Tough Traveling – Chessmasters

February 26, 2015

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? CHESSMASTERS

A true master knows where all the pieces are at all times. Others may think they have taken control but alas, the master knew their last move before they played it.


GameOfThronesCoverLittle Finger (aka Petyr Baelish) from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

His nickname may come from being from being from The Fingers, but it could just have easily have come from having his fingers in everything. But he’s sneaky about it, and I think the other characters underestimate his level of chess mastery.



ClashOfKingsCoverVarys (aka The Spider) from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin

Sorry! I am not stopping at just one ASoIaF reference, because VARYS! Varys, with all of his little birds speaking in his ear has got to be the most informed person in Westeros (and beyond). And with information, comes the possibility of control and manipulation. He knows where to make his move, because he knows what everyone else is planning.



902715-2Bayaz from the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Speaking of all-knowing and having eyes and ears everywhere! We can’t forget Bayaz, the wizard who I think schemes as often as he breathes. Bayaz is definitely a schemer and a meddler, you’d be a fool to think he wasn’t playing the game to win.



RedRisingbyPierceBrownAres from The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

It takes a crafty sort of person to organize a resistance to bring down the ruling class in a dystopian setting. You have to give Ares props for crafting the opportunities to get someone from the lowest cast into the circle of the highest cast. And to top that off, he selected someone with the perfect personality to not just fit in, but thrive, and also have the personal drive to stay on task to tear down society.



6437770The Fool from Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

Don’t let the name fool you! (no pun intended, I swear!) The Fool may be introduced as a kind of court jester, but this character is so, so much more than that.


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Honorable Mention:

TheMartianCoverMark Watney from The Martian by Andy Weir

OK, I know this is not at all what people think of when they hear chess master. They are thinking of characters like the ones I mentioned above. The ones that learn secrets, manipulate people and events, all with some end goal in mind. Mark Watney is stranded on a planet COMPLETELY BY HIMSELF! There is no one to manipulate, no political games (well, unless you count conversations with NASA, which maybe…). But, Watney is the master of knowing pretty much everything, and manipulating every last scrap of fabric and piece of poo to gain his end goal of getting the hell off that planet and back to earth.