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Thursday, May 23, 2013


The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
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Middle Grade/Aventure/Fairy Tale Retelling, 496 pages
Published April 30th 2013 by Walden Pond Press
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.

While I enjoyed the first book in Christopher Healy's take on fairy tale princes, The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, when I read it last year, I said at the time that I wasn't sure if I was quite in the right frame of mind for it. Now, having read its sequel, The Hero's Guide to Storming The Castle, I think it was definitely my frame of mind - I noticed a lot of the same things in both books, but the things that bothered me then didn't really bother me now. As much as I liked the first book, I liked this second book more. There were still times when it felt a little long-ish for me, and times when all the non-stop jokes and zaniness felt like too much - but whether it was that I was in the right mood for it this time around or whether it just worked better, I didn't find the too-muchness of it to be too much this time around. If that makes any little bit of sense... On the whole, I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed Storming the Castle.

I mean, the humor was pretty fantastic. There are lots and lots of layers to the styles of jokes - combined with the fact that there are about a million jokes per page - so that there's something for all age groups to laugh about. Middle Graders reading this on their own may laugh at different things than parents or teachers reading it aloud to them, but they're all going to laugh, and probably pretty continuously. [And on that topic, I think this would be a fantastic read-aloud book; from the different characters and their over the top antics, to the more subtle or just plain silly jokes, there's a lot of material here to keep a room full of potentially wandering minds engaged and amused.] On top of the usual zaniness that comes with these oddball princes, there's an element of the classic heist storyline, and it is just such a fun aspect layered on. It allows some familiar faces to return in fun ways, and provides for plenty of hijinks. It's some of the best, most kid-friendly humor I've read in awhile, and it works in these really silly, carefree, genius ways (like the bandit king and his childlike take on being a tyrant, candy torture chambers and all...) I found myself tabbing a lot of sections, or having the urge to share quotes on Twitter or Goodreads. Just good old fashioned silliness.

Speaking of, I was really pleased to see some old favorites back  [Bandit King! Troll!], and to see how the various princes and princesses have begun to grow and change (including one of my favorite characters, Briar Rose, whose rap sheet I featured for the blog tour). I'm still waiting to see some of the pairings between prince and princess get switched up (or if not, to see how they come together in their more traditional ways, if that's what's going to happen). It's fun to see how they interact with each other, and I want to see how it all plays out, and how - if?! - they all get their Happily Ever Afters... Either way, it's great to watch these characters grow - which they did a tremendous amount of this time around.

Now as I said, it can still feel long at times, and also like there was just too much going on - I'm not sure that every last incident was necessary.  There were one or two times I caught myself thinking, 'Man, this is a long book,' but then I'd look up to realize 100 pages had passed in the blink of an eye - so, yes,  it's long, but you still fly through it.  And with so many characters to juggle, Healy did a really good job and managed to find time for the growth and development of most of his characters.  There is potential in the series, I think, to focus on a character or 2 at a time, and  adult-me would really like to see that, actually. But that's not the most Middle Grade approach to this type of story, so I have a feeling each book will always be a throw it all in, Monty Python sketch. And you know what? That works, too. Probably more so for its target MG audience. And I think it is a worthwhile one - wholesome, appealing to both boys and girls, and funny to both adults and children.
Definitely recommended for classroom and bedroom shelves.

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