Tough Travels #7 & #8: Minions & Mentors

I fully intended to do a Tough Travels post last month and the month before that, but time got away from me so I didn’t get a chance to sit down to it. But, as the saying goes, better late than never. Here are the Tough Travels posts I’ve since missed.

Tough Travels is a monthly meme that recommends fantasy books based on tropes, themes, and clichés cited in Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. The meme was created by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and is now hosted by Fantasy Faction. (The meme will move to the Fantasy Hive in January.)

Since I haven’t read many fantasy books, I instead create my list at the end of the month, after reading everyone else’s, and include recommendations from them that are interesting to me. However, I now realize that not as many bloggers participated for these topics, so I’ll have to get creative about finding recommendations.

October’s theme:


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.

My picks:

Two images come to mind when I think of the word minion. First is the sniveling underling who ingratiates himself to a high lord, like Padan Fain in Robert Jordan’s The Eye of World, the first novel in his Wheel of Time series, which I mention in almost every Tough Travels post. The other image is of the cute yellow bots from the Despicable Me movies. They usually pop through my mental image of the sniveling underling and make me smile.

My favorite type of underling to read about are those who believe they are in control or powerful or are “the Master.” Those who are deluded and mislead by their vices and desire for things they lack. I enjoy reading stories where we see such characters either devolve and become a lesser version of themselves, or call upon their last bit of strength to be better beings.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Father Konstantin in Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale is such an underling. He is a willing, naïve minion who causes the destruction he was trying to prevent. And unfortunately for him, he doesn’t find a smidgen of strength in himself to do something positive by the story’s end. His character arc was most interesting to me because it’s easy for one to say that it’s his strong belief in his religion that led to his downfall, but I think it’s his hubris and him confusing faith in God with the villagers’ worship of him (Konstantin) and blind subservience to the church.

The Strain by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Okay, so this is a cheat because it’s not exactly fantasy. It’s a horror novel about a vampire apocalypse in New York City. But, fantastic elements are in it and, dammit, I just want to talk about Eldritch Palmer because he’s one of my favorite minions because of how deluded he is. I’ve only read the first book of this trilogy, but I watched all four seasons of the TV show, so I’m talking here with the show in mind.

Like Konstantin, Eldritch is blinded by his desire, in this case something Eldritch lacks, and doesn’t realize that he’s being used by the Master. He so craves to be healed and healthy and experience a full human life that he doesn’t fully understand the repercussions of the actions he has committed in service to the Master. So deluded is he that he thinks of himself as the Master’s partner than the servant he is. I enjoyed watching his character arc and seeing how events influence his later decisions.

Hmm… I probably confused minion and underling there. Are underlings elevated above minions, or can we group the two together?

Recommendations I found:
From Lynn’s Books:

Seven Forges by James A. Moore

In which a whole army of peeps serve the will of the gods. I really like the title.

From Fantasy Faction:

The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack by Nate Crowley

Because of the undead sea creatures. They sound slimy.

November’s theme:


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.

My picks:

Mentors in fantasy novels are infuriating. Mentors in real life are sometimes so too.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

The first novel in a YA fantasy series set in Nigeria about an albino Nigerian-American girl who learns she’s a member of a secret society of people who have special abilities. I really like the magic system in this book and how the magic exists in the real world. Because of this and because the characters attend classes for magic, the book is often compared to the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson series.

I’m highlighting this book to point out the mentors, who are all pretty interesting. The protagonist, Sunny, and her three friends are all assigned mentors, but they start with one teacher, Anatov, who is one of the coolest people I’ve ever read about. He’s very tall, “taller than any Masai or American basketball player” Sunny had ever seen, and is “light-skinned with short brown bushy dreadlocks and a small gold ring in his left nostril.” In my mind, he’s sexy as hell and rocking a rasta mesh vest. The dude is hot! He’s also a good mentor to the kids.

Anyway, the other mentors are all really interesting, so read the book to learn more.

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

My first novel by Pratchett. It’s about the first female wizard of Discworld and in this book, she’s mentored by the witch Granny Weatherwax. I’m a fan of Granny Weatherwax and I enjoyed reading about her and seeing how she develops over the course of this story from a small town witch to a savvy one able to infiltrate Unseen University to help her mentee.

The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

No way was I going to end this post without mentioning the awesome notorious badass Durzo Blint! I friggin love this character! The Way of Shadows is about a street urchin who apprentices himself to the deadliest assassin, Durzo Blint. I enjoyed watching their relationship develop and reading about Blint’s stealth and badassery. It was pure awesomeness. Loved it!

Into the Badlands

This is one of my favorite TV shows. It airs on AMC and I love the martial arts in it and the characters, especially the badass women. Woooo!!!! My favorite character is of course Sunny (played by David Wu), who weilds a Samurai sword and rides a motorcycle (ha! Love it!). He serves as a mentor to M.K. (played by Aramis Knight), who’s as annoying to his mentor as his mentor is to him. I like their relationship dynamic in the first season (and I need to catch up on the second season). The show is awesome. Check out these scenes!

Recommendations I found:

So, I was searching online for “mentors in fantasy novels” when I was reminded of one I haven’t thought of years:

Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez

He’s the mentor to Connor MacLeod in the Highlander TV show. OMG! I haven’t thought about that TV show since …. I don’t know when. I used to like it and would watch it when I got home from school (primary school). I liked the “chop off the dude’s head and get his powers” parts.

And that’s it for Minions and Mentors.

The next post (this month’s theme) will be on Snarky Sidekicks.

Finding recommendations for it will be hard, I think.

As for fantasy novels I bought since my last post, I got:

Theft of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan

It was mentioned in the recommendations section of my Tough Travels post on assassins.


10 thoughts on “Tough Travels #7 & #8: Minions & Mentors

  1. I didn’t get round to doing mentors last month but I’m hoping to do snarky snidekicks – it hadn’t occured to me to do both in one post!
    Great mentions as always, particularly Granny! She’d have been on my list too ^_^


  2. Oh, I like this topic! Durzo Blint and Granny are excellent choices for mentors 🙂

    There was a Highlander TV show? I totally missed that! I watched the movie, but that’s it.

    I got a sample of ‘The Bear and the Nightingale’ yesterday and it starts very promising. At the moment I just want to read everything 😀


    1. Yea, there was. And I think I missed the movie. I don’t think I ever saw it…or maybe I did. Can’t remember.

      Most peeps loved The Bear and the Nightingale. It’s a good read, but I thought it was just okay. I’d still recommend it tho.

      Liked by 1 person

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