Friday, November 16, 2012

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

There's been quite a bit of buzz for this title and all the kids I've mentioned it to have been interested. They had to wait their turns though, because I wanted to read it first.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I knew, as soon as I saw the cover and read the first couple chapters, that it was going to be a little more kooky than I personally prefer, but a little kooky in fantasy is ok with some kids so I persevered. My main problem with this book is there are so many characters, plot points, fairy tale mentions, and more that I kept expecting some of them to fall out of the book.

The premise is fresh and intriguing; The various Prince Charmings are tired of being identified by their fairy tales and not having individual personalities. Cinderella's Prince Frederick is really a nervous, squeamish, immature guy who's scared to ever set foot outside his palace. Rapunzel's Prince Gustav is the youngest of 17 brothers and hates being laughed at for his failure to rescue her - or do anything else right. Prince Duncan rescued Snow White by accident and is...veeeery eccentric, although he's the only one who has worked things out enough to marry his princess. Prince Liam's whole identity is in being a hero, but when he rescues Sleeping Beauty he discovers that not only is she a horrible person, his entire kingdom cares only about her wealth.

Filling out the cast is the adventurous Cinderella, Liam's spunky younger sister, a villainous evil witch, career-confused giant, dragon, hilariously capable and grumpy dwarves, a dangerous and very young Bandit King, and a Host of Others.

At over 400 pages, this is a challenging read. Kids who are young enough to enjoy a little wacky fantasy may be confused and discouraged by the plethora of characters and plots. The writing is fresh, the ideas interesting, and the characters have promise, but I wish the book had been pared down a bit, rather than going for the every-plot-point-and-the-kitchen-sink approach.

Verdict: I'm not sorry I purchased this and I think there will be kids who enjoy it, but the length and confusing plots and characters keep it off my best books of the year list. I will be looking for the sequels to see how this debut author shapes up in future titles.

ISBN: 9780062117434; Published 2012 by Walden Pond/HarperCollins; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

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