Tough Travelling #1: Beginnings

I’ve decided to participate in the Tough Traveling feature, a monthly meme that features book recommendations based on fantasy tropes, themes, and clichés mentioned in Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland.

This feature was created by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn back in 2014 and will now be hosted by Fantasy Faction. I decided to participate because it seems like a great way to discover new books I may be interested in based on tropes I like. Also, I bought The Tough Guide to Fantasyland about a week before this meme started, so… fate wants me to do this.

Fantasy is my favorite genre, but I reread books so often that my knowledge of fantasy novels isn’t as extensive as I’d like it to be, which means I don’t have a large resource of books read to recommend. Because of this, I’ve decided to compose my lists a little differently and will include one or two personal recommendations based on the topic and then feature books I’ve seen on other bloggers’ lists that I will add to my TBR list.

This month’s theme:


The Tough Guide states that you will begin in rather poor circumstances in an unimportant corner of the continent; a kitchen menial, perhaps, or a blacksmith’s apprentice. From there, the Guide advises that ‘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.’

I believe we are to feature books with spectacular or memorable beginnings, so I’ve chosen:

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

There’s a prologue, but it’s blah. Here’re the first two sentences of the first chapter:

“The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.”

The Eye of the World is the first novel in Jordan’s extensive, high fantasy series that’s composed of 13 books! It’s the traditional sort of fantasy story where the young, inexperienced farm/small-town boy is told he’s special and embarks on an adventure to realize his potential and save the world from a supreme evil being (my favorite trope).

The beginning of the first book immediately caught my attention, partly because I was excited just to be reading it (a friend had recommended the book to me) and partly because of the underlying tone of something dangerous that would soon disrupt the safe lives of the characters. I also love the two first lines of the first chapter, which tells us how myths and legends are born.

Game of Thrones by George R.R. Marrtin

There is a prologue. It’s awesome, but pfft! Here’s the first sentence of chapter 1:

“The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.”

Another first chapter that hints at the end of safety and the beginning of a more dangerous time. A Game of Thrones is one of my favorite fantasy novels and part of the reason why is because of its prologue and first chapter, which both set the tone for the rest of the story. It doesn’t really follow the trope highlighted above from Diana Wynne Jone’s book, but I’d argue that Bran, whose perspective we begin with and who is the youngest perspective we read from in the books, is a tour guide because through him we learn of superstitions and other beliefs that other, older characters would disregard.

After reading the other lists linked to the Fantasy Faction posts, I’ve decided to add these books to my TBR:

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Recommended by Lisa, the Tenacious Reader, and Mogsy from the Bibliosanctum, who both convinced me by mentioning that the story begins in the fighting pits and that the protagonist, Çeda, is an awesome, kick-ass female character.

The Thorn of Dentonhill by Marshall Ryan Maresca

Also recommended by Lisa, the Tenacious Reader. This one is appealing to me because it seems to be set at a university for magic; well, the protagonist is studying magic. Apart from Harry Potter and a couple other books, I hardly read about characters at a school for magic, so I’d like to try this one.

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Recommended by Wendy from the Bibliosanctum and Bob at Beauty in Ruins, I placed this on my list because of the story’s first sentence, which both bloggers highlighted in their posts; Bob’s description of the writing style as flowery and elaborate with unusual word choices; and these catch phrases in Wendy’s post: “erotica;” “beautiful prose;” “a child seemingly cursed with a mark of the gods.”

Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavić

Recommended by the Vacuous Wastrel, this is a 1988 novel that “takes place in the form of a glossary.” I’ve neither seen nor read such a book before so I’m curious to check it out and learn about the Khazars, which apparently is “a real-life nation of the late 1st millennium, about whom little is known.” The name — Khazars — does sound familiar, though. I have a strong feeling that I either saw it mentioned in a National Geographic magazine or in She by H. Rider Haggard.

Since my motivation for participating is to get book recommendations, I’ll continue to post my list toward the end of the month.

Next month’s theme will be Assassins. I look forward to the recommendations I’ll get for that one. 😀


17 thoughts on “Tough Travelling #1: Beginnings

  1. That’s a great idea to list recommendations for each month’s theme! Nice twist on the feature. All those recommendations look really interesting, the only one I’ve read is Kushiel’s Dart – it was very long but I enjoyed it, especially because Phèdre isn’t the kind of character I’m used to encountering in fantasy.


    1. Thanks. It’s the only way I could see to participate, since I haven’t read as much fantasy to recommend a variety of books.
      Kushiel’s Dart seems the most promising of the lot, so I might get it soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a brilliant idea. I ought to keep track of the meme, maybe I’ll find a few recommendations myself.


  3. So happy to see you’re joining the fun! And you can’t go wrong with the books added to your tbr! Wendy had beaten me to featuring it, but Kushiel’s Dart is one of my favorite books of all time as well 🙂 Hope you’ll join us in May too for Assassins!


    1. I’m happy to be a part of this too 😀 cause I do need the recommendations. I’d like to increase my reading of fantasy novels and get some recs on great older work too.
      And I am toying with getting Kushiel’s Dart soon, since it’s on Book Outlet and they have a sale.


  4. Have you heard that they finally found writers/producers for the Wheel of Time TV series adaptation? Gosh, while I have yet to read the books, I do hope the series does justice to such a huge franchise! This post definitely has some pretty nice recommendations too! Thanks for sharing. 😉


    1. I just heard about it yesterday. I’m excited. I hope they do a good job too, though I have begun to lose interest in the WOT series (I’m on the 5th or 6th book), but I think I’ll keep going though. I’m currently rereading them by audiobook.

      Liked by 1 person

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