May 24, 2013 by Heidi
Title: The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle [Goodreads]
Author: Christopher Healy
Standing: Book 2 in The League of Princes series.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Published: April 30th, 2013 by Walden Pond Press
Format: Hardcover; 496 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher.
Spoilers!: This book and review contain unavoidable spoilers for Book 1–The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. I listed it as the most fun read of 2012, so really–go read it first!
Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You remember them, don’t you? They’re the Princes Charming who finally got some credit after they stepped out of the shadows of their princesses – Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Briar Rose – to defeat an evil witch bent on destroying all their kingdoms.
But alas, such fame and recognition only last so long. And when the princes discover that an object of great power might fall into any number of wrong hands, they are going to have to once again band together to stop it from happening – even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.
Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, takes us back to the hilariously fractured fairy-tale world he created for another tale of medieval mischief. Magical gemstones, bladejaw eels, a mysterious Gray Phantom, and two maniacal warlords bent on world domination – it’s all in a day’s work for the League of Princes.
Strap on your Seven League Boots and clown costumes friends, because Christopher Healy is back with the second installment to The Leage of Princes with The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, and it’s every bit as informative as book one. Though I suppose it could alternatively be called “How Not to Fail at Banditry” because not only our are heroes and heroines returned, so is Deeb Rauber, the pint-sized squirt of a comical villain. In fact, as I’ve pointed out before, Storming the Castle is practically overflowing with villains, and I love every one. Except for maybe the Warlord of Dar, because he clearly takes his job way too seriously. I suppose when you head a corner of the land known for the 101+ terrifying animals that live there, you do develop a few hard edges. Anyway, scratch him, bring on the henchmen, and give me a carnival on the castle roof any day!
It’s easy to dive into my enthusiasm and know that Healy’s second effort at shaking up fairy tale lore stands right up there with his first. This time we lose the fun of meeting everyone, but get to see their relationships develop in whole new ways. While in Saving Your Kingdom I felt a bit on the outside as I didn’t fall for a particular prince (okay, so I had a bit of a crush on Liam who makes a right putz out of himself in book two), I have finally and utterly sealed my alliance to Prince Gustav. I do love some nicely timed irrational anger, and if the only characters who really appreciate you for who you are end up being Troll (Troll is back! And so is Troll. And also Troll…Gustav’s nicknames for him–Awful Clawful, Hairy Scary, etc.–make me really happy.) and the quippy Briar Rose (LOVE the interplay of insults between Briar Rose and Gustav…it’s like you can feel the love/hate fizzling), then I feel it’s my duty to step up and love you as well. But again, it isn’t the princes in general but all of the cast and crew as a whole that really make Storming the Castle shine.
I got my wish and Rapunzel’s back for more this time round, finally taking an active roll in the tale along with the other princesses. You’ve got dwarfs (sorry Frank, my spellcheck recognizes dwarfs but not dwarves *snickers*), giants, traveling entertainment, and evil (or maybe no-quite-as-evil-as-you’d-think) masterminds. Healy does an excellent job of interspersing new characters, while making the most of those we already know. Again, he spoils the plot up-front, but then takes the unexpected road to and from that juncture, making Storming the Castle another surprisingly non-typical Middle Grade read.
Christopher Healy gives voice to the ambiguous princes of fairy tales, but he also gives the princesses agency. They don’t all seek or want happily ever after, or if they do it’s certainly not in the form of marriage and a crown. The heroes in The Hero’s Guide just want to do the greatest good for the largest amount of people possible, and the villains simply want to collect the greatest benefit for themselves. Really, Healy’s distilled right and wrong/good and bad down to its core, and lain it out there in a way that’s completely fun and surprising. He plays with words, stereotypes, and world knowledge in a way that will have both children and adults laughing–he certainly always makes me feel a bit like a kid again.
The childlike nature of The Hero’s Guide books make them easy to love, but also very particular to a certain mood-set. Hence, the book did at times for me seem hard to get into or a bit long, but every time I felt my attention wandering, Healy would draw me back in with a random fact about used car salesmen or facial hair, and I would be back in completely. The ending wraps up the castle storming quite nicely, but with some maniacal cackling that leads us on toward the next installment, which you can be certain I’ll be signing up for. Join me tomorrow for my stop on the Hero’s Guide blog tour, and your chance to enter a fantastic giveaway!
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Oh, you all know I’m fully invested now. I must know how this turns out for everyone involved.
Recommended for: This one’s very much in the How to Train Your Dragon vein of Middle Grade–humorous, fun, full of adventure, and will appeal to boy and girl readers alike!
Real life repercussions of reading this book: Lots of people like to compare their relationships to The Princess Bride. I think a lot of couples say “As you wish.” We say “Have fun storming the castle!” I love the title of this book.
Get a second opinion:
Books Take You Places – “In short, everyone should read this series, I find it hard to not fall to my knees and thank the author for again delivering a book that made me feel like a kid again!”
The Book Smugglers – “Still, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle is a delightful read that should resonate with its target audience. Definitely recommended, especially for younger readers.”