Wednesday, September 3

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer purchased this book. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to her by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Walden Pond Press and is used solely as an aide to the review.

When Princess Briar is proclaimed dead, there is a bounty on the head of the League of Princes for her murder. Scattered throughout their lands, the League must reunite to take down the real culprits.

Across the thirteen kingdoms, villains are pulling the strings to turn the citizens and their rulers against the Princes Charming. Now the heroes are on the run as outlaws, and it's going to take an elaborate plan to thwart the powers of magic and muscle that oppose them.

From cheeky sass to hilarious wish granting sequences, I was captivated by the third installment in 'The Hero's Guide' trilogy. Healy has an excellent blend of wit and action, which keeps the narrative going at a prompt pace and compelled me to keep reading.

Healy is exceptionally clever when it comes to writing action sequences, comical sequences, and – of course – comical action sequences, which in the hands of a less skilled writer would be fumblesome. One particular sequence, involving the entire cast, was more of a riot than I could ever wish for...pun intended.

I both read and listened to 'The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw' as I have been a huge fan of Bronson Pinchot's narration of the first two installments. I will admit that sometimes he gets carried away, and some of the minor characters' speech (usually the bandits and bounty hunters) can be a little garbled due to their heavy accents. Ella's accent was a little off in the beginning, but apart from that Pinchot once again proved himself to be an amazing voice talent, giving extra punch and pizzazz to Healy's brilliant writing. I also loved the audio effects that were used, especially the wail of despair.

My favourite character dynamic remains between Ella and Liam. Their stubbornness and pride continued to create obstacles in the development of the relationship, yet didn't subvert to angst or over dramatics. The romantic elements, as with all the books, were weaved in naturally and did not gnaw at the narrative, instead enhancing it.

One thing that I particularly liked about the novel (and the series) was that it was not obvious to guess the outcome of any of the situations. Even when I predicted a character's appearance or a motive, the development of the story always went in a different way than I expected. There were several instanced, both in the book and the trilogy that I guessed at foreshadowing, which may have been purposeful red herrings or simply me over-thinking the details of the situation.

Healy is also adept at both embracing and defying the fairy tale archetypes. He turns gender roles on their heads and plays with quintessential archetypes, but his characters also acknowledge more clichéd elements with stark humour. It is very refreshing.

I also really liked the fact that new characters are embraced, rather than cast off because they are not established. It really touches on the feeling of acceptance that many readers – myself included – can appreciate. It also shows just how strong Healy's writing is, that even with the main lure of established dynamics, that he can still introduce new characters with the kick to drive the story along with the best of them.

'The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw' is once again illustrated by the incredibly talented Todd Harris. His ability to capture scenes from the novel, enhancing the moment by etching the expressions on the character's faces with such precision, is perfection. There are some illustrations that seemed to be drawn exactly as I imagined them, and others that allowed me to view things in a whole new way. Magnificent.

I'm more than a little in denial over this series being completed, as I love the character dynamics above all, but I look forward to reading more of Healy's writing in future. I highly recommend this trilogy, full of humour, adventure and friendship, starting with 'The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.'

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