Tough Travelling

“Tough Traveling” is a weekly Thursday feature created by Nathan at Review Barn where participants make a new list each week based on The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones. This hilarious little book cheerfully pokes fun at the most prevalent tropes in fantasy. All are welcome to take part, and there is a link up over at his site. Join in any time!

PRACTICE RING OR COMBAT RING is a sanded circle used for sparring and weapons practice; usually it has a paling around it. It can be found attached to any school of weaponry, outside mercenaries’ winter quarters, and quite often on the outskirts of aggressive towns and villages.


GracelingPalace Combat Ring – Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Just because Katsa is Graced with fighting, or magically gifted with being the best fighter, doesn’t mean that she can slack off on training. As enforcer for her the King of the Middluns, Katsa is often commanded to fight foreign warriors in the combat ring as a show of power. The only person she enjoys sparring with is the charming Prince Po, a curiously skilled fighter from Lienid. The two often spar with an audience, although the atmosphere between the two is primarily playful. And Katsa whoops Po’s ass, of course.

Poison StudyPalace Training Grounds, Ixia – Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Targeted by bullies – and worse – poison tester Yelena attempts to learn self-defense by skulking around the palace training grounds, observing the soldiers at work. She is quickly befriended by soldiers Ari and Janco, who make her education in the art of fighting their mission. They make her run laps around the sandy arena that serves as a training space (running laps in sand is no joke people, it freaking sucks), teach her basic hand-to-hand, and teach her to use a quarter staff. Other soldiers aren’t pleased by Yelena’s presence their, and she quickly puts her new skills to the test.

First TestTraining Grounds at the Tortallan Palace – First Test by Tamora Pierce

In order to become a knight of the realm, candidates must learn the art of combat under the training masters at the Tortallan Palace. Keladry of Mindelan, the first girl to try for her shield since the famed Lioness, must train with her bigger and stronger male peers for a coveted spot. Of course, she faces prejudice and sexism. This usually manifests in the practice ring, as her arch-nemesis frequently cheats in order to brutalize her. Thankfully Kel is very skilled, and even leads a few classes on the Yamani spear technique in the practice ring. I think I may include a Tamora Pierce book every week from now on; they’re just so trope-y and wonderful and full of girl power.

Duelling Platform – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Professor Gilderoy Lockhart forms the Duelling Club in an attempt to teach the second year students how to duel (this would have been more successful if he himself could duel). While practicing, the students take their place on the platform, bow to one another, and begin a series of spells and counter-spells.  In a wizard duel the opponents are banned from physically fighting…so of course the students frequently resort to wrestling each other to the ground. While the platform isn’t strictly a ring, I think it counts since it’s a designated area for fighting and honing combat skills.