As you’re reading this post, I’m somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on an epic family cruise (note to crazies: I have a house sitter and an alarm system). I’ve read so many great middle grade books lately I didn’t want to miss a week of MMGM and scheduled this one in advance. So if you make a comment, I won’t get back to you until next week.
I actually wasn’t sure THE HERO’S GUIDE TO SAVING YOUR KINGDOM was classified as MG until I read the acknowledgements and the author thanked the publisher for guiding him through writing a middle grade book. I’m so glad it is so I can cover it for MMGM.
Here’s a description from the author’s website:
Sure, we’re all aware of those guys who show up at the end of fairy tales to save the princesses, throw on a fancy suit, and get hitched in a lavish wedding. But have you ever wondered who those guys really are? Or if the few, meager facts we do hear about them are even true? (Hint: Generally not.)
In the first volume of the Hero’s Guide saga, we meet Prince Frederic, Prince Liam, Prince Gustav, and Prince Duncan — better known as the Princes Charming who rescued Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Snow White, respectively — and find out that these men are far more (or less) than the cardboard cutout heroes we’ve heard tales about. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their kingdoms, these four men bond over their shared anonymity and band together to battle witches, goblins, trolls, bandits, and giants in order to save each of their kingdoms from a diabolical plot. And by the end, with any luck, they may finally become the real heroes they were always meant to be.
Here are the five things I loved most.
1. The twists on the fairy tales – If you read my post on SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, you might be surprised that I like the way Christopher Healy twisted these fairy tales. It all comes down to how it’s handled. It’s not billed as a retelling of the fairy tales. It’s a whole different approach. This story claims to give the real story on the Princes Charming, and then it takes you past the happily–or not so happily–ever after. The characters are each so engaging that you don’t care how the author has messed with the fairy tales.
2. The theme – I came away from this book with a clear message that everyone has different strengths in life, and that’s great. The four princes are unique and flawed in some way. Through their journey together, they learn to focus on their strengths instead of their weaknesses. It’s a lesson they have to learn not only about themselves, but also about their friends. By the end, they recognize the value of each individual and how he contributes to the team. Everyone can’t be a bona fide hero like Liam, and that’s good, because Liam couldn’t have contributed what Duncan or Gustav or Frederick did.
3. Ambiguity about the happily ever afters – From the first chapter you know these four fairy tale couples didn’t all get married and live happily ever after, but I liked the way Christopher Healy mixed it up. One couple is married, one couple involves a crazy princess who won’t end up with anyone unless she has a major attitude change, and the other two just aren’t good fits. Well, maybe one of them could be. The book left me thinking there will be some musical chairs with the fairy tale endings in a later installment.
4. The chapter titles – How could you not want to read something with headings like these?
Prince Charming Misplaces His Bride
Prince Charming Should Not Be Left Unsupervised
Prince Charming Walks into a Bar (That’s a joke waiting to happen.)
Prince Charming Is Doomed
5. The supporting characters – I love the way the supporting characters aren’t what you expect. The cocky dwarfs (or dwarves as they insist). The courteous giant. The witch who turned into a stereotype because of the stereotype. The kid bandit. The money-grubbing parents. They all contribute to the quirkiness and charm of the heroes.
If you haven’t read this book yet, add it to your list. Anyone else have thoughts? (Keep in mind I’ll reply next week.)
For querying authors, Christopher Healy is represented by Jill Grinberg and Cheryl Pientka of Jill Grinberg Literary Management.