Series Review: The Hero’s Guide

Many fairy tales are girl-centered—even though it’s often the prince who saves the day. Think about it—we know all about Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Rapunzel, but how many of their princes can you name (not counting the Disney versions)?

I couldn’t come up with any either…except Prince Charming. They all are Princes Charming.

Hero's Guide 1This is a sore point with all of them. It’s all the fault of the bards, you see, those ballad-singers who wrote the songs that everyone sings. The songs about love at first sight and living happily ever after. The songs that have gotten everything wrong.

But things are about to change. The princes are determined that their world will learn their names, because they are going to be HEROES!

However, they are as unlikely a band of heroes as you could hope to find.

Prince Frederic is engaged to Ella. After a horrible incident with a tiger when he was small, he has been afraid of almost everything. Ella, however, after years of being locked in a castle and doing slave labor for her step-family, wants nothing more than to have some adventures. Frederic thinks that going on a picnic is adventurous enough. But when Ella runs away to find some excitement, Frederic gathers his meager courage and sets out to find her.

Hero's Guide 2Living in a land of warriors and heroes, it is no surprise that Prince Gustav loves a good fight. He has 16 older brothers and, like all older brothers, they love to tease their baby brother—and all little brothers just hate to be teased. After Gustav is soundly beaten by an old lady when he tries to rescue a girl in a tower and then is healed by the girl’s tears—well, when that story makes the rounds, he is not only the butt of his brothers’ jokes, but becomes the laughingstock of the whole kingdom. And things get worse when Rapunzel leaves him to go “find herself.”

Prince Liam was engaged to Briar Rose when he was just three years old and saved her parents from assassins. Since then, she has been hidden away—and he has been saving people all over his kingdom. Everyone loves him, and both their kingdoms are excitedly awaiting the day of their wedding. But when Liam kisses Briar awake from her sleeping curse, he finds that she is a mean spoiled brat. He breaks off their engagement—and now everyone hates him.

Prince Duncan kissed the sleeping girl in the woods only on the advice of some surly dwarfs. He and Snow are now married, but Duncan is a bit, shall we say, odd. Kind of reminded me of a 1960s flower child—or like Dug in Dug in Disney's UpDisney’s Up—SQUIRREL! Snow loves Duncan, but sometimes he can be a bit much, so when he disappears one day, she is a bit grateful (a bit like most moms feel when their sons are on a sleepover).Hero's Guide 3

Now when these four princes join up, their aim is to become a team of heroes: find Ella, fight evil and injustice, and save the world. But, unlike Disney heroes, these guys have several foibles and flaws that get them into a lot of trouble (remember Keystone Cops and the Three Stooges).   And the princesses are not much better—yes, the girls have just as many quirks and weaknesses as the boys.

As they all try to get themselves extricated from their problems, we discover that most of what we’ve learned about trolls, giants, and everything in fairy tales is just plain wrong (blame it on those bards). Even when these hero wannabees blunder their way into saving the day, the bards still do not give them any credit.

This fractured fairy tale series is as full of action, humor, and (s)wordplay as anyone could wish for—and one that you can wholeheartedly recommend to both girls and boys. The wonderful character drawings by Todd Harris bring even more humor to the tales. The third and last book, The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw, is new this spring, and I for one will miss them.


The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Book 1) by Christopher Healy. 9780062117434. 2012. Gr 3-6.

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle (Book 2) by Christopher Healy. 9780062118455. 2013. Gr 3-6.

The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw (Book 3) by Christopher Healy. 9780062118486. 2014. Gr 3-6.

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