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The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, Diana Wynne Jones, Vista Publishing, 1996, ISBN 9780575601062, 223pp.

Read the latest Robert Jordan, David Eddings, or Terry Brooks door-stop and decide that you could write a fantasy soap opera just as well? Or maybe those authors drive you insane and you want to turn the fantasy genre on its head? The solution to both of these tasks can be found in this strange book from Diana Wynne Jones, better known for writing original children’s fantasies of her own. Her secret, contained herein, seems to have been a long study of fantasy literature, and noted what has become cliched. In this book, all the tropes are dissected and cross-referenced. A better title would have been “A Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Schlock, with annotations.”

As a book to read straight through, it is not as rewarding. The entries are listed alphabetically, with small caps indicating a term with its own entry. Little icons appear in the margins–these don’t mean anything per se, but are usually little graphic jokes on the text. The text itself is quite amusing, especially if one is familiar with the subject being pilloried.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to all, but fans of fantasy should find enough here for their monies worth of chuckles. Would-be writers will find this an indispensable reference work.

[Finished 14 March 1998]


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