Tough Travels: Shapeshifters

It’s Tough Travelling time again, and this month’s theme puts the spotlight on a kind of fantasy character that I  have a particular fondness for: the shapeshifter.

Tough Travels was originally created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn, revived on Fantasy Faction, and is now hosted by the team at The Fantasy Hive. Inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s humorous classic The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, every month it highlights 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 Tough Guide has to say about shapeshiftersContinue reading

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Uncertain Destiny: Why It’s Time for More Un-Prophesied Heroes with Humble Origins

This week I thought I’d get back to exploring some Uncharted Territory in Fantasy and spotlight a type of character that I wish I encountered more often in the stories I read and watch: a hero or heroine that doesn’t have a royal birthright, a noteworthy lineage, or a reassuring prophecy to prop them up.

I admit, this isn’t completely ‘Uncharted Territory’ as there are examples out there of characters with more uncertain destinies. However, it’s still something I think we could afford to see more of, not only because royal heirs and chosen ones can get a little tiresome, but because I find they can sometimes rob the story of a tension or devalue a character’s achievements  (e.g. when a special bloodline or inheritance is unveiled in a late surprise reveal I find it especially disappointing). Here are three reasons why: Continue reading

Tough Travels: Elves

Tough Travelling is normally a beginning-of-the-month post, but since it took me a little longer to get the ball rolling on this one it’s a middle-of-the-month post this time round… the plus side being I’ve had more time to ruminate on some worthy elves to list!

The Tough Travelling feature was originally created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn, revived on Fantasy Faction, and is now hosted by the team at The Fantasy Hive. 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 elvesContinue reading

The 5 Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Books I Read in 2017

Happy New Year! It seems the feasting and drinking are over and it’s time to start making good on those resolutions… one of which, in my case, was to return to blogging – so I’m back! I thought I’d kick off 2018 by taking a look at some books that brightened the past year for me. These aren’t necessarily books published in 2017 (in fact, most weren’t), simply a selection from the books I happened to read over the last 12 months.

I’ve picked 5 favourites – I read and enjoyed other wonderful fantasy and sci-fi books in 2017, but these were the ones that most stood out, enchanted or impressed me: Continue reading

Tough Travels: Snarky Sidekicks

I’ve been a bit absent on the blogging front this month for all the usual end-of-year reasons (including trying to finish a draft of a novel-in-progress), but I plan to get stuck back into the regular posting at the start of the New Year. Since it’s the final Tough Travels of 2017, however, I thought I’d make an effort to fit one in before then!

This feature was originally created and run by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Laura Hughes at Fantasy Faction, but it will move to The Fantasy Hive next month. 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 snarky sidekicks:

Why is everyone so serious all the time?  Perhaps they need a friend that is there with a quick bit of wit to liven up the day… even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood.

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Tough Travels: Mentors

I’m a little slow off the mark with this month’s tough travels, but better late than never!

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 mentors:

A Mentor will be at your service until around halfway through the tour of Fantasyland, when you will unaccountably lose him. Before that he will guide you, tell you what to do in the face of strange customs, and even sometimes instruct you in how to perform minor MAGICS. The Tough Guide suggests that the mentor will be several hundred years old, probably with a long white beard, which will give him the right to be bossy, smug, tiresomely philosophical and infuriatingly secretive about all-important facts.

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What Fantasy Authors Can Learn from Marvel Studios

This week I’m excited to bring you a guest post from writer, English teacher and Marvel fan Josiah DeGraaf, who blends the fantasy and superhero genres in his writing. He takes a look at what fantasy authors might learn from the successes of genre-mixing in superhero fiction:

If you aren’t much of a superhero movie fan (or even if you are), the upcoming slate of movies Marvel alone is trying to push out may seem rather exhausting. 10 more films in the next three years with plans through 2027? It’s no wonder you have people like Spielberg predicting superhero films will go the way of the Western and burn out in the near future.

Yet, despite all the films churned out by Marvel and DC, moviegoers keep purchasing tickets without any signs of stopping. Superhero stories are a (relatively) narrow genre—and yet many viewers (such as myself) regularly see two to four superhero films a year, despite the criticisms Marvel’s received for weak villains and paint-by-number three-act stories.

How has Marvel been able to keep selling tickets without running into genre fatigue? There are multiple reasons, but there’s one I’d like to focus on: Marvel keeps the genre feeling fresh by mixing it with other genres. This is a skill that not only budding novelists can be taking advantage of—but a skill some of the best fantasy authors today are using to craft unique and brilliant stories. Continue reading

Tough Travels: Minions

It’s tough travelling time 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 minions:

Minions of the DARK LORD can be male or female, though he tends to favour males (who seem to be more susceptible to the Evil One’s wiles). They can take many forms: BAD KINGS, ENCHANTRESSES, HIGH PRIESTS, EUNUCHS, DUKES, REGENTS or WITCHES. Additionally, there are the non-human minions, such as ORCS, TROLLS, GOBLINS and random OTHER PEOPLES . . . not to mention MUTANT NASTIES, carefully selected MONSTERS, UNDEAD, and DEMONS.

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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

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