Tough Traveling: Laborers


The Thursday feature “Tough Traveling” is the brainchild of Nathan of Review Barn, who has come up with the excellent idea of making a new list each week based on the most common tropes in fantasy, as seen in (and inspired by) The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones. Nathan has invited anyone who is interested to come play along, so be sure to check out the first link for more information.

This week’s tour topic is: Laborers

Not everyone can be a Prince.  There is only room for one Queen.  A few spoiled nobles can sit around and play cards.  But fantasyland can’t build its own castles and roads, nor can it plow its own fields, nor cook its meals.  Someone has to do the hard work.  And often, as a reward of course, these laborers get pulled from their hard but simple life into a bigger plan.

Wendy’s Picks

The Way of KingsThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Sometimes the only payment a labourer gets is surviving to see the dawn of the next day. Kaladin Stormblessed leads the men of Bridge Four as they march into battle ahead of the soldiers, laying down the paths that allow for both attack and escape. Bridgemen have short lifespans as the first on the battlefield, but Kaladin is determined to make Bridge Four better and hardier than all the rest.

atrocity archivesThe Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

While we sit around watching TV and wasting our lives on cat memes and such, Bob and the other employees at the Atrocity Archives are busy protecting the world from the dark forces of evil. Bob starts out as just your typical IT guy doing IT things, but soon enough, he’s promoted to bigger and far more deadly duties.

jennifer governmentJennifer Government by Max Barry

In a future that doesn’t seem so off the wall, everyone works for and takes the name of the big corporations that run the world. Hack Nike has little choice but to do the bidding of his bosses, even if that means shooting teenagers to increase the value of Nike’s shoes. Enter Jennifer Government, who’s not about to let Nike get away with murder.


Kushiel's DartKushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Whether some of us like it or not (and most of us most certainly do like it) sex is here to stay, as are the people who work in and profit from this industry–which is why I’m all for making sex work legal and therefore safe. Phedre begins as an indentured adept in one of the houses of Terre d’Ange. Each assignation earns her money toward her marque, and once it is complete, she is free to do as she pleases with her body and command her own hefty price for the privilege of a dalliance with the world’s only anguissette.

robopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel W. Wilson

Robots are made to obey and to make our lives easier, but as always seems to happen, those uppity robots get too smart for our own good and start deciding humanity’s fate. Maybe if we’d just stop being lazy and do our own damn dishes, apocalypses wouldn’t happen.

Tiara’s Picks


I took a few liberties with this topic and considered “laborers” as not just the people who do the backbreaking stuff for the nobles, but the people who have to trade for them, teach their children, fight their wars, act as priestesses for the higher ups, etc. because doesn’t this make them laborers and “unimportant” as well?

King 1King (King by Joshua Hale Fialkov)

King is the last human on earth after a series of devastating events killed the whole human species. Now, earth is inhabited by mutant lifeforms and aliens who probably want to eat King. However, even in the wasteland of earth, King is tasked with finding old relics of days gone by, in particular they want something called “the seed of life.”

The Buried LifeJane Lin (The Buried Life by Carrie Patel)

Jane Lin is a laundress for the rich people of the underground city of Recoletta. Being as she’s seen as nothing more than a servant, she’s often seen as invisible, but her destiny is much larger than being just a laundress.

Storm SirenNym (Storm Siren by Mary Weber)

Nym is a slave who has been sold well over ten times. She carried the telltale looks of a person who can control the elements, but only boys are supposed to have that power. When a buyer recognizes the potential in Nym, she must become more than just a rebellious slave.

sword of shannaraShae and Flick Ohmsford (The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks)

The Ohmsford brothers are traders and they also work their father’s tavern/inn. They take good to neighboring cities to earn money and provide for those who have limited resources. However, Shea and Flick find themselves on a LOTR-esque adventure when they learn how important Shea is to stopping a looming threat.

Full Fathom FiveKai (Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone)

Kai is a priestess in the business of making “gods” for people to worship after the true gods have disappeared. Making gods is a serious profit making business in her world. These gods, however, are little more than empty shells for people to pray to. Kai finds herself in the middle of a deistic conspiracy when she realizes there seems to be more to these gods than people think.

mass effect ascensionCommander Shepard (Mass Effect by Bioware)

I couldn’t have this list without the galaxy’s premier soldier, Commander Shepard who goes from investigating what seemed like a strange, but routine threat to being the only person to stand between the galaxy and its extermination.

The Element of FireThomas Boniface (The Element of Fire by Martha Wells)

Thomas Boniface is the leader of the Queen’s Guard. He and a group of the most loyal men in the country protect the dowager queen. Thomas finds himself in the center of controversy as a man with great magical power and a vendetta against his home country begins to use them as pawns for a coming war in both the real and magical world.

Jupiter AscendingJupiter (Jupiter Ascending by Lana and Andy Wachowski)

This is actually a movie not a book, but I felt it was important to add this one. Jupiter’s father loved space. Later in her life, Jupiter is a maid in the family business cleaning toilets for the rich and privileged, and she’s inherited this love of space. But as an undocumented (it seems to be implied) immigrant, her options seem limited. Then, Jupiter finds herself part of a story bigger than she could ever imagine in this space opera. While this movie tends to get mixed reactions I do applaud the Wachowskis for some of the elements they used and how they debunked some typical tropes in Jupiter’s narrative.

6 Comments on “Tough Traveling: Laborers”

  1. Great list. Well done with the Sanderson – I completely forgot the Bridgemen and the Parshmen!
    I also had Phedre – I was too’ing and fro ing about whether she fit so now I feel she must do!
    Lynn 😀


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