I picked up this title because my 10-year-old daughter insisted I must read it. She tore through this book and was hungry for more (famished, I should say). I did some sleuthing and learned that the second and third books were already published, and what's more, a movie is in the works (according to the author's website, BlueSky, the folks who delighted viewers with Rio and Rio2, are spear-heading the project).
She actually found this title on accident--our library has "mystery" books for readers to check out. A small pile of books, each wrapped in brown paper (seriously, so charming), was sitting in the YA section and my 8-year-old son, who is venturing more into this kind of literature, picked up this gem. He's not quite the bibliophile his sister and I are, and after he unwrapped it he left it in the van (typical Isaac--wonder where he inherited that behavior from? ...innocent whistling...). Anyway, for some reason the kids and I were stuck in the van a while ago and Alayna was just bored out of her mind, so I told her to peruse through Isaac's book. Hook, line, and sinker.
We discovered the second and third installments were available, but our library was not in possession of copies. Another really awesome thing about my library is they have fulfilled nearly every purchase request I've made in my five-plus years here, and before we knew it I was getting emails notifying me that "The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle" and "The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw" were waiting patiently on the shelves for Alayna to devour. (Since we requested the books, we got first dibs to read 'em.)
Anyway, what's the book about that Alayna and I are making such a fuss about it?? It's a delightful re-telling of four quintessential fairy tales, but what I adore is how "Hero's Guide" focuses on the princes. Frederic (Cinderella) is a dandy, Gustav (Rapunzel) is a brute, Liam (Sleeping Beauty) is your achetypical and heroic Prince Charming, and Duncan (Snow White) is a quirky and distracted dreamer. Even though they are all as different as can be, they all share one thing in common: they are all known by the bards and minstrels of their kingdoms simply as Prince Charming and the musical story-tellers often get the story wrong about the princes.
The adventure starts off with Frederic, whose father has scared him as a child into avoiding dangerous and heroic feats. After he and Cinderella are betrothed and they get to know each other better post-ball, she realizes she wants someone more rugged and daring. So she leaves seeking adventure.
Frederic goes after her, and, in his pursuit of his bride-to-be, runs into Gustav. Gustav is very busy trying to redeem himself from the humiliation inflicted by the bards' telling of his "rescue" of Rapunzel (he's also the youngest and most teased of 17 brothers and is desperate to perform an act of heroism that will get his brothers to stop nagging and mocking him). Even though they are polar opposites, Gustav and Frederic set out to find Cinderella. Of course they encounter Liam (who had just broken his engagement with Briar Rose because she's simply an awful spoiled brat) and Duncan, whose own wife, Snow White, decided she needed a break from him (because he is quite eccentric).
The four princes learn of the evil plans of a vengeful witch, and they set off to foil her grandiose endeavors to get her own name to live on through the ages.
And that's all I'm going to say, because first, frankly, I think I've given away more than I usually do, and second, it's midnight and I'm suffering from a nasty cold. I'm tired.
Originally I started reading this book because Alayna had begged me to, but after finishing it tonight, I'm actually anxious to see where the story continues in the next books.
Kudos to Healy for a wonderful story, and on Amy's SOP (Scale of Prudishness), I'm happy to report "Hero's Guide" is perfectly suitable and appropriate for its intended audience (younger YA readers). It really focuses on the wholesome elements of the story and imaginative entertainment. Parents can happily encourage their young readers (or any-aged reader) to explore this story without worrying about "grown up" questions or issues cropping up in the pages.