Tag Archives: tough travels

Tough Travels: Cons and Heists

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!

After two weeks of zero inspiration, I was very, very glad to see this week’s topic: CONS or HEISTS: Smash and grabs are not always the best way to illicitly acquire objects in Fantasyland. Sometimes these things take planning, a loyal crew, and a bit of luck. But a good crew can always get the job done.

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Can I just say I have a soft spot for thiefs? And other slightly-less-than-sparkly characters. If they come with the brains to pull off a long con – well, consider me in love.

  1. thorn-of-emberlain-scott-lynchI’m OBVIOUSLY including The Lies of Locke Lamora and the two sequels by Scott Lynch, each of which features a glorious thieving scheme. Locke and his crew are my favourite scoundrels and I still feel like bouncing whenever I think of The Thorn of Emberlain that’s coming this fall.
  2. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Bilbo Baggins joins the dwarves on their mission to take back the Lonely Mountain, the long-lost dwarvish kingdom. His role is to be that of a burglar or thief, because he’s small and silent and supposedly cunning. I really liked that scene where he crawls into Smaug’s lair, invisible, and plays word games with the dragon.
  3. Vicious by V. E. Schwab. Ok this one has nothing to do with thievery but it does feature a con that involves dealing with a siren, bending space and time, and other dangerous things. I can’t say anything more but Victor Vale is one of my favourite (non-)villains ever (haha, Ever, get it?).
  4. white-cat-holly-blackWhite Cat by Holly Black. I finished this one in 4 hours, I think, and it’s great! Cassel is SUCH a great character and though I’d cheerfully murder most of his family, they do have the knack for conning people. They’re workers (they work magic) but they also employ other tactics to get what they want.
  5. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (my review here). Ok so maybe this wasn’t my favourite book in the world but Eugenides is a great thief and knows the purpose of a long con (Like a reeeeeally long con. Ugh.). I still don’t know if I’ll be reading the rest of the series though I was assured it’s better than the first book!

 

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Which sticky-fingered individual have I missed? 

What awesome scheme would fit onto my list?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: Moms

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!

It appears Mother’s Day is coming up in the US, so we’re looking for MOMS this week. While we celebrated Mother’s Day back in March in Slovenia, this topic is dear to me because I’m a new mom (since September) and I’m still trying to figure out what this means, exactly. I suspect this will be a life-long process…

Anyway, these examples include both great characters and some particularly nasty ones – in terms of their personalities. I’m wary of judging them as mothers, because it’s difficult to say what “good parenting” is – is it really wrong to do absolutely everything for your child? Probably, but there are people who would argue with me on this. I tried to sort them a bit – based on how they are portrayed – we’ll see how that goes!

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Absent mothers – either dead or missing or just plain disinterested in the lives of their children.

  • harry-potter-sorcerers-stoneLily Potter, Harry Potter’s mom. She sacrificed herself and died for her infant son, which vanquished Voldemord’s power. Ah, the mother who sacrifices herself. What a common trope! Too common, if you ask me – how often do we get dads perform similar selfless acts?
  • Katniss’s mom from The Hunger Games – after the death of her husband, Katniss’s mom sunk into a deep depression, forcing Katniss to provide for her family, especially her younger sister, Prim. I didn’t really like how this was portrayed – while it’s dreadful that Katniss had to hunt and that they nearly starved to death, depression isn’t something one embraces willingly.
  • Jocelyn Frey, Clary Frey’s mom from The City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – Jocelyn drinks this potion that puts her into a coma and is then kidnapped by her crazy husband, leaving Clary with no clue what is happening – because Jocelyn has been hiding her true heritage from her. SURPRISE! This was a supremely bad idea since the heritage came and bit Clary in the butt.
  • Laurian, Kvothe’s mom from The Kingkiller Chronicle – she was beautiful and had an amazing voice, but I particularly liked her wit and the affection she showed her son and husband.

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Rather average, well-adjusted mothers – I have no idea how to phrase this without using the word “normal” which is so problematic sometimes but you know what I mean, right? There aren’t that many of them that I could remember!

  • name-of-the-windCatelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire – well, before she… ummm… met her very weird fate, she was as good a mother and person as she could be considering she lived in a world where everyone conspired to kill off all her children – and her husband.
  • The Golden Queen, Yarvi’s mom from Half a King and Half the World – not the most affectionate of mothers, true, but she did care for her son and I liked how she ruled her financial empire.
  • Queen Kettricken, Prince Dutiful’s mom, from The Farseer trilogy (and subsequent books) by Robin Hobb. This one was my husband’s addition to the list – I only read the first trilogy so I really only experienced her as a wife and queen but I liked her immensely as a character.
  • Molly Weasley, mother of seven Weasleys, from Harry Potter – she was always portrayed as this (stereo)typical stay-at-home mom, always washing socks and listening to cooking advice on the radio, but in Deathly Hallows, and especially in the Battle of Hogwarts, she shows her badass self!

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Batshit crazy mothers – those who are just plain bad people, and would probably would have been nasty even without kids.

  • angelfall-susan-eeCersei Lannister from A Song of Ice and Fire – OK, so she is definitely one of those “I did everything for my children” types. But was it really necessary to kill so many people while you were taking care of your precious golden-haired babies? She’s a wonderfully complex character, Cersei, but I wouldn’t want to cross paths with her.
  • Lysa Arryn from A Song of Ice and Fire – another example of Martin’s weird mothers. Throwing people through a hole in the floor so they plummet to their deaths is a favourite pastime of this neurotic, delusional lady.
  • Penryn’s mom from Angelfall – weeeelll, this one really is mad. OR IS SHE??!! She certainly feels crazy, what with the gruesome corpse-mutilating and collecting rotten eggs and whispering to the demons. But she has her lucid moments and she’s probably the most scary when she makes sense.

If you want more reading about moms in SFF, I think this week-long event on Book Punks should be interesting!

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Tell me, which mothers would you add to my list?

Do you disagree with my sorting?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: The Big City

tough travelsSo I’m participating in this week’s Tough Travels meme again – hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, this is one great way to explore Fantasyland and create lists, YAY! Don’t forget to go and check out what other participating bloggers have put on their lists – my tbr expands every week because of them! :)

Join us on our quest today because we’re having fun in THE BIG CITY: there has to be somewhere in Fantasyland where everyone comes together. All roads lead to Rome, after all! A place where traders prosper, politicians scheme, and criminals thrive.

Soundtrack!

Ooh, I love a well-constructed city. I had to decide on epic fantasy only (as in, only fantasy that takes place in a secondary world) because including urban/paranormal fantasy would basically mean enumerating all the major cities in the US and some in the UK and we’d be done with it. Not that I don’t love those – urban/paranormal fantasies are the reason I want to travel to some of those places. Someday soon, I hope! But these would be on my to-go list if I could get there:

  • Camorr from The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. Well! This one made the top of my list easily. I’d have to be armed – heavily – to venture there, though, because thieves and other unsavory characters roam the streets. But I’d love to float down the smelly canals, watching the terraces with alchemically enhanced orange trees, listening to the merchants haggle over their wares. Camorr seems to be inspired by Venice, which is only a 3-hour drive from where I live. It’s a pretty amazing city.
  • magicians-guild-trudi-canavanImardin from The Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canvan. Oh, I binge-read this series several years ago and I liked it quite a lot! Not very imaginative but great fun nevertheless. Sonea lives in Imardin, which has a huge slum and then it has this rich part where the nobles live, and a whole section which is reserved for the Magician’s Guild. There’s a lot of running around in secret tunnels which connect much of the city, and the thieves are prosperous there.
  • Tronjheim from The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini. I know it’s not exactly a metropolis but this dwarvish city is located inside a mountain so high, even dragons can’t fly into it from the top (the top is hollowed out like a volcano if I remember correctly).
  • hunger-games-suzanne-collinsKing’s Landing from The Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. This is the real deal – it has everything from the palace, the sept, the brothels, the street urchins, the city watch… And it’s really hot and sweltering, so tempers run high and everybody sweats a lot.
  • Capitol from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Eh, this one strays from the “epic fantasy” rule a bit but never mind. Capitol is the embodiment of Panem’s corruption. Its inhabitants are spoiled, pampered, and favor really weird fashion choices. The parties are extravagant, the colours bright, but its underbelly is darker than it seems.

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Which great city have I missed? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Don’t forget to check out my giveaway!

Tough Travels: The Ace

tough travelsSo I’m participating in this week’s Tough Travels meme again – hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, this is one great way to explore Fantasyland and create lists, YAY! Don’t forget to go and check out what other participating bloggers have put on their lists – my tbr expands every week because of them! :)

This week, we’re searching for THE ACE: Some people are just ridiculously good at everything. Be it magic, swordplay, or all of the above. The Ace has no equal. So what we’re really looking for are douchebags of the magical variety? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see. I marked my choices with a (+) if I like the (wo)man, and a (-) if (s)he gets on my nerves.

Soundtrack (not really related but the topic reminded me of this and I don’t need an excuse to have you listen to Iron Maiden so there).

throne-of-glass(+) Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  SPOILERS FOR ALL BOOKS!! She’s a kick-ass assassin (haha she said ass), she wins a tournament in which all of the other participants are men (murderers, mercenaries, thieves, and other unsavoury characters), is a long-lost heir to the kingdom, can manipulate fire, is half-fae and is gorgeous in addition to all that. So yeah, she qualifies, but although it took me two books to warm up to her, I really liked her by the end of Heir of Fire. (review + review)

(-) Atticus O’Sullivan from Hounded by Kevin Hearne. Ahh, Atticus. He can suck power from the earth to heal himself, has a big, big, manly sword, is a favourite of the ladies, can kill Fae warriors, and even takes on a god. (review)

(-) Kelsier from Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Well, he’s really gifted, can jump across roofs, has a saviour complex, and is really adept at manipulating others. He also escaped from slavery (or something) and is beloved by all. Ugh. 

(+/-) Harry Dresden from Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Harry… I’m still on the fence about him. We have Book 2 already bought so I’ll probably give him another shot. He has a solution to every problem, fancies himself to be a ladies’ man, and has both a blasting rod and a wizard’s staff. Can we stop with the phallic imagery now, please? Really. (review)

(+) Legolas from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I know, I know, not a conventional choice. But think about it! He’s a prince, immortal, very pretty, amazing with a bow, can run for miles and miles, and still has pretty hair in the end!!

divergent-veronica-roth(+/-) Tris Prior from Divergent by Veronica Roth. Well, she’s not technically magical in any way but she’s Divergent, meaning she doesn’t fit into any of the factions (I just found out why because I’m currently reading Allegiant and it’s… GAH it’s underwhelming and I want to smack Tobias in the face ALL THE TIME.), she’s so brave and fast and badass and selfless and hot and likeable and everythingallatonce! The jury is still out on this one.

(+) Kvothe the Bloodless from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Ha. BUT HE DOESN’T FIT, you’ll say – and he doesn’t, not really, but his 16-year-old self would like to think he does. As a highly unreliable narrator, we see Kvothe as the youngest, possibly the most tallented student at the University, a brave young man, a fantastic musician, and a great storyteller. I’m listing him because he so desperately wants to be all that but we’ll see what really happened in the last book.

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This is all from me today, so tell me: which jack-of-all-trades did I miss? Who belongs on this list?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: Awesome Displays of Magic

tough travelsSo I’m participating in this week’s Tough Travels meme again – hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, this is one great way to explore Fantasyland and create lists, YAY! Don’t forget to go and check out what other participating bloggers have put on their lists – my tbr expands every week because of them! :)

This week’s going to be grand because we’re looking for AWESOME DISPLAYS OF MAGIC: Sometimes magic can be subtle but here we’re looking for things that go BANG! 

Let me just say… I’m not a huge fan of epic epicness. This goes for worldbuilding as well as action itself – not that I don’t like an action-packed story but I prefer my magic with a cost and all that. BUT! I do love a good bang sometimes and these examples are a testament to the fact that anything is possible in fantasy.

  1. harry-potter-deathly-hallowsThe Battle of Howgarts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think this is the most epically epic scene from HP (rivaled, perhaps, by the visit to the Hall of the Prophecies (or whatever it’s called)). It’s crucial and important and SAD and really well done. Minerva McGonagall is the best. That lady has style.
  2. The Gandalf + Balrog scene from LOTRMy memory of this is severly tainted by the movie version but I still think breaking the bridge of Khazad-dûm counts as awesome. I’d run like hell if faced with a flaming beast so kudos to Gandalf for staying put and protecting the others.
  3. That cage thingy that half-dragons make in Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. SPOILER ALERT!! Well, the basics of this type of magic are known in the beginning of this sequel to Seraphina – when half-dragons link their minds, they can create a shield that can withstand a dragon attack. Its span depends on the strength and number of the half-dragons. The most important demonstration of this comes along right at the end of the book and nearly causes a massive disaster that would result in huge numbers of casualties on both human and dragon sides of the war.
  4. daughter-smoke-bone-laini-taylorSirithar from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. This is a state of complete focus and clarity that Akiva sometimes achieves (I can’t go into the triggers because it would spoil everything) and it’s usually followed by devastation of some sort. It’s not something he can control and he basically knows nothing about it, but it’s pretty damn powerful.
  5. Claire’s trip to the past from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I know there were no explosions involved and that it took Claire a while to realize what had happened, but time travel is pretty darn awe-inspiring (I guess I could include any number of time-travelling books here? Or portal fantasy?).
  6. I’m relatively certain there were a number of cases where Rand from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series did crazy things but I’m sad to say I can’t remember the specifics. There was the test in the Aiel desert, there was the shiny sword thing, and a number of others. Hell, the magic users in that series managed to break the world. That deserves a mention, though why they wanted to do that escapes me.

I know this topic is probably better suited to lovers of epic fantasy (not that I don’t like epic, I just have my doubts about epic epic fantasy – gah, I’m not making sense anymore, am I?), but I hope these suffice.

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Which amazing achievements of various witches and wizards have I forgotten to include this week? What would you add to my list?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: Unique Flora

tough travelsSo I’m participating in this week’s Tough Travels meme again – hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, this is one great way to explore Fantasyland and create lists, YAY! Don’t forget to go and check out what other participating bloggers have put on their lists – my tbr expands every week because of them! :)

This week’s going to be cool, I can tell. We’re off to Fantasyland in search of UNIQUE FLORA: If you know a plant that is either not on Earth, or doesn’t act the same way in Fantasyland as it does on Earth, then you can consider it unique. Have fun. Thank you, Nathan, so I shall.

Let me just say here that I considered doing the entire list based on the Harry Potter novels. I think there’s a compendium of the magical plants out there somewhere (I don’t have it), but there are so many I remembered immediately. For the sake of diversity, however, I only chose the best ones.

  • Gillyweed from HP. There is NO WAY IN HELL you would get me to eat that. It’s described as similar to rat’s tails which I translate to “looks like worms” and I’d rather hold my breath for an hour than eat that, seriously. EW.
  • The Whomping Willow from HP. That is one nasty-tempered tree. I completely understand that it holds a grudge against Harry and Ron, seeing as how they crashed the flying car into it.
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    My thoughts exactly, Ronald.

    Mandrake/Mandragora from HPThey look like ugly babies with leaves attached, their scream can knock you dead (or unconscious if you’re lucky) and they can be stewed and made into a potion that heals the victims of petrification. Still, I’d rather keep them out of my garden.

  • Snozzcumbers from The BFG by Roald Dahl. I don’t know that these are magical in any way but I remember the BFG eating them with considerable reluctance – they were the only alternative for a giant who didn’t want to munch on little kids. I actually remember them as “smrkumare”, because I only read this in the Slovenian translation. I have the English edition at home and will be reading it soon.
  • Athelas/kingsfoil and pipe weed from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. Athelas is a healing plant that counteracts the evil Nazgul wounds (and black breath? I forgot all about that.) and is used to heal Frodo, Merry, Eowyn and Faramir. And probably a bunch of other people, too. Pipe weed is like tobacco but everyone’s mighty relaxed when they’re puffing on their pipes, so I suspect a different type of plant entirely. I wanted to include the ents but I strongly suggest you think twice before calling them simple plants because they might squish you like an orc.
  • The weirwood trees from ASOIAF by George R. R. Martin. I liked these old trees very much, they seem so mysterious and wonderful, what with their red leaves and bone-white bark. They also remind me of Mother Willow (minus the cute raccoon).

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Which weird plant have I fogotten? What would you add to my list?

I’d love to hear from you! :)