Thursday, July 01, 2010

Review - Magic Kingdom for Sale || Sold

Last fall, Princess of Landover was released…a new book in the Landover series after more than a decade. I had read the Landover books back in the 90s but had largely forgotten many details of the story, so I decided I may as well catch back up before reading the new book.

In Magic Kingdom For Sale -- Sold!, we follow a meandering lawyer in his quest to find purpose in a life that has become dull and unfulfilling. On a whim, he responds to an advertisement selling the right to be king in a fantasy realm called Landover. He initially expects some sort of special effects or other technological wizardry but is shocked to quickly discover that this magical world is real and with it come all sorts of dangers and adventures.

Ben Holliday is officially king, but the kingdom is a mess, thanks largely to the neglect caused by the continual sale of kingship and the lack of successful kings doing the job. Although set up for failure in many ways, Ben decides to give it his all and actually try to succeed at the job that many before him had run away from.

The concept itself is intriguing and a lot of fun. It's the sort of fantasy I remember from my youth and wanted to experience…the idea that if you found the right path, took the right turn, or moved a certain rock, there would be a passageway to an amazing land where magic was real, fantastic creatures and races flourished and anything was possible. Instead of merely happening on the kingdom, the adventure is taken up a notch by making Ben king (even if his power is largely limited due to lack of political recognition in the land).

The writing is solid and I could really visualize a lot of what was going on. The characters are fun and well crafted, though sometimes not quite as three-dimensional as I would have liked. Ben himself is a good full character though I often found myself frustrated with his perceptions and doubts.

The plot is enjoyable and believable. We wander the land with Ben and his new found friends as they try to show citizens of Landover that he, Ben, is in fact king and he deserves to be recognized as such. All of the factions have natural doubts but slowly they set up specific conditions under which they'll recognize his authority. And those conditions set up a variety of fun adventures.

The fantasy action itself isn't anything terribly revolutionary or exciting in terms of the Fantasy genre. However, the intriguing characters, the well constructed plot tension, and the solid writing make this a worthwhile read.

One note that put me off a little bit because I had forgotten about it, is the fact that Ben Holliday swears. In Brooks's Shannara series, the language is very subdued. They have their own form of swearing (Shades) but generally the language is very "G" rated. Landover's language is still mild by comparison but would be "PG" rather than "G." While this did strike me as odd, it was realistic when considering that Ben is an American lawyer from the heart of Chicago in the 19080s.

I look forward to re-reading the series and getting back into the heart of Landover. Most people I talk to don't really consider the Landover series to be Brooks's best work. Many even shun then. While I agree that he has many books that are better, Magic Kingdom is well worth reading and is a lot of fun as long as you go into it not expecting some sprawling fantasy epic with deep reaching effect.

3 out of 5 stars

View all my reviews

1 comment:

logankstewart said...

I've been a Terry Brooks geek since I first read The Sword of Shannara. Since then, I've read everything he's written except for Hook. (Heck, really it was Brooks that got me into fantasy in the first place.) With that, I read the Landover books early on, and I do remember enjoying them, but certainly not as much as the Shannara novels. Plus, I was a relative youngster, and one of the things I remember most about the series was Ben's constant use of swear words. That, and the talking dog man thing.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy trekking back through the series. I, for one, think I'll stay away, though I do intend on reading that new Landover novel one of these days.