The Tough Guide to Fantasyland

by Diana Wynne Jones
234 pages, Fantasy
Reviewed by Linor

Hilarious read, but with some mature content.


There really is no PLOT to speak of. This is a tongue-in-cheek dictionary of things that you will find in your average fantasy novel. It is written as a travel guide to would-be characters, cleverly poking fun at cliches and loop-holes with definitions such as the following -

"Stew (the Official Management Terms are thick and savoury, which translate as "viscous" and "dark brown") is the staple Food in Fantasyland, so be warned. You may shortly be longing passionately for omelette, steak or baked beans, but none of these will be forthcoming, indoors or out. Stew will be what you are served to eat every single time. Given the disturbed nature of life in this land, where in Camp you are likely to be attacked without warning (but see 'Bath') and in an Inn prone to be the centre of a Tavern Brawl, Stew seems to be an odd choice as staple food, since, on a rough calculation, it takes forty times as long to prepare as steak. But it is clear the inhabitants have not yet discovered fast food. The exact recipe for Stew is of course a Management secret, but it is thought to contain meat of some kind and perhaps even vegetables. Do not expect a salad on the side.


Practically non-existent (see Plot), as there are no real characters. However "Good" is defined as anyone on your side, and "Evil" as anything bad that you will encounter and ultimately defeat.

Spiritual Content

Magic is in abundance, and often classified as evil. There are wizards, but not as characters, simply as beings that are often in fantasy novels.

Gods and goddesses are also defined, but almost always in the pagan sense, more like super-natural beings than the true God.


None graphic, and normally comically mentioned as something that no trip to Fantasyland can avoid.

Torture is also defined as something that will happen, but "The Management blanks their minds on the details afterward."

Drug and Alcohol Content

A reference here and there to beer and and wine and possibly some veiled references to things that might happen under its influence.

Sexual Content

More than I expected. While nothing is graphic, there is quite a bit of innuendo, and it is expected that the majority of the Travelers do not guard their purity as they should. Also it is mentioned in a couple of places that that long haired companion may be a homosexual. Raping is also mentioned as a form of torture, though not graphic in any way.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

There is a scattering of mild oaths throughout.


I did find "The Tough Guide" to be a read that had me laughing out loud at times and nodding my head at favorite cliches at others. However, the innuendo spoiled some of that enjoyment, and because of that I would only recommend it to a mature reader with a warning, as a fluffy addition to a steady diet of classics and strong Christian literature.

Fun Score: 4.5
Values Score: 2.5
Written for Age: adult

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