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.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, this week’s subject is “True Love”:
C’Nedra and Belgarion — Castle of Wizardry
by David Eddings
And once again we start with the King of Tropes, David Eddings. Nothing like the love that blossoms between two youngsters who are fated to be together. You get all sorts of bantering, bickering, jealousy and unexplained attraction leading up to the inevitable. When they are introduced, C’Nedra is the spoiled daughter of the most powerful man in the world, while Belgarion was only Garion, a simple farm boy. At least in her eyes. As they travel together, however, they fall in love, bickering all the way, and after a few temper tantrums and befuddled responses, they are betrothed. Before the marriage, however, Belgarion leaves to fight the mad god Torak, and C’Nedra proves her love by leading the greatest army assembled into battle on his behalf.
Sansa and Joffrey — A Game of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin
Sometimes true love is only a dream. Take Sansa, the elder Stark daughter in “A Song of Ice and Fire”. She dreams of her beautiful life as queen of Westeros with her beloved Prince Joffrey. Well, we all know how that turns out. During her journey to King’s Landing in A Game of Thrones, she willingly puts up with his sociopathic cruelty, choosing him over her sister, at the cost of her pet dire wolf, Lady. She clings to her belief in true love even as her betrothed shows his monstrous side. But watching her father lose his head cures any childish notions of true love, learning that the belief in true love has no place in the Machiavellian “game of thrones”.
Karen and Priya — Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear
This one is fresh in my mind, but it is also one of the sweeter love stories I’ve read. Karen is a farm girl turned
prostitute seamstress in a high-class brothel in Seattle Rapid City. When the injured Priya, freshly escaped from her pimp Peter Bantle, turns up on the brothel’s doorstep, it is love at first sight. Unsure how to approach her taboo feelings, or if they are even reciprocated, Karen woos Priya while nursing her back to health, helping her shop for new clothes, and eventually leading a raid to rescue her sister from the clutches of Bantle. After a series of adventures, the pair settle down, with Priya working as a steampunk mechanic while the homespun Karen writes her memoirs.
Swan and Wahrum — 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Venturing into sci-fi for this tale of opposites attracting across the solar system. Swan is a tempermental artist from Mercury, who has turned her body into her greatest work. When her grandmother Alex dies, she meets one of Alex’s friends, the toadlike Wahrum, who a diplomat from the moon, Titan. Initially repulsed, the pair quickly bond of art and music, in what quickly unfolds into one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read. Robinson messes with gender, both are hermaphrodites, and captures the awkwardness of transgender romance and sex as the saturnine Wahrum and mercurial Swan (get it???) travel the galaxy investigating a series of terrorist attacks, but that is really just background noise for their blossoming love.
Fitz and Molly — Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb
Warning! Spoilers ahead! I haven’t read the entire saga of Fitz, but I have read the first novel, when he first met the beautiful Molly. Of course he was too shy to pursue her in that novel. But apparently over the course of the series their relationship blossomed, even as she married Fitz’s mentor and rival Burris. By the latest, Fool’s Assassin, they are happily domestic, living on a palatial country estate in marital contentment. Fitz dotes on his wife as she ages while he stays relatively young, even as he suspects her of slipping into dementia. When she eventually dies of old age, it breaks Fitz’s heart, nearly destroying him.