As I’ve mentioned many a time on this site, I’m not a huge fantasy fan. However, there are some fantasy books which I do enjoy. One of the better books which I loved when I was younger, and recently re-read, was Terry Brooks comedic fantasy Magic Kingdom For Sale SOLD!. The book is a twist on the fantasy adventure tale and has a good sense of humor about itself. The book takes the reader on an adventure, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Let’s see what happens.
Ben Holiday is a successful and reasonably wealthy man, but he just hasn’t been the same, since his wife died (with their unborn baby) two years ago. He just hasn’t pulled himself out of his funk. When a Christmas catalog with unique offerings crosses his path, he find himself thinking about the strange listing in the back. For a sum of $1 million, you can purchase a Magic Kingdom. Ben’s suitably skeptical, but there’s a 10 day money back guarantee and real life isn’t making him happy, so he heads out and finds himself the new King of Landover.
When he gets there, things aren’t quite what they seem. There hasn’t been a true King in 20 years and the kingdom is run down. His main advisers are a magician who has trouble actually doing magic and a court scribe, who the magician has turned into a dog. He also has a couple creatures who cook for him, help him out and kill wild animals that wander into his path. So he does what every new King does, he takes a tour of his kingdom. Ben meets with his subjects, magical and non-magical, and works to try and gain their trust and loyalty. But the gulf might be too large to cross.
Ben finds himself in a lot deeper water than he thought as the truth of the sale, and the previous 20 years, comes out. He is forced to figure out the secret behind the paladin, who has appeared a couple times for Ben after having disappeared for the last 20 years, or suffer a fate worse than losing his $1 million.
Overall, the book combines magic, adventure and some light-hearted poking at fantasy conventions in a tale of a broken man who tries to save a broken kingdom. Brooks wisely keeps the action moving and doesn’t dwell too much on the past (of either the kingdom or Ben). We are given hints, clues and some outright exposition about the past as needed and it’s presented in a way that doesn’t slow down the book. Brooks does a great job of showing the characterization of the three main characters and their interplay is a high point of the novel. The story itself is fairly simplistic, but this isn’t a plot heavy novel. It’s a fun book that would be great for fantasy fans and skeptics. Recommended.