Literature: Heroics for Beginners
Heroics for Beginners
is a comic fantasy novel by John Moore
, set in his Fractured Fairy Tale
'verse, the Twenty Kingdoms.
Prince Kevin Timberline of Rassendas is smart, charming, and politically savvy. He's also in love with Princess Rebecca of Deserae. But while she reciprocates his feelings, she's determined to make the best marriage for her kingdom. Marrying for love is not a luxury the princess of a small kingdom can afford. Fortunately, Kevin has few serious competitors.
But when Deserae's precious magical artifact (Ancient Artifact Model Seven) is stolen by the Evil Overlord
Lord Voltmeter ("He who must be named"), it becomes clear that whoever can rescue the artifact and save the kingdom will win the princess's hand. And, unfortunately for Kevin, his chief rival, the heroic warrior, Prince Logan, looks like the best man for the job.
It's up to Kevin to use his wits (and his copy of The Handbook of Practical Heroics
) to save the day before Logan and his army can destroy the Fortress of Doom and win the princess.
Tropes in this work:
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Played with. The main character thinks back to how he once snuck out of the castle to take his then girlfriend to a small jazz club, only for his father, King Eric the Totally Cool, to show up with his trademark shades and a saxophone so he can jam with the band. As the hero puts it "Parent's should not be cooler then their children."
- And Then What?: Brought up by Rebecca, when she points out that taking over the kingdom would just lead to the other kingdoms invading.
- Ancient Artifact: The crux of Lord Voltmeter's Doomsday Device relies on an Ancient Artifact. No, it's not old. It's just manufactured by the Ancient family, though there's some humor at how Kevin misunderstands this at first. Apparently, they have an entire product line - the one Lord Voltmeter seeks is a Model Seven, though there are newer ones available that would likely be just as effective, if not moreso. It's just that he can only easily get his hands on the Model Seven.
- Barbarian Hero: Thunk the Barbarian, who tries to break into the Fortress of Doom at the beginning of the story, is a classic version bordering on parody.
- Contractual Genre Blindness: The evil overlord mentions trying to foreclose the mortgage on an orphanage and chase down puppies to kick because that's how one becomes an evil overlord. This is an interesting case, as the overlord manages to be a stereotypical villain while still being Dangerously Genre Savvy. The only reason he's ultimately defeated is because the hero doesn't use conventional "heroic" methods.
- Cool Shades: Kevin's father wears a pair of mining glasses leading to his title of King Eric the Totally Cool
- Doomsday Device: The crux of Lord Voltmeter's plan. It oversaturates the air with carbon dioxide, making it impossible to breathe within a given area.
- Doomy Dooms of Doom: The work uses this repeatedly, including the Fortress of Doom (above the Village of Angst). The gift shop is shown to have the usual merchandise bearing the Fortress of Doom logo.
- Double Standard: Rebecca brings up that boys should never lie to their girlfriends but it's ok for girls to lie while in a relationship because it strengthens the bonds.
- Encyclopedia Exposita: Each chapter starts with a quote from The Handbook of Practical Heroics that happens to be relevant to the events of the chapter.
- Engagement Challenge: One springs up unexpectedly when the Ancient Artifact Model Seven is stolen by Lord Voltmeter. It immediately becomes clear to everyone that Princess Rebecca's hand must go to the man who retrieves it. There's no other way. Which is a problem for Prince Kevin, since Prince Logan—and his army—is clearly the most qualified man to retrieve the artifact. Kevin has only his copy of The Handbook of Practical Heroics on his side.
- Fictional Document: The Handbook of Practical Heroics, which is exactly what it sounds like: a self-help book for wanna-be heroes.
- Fractured Fairy Tale: Like most of Moore's comic fantasy, the story plays heavily with standard Fairy Tale tropes.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Lord Voltmeter is this; it's part of how he came to power, in addition to having to outbid others on orphanages to forclose, or chase puppies down roads to fill the kicking quota. He hired a Straw Feminist man-hating woman to be the Lovely Assistant, who is therefore impossible to seduce and his chief Evil Minion is quite intelligent and graduated with a prestigious degree, and therefore cannot be tricked. He is livid that Thunk seduced the minion and tricked the assistant.
- Milking the Giant Cow: The book specifically cites this term:
He stood in the center of the room, his head thrown back in silent laughter, his arms raised above his head, his fists clenched in that famous, overly dramatic gesture known to theatre students everywhere as "milking the giant cow." Yes, it was hokey and cliched, and Voltmeter
knew it, but he loved doing that gesture anyway, the quintessential stance of a man mad with power.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod!: Mentions a villain who succeeded to the throne of a kingdom by slaughtering the rightful ruler, his wife, their children, and so on. The catch was he couldn't get all of the children — even though he'd been wise enough to schedule an assault on every potential heir and his or her family (Every adult member of the royal family had a disturbingly large number of children, and as a result at least one member of each household was able to get away). Amazingly, the villain was Genre Savvy enough to not attempt to break it; not because he didn't want the successors dead, but because if he did kill everyone in the necessary age groups — teenagers and under — he'd cripple the country's economy down the road. Instead, he went psychotically paranoid and ended up locking himself in a nigh-inaccessible room.
- Perfectly Arranged Marriage: With the main character and his love interest; they met and fell in love before her father started looking for a husband for her, and so she intentionally became cold and unpleasant to all other potential suitors to put them off. Mention is also made of another prince whose family refused to let him marry until he was thirty and then betrothed him to a six-year-old girl; ten years later, he is the most envied man on the continent.
- Prophecies Rhyme All the Time: Lampshaded and parodied. The hero meets a mysterious fortuneteller, but complains that her prophecies don't rhyme. Exasperated, she whips up a quatrain on the spot (or tries to ... she has to send him a message later with the last line).
- Punny Name: The Evil Overlord is called Lord Voltmeter. It's more of a Shallow Pun on "Lord Voldemort" than a meaningful name though, since he doesn't have electric powers. He is also referred to as "He Who Must Be Named", furthering the parody. Apparently, it's dangerous to use personal pronouns when referring to him.
- Shameful Strip: The Big Bad's "Evil Assistant" tears open the captive princess' blouse, on the grounds that exposing a female prisoner's body makes her feel more vulnerable. She's very surprised to encounter a chainmail bra underneath.
- Shout-Out: Lord Voltmeter ("He who must be named") is a fairly obvious shout-out to Harry Potter.
- Supervillain Lair: Lord Voltmeter's castle is specifically and insidiously laid out so that the only possible exit requires you to go through the gift shop. This is noted in the narrative.
- The Trope without a Title: Inverted; the Big Bad, Lord Voltmeter, is referred to as "He Who Must Be Named," as Lord Voltmeter dislikes being referred to by personal pronouns.
- You Know The One: Parodied. Lord Voltmeter is known as He Who Must Be Named, because Lord Voltmeter dislikes when people use pronouns to refer to Lord Voltmeter.