Tough Traveling – Beginnings

April 1, 2017

ToughTravelingBannerTough Traveling is back! Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn is the original mastermind of Tough Traveling. And Laura is reviving it as a monthly feature over at Fantasy Faction. What’s Tough Traveling? Pretty much, on the first of the month where we dig around to come up with examples of that month’s chosen trope in fantasy. We are using Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as our inspiration and guide. There will be link ups available over at Fantasy Faction, so join in and link up.

This weeks theme?  BEGINNINGS


The Tough Guide states that you will begin in rather poor circumstances in an unimportant corner of the continent; a kitchen menial, perhaps, or a blacksmith’s apprentice. From there, the Guide advises that ‘you will be contacted by your TOUR MENTOR (normally an elderly male MAGIC USER with much experience) who will tell you what to do, which is almost certainly to discover you are a MISSING HEIR.’


Oh, what an appropriate theme for Tough Traveling 2.0. I have to confess that for my list, I went with the most memorable, powerful or even perplexing beginnings. Something that grabs you quick. I found a good number of these matched that blurb from the Tour Guide well, but some of them may be more in spirit rather than actuality

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (The Song of the Shattered Sands, #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Also by this author: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai
Published by DAW on September 1st 2015
Pages: 592

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Twelve Kings of Sharakhai deserves mention not just because the main character, Çeda, completely fits this month’s theme, but also because the beginning of this book absolutely kicks ass. When I see BEGINNINGS in all-caps, I immediately think of how Çeda’s opening scene in the fighting pits hooked me so completely in just the first few pages. I seriously can not think of a stronger opening scene, at least not from my reading experience (I know, opinions will vary, but my opinion is this one destroys the competition). Çeda is a character who is kicks-ass not just in the literal fighting pit sense, but also with her strong willed personality and determination. You can see she is setting her life’s course on to something much grander, that she will become *somebody*, and the joy in is reading her journey to become whoever or whatever that might be.



A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) Published by Bantam on August 6th 1996
Pages: 835

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This is a different kind of beginning, to be honest. The literal beginning of this book is a terrifying scene that makes an impact, and then fades away as we meet the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens (and more). So many of these characters are young and it is beginnings of their journeys. This is an interesting one because we get a number of perspectives and it feels like they could all have their own journey to something greater or bigger, perhaps more evil in some cases, but then, they also feel like they could end up lower in life than they started. I don’t know that they all qualify for having a mentor, most of them seem to appear quite alone on their journeys. But they can learn from experience and from others, they just have to hope to learn enough to survive the game of thrones, whether they are playing or are merely pawns. Hopefully one day we will get some answers for how things pan out for them all.

(yes, my image is from the show, but it felt more fun than the book cover)



The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
Also by this author: The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Published by Penguin Group DAW Hardcover on March 27th 2007
Pages: 662

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This one was a no-brainer. If there was ever a character destined for something, it has to be Kvothe. The beginning of this book is absolutely heart wrenching. Kvothe has some serious up-hill battles, but he’s Kvothe. Magic and music and fighting, and well, just about everything except finding Denna,  come so natural for Kvothe, and with a little help and guidance and training, he is set for something big.



The Thorn of Dentonhill (Maradaine, #1) by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Also by this author: The Thorn of Dentonhill
Published by DAW on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 400

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When we meet Veranix Calbert, he is a new magic student at the University of Maradaine. But we quickly find out learning magic is not the only thing driving Veranix. He is also set on vengeance for his mother, and it just turns out that their is local gang activity that deals in the trade of the drug that stole his mother’s mind. His studies by day in the halls of the magic school and his quest for vengeance roaming the streets and rooftops of Maradaine at night are just beginning.




The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1) by Scott Lynch
Also by this author: The Republic of Thieves
Published by Bantam Spectra on July 27th 2006
Pages: 499

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Locke Lamora in some ways is the stereo typical orphan on his own in the harsh world, desperate and quite alone. It quickly becomes apparent that Locke, despite his young age, small size, not to mention his complete lack of magical ability or fighting skills, has some serious survival skills. Luckily he finds himself not only with a band of orphans, but also quite the mentor in Father Chains, who fosters and encourages his love of all the things involved in a con.


  • Nathan (@reviewbarn) April 1, 2017 at 1:08 am

    Didn’t think about Locke. Him being dragged to Father Chains was absolutely a stand out beginning. Doesn’t it feel great to have this old thing revived? Here is hoping it brings a whole new group of bloggers together like the old one did.

  • Laura M Hughes April 1, 2017 at 3:57 am

    Gotta love that old familiar feeling of ‘Ahhhh, damn – why didn’t I think of that one???’ ;D

  • Lynn April 1, 2017 at 6:21 am

    Great list – and I love that you’ve got GoT on here Lisa!
    Plus Kvothe – what an excellent beginning – I so wish we could have the final instalment.
    Lynn 😀

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader) April 1, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      I know! I keep hoping that one of these days we will 🙂 And you know me, I put GoT on most all of my Tough Traveling posts. 🙂 That book/series fits pretty much all tropes (and yet doesn’t feel tropey when you read it)
      Lisa (@TenaciousReader) recently posted…News – 2017 r/Fantasy Bingo RevealedMy Profile

  • Evelina April 1, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Ooh, this is a great post series 🙂 gonna enjoy this one. Too bad I haven’t read any of those books yet to relate.
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  • Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum April 1, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    Locke Lamora fits this theme perfectly! I also need to catch up with the main Maradaine series. Something tells me Veranix can be his own magic mentor 😀
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Tough Traveling: BeginningsMy Profile

  • Maddalena@spaceandsorcery April 2, 2017 at 5:17 am

    A Game of Thrones, indeed! If there is an amazing beginning it is this book, the one that hooked me on the series that made me return to fantasy after a long time. Now let’s hope that the long-awaited end is not too far away… 😀 😀
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  • Wendy B April 2, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Locke’s beginnings… lol! I’ve loaned my copy to a friend and am eager to hear what she thinks of it.

  • Greg April 2, 2017 at 8:49 pm

    I so agree with the Game of Thrones one. That beginning is just so chilling (and not from the cold)! Well partly the cold… and I’ve heard the Sharakhai beginning is quite intense!
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