Tough Traveling – Invisible College (hidden schools)

June 5, 2014


Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn is the mastermind of Tough Traveling. What’s Tough Traveling? Pretty much, it’s a weekly feature on Thursdays where we dig around to come up with examples of common tropes in fantasy, using Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as our inspiration and guide. Nathan has invited one and all to join in the fun, so feel free to come up with your own lists and add the link on Nathan’s weekly post, which will also contain (unleash) the next weeks theme. So let the fun begin …

This weeks theme? Invisible College

Invisible College is used for training WIZARDS and usually occupies a prime site in some major CITY. Once you have penetrated its invisible exterior, you will find it has the usual features of an Oxbridge college – dining hall, buttery, library, towers, lecture rooms, tutors, and even students – but all a little skewed. The Rule here is that, if something magical could possibly go wrong, it will. Be prepared for the Universe to split and for colored explosions, levitating towers, and tutors in ANIMAL form.

This was a nice in between theme. I really couldn’t think of tons of examples (I ruled out a number of magic schools because they were not hidden), but I didn’t feel as hard pressed to come up with examples as I did for some others. So here it is, I think there is a decent range of examples, they are not all exactly the same thing, but to be honest, this week was a little harder than I expected. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone else’s lists!

  • tumblr_mo2snl2hiz1sua88ko1_1280Hogwarts from Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling – Do I need to even give an explanation for this selection? Just incase anyone lives under a rock, and is completely unaware of Hogwarts (avoiding not just the books, but also the movies, and all the 10 year olds (and adults) that read them. Oh, and Universal Studios as well as the actual Kings Cross trains station in London where you can get your picture taken at Platform 9 3/4), Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is a magical school hidden from muggles (non-magic folk). There, kids learn all sorts of magic, much of which goes wrong, and hilarity ensues.


  • 6101718Brakesbill from The Magicians by Lev Grossman – ahh, yes. Too old for Hogwarts? Want a more adult atmosphere with drink and drugs and debauchery? Well, Brakesbill is the place for you! I have heard it described as a cross between Hogwarts and Narnia, and can understand why, but this is a much darker book and place. And Quentin Coldwater is definitely not Harry Potter.



  • 17910124Training at Monastery in Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley – While not protected by magic, this school is located in a remote region of the mountains. Knowledge of the exact location is reserved to a precious few people that live outside of it. The training here is brutal, unlike anything I would expect from a school, much less a school of monks. But, if you are the heir to the Unhewn Throne, tradition dictates you do your learning here.



  • 77138School for Wizards on Roke in Earthsea Cycle by Ursula Le Guin – The school sits on the island of Roke that is protected by magic. Winds and waves will prevent any visitors that are not welcome. I’m not entirely sure it this is ‘hidden’, but it is protected to the point that uninvited wanna be visitors will be unable to even get close enough to glimpse it.




  • 21858453The Chromeria from The Black Prism by Brent Weeks – This is another school of magic with an island location, making it remote and inaccessible. Color is of utmost importance at this school where magic is drawn from colors and a person’s magical affinities are usually tied to just one, sometime two, rarely three. Any more than that, and you get the full spectrum and enough magical ability to the Prism.



cover35671-mediumHonorable Mention: Melanie’s School from The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – This is a top secret school that I don’t think even has a name (so I just called it Melanie’s school after the main character). This is also not the type of school you would want to find yourself a part of. The kids are held at gunpoint, and restrained whenever they are not in their cells. Definitely not Hogwarts. It is also not a school of magic and no hilarity is likely to ensue here.









  • Nathan (@reviewbarn) June 5, 2014 at 12:09 am

    Doh! Doh!

    Two of five the same. But I kinda knew that would happen. I had a tough time thinking outside of the obvious this time around. Not sure why, everyone of my choices was a fairly big name.

    I am finally reading (listening) Earthsea, at least the first book. Another of those I missed out on in childhood.
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  • Mogsy June 5, 2014 at 12:45 am

    YES! I am actually reading The Magicians right now…about 10% in and I’m like hey now, I can use this book for this week’s Tough Traveling! And it’s like perfect for it! What a happy coincidence 😀
    Mogsy recently posted…Tough Traveling: Invisible Colleges (Or Hard-to-Reach/Difficult to Gain Admission)My Profile

  • Lynn June 5, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Ohh – I have Black Prism and so want to read it but it looks such a huge ass chunkster! I did buy it though so I need to fit it in. The Magicians – actually got a copy out from the library and then didn’t read it! Doh – so, should I get this back out again?? I try and get some of my books from the library whenever possible – but I’m not good at scheduling so I usually end up with 8 at the same time and then nothing for the next 3 months! I did think of putting The Girl with All the Gifts on my list but I got kind of hung up on the magical thing!
    Lynn 😀
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    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) June 5, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      Heh, that’s the benefit of ebooks, there’s little size intimidation. I am often quite surprised when I goto the bookstore or library and see the sheer size of some of the books I have read. And I really enjoyed The Magicians, but it is definitely a marmite books. It is much darker than many people suspect.
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  • Maija's Fantasy Reads June 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Yay, you had Roke, too! I read the first three Earthsea books so many times as a kid, and I’m thinking about re-reading them this year.

    The Magicians is on so many lists – it’s on my TBR, but I really want to get to it soon. It seems to be a love it or hate it kind of book, I’m interested to see what I think of it.
    Maija’s Fantasy Reads recently posted…Magical Schools in FantasyMy Profile

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) June 5, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      I read the first Earthsea book with a book club this year. I was actually a bit ho-hum about it. I think if I had read it when I was younger, I would have enjoyed it much more. Hope you enjoy The Magicians. Would be a good time to try it out, the 3rd book comes out this summer.
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      • Maija's Fantasy Reads June 6, 2014 at 6:55 am

        There’s definitely an air of nostalgia whenever I reread the Earthsea books. Oh, it’s great to know that the third Magicians book is coming out soon!
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  • Tabitha (Not Yet Read) June 5, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Ooo honorable mention for Girl with all the Gifts! Sweet I just picked that one up last week – so I’m looking forward to it. Also going to be reading The Magicians soon. And no one can deny Hogwarts! I think everyone has that one at the forefront of their minds.

    I completely forgot about Wizards of Earthsea and Emperor’s Blades is another one hopefully we’ll get to this year lol.
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