Every week, Fantasy Review Barn runs a feature where they seek out examples of fantasy tropes. Other bloggers are welcome to join in, finding their own books to match the given topic. This weeks topic is Flying Rides:
Because honestly? Horses just got boring. (Thanks to author Anne Leonard for the suggestion).
The spirit of the prompt seems to exclude horses, so I’ve avoided them for my picks, even though it would have made this incredibly easy (thestrals, Pegasus, Binky). Instead, I’ve gone with flying, non-equine transport. Not all of it is living, and I’ve ordered them by least- to most-alive.
1. The Kite – Terry Pratchett, The Last Hero
The Kite is a spacecraft, a last-ditch attempt to prevent the total destruction of the Disc. By falling off the world, the three (well, four) passengers hope to gain enough speed to come up the other side and land on top of the mountain of the gods.
The Last Hero is a short book, and it’s mostly pictures. There’s not that much text. It would be reasonable then to assume that the book is less good that Pratchett normally is – there’s less space to develop themes, its not told solely through his prose, etc. That would be inaccurate.
Instead, The Last Hero is concentrated Pratchett – all of the power, all of the memorable, affecting prose, just in a smaller space. There are so many scenes, so many lines in that one short book that stand out as some of his best. In particular, I’d point to the soaring, forlorn flight of the Kite beneath the Disc, and the reactions of the crew to a sight that no one else has ever seen before.
2. The Paperwing – Garth Nix, Sabriel
The paperwing is aerial transport in a world that doesn’t have electricity. It’s a glider, essentially, constructed from laminated paper and inscribed with magic runes. It’s not alive, but it is at least partly sentient – it needs careful handling and control to keep on course.
In the paperwing’s first appearance, it does crash. However, this is an abnormal event and should not be used to dismiss it as a viable means of transport. It’s a lot faster and more efficient that trudging along on the ground, hunted by the dead.
3. Temeraire – Naomi Novik, Temeraire (and sequels)
There has to be a dragon on this list, I feel, so I’ve picked Temeraire. As an egg, he was donated to the French by the Chinese, then captured by the British. Once hatched, he serves as part of the Royal Aerial Corps, carrying his captain (Will Laurence) and a crew into battle against all the Empire’s many enemies.
Temeraire is more than just a transport though. He’s a diplomat, a social reformer, a secret weapon and a philanthropist. Most of the series revolves around some nation or organisation trying to treat him as an animal, and Temeraire resolutely refusing, carrying his exasperated captain along with him.
That’s all I’ve got this week – I wanted significant rides, so skipped over the various broomsticks that occurred to me.
The post on Fantasy Review Barn is here, and in addition to that list, there are links there to many other bloggers with their own take on the idea. Next week’s topic is new beginnings.