Tough Traveling: Knights

February 20, 2015 Tough Traveling 19


Tough Travels is a meme hosted by Fantasy Review Barn. Each Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy.


Um. Noble rich people on horseback. Come on, you people know what knights are. (Topic provided by Miriam)


Knights. They’re everywhere in fantasy: killing dragons a la St. George; fighting for right and justice, or just for their king and country; winning the fair maiden’s hand. Here’s a selection of some of my favorites over the years. (Warning: minor spoilers.)

PierceT_ProtectorOfTheSmall-04_LadyKnightKeladry of Mindelan, from the Protector of the Small Quartet by Tamora Pierce. Not only does this series have one of the best female knights I have ever come across (sorry, Alanna!), it has the best descriptions of knightly training I’ve ever read. From initial weapons work with wooden practice weapons to jousting against a fully-armored knight, these books breathe realism despite the fantasy setting; you can feel the bruises. And Kel is awesome – especially since she’s not magical or Chosen or anything like that. Kel succeeds because she’s determined and tenacious, even in the face of prejudice and bullying by those who want her to quit.

Faramir, from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Boromir may be the stronger, more skilled, more charismatic knight (and make no mistake, though they fight on foot, the sons of Denethor are essentially knights.) But Faramir lives up to the true ideals of knighthood, particularly when he lets Frodo and Sam go, knowing Frodo holds the Ring.

The knights of the Round Table. I can’t leave these guys out – they’re the epitome of what we think of when we think “knight” (even if historically, they would have been closer to Roman cavalry than medieval knights.) There are so many good versions of the Arthurian myths. I’m particularly fond of Mary Stewart’s series, especially The Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills. For younger readers, Elizabeth Lodor Merchant’s King Arthur and His Knights is pretty good, especially if you can find the Winston edition illustrated by Frank Godwin (long out of print, I’m afraid, but based on Malory, and the illustrations are gorgeous.)

Aeron from Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown. Aeron is neither your typical knight nor your typical hero, and the dragon is a particularly difficult specimen to deal with. Add in McKinley’s marvelous writing, and this is a winner – literally. The Hero and the Crown won the Newbery in 1985.

The knight in One Good Knight, by Mercedes Lackey. I can’t give this knight’s identity or story away without major spoilers. Let’s just say that lots of things in this novel aren’t what they appear, and you’ll really have to read it to see why.

Kurtz_DeryniRisingTarma, from Mercedes Lackey’s Oathbound series. Tarma’s people – the Shin’a’in horse-nomads – don’t have knights, but their Kal’enedral are essentially similar. Bound to serve the Goddess in her aspect as Warrior, the Kal’enedral (male and female) are highly trained, highly skilled fighters, whether afoot or on horseback. And they always serve the cause of justice.

Kelson, Morgan, Nigel, and any number of other characters from Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books. For knightly prowess and honor, tempered by a sense of practical realism and enhanced by magic/ESP, read Kurtz’s Deryni novels. They’re set in a world based on late medieval/Renaissance Britain, Europe, and the Ottoman Empire. I guarantee you can get your knight fix in these! Watching Kelson grow into kingship through the the course of seven books (Deryni Rising through King Kelson’s Bride) is an education in medieval politics (as well as a pleasure, of course!)

ETA: The Heralds in Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books. All of them. OK, they wear white uniforms instead of armor, and they ride sentient “horses.” But their primary function is dispensing the Monarch’s justice and serving as his/her eyes, ears, and voice throughout the country, and their major characteristic is selfless devotion to Valdemar’s people – defending the helpless, bringing justice on the evildoers. Yes, I think they qualify as knights.

19 Responses to “Tough Traveling: Knights”

  1. Kaja

    I always liked Faramir better than Boromir, even if B. wasn’t consumed by the Ring’s power. He’s so noble! I hated how his father treated him… The fact that the movie-F is prettier than movie-B just sealed the deal 😉
    I still have to read The Hero and the Crown, it’s on my Classics TBR for the near future.
    I’m really glad you decided to join (I always have this need to channel my inner Effie Trinket with the “Welcome, welcome” routine). 🙂
    Kaja recently posted…Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa DareMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Faramir was always my favorite of the brothers, too. Had to chuckle about your assessment of the movie actors – and agree!

      I hope you do get a chance to read The Hero and the Crown. It’s really good, though The Blue Sword is my favorite of the Damar books.

  2. Bea @Bea's Book Nook

    What a neat idea for a meme. Of the books and series you mention, I’ve read LotR (and I agree with your assessment) and several incarnations of the Round Table and King Arthur. I would throw in Eric Banyon from Mercedes Lackey’s Bedlam’s Bard series.
    Bea @Bea’s Book Nook recently posted…Friday 56: Live by Mary Ann RiversMy Profile

  3. Stephanie

    Glad you joined in the fun! Can’t wait to the Kel books as this is the second time I’ve seen her on this list. She sounds like a great character. The Kurtz series also looks interesting and not one Ive heard of I think – though Deryni sounds familiar. Finally, I have read very little Mercedes Lackey and in fact don’t remember which of hers I’ve read – none of the above sound familiar. Do you have a recommendation about where to start with her?
    Stephanie recently posted…Tough Traveling – Knights!My Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Oh, you should really read the Kel books – I think you’ll love her! As for Lackey, I’m never sure where to tell people to start. The obvious place is with her first trilogy (Arrows of the Queen, Arrow’s Flight, Arrow’s Fall.) It’s more YA than some of the other books, and it’s a bit… overly idealistic in places. But it’s also a really good introduction to Valdemar, the Heralds, and the world of Velgarth, which is where a lot of her best books are set. Another choice (different series) would be The Lark and the Wren. And if you prefer fairytale retellings and elemental magic, try The Serpent’s Shadow.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Oh, gosh, yes, I forgot about Sir Cadogan, but he’s a riot! And actually, for all his ineptitude, he does at least have the chivalric impulse. Good thinking!

  4. Danya @ Fine Print

    YES Kel is the best! She accomplished the same things as Alanna but everyone knew she was a girl while doing it…and like you said, she did it without magic! Good point about the training scenes. They were very detailed and I’m sure that Tamora Pierce did quite a bit of research for them.
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Review: Written in Red by Anne BishopMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Yes, that’s what I like so much about Kel. Not to slight Alanna, but she went through knight training as a boy, and she had the Goddess’s help and her magic. Kel had to deal with all the hostility and prejudice against her as the first girl to undergo training openly, and had only her own stubbornness and determination to aid her – well, along with her friends.