Thoughts on Fantasy

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:

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer #3)

I already mentioned this series for Beginnings, but I have to mention it again for adepts, not just because the words ‘hot stuff’ make me think of the arrogant, all-powerful protagonist Gavin Guile, but simply because the book is full of adepts who really had to study, practice, research and experiment to learn how to use their magical skills. Most of this story takes place at the ‘Chromeria’ (very much like a university) which teaches people how to ‘draft’ different colours of light. Given the number of colours and the ways they can be used and combined, adepts both good and evil are always discovering new methods to get an edge on each other, even in this third instalment in the series.

The Emperor’s Blades

Kaden is heir to the throne, and although he is far from your typical magic-wielding wizard, I think he still counts as an adept, because he has spent years training in a remote monastery to develop special skills. These skills are so subtle they almost don’t seem like magic – things like committing detailed images to memory and controlling his heart rate. However, there is one particular, crucial kind of skill that he is there to learn – one on which the fate of his kingdom might rest – and it is not at all what you’d expect (I won’t reveal what it is to avoid spoilers!). This was a suspenseful, refreshing high fantasy, and I particularly enjoyed the mysterious, unusual purpose behind Kaden’s training.

Shadow & Bone

Alina Starkov might start out as an orphaned, overlooked refugee, but when she reveals her unique talent – one that has the potential to save her country from the darkness that has torn it in two – she is taken in and trained as a member of the magical elite ‘Grisha’. Despite being on a path to becoming an adept (she still has some learning to do), she is soon forced to go up against a much older, more powerful, highly-trained adept – and the scales don’t seem tipped in her favour. This was a compelling YA fantasy, and it also drew inspiration from Russian language, so when I listened to the audiobook I really enjoyed hearing all the words and names.


For links to more Tough Travelling posts, or to join in yourself and see next month’s theme, check out the host page on Fantasy Faction!

< Last Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Non-Human Heroes’

Next Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Strongholds’>