THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM by Christopher Healy definitely won out among many of the covers I adored in last year’s releases, so it’s not such a huge leap to make the conclusion that I adore this second book’s cover just as much. For obvious reasons, such as how beautifully crafted the artwork is, and also for more underlying purposes. I love that the cover of THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE is perfectly suitable to the ridiculous and hilarious adventures waiting inside, because it’s quite telling of the characters. With one glance at this cover, you should already have an idea of what these stories will be like.
Good. Because that means I’m justified in giving you reproachful glares if you still manage to pass up the opportunity to crack open the cover.
SUMMARY: Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don't you? They're the Princes Charming who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses - Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose - to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.
But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening - even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.
Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination - it's all in a day's work for the League of Princes.
WHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS:
In THE HERO’S GUIDE TO STORMING THE CASTLE we are quickly brought up to speed on the latest happenings since last we were with the League of Princes, and are just as quickly to discover that not much has happened in some time. Nor has there been very much change. You know, one would assume that after defeating an evil witch responsible for the kidnapping of the famous bards in all the land—who are responsible for the misinterpretation of the Princes Charming in each of their respective tales of supposed heroics to begin with—that a little recognition, a little respect for Princes Liam, Gustav, Duncan, and Frederic would be the bare minimum of what they deserve after their individual shows of bravery. But as fiction is prone to showing us, fictional characters, even ones as charming and zany as those we’ve been introduced to in Chris’s incredibly imaginative reinvention, should not expect to get what they want.
A year later, and the bards have still got it wrong, spreading still more exaggerations and partial truths about our poor band of princes. A year later, and Duncan is hard at work on his guide to being a hero, though he remains as adorably random and bizarre as ever; Liam is still scared to return to his homeland where he would no doubt be forced to marry the intolerable Briar Rose; Frederic has reverted to the prince whose qualms were only ever with dust and spotty silverware, unimproved in the art of the sword and terribly likely to cower at the thought of leaving the safety of the castle; and Gustav, well, let’s just say his family and their perception of him hasn’t gotten any better, in fact it’s far worse.
Good thing there’s a small matter of a quest to come, leading the League of Princes right back to each other to pick up again with their disastrous plans and misguided, scattered attempts to save the kingdoms from a pampered, self-entitled royal pain, an eleven-year-old bandit king, and a cruel, evil ruler of a dark foreign land.
WHERE WE GO:
THE HERO’S GUIDE series is sort of what I imagine reading THE PRINCESS BRIDE would be like. PRINCESS BRIDE the film is one of my favorite fairytale-esque parodies, and if ever Healy’s books were made into movies, I feel like that’s what it would be like: varying perspectives, hilarious introspection and misadventures, while still possessing fabulous characters and plot. In STORMING THE CASTLE, so much is coming together at once it could be hard to keep up but it somehow isn’t, even though you could flip from the perspective of one of the Princes to one of the villains fairly quickly and the plot isn’t always chronological. But it works.
What begins as innocent and fun swordplay, with a little teasing at Frederic’s expense, in the middle of the Harmonian palace ends up with an unconscious Liam tossed over the shoulder of a mysterious cowl-wearing kidnapper. Instantly, the adventure flowers before anyone has time to figure out what it’s going to be, with a fast-thinking Frederic hastily sending word for the League of Princes, and uninvited friends, to assemble in the hopes to restore their friend at their sides. But once they regain their unspoken leader, things aren’t as they’d once been and the quest is far from over, so we traverse through various kingdoms and are maneuvered through high-speed wagon chases and impersonate a number of clowns all leading up to the final showdown at the Bandit King’s base of operations/impregnable fortress.
WHO WE ARE WITH:
With Healy’s work this time around, it was slightly difficult to get invested. Every time I tried, I kept getting interrupted. So every time Duncan had an outburst where he formally dubbed a random animal or Liam was hit with a wrecking ball of revealed secrets demolishing his confidence or whatever, people were MAKING NOISE. About how I should be working and not reading, how I should be cleaning and not reading, how I should be eating and not reading. PEOPLE WOULDN’T GO AWAY. Which really pisses me off, since I figure that that has more to do with my small lack of emotional investment than anything that Chris did. He’s so good I don’t even blame him, I blame myself. And every-freaking-one else.
BUT, that didn’t prevent me from noticing some really awesome things. I loved that essentially all the horse poop—Papa Scoots Jr. is the most likely culprit—hit the fan in this installment. We have Liam whose spirit is crushed after learning that the pivotal point during the infancy of his heroism was actually a farce, and is now unsure of every decision he makes, caught in a spiraling span of guilt and doubt. And because of this, I really loved seeing Frederic take the reins in this one. Though an unskilled swordsman he may be, he is an excellent strategist and amasser of loyalties, which proves to be as important a skill as the former. So *MEGA FIST PUMPS*!!
And finally all the princesses have been gathered as well. Although one among them may be a minor villain, it was still fabulous to see these ladies climb aboard this wacky scheme against Deeb Rauber. Yes, they are all perfectly matched to a prince in some way, though not how everyone assumes, but they are NOT just striking accents. They hold their own against each obstacle thrown in the group’s way by their own wit and skill, so DOUBLE YAY.
THE LITTLE THINGS:
- Deeb Rauber Punishes a Henchman Via Chewed Gum
- Cinderella’s Heart Drops When Liam Says ‘I Do’
- Frederic Sees Rapunzel Again
- Snow White Beans a Few Bandits At the Circus
- Gustav and Briar Rose Banter With Each Other
- Little Lila Trains As a Bounty Hunter
"Hey, Mr. Mini-Cape, I see you've got yourself a ride this time," Gustav said, noticing Duncan's horse.
"Ah, yes," Duncan said. "Allow me to introduce Papa Scoots Jr. As you surely remember, the original Papa Scoots ran away last year. I thought I'd never have a horse like that again. But as luck would have it, one summer morning, this fine beast wandered into Papa Scoot's old stable. To make it even more of a coincidence, he looks exactly like Papa Scoots! So I had to name him Papa Scoots Jr. It's like fate."
"Um, Duncan," Frederic said tentatively. "Did you even consider that maybe Papa Scoots just found his way back home? That this is Papa Scoots?"
"Impossible," Duncan said. "Papa Scoots hated me."
And with that, Papa Scoots Jr. kicked Duncan into a bush.
It’s not only a pleasure to read one of Chris Healy’s books, but it’s a warm comfort and a devastation to the stomach muscles, because most of the time there’s nothing but endless laughter. Yes, his stories are imaginative, interesting, and exciting, but nothing beats out that they’re fun, that they’re the kind of books that make me wish my sisters were a little younger so that they would appreciate my reading his books to them (instead of scoffing) and I could get away with doing so without having to come up with excuses. His stories make me want to read them aloud to see who else would laugh, and because I want to share them so much, that in itself proves how much I LOVE HIS BOOKS. He has a way, Chris does, and to think about the wait for the next book in the series is too much torture to have to bear before attempting to sleep at 1am. But, this is a series worth expressing myself over at a hellish hour like this one.
Hardback / 496 pgs / April 30th 2013 / Walden Pond Press / Goodreads / $16.99
I received an ARC of this installment from a publicist at Walden Pond Press.