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.




  1. Wow, only read one of these, and have never even heard of Poison Study or First Test.

    Love the way these lists go, sometimes everyone has the same answers, sometimes they are completely different.

    1. Tamora Pierce and Maria V. Snyder are mainstays in my girl-power arsenal. They rock.

  2. HOORAY for Graceling! It’s probably been 6 or 8 years since I read Poison Study, so I completely forgot about it. But Protector of the Small was the one I was banging my head against a wall trying to remember. I kept thinking Alison Croggon’s The Books of Pellinor series, but it didn’t feel right . . . b/c I was trying to come up with Pierce and failing miserably. Whoops 😉

    1. LOVE GRACELING. Apparently there’s going to be another book in the Poison Study series! Protector of the Small is tied for my favourite Pierce series, along with the Daughter of the Lioness duology. And the Books of Pellinor? Loved that series! Is there anything you HAVEN’T read? 😉

  3. I’ve decided that when in doubt just say Harry Potter as far as this meme is concerned. LOL I think I’ll do better next week though with the Princesses topic. I’ll start working on my list now. 😉

    1. Too true! Whenever my list looks a little thin I go to HP or LoTR. Between the two I’m bound to come up with something!

  4. *slaps forehead* I don’t know why I didn’t think of Graceling! I must have passed by it three or four times as I was going through my Goodreads list looking for ideas for this week’s theme. Katsa and Po were ALWAYS sparring, DUH how could I forget!!!


    1. Pretty sure all that sparring was just to build up tension! 😉

    • Rabindranauth

    • 8 years ago

    I have Harry Potter on my list too! But mine’s Order of the Phoenix, as an honorable mention 😀

    1. Good ol’ HP, being all trope-y and marvelous!

    • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    • 8 years ago

    I completely forgot that detail in Poison Study! Great choices (and I really need to read Graceling and *something* by Tamora Pierce

    1. I’ve read that book an unhealthy number of times. AND YES! to the Tamora Pierce books. I definitely recommend anything set in the Tortall universe. Probably best to go in publishing order so you don’t get spoiled on anything!

    • Lynn Williams

    • 8 years ago

    I can’t believe I forgot Graceling! Lovely choice. I did think about Snyder but couldn’t remember the detail and was frankly too lazy to go and look for the book (plus you should see the state of my book shevles) so left it off.
    Great choices.
    Lynn 😀

    1. My shelves used to be so tidy, organized by author and then by title…now they’re stuffed to bursting with any random book that will fit in a crack. That’s why I use goodreads to make my lists! 🙂

  5. Man I’ve only read Harry Potter from this batch but plan to read Graceling someday

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