Tough Traveling – Non Human Protagonists

Started by Fantasy Review Barn, now run by Fantasy Faction.  Tough Traveling is back my friends!  Yes, the best fantasy specific meme around is finally up and running again.  So join us every week as we tour the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.  For a history of what came before check the tag above.

This weeks topic is Non- Human Protagonists

The Tough Guide assures us that HEROES are ‘mythical beings, often selected at birth, who perform amazing deeds of courage, strength and magical mayhem, usually against all odds.’ Furthermore, ‘if you get to meet a so-called Hero, she/he always turns out to be just another human, with human failings, who has happened to be in the right place at the right time (or the wrong place at the wrong time, more likely)’.

HOWEVER. For good or for evil, some of fantasy’s most memorable Heroes are not human at all. Some look human, but aren’t. Others may look monstrous, but be ‘human’ on the inside. Others still never pretend to be anything other than what they are – and why should they? In nearly all cases, we are likely to Learn Something from them – usually that appearances can be deceiving, or that the concepts of both ‘Human’ and ‘Hero’ are entirely subjective.

This week’s list proved a bit tougher for me to fill. I had two examples leap immediately to mind (well three, but I have never read Redwall). Then I had a few that I went back and forth on a bit more; is a fantasy creature that acts human but looks slightly different really non-human? It caused me troubles as I looked at Hobbits, Dark Elfs, and even Angels. As you will see, eventually I decided to include a few of these else my list would be a bit short. So here it goes. Continue reading

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Tough Traveling- Assassins

Started by Fantasy Review Barn, now run by Fantasy Faction.  Tough Traveling is back my friends!  Yes, the best fantasy specific meme around is finally up and running again.  So join us every week as we tour the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché.  For a history of what came before check the tag above.

This weeks topic is Assassins:

Assassins are ubiquitous throughout fantasyland. Sharp-eyed readers (or even blunt-eyed ones) will notice that their hooded forms often adorn book covers, and that they frequently appear – rather improbably – not to mind being the sole focus of our attention. Whether they’re spotlight hogs or camera-shy and brooding, most assassins will have trained for years and are very, VERY good at their job (i.e. killing people for money).

Let’s jump right in!

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Tough Traveling- Beginnings

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Final Tough Travels – Tricksters

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

Yes my friends it is time.  I am very proud of Tough Travels and where it went but it is time to say good bye to it.  I had planned on running it out until the end of the year but the quality of it is slipping due to my lack of involvement so the cord is being cut today.

At its peak Tough Travels had 24 blogs doing it weekly.  We have had 52 separate blogs participate at some time or another (Looking back at link ups there are a lot of blogs that disappeared and I had forgot about).  For a very genre specific meme I found this incredible.  I know I found many blogs for the first time just because they linked up; I hope others had the same success and bonding with it.

Quite often I saw our lists linked to other sites such as Reddit.  I have had authors link to it when it includes their books.  All in all, I am glad I did it.  But as my time in to it slipped to nothing so did interest.  This was a meme that took work; from me and from other participants.  And I am sorry to say I am no longer willing to put that work in.

So thank you all so very much.  It would have been just another feature without all of you who participated, added suggestions, and just took the time to scroll through the link up.  Tough Travels is probably the single thing I am most proud of from blogging and most of it is due to my fellow travellers.

If, by chance, there is someone who doesn’t want it to die just let me know. I will make an announcement if someone else wants to revive it and start hosting the link up on their own site.  We have strip mined the original Tough Guide source by now but it has been going for almost two years so starting it anew probably would lead to all kinds of responses we didn’t get the first time around.

With that, below is the final link up.  Thank you all.

This week’s topic is Tricksters

A great prank is always amusing.  Many an adventure start with a well placed trick.  They are even more amusing when performed by those with god like powers.

Tough Travels – Peace at Last

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Did I like The Grim Company, Scull’s epic fantasy debut from last year? Of course I did. Hardly over hyped it was the type of book that felt designed to hit all the right notes of a popular series. Yet despite its familiarity almost by the numbers feel (*cough* First Law *cough) I never felt that it was derivative of the works it could be compared to. It took a well-worn feel and gave it a life of its own. I immediately was ready for Sword of the North to come out so I could continue the adventure.

Sword of the North is a very different animal than its predecessor despite keeping the same general feel. The Grim Company had its feet firmly planted in the Grimdark thing (call it a genre, sub-genre or whatever have you). It started with a man using magic to drop half an ocean onto a rival’s city after all. From there it followed a familiar path of people trying hard and ultimately failing in their futile efforts; that things were only going to get worse was perfectly clear.

I felt there was actually a bit of hope, a bit less chance of tragedy, hell a little bit of happiness hidden in a few pages. Don’t get me wrong, this book still walks on the darker side of fantasy complete with high body counts, betrayals by people you actually like and nasty people getting big wins. But unlike ‘grimdark’ books I found that characters I have liked through two books have for the most part stayed likable. I feel that there are people who actually care in this world, which of course takes out some of the caricature feel common in dark fantasy. What’s more, some characters actually show some will to improve themselves. What a concept! We are halfway to a comedy (by classical definition).

We continue to follow characters met in the first book; Brodar Kayne as he heads North to check on a rumor about his family along with the grim man who goes by Wolf. Cole, who should be a celebrated hero for his deeds in book one, instead wakes up in a penal colony. Sasha, following her sister into a confrontation with The White Lady (would be savior from The Grim Company). And the half-mage; a man digging into secrets that could prove important at a later date (and pissing off important people while doing so). The land is learning that anyone powerful to dispose of a despot should probably be looked into, war is coming to the north (with the help of some barely under control demons) and lots of dying people is pretty much inevitable.

I enjoyed each of these character’s paths, save one. The story’s expanded scope, and an overall villain much more interesting that that who ruled the first book, was well woven and entertaining. Minor anachronisms are forgiven (and Pulp Fiction homages are noted but ultimately ignored) for sake of a good read. But the grizzled barbarian who helped carry the first book, one Brodar Kayne, was given the short end of the story this time around. It felt like the author knew what to do with each piece of his puzzle save this one. So on a travel quest he goes! Picking up as large of a quest party as possible along the way, one piece at a time, just to keep the story going I suppose. It led to an entire POV that I wanted to skip each time it came up, never a good thing and for this reader slowed the story down greatly.

This is a shame because in a lot of ways I think Scull is giving us a more creative and in depth story this time around in every other aspect. As inevitable as ‘same as the old boss’ style mechanics may be it always breaks the heart when it turns out to be true. And the new bosses minions are one of those little unique touches that always makes me smile when I read fantasy. I can safely say that for the most part this book clicked all around for me. It just falls into that common trap of having too many pages that don’t add anything to the story.

3 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

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Tough Travels- Military Geniuses

tough-traveling

Did I like The Grim Company, Scull’s epic fantasy debut from last year? Of course I did. Hardly over hyped it was the type of book that felt designed to hit all the right notes of a popular series. Yet despite its familiarity almost by the numbers feel (*cough* First Law *cough) I never felt that it was derivative of the works it could be compared to. It took a well-worn feel and gave it a life of its own. I immediately was ready for Sword of the North to come out so I could continue the adventure.

Sword of the North is a very different animal than its predecessor despite keeping the same general feel. The Grim Company had its feet firmly planted in the Grimdark thing (call it a genre, sub-genre or whatever have you). It started with a man using magic to drop half an ocean onto a rival’s city after all. From there it followed a familiar path of people trying hard and ultimately failing in their futile efforts; that things were only going to get worse was perfectly clear.

I felt there was actually a bit of hope, a bit less chance of tragedy, hell a little bit of happiness hidden in a few pages. Don’t get me wrong, this book still walks on the darker side of fantasy complete with high body counts, betrayals by people you actually like and nasty people getting big wins. But unlike ‘grimdark’ books I found that characters I have liked through two books have for the most part stayed likable. I feel that there are people who actually care in this world, which of course takes out some of the caricature feel common in dark fantasy. What’s more, some characters actually show some will to improve themselves. What a concept! We are halfway to a comedy (by classical definition).

We continue to follow characters met in the first book; Brodar Kayne as he heads North to check on a rumor about his family along with the grim man who goes by Wolf. Cole, who should be a celebrated hero for his deeds in book one, instead wakes up in a penal colony. Sasha, following her sister into a confrontation with The White Lady (would be savior from The Grim Company). And the half-mage; a man digging into secrets that could prove important at a later date (and pissing off important people while doing so). The land is learning that anyone powerful to dispose of a despot should probably be looked into, war is coming to the north (with the help of some barely under control demons) and lots of dying people is pretty much inevitable.

I enjoyed each of these character’s paths, save one. The story’s expanded scope, and an overall villain much more interesting that that who ruled the first book, was well woven and entertaining. Minor anachronisms are forgiven (and Pulp Fiction homages are noted but ultimately ignored) for sake of a good read. But the grizzled barbarian who helped carry the first book, one Brodar Kayne, was given the short end of the story this time around. It felt like the author knew what to do with each piece of his puzzle save this one. So on a travel quest he goes! Picking up as large of a quest party as possible along the way, one piece at a time, just to keep the story going I suppose. It led to an entire POV that I wanted to skip each time it came up, never a good thing and for this reader slowed the story down greatly.

This is a shame because in a lot of ways I think Scull is giving us a more creative and in depth story this time around in every other aspect. As inevitable as ‘same as the old boss’ style mechanics may be it always breaks the heart when it turns out to be true. And the new bosses minions are one of those little unique touches that always makes me smile when I read fantasy. I can safely say that for the most part this book clicked all around for me. It just falls into that common trap of having too many pages that don’t add anything to the story.

3 Stars

Copy for review provided by publisher.

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Tough Travels: Fairy Tales are Not Just Stories

tough-traveling

 

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

This week’s topic is FAIRY TALES ARE NOT JUST STORIES

Fairy tales are real in fantasy land.  They may seem like stories told to kids, but in fantasyland they are very, very real.

Ok, it is Wednesday night and I just remembered Tough Travels.  But this is too good a topic to ignore, so here goes!

Witches Abroad – Terry Pratchett – This actually comes to pass more than once in Discworld but Witches Abroad is the most obvious example; people can be shaped by stories.  So when the Fairy Godmother will stop at nothing to make sure the story turns out right…

Well, lets just say it may take a coven of ugly witches to make sure that people matter more than the story.  (I also wonder how much of Shrek 2 was borrowed from this particular book).

Dreamer's Pool (Blackthorn & Grim, #1)Dreamer’s Pool -Juliet Marillier – ‘Once upon a time Juliet Marillier wrote a fairy tale and it was wonderful.’  I just quoted my own review.  I thought this was an original story but it turns out it is very loosly based on an old fairy tale, The Goose Girl.  Thanks to random stranger Natalie on Goodreads for letting me know.  And if you didn’t know, this book was wonderful.

Snow Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman and Six Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente – Snow White was a boring movie and a fairy tale I could care less about.  Yet two of my favorite literary remakes of fairy tales are based around it.  Go figure. Snow Glass Apples could be read in a about five minutes and can be found all over the interwebz.

Join us next week as we look at MILITARY GENIUS

Let’s face it.  Fantasy life is often a life of war.  One can only hope to serve under a commander who has some clue what they are doing.

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.  For a list of upcoming topics just keep heading back to this post.

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

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