Review: The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw

Rapunzel shook her head. “Frederic, I hope you realize you can be yourself around me. You don’t have to pretend you’re anything you’re not.”

“Oh, I’m not pretending anything,” he said earnestly. “I really am this awkward.” (p. 29)

The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy, drawings by Tony Harris

Why you might want to read this book:

  1. Because Nafiza made me read the first in this series (The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom) and you may as well preempt the both of us stuffing a copy in your hand.
  2. *chortles*
  3. Really, though? Because The Hero’s Guide trilogy (The Hero’s Guide to Saving the KingdomThe Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle; and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw) is funny.
  4. Very funny. There are a surprisingly large number of sticky notes peeking out the side of the copy in front of me, marking particularly amusing passages.
  5. Also a few small errors with the drawings. Which is a shame, because the drawings fit the narrative style remarkably well and convey the characters and the humour. But. I mean. The text says rapier and the drawing shows a longsword.
  6. But the drawings? Really funny, too. Consider Fig. 29: JAW, socked. (I won’t say who socks whom, but one of the people involved has a well-merited expression of glee and satisfaction.)
  7. Tricky plot twists abound in Being an Outlaw as much as in Saving the Kingdom and Storming the Castle.
  8. In fact, rather than being (as some sequels are) disappointing, this is a most satisfying conclusion to the first two, with plot twists, character development, and (hard-earned) happy endings galore.
  9. And believe me, this crew earns their happy endings. Being an outlaw is hard work, you know.
  10. Being imprisoned on death row isn’t a walk in the park, either. Nor is being sunk by pirates, or following directions in a disgustingly unreliable old journal through the desert in hopes of finding someone who might prevent the end of the world as you know it.
  11. On the other hand, a sad number of our heroes’ problems are self-inflicted *coughconflictingrescueattemptscough* *coughpreviousmistakescomingbacktohauntthemcough*
  12. The protagonists (the women perhaps more than the men) are completely different types. I mean, Ella is all gung-ho and heroic, but then there’s Snow, who, despite her deadly aim, is really more interested in weaving things out of straw than in escaping. Lila (my fav) is all stealthy and up for anything, while Rapunzel is such a natural healer that *slight spoiler* she can’t but heal even their enemies. And she is okay with that. It’s what she wants to do – heal as many people (animals and trolls included) as need healing. And all of them are friends – even when they drive each other crazy – and it doesn’t matter how absolutely different in nature, build, interests, and direction they are. (This is true of the princes also.)
  13. And then there’s Briar Rose. Who does get an arc. I liked it.
  14. And then there’s Val. Val Jeanval. Yes. You read that right.
  15. Bring on the wordplay! Wordplay and literary references and even comments on grammar and phrases and times when it is kind as well as tactful not to correct a friend’s IRRITATING ERROR.
  16. Have I mentioned the slapstick (as well as linguistic) humour, and the ease with which the dialogue slides between heartfelt character development and witty one-liners?
  17. As this is the third book in a trilogy, I recommend that you read the other two first, but you had already decided to do that by this point, right?
  18. Not yet convinced? Here:

“Ah,” said Frederic, keeping his distance. “I see you are a coward.”

The [enemy] laughed. “You’ll regret those words.”

“I regret no words,” Frederic said. “I love words. And the words I just spoke are the truth. You are a coward, because only a coward would rather defenestrate a helpless old man than face me in a fair fight.”

“I wasn’t gonna defenish-”

“Defenestrate.”

“Yeah, I wasn’t gonna defenestrate him,” the wing-haired man said. “I was gonna throw him out the window.”

“That’s what ‘defenestrate’ means,” said Frederic.

“Then why didn’t you just say ‘throw him out the window’?”

“Because I love words,” Frederic said with a smoldering intensity. “But my point still stands: You are afraid to duel me.” (p. 433-434)