Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tween Tuesday: Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom & Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle

Once upon a time there were four princes- Gustav, Frederic, Duncan, and Liam. These are the princes who saved Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty respectively, but thanks to the lousy bards who wrote the stories, they are known only as "Prince Charming". That, however is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and kicked out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to the princes to overcome their shortcomings and band together to take on evil witches, dragons and other terrors to become the heroes nobody thought they could be.

We all know how these stories are supposed to go. The princess, imprisoned in a tower by a witch, placed under a sleeping spell, poisoned by an apple, or locked up by an evil step-mother is rescued by the prince (aka Prince Charming) and they live happily ever after. Right? WRONG! At least wrong according to debut author Christopher Healey, who takes the familiar tales and spins them on their ears!

Fractured fairy tales as we call them are not new- and especially not in Middle-Grade, and yet, Christopher Healey has managed to spin something original and entertaining in his new fairy tale series. The princes in these stories are far from charming. They are flawed, bumbling, insecure, and generally not heroic, while the princesses are intelligent, competent, and adventurous.

First there's Gustav- Rapunzel's Prince. As far as princes go, he's no slouch, but he lives in the shadow of his 16 brothers who are larger and more heroic than he is, and as a result, he's got something of an inferiority complex. When his botched attempt to rescue Rapunzel results in her rescuing him, Gustav throws a tantrum and storms off, and Rapunzel decides to pursue a career as a healer.

Frederic, (Cinderella's Prince) has grown up sheltered and protected, and can't even cope with a hang-nail. These traits do not sit well with Ella, who after years of servitude in her step-mother's home is anxious for adventure.

Duncan, Snow's prince, is a sweet and hapless character who not only believes in, but relies on "magical luck" to get him through the stickiest of situations. Snow White is fond of him, but also finds him somewhat tiresome, and urges him to get out of the castle and go for a walk. (Let's just say this wasn't the best of ideas).

Finally there's Liam. He's handsome and heroic, and was promised to Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) at three years old. When he meets her, he's dismayed to discover that she's a spoiled, nasty creature, and he decides he'd rather not marry her. But Briar Rose isn't standing for this, and sets out to make him as unheroic as possible.

Somehow, our four heroes manage to find each other, and they decide to call themselves the "League of Princes". Once this happens, much hilarity ensues, and readers of all ages will be thoroughly entertained. The writing is clever and funny, and I found myself laughing out loud (or grinning widely) throughout the novel.

I loved it for the adventure, for the humour, and for the originality, and I couldn't put it down. I also like how these extremely flawed and human characters learn how to play to their strengths- even when those strengths are perceived as weaknesses. They learn to be brave (even when they're not), to work together (even when they're used to going it alone), and most importantly, how to be a friend (even when he is being an idiot and annoying the heck out of you).

A colourful cast of supporting fairy tale characters- including a colony of trolls all named "Troll", an extremely well-mannered giant, and a terrifying bandit king (well-not really, but you'll have to read it to see why) add an extra layer of fun to the novel, and fit beautifully into this fairy tale world.

Book 2 (set to release April 30) picks up approximately a year after the first book ends, and reunites the League of Princes for another quest. I won't say too much about the plot because I don't want to spoil it, but fans of the first book will be pleased to join their favourite fairy tale characters in another crazy adventure. Having read books 1 & 2 consecutively, it's going to be an extremely long wait for book 3, where we (hopefully) get to see what kind of happily-ever-after lies in store for these characters.

Read-aloud, or read-alone, these stories are perfect for tween readers, and for anyone who still enjoys hearing about what happened "Once Upon a Time".