Thursday, July 12, 2012

Audiobook review: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Did you know the princes who saved Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty weren't actually named "Charming" as we so often believe? No, these men have real names: Liam, Duncan, Frederic and Gustav to be exact. So why are they all named "Charming" in their fairy tale tropes? Well, the bards in charge of telling their stories can't seem to keep names and details straight, that's why.

In fact, we only know these beloved stories up until "happily ever after" but the truth of the matter is, all four of the aforementioned princesses rejected their associated Prince Charming in some form or another and forced the princes from their kingdoms. In the meantime, they manage to discover a nefarious plot afoot that puts all of their kingdoms at risk. Can these dunderhead princes save the day or will they fall short and risk the lives of the people in their kingdoms?

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a brilliant debut novel by Christopher Healy and one that is bound to become a children's classic. In fact, I'm predicting it won't be long before a movie studio gets wind of this book and snatches it up for an animated feature. Donalyn Miller described the tone of the story really well, in that it reminded her of Shrek. I think the reason for the similarity is because the humor in The Hero's Guide is not just for kids - there's a sophistication to it that will have the adults laughing just as heartily (if not more so) as the kids.

This is one of the most memorable audiobooks I've listened to in recent history and that is all thanks to the sheer comic genius of actor Bronson Pinchot, who not only narrates this audiobook, he performs his heart out in it. The person you always associate with the words "brilliant", "audiobook" and "voices" is Jim Dale, but let me tell you, Mr. Pinchot gives Mr. Dale a run for his money. I would definitely coin Bronson as the American Jim Dale, but I might even be so bold as to say his voices are BETTER and FUNNIER than Jim Dale's. Oh mon dieu! Did she just say what I think she said? That's literary blasphemy! But maybe that's my own bias talking because I have loved Bronson Pinchot ever since he played Balki Bartokomous on the ever cheesy 80s sitcom Perfect Strangers. If you've never heard of it kids, look it up. All of Pinchot's voices are brilliant, but my personal favorite is that of Prince Duncan, who sounds more like a surfer dude who's fallen off his board one too many times than that of the dignified prince one imagines to have married Snow White.

Todd Harris did the illustrations for The Hero's Guide and that is the one drawback of listening to the audiobook instead of actually reading it: missing out on his laugh-out-loud funny drawings. Luckily I own a copy of the book, so I was able to thumb through it from time to time while I was listening to the audiobook. But no matter which way you choose to partake in this book, either via traditional means or audiobook, it is sure to entertain you for hours and cause you to beg Christopher Healy to write another book... QUICKLY! Come on Healy! I need another fix! When's your next book coming out? I hope you've already got one in the works!

Favorite line: 
Duncan serenaded the others with his favorite dwarven campfire song: "Flames and Beards Don't Mix" 

EDITED TO ADD: I recently received this tweet from someone at Walden Pond Press, so I guess my prediction wasn't that far off! :)
Oh and apparently I should've watched this interview with the author before I wrote my last paragraph because he answers the question about his next book in this video.

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Walden Pond Press/Harper Audio
Pages: 438
Audiobook Length: 9 hours, 5 minutes
Audiobook Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Audiobook received for review from publisher/Book copy won in a contest
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