Grade: 4 1/2 stars
Story: Frederic the dandy, Gustav the gruff, Liam the heroic, and Duncan the insane. Four princes from neighbouring kingdoms all manage to lose their princesses somehow, and as they set out to rescue/run away from them, they somehow stumble into each other and also an evil plot. And then there's chaos! And dragons! And evil child ruffians! And unlikely friendships! And multiple sets of octuplets! Plus, of course, plenty of battles and fights and squabbles and arguments and daring rescues and ungainly captures and adventure.
Thoughts: This was one of the most delightful books I've read in ages.
I'm going to quote the first two paragraphs for you. Because they captured well the feeling of the book, and they're funny.
Prince Charming is afraid of old ladies. Didn't know that, did you?And it goes on. It's funny and clever and fully of great characters. It has a good ending, with the possibility for a sequel. What more could you ask?
Don't worry. There's a lot you don't know about Prince Charming: Prince Charming has no idea how to use a sword; Prince Charming has no patience for dwarfs; Prince Charming has an irrational hatred of capes.
And the chapter titles!
From "Prince Charming Defends Some Vegetables" to "Prince Charming is Completely Unnecessary" to "Prince Charming Has No Idea What's Going On". They remind me of the awesome chapter titles in the Percy Jackson series--they perfectly encapsulate the chapter without giving away anything, and are funny as anything to boot.
And the illustrations!
I wouldn't like this book half so much if it weren't for the illustrations. They capture the characters perfectly. It reminds me of the importance that illustrations have in the Lemony Snicket books, except I actually like the style of these drawings.
But as with the last book I reviewed, I am still slightly torn about this grading. As awesome as it was, it wasn't perfect. I'm just not sure how to describe the main criticism I have. It's something about the writing style, though. I once heard a friend of mine (CJ, I think) talk about a book she was reading that she didn't quite like. She said it was great and really well done, but it somehow reminded her too much of her own writing, except more professionally done. This book had that feeling somehow. The writing was too much like something I would have written, and thus something I would have criticized a lot and not liked all that much. It's something like that, at least. Again, I'm not totally sure how to describe this. But whatever it is, it kept pulling me out of the book.
Plus, as much as I hate to say this, I think it was a little too long--just a tiny bit! It could have skipped some bits and been a bit tighter, that's all. (Especially near the end of the middle, sometime after the famed Chapter 20.)
But I'm sticking with "To Own": because a) I actually already own it (a rare thing with me, to buy a book without having read it); b) I LOVE groups of unique characters saving the world together (again like the previous review); c) I've haven't had a "To Own" grading in a while, and I may as well have one now.
P.S. I think it's obligatory for this kind of book to tell your favourite prince. Unfortunately, this proves to be immensely hard, as they are all awesome and hilarious. So I'm just going to have to pick one. And I pick...
Gustav! Or maybe Frederic? I don't know. I think it's one of those two, at any rate. Frederic is the one I personally find the funniest, but Gustav is all mopey and unable to show his emotions. Plus I like huge guys in books (Flambeau, Porthos, etc.)
P.P.S. See also the sequel, The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.