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Tough Travels: Adepts

At the start of every month, Fantasy-Faction will lead you (yes, YOU!) on a tour of the fantasy genre. From high to low, from classics to new releases, from epic to urban; each month, we will guide you in search of a different trope, theme or cliché. Lest we become lost, we’ll be referring to The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones.

Tough Travels on Fantasy-Faction

However, since these tropes can appear in many guises (they are sneaky, precious, yes indeed) we’ve enlisted the help of our friends and travelling companions across the blogosphere (including Nathan Barnhart, who started it all) to help us on our way. You’ll find links to their own lists at the bottom of this post – along with the chance to submit your own!

With no more ado, this week’s topic is ADEPTS.

The Tough Guide defines an ADEPT as ‘one who has taken what amounts to a Post-graduate course in Magic. If a Magic User is given this title, you can be sure he/she is fairly hot stuff. However, the title is neutral and does not imply that the Adept is either Good or Evil.’

The Blade Itself (cover)

(The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie)

Good? Evil? A bit of both? Whether you love Bayaz or hate him, there’s no denying that the First of the Magi is Adept at a whole lot of things: political maneuvering, living forever, being a bastard – and, of course, magic.


Memories of Ice (cover)QUICK BEN
(The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson)

If there’s anyone in Fantasyland capable of standing up to Bayaz, it’s Quick Ben. Quick’s unique command of the Warrens has seen him victorious against fellow mages, monsters, immortals, necromancers, and even gods. Quick Ben wouldn’t just give Bayaz a run for his money; he’d shake him down and turn him inside out.


Three Parts Dead (cover)MS. KEVARIAN
(Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone)

She might want to avoid Quick Ben (as I mentioned, he’s not too fond of necromancers), but that doesn’t mean Ms. Kevarian can’t hold her own against the best of them. A master Craftswoman, MK knows the law and the Craft like the back of her own hand.


Sabriel (cover)SABRIEL
(Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix)

Speaking of necromancy (and Hands…): Garth Nix’s excellent Old Kingdom series follows three different young protagonists as they each suffer and strive to become the best in the worlds at what they do. Lirael, Sameth and Sabriel battle the armies of the dead, and must become adepts in their own ways in order to serve the Abhorsen and banish evil.


Veil of the Deserters (cover)SOFFJIAN
(Bloodsounder’s Arc by Jeff Salyards)

For Sabriel and co., magic is personal; a way of life. For the Syldoon, it’s an unpleasant but necessary aspect of military campaigning. Memoridons are treated like the Qunari Saarebas in the Dragon Age franchise, i.e. leashed, feared, reviled and weaponised by their society. Soffjian is not only adept at casting mind-altering spells on her opponents, but also excels at pissing off her brother, Braylar Killcoin.


Cold Counsel by Chris SharpFIXELCRICK
(Cold Counsel by Chris Sharp)

Some are born adept, some achieve adeptness, and others have adeptness thrust upon ’em. Goblin Hex Doktor Fixelcrick has worked his arse off to reach the heights of greatness. He may not always use his powers for the greater good, but he still deserves a pat on his feathered back for his persistence and initiative.


Magician (cover)MILAMBER
(Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist)

Adeptness isn’t the only thing poor little Pug has had thrust upon him. An orphaned kitchen boy turned slave turned magician turned renegade, Pug actually does a pretty admirable job of coping with his sudden mastery of the arcane . . .

. . . as long as you ignore the death and destruction he caused during Stadiumgate.


King of Thorns (cover)SAGEOUS
(The Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence)

On the other side of the ‘admirable’ scale lurks Sageous, a cunning little bastard with a unique set of skills. The Freddy Krueger of the Broken Empire, he will find you, and he will fuck your dreams up.



Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (cover)JONATHAN STRANGE (AND MR NORRELL?)
(Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke)

Finally (and on the topic of fucked-up dreams) you have Mr. Norrell. You don’t get much more adept than the greatest living magician in England! That is, until Jonathan Strange comes along. Norrell’s life of books and study and isolation – and national adulation – is shattered when the student quickly comes to outshine the master. But are either of them bright enough to banish the shadow of the Raven King?

Are there any awesome Adepts we’ve forgotten about? Who’s your personal favourite? Are there any individuals that – shock, horror! – ignore the Guide completely? Let us know in the comments!

Bloggers – why not join us?

Next month’s topic will be books featuring STRONGHOLDS.

The Tough Guide offers information on various kinds of fantasy strongholds. For example,  you might be looking for CASTLES, complete with ‘frowning battlements, slit windows and multiple defensible spiral stairways inside’ and which ‘occasionally adorn the heights for pictorial effect’. Or perhaps TOWERS, which ‘stand alone in WASTE AREAS and almost always belong to wizards.’ Towers are often ‘several storeys high, round, doorless, virtually windowless, and composed of smooth blocks of masonry that make them very hard to climb. The Rule is that there is also a strong no-entry SPELL, often backed up by a guardian DEMON.’

Why not join us? Today, tomorrow, next month – there’s always room in the adventuring party for one more! Add a link to your own list, or check out the others below:

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  1. Avatar Lynn says:

    Better late than never – my link is up.
    Love that you got Strange and Norrell on the list. I was thinking of the Magician too but left it off my final list.
    Lynn 😀

  2. Avatar Mervi says:

    I’m only familiar with Jonathan Strange and Sabriel. Lots of book to my TBR.

  3. Avatar Justin Heard says:

    I don’t know if I would consider Jorg an adept. There are much more powerful necromancers than him in The Broken Empire.

  4. Sabriel is a great choice – I really must re-read the first two books, as it has been too long since I read them, and then I can now finally finish off the series. I would also like to read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. My post is up now. Sadly though the InLinkz link up still doesn’t work for me…it did tell me it was loading this time though, which was different, but it ultimately still failed lol!

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