The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
by Diana Wynne Jones
Review by Gayle Surrette
Puffin Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0142407224
Date: 05 October, 2006 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Okay, I have to admit I missed this gem the first time it appeared in print. So, I can't tell you how much it's been revised or added to. However, I can tell you that after reading The Tough Guide to FANTASYLAND, you'll never be able to read another fantasy again, especially the standard quest tales, without harking back to the Guide. Jones takes a look at the fantasy genre and then extracts the common elements and presents them as you'd find in a standard guidebook to any country on Earth.
The problem or the joy of this book is that you find you knew this subjectively, she's just pulled it out for everyone to see. The section on clothing was an eye opener. Think back on the fantasy you've read. Okay, now take cloaks. "On horseback they leave the shirt-sleeved arms and most of the torso exposed to wind and weather". She goes over the drawback and the pluses of cloaks (everyone looks great from the back). I just don't think I can see fantasy realms in the same way again. For those of you who have watched 10th Kingdom and enjoyed the tongue firmly implanted in cheek twists to the old tales, well you know what I mean.
Jones deconstructs fantasyland to its bare bones and displays the incongruities and tropes for all to see. Once you read through the 'guide' book, you'll have a better idea of when an author strays out of the known universe and sets out to do something new and exciting. You'll have a feel for those authors that play a bit with the standard fare of fantasy and those that cleave to the straight and narrow. But even more you'll get a few good laughs as well as some food for thought.