Guide Book · Nonfiction · review · Satire

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

47510Paperback, 234 pages
Published October 5th 2006 by Firebird
Source: Purchased

Imagine that all fantasy novels—the ones featuring dragons, knights, wizards, and magic—are set in the same place. That place is called Fantasyland. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland is your travel guide, a handbook to everything you might find: Evil, the Dark Lord, Stew, Boots (but not Socks), and what passes for Economics and Ecology. Both a hilarious send-up of the cliches of the genre and an indispensable guide for writers, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland has been nearly impossible to find for years. Now this cult classic is back, and readers can experience Diana Wynne Jones at her very best: incisive, funny, and wildly imaginative. This is the definitive edition of The Tough Guide, featuring a new map, an entirely new design, and additional material written for it by Diana Wynne Jones.


Diana Wynne Jones’ legacy lives on even when she is gone. My friend Janet insisted that I read this book when she found out that I am writing a fantasy novel because according to her every person who writes, has written or is thinking of writing a fantasy novel needs to read this guide to it.

The book is a compendium of peoples, places and tropes found in Fantasyland. This is all fine and nothing new because there are other books that do the same thing but what sets this book apart from others is the humour in it. I chuckled out loud in public while reading this and snorted a bit too when I reached the section on colour coding. The slim volume goes over everything from Bathing in Fantasyland to Vestigial Empires in Fantasyland.

Some of my favourite entries are for the colour coding and the eternal quest. There is also the ingenious “OMT” which is short for Official Management Terms, in other words, clichés or phrases most often utilized by writers (the management) to describe something. I had a lot of fun reading this and would recommend it to anyone who is writing a book or anyone who has read enough fantasy to recognize the tropes and characters cropping up most often in it.

“Slender Youth. A tour companion who may be either a lost prince or a girl/princess in disguise. In the latter case it is tactful to pretend you think she is a boy. She/he will be ignorant, hasty and shy, and will need hauling out of trouble quite a lot. But she/he will grow up in the course of the Tour. In fact she/he will be the only Companion who will change in any way. Quite often, she/he will soon exhibit a very useful talent for magic and end up by hauling everyone else out of trouble. But this will not be until midway through your second brochure.”
Diana Wynne Jones, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland


3 thoughts on “The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

  1. I’ve been trying to find some good books on writing recently, and this sounds just perfect. Even more so because fantasy is the main genre I prefer to write as well. I’m intrigued to see what Jones’ humor is like – I feel like I just didn’t get it from Fire and Hemlock. I’ll definitely have to check this out. Thanks for the helpful review!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s