling and the history of the books than I am. She took me not just to the café, but to many other Potter-related places. I admit, I had trouble concealing my fangirl excitement. For some reason I had not expected Rowling to have drawn so much inspiration from the city around her, and in such obvious ways.

I’m sure many fans know these things already, but I thought I’d share a few pictures and details for any who, like me, have hitherto remained oblivious to their existence: Continue reading