Tough Travels: People on Boats

tough travelsIt’s Thursday again so I’m participating in the Tough Travels meme which is hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn. These posts are fun explorations of common tropes in fantasy, (sometimes) inspired by Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. Join me in the search for examples of this week’s topic – and don’t forget to check out other people’s lists, they’re wonderful and my TBR pile grows every week because of them!

This week, we’re looking for PEOPLE ON BOATS: Grab a map of Fantasyland and you are sure to see there is water. Of course not everything important is going to happen on land, right? Sometimes people actually have to get on a boat and hit the water.

I dislike boats. I have a poor sense of balance and they make me feel ill. I’ve never spent enough time on a boat/ship to actually be sick but I get this wobbly feeling that persists for hours after I’ve already stepped onto firm ground. Ugh. But I love reading about pirates anyway!

Well, if this was a romance topic instead of fantasy, I’d have no trouble finding a whole bunch of sexy pirates. *snort* Instead, we have these people getting on boats and getting soaked quite often:


  1. Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch. Ok this is getting ridiculous! Is there a single trope/topic that isn’t found in the Gentleman Bastards series? :) Well, most of RSuRS takes place on a pirate ship because Locke and Jean are coerced into being pirates. Without really knowing anything about boats. But these two can bluff their way through any situation! (If they don’t forget the cats, that is.)
  2. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I’m cheating because the ship in this one is actually flying but let’s say clouds are water so there.
  3. ship-of-magicHalf a King and Half the World by Joe Abercrombie. In the first one, prince Yarvi is sold into slavery and works his butt of as a galley slave under a charming crazy, sadistic captain. In the second, they take a ship and sail up one river and down another in order to secure allies for a war that’s brewing on the Shattered Sea.
  4. The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. I only got as far as book 2 (I’m stuck!) but the liveships are amazing – I think it takes three generations of a family to die and put their essence into the ship for the ship to awaken, but when it does, it’s got its own personality, combined with the ancestral memories. Pretty great, right? Yep, until the ship goes crazy and drowns its whole crew! *eep*
  5. harry-potter-goblet-of-fireHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling. The credit for this one goes to my husband who remembered that the Durmstrang students arrive on a ship that rises from the lake – which is really weird and magical because I have no idea how they got to the UK from Romania or wherever that school is located.
  6. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. Lyra spends quite some time on the boats of the river people, the Gyptians, when she’s travelling to save the children who’ve been taken by the evil people trying to separate them from their daemons.
  7. The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m really hazy on the details (I should re-read this at some point) but Ged and his friends spend a lot of time floating around the various isles of the Archipelago (it’s really the only way to get from one island to another).


Do you like boats? Have you ever gone sailing?

Completely off topic: what would your daemon look like? I like to think I’d get a fox (but in reality I’d probably end up with a bunny or something un-ferocious).

  • MaddalenaSpaceandSorcery

    The Shattered Sea series by Abercrombie does indeed rely on boats as places where journey are not only of the body, but also of the mind and soul. That’s why it won so many quotes this week :-)

    • Yeah, I saw it was very popular :) I can’t wait to see what Father Yarvi will cook up for Half a War! And yes, I loved the character development in both novels, I didn’t particularly like Abercrombie’s first trilogy but I am a total convert now that I’ve read these two.

  • Maraia

    Gentleman Bastards for the win, once again. :)

    I don’t have a strong opinion about boats. I’ve been on large ferries and smaller speed boats/pontoon boats. Ferries are totally fine, pontoon boats are painfully boring, and speed boats can be fun but I don’t like what they do to the environment and I really, really hate wind in my face. I do like a good pirate story, though! Clearly there are a lot of great fantasies that take place on boats.

    What about canoeing or kayaking? Do they make you seasick?

    Hmm, I think my daemon/patronus would be a hedgehog. A fox would be cool! Every time I read His Dark Materials, I wish desperately that we had daemons.

    • In smaller boats, I’m fine as long as I know I can swim to the shore (I’m a pretty good swimmer so that’s usually fine). I don’t know why boats freak me out so much (as does water where I can’t see the bottom), I’ve never, ever had a bad experience in water/on boats.

      But yes, pirates are always fun to read about! :) But I always try to avoid those movies where a (fishing) boat is stuck in intensely bad weather and they’re fighting for their lives – it’s a nightmare situation for me. And as much as I liked Titanic, I would NEVER have gone on that boat. Ugh. (Well, possibly, if it was the only way to cross the ocean. I discussed this with A. recently – can you imagine being an explorer in the past and just sailing off into the unknown, not knowing wheter you’ll have enough food/water for the return journey? SO SCARY! And brave.)

      A hedgehog would make a great daemon (and a patronus for that matter)! You could cuddle with it and also throw it at your enemies ;) Yeah, having daemons would be amazing, it’s a lovely concept. Do you have pets?

      • Maraia

        Ugh, I’m the same way about plane crash scenes. I have zero desire to spend more than a few hours at a time on a boat. That life doesn’t appeal to me at all. Sure, the idea of exploring the world in a boat sounds great on paper, but not so much in reality. Those explorers really were (and are) brave!

        Exactly! He would seem all innocent until the prickles needed to come out. :) I’ve never had a pet, actually. My parents never wanted one, and then I developed allergies in my teens. Do you?

        • Well, my brother and I had two gerbils when we were kids (they were both boys so they didn’t … errr… multiply) but they were kind of neurotic and refused to be cuddled *sad*. And then, much to my mother’s horror, I brought home a stick insect from school, named it Thor and kept it for a year or so (It grew REALLY large and then died, the poor thing). That was is, no puppies or kittens or anything.
          Now a dog is out of the question because we live in an apartment that’s too small for a dog + the kid would pull its tail and such and cats are a no-go because A. is allergic. To be honest, I’m more of a cat person but we’ll see how things will go once this kiddo (and any others that may follow) will grow up a bit.

          • Maraia

            What’s the point of a gerbil that won’t cuddle?! The stick insect sounds really cool, though! I’ve never heard of having one as a pet. One of my friends in college had a pregnant pygmy chameleon for a while, but it also died. (I guess it’s the dying part that reminded me?) It was almost painfully cute. I’m more of a cat person, too. I wish I weren’t allergic, because I would really love the company! I can see why you wouldn’t want small children AND a puppy running around, though. :)

          • I know. Those poor gerbils. We tried to be nice (we weren’t too young, we didn’t try to squish them or anything) but they just weren’t made to be cuddled. But we took good care of them, anyway, they both lived for more than 3 years :)

            Aww a pygmy chameleon!? Anything tiny is cute, even lizards ;)

            UGH I don’t know how dog and cat owners handle having their babies around their pets. I’m not super-fussy when it comes to cleanliness (we let the kid roam around on the lawn and all) but until the kids grow up a bit, they ALWAYS put stuff in their mouths. I know you can vacuum every day but dog/cat hairs still end up on the floor and furniture and I can imagine a baby crawling right through that mess, picking up stray crumbs with wet, sticky fingers, and putting their hands back into their mouths, chewing on the animal hair. *shudder*

  • Lynn Williams

    I love that you included the Gaiman – I thought about it and couldn’t make my mind up! Nice.
    Lynn :D

    • Yeah, I read Stardust for the first time in 2014 and I really liked it! It’s such a short novel and a standalone but so interesting and well-rounded.

  • I really need to read Liveship Traders – that description of how the boats get their personalities is most intriguing. And I forgot about the Durmstrang students arriving by ship – that was EPIC.

    I generally get seasick, like you, but I like kayaking and canoeing! And I married an east coast Canadian so we go lobster fishing with his family when we visit them in summer.

    • Well, I could probably get behind lobster fishing because the result would be worth it (YUM!). You’re not Canadian, then? Do you live in Canada? I really like water – but mostly for swimming, not boating :)

      Yeah that Durmstrang ship was cool – as was Victor, swimming in the lake in February ;)

      • It’s a pretty fun experience, and certainly fun to eat afterwards! I am Canadian as well – but from the prairies. My hometown is probably at least 3000 km from ocean in every single direction, haha.

        • Jeez, the DISTANCES in Canada and the US (but especially Canada) are baffling. Danya from Fine Print said a couple of months ago that she’s taking a 9-hour bus ride and was still going to be in the same province when she finished the trip – if I drove for 3 hours in any direction in Slovenia, I’d pass the state border! :)

  • My wife also came up with a Potter one after I had pushed publish; the cave where they found the first Hoarcrux.

    • Right! Ugh, that lake was nasty. I hate water where I can’t see what’s underneath the surface and that place would have been a nightmare for me.

  • I really want to read the Liveship Traders trilogy, since I really enjoyed the Rain Wild Chronicles series and I hear it has a lot of ties to it. RWC is the only series I’ve read by Hobb, I got “stuck” too, but after book 2 of Farseer :P


    • I started with Farseers and I loved them – I think Bob of Beauty in Ruins mentioned that the second book usually gets a bit slow but that the final one is always worth it! My husband is a huge Robin Hobb fan, he’s read all but 2 books, I think, and he keeps pestering me to read more :)

  • Ooh Ooh – I really want to see a romance version of this list! I really like the ocean and boats but have similar issues as you with motion sickness. Kudos to your husband coming up with the Durmstrang boat!

    • Without checking Goodreads (WHY don’t I rate all the books I’ve read *sigh*) I’ve read two by Kresley Cole – not exactly pirates but dashing captains work as well, right? Though if you want to try Kresley Cole’s historicals, I’d recommend If You Dare, it’s better.
      Haha I misread “motion sickness” as “morning sickness” – I guess my mind’s still stuck on babies.

      • Kresley Cole is one of my favorite (or really my only favorite) writer of paranormal romance. I’m not sure I was aware she wrote any historicals – I am ALL over that! And if pirates are involved, hoo boy. I love me some pirates but I’ll try If You Dare first since you think it’s the best!

        • I really liked If You Dare and the second book in that series is cool, too, but the last one wasn’t that good. Just don’t go reading Cole’s contemporary erotica, it’s rubbish. I also didn’t like the YA series she’s writing (I only read the first part). But Immortals After Dark series is GREAT! I’m hoping for a new instalment soon. I’m very partial to her demons :)

          Have you tried J. R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood (or something) series? It takes a while to get into (mostly because the character names are crazy stupid – Rhage, Zsadist, Phury to name but a few) but I liked it.

          Molly Harper’s How To Run With a Naked Werewolf (and sequels) is also GREAT, less on the sexy side (I mean, there are some steamy scenes but less than with Cole or Ward who often border on erotica) but with much more humor (don’t let the horrible covers put you off this one).

  • I love Northern Lights/The Golden Compass forever. Still not over how mind-blowingly interesting that book is, even after a children’s lit course that focused on it. Whoaaa Durmstrang…kudos to your husband, that’s a great memory. And good point about arriving at Hogwarts from Romania…LOL.

    You’re the only person this week who picked Earthsea (that I can recall!) and that shocks me! If I knew more about the series I definitely would’ve put it on my list, but I’ve only read one of the books. Yet another series I’ve left unfinished…sigh.

    • Ohhh I’m so jealous of people in English speaking countries where you can pick such interesting courses! Ours were all stuck on the “canon” (old white males) with very few exceptions… And our kid lit course was cool but very (VERY) basic.

      I have such book amnesia when it comes to Earthsea (and Le Guin’s other series) – though I wrote my graduation paper on them! *hangs head in shame* They’re great books and I enjoyed them immensely at the time, but the details are completely gone now.