Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tough Travels with . . . People on boats

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: PEOPLE ON BOATS

Grab a map of Fantasyland and you are sure to see there is water. Of course not everything important is going to happen on land, right? Sometimes people actually have to get on a boat and hit the water. Where, being fantasyland, anything can happen.


Let's start with my current read, The Liar’s Key by Mark Lawrence. Much of the action in the first half takes place on a series of small boats, with Jalan, Snorri, and Tuttugu beset by rough seas, bitter cold, epic storms, as well as Edris Dean and his Red Viking marauders as they make their way from one fjord to another. Snorri is very much at home upon a boat, even if it's smaller than what he's accustomed to, while Jalan spends most of their voyage getting sick, complaining about the conditions and the fact that you "spend most of each day emptying yourself over the side."


The Corpse-Rat King and The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby are probably the most fun you will ever have with people in boats. There's a particularly prolonged sequence in the first book that involves Marius being thrown out of a canoe in the middle of the ocean, where he sank to the bottom . . . and simply walked home. Yes, he walked across the bottom of the sea, attempted to scale the Mary Tulip (a submerged shipwreck), desperately tried to reason with the skeleton of a dead king, and ultimately fled a hungry shark. The second spends more time above the waters of the Barrier Sea, leading to an encounter with Brys Kenim, the sexy pirate and smuggler queen with the ample bosom who challenges Fellipan, the sexy (dead) bordello mistress with the ample bosom, for Marius' attentions.


Next up would have to be The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb. This is a typical Hobb trilogy in that it takes its time getting going, makes you wonder if a second book is worth it, but then gets better as it goes. Taking place on the Pirate Isles, south of the Six Duchies that Fitz calls home, this series features extremely rare, extremely expensive ships carved from wizardwood, which ripens magically, bestowing the figureheads with a human-like sentience. It's a series that features everything from ruthless pirates, to magical plunder, to a rather grim look at the slave trade.


King Rolen's Kin by Rowena Cory Daniells spends a great deal of time at sea as well. Fyn spend a great deal of the series on the other side of the world, press-ganged by pirates and slavers aboard the Wyvern's Whelp - a Merofynian ship riding low in the water with treasures stolen from his homeland. Forced to confront his fears, and to sacrifice his future, he comes to take a role in the conflict that his status as a monk would have once forbid. Similarly, young Garzik is captured and sent back to Merofynia as a prize of war, suffering almost as much physical torment as he does emotional anguish, and is left with the barbarian Utlanders.


The Ships of Merior and Warhost of Vastmarkthe second and third books of the Wars of Light and Shadow by Janny Wurts, spend a great deal of the book at sea. Forced out of hiding and hounded by his brother, Lysaer, Arithon takes to his natural element and evades pursuit upon the high seas. It's an interesting series, with brothers pitted against one another by a magical geas, but Arithon is (by far) the more interesting of the two. His journey in these books involves a widow who is afraid of the sea, a disgraced captain, and a mad prophet.There's actually a great deal of time and effort invested here in the building and launching of ships, which actually contributes much of the novel's drama and character development.


It's been a long while since I read it, so I'm kind of fuzzy on the details, but I remember The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman spending a great deal of time with men in boats. The world here has been split into its four elements, with one book set in each, and then a trilogy connecting them all together. Like I said, I don't recall a lot of details, but Chelestra, the world of water, is (quite naturally) marked by sea-going vessels of various forms, while Arianus, the world of air, is rather surprisingly known for its magical vessels that float upon the air and fly through the sky.

10 comments:

  1. Hm, I'm glad of what you wrote about the Liveship traders - I'm currently stuck in the middle of book 2 but I really want to unstick myself and finish the trilogy. I do hope it gets better! That cover though... :)

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  2. The Liar's Key is such a great choice I think. Personally, I wouldn't like to do quite as much sailing as they do in this book in such a small(ish) vessel but that's just me. I've been aboard a huge ferry during bad weather and that was pretty rocky so goodness knows what it's like on a small boat!
    Lynn :D

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    1. I don't necessarily have an issue with boats or water - I'd love to take a cruise sometime - but, yeah, small boats don't have a great appeal.

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  3. Writing a sea journey is always problematical for authors. How many of us have sailed on a tall ship? (I met a writer who had. But then you get the problem of too much knowledge and this can bog down the narrative).
    Having read snippets of the journals kept by immigrants coming to Australia (a 6 month sea journey), I suspect sailing was made up of long periods of boredom interspersed with terror during storms and such.

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    1. I've learned everything I know about boats from books, which doesn't bode well if I ever am at sea. :)

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  4. Ya, a bit too much boating for my tastes at the start of Liar's Key. Looks like we have hit the dry land portion where I am at now though and things are look up (for me, not the characters).

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    1. I saw your comment about CERN, so I suspect we're pretty much at the same point. Definitely a slower read than the first, but Jal's flashbacks are getting interesting.

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  5. I have no excuse for forgetting Mark Lawrence, especially since I just finished The Liar's Key! There were some great scenes between Jalan and Kara on that boat.

    ~Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

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  6. Mark Lawrence is everywhere this week! I need to read a book by him at some point.

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