So I really did mean to take part properly in Jenny’s Diana Wynne Jones Week, but due to work and other personal (not nice) stuff I didn’t really get the chance, although reading The Tough Guide to Fantasyland certainly cheered me up no end during what turned out to be not a great couple of days

So, to the book, and it does what it says on the cover: provides budding participants in the Tour through Fantasyland with everything they will need to know to navigate their way through the whole Quest thing.

Because on a quest is what they will surely be (and that is so ungrammatical, but I don’t care).

It is also extremely funny. You can probably enjoy this if you’ve read little fantasy, but it is so much more fun if you’ve read a lot, and gosh I seem to have done that over the years.

So all the familiar stuff is here – there is a Map (wouldn’t be fantasy without a Map), the details about your companions on the quest, whole chunks explaining magic, and the important topic of catering, which basically comes down to eating a lot of stew.

And also why there are no longer many vampires in fantasy; they’ve been enticed away to the Horror Tour where they get better pay and conditions.

One of my favourite entries was the description of a fairly regular companion-type, the Female Mercenary, who has been inspired by her unpleasant past to become a mercenary and is good in a fight. She conforms to a certain physical type (tall, thin, wiry, silent) and is neurotic. And for the detail:

You can rely on her absolutely in a fight. She can usually kill two people at once while guarding your back in between. The rest of the time she will irritate you with lots of punctilious weapons cleaning and a perpetual insistence that a proper watch be kept. […] You will end up grudgingly admiring her.

Made me laugh out loud anyway. And the rest of the book is just like this.

I may never be able to read fantasy in the same way again, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.