Tough Traveling- Holidays


Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is HOLIDAYS

Never too late to celebrate … holidays! Because fantasy festivals and feasts are always fun.  Thanks to Wendy for the suggestion!  And feel free to blame her if this proves to be as hard as it sounds.

Oh ya.  We are blaming Wendy for this one.  Cause let me tell you, SO HARD.

Hogfather (Discworld, #20)HogswatchHogfather by Terry Pratchett –The only obvious one I could think of. And it is from my least favorite Prachett book thus far (no, take that back, Soul Music was worse). Still, a fat man who gives children presents, riding in a transport pulled by hogs.

I will admit that despite not enjoying the book on the whole watching ‘The Hogfather’ actually making kids overly grandiose wishes come true for the holiday (much to their parents dismay as they suddenly realize they have a pony to take care off) cracked me up beyond belief.

Lilac DayNight Watch by Terry Pratchett – An Anhk-Morpork specific holiday that commemorates a small revolution. One patrician was replaced by another and a few people died. But a few people remember. And there will be respect.

All the little angels rise up, RISE UP

All the little angels rise up high.

Light Festival Tangled – Look, it was a tough week for me okay? I will pad this list Tangled (2010) Posterhowever I want.

Once a year the king and the queen raise a lantern for their missing princess. And others do the same. Until she comes home.

Tangled was a move that surprised me, I wasn’t really sure I would like it but it is endlessly entertaining. And saving my ass this week with this week list I have put together.

Forgive me Tough Travelers, I shall do better next week!

Know what, let’s make sure of it.


Join us next week as we look at 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 the day; even if the day is looking to quickly turn to blood. (Not actually found in the Tough Guide)

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!



Guest Barney Award 2014- Child’s Play and Children in Combat

Today we welcome H. Anthe Davis, author and long time friend to the blog.
H. Anthe Davis enjoys stories about assassins, necromancers, volcanoes and other explosive things — and also writes them!  She is two books into her series, The War of Memory Cycle, and intends to have the third one out soon.  Soon.

The Barney for Child’s Play

Imagine AgentsWelcome back to another action-packed installment of our seasonal awards ceremony!  Today we bring you a dangerous double-header of comic book adventure, graphic novel villainy, manga-level spectacle, and babies!

Our first bout is in the Best Use of Imaginary Friends category!

In the BOOM! Studios corner, weighing in at 97 pages, is Imagine Agents!  Every child has an imaginary friend called a ‘figment’, but what happens to those figments when their child grows up?  Some turn bitter, seeking a reason for their abandonment; others become depressed or unruly, requiring the Imagine Agents to keep them in line.  But some still want to help…

Our nominee is the pink jelly-ball buddy Blounder!  Even after his human child forgets him, he willingly risks jelly-life and jelly-limb to aid her — and all of humanity — against a powerful rogue figment bent on merging the figments with their children to overwrite them and become real!


Meanwhile, in the … other BOOM! Studios corner, weighing in at 160 pages, is Six-Gun Six-Gun GorillaGorilla!  In space, no one can hear you scream…unless there’s a live camera pointed at you!  Humans have tried for decades to tame and colonize the lawless planet of Blister, but its current state of civil war has provided an unexpected dividend in the form of reality TV: real conflict, real death, all filmed by condemned criminals sent into this unruly otherworld!  Until one of the condemned happens to film military secrets…

Our nominee is the titular Six-Gun Gorilla!  Appearing from the desert to rescue our hapless protagonist, he must be the product of a dying man’s fevered imagination — but if so, why can all the viewers see him on camera?

The Verdict:

In a rock-’em-sock-’em fight, it could go either way: jelly against bullets, expansion against muscular strength.

But we’re just human here.  When does a six-gun toting gorilla win?  Any time it wants.

On to our second bout!  This time, it’s the….

Best Use of a Child In Combat!

Saga, Volume 1 (Saga #1-6)In the new series corner, weighing in at 448 pages and counting, is Saga!  Star-crossed — and species-crossed — lovers Marko and Alana are on the run from both their warring peoples for daring to have a mixed-blood child.  Assassins hound them across the universe at the behest of galactic robot overlords…but some of those assassins have agendas of their own.
While baby Hazel sometimes narrates and may well play a part in future conflicts, at the moment she’s just a bundle of joy.  Our nominee instead is six-year-old Sophie, formerly known as Slave Girl, who knows how to use a knife.
Meanwhile, in the new-to-me corner, weighing in at oh my god I’m not even going to add those up, is Lone Wolf and Cub!  A Tokugawa-era former executioner, Ogami Itto has turned assassin-for-hire, and takes with him on all his assignments his young son, Daigoro!  After all, a wolf cub is still a wolf…
Our nominee is Daigoro!  Offered a choice between a child’s ball and a sword, he reached out for the shining blade…  What bloody destiny lies ahead?
The Verdict:
While Sophie and Daigoro spend most of the time as pawns of their respective assassin father-figures, they can both step out violently when pressed.  However, the hat-tip goes to Daigoro for peeing off a cliff onto an enemy samurai as a fight-starting taunt.  Who doesn’t want to do that sometimes?

Guest Barney Award 2014 – The Earl Gray Cup

Today we welcome Brittain, one of the best around.

Brittain is the co-owner of and main writer for the blog Two Dudes in an Attic, where we read Gary Gygax novels so you don’t have to. Scribblings on Two Dudes emanate from the Pacific Northwest and sit at the nexus of science fiction, fantasy, political science, Japan, music, and soccer. (This makes for a killer Venn diagram).

The Earl Grey Cup, Given to SFF That Best Displays Elite Tea Consumption

The Nominees:

City of StairsCity of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennett

Shara, the historian­ spy and hero of Bennett’s sprawling exploration of colonialism, dead gods, Calvinism, and unkillable Northern barbarians, is an inveterate tea addict. Her friends contemplate an intervention as she guzzles liter after liter, using the mild rush of caffeine paired with the soothing effects of hot drink to cope with the stresses of being nearly killed, bumping into an old boyfriend, and seeing dead gods possibly storm back to life in a bid to topple the hegemony of her motherland. I assume that she consumes liters rather than gallons because City of Stairs seems like the educated type of book that rejects the Imperial system of measurement.


Various Xuya stories – Aliette de BodardOn a Red Station, Drifting

Not all the Xuya series was published in 2014 of course, but a few were. I read one in Carbide Tipped Pens and I think others appeared in various magazines and/or were nominated for prestigious awards. De Bodard replaces the usual Anglos in Space with their Asian counterparts, naturally banishing coffee in favor of the much more civilized tea. (Not to mention the steamed buns, lemongrass, and other delights.)




Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)

Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie

In addition to copious tea consumption in Leckie’s Radch empire, Ancillary Sword is based primarily in a space station orbiting an planet dedicated to tea production. Two major characters in the book are from a prominent tea growing family that makes one of the top brands in the empire. Tea sets are also discussed at length.





And the winner is….

Ancillary Sword!!

Breq & Co. don’t drink nearly as much tea as Shara, but tea plays a much bigger part of the book. The entire planet’s economy is based on tea, which wouldn’t be weird except that this is the setting for one of the most anticipated releases of the year and people spend more time arguing about which tea company is better than they do blowing up spaceships. What has science fiction come to? Oh, and if that weren’t enough, there is now a real life line of Radch teas that enthusiasts can imbibe. Congratulations, Ms. Leckie, because holy crap I don’t think you have enough awards yet.



Fantasy Review: ‘The Healers’ Road’ by S E Robertson

This is an unusual book. Yes, yes, I know I specialise in unusual books; not for me the dull old treadmill of mainstream popular works. I read stuff you’ve never heard of. But this book is special: I came across it on a forum where the author lamented that she’d only sold… no, let’s not put a number on it. Let’s just say: not very many. So this is a book that nobody has ever heard of.

So what’s it about? Well, let me tell you first what it’s not about. It’s not about saving the world. It’s not about finding the lost heir to the kingdom. There’s no quest, no named sword, no moustache-twirling villain, no prophecy. There are no orcs, dwarves, elves or goblins. No dragons, either, sadly (every fantasy book should have dragons, in my opinion, but there you go). There are no witches, werewolves, vampires.

OK, I hear you saying, so what the **** IS in it, then? People, that’s what. No, not characters, these are real, flesh-and-blood people, who happen to live in the pages of a book. They have histories and personalities, they have weaknesses and strengths, they have beliefs, hopes and dreams, fears and uncertainties. You know, just like everyone.

Here’s the premise. Agna is a young healer from a rich family in Nessiny, trained to use magic to heal. Sent to a foreign land to repay her training in service to others, she joins a caravan of merchants and craftspeople travelling through the towns and villages. Keifon is an army-trained medic from Yanwei, deeply religious but with his own demons, assigned to be her partner. She thinks he’s surly and rude. He thinks she’s a spoiled rich brat.

And herein lies the whole story: two very different people, from vastly different backgrounds, who have to learn not only to work together, as healers with diametrically opposed methods, but also to live together under the basic conditions of the caravan. It’s not so much what happens that’s interesting, but how: the almost imperceptible inching towards an accommodation, the delicate dance around each other.

If you’re looking for a book filled with action, or any action at all, you won’t find it here. There is perhaps only one moment that qualifies in the whole book. But if you’re looking for something deeper, a painting in words, if you like, where every tiny moment, every glance or touch or word is a perfectly nuanced brush-stroke, this is the book for you. If ever you wanted to know what literary fantasy looks like, this is it. A wonderful book. Five stars.

2014 Barneys- Most Kick-Ass Warrior Babe

The award for most kick-ass warrior babe… Scriber by Ben Dobson

Warrior-babes have had a bad rap in recent years. After Tolkien set the standard with the awesome Eowyn (’No living man am I!’ {shiver}), the trope has gradually become infested with implausibly super-skilled women, who veered from ruthless killing machine on the battlefield to quivering heap at the hero’s feet, all while wearing a chain-mail bikini. Fortunately, some authors manage to rise above this desperate stereotype.

This isn’t, at first sight, the most promising book in which to find a truly awesome warrior-babe. The main character, Dennon Lark, the scriber of the title, is an academic, dedicated to recovering lost knowledge from the few remaining books in his country. He’s as unheroic as a fantasy main character can possibly be – an almost pathologically reclusive academic, with no courage to speak of except in pursuit of his precious books.

It’s Bryndine, the King’s niece, who fills the heroic role here, a woman of honour and unswerving devotion to her oaths and her people. She has gathered together a motley band of female warriors, of mixed backgrounds and personalities but all implausibly skilled at arms and of infinite courage and powers of endurance. Every time bookish Dennon gets into trouble, Bryndine and her band of warrior-babes come steaming to the rescue, swords flashing, arrows flying, with an almost limitless supply of stamina.

It’s Bryndine who stands head and shoulders above her comrades, though, both literally and figuratively. And, more importantly, she’s not just a one-dimensional stand-in for a bloke; she has her own history and dreams and heart-breaking past. A wonderful character. Hooray for warrior babes!

Pauline’s review of Scriber.

Tough Traveling – Kings


Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week’s topic is KINGS

KINGS come in four kinds: Puppet Kings, Bad Kings, Good Kings (rare), and Long Lost Kings.

Well if Jones is going to give me bullet point material involving different types then why not take advantage?

We four kings of fantasy are

Bearing tropes as we tough travel far

Carrot, Joeffry, Tomjon, and Lord of Rohan

Each their own kind of star.


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

Bad King


O kid of wonder, child of fright

Lover of daggers late at night

Westeros leading, Sansa beating

Cersei’s connections provide your might


Men at Arms (Discworld, #15)

Good King


Born a dwarf on Morpork’s plain

Sword and birthmarks could crown him again

Copper forever, king never

Refusing to ever reign


Wyrd Sisters (Discworld, #6)

Long Lost King


Oh star of theater, actor at night

Seeing witch faces in star light

Lancre leading, wagon’s proceeding

Doesn’t wish to be part of Granny’s fight


The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

Puppet King


Wormtongue’s words to offer has I

King I be put power is night

Strings are pulled arms are raising

But with Gandolf’s help I’ll back on high.




Join us next week as we look at HOLIDAYS

Never too late to celebrate … holidays! Because fantasy festivals and feasts are always fun.  Thanks to Wendy for the suggestion!  And feel free to blame her if this proves to be as hard as it sounds.

If you have a topic you want to see us cover, or if you have an entry for next week’s post but don’t have your own blog to put it on, please head over to the main Tough Traveling page and fill out the form at the bottom.

As always thanks for joining, feel free to join along at any time, and please check out my fellow travelers!

Hope everyone has Happy Holidays!  Thanks for helping make this a great year.

2014 Barneys- Colorado Book Club

The Barney Award for Best Book to be read in Colorado now that Pot is Legal

That is right, just by walking outside I find the atmosphere a little more mellow, the conversations a little more stimulating, the amount of pharmacies a bit mind boggling. My state legalized this stuff and it is only fair that our book clubs start taking advantage of our state’s new…mindset. And while I don’t partake myself who doesn’t want a tape recorder in on some of these book club meetings? Nobody doesn’t, that’s who (early double negative, that grammar warning suddenly seems apt doesn’t it?). And while discussions of beat poetry will always be the norm I am pretty sure I can sneak a few fantasy books into the pile. The best of the best for this? Let’s find out.

Unwrapped Sky (Caeli-Amur, #1)Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson- Oh hell yes, this is a great book for a bake in (or so I would assume, again, not my thing). To start with we get the political. Nothing stonies like more than a good old theoretical politics (well, maybe their Ben Harper CD). A strictly structured class based society with major labor strife. Not since Perdido Street Station has there been a fantasy novel to appeal the inner wannabe communist.

But there is also the good old weird shit that an altered state of mind could spend days looking for hidden metaphors within.   Do the Minotaur represent Marx himself, or perhaps the entire proletariat movement? And the siren!? Obviously it is a metaphor for the Iraqi war, or the military-industrial complex, or something. One would have to be a fool not to see it! Or perhaps, one would have to not have a cloud of smoke around them not to see it; the rest of us can just nod our heads and walk on by.

Of course being that our hypothetical group of users is most likely male we should expect a long discussion about the practicality of lusting after a mermaid. Followed by about a hour of frat boy boasting of how exactly one would ‘have relations’ with said mermaid. Things best left to Troy McClure’s imagination will come up.

On second thought, maybe this book club isn’t such a good idea, just give Davidson his award and let’s move on…

Congratulations Rjurik Davidson!  No doubt you have never seen your book mentioned with narcotics of questionable legality before.  I am sure this an award you shall cherish forever!