Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review - The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy (3/5 stars)

Reading level: Middle Grade
Genre: Humor/Fantasy
Size:  448 pages
Publisher:  Walden Pond Press  
Release Date: May 1, 2012 
ISBN:  978-0062117434
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC from Amazon Vine
Rating: 3/5 stars

I got an advanced reading copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program.  I was super excited to read this book.  It sounded like a lot of fun and I love fairy tale retellings.  I ended up not liking it that much.  The dialog and characters went beyond funny to the point where they were very campy.  This book is a really neat idea, but the execution of the story needs some work.

That Prince Charming you hear about...well he's not really Prince Charming.  He's actually Prince Liam, Prince Frederic, Prince Duncan, and Prince Gustav.  These princes are in the doghouse with their respective Princesses and end up on a journey together in which they encounter various baddies and save the kingdom from a witch who steals bards to gain notoriety.

This is a really cool idea.  I love funny, fairy tale mixups and this seemed like a wonderful concept.  The book has a light tone and doesn't take itself seriously.  Unfortunately I had some serious problems with both the plot and the characters.

Let's start with the characters.  Prince Liam is your typical hero; rescues things and is your all around good-boy.  Prince Frederic is the resident fop; he dresses to the nines, loves planning picnics and is scared to set foot outside his castle.  Prince Duncan is the token space cadet; he is eternally distracted, names random woodland creatures, and is generally completely random in everything he does.  Prince Gustav is the strong man; always rushes into danger, tries to be manly, and disdains everyone.

So that's quite a variety of personalities and initially looks like a lot of fun.  Except that it's not.  The princes are just stereotyped personalities; we never really get to know and understand them.  They are very one-dimensional and the things that drive them incredibly simple.  I realize this is a children's book.  As such I sat down and read some of this with my 5 year old son...I thought maybe I am missing something here that he will get.  We read a few chapters and his response was "Mom, why are all these guys so stupid?"  My response; "I don't know...I guess being quirky means you have to be an idiot."

The princesses aren't much better.  Ella is your typical sheltered girl seeking a life of adventure.  Briar Rose is your typical "everyone should love me because I am a princess no matter how mean I am" variety.  Every character in here is an overdone stereotype.  It was just soooo over the top it crossed funny and splatted into just plain dumb region.

The plot isn't much better.  It switches viewpoint between the various princes, the witch, and the princesses.  As can happen with multiple POV's, this breaks the story up and makes it less engaging.  Then you find out the whole story is focused on these four doofus prince's rescuing bards from a witch who wants attention.  I mean seriously?  This is supposed to be a heroic quests for the Princes to redeem themselves....it doens't even really make sense.  Let's just say the climax of the story was a let down.

I think there is supposed to be a message in here about liking who you are no matter what anyone else thinks.  The message comes across more as "If you are a loser you will always stay a loser no matter how much you try to change things."

Geez...looking back at what I wrote I guess I really didn't like this book.  I am trying to be positive, but I guess there just wasn't much I liked here.  The book was a serious drag to get through; I struggled through the inane characters and lackluster plot page by page determined to finish.  The writing isn't technically bad, but the story and characters just didn't do anything for me (or my younger son).

Overall definitely not my favorite read.  The concept is super neat, it's really a great idea.  The execution fell flat.  The book crosses funny and ends up being just plain..well..boring.  The plot isn't engaging and the characters are overdone characterizations of characters we've seen many times.  I wanted to love this book, I wanted to laugh and be entertained...instead I ended up rolling my eyes in disgust.   I won't be reading any future books from this author.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges: 
- 150+ Books Reading Challenge 
- Debut Author Reading Challenge


  1. Great, honest review. It's always so hard when your not fond of the book. You did well.

  2. Thanks Dana! I hate writing reviews for books that I wanted to love but ended up disliking. It's so disappointing...