The Literary Fantasy World Tour Company, Part II: Modern High Fantasy

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series The Fantasy World Tour Company

This summer, for a limited time only, my brother and I have collaborated to open the Literary Fantasy World Tour Company just for you! Check out our newest tour offerings below!
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Tour Option 3: Westeros

Tour guides: Stark family, Daenerys Targaryen & Tyrion Lannister
(A Game of Thrones by J. R. R. Martin)
We can only recommend the kingdom of Westeros for the most fearless of travelers. Start your journey with a stay at the Castle of Winterfell where you will feast with your host Ned Stark and his family. Just hope that the King of Westeros and his entourage doesn’t come calling during your visit. While there, you should definitely take an excursion to the Wall which marks the northern border of the kingdom. Beyond it are only wildlings, White Walkers, and their growing army of ice zombies. Once a noble order, the Night’s Watch guard the wall, but now their ranks are mostly filled with criminals who chose exile over punishment. From Winterfell journey south to King’s Landing which lies at the heart of Westeros. Here intrigue and danger abide around every corner. We highly recommend going to a tourney to watch knights challenge each other for the title of Greatest Knight in the Land. Attending a wedding is always a colorful affair as well. For a change of climate from the  forests, rivers, lakes, and mountains of Westeros, you can head east to the continent of Essos. Here you’ll find some vibrant cities and large desert plains traveled by tribes of Dothraki horsemen and their new queen, Daenerys Targaryen. Finally, we would be remiss if we did not warn you about the weather. The seasons of this world are quite notable, as they can last many decades. The longer the summer has been, the longer the winter will be, and Westeros is coming to the end of a particularly long summer. Winter is coming. Game of Thrones Map

Tour Option 4: The Westlands

Tour guides: Rand al’Thor, Matrim Cauthon, and Perrin Aybara
(The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan)
You’ll begin your trip with a stay at the Winespring Inn of Emond’s Field. You’re scheduled to be there for the spring festival of Bel Tine. If you’re lucky, there will be a gleeman in town to entertain. Next on your itinerary, you’ll travel North with Rand al’Thor and his companions through the Two Rivers region to the city of Baerlon. You’ll be put up for a few nights at the Stag and Lion Inn before heading East towards the capital, Caemlyn. On the way, if you’re daring, take shelter in the abandoned city of Shadar Logath, but avoid the evil that lurks there. There are several ways to reach the capital. Try sailing down the River Arinelle, or travel with the nomadic Tuatha’an on their wagons. Be wary of the overzealous religious order Children of the Light, who may mistake you for an evil Darkfriend and arrest you. In Caemlyn, stay a while at the Queen’s Blessing Inn, that is, if you’re a supporter of the Queen. Next, journey north to find the Eye of the World. It’s fastest to travel through the Ways, a set of portals haunted by evil. That will take you as far as the fortress of Fal Dara on the Borderlands. The final leg of your trip is through the Blight, the rotting and barren lands at the edge of the known world full of terrible monsters. Wheel of Time Map

Tour Option 5: Alegasia

Tour Guide: Eragon
(Eragon by Christopher Paolini)
Begin your tour of Alegasia in the village of Carvahall in the far northeastern corner of the land. Your tour guide, Eragon, is a local fifteen year old. Enjoy a farm stay just outside the village, go on hunting trips in the mountains of the Spine, or go into town to listen to the local storyteller Brom. We warn visitors that anyone who finds and hatches a dragon egg will be persecuted by the Empire. Next you’ll travel south through the Spine, but be careful of the monstrous Urgals. Once in the heart of the empire, there are lots of cities you could choose to visit. See the port city of Teirm where you can get your fortune told by Angela, a local witch. Travel to Dras-Leona and take in its famous cathedral, just try not to become part of the ceremony inside. Take a quick trip north to visit the city of Gil’ead, a stronghold of the empire. After traveling across the plains of the empire, head to the Beor Mountains on the far southern border of Alegasia. These mountains are far larger than the Spine, and home to the dwarves. Here you’ll explore their unique culture by staying a while in their capital, Farthen Dur. Also staying with the dwarves are the Varden, the rebels against the empire. Farthen Dur was built as a fortress to withstand an invasion, but whether it can, we leave up to the traveler to determine for themselves. For return trips to Alegasia we recommend a journey across the Hadarac Desert in the center of the known world, or visiting the elves in the great forest of Du Weldenvarden to the north. Eragon Map

Know Before You Go:

A Game of Thrones, published in 1996, is the first novel in the series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. The complete series has yet to be finished. Martin’s work is a turning point in modern fantasy because of his subversion of classical high fantasy tropes. One example is the idea that good and evil are distinct. While the heroes in the works of Tolkien and Lewis are noble and fair, and the villains evil and ugly, the characters of Martin’s books are all complex and grey. Take for example the Rangers that protect the northern border, who appear in both Tolkien and Martin’s books. In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy we are introduced to the Rangers, a race of skilled warriors descended from royalty that fight evil on behalf of good. In Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, the Rangers, while ostensibly protecting the realm from evil, are themselves made up mostly of criminals. Also, instead of fighting the greater threat of the evil White Walkers, most of their time is spent fighting with people who don’t want to be subjects of the kingdom. A Game of Thrones contains far more mature subject matter than its predecessors, and therefore shows the progress of high fantasy as a genre. Tolkien’s fairy tales about good and bad and Lewis’s religious allegories were both intended for children. Martin gives us a new take on fantasy that doesn’t shy away from blood, gore, and sex.

The Eye of the World, published in 1990, by Robert Jordan is the closest to a direct descendant of Tolkien as you can get. The Wheel of Time checks all the boxes when it comes to high fantasy, from the in-depth fictional world to the epic plot lines that span them. The author has even stated that the opening chapters of his book are a direct homage to the opening of The Lord of the Rings. Both start with a band of heroes, who, having never left their idyllic farmland home before, find themselves fleeing from ghostly black cloaked villains. Although he doesn’t challenge the status quo of good vs. evil like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, or preach the role of religion in fantasy like Lewis, he contributes a solid addition to the canon of High Fantasy. Unfortunately, Robert Jordan passed away before finishing the Wheel of Time series. The final three books were finished by contemporary fantasy author Brandon Sanderson.

Eragon, the first book of the Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini was originally self published. It was re-published in 2003 and grew to notoriety based somewhat on how young the author was. The series, written by a young adult, is aimed at a young adult audience. It is pure and simple fantasy for someone who is becoming familiar with the tropes of the genre. This makes for a good introduction for new readers. Because it checks the boxes of fantasy literature a little too well, sometimes the inexperience of the beginner author shows. For example, his characters correspond closely to those in Star Wars, with Eragon as Luke and Brom as Obi Wan. Looking at its flaws however misses the point as to why it’s on our chart of fictional charts. For those looking for a more mature story, go with Martin, or for a deeper world try Tolkien or Jordan. However, for a young reader who doesn’t want a history textbook written about the world (and also hasn’t seen Star Wars), The Inheritance Cycle is the go to for popular epic fantasy.


Buy Your Tour Here:

A Game of Thrones by J. R. R. Martin

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

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