Every Thursday, Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn leads a group of fellow bloggers on “Tough Travels”, a trip through the tropes that populate the fantasy and sci-fi world, using Diane Wynne Jones’ hilarious The Tough Guide to Fantasyland as a guide.
This week’s subject is “Pets”:
Zith — The “Malloreon” by David Eddings
And once again we start with David Eddings’ “Malloreon”. Zith is the pet snake of the bald Nyissan Sadi. Chief Eunuch of the snake queen Salmissra, he keeps Zith in a an earthenware bottle. For a cold-blooded creature she’s remarkably affectionate, purring as Sadi strokes her head or feeds her milk. But don’t mistake her for a common reptile, this intelligent ophidian is quite haughty as well as deadly poisonous, and she doesn’t like to be disturbed. She does like kittens, though. The assassin Velvet was able to subvert her, and killed the Grolim priest Harakan by throwing Zith in his face.
Nosy — Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
I admit it, I don’t like it when they kill the dog. So I was bothered by Assassin’s Apprentice, almost enough that I didn’t finish it. Nosy is one of my favorite characters in the opening book of Robin Hobb’s “Farseer Trilogy”. We meet him as a puppy in the stables with the orphan Fitz, neglected to the care of the stablemaster Burrich. Fitz possesses a magical affinity with animals, called the “Wit” and immediately form a bond with Nosy. When Burrich finds out, however, he takes Nosy away, presumed dead by Fitz. The loss of Nosy drives a wedge between the boy and his master, and color’s Fitz’s character through the rest of the book. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it is powerful, beautiful and, for me, the best part of this subplot about a boy and his dog.
Leaf — Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato
The Clockwork Dagger was an enjoyable discovery last year. Cato’s debut starts out pretty harsh on the pet front though, with a first chapter appearance from a lost puppy that does not end as expected. She more than makes up for it with Leaf, a mischievous gremlin that bonds with the book’s heroine, Octavia. We first meet Leaf amidst a swarm of gremlins attacking an airship. Although the rest of the swarm is killed, Octavia saves the baby Leaf, and it quickly becomes a pet. Although due to its feared nature and ugly appearance, Cato’s description reminded me of a skinny, winged “Stitch” from Lilo and Stitch, she keeps it hidden through most of her journey. Her loyalty to the misunderstood, mischievous creature pays off during the novel’s climax, however.
Oberon — “The Iron Druid Chronicles” by Kevin Hearne
The story goes that when Kevin Hearne delivered his debut novel, Hounded, he hadn’t planned on making Oberon a permanent part of the series. His editors informed him, however, that he could not kill off the dog, and now the pop-culture savvy Irish wolfhound is the highlight of the series. Whether sharing his insights, quoting Star Wars, chasing poodles or just snarfing sausages at Rula Bula Irish Pub in Tempe, Atticus steals the scene whenever he appears. And his presence has made the “Iron Druid Chronicles” a safe haven for readers dealing with the loss of their own pets, knowing that as long as the series continues, they don’t need to worry about the dog dying.
Pickwick — “The Thursday Next Series” by Jasper Fforde
Set in an alternate universe where England is a totalitarian nation run by a ruthless corporation, Wales is a hotbed of revolutionaries, Russia and England are still fighting the Crimean War and everybody venerates classic novels, Jasper Fforde’s Eyre Affair is a bizarre, often hilarious read. The story follows Thursday Next, a book detective with the power to leap into novels. Her home life is anchored by her beloved Dodo, Pickwick, a genetically-engineered wingless marvel named after the classic Dickens’ novel “The Pickwick Papers.” Pickwick plocks through the series, enjoying marshmallows and surprising everybody when “he” lays an egg, revealing himself to actually be herself.