Once upon a time, there was a kid who loved reading fantasy novels. His name was Steve. One day he stumbled across a novel by Terry Brooks called MAGIC KINGDOM FOR SALE--SOLD!, and he loved it. It was a fairy-tale of sorts where a struggling man in our world sees an advertisement that will allow him to purchase a magical kingdom for the sum of one-million dollars. What followed was a fantastic adventure that allowed the imagination of that kid to wander...
OK, you get the point. Enough of the sappy. Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom of Landover series was my first exposure to an Urban Fantasy-ish story, and like the first Shannara novels, holds a special place in my heart. It was very much in the tradition of Narnia, but for an older crowd. The Landover novels never really got the reviews or sales that the Shannara series did, but Brooks kept writing Ben Holiday's adventures anyway.
And they got worse and worse with every novel.
A PRINCESS OF LANDOVER marks the sixth novel in the Landover series, and the first one in over a decade. I had hoped this would be a reboot of sorts, and that it would recapture my imagination and return Brooks to the ranks of goodness.
Instead it is the worst novel Brooks has ever published. This includes his novelizations of the movies HOOK and STAR WARS: EPISODE ONE.
The book is short (300 large-print pages), which is good, because I couldn't have withstood a page more. In this 300-page novel, there are 50 pages of actual plot and story. It mainly deals with Mistaya Holiday's inability to fit anywhere, and then her running away--yep, that's it. The remaining 250 pages? Recap. That's right, we get to be reintroduced to every organism in the Landover universe. And not only once, but several times, from every PoV. Repetition is repeatedly one of the biggest repeated problems with this repetitive novel. Yes, the novel was even more obnoxious than that last sentence.
How many times do I have to read the same description of a creature or event? How many times do I have to be told that Mistaya Holiday (Ben Holiday's daughter) is fifteen, but with the mind and maturity of a woman in her twenties? Apparently, Brooks needed to remind us of this once a chapter (at least). Of course, Brooks' take on the mature teenager means that she whines more than any teen in history, and actually acts more like a petulant ten-year-old than the super-mature fifteen everyone says she is. Mistaya is the worst character Brooks has ever written. No joke. It's a glaring issue, and one that cannot be overlooked.
In addition, somehow the brains of every major character have been scooped out and eaten by, I can only surmise, zombies (if only zombies had actually been introduced...*sigh*). Every character is stupid in their actions and thoughts. And I swear to you, Ben Holiday spends the entire novel looking in mirrors reminiscing on the events from the prior five novels rather than looking for his daughter when she goes missing. The novel should have been titled The Magical Cliff's Notes of Landover. Seriously, the segments start, "Ben looked in the mirror and took a moment to reminisce..." These go on for pages. You know what? If I want to know about the events in those novels, I'll go out and buy the re-release omnibus editions of the prior novels. Don't beat me over the head with redundancy. Does Brooks not have an editor anymore to catch these things? Someone is riding on the laurels of prior success...bad form, Terry...are you related to the other Terry? Terry Goodkind? It would explain a lot...
The villain? He is a librarian. Brooks must have read THE HISTORIAN (where Dracula's nefarious plot is to have historians catalog his library, and is also known as the worst Historical Fiction ever written), and decided this was a fantastic idea. Uh huh. Terrifying.
It came to a point where I had to stop and think about what made Landover great to begin with. The Paladin, Ben Holiday and his wife Willow, Demons, Witches, faeries, dragons, magic, and the bumbling wizard with his friend the talking dog. None of these aspects were improved on. In fact the Paladin--arguably the most important aspect of the series--wasn't even shown. Magic was used three times--inexcusable in a series called The MAGIC Kingdom of Landover. Simply put, there was nothing in this story to hold my interest, and is really a Landover novel in name only. It was boring. Really, really boring.
If you want a Landover novel to read, go pick up THE MAGIC KINGDOM OF LANDOVER VOLUME 1. It has the first three novels of the series in it, and they are the only ones worth reading. Don't, under any circumstances, buy A PRINCESS OF LANDOVER in hardback. If you absolutely MUST have it, wait until it comes out in paperback...then wait a little longer until some other sucker sells his paperback to a used bookstore and buy it from that store for no more than $2.00. I'm not joking. $2.00 is the most money any sane person should waste on this pathetic excuse for a novel. Was Brooks just filling his pockets here, or what?
The absolute worst thing about this novel? Well, for a moment it looked like Brooks was going to be writing this garbage from now on. However, in an interview I read, Brooks mentioned he had no intention of writing anything else in this universe. If that is the case, and he wasn't misquoted, then this is one of the saddest excuses for a novel in recent history.
Recommended Age: This isn't an adult fantasy. It is a poor attempt at YA that is masquerading as a novel for adults. If you are 12 years and up, you are smarter than everyone in this novel. It should tell you something when the only cover-quotes Brooks has now are from YA/Children's authors like the terrible Paolini and Pullman.
Language: The Landover series was where Brooks allowed himself to be an adult, and it usually had more language and adult content in it. There isn't any here. It's for kids.
Violence: Nope. Very, very disappointing. There isn't even any suspense...
Sex: Alluded to, but nothing you don't see in Pixar movies.