The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom Featured
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.
The first line of Christopher Healy’s “The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom” had me literally LOL-ing, and it just never stopped. Reading his book was such a pleasure that I had this huge grin plastered across my face the entire time. My only complaint is that my face is sore from smiling so hard for a couple hours straight, but that’s a pain I’m willing to put up with after such a funny read. I’ve got to tell you, the amount of strange looks I got from passersby as I read this at a local café, loudly laughing to myself, is catastrophic so be warned.
What is so funny about this book is the satirical take Healy has on the classic fairytales of Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. He elaborates in such a delightful way on the character of each of the fairytale princesses and each of their respective Prince Charmings, who happen to be the stars of the book. First and foremost, these four men want you to know that their names are not Prince Charming, they are in fact Frederic, Duncan, Gustav, and Liam. Due to the misreported facts of all their kingdoms’ bards, their names have been forgotten.
As Healy elaborates on the princes’ stories, he shows readers each prince’s distinct personality. Frederic is afraid of danger and would prefer to have a pampered life. Duncan is a little dimwitted but completely adores his wife, Snow White. Gustav is Viking-esque in nature and is trying his absolute darndest to live up to the legendary stature of his 16 older brothers. Liam is the most classic Prince Charming of them all, using up all of his time performing death-defying feats of courage and strength to rescue citizens in his and surrounding kingdoms.
What hit me most about this book was Healy’s delivery of the stresses of gender stereotypes. He describes how these stereotypes affect both men and women. For men, they have to live up to the Prince Charming ideal, being brave and muscular and cunning. This is a lot to live up to, and stresses out each of these fairytale princes in different ways. For the women, especially Cinderella and Rapunzel, they have to live up to the damsel-in-distress motif and let men do everything for them. They each cannot stand living up to these boring standards, and would prefer to go out and live their own courageous adventures.
In the end, the characters become happiest when they defy the stereotypes they feel imprisoned by, and so much of the comedy comes from the reactions of others who are chained to living in a very gender orderly world. I can’t wait for the next book, in which the characters are sure to become even more of their own men and women, despite how all the fairytales tell them to act.
The Princes Charming finally get a chance to tell their own story.
Classic fairytale princesses get to break free from the damsel-in-distress stereotype.
The League of Dejected Princes
The kingdom of Harmonia has Frederic, who was brought up to be fearful of everything, but a really snazzy dresser. He danced with Cinderella and she fell in love, but found life in the castle to be profoundly boring. Nearby, there's Gustav, who tried to rescue Rapunzel but is now the laughingstock of his kingdom. Liam woke Sleeping Beauty, but found that Briar Rose has a horrible personality and he really doesn't want to marry her. Duncan is married to Snow White, but they are both a little odd and having trouble adjusting to life together. What do all of these princes have in common? The Bards, who are lazy, refer to all of them as Prince Charming in their songs, which makes their lives more difficult. When Rapunzel's evil witch, Zaubera, kidnaps all of the bards, the princes band together to try to get them back. Ella may also be in danger, since the Bandit King and Ruffian the Blue are at large, but they do their best with their limited princely skills. With help from Liam's sister Lila, and various trolls and dragons, the princes manage to successfully complete their quest, figure out how they should polish their images in their kingdoms, and learn a lot about what it means to be Prince Charming.
Strengths: This was a funny, funny book, with lots of good, snarky twists on classic fairy tales. I especially liked the princesses in this. There have been books about brave princesses before, but I appreciated that this was told from the point of view of the princes who weren't quite sure how to deal with the new age princesses. I picked this up thinking "Great. ANOTHER medeival fantasy book," but was most pleasantly surprised. Fans of Gerald Morris' The Squires Tale or even of Flangan's The Ranger's Apprentice series might find this amusing.
Four Princes Charming Walk into a Bar...
What’s it about?:
As opposed to the usual spin on fairytale retellings, this book picks up during the after in “Happily Ever After.” Princes Frederic, Gustav, Liam, and Duncan find that they have all become the collective Prince Charming in ballads. Meanwhile, their rescued princesses (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, respectively) all find themselves disappointed by their new royal beaux and the lives they are expected to lead. When the princesses decide to take control of their lives and make themselves happy, the princes set out to prove themselves worthy not only of the ladies’ affections, but of their own self-respect (and, along the way, recognition as individuals).
What is there to like?:
Funny and smartly told, the story’s underlying messages are about loyalty, friendship, and appreciating individual strengths—and, refreshingly, “walks the walk” with characters who can be sympathetic even when occasionally unlikeable. Does credit to young readers with villains who aren’t easily fooled (readers should especially like Deeb Rauber, The Bandit King). With strong role models for boys and girls, this book should appeal to both.
What’s not to like?:
What made me pick it up?:
This article from Publishers Weekly, in which the author is quoted: “…while [Healy] would often commiserate with other parents who were troubled by archetypical images of passive princesses, he was also perturbed by the vacuous nature of Prince Charming in fairy tales like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. ‘He’s so inconsequential,’ Healy says. ‘He’s presented as the ideal man, but he has no personality.’ If princesses are going to fall in love with princes, he continues, then ‘shouldn’t we care about who these men are?’”
Overall Recommendation: Highly Recommended
Fantastic fairy tale retelling
What I think about this book in one word: Hilarious. Two words: Absolutely brilliant. As a whole: one of THE best fractured fairytales ever. Seriously.
Let’s start with the plot. Bumbling heroes, an evil witch, a diplomatic giant, vegetarian trolls, and princesses that don’t need rescuing—a perfect combination for a fast-paced plot full of hijinks and adventure. I fell in love with this story on the first page. The opening line says, “Prince Charming is afraid of old ladies. Didn’t know that did you?” The light-hearted tone from the opening line runs throughout this book. I literally laughed out loud in places. If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, you will love this book. I guarantee it. There are so many twists to the original tales that this book becomes its own version of a fairy-tale. How great is it to make Snow White slightly off her rocker and Cinderella like a ninja?
The characters are extremely enjoyable too. The Princes Charming (there was a grammar lesson attached to this name in the book) are pretty ticked off that they go nameless in all the tales. They want people to know who the “Prince Charming” in the story really is. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. But when Cinderella goes “missing,” a true hero senses the opportunity for a rescue. And so this team of misfit heroes is formed (in a rather entertaining way).
Gustav is one of my favorite characters in the book. Nicknamed “Angry Man” by a troll, he undergoes the greatest transformation throughout the story. Short tempered and often irrational, he is more of a liability than an asset. But he does learn a few lessons along the way. His slowly developing friendship with Frederick—the OCD Prince Charming belonging to Cinderella—is rather endearing. Of course, Frederick is hilarious in his own right. He’s the smooth talker in the group, which is a good thing because he can’t do anything else. Then there are the princes Liam and Duncan. Liam seems to have things together, except that he thinks he’s unstoppable. But Duncan is the life of the party. There is something “off” about Snow White’s beau. The man names animals that randomly appear in the forest! That’s not normal.
I would be wrong to discuss characters and not mention the leading ladies in this story. They were independent, strong-minded, and better heroes than the men. Not your stereotyped princesses by any means. Cinderella could be a super ninja. I enjoyed the side stories that told of her adventures sans the Princes Charming. When the stories finally merge, it forms a great team of heroes that I can’t wait to read more about. (And I do hope they will be recruiting more princesses into the team.)
I’m happy to say that this book is the beginning of a series. I am anticipating this book becoming a favorite. It should be read aloud so everyone can appreciate the witty humor and antics in the story. Otherwise, people nearby will wonder what’s wrong with you as you laugh out loud with every turn of the page.
Brilliant retelling of classic tales
Got my 9 year old son to read (willingly) nightly and discussing the book (that earns a 5 star in my book any day)