If I could only say one thing about His Royal Hopeless I would say imagine a Disney- Pixar movie but in book form- it has all the magic, the layered storytelling and jokes and growth of those animated movies imagine Onward with a dash of Luca and a frosting of Frozen meets a dollop of my beloved Pratchettian Discworld humour it has that special something that twangs your heartstrings and locks the story into your heart.
Robbie is the heir to a dynasty of Evil. There is no greater evil than the Sinistevils, no village they won’t pillage and smash, no bad deed too monstrous and all concentrated and distilled generation after generation flowing down to Robbie, the eau de evil if you will….. except, frankly, he isn’t.
Robbie is eternally optimistic, kind, conscientious and thinks positively and supportively of everyone, even when his mother is screeching death threats over the breakfast table.
Robbie is about to turn twelve, then he has the right to take the throne by pledging his heart to the Sceptre of Evil, the only problem is mother had his real heart taken out years ago by a doctorcerer, and he can’t pledge clockwork.
As Robbie begins his journey with his best friend Layla to retrieve his heart and win his mother’s respect, he just can’t quite understand why all these evil things seem to keep cropping up and trying to stop him!
‘I don’t know what you mean, she’s always nice to me. And she never hugs me because she doesn’t want to catch diseases… something about not wanting incompetence to rub off on her, and I can only assume that’s some kind of disease’Robbie to Layla on the subject of Mother
Greeted with much joy and giggles from both Littlefae and Tinyfae from the opening chapter worthy of a Disney narration and first action reminiscent of the ‘Its Coronation day!!’/first time in forever scene from Frozen this book had us hooked with its blend of the macabre, surreal and quirky.
But beneath the giggles and the creative monsters including a nod to The Princess Bride ROUS, there is an incredibly potent and heartfelt message about being true to who we are even if that means challenging the expectations around us and the labels others and we put on ourselves. There is definitely a Pratchett flavour with the juxtaposition of dry dark humour and the biting pastiche and satire that through the surrealism of fantasy worlds the author holds a mirror up to our own society and worlds.
It’s a wonderful look at empathy for those who don’t quite fit into the expected or mainstream, whether they know why, or at all, or just have an itchy inkling, and particularly for recognising that people are wired differently, and that’s no shame.
It was the goriest painting in the castle and possibly…in the world… Robbie liked the picture. He was sure he liked it. If he tried hard enough, he could even look at it for more than a few seconds… Yes it didn’t matter if Robbie felt queasy in its presence… Robbie decided he must like it, because he was evil and evil people like gory things.
Robbie doesn’t understand that he is not evil because of the familial heritage and the expectations of his dynasty. He unknowingly plays along, he interprets his feelings and actions to be aspiring to evil because he MUST be evil, because that’s who he is… isn’t he?
The candour of this struggle and slow and heartbreakingly painful awakening to truth is such a powerful opportunity to inclusion and empathy. Much how people play along, pretend, and indeed mimic and mask to fit in with those around them as straight, neurotypical, cis-gender and more, often unknowingly not realising why things just don’t feel right until it dawns, and sometimes desperately trying like Robbie who just so wants to be evil because then, his mother might accept him.
‘I believe some people are simply not wired that way. This is not a bad thing.’spoken to Robbie
But Chloë never lets Robbie’s truth become muddied or damaged, shining at the very heart of him is his eternal and irrevocable ‘goodness’, it can’t be beaten, talked, bullied, cut or even magicked out of him, because it is in every atom of his being, and when he is ready to accept it in himself, he can change the world.
Robbie’s goodness being interchangeable for any form of diversity is a wonderful empowerment, to be told you are perfect just the way you are in such a gentle and importantly ‘non-issues book’ way, and acts as a mirror, but also a door for those who are ready like Robbie to shine. Though equally an important window for others to see the living experience of not fitting in again but not in an ‘issues’ or ‘contemporary overcoming bullies book’ it approaches these issues quietly and subtly through the lens of someone different having an adventure, overcoming problems and equally being utterly themselves.
And by goodness isn’t that a powerful take from the book.
Make sure to check out the other stops on the tour for this awesome book.
HIS ROYAL HOPELESS by Chloë Perrin is out now in paperback (£6.99, Chicken House) Find out more at chickenhousebooks.com
Thank you for my copy!! 💜