Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Print // Kindle // Christopher Healy Webpage
Enter a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change...

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Well at least some of them are.

See the bards got it wrong in all those heroic stories of Prince Charming saving this or that Princess.  Really 'Prince Charming' was a whole bunch of guys named Liam, Frederic, Duncan and Gustav and honestly most of their heroic escapades were a matter of good luck and good timing.  But what kind of story is that?  So embellishments happened, expectations rose and well...that means folks were bound to be disappointed with the real thing.

I'm a real sucker when it comes to comedic fantasies. Add in the subversion and outright toss out the window nature of fairy tales and you've got a fan in me. All this means is that from the very first moment I heard about this book I wanted it. Didn't care it was for middle grade, didn't care that it was an author I never heard of--I just wanted the book.

Boy did it NOT let me down.

Healy takes a premise that sounds a bit hokey (the Princes Charming get rejected so they set out to save the world and prove everyone wrong) and crafts a hilarious, touching tale about being true to yourself (without being preachy).  Almost as importantly I think this book will appeal to not just the middle grade audience, but to anyone who enjoys a light-hearted fantasy.

Admittedly the writing itself is simple and the narrative is obviously written to appeal to a young child's mind (one that is prone to being easily distracted), but its the characters who shine.  Poor Prince Frederic, the 'Prince Charming' who saved Cinderella from a life of menial servitude, was raised to be such a milquetoast that he doesn't understand why Cinderella (aka just 'Ella' thank you) isn't perfectly content with a structured routine that doesn't change or surprise.  Prince Gustav ('Prince Charming' from Rapunzel's story) is a failure at fighting despite being a fairly hulking guy and is only further humiliated when Rapunzel not only saves herself, but restores his vision and saves him as well.

Also the less said about poor Prince Duncan is probably the better.

These guys can't catch a break and it makes you feel REALLY bad for them because of it (also makes me want to smack a couple of their heads together but that's besides the point).  When they band together to not only return their names to glorious heroic portions, but also to stop an evil plot no one believes exists I won't lie I was more than a little worried it would end badly.

Healy obviously enjoys himself as well.  The Prologue for instance, which breaks the fourth wall so hard you'd think it never existed, spoils events the happen 19 chapters later and unashamedly admits that the Princes Charming are really anything but at times.  You can tell that Healy really must have wanted to make this book as fun, amusing and exciting (in safe ways, Frederic assures you) and honestly I bet this will be a hoot read aloud.

So whether you are a ten year old seeking to defeat an evil witch and needing some pointers, or a 20something like me interested in hearing the 'true' story of Prince Charming, THE HERO'S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM is definitely worth checking out.  Did I mention its the first in a series? No? Its the first in a series and I can't WAIT for book 2.