The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
We are going a little younger in the audience of our book review today. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is a children’s fantasy that is enjoyably good.
We start after the fairy tales have occurred: Prince Charming has already met and ‘saved’ his princess. They are engaged and the bards speak of bright futures for the couple. However, the bards never get things right; they cannot even remember the prince’s name!
Painted like simple, empty-headed girls obsessed with fashion, the princesses do not live up to their descriptions either. No, the bards have taken the elements of their respective fairy tales and twisted the facts out of recognition.
What we find instead in this eclectic land of kingdoms are four very different princes and four unique princesses. Each has their own distinct outlook on life and a well-developed personality. With that in play we now have a story worth reading. Like all great books it is the characters that sell the simple tale of stopping an evil witch and ‘rescuing’ the missing princess.
The book is well suited to its audience. The bad guys are a little on the silly side so as not to be too scary. Even these secondary characters have been given personalities and well-defined goals. They are not just evil, they are purposely bad. The heroes do manage some heroic moments towards the end of the book but are otherwise written as people with strengths and some very obvious weaknesses. The princesses are the most surprising element. After all fairy tales generally revolve around the princess spending far less time developing the male counterpart. These women are even more diverse then their princes and the author has a few interesting twists as he reinterprets their distinctive outlooks on life. I think there is enough writing about both sexes along with a healthy dose of adventure and comedy to appeal to both genders.
Really, it is one of the best children’s books I have read in a long time (only partly because I haven’t read many children’s books in a long time).
My few complaints are … well silly. I find the book obviously childish and the plot simplistic. This is not because the author didn’t do a good job, he did. This is because the book is a children’s tale. I wonder what it would look like if it was directed at an older audience. My other quibble has to do with the narrator’s voice at the end – it didn’t jive with me. I would rather that the princes were not responsible for ‘writing’ the book. Personal preference; it just felt like the wording on the last page broke my emersion in the world.
Still, to be absolutely clear – The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is an excellent children’s fantasy. Also the illustrations are pretty funny too!