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Jeff Kinney's second book in the Spin-Off series from Diary of a Wimpy Kid arrived in August 2020. In a major break from the other books in the series, this is presented as an in-progress Heroic Fantasy manuscript by Greg Heffley's best friend Rowley Jefferson.

"Roland" is a kind, polite kid who has never ventured outside his medieval village, but one day not only does a sudden summer snowstorm engulf it, but he learns that this is the work of the evil White Warlock — who has also kidnapped Roland's mother with the intent of making her his bride come the next crescent moon. Accompanied by his barbarian friend "Garg", Roland sets out across swamp, through mines, and otherwise to rescue his mother and accumulates a motley crew of new friends along the way. One significantly motlier than expected, because...

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Each chapter of Rowley's manuscript ends with his comments on the writing process — specifically how it's being guided by Greg, whom Rowley is showing his work to. In this parallel storyline, Greg sees enormous moneymaking potential in Rowley's work, but in order to achieve it, Rowley is going to have to make some audience-appealing changes to it, which he dutifully incorporates into the next chapter, and the next...and Hilarity Ensues as trope piles upon trope.

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This book contains examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: When Rowley suggests that Roland could just as easily be a marketing focus as Christoph the vampire, Greg says that wouldn't be the case because of this trope.
  • All-Loving Hero: Roland is written as this, though it's tested by his becoming jealous of the relationship between Shae'Vana and Christoph. Justified in that he was raised to be this way by his parents.
  • Archer Archetype: Shae'vana subverts the trope in that, while she is a master archer, she is not a loner and is emotional enough to fall in love with Christoph.
  • Big Bad: There are a lot of villains Roland faces on his journey, but it's all because of the White Warlock that he has to set out on his journey in the first place to both save his mom and prevent an Endless Winter. Actually, there's no White Warlock — the actual Big Bad, the One-Eyed Wizard, is manipulating Roland into facilitating his plot to usurp his innocent brother Santa Claus.
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  • The Big Guy: Dumb Muscle Garg fills this role on Roland's team, and is also his best friend.
  • Breakout Character: invoked Rowley never quite realizes it, but Greg is really determined to see Garg become this trope.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Roland's flute playing is so good that it attracts the attention of the Little Mermaid, who ends up helping everyone get to the Ice Fortress.
  • Cliché Storm: invoked Invoked and Played for Laughs throughout Rowley's manuscript.
  • Cool Sword: Jeremy, "forged in the fires of Mount Friendly by a wizard named Walter the Wonderful", was previously owned by Roland's grandfather Bamphy the Brave and is capable of turning mean people nice.
  • Crystal Ball: The One-Eyed Wizard has one and has been using it to follow the White Warlock's plot and Roland's quest before Roland himself asks for his help.
  • Damsel in Distress: Greg tells Rowley that this is a Dead Horse Trope, at least with regards to princesses, and that he'll get a lot of angry mail from girls if he uses it.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: After Rowley starts introducing various Public Domain Characters in the story, Greg suggests to just replace completely Roland with Tom Sawyer, because he thinks the book would sell more as a continuation of a classic literary character's adventures.
  • Dumb Muscle: Garg talks in Hulk Speak and mainly just lugs stuff around or hits it with his club.
  • Endless Winter: The White Warlock's plot is to cause one. Greg calls Rowley out on how unoriginal this trope is, but when Rowley suggests Endless Spring instead he shoots that idea down too because people like spring.
  • Environment-Specific Action Figure: Discussed after the second chapter. Greg approves of the various locations Rowley drew in his world map for the simple fact that it would allow to make action figures such as "Desert Garg", "Snow Garg", or "Jungle Garg".
  • Evil All Along: In the climax, the One-Eyed Wizard is revealed to be this, tricking the pure-hearted Rowley into setting out and becoming a pawn in his plan to get revenge upon his brother Santa Claus.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The White Warlock, who intends to become a Sorcerous Overlord and plunge the world into Endless Winter. Or so the actual Evil Sorcerer, the One-Eyed Wizard, claims. The White Warlock is actually Santa Claus!
  • Face–Heel Turn: When Rowley introduces this as a plot twist with Shae'vana the elf, Greg points out that it's a risky move because people who liked the character up to that point will be upset and picket his house, and Rowley's suggestion that they return to the side of good at the end is dismissed as corny. Rowley instead has her turn out to be Good All Along, only stealing the map and the One-Eyed Wizard's eye to run on ahead and warn Santa of the One-Eyed Wizard's plot.
  • Fantasy Aliens: An alien is one of the victims of Medusa that is restored to life by the One-Eyed Wizard and escapes in fear that Medusa might come back. Greg asks Rowley to remove it, since he believes it doesn't make sense.
  • Fantasy World Map: Rowley makes sure to include one (it appears both in the main text and the inside front cover).
  • Good All Along: Twice over, first with the White Warlock (actually Santa Claus) and second with Shae'vana (one of his elves).
  • The Heart: All-Loving Hero Roland fills this role in the team that forms around him.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Rowley's in-universe counterpart Roland is primarily defined by and loved for how nice and polite he is, and for his upstanding moral code. By the second half of the book, it's most of the other characters getting everyone out of scrapes because Roland is too nice to actually fight and has no other useful abilities aside from...playing the flute. Played with regarding Greg's counterpart Garg, who is a fearsome barbarian and the more merchandise-ready of the two but is also Dumb Muscle.
  • Hulk Speak: Garg speaks in this manner: "Garg hungry!" "Garg happy!"
  • It Will Never Catch On: Greg doesn't think Roland is a very interesting character, and early on Rowley suggests he can be a wizard instead of a peasant who plays the flute, only for Greg to tell him that "no one would read a book about a boy wizard."
  • The Load: Christoph the vampire is this for Roland's party. Not only does he have no useful skills, he can't travel during the day so at Shae'vana's insistence everyone else has to travel at night. His also being a werewolf only makes matters worse, and it's initially thought that Shae'vana's apparent Face–Heel Turn is out of her desire to break his curse, though this proves not to be the case. Rowley only writes this character into the story to provide a Token Romance, so it's likely he and Greg couldn't think of anything for him to do beyond that.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Discussed. Greg likes it when Rowley expands Roland's party with Sherlock Holmes, the One-Eyed Wizard, Shae'vana, and Stephen because having this trope in play expands merchandising possibilities.
  • Magic Staff: The White Warlock has one; its ruby is the source of its power.
  • Magic Wand: The One-Eyed Wizard has one of these.
  • Medieval European Fantasy: Rowley's novel appears to be using this setting (he specifically notes that phones and school have not been invented yet and most kids work on farms all day), though it quickly gets derailed by all the distinctly non-medieval European elements and especially characters introduced to it.
  • Named Weapons: Spoofed with "Jeremy", Roland's Cool Sword. Greg is not impressed.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Christoph the vampire is also a werewolf.
  • Only the Chosen May Wield: Because he's pure of heart, Roland can pull the magical sword Jeremy from the rock that his grandfather Bamphy the Brave stuck it in years ago. Greg points out how unoriginal this plot point is, but Rowley counters with the fact that it's pulled from a rock, not a stone.
  • Only the Pure of Heart: Roland turns out to be one of the few people who can pull Jeremy from the rock and, later, open the secret door to the Ice Fortress because he has a pure heart. The latter is why the One-Eyed Wizard manipulates him into setting out on his journey in the first place.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Stephen is half-man, half-cow — and a female cow at that, with udders. Greg has his reservations about this, feeling that Stephen should at least not have a mustache, but since the udders could prove useful in fast food tie-in deals he lets it pass.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Shae'vana is a Wood Elves variation — a subverted Archer Archetype and straight Forest Ranger and clever thief, beautiful with pointy ears and breath that smells "like mint leaves dipped in honey", etc. On top of that, she's also one of Santa's toymakers, subverting the Christmas Elves trope.
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: The Big Bad's backstory: The One-Eyed Wizard is Santa Claus's brother. Santa got to draw first to see which holiday he would represent and ended up with Christmas, while he ended up representing Flag Day. He struggled to get people to care about Flag Day (and thus him) as much as they care about Christmas, ultimately putting out one of his eyes in a flag-waving accident, and that led him to vow revenge upon his brother.
  • Parody Episode: A parody of Heroic Fantasy novels (and modern entertainment media in general) in the middle of a down-to-Earth Slice of Life series.
  • Patchwork Map: Rowley's Fantasy World Map is also a classic example of this. Greg points out that he "can't have a desert right next to a place that's snowy because that's not the way things work in real life." Rowley justifies this trope by pointing out that as a fantasy story "it doesn't have to make sense anyway."
  • The Pig-Pen: The trolls all qualify as this, and their land as Trash of the Titans. They wouldn't be this way if not for the pixies dumping their garbage there — as retaliation for the trolls eating them.
  • Pinned to the Wall: In the climax, Shae'vana does this to the One-Eyed Wizard as part of her Good All Along reveal.
  • Prequel: Early on, Greg proposes one to Rowley's book, featuring Garg as a baby to sell dolls of the character.
  • Public Domain Character: Greg encourages Rowley to work some of these into the book to increase its appeal while at the same time not risking copyright infringement lawsuits. Sherlock Holmes becomes a major secondary character, while Medusa and The Little Mermaid ("but not the Disney one") have minor but significant appearances. In the late going, the White Warlock is revealed to be Santa Claus. There are also cameos by Thor, Huckleberry Finn, and the Cowardly Lion.
  • Santa Claus: Rowley tells Greg early on that he wants to have their in-universe avatars meet him, but Greg threatens to quit if he goes through with it. Rowley goes ahead anyway, revealing that the White Warlock is actually Santa (and thus Good All Along) at the eleventh hour. Greg ends up liking the plot twist...because it means the book can be marketed as a Christmas book.
  • Save the Princess: Or rather, the mother. Greg points out how weird this sounds, so Rowley suggests changing it to a princess, but Greg points out that is too much of a cliche now and could alienate female readers.
  • Self-Insert Fic: The whole book is Rowley's effort to write one of these. Interestingly, he's writing it for himself, and it's only at Greg's suggestion that he starts changing his plans for it.
  • Slapstick: Greg suggests this should be incorporated into the novel, i.e. the other characters steal the One-Eyed Wizard's remaining eye and hide it.
  • The Smart Guy: Sherlock Holmes ends up filling this role on Roland's team, though the only time he gets to use his skills is when he figures out Shae'vana stole the One-Eyed Wizard's eye and the map — due to obvious clues.
  • Stink Snub: The pixies react this way to the arrival of the trolls when Roland sets out to mediate a truce between the two races.
  • Taken for Granite: Chapters 6-8 involve Rowley and Garg encountering Medusa, and Garg ending up the latest victim of this trope as a result, leading to Rowley seeking out the help of the One-Eyed Wizard to change him and the others back.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In the climax, Roland successfully throws his magical sword Jeremy at the One-Eyed Wizard to turn him nice. Exaggerated in that Roland has not actually used the sword, or any sword, at all up to this point!
  • Toilet Humor: According to Rowley, "Greg said if you're gonna write a book you HAVE to put in gross stuff or kids won't BUY it." Greg goes on to suggest the book just include a sticker sheet of random gross images and Written Sound Effects "so kids could add their OWN body humor wherever they WANTED."
  • Token Romance: At Greg's insistence, Rowley introduces one into the story. Because he doesn't want Roland and Garg to fight over Shae'vana (because they are friends and that would not be nice), he has to add the character of Christoph to do so.
  • Trash of the Titans: The land of the trolls is ridiculously filthy, to the point that all of its residents qualify as The Pig-Pen.
  • Triang Relations: Greg suggests Type 3 should be incorporated into the novel with Garg and Roland competing for Shae'vana's affections. Rowley doesn't like the friends fighting, though, so he introduces Christoph and goes with Type 4 instead: Roland wants Shae'vana, but she and Christoph immediately become a couple upon meeting.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Much of Rowley's story involves Roland and Garg's encounters with these, starting with a stretch in which they...just help out townsfolk with their chores for days on end. More conventional fantasy examples of this trope show up later, such as a conflict between pixies and trolls that Roland has to mediate, and giant eagles who want to feed the party to their just-hatching chicks.
  • Waving Signs Around: The illustration of what Greg says could happen if Rowley has a well-liked character do a Face–Heel Turn has girls picketing the latter's house with signs like "Change The Story".
  • Wizard Classic: The One-Eyed Wizard has a Robe and Wizard Hat, Wizard Beard, and Magic Wand, and lives alone in a swamp. Subverted twice: He is actually an Evil Sorcerer and the actual Wizard Classic, Santa Claus, is just the traditional depiction of that character plus a Magic Staff. The silhouette of Walter the Wonderful seen in Jeremy the Cool Sword's backstory also has a Robe and Wizard Hat and Wizard Beard.
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