Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs set out with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel in hand to explore all the tropes from their favorite stories. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
30th April, 2015 – THE BIG CITY
There has to be somewhere in Fantasyland where everyone comes together. All roads lead to Rome after all. A place where traders prosper, politicians scheme, and criminals thrive.
There are too many of these to list, so I’m going to narrow it down to those cities which played host to significant events in the story line.
MINAS TIRITH (LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. TOLKIEN)
Well, it shouldn’t to any fantasy fan, because the white city is at the center of events in the Return of the King. It could even be said that the fate of Middle-Earth hinged on what happened before its mighty walls. Sure, Frodo’s quest to destroy the ring is the ultimate objective in the war, but if Sauron’s forces had captured this fortress-city, killed Aragorn, and routed the remaining armies of the free people of Middle-Earth, I doubt very seriously Frodo would have reached Mount Doom, and if he did, there wouldn’t have been much left to save back home.
Buy The Lord of the Rings: One Volume at Amazon.
REVELSTONE (CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT by STEPHEN R. DONALDSON)
This city of the Lords of the Land was carved by the Giants of old from the very cliffs of the mountains. It has stood unconquered by its enemies for a millennium, safe behind inside its sheer mountain fastness with a fertile plateau behind it capable of feeding the city during any siege. Even Thomas Covenant is rendered speechless when he first beholds this great city, which is pretty amazing since Covenant generally bitches and whines about everything.
During the three series, more important events happen in Revelstone than I can even begin to list. It might not be the heart of the Land, but it definitely the head of the Land.
AMBER (CHRONICLES OF AMBER by ROGER ZELAZNY)
Amber: the one true world from which infinite, parallel worlds have sprung. From this amazing city rules a superhuman royal family, who can travel freely through the “shadows” (alternate worlds) of the universe. Standing opposite in the multiverse of is The Courts of Chaos, which is situated in Shadow at the very edge of the pit of Chaos itself.
Now, I realize Amber is considered a “world,” but in the chronicles, Amber is also synonymous with the city of Amber, where lots of important events take place, so I’m putting it on this list whether it strictly fits or not.
KRONDOR (MIDKEMIA STORIES by RAYMOND E. FEIST)
While Rillanon is the capital of the Kingdom, Krondor seems to be where everything important always happens — at least in the Feist series that I’ve read. Situated in the western part of the Empire on the Bitter Sea, it is usually the residence of the heir to the Kingdom and is the seat of power for the governance of the Western Realm of the Kingdom. Plus, it is where Jimmy the Hand was a thief, so that means it is really the most important place anywhere on Midkemia. 🙂
That beautiful image of Krondor is by Miguel Coimbra found here.
Buy Magician Apprentice – Volume 1 (Magician Apprentice (Numbered)) (v. 1) at Amazon.
KEEP OF DARE (DARWATH SERIES by BARBARA HAMBLY)
In this world, the legendary Dark have risen from the bowels of the world and begun to eat all the humans they can find. Civilization has collapsed. Cities have crumbled under the onslaught. Kingdoms annihilated. Humanity itself on the verge of extinction. But there remains one place where the refugees of humanity huddle together and hope for salvation: The Keep of Dare.
This ancient edifice rises like a multi-storied obsidian cube from the side of a mountain, nestled in a forested vale far from the major cities. Legend says it was built with magic and technology from the old world before the first rising of the Dark, and that seems surely true because the smooth, dark surface is unlike anything built by human hands.
No matter its origin, however, this is basically the last city in the northern part of the world, and most of the stories in the series take place (at least in apart) within its walls. So it has to be on the Big City list.
Buy The Darwath Series: The Time of the Dark, The Walls of Air, and The Armies of Daylight at Amazon.
RHEMUTH (CHRONICLES OF THE DERYNI by KATHERINE KURTZ)
This city is the capital of the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Within these hallowed walls all the political intrigue of a nation seem to seethe. Royal plots against royal. The church plots against the crown. And a young king tries to find a way to remain true to his believes yet rule a nation at war with a whole group of its own people.
As I’ve mentioned before, the Chronicles of the Deryni remind me of an old school Song of Ice and Fire. Others might not agree with me, but I’ll always compare the two. And just like King’s Landing in Westeros, Rhemuth is the hub of all the great struggles in Gwynedd.
Buy Deryni Rising (Chronicles of the Deryni) at Amazon.
VIDESSOS (THE VIDESSOS SERIES by HARRY TURTLEDOVE)
Mr. Turtledove might be more well known for his alternate history novels, but he also has published several series set in a fantasy world centered around the great city of Videssos and its empire. Now, for any history buff, it is obvious that Videssos is basically a fantasy version of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, but be that as it may, these series are entertaining fantasy romps with more than their share of magical twists and turns.
Yeah, I guess you could categorize these novels as alternate history fantasy, but they are still fairly entertaining reads where the city of Videssos is usually the center of the action.
KING’S LANDING (A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by GEORGE R.R. MARTIN)
Well, I began this list with a city that really needed no introduction, and I’m going to end this part of the list with another: King’s Landing. This capital city of Westeros is so well known by this point I really don’t see any need to belabor the point.
Buy A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) at Amazon.
IRONFORGE and DALARAN (WORLD OF WARCRAFT)
Most of my real life friends know that at one time I was a World of Warcraft addict. I played the game every spare minute of every day, was a dedicated officer in a raiding guild and was even a raid leader for a short time. And during those years spent in this great MMO, my favorite big cities were Ironforge in Vanilla WOW and Dalaran during Wrath of the Lich King. Those were the places to go to rub elbows with your fellow players, check out their uber gear, and (in vanilla anyway) form some raid groups. Yeap, those were some good times, but eventually, my time in WOW ended about the same time as the pandas invaded.
Buy World of Warcraft – PC/Mac at Amazon.