by: John Moore
Something a little lighter after all the war school and traumatizing of children in Ender’s Game. I’ve read this before (a couple of times, actually – on the recent topic of rereading books) but I was sitting in my living room, thinking of what I wanted to read next and I saw this lying on the floor and thought it was perfect! Also, books are on my floor because I’m out of bookshelf and trunk space. I desperately need to go through and sell some books to Half-Price.
This is a fantasy parody (comedic fantasy?) book – written by a native of Houston! – in which Prince Kevin, son of Eric the Cool, finds himself in competition for the hand of the curvaceous Princess Rebecca. Unfortunately, whilst at court kissing babies and giving speeches on the foundation of a strong economy, evil Lord Voltmeter makes known his plans to use his Ancient Artifact to take over the 20 kingdoms. It is only by defeating He-Who-Must-Be-Named (Lord Voltmeter has this thing about pronouns) that Prince Kevin, supply officer extraordinaire, can win the hand of Princess Rebecca. Luckily for Kevin, he finds The Handbook of Practical Heroics and soon finds himself on his way to defeat Lord Voltmeter, save the princess, and survive the Fortress of Despair, all without buying something horrendously overpriced at the gift shop!
I really enjoy books that poke fun at the all-too-perfect world of fantasy and fairy tales and Heroics for Beginners is no exception. Moore’s writing is decent – somehow, it’s just not smooth enough to be excellent – but his knack for practical considerations makes the books strike a chord in any writer. He actually reminds me a lot of Terry Pratchett, whom I absolutely adore, although not as good a writer, with much less convoluted plots, and definitely much more American in his style and sense of humor. Moore has a knack for catching you unawares with a joke or plot point – there were a more than a few times where I just wasn’t expecting him to go where he did. He also has characters which are delicious parodies of themselves; everyone is over exaggerated just enough to seem funny, without going into the ridiculous and overdone. Some play on the fairy tale world , as “Dangerously Genre Savvy,” according to TV Tropes, while others play on characters within our world. (In light of the recent sequester, the evil scientist really tickled my funny bone.) The Evil Assistant plays on the natural conclusion of her character; that is, the reality of a dangerous, whip-wielding woman rather than the fantasy of a leather-clad beauty with a crop. I laughed at lot at her, though he walked a fine line there. He does a really great job of walking the reader along the expected fairy tale path and then suddenly stopping to insert a dose of reality.
In short, this is better than most other comedic fantasies I’ve read, though it does fall short of Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett’s work. If you like fairy tales and comedy, I’d definitely give this one a shot. If you’ve a high brow sense of humor or if you are a stickler for excellent writing, then, alas, this may not be the book for you.