The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom coverFrom Goodreads:

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard 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 Gustav 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 assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes–a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Like:

Going into this book I was a little worried about all the characters.  (Though I did have a lot of fun trying to figure out which fairy tale couple was which based on the cover art.  Seriously, try it before you read the book.)  Yes, 8 main characters doesn’t seem like a lot if you are a Tolkien or Game of Thrones fan, but I have read too many books with multiple main characters where their personalities just blended together and I had trouble keeping them straight.  I’m looking at you Merry and Pippin.  Thankfully, each prince and princess has a very distinct personality that makes a large cast easy to follow.  The miniature backgrounds provided on each prince really stuck in my mind.

In a similar vein, each kingdom has its own personality, and they all reflect a well known type of fantasy.  Gustav’s kingdom is vikings and Conan.  Frederic’s is the very nonthreatening, everything is clean, and neat, lets-have a-fancy-ball-where-everyone-uses-the-correct-fork kingdom.  Liam’s is the typical swashbuckling danger and adventure land.  Duncan’s is straight out of Disney where animals are drawn to kind princesses.  No really, Snow White knows what day it is because the birds always visit her in a distinct order based on the day of the week.  I love having all of these places in one world.

In a world made out of repurposed fairy tale characters, the original characters were just as compelling.  Take princess #5 Liam’s younger sister, Lila.  Admittedly this is a girl after my own heart, she like science and thinks her way through problems.  She isn’t afraid to get her hand’s dirty and will do what it takes to protect her brother.  Then there is Ella’s cousin, Deep.  The ten year old Bandit King.  Whatever you do, do not remind him that he is young because he’s got one heck of a mean streak.  Besides that, he’s good enough to steal the socks off your feet while you’re still wearing shoes.  He earned the moniker Bandit King through hard work, starting at the age of seven.

If all of this makes the book sound a little crazy to you, that’s because it is.  But in the best possible way.  Everyone is a little bit neurotic.  The characters stumble from one danger to the next without ever knowing what is really going on.  For most of the book they don’t actually know what the evil witch’s nefarious plan is or that she has a big evil plan.  They make guesses and try their best based on what they believe with hilarious results.  It’s a little like The Odd Couple meets The Princess Bride.  They fail more than they succeed, but that doesn’t stop them from going back for more.

Lastly, I loved the illustrations by Tod Harris.  For one they match the cover art.  This might not seem like a big deal, but trust me it is.  There is nothing worse than getting excited about a well done cover only to open the book and find the illustrations are sub par or are done in a completely different art style.  The illustrations really help set the mood for scenes, make each character unique, and they are done is the same tongue-in-cheek style as the book.  They aren’t just there to look pretty, they actually add to the humor of the book.

Don’t like:

Ack, the love triangle is looming.  I so wanted the romances between everyone to be settled and the book ends in a bad place romance wise.  One couple is happily married.  The others… Well without spoiling anything by giving names, two princes want the same princess, she wants one but is engaged to the other, and another couple might, sorta like each other but it’s not that clear.  In a book that starts out with Frederic trying to go win back Cinderella, leaving the romances hanging makes the book feel incomplete.  I know there is a sequel coming soon and will definitely read it, but still.

Rapunzel has no page time next to the other princesses.  No Rapunzel is not my favorite princess (that would be Belle, thank you very much) but it just seemed strange in a book about four fairy tale princes and princesses to leave one out.  She is in two scenes, that’s it.  And she barely gets mentioned outside of those two.  The other princesses are all integral to the shenanigans going on in the plot, but Rapunzel just gets tacked on at the end.  Compared to everyone else she feels like a plot devise because there is no time given to developing her character beyond really-kind-woman-with-magical-tears-that-heal-people.  In many ways Lila takes her place as the fourth princess.

Overall:

If you’re still reading you can probably guess that I liked this book.  I’m a sucker for any book based on fairy tales, especially when it turns fairy tales on their heads and points out how utterly ridiculous they can be.  Add zanny humor, ridiculous situations, and vegetarian trolls and I’m a happy girl.  The book reminds me of Shrek (the movie, not the picture book).  A lot of humor and a little bit of social commentary.  So if you, or a little one you know, are tired of regular fairy tales and have read/seen the originals give this a try.  Prefect for 8+.

3 Throwing Stars

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