Here is a silly list written in boredom, but I like lists and don’t think I am alone so I won’t apologize for making it. Inspired by several quality lists I have seen on Twitter recently that talk about fantasy tropes that should be retired for one reason or other (overuse and insensitivity being major reasons). I would link them, but it turns out I forgot to bookmark and Google is failing me. They got me thinking though, what tropes do I hate? Then I decided to go the other way instead, fountain of positivity that I am, and instead focused on tropes I still can’t get enough of.
Once I settled on the list I wanted to write I went to tvtropes and found the ‘official” name of the tropes in question (because if anyone gets to set the name of these things, it may as well be tvtropes). Some of my definitions may vary slightly from theirs though, because not everything fits so nicely in categories. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy my list. Warning, links to tvtropes.
The Farm Boy – I know it is the most overused trope of all. I know some people are ready for it to go away completely. But I for one feel it still has a place. It is the most timeless story of all (well, outside of forbidden love I guess). I am still a sucker for a story of humble beginnings. Who better to cheer for than the person who starts low and ends so high? I doubt anyone out there doesn’t have at least one favorite story that uses this one.
I think it is all the caveats to the trope that drag it down. The humble youngster of destiny is a bit over played. The wizened mentor who only helps the chosen one is tired. Really what kills the farm boy trope is that so many of them don’t actually work their way up in the world, everything is handed to them, the journey is too easy. If they become the hero of the story through hard work instead I can’t imagine the story every really getting tired. So please, continue to give me farm boys (and girls, of course) in my fantasy. Just take the destiny junk out of it.
First Memory: Lessa from ‘Dragonflight’ by Anne McCaffrey. She wasn’t really from a farm, but remains an example of the trope used right in my mind.
Most recently read in: ‘The Lure of Fools’ by Jason King
The Five Man Band – This may be my favorite trope of all. If I get a book with a small group of personalities, traveling the land and raising havoc I am in heaven. Truly. I can’t get enough. It is an easy way for an author to keep a slightly larger cast of characters without needing to weave multiple plot lines because they usually are sharing the same story.
Sure, sometimes they may fall into all too convenient archetypes, but any trope can go bad if the author takes the easy path. I know the five man band often falls victim to throwing in a token female there only to keep the peace among the men and that can get tiring as well. Again, it is not a perfect set up on its own.
But when done right we get it all. Built in camaraderie, witty banter among people who know everything about each other, chances for sacrifice, and all the good things in life.
First Memory: ‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie. I am sure I ran into it before I found this series, but this is honestly the first time I noticed it in literature.
Most Recent: ‘The Black Company’ by Glen Cook. Way more than five people involved, but the principles are the same.
Talking Weapons – I can’t explain why I like this one so much, but it is so versatile I have to include it. It can be used for humor, with a sarcastic weapon making fun of the hero. It can be done seriously, usually communicating with the wielder only.
It is an interesting take on the magic weapon because it gives them their own personality, turns them into a character in their own right (in the case the book with the most buzz around, ‘Ancillary Justice,’ the sentient weapon is the main character).
First Memory: ‘The Colour of Magic’ by my hero, Sir Terry Pratchett. Also the funniest.
Most Recent: ‘The Lure of Kings,’ again. Though it isn’t my favorite use of the trope.
Others of note: I can’t talk about this trope without mentioning the awesome sword in Rachael Aaron’s ‘Eli Monpress’ series.
The Berserker– There are two pretty common tropes when it comes to violent characters in fantasy, Stone Cold Assassin and Berserker. And while I am just about sick of the Assassin thing, for some reason I can’t get enough of a battle rage fueled monster. Sure it can be a bit cartoonish, but seeing as it usually shows up in GRIMDARK type books that are already cartoonish I can overlook it.
First Memory: Fitz from Robin Hobb’s ‘Farseer’ Series. Had actually forgotten he went through a battle haze until I ended up on tropes recently.
Most Recent: Sam Vimes in ‘Night Watch.’ The Beast, as Vimes calls it.
Others of none: Let’s face it, I added this trope out of my love for Logan Ninefingers from the ‘First Law’ trilogy.
Our Dragons are Different– I LOVE DRAGONS. Can’t get enough of them. Not sure they will ever get old. Don’t care what they are doing. Don’t care if they are good or evil, intelligence or beasts of burden. I have been in love with them since picking up the Pern series for the first time. I do not think they can detract from a book, and if a book that has them happens to be bad it is in no way the dragons’ fault. That is all I have to say about that subject. They are so common I couldn’t even tell you what my first memory of them is in literature, yet I am still not sick of them.
That’s it, my whole list. Thanks for reading. Any tropes that still work for you? Any of the tropes I listed pissing you off beyond belief (if I had to guess, I would bet Farm Boy isn’t loved as much by others). All opinions welcome, love to hear ‘em!