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Left to Right, Snow White, Cinderella, Prince Frederic, Prince Gustav, Prince Liam, Princess Lila, Prince Duncan.

“When facing unbeatable odds, just think of yourself as unbeatably odd.”
— From Prince Duncan's self-published A Hero's Guide to Being a Hero.
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The League of Princes (also called “The Hero’s Guide series”) is a series of Young Adult novels by Christopher Healy. Combining the tropes of Fractured Fairy Tale and Deconstruction Crossover, the three books tell the stories of some of the unsung heroes of fairy tales: The Princes Charming.

After all, what do we know of the fairy tale princes? The stories are always named for the princesses, our viewpoint characters. All we know of the princes are a few of their actions. In the novels, this is said to be the fault of the bards, the writers of the songs which served as the news reports of the day. And the bards, they do not have the strongest reputation for accuracy.

They tell us Cinderella’s prince is a good dancer who sent his servant out to find his love, that Rapunzel’s prince is a brave warrior who got beaten by an old lady and rescued by a girl, that Sleeping Beauty’s prince is a dashing hero who awoke the sleeper with True Love’s Kiss, and that Snow White’s prince... well, that he was wandering alone in the woods and kissed a sleeping girl because some dwarfs told him to.

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What they don’t tell us is that Cinderella’s prince is Frederic of Harmonia, who was raised by an incredibly overprotective father who never let him engage in any activity more strenuous than dancing, leaving him an agoraphobe, a coward, and a completely unskilled fighter, whose idea of a daring adventure is eating breakfast foods for lunch. They don’t tell us that Rapunzel’s prince is Gustav of Sturmhagen, who has had an inferiority complex his whole life due to being the youngest of seventeen brothers. They don’t tell us that Sleeping Beauty’s prince is Liam of Erinthia, who has been hailed as a hero since the age of three and is quite smug about it, leading to a system shock when he breaks his engagement to the selfish and terrible Briar Rose and becomes the most hated man in his kingdom. And as for Snow White’s prince, Duncan of Sylvaria... well, they got him mostly right, but neglected to mention how WEIRD he is.

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Four less likely partners you couldn’t meet, but when a conspiracy is uncovered and they are the only ones who can put it right, they form the League of Princes, and heroically save the... Well, they do their level best.

An additional side-story by Christopher Healy set in the League universe, called "A Villain's Guide to Being a Hero," was released as part of the Guys Read: Heroes and Villains anthology by Jon Scieszka.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: In the cases of Cinderella and Rapunzel, it's sort of a given (Rapunzel's birth father in this version is actually so horrible that he doesn't care about trading off his young daughter to a witch). Frederic's father emotionally abused his son into being a coddled doormat, and Liam's parents only pay attention to their children when it's for their own selfish benefit.
  • Action Girl: Most of the female characters, especially Ella and Lila.
  • Alpha Bitch: Briar Rose is one of the most transparently mean and entitled characters in the books, and unlike Zaubera and Rundark (who are mainly occupied with their own plots for grand-scale evil), she specifically aims to give Liam (and by association, the League) loads of personal grief for dumping her.
    • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Briar's parents are probably the only people she genuinely adores, and over time she begrudgingly grows fond of the League and comes around as an ally.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Liam and Lila are both described as having a darker complexion than the rest of the cast, though it's not clear whether this is common for Erinthia as a whole.
  • Anti-Hero: Frederic and Duncan fit into Type 1, Liam and Gustav Type 2.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Due to their close proximity to many dangerous creature dwellings, the citizens of Sturmhagen are already constantly battle-ready, so it fits that their royal family is made of a towering king and queen and their many Warrior Prince sons.
  • The Baby of the Bunch: Lila's the youngest of the heroes, but hardly anyone except her big brother is doubtful of the fact that she's capable.
  • Badass Adorable: Lila starts off as a curious, athletic girl who has trouble keeping her bangs in place, and then under Ruffian the Blue's training becomes an exceptional ranger who leads a ragtag group of bounty hunters against a royal coup.
  • Battle Couple: Gustav and Jerica. Liam and Ella try to be one as well, but they keep butting heads before resolving to work more fluidly together.
  • Bar Brawl: While the Stumpy Boarhound is never shy of one anyway, Ella actually provokes one as a way to audition a fighter for a mission.
  • Betty and Veronica: Heroic and hardworking Ella versus the catty, exorbitantly vain Briar act as Betty and Veronica towards Liam's Archie. In a gender-flipped version, gentle, sheltered Frederic and charismatic, headstrong Liam are the Betty and Veronica to Ella.
  • Birds of a Feather: Most of the couples at the end of the series.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Gustav, and the trolls as a race.
  • Bounty Hunter: Several, most notably Ruffian the Blue.
  • Brains and Brawn: Frederic and Gustav.
  • Break the Haughty: Liam spends most of Book 2 second-guessing himself for the first time when he learns that his first act of heroism was all a ruse to impress Briar's parents.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Subverted in Gustav and Rapunzel's case. Though Rapunzel's kindness won over Gustav at first, his relentless sulking actually drives her away into a secluded life as a nurse. It's when Gustav eventually learns to be less selfish that they become closer as friends.
  • Catch-Phrase: Several
    • Gustav will frequently shout “Stuff it all!” in indignation, and launches into battle with a bellow of “STUUUUUURMHAAAGEEEN!”
    • Frederic often wonders “What would Sir Bertram the Dainty do?” This has proven useful more often than one might think, but in one particularly tough spot, he was forced to conclude that what Sir Bertram would probably do is die.
    • Smimf is so polite, sir your highness sir, that it approaches the level of vocal tic. And mind you, sir your highness sir, that he refers to everyone this way, regardless of gender or royal status.
    • Vero has, as they say in his country, one of these.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Zaubera intentionally crafted herself to fit the archetype of a Wicked Witch, complete with tattered robes, wild hair, a dragon, and dark fortress she designed to be as creepy as possible.
  • Cinderella Circumstances: Ella, obviously, but she found that life in the Gilded Cage that was the Harmonian palace just did not suit her at all, and eventually runs off to her own adventure.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Duncan's been an oddball since he was little, but his parents and younger sisters are just as odd, if not more so. It's why not even the people of Sylvaria respect their own royal family.
  • Cool Big Bro: Liam is the only one in Lila's family who empathizes with her, and negotiated with their parents to give her more free rein around the castle.
  • Disney Death: Frederic in the first book; Briar, and in a villainous example, Rundark in the second.
  • The Dragon: Lord Rundark to the Bandit King. He pads out the Bandit Army with Darian mercenaries, which does not work out so well for the young king.
  • The Eeyore: Ruffian the Blue, true to his name.
  • Enfant Terrible: Deeb Rauber aka The Bandit King. At twelve years old, he is an accomplished thief and leader of a cutthroat gang. His personality is still that of a bratty little snot though.
  • Erudite Stoner: The audiobooks give Duncan and Snow White stereotypical American stoner accents while everyone else has some European dialect more appropriate to the setting.
  • Evil Overlord: Lord Rundark
    • Deeb fancies himself one of these, but he’s not that good at it.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The bard song titles are usually pretty standard, “The Tale of the Sleeping Beauty”, “The Tale of Cinderella”, etc. The most on-the-nose one, though, is probably their song of Liam and Briar’s wedding, “The League of Princes Fails Again”.
    • The forest of Yondale is dark and forboding, but it borders the much nicer forest of Sylvaria, which is named “The Much Nicer Forest of Sylvaria”.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: It certainly takes a while for the League of Princes to gain any kind of footing, but they do form into a group of True Companions by the end of the first book.
  • Five-Man Band
    • The League alone can qualify...
      • The Leader: Liam, as the most naturally heroic of all of them.
      • The Lancer and The Smart Guy: Frederic, the most studied and the only Prince Charming who can actually charm people.
      • The Big Guy: Gustav, who prefers to punch his way out of trouble.
      • The Chick: Duncan, who is friends with animals and always strives to keep peace in the group.
    • When they are joined by Ella, she easily takes the more passive Frederic’s place as Lancer, making them a proper Five-Man Band. They are also joined by Lila as a Tagalong Kid, Mr. Troll as an additional Big Guy, and Little Tailor (and later Briar Rose) as a Sixth Ranger.
    • In the third book, the Princes and Briar are stranded on an island, and Ella forms the Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters, who also qualify.
  • Foil: Frederic and Liam, especially given their backstories. Their parents orchestrated events that defined who they were into early adulthood: Frederic's father effectively traumatized his son into giving up any idea of disobeying him, whereas Liam's parents staged an elaborate show that had everyone in Erinthia hailing Liam as their hero. This also applies to their roles in the "League of Princes" story as a whole: while Liam is the more conventional Action Hero of the two, Frederic is the true protagonist who initiates the story and ultimately ends the Zaubera arc by urging her to use her powers for good.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Liam is the Sanguine, Gustav is the Choleric, Frederic is Melancholic and Duncan, Phlegmatic. On the princesses' side, Briar is Choleric, Rapunzel is Melancholic, Ella is the Sanguine and Snow, like Duncan, is Phlegmatic.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: With Into the Woods-levels of mish-mashing stories, mainly combining Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, along with dashes of The Brave Little Tailor and even a subtle hint of Beauty and the Beast in the series epilogue.
  • Grumpy Bear: Liam becomes one of these on occasion.
  • Guile Hero: Frederic's greatest weapons are his words, and grows into the League's best diplomat.
  • Happily Married: Unlike the three other fairy tale match-ups at the start of the story, Duncan and Snow White sincerely adore each other, and remain the least dysfunctional couple throughout the trilogy.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: The League after Book 1, after Deeb robbed their celebration parade right under their noses. Early on, Liam had to actually run away from Erinthia and Avondell after trying to break off his engagement with Briar due to rumors about what transpired growing more and more against him.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Liam and Ella often step into battle with swords. They try to train Frederic to wield one as well, to a very small degree of success.
  • Hufflepuff House: The books will frequently reference “The Thirteen Kingdoms”, but unless a main character lives in one of them, don’t expect to hear much about it. In the third book, Lord Rundark is said to have spies controlling the rulers of all thirteen kingdoms, but we only see the ones in the princes’ kingdoms, plus Avondell (Briar Rose’s hometown) and Yondale (Snow White’s), and we only see the revolution happening in those places, with the assurance that they are inspiring others to do the same.
    • Eisborg doesn’t even warrant a mention until the end of the final book, lampshading its unimportance and noting that they forgot to put it on the map in the first book.
      • Though it’s possible that it didn’t even exist in the first book, as the development of Dar as a separate entity from the Thirteen Kingdoms in the second book left the map one kingdom short.
  • I Just Want to Be Badass: Frederic and Gustav have big self-esteem issues concerning this.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Snow White turns out to be something of a savant at flinging projectiles.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Frederic was trained to be a gentleman of refined and delicate taste, and it shows in his appreciation for decorum, fashion and the arts.
  • Innocently Insensitive: While Duncan's probably the nicest guy in the League, his utter lack of social grace has led to moments of this.
  • Insistent Terminology: A frequent source of humor.
    • Duncan is the only one who says “Princes Charming” instead of “Prince Charmings”. He can’t get it to catch on, even among people who know he’s technically correct.
    • Cap’n Gabberman will correct you if you call him Captain. Not only that, but if you ask his friends about Captain Gabberman, they won’t be certain who you’re talking about.
    • Commander Euphustus Baileywimple will be referred to by his full name and title at all times.
    • Frank and his friends are DWARVES, not DWARFS, thank you so much.
    • Eric the Mauve is a trainer of giant mongeese, and will not stand for having his grammar corrected.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Gustav is generally pretty hot-tempered and brutish, but grows to care about his team, especially Frederic. Then there's Deeb in "The Villain's Guide to Being a Hero," who genuinely softens toward Red and her family.
  • Literal Genie: One that gives the heroes much grief in Book 3, not helped by the fact that they're trying to make a wish amidst five different arguments.
  • Little Miss Badass: Lila's been scaling castle walls before she gets to be part of the main adventure.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: The story kicks off with the four princes and their respective love interests, alongside various allies and enemies along the way.
  • Love at First Sight: This being a fairy tale comedy, this gets played with. For example, Liam falls for Ella because the fierce look in her eyes reminded him of himself.
  • Manchild: The princes are vaguely aged to be around their late teens to early twenties, but Duncan frequently acts more like an imaginative seven-year-old.
  • The Need for Mead: The Stumpy Boarhound, though the princes tend to order water. Well.. they’re told it’s water, which doesn’t account for the color...
  • Never Live It Down: The princes all have this in regards to the songs about them, both their classic tales, and the new bard songs about their League’s many failures.
    • This hits Gustav the hardest, who is mocked by all Sturmhageners for getting beaten up by an old lady and rescued by a girl.
  • Nonindicative Name: Ruffian the Blue wanted to be called “the Black” or “the Red”, and dresses accordingly. But he’s such a downer that the other nickname stuck.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Played straight, but bent a bit. While the dwarves are blunt, cranky, and violent, they live in a forest, as befitting their Snow White-based origins, and are fairly shy and compliant in the face of Snow White herself.
  • Pink Boy, Blue Girl: Foppish, easily scared Frederic and bold Action Girl Ella.
  • Poirot Speak: Vero seems to think he does this, but he actually speaks the language - as they say in his country - “quite well”. Possibly a parody of the fact that all the kingdoms seem to speak the same language.
  • Prince Charming: Given the series premise, the trope is both mocked and subverted. None of the princes are a paragon of dashing heroism, but it's through their failures that they learn to work as a team.
  • Produce Pelting: Snow realizes she has a wicked talent for this in the second book. Midway through Guide to being an Outlaw, she practically refines it into a genuine means of attack.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: In the first book meek Frederic and boisterous Gustav are given development through this dynamic, and in later books this translates into Frederic's relationship with Liam.
  • Rousing Speech: In one of the books' most triumphant moments, each of the four princes stands in front of their people to rouse them for the final battle.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: While the League and their various allies often clash over just how to save the day, they always manage it.
  • Running Gag: Bounty hunters all have a color in their names. This is eventually made explicit and said to be a sort of unspoken rule.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Ruffian and Lila, albeit in a very familial light.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Frederic and Duncan (Sensitive) when contrasted to Liam and Gustav (Manly).
  • Ship Tease: With astonishing frequency, with enough romance to interest older readers, but skillfully and subtly done, so as not to bore younger readers. Among the possible ships teased are...
    • Liam and Ella
    • Frederic and Ella
    • Frederic and Rapunzel
    • Liam and Briar
    • Gustav and Briar
    • Gustav and Rapunzel
    • Gustav and Jerica
    • Lila and Deeb
    • Lila and Smimf
    • And possibly even more. The only Official Couple start to finish is Duncan and Snow.
  • Sixth Ranger: Little Tailor.
  • Spoiled Brat: Due to a lifetime of servants tending to her every whim while in hiding from the evil fairy's curse, Briar Rose is not used to the word "no."
  • Spoiled Sweet: By contrast, Frederic is a genuinely nice, docile guy, while still pampered to the teeth.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Liam, who in Todd Harris's illustrations is shown to be rather strapping, is also a Snark Knight due to several ego-tripping experiences throughout the trilogy.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Frederic especially, who latter goes from being afraid to ride a horse to outsmarting a would-be usurper to his throne and being a Willing Channeler for Zaubera's ghost, convincing her to finish off Rundark.
  • True Love's Kiss: VERY subverted. In this universe, a kiss can break a spell, but pretty much anyone can do it. The two most famous instances, after all, are included...
    • Liam truly believes in True Love’s Kiss, and assumes that he and Briar are due to live Happily Ever After. Much to his surprise, she turns out to be horrible.
    • Duncan, on the other hand, acknowledged as soon as the dwarves told him about Snow that he couldn’t be in love with her because he’d never met her. He was also very hesitant to kiss a sleeping woman without her consent, and only did so to break the curse. Turns out they’re perfect for each other, and the are one of the series’ only examples of True Love.
  • Unwanted Assistance: Every single character, at least once in the series has a plan hindered by another hero, AND hinders another hero’s plan.
  • Waif-Fu: Little Tailor isn’t only a surprisingly good fighter for his size, his only weapon is a needle and thread.
  • Wicked Witch: Zaubera, Rapunzel's "adoptive mother."
  • Would Hurt a Child: One of the things that really establishes Rundark's nastiness is that he plots to murder Deeb in order to seize control of his bandit army.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: While the princes had been accompanying and assisting each other, they formally became a team in the corner booth of the Stumpy Boarhound, much to the owner’s delight.
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