Moore - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

A Fate Worse Than Dragons
John Moore
Ace
Fiction, Fantasy
***+

DESCRIPTION: One of the universal laws of life is that money and rank trump romance... but, at least in the Twenty Kingdoms, True Love and heroism trump money and rank. So, when Princess Gloria and Sir Terry fall in love, all they have to do in order to secure a happily-ever-after is for Terry to earn her hand through heroism - say, by slaying a dragon. But things go wrong when kingdom rezoning puts the dragon he killed in the neighboring kingdom... and while that's being straightened out, Gloria's parents sign engagement contracts with the prosperous Westfield family, owners of the wildly popular (if controversial) sliced bread patent. But this is the Twenty Kingdoms: heroics can beat even contract law. The princess simply arranges to kidnap herself, and her knight in shining armor will ride to her rescue. At least, that was the plan. Another universal law of life is that even the best-laid plans invariably go haywire...

REVIEW: John Moore's fantasy parodies are lightweight, fast reads, taking fairy tale tropes and stereotypes and turning them on their ear. I'm not sure he covered much new ground here, though. The characters are fun for what they are, but retain enough cliche traits (particularly sexist traits) to be subtly irritating up to the end. The story moves decently, at least, with some nice plays on the genre and a few sudden turns. Moore's humor not only tweaks old-fashioned fantasy tropes, but gender roles, politics, sex, and even GMOs, as people ponder the long-term safety and lack of labeling on the new-fangled pre-sliced bread. As with all humor, it can be a little hit-and-miss, and some of the running jokes felt a bit stale by the end. For the most part, it was a fun read, short enough not to overstay its welcome, but it also felt a bit familiar from other Moore titles. It was this feeling of been-there-done-that that ultimately (barely) cost it a full fourth star, though I'd still recommend this if you're looking for a quick, humorous fairy tale send-up.

You might also enjoy:
A Bad Spell in Yurt (C. Dale Brittain, Fiction - A barely-competent wizard takes a job with a small kingdom, only to discover an elusive evil force inhabiting his new home)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, a sharp-witted assassin/detective works with his often-obnoxious dragonlike familiar)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Last Dragonslayer (Jasper Fforde - The prophecised slayer of the last dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms may be a foundling girl)
The Princess Bride (William Goldman, Fiction - A father and son bond over the story of a beautiful princess, an evil prince, adventure, danger, and True Love)
The Darkslayer (Craig Halloran and Ernie Chang, Fiction - On the chaotic world of Bish, the barbarian hero Venir fights evil underlings)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, Fiction - A craven but clever goblin, captured and forced to guide a group of bickering adventurers, learns that heroism is highly overrated)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to give tours to offworlders, recreating standard events from epic fantasy tales)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones, Fiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to epic fantasy)
My Sparkling Misfortune (Laura Lond and Alla Alekseyeva, YA Fiction - Seeking vengeance against a prince, a villainous lord finds himself stuck with a do-gooder spirit helper)
Heroine Addiction (Jennifer Matarese, Fiction - Five years after leaving the family superhero business behind, a resentful woman must find her missing father)
Off to Be the Wizard (Scott Meyer, Fiction - After meddling with the data file controlling reality, a modern hacker flees to medieval England to play wizard)
Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude (Kevin O'Malley, YA Picture Book - A boy and a girl write a fairy tale together, with peculiar results)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - A magicless wizard must act as a guide for Discworld's first tourist)
Hero for Hire (C. B. Pratt, Fiction - In mythological Greece, the hero Eno the Thracian confronts monsters and dark gods)
The Princess and the Firedrake (Jim Stinson, YA Fiction - Cursed by being too clever, a banished princess must save her kingdom from an angry dragon)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley, YA Comic - In a fairy tale world, Princess Adrienne refuses to sit around waiting to be rescued and married off)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - In a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl gets so sick of being a proper princess that she runs away from home to live with dragons)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, creator, Fiction - After the battle between Good and Evil has been won, the powerful artifacts that won the day create no end of trouble)

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Heroics for Beginners
John Moore
Ace
Fiction, Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: In the land of the 20 fairy-tale kingdoms, where whimsy, passion, and danger exist in more-or-less equal amounts, Evil Overlords have been a long and troublesome problem. So far, heroes have always managed to thwart their foul schemes at the last possible second (usually earning a well-proportioned wife or husband in the deal.) The Evil Overlord Voltmeter, also known as He Who Must Be Named, might be the first to succeed. He just stole a powerful Ancient Artifact (Model Seven) from the king of Deserae; using it to power his Diabolical Device, Voltmeter is poised to bring the entire land to its knees. The theft and threat come just when Princess Rebecca of Deserae, also known as the Ice Princess, is about to announce her engagement to whomever her father deems most politically advantageous. Most of the suitors are sent home during the crisis, except Prince Logan, a cunning warrior appointed to lead the assault on the Fortress of Doom (and win the princess's hand for his seemingly-inevitable victory), and Prince Kevin, who is less warlike and more diplomatic... not to mention the fact that he and Becky have been secretly in love for over a year and were really counting on him, not Logan, being announced as her betrothed. But Logan's not at the gates of the Fortress yet, and Becky's father said that whoever returns the Ancient Artifact would win out - surely Kevin can outride a slow-moving army. All he needs to know about recovering the artifact and defeating Voltmeter can be found between the covers of a handy how-to book he happened upon in the king's library, The Practical Guide to Heroics. Of course, Becky's not the kind of princess to pine away at home while her beloved rides off to near-certain death, and both Voltmeter and reality have a few tricks that the guidebook's author never got around to mentioning.

REVIEW: If you've read a few fantasies, you should enjoy this lighthearted send-up of heroic clich├ęs and stock characters. There's a bit more to the story than that - the characters are sophisticated and self-aware enough to work with the conventions they're part of, rather than being trapped by them - but mostly it's just a fun read with many funny moments.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - The irreverent adventures of hapless Earthman Arthur Dent, who escapes the planet moments before its destruction with a hitchhiking alien friend)
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker, Fiction - Told with clever wit, the story of an immortal cyborg agent of The Company, a time-traveling conglomerate which manipulates history for future profit)
Galaxy Quest (Terry Bisson, Fiction - The washed-up cast of a cheesy old sci-fi show meets aliens who think it was all real)
A Bad Spell in Yurt (C. Dale Brittain, Fiction - A barely-competent wizard takes a job with a small kingdom, only to discover an elusive evil force inhabiting his new home)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, a sharp-witted assassin/detective works with his often-obnoxious dragonlike familiar)
The Sisters Grimm series (Michael Buckley, YA Fiction - Two sisters learn that the "fairy tales" of their ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, were actually case files)
Storybound (Marissa Burt, YA Fiction - A girl falls into the world of Story)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer, YA Fiction - A boy criminal mastermind deduces the existence of the underground Fairy nation, and sets his sights on their gold)
The Misadventures of Maude March (Audrey Couloumbis, YA Fiction - In the mid-1800's, the orphaned March sisters set out for Missouri to find a lost uncle, relying on lessons gleaned from dime novels)
The Last Dragonslayer (Jasper Fforde - The prophecised slayer of the last dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms may be a foundling girl)
The Princess Bride (William Goldman, Fiction - A father and son bond over the story of a beautiful princess, an evil prince, adventure, danger, and True Love)
The Darkslayer (Craig Halloran and Ernie Chang, Fiction - On the chaotic world of Bish, the barbarian hero Venir fights evil underlings)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, Fiction - A craven but clever goblin, captured and forced to guide a group of bickering adventurers, learns that heroism is highly overrated)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to give tours to offworlders, recreating standard events from epic fantasy tales)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones, Fiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to epic fantasy)
The Divide (Elizabeth Kay, YA Fiction - A sickly boy accidentally falls into a world where magic is real and humans are myths)
My Sparkling Misfortune (Laura Lond and Alla Alekseyeva, YA Fiction - Seeking vengeance against a prince, a villainous lord finds himself stuck with a do-gooder spirit helper)
Heroine Addiction (Jennifer Matarese, Fiction - Five years after leaving the family superhero business behind, a resentful woman must find her missing father)
Off to Be the Wizard (Scott Meyer, Fiction - After meddling with the data file controlling reality, a modern hacker flees to medieval England to play wizard)
The Red Dwarf books (Grant Naylor, Fiction - Based on the BBC sitcom, a Liverpudlian loser aboard a Space Corps mining ship becomes the last human alive after a radiation leak traps him in stasis for 3 million years)
Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude (Kevin O'Malley, YA Picture Book - A boy and a girl write a fairy tale together, with peculiar results)
Hero for Hire (C. B. Pratt, Fiction - In mythological Greece, the hero Eno the Thracian confronts monsters and dark gods)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - A magicless wizard must act as a guide for Discworld's first tourist)
The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series (Rick Riordan, YA Fiction - Clever updates on Greek mythos, as a modern boy learns that the gods and monsters of Olympus are still quite real)
The Princess and the Firedrake (Jim Stinson, YA Fiction - Cursed by being too clever, a banished princess must save her kingdom from an angry dragon)
Heroes of the Valley (Jonathan Stroud, YA Fiction - Raised on tales of his heroic ancestor, a boy attempts to avenge his uncle with disastrous results)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley, YA Comic - In a fairy tale world, Princess Adrienne refuses to sit around waiting to be rescued and married off)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - In a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl gets so sick of being a proper princess that she runs away from home to live with dragons)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, creator, Fiction - After the battle between Good and Evil has been won, the powerful artifacts that won the day create no end of trouble)

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The Unhandsome Prince
John Moore
Ace
Fiction, Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: When a local sorceress turned Prince Hal into a frog, every girl (and a few women) in Ripplebrook flocked to the swamps searching for him; everyone knows that any girl, noble or commoner, who frees a handsome prince from the frog spell gets to marry him and live happily ever after. Most gave up after a few weeks, discouraged by dismal conditions and the death of the sorceress who cast the spell, but Caroline, the most beautiful girl in Ripplebrook, continued her gruelingly systematic search and eventually struck gold... almost. Hal, unfortunately, is a decidedly unhandsome prince, and Caroline decides that this simply won't do. She worked hard, she broke the curse, and she's to marry a handsome prince or take compensation from the late sorceress's daughter Emily, whose own future was thrown into jeopardy by her mother's untimely death. Hal, Caroline, and Emily end up as uneasy companions as they travel to Melinower, where Hal's family lives. Emily needs a new wizard or sorcerer to take her on for the two remaining years of her apprenticeship. Caroline, unhappy with Hal's looks and unprincely manner, wants to try her luck with his two handsome older brothers. Hal has his own problems - the spell that turned him into a frog may come back on him. Meanwhile, the Council of Lords pressures the aging king to choose among his three sons for an heir... and to deal with the royal family's out-of-control debts. The question of finding a suitable match for Caroline and a teacher for Emily may end up saving - or destroying - the entire kingdom.

REVIEW: I read this in a single day, and found it enjoyable. Moore weaves in elements of the Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, and other fairy tale conventions, along with some social commentary. The characters are mostly likeable and the story ties itself together very nicely by the end, though I'd guessed before then roughly how it would sort itself out. I felt that a little more could've been done with the cruel Prince Kenneth, whose plan to solve the family debt involved running out the Jewish moneylenders (thus rendering the debts nonexistent), though perhaps that will be left for a sequel. It's mostly a light book, though there are a few more serious subplots and undertones.

You might also enjoy:
The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Douglas Adams, Fiction - The irreverent adventures of hapless Earthman Arthur Dent, who escapes the planet moments before its destruction with a hitchhiking alien friend)
The Frog Princess (E. D. Baker, YA Fiction - A clumsy princess turns into a frog when she kisses an enchanted prince)
Sky Coyote (Kage Baker, Fiction - Told with clever wit, the story of an immortal cyborg agent of The Company, a time-traveling conglomerate which manipulates history for future profit)
Galaxy Quest (Terry Bisson, Fiction - The washed-up cast of a cheesy old sci-fi show meets aliens who think it was all real)
A Bad Spell in Yurt (C. Dale Brittain, Fiction - A barely-competent wizard takes a job with a small kingdom, only to discover an elusive evil force inhabiting his new home)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, a sharp-witted assassin/detective works with his often-obnoxious dragonlike familiar)
The Sisters Grimm series (Michael Buckley, YA Fiction - Two sisters learn that the "fairy tales" of their ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, were actually case files)
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke, YA Fiction - A pudgy middle-school boy is the last blood descendant of a powerful wizard, meaning the fate of three worlds is in his hands)
The Artemis Fowl series (Eoin Colfer, YA Fiction - A boy criminal mastermind deduces the existence of the underground Fairy nation, and sets his sights on their gold)
The Last Dragonslayer (Jasper Fforde - The prophecised slayer of the last dragon in the Ununited Kingdoms may be a foundling girl)
The Princess Bride (William Goldman, Fiction - A father and son bond over the story of a beautiful princess, an evil prince, adventure, danger, and True Love)
The Darkslayer (Craig Halloran and Ernie Chang, Fiction - On the chaotic world of Bish, the barbarian hero Venir fights evil underlings)
The Tales of Jig Dragonslayer (Jim C. Hines, Fiction - A craven but clever goblin, captured and forced to guide a group of bickering adventurers, learns that heroism is highly overrated)
Dark Lord of Derkholm and Year of the Griffin (Diana Wynne Jones, YA Fiction - A magical world is forced to give tours to offworlders, recreating standard events from epic fantasy tales)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Diana Wynne Jones, Fiction - A tongue-in-cheek guide to epic fantasy)
Firebird (Mercedes Lackey, Fiction - The Russian tale of the immortal Firebird and the young tsar's son Ivan)
The Fire Rose (Mercedes Lackey, Fiction - A retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," set in turn-of-the-century California)
The Serpent's Shadow (Mercedes Lackey, Fiction - A retelling of "Snow White," set in turn-of-the-century London)
Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine, YA Fiction - A girl sets out to find a cure for a fairy's botched christening gift of total obedience)
Fairest (Gail Carson Levine, YA Fiction - Based on "Snow White," a homely girl with a beautiful voice meets a vain queen and handsome prince)
The Divide (Elizabeth Kay, YA Fiction - A sickly boy accidentally falls into a world where magic is real and humans are myths)
My Sparkling Misfortune (Laura Lond and Alla Alekseyeva, YA Fiction - Seeking vengeance against a prince, a villainous lord finds himself stuck with a do-gooder spirit helper)
Off to Be the Wizard (Scott Meyer, Fiction - After meddling with the data file controlling reality, a modern hacker flees to medieval England to play wizard)
The Red Dwarf books (Grant Naylor, Fiction - Based on the BBC sitcom, a Liverpudlian loser aboard a Space Corps mining ship becomes the last human alive after a radiation leak traps him in stasis for 3 million years)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett, Fiction - A magicless wizard must act as a guide for Discworld's first tourist)
The Princess and the Firedrake (Jim Stinson, YA Fiction - Cursed by being too clever, a banished princess must save her kingdom from an angry dragon)
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White, YA Fiction - A 13-year-old orphan becomes part of a Rightful Heir quest that could save or destroy her magical world)
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley, YA Comic - In a fairy tale world, Princess Adrienne refuses to sit around waiting to be rescued and married off)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede, YA Fiction - In a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl gets so sick of being a proper princess that she runs away from home to live with dragons)
Forever After (Roger Zelazny, creator, Fiction - After the battle between Good and Evil has been won, the powerful artifacts that won the day create no end of trouble)


The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - Official Illustrated Movie Companion
Perry Moore
HarperCollins
Nonfiction, Media Reference
****

DESCRIPTION: Go behind the scenes of the blockbuster movie to find out how it all happened, from convincing the estate of C. S. Lewis who was the best crew for the task through casting, shooting, and effects.

REVIEW: I enjoyed the movie, and I enjoyed this look at how it was made. The film was an epic masterpiece, thekind of movie I'd want made if I ever write a story worthy of it, and I like peeks at the production process. On an unrelated note, I'm a little nervous. Though lip service is given to the other stories, and I understood this to be the start of a seven-movie series covering all the Chronicles of Narnia books, no mention is made of any plans to reassemble this winning crew for future projects. (I recently learned online that the next movie slated to be filmed is Prince Caspian - it looks like they're wisely sidestepping the rather inflammatory potential of A Horse and His Boy, with its thinly-veiled anti-Arab overtones. Hopefully, this means that the final book, The Last Battle, also won't make it to the big screen; not only would the general public not enjoy seeing Narnia destroyed, but some of Lewis's "revelations" in that one go a little too far across the line for even the most talented filmmakers to pull it back.)

You might also enjoy:
Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon (Daniel Falconer, Nonfiction - From concept art to final film, the dragon Smaug from Peter Jackson's Hobbit film trilogy comes to life)
The Art of Kubo and the Two Strings (Emily Haynes, Nonfiction - The designs and art behind LAIKA's 2016 stop-motion/CGI masterpiece)
The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis, YA Fiction - English children visit the realm of Narnia, domain of the great Lion Aslan)
The Lord of the Rings: The Art of the Fellowship of the Ring (Gary Russell, Nonfiction - The concept art behind Peter Jackson's epic film)
The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Widescreen Edition) (2005 movie DVD)

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