Hardcover, 419 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Walden Pond Press
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.
What can I say about this novel that will properly convey to you how much I enjoyed it? I love fairy tales; they rock my world. I’ve studied them, wrote academic papers on them, retold them in my own words and so on. I find them to be fantastically illuminating on the goals of a patriarchal society and I find that fairy tales are often reflective on the needs of the society they are most famous in.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is in particular very revealing of the shifting and evolving gender expressions so prevalent in contemporary society. Some would argue that gender itself is a social construct and that may be true if one considers that children often assimilate culture and gender behavior from fairy tales and/or other tales fed to them in their formative years. However, since everything is in flux at the moment and traditional norms are being challenged and overturned, Christopher Healy’s novel is both pertinent and entertaining. Gone are the days when Prince Charmings were satisfied being nameless beings of perfection. Now they demand to be seen for who they are rather than what they represent. Healy presents his princes as being less heroic and more real. Some are quite less than charming and some would not recognize bravery if it came and quacked at them.
What I appreciated about Healy’s characterizations was that they were dynamic. The characters grow and change and Healy does not promote the princes in favor of demonizing the princesses. There are brave princesses, good ones and even a bad one. The plotting remains awesome and there’s a skein of absurdity in the whole narrative that reminds the reader not to take anything seriously. This makes the novel accessible for both adults and children. Children will be immensely entertained by Tod Harris’s illustrations and tickled by the escapades of the princes while adults will appreciate the deeper and darker humour in the novel.
The various romances in the novel are also intriguing, showing that the matters of the heart are rarely as simple as love at first sight or kiss. I look forward to seeing how things play out in the sequel that I have been told is going to be released next spring or summer. If you love fairy tales, I suggest checking this out. It has all the elements of a wonderful book that should become a staple of childhood reads.