Magic Kingdom for Sale-Sold!
By Terry Brooks
Published by Books in Motion
Read by Cameron Beierle
This is the first book in the Landover series. In it, successful lawyer Ben Holiday is having a mid-life crisis, compounded by the loss of his beloved wife and his legal practice just does not hold the attraction for him that it once did, so when he finds a strange advertisement offering to sell him a magical kingdom for a mere $1,000,000 he chomped at the bait with only a bare moment of hesitation. He also has to agree to stay in the kingdom for at least one full year or else forfeit everything he paid for it.
On his eventual arrival in this kingdom, called Landover, Ben finds out while the kingdom is technically as described, there are a lot of downsides that were never mentioned. The local barons refuse to recognized him as the king, the local peasants would like to have a king but do not really believe he can do anything for him. Other magical peoples are willing to accord him the title of king or “High Lord,” but he will need to prove himself before they give him anything beyond that courtesy and it turns out that he is going to have to fight an invincible demon before the crown is truly his. On top of all that, it turns out he is far from the first sucker to buy Landover. In fact, there have been dozens before him. No wonder none of the locals take him seriously. However, he is committed to staying and that means fighting a demon to the death.
I remember enjoying this story the first time I read it but I suspect my tastes have changed. The title of the story implies a humorous story and it is, in many ways a parody of the pseudo-medieval fantasy genre and that might be my problem with it. I personally grew tired of fantasies set in a medievalesque world shortly after I started writing my own stories. Or maybe I just had not read enough of this sort of story at the time I first encountered it. Needless to say I was a bit disappointed this time around.
Don’t get me wrong. On its own merits, it is an okay story, but now I see it as a hodgepodge of fantasy clichés. Now in a parody, that can be a very good starting point, but aside from few scenes tossed in as comic relief, it is not a funny story. Now it could have been a dramatic telling in spite of the humorous title, but it is light adventure which, once again, is not necessarily bad. I think what put me off was that it really was not funny enough to support all the fantasy clichés so in the end it is neither dramatic not humorous, but just a bland and, unfortunately, predictable mishmash. If you’ve read enough other books of the classic fantasy genre, then you know exactly what is going to happen. Predictability can work, but once again, there was not enough humor to pull it off.
Nice try, Mister Brooks. The story telling does expose your expertise, but this one just is not enough of one thing or another. If you are going to write comedy, then write comedy. If you want to be dramatic, write drama, but dramedy is best left on a Hollywood scrap pile.
For the most part Mister Beierle read the story well, but he really should have stopped every so often to look up words he was unfamiliar with because he frequently mispronounced some. The worst had to be the word, “Paladin.” The word is very important in this story and comes up frequently. Hint: it does NOT rhyme with “Aladdin.” That just ruined the entire reading.
He also tends to rely on “Funny voices,” but while some of those were annoying, he only used silly vocal renderings for non-human characters so it was not as annoying as it might have been, although there are a lot of non-humans in Landover. But that alone would not have ruined the reading… the mispronunciations were the spoilers for me.
So it’s a mediocre story that really could and should have been much better and while Cameron Beierle is obviously a talented vocal artist, he really fouled up on this one. If you are a big fan of Terry Brooks, you may well enjoy this story, but unless you can find a different recording, I’d recommend just reading it for yourself.