Tough Travels - Law Enforcement

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: LAW ENFORCEMENT

Seems odd to think that in fantasy cities in which entire economies revolve around crime there is room for the men in blue (or crimson, or whatever). But the law does the best it can, even when faced with magic, mystical creatures, or rogue deities.

I can think of a ton of titles that come to mind, but foremost among them are The Watch novels (from Guards! Guards! to Thud!) of Terry Pratchett. Whether you're talking the City Watch or the Night Watch, it doesn't get better (or funnier) than the adventures of Commander Vimes, Captain Ironfoundersson, Corporal Nobbs, Sergeant Cheery Littlebottom, Constable Visit-the-Infidel, and Corporal Buggy Swires. They've evolved considerably since the days when a bunch of thief-takers saved the city from a dragon, becoming rather respectable and diverse, even allowing a vampire to join their ranks (the wonderfull named Lance-Constable Salacia von Humpeding)

In City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, law enforcement (or occupation) of the city of Bulikov is very much at the heart of the story. This is the story of a land conquered and oppressed by the Worldly Regulations, which outlaw the possession of divine objects and the worshiping of the old gods. What starts as a simple murder investigation soon turns into a story of rebellion, with two women standing against the tide of chaos - Shara Komayd, diplomat and spy, and Turyin Mulaghesh, soldier turned reluctant governor.

Meanwhile, Sebastien de Castell's Traitor's Blade is about the clash between law enforcement officers new and old. The Greatcoats have been disbanded, following the death of the King, but they were once the most elite of law enforcement, responsible for meting out justice and upholding the King's Law. It's not just a story about law enforcement being usurped, but one about bastardizing and betraying it altogether. One of the key turning points in the story revolves around a week during which the current rulers and protectors stand back and watch as blood is allowed to run freely.

A more unusual take on the idea of law enforcement is found in Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood, which mixes a little superhero vigilante-ism into the epic fantasy. The superhero powers here are a birthright bestowed upon the heroes by virtue of their race. Known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, they are a small group who fight against the tyrants by means of what is essentially vigilante guerrilla warfare. It's a fantasy novel with a comic book or video game feel, but really quite imaginative.


  1. While more thriller/horror, Agent Pendergast comes to my mind first.

  2. Truthfully this week I have been looking through lists and county my friends by checking for Pratchett references. And I agree with Alex, I love Pendergast!

  3. A great list - I can't believe I wiped Pratchett from my list!! I deleted my original post - because I'm an idiot - and then had to try and remember who/what I'd put on there!
    Lynn :D

  4. I reaaaally need to get round to reading City of Stairs! It sounds so amazing...

  5. Shield and Crocus is one I haven't heard of and it sounds very cool and unique! I am really anxious to read Traitors Blade as well. Great list!


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