Diana Wynne Jones,
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland
(DAW, 1996)

Wondering what to pack for your tour in Fantasyland? Uncertain of what to expect when confronted by a dragon? Curious as to what you're going to eat on your tour?

Consult Toughpick.

"Toughpick" is the main section of Diana Wynne Jones' funny, tongue-jammed-in-cheek The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, an A - Z compendium in which Jones pokes good-natured fun at all of the elements of your average high fantasy. Furthermore, she manages to hit every cliche and every derived idea ever written.

A quote from Ka'a Oort'o's Gnomic Utterances begins each section, and the astute reader will note that each quote begins with the letter of the alphabet for that section. (Of course, now that I've pointed that out, the not-so-astute readers will now notice it as well, while the truly astute readers who would have noticed it are now complaining bitterly. I suggest they take it up with Management.) Sprinkled throughout each entry are words printed in small capital letters, which refer to other entries (making it impossible to read it straight through) and Official Management Terms printed in italics. The Official Management Terms are usually indicated with a symbol: the letters "OMT" inside an oval. These are phrases such as "thick" and "savory" to describe stew or "swirling" and "dripping" to describe cloaks; they are the stock phrases familiar to any fantasy reader.

Even if one is not planning a trip to Fantasyland, reading this book is most edifying. One learns that there are two kinds of princesses, wimps or spirited and willful, that horses don't seem to need care or rest, that there are amazingly few insects and domestic animals in Fantasyland, and that no one seems to wear socks, among other interesting and giggle-inducing entries in the book. (If you want to know the answer to these questions: Consult Toughpick.)

Buy a copy for your favorite fantasy reader, but while you're at it, buy one for yourself. You'll probably need it.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

Buy The Tough Guide to Fantasyland from Amazon.com.