A Military Genius Makes Tough Traveling Easier – at Least When There Is a Battle to be Fought


tough guideEvery 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 “Military Genius”:

The biggest army doesn’t always win the day. Sometimes victory hinges on a brilliant tactician. Here are some of my favorite military geniuses:

General Varana — Castle of Wizardry by David Eddings

castle of wizardryIn truth, most of the Alorn kings and Western leaders were military geniuses. That’s one of the reasons you knew they wouldn’t lose. But Varana is a personal favorite. The head of the Tolnedran army, Varana was a skeptic, and because of Tolnedra’s neutral position, he wasn’t officially a leader of Ce’Nedra’s army, just a seasoned warrior enjoying some leave. But he was always ready to suggest tactics to his Alorn companions, and leveraged his leadership onto the Imperial Throne.

Field Marshal Tamas — The Promise of Blood 
by Brian McClellan

promise of bloodHe led a bloody coup to overthrow the tyrannical monarchy of Adro. Of course that’s where all the problems began. Inspired by the French Revolution and Napoleon, Tamas is the patriarchal leader of Brian McClellan’s “Powder Mage” series. A low-born “powder mage,” who mixes gunpowder and magic, Tamas rose through the ranks on the strength of his military victories. His swift takeover came at a price, however, as it woke long dead Gods and incurred the wrath of the powerful Privileged, highborn mages sworn to vengeance.

Dalinar Kholin — The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

wokThe brother of slain King Gavilar and a High Prince in his own right, Dalinar is one of the leaders of the Alethi army in its war against the Parshendi. Known in his youth as the Blackthorn for his ferocity in battle, Dalinar now seeks a peaceful path, imposing sober discipline on his soldiers and eschewing the competitive nature of battle on the Shattered Plains. It made enemies of other leaders, but it earned him the respect of Kaladin and his Bridge Four crew, who risked their lives to save him when he was betrayed in battle.

Father Yarvi — Half a War by Joe Abercrombie

half a warWeapon prowess isn’t the only way to become a military leader. Look at Father Yarvi. Crippled from birth, he still managed to forge alliances and command the armies of Gettland against the High King of Skekenhouse. He had a little help with the powerful elf weapons from the forbidden city of Strokom, but sometimes even military geniuses have to make dreadful decisions to win the day.

Cold Cobalt — A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

crown for cold silverThe protagonist of Alex Marshall’s brutal novel was content to live out her days in retirement. But someone had to go and slaughter everyone in her village, including her husband. So Cold Cobalt returned to the battlefield, assembling her motley crew of villains and their demonic familiars to face down the armies of the Crimson Empire and the Black Pope in her quest for vengeance.

Admiral Gial Ackbar — The Return of the Jedi

He can spot a trap.


Come back next week when we take a look at “Peace at Last.”

—Michael Senft

About Michael Senft

I am a freelance writer and critic from Phoenix Arizona. I spent 10 years covering music, the arts and pop culture for the “Arizona Republic” before life circumstances took me away from newspaper. But I never lost my joy at writing. Or reading.
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4 Responses to A Military Genius Makes Tough Traveling Easier – at Least When There Is a Battle to be Fought

  1. Yarvi, of course! He would not come immediately to mind, since he’s not strictly a military figure, but he’s the mover and shaker of an empire. Great choices 🙂


  2. Great choices, I can’t believe I forgot about Tamas.


  3. Bookwraiths says:

    Some damn fine military geniuses on this list!


  4. Maybe it because of the leg thing, but when I read Promise of Blood, all I could do was wonder who would win between him and Ned Stark in a fist fight?


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