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Review: Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Title: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
Story Arc: Series, Book 1
Publication: May 1, 2012 by Walden Pond Press
Hardcover: 419 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tales, Retelling, Adventure
Age Group: Middle Grade, Teen
Content: Mentions of Kissing
Source: Bought | Quote(s): Yes

Prince Charming is afraid of old ladies. Didn't know that, did you?

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.

Bards don’t know squat about the Princes Charming
It’s no secret that I’m in love with The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. I’ve been declaring my love and affection on Twitter, on Youtube, for gosh sakes, and there’s a reason for it, my friends. I don’t normally DO middle grade books. I’ve always felt that there was this lack in them that I couldn’t get passed. Sometimes things get a little too predictable, a little too easy, but you know what, I’ve realized this year that I’m full of CRAP. Baskets of crap. Because what the heck do I know? This is my second attempt at middle grade, and for the second time, I’ve been put in my place, and my silly preconceptions about the age group as a whole have been popped and have dissipated into NOTHING, not even blips in my memory. To the point where I’m going to make it my business to pick up more middle grade.

I picked this up after I read this really fabulous review and character interview over at Small Review. I thought to myself, unheroic, endearing Princes Charming setting the record straight? I WANT IN. SO WANT IN. And I’ve been giving The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy these wide, creepy, happy smiles and not-so-subtle dreamy glances. Because, yes, this book is THAT good. Perfect book material, totally. It hits up my two favorite things—fantasy and retellings. It retells the fairy tales you think you know, the ones that I love, and shows you how WRONG they actually are. The Princes Charming totally set the record straight, and you’ll remember their names by the end.

You guys, this is laugh-out-loud narration, wholesome fun, charming, hilarious characterization, and so much more. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is about flaws turned to strengths, about a rare, unheroic bunch becoming the real thing, becoming the heroes the bards will remember this time.

Prince Charming is character girl heaven
GOSH, I love these characters. Adore them, treasure them, admire them, root for them. Each of these screw-up princes, with all their flaws, banter, and triumphs, own a mansion in my heart. I have such a soft spot for sweet-natured, curious, oddball Duncan, it’s ridiculous. Frederic is a close second place, making me LAUGH OUT LOUD in wonder and humor over his prissy, prim, and proper dialogue and his amusing prudence, his entertaining OBSESSION with cleanliness. Reading as these two discover their so-called weaknesses and oddities as strengths, as they discover their heroic qualities themselves, as well as the bond of friendship among four unlikely companions, is the purest form of joy and entertainment. I was hooked.

Then, Healy throws in quintessential storybook hero and prince with the dashing good looks and excellent strategist tendencies—Liam—and a prince with a fierce superiority complex and impulsive, reckless act-first-think-later personality—Gustav, and you couldn’t have pried me from this book if you’d offered me your last carton of cookies and cream ice cream. The illustrations just ADD to the whole disarmingly awesome reading experience.

Christopher Healy made me openly share my SNORTS of HORROR, causing shame to my relatives, I was laughing so hard, and I was too absorbed to be the least bit embarrassed. Please, I didn’t have time for that. I was too busy reading about four of the BEST male main characters to enter middle grade/young adult fiction and their quests into No Man’s Land and foreign kingdoms where they fight giants, dragons, witches, and BANDITS. Their adventures absolutely took precedence over EVERYTHING ELSE.

Prince Charming wants his princess back
From losing said princess to the promise of adventure with Rapunzel, to making another feel unwanted and underappreciated, to realizing how nasty YET ANOTHER one is, these Princes Charming certainly have their hands full.

Poor Frederic, after kissing and dancing and proposing to the lovely Ella, has driven her away with his lack of understanding and sense of adventure (his idea of a daring escapade is an outdoor picnic with a new menu to try), and he must overcome his fears of the outside world to chase after her (never mind he leaves with the little knowledge as to how to ride a horse).

Prince Gustav, shamed by his part in Rapunzel’s story and irritated at everyone’s mockery of his heroic potential, has, with his callousness and abrasiveness, sent Rapunzel packing to head in the opposite direction, off on her own in order to use her healing abilities for the good of others.

And Prince Liam? The good, noble prince actually capable of rescuing the damsel in distress, and does, has found himself in quite the pickle. After rescuing Princess Briar Rose from the evil, jealous fairy who cast a sleep spell on her entire kingdom, has witnessed firsthand, and in due shock, her plain (and unexpected) meanness and selfishness and has, with relief, refused to marry her, much to the detriment of his impeccable reputation.

All is not well for these princes, and they find themselves in the same hellhole. None of the bards have remembered their names, and so EVERYONE knows them all as only Prince Charming, and nothing more. Unwittingly stumbling across one another, Prince Frederic and Gustav are the first to unite, Gustav in hopes to finally gain a hero status in helping the helpless, clueless, frightened Frederic in saving the damsel. When that fails, and they seek the aid of the famous Charming whose reputation for defeating a witch FAIRY is widely known, the two seek him out and pick up Duncan as well for their trouble. Their distaste for each other quickly expands to trust, trust to respect and admiration, and eventually the four become protective of one another, basking in their kinship over the horrors of their reputations. They become so heartwarmingly close, and grow to be exactly the kind of people they always longed to be, while forming a brotherhood of sorts worthy of unabashed cheers and fist-pumps!

A fourth character and GIGANTIC hopes for more
Healy’s narration, so laidback and funny and surprisingly modern and natural, feels like a character all on its own. There’s constant foreshadowing and subtle trickery, in which this omniscient narrator fools us into believing the worst, one thing over another, and constantly catches us by happy surprise. His humorous perception of the characters and the goings-on in the novel make things EVEN FUNNIER, if you can believe it. And I look on this voice as a faceless character that I adore almost as much as the rest of the book!

Because The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is to develop into an ongoing series, you’d maybe think that it ends in a dissatisfying, wide-open, even abrupt, way and that COULDN’T BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy has an ending of perfect proportions, everything tidied up yet still left room for possibilities to stretch, and closes on a happy, high-spirited note in which it’s obvious that continuous adventures are BOUND to come. I want to read the sequel, and every sequel after that, PURELY FOR SELFISH and JOYOUS reasons. I want to read every book after because I am SO IN LOVE with this story and these characters and my seedling expectations for the light romances between the Princes Charming and their princesses.
"This was meant to be. I'm coming with you."
"Oh, for crying out loud," Gustav moaned. "Another one with a cape? And an itty-bitty cape at that!"
"I think it's rather snazzy," said Frederic.
"Why, thank you," said Duncan. "I wanted something that I could swish over my shoulder for dramatic entrances--and yet not get caught in doors."
"All right, fine," said Liam. "We can always use another sword. Are you an good with a blade?"
"Ha!" laughed Duncan.
Liam furrowed his brow. "Is that 'Ha,' as in, 'How silly of you to ask; everyone knows I'm the best swordsman in the land'?" he asked hopefully.
"No, that was 'Ha,' as in, 'I've never even a held a sword,'"Duncan answered. "But I will provide all the flute music we need. Leroy!"
The other three stared at Duncan, perplexed.
"Who's Leroy?" Frederic asked.
"Oh," Duncan said. "There's a bunny over there between those trees. He looked like a Leroy to me."
Awkward silence. (119)
"That's right. We've slept in worse places," Gustav replied. "And you haven't heard me complain once, have you?"
"You complained when I wiped the gooseberries off your face," Frederic said.
"That was an invasion of my personal space," Gustav retorted.
"I'm sorry, but there was a huge glop of berries stuck to your cheek. Was I supposed to leave it there?" Frederic said. (139)
Rating: Special Shelf

I haven’t been this utterly taken with a novel in a ridiculously long time! I feel flushed and excited and SO READY for more. An encore is as necessary as air at this point. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy has everything from a wholesome, action-packed plot in which these Princes Charming fight off evil witches, dragons, and sly, cunning, feared bandits, and contains characters flawed, huggable, and—this has to be said—charming that it’s impossible to be bored and miserable reading their story. I was dazzled by the fun omniscient narrator, the unique concepts in the plot, the villains and the good guys, and especially the illustrations—I’d never thought pictures so vital before now. I absolutely recommend The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy for peeps of all ages, and that you not just pick it up for younger relatives and friends but for yourself as well!


Prince Duncan, Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, and Prince Gustav respectively.

Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Don't be shy!


Lulu Bookworm said...

Wow! Amazing review! I will definitely be picking this one up, I saw Small's post(s) about it and was hooked. I. Need. To. Buy. This. Your glorious review adds to my determination to get it :) Thanks SO much for your thoughts on The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom <3

P.S. New follower!! Can't wait to read more of your reviews :)

Heidi said...

I am SO excited that you consider yourself put in your place as far as MG goes. I see where you were coming from, a lot of it is overly predictable and not great, but there is so much FANTASTIC MG out there (LIKE THIS ONE!), that I'm so happy to hear you saying you're open to it now.

I also love your love for Duncan. I am so happy that you loved this one as much as I did, and yes, it deserved a happy dance. :P

Bookworm1858 said...

I really liked this book too-I love fairy tale retellings but have never read one that focuses so much on the princes so it was an enjoyable switch-up!

April C said...

LOL Duncan. Is all.


I agree with Heidi, there's a ton of wonderful Middle Grade books out there and sometimes you have to wade through some crap to find it, much like YA. I freakin' love Hero's Guide and am so thrilled to see you loved it too. Sigh. My favorite prince was Liam, haha, although I loved them all, I just had a lot of sympathy for him because of that Briar Rose. Blah.

Also? I will read the sequels as well for selfish reasons -- because of the joy and laughter the books will bring.

Mindful Musings said...

I REALLY need to get this book. It sounds like a hoot and a half! Wow. Did I really just say that? I think I've been hanging around the parents too much lately...

Anyways, glad to hear you enjoyed it! :) I think I'm going to finally cave and put this on my wishlist.

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