In many fairy tales, Prince Charming saves the day. He’s the hero. To be honest, in many ways he is a bland hero, defined only by his outward actions of saving the princess, defeating the dragon or being the wedded prize after the ball.
That’s not who Prince Charming is at all in The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom. Here, Prince Charming takes on a depth of fears, faults and foibles. The first thing you learn on opening this book is that old ladies terrify Prince Charming. Before the page is out you learn that there are multiple Prince Charmings because charming is an adjective bestowed on the princes by tale-spinning bards.
Frederic, Gustav, Liam and Duncan are only united by two things when the story begins—that they are princes and that they dislike being Prince Charmings. Frederic’s been raised to a safe, helpless, fashionable prince—much too quiet for the fearless and free Ella. Gustav regrets ever attempting to rescue Rapunzel because of the laughter that now follows this smallest prince of Sturmhagen and is always looking for a way to prove his strength. Liam’s popularity as a hero takes a nose dive when Briar Rose mounts a smear campaign against him (Little do they know she is angered because he says he serves the people and not just her). Duncan, who possesses a great deal of luck, has driven Snow White to distraction with his odd habits.
The action begins with a sneak peek ahead at the four Prince Charmings in the world’s worst tavern surrounded by a crowd of enclosing thugs. The gleam and glamour of the princes is dented and worn at that point. What brought together what looks like imminent catastrophe? Frederic’s rash decision to pursue Cinderella when she left.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom is a tongue-in-cheek series of fairy tale misadventures where the unexpected often happens. The four princes fumble to work together amidst frustration. Supporting characters add depth to this romp from Liam’s irrepressible younger sister to the annoying Bandit King Rauber.
On the Same Shelf:
For older readers – The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land by Diana Wynn Jones. This is a irreverent encyclopedia sort on common character types, places and plots in fantasy books.
For younger readers – Girl Carson Levine’s The Princess Tales. Six novellas that turn familiar tales around and combine them.