Friday, June 22, 2012
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
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.
My rating: *****
5+, really. This is absolutely one of the funniest, the most clever, and the most enjoyable fairy tale retellings I have ever read. Ready for some gushing?
Let's talk about voice. Not only are all these characters easy to tell apart because of their unique voices, but the narrative voice is just delightful. There's a little bit of that narrator-talks-directly-to-the-reader thing going on that when done right (like in The Tale of Despereaux) is one of my favorite things to find in a children's or MG book. I wasn't one page into this before I knew it was going to be a hilarious read. I laughed out loud so many times and so loudly it was embarrassing. I've already started reading it to my 7 year-old daughter and 5 year-old son because they had to know what was so funny. Was some of the comedy a little silly and juvenile? Probably. But it's all good clean fun, the kind that there's not nearly enough of in the world. And guess what? There's grammar humor. Can I tell you how happy that made me? Ridiculously happy.
And the characters! The story is so well paced that I got to know each of the princes individually (and the princesses) and I knew them so well that I really felt it when they faced up to their flaws and insecurities and overcame them. And the group dynamics when the four princes are working together? Spectacular! It takes a few hilarious messed-up battles for them to get into their groove, but when it clicked it was awesome.
The story and its conflicts are perfect. There's an evil witch, but she's not a stock evil witch. There are dwarves and trolls and bandits, but none of them were what I expected from those kinds of characters. Particularly the bandit king. :D Just wait till you read it! The whole story was very well crafted and ingeniously executed.
Bottom line? This is a new all-time favorite. The kind of book I have to immediately buy so I can lend it out to all my friends. I've also heard the audiobook is spectacular (like best audiobook since Harry Potter). I plan on checking it out soon. Also, there's going to be a sequel! I can't wait. No official news on when it will be released, but since the book spine says "BOOK 1" on it, I'm hoping this will be a series. I can't wait for more from Christopher Healy.
HIGHLY recommended if you like clean, funny children's literature, fairytale retellings, physical and situational comedy, Disney's Tangled (did Prince Liam remind anyone else of Flynn Rider?), and The Princess Bride.