Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tough Traveling - The Big City

Tough Traveling is a fun meme that aims to tour all the tropes big and small, abhorred and loved that are littered across the fantasy landscape. It was conceived of and is hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn and here's how it's explained on the blog: 

Each Thursday, our copy of ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.

This week's trope is The Big City:
There has to be somewhere in Fantasyland where everyone comes together. All roads lead to Rome after all. A place where traders prosper, politicians scheme, and criminals thrive.
Ever read a book where it feels like the setting is an additional character in the story?  That's how I'm approaching this list this week.  Stories that take place in cities that feel like they are especially important players.

- Camelot in the Arthurian Legends by Numerous Authors

In my mind, Camelot is the medieval version of a big city.  Well, at least medieval Britain.  Anyhoo, it is the center of all that is civilized and decent at that time and so famous it has a musical named after it and also a spoof musical named after it.  Apparently they eat Spam a lot in Camelot.

- Regalia in Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins 

I just read this book (and loved it!) and it features an underground world where humans, giant cockroaches, bats, rats and spiders uneasily co-exist.  All the humans live in the city of Regalia which is described as being very beautiful.  And you can have dinner with giant bats while there!

and while we're talking about  Suzanne Collins how about 

- The Capitol in The Hunger Games Trilogy

It sure looks lovely in the sun-kissed picture above instead of the pit of corruption and excess that it actually is.   It is definitely the rotten center of The Hunger Games universe and is almost the only city as long as the folks in charge keep everyone suppressed.
- Bulikov in City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

Bulikov is a once great city that was the home of Gods and full of magic and miracles.  Then the Gods were beaten and Bulikov struggles to be just a regular city but it can't stop glimmers of the past popping up in random places.  It's a fascinating city in a great book!  And seriously click on the image above to explore it - cool stuff on Robert Jackson Bennett's web page.

- The Emerald City in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

I have to admit that I haven't read this one (though I will some day, I promise) so it's all based on movie but The Emerald City is the coolest, greenest city in Oz.

- Cardegoss in Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold 

Cardegoss is the royal seat in the kingdom of Chalion and Cazaril dreads having to go there.  He was betrayed there once and it is the last place in the world he wishes to be.  However when one is called to tutor a royal youngster, it is hard to refuse.  Cardegoss does in fact throw Cazaril's life for a loop and thus makes for a really excellent read!

Before I end this I also wanted to point out that some of our own Big Cities make a number of important appearances in fantasy literature, particularly Urban Fantasy and Alternate Histories.  London and its cousin across the pond, New York seem to be very popular and below are just a few of the books/series that popped out to me where these cities played an important role.

Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson
Peter Grant Series by Ben Aaronovitch
Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger

New York
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson
Fables Series by Bill Willingham

This ended up being a much longer list than I thought it was going to be!  I'll be interested to see what the fellow travelers and list makes come up with.  Which Big Cities would you add?

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