Sunday, May 26, 2013

Christopher Healy, The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom

69. I'd heard such good things about this book that I picked it up. My initial impression was that the writing was pretty juvenile (it wasn't until some time later, after seeing it shelved with the middle grade books at Barnes and Nobles, that I realized it really was targeted at middle grade readers). However, that wasn't a problem for long--it didn't take much for me to get engrossed in the story, which follows the League of Princes Charming: Frederick, Liam, Gustav, and Duncan. All four are nameless princes in their respective fairytale (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Snow White), and all are finding their post-fame life somewhat lacking. Frederick just wants to find Cinderella, who's run off because life with Frederick (more comfortable with court etiquette than actual adventure) is frankly boring; Liam wants to reclaim his people's affection after he dumps Sleeping Beauty; Gustav just wants to succeed at something, and Duncan--well, Duncan is definitely the oddball of the bunch and mostly he's just lost. But he does want to find actual friends.

It's hard to describe the plot, since it's pretty madcap and involves, among other things, a wicked witch, a Truly Wicked Plot, a boy robber king, a gentle giant, a dragon, trolls, handsome princess, selfish princesses, and much more. But the plotting was deftly done and the novel was very, very funny.

To give just one example: At the end of one chapter, the narrator tells us about the princess happily heading off to accomplish some task, and then comments that they would not have been so happy if they knew the title of the next chapter. Turning the page, you discover that the next chapter is appropriately titled "Prince Charming is Doomed."

I think most children--and plenty of adults--would be charmed by this story of the not-always-so-charming Princes Charming.