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:

The Tough Guide offers information on various kinds of fantasy strongholds. For example, you might be looking for CASTLES, complete with ‘frowning battlements, slit windows and multiple defensible spiral stairways inside’ and which ‘occasionally adorn the heights for pictorial effect’. Or perhaps TOWERS, which ‘stand alone in WASTE AREAS and almost always belong to wizards.’

Towers are often ‘several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb. The Rule is that there is also a strong no-entry SPELL, often backed up by a guardian DEMON.’

I’m excited for this one because I’m a huge fan of strongholds, and in particular, castles. This might sound silly, but I think one of the many reasons I was excited to move to Europe was because I knew I’d have a large supply of castles within easy reach 🙂

A month ago I poked some fun at a few castle tropes on Fantasy-Faction, but now I have a chance to list my three fictional favourites! (I’m going to refer to series rather than individual books for this one):

Harry Potter Series (Hogwarts)

Book Cover: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's StoneI know this is a predictable answer but as far as I’m concerned, few fictional castles rival Hogwarts. It’s got everything: secret passageways, hidden rooms, dungeons, towers, a massive dining hall, greenhouses, a forest, a lake, magical ceilings and paintings and stairways… it even has a no-entry spell and a range of guardians both good and evil (The Whomping Willow, The Basilisk, The Dementors, The Portraits that guard the common rooms). One of my favourite moments in the series was when Hogwarts actually became a stronghold in the fullest sense of the word, its walls, magic, and even its suits of armour serving as a defence in the last battle against Lord Voldemort.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles (Obernewtyn)

Book Cover: ObernewtynObernewtyn is the first book in a series I fell in love with as a young teen. One of the things I love about it is the very old castle-like manor called Obernewtyn, a place that definitely fits the bill of a stronghold. In a post-nuclear-holocaust world, it is a feared, remote place in the high mountains surrounded by twisted forests and wastelands, to which ‘misfits’ with strange mental powers are sent to be ‘cured’. However, in the course of the series it transforms into a sanctuary and stronghold for the main characters. The place has hidden rooms, dark secrets, and a long history, and is owned by a mysterious, rarely seen doctor who treats the misfits and is much feared.

The Old Kingdom Trilogy (The Abhorsen’s House)

Book Cover: SabrielThe Abhorsen’s House boasts the most unique location among the strongholds I know. Introduced in the first book, Sabriel, the Abhorsens are a family of good necromancers, their ancient calling being to stop the dead from rising and preying on the living. Because the dead can’t cross running water, the first Abhorsen pitched a tent on an island in the middle of a river at the edge of a giant waterfall. Subsequent family members built on this location, until it became a multi-levelled, fortress protected by spells and spell-created beings called ‘Sendings’. Each Abhorsen adds a new Sending to serve the inhabitants, so the house is full of odd magical creatures.

Of all the strongholds I mentioned, this is the one I’d most like to live in, not just for the view, but for all the great rooms and magical features (There’s a more detailed description of it and an artist’s rendition here on the Old Kingdom Wiki).


There are plenty more fictional strongholds I’ve enjoyed reading about, but those are my three favourites. I suppose I could have chosen a looming tower or two, but I’ve realised I prefer strongholds where the heroes find a sanctuary, a home, and a little bit of adventure to the ones where the dark witches and wizards lurk.

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: ‘Adepts’

Next Month’s Tough Travels: ‘Dragons’>

15 thoughts on “Tough Travels: Strongholds

  1. As always, I adore these posts! I also love the Abhorsen’s House! The sendlings were always quite fascinating to me. I haven’t read the most recent book Nix has released set in this world, but I hope the Abhorsen’s House is still featured!

    Hm. Other strongholds… I would have to add Howl’s Moving Castle to this list if I made one of my own. After all, it is protected by a fire demon and it, well, moves!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent – I was also going to include Hogwarts – Harry Potter and LotR are my steadfast ‘go to’ for this meme so I try to keep them up my sleeve. I went all LotR this time though (saving HP for when I’m really struggling).
    Lynn 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yes I feel the same, they are both so good for this meme that you have to keep them up your sleeve and use them sparingly! I also thought of Minas Tirith and Isengard but decided to save LotR for another time 🙂 Loved your post though – you reminded me just how many strongholds there were in LotR!


  3. Ah I adore Hogwarts and the castle in Sabriel (argh just the descriptions make me want to reread them so badly)!! I haven’t read Obernewtyn Chronicles- but from your description it sounds incredible!! And yes, Europe has a great supply of castles 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you love them too!! And I’m in an odd spot with the Obernewtyn Chronicles: I was obsessed with them in high school (they rivalled the Harry Potter series for me at the time!) – but I haven’t yet finished the series, because the release dates kept being pushed back (there was a 9 year wait between two of the sequels) and I got disappointed and vowed I wouldn’t re-read the previous books, or read any more in the series, until all of them were finished. Now about 12 years later the series is complete – the last book came out in 2015 – so at some point I’m going to read the whole thing and see how it ends 😀 I am curious if I love it as much as I did before, I hope I do!! So yes it’s incredible, but that is my teen self who hasn’t finished the series talking, so I hope my current self can second that some time soon! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I didn’t know you wrote that Fantasy Faction post! I hardly pay attention to the bio part. I read it back in June and shared it with friends on FB. I liked it and thought it was funny too.
    Hogwarts is of course a favorite stronghold for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really need to finish it too! I decided I wouldn’t read the last few books until the final one was released… now it has been, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet 🙂 (I figured I could still include it on my list though since I really came to love Obernewtyn in those first four books!)

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.