Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold, by Terry Brooks. Del Ray, Ballantine Books, Random House. Eighteenth Printing: 1992. New York. ISBN 0-345-31758-0.
Landover was a genuine magic kingdom, with fairy folk and wizardry, just as the advertisement has promised. But after he purchased it, Ben Holiday learned that there were a few details the ad had failed to mention.
The kingdom was in ruin. The Barons refused to recognize a king, and the peasants were without hope. A dragon was laying waste the countryside, while an evil witch plotted to destroy everything.
Ben’s only followers were the incompetent Court Magician; Abernathy, the talking dog who served as Court Scribe; and the lovely Willow—but she had a habit of putting down roots in the moonlight and turning into a tree. The Paladin, legendary champion of the Kings of Landover, seemed to be only a myth and an empty suit of armor.
To put the final touch on the whole affair, Ben soon learned that the Iron Mark, terrible lord of the demons, had challenged all prospective Kings of Landover to duel to the death—a duel which no human could hope to win.
The task of proving his right to be King seemed hopeless. But Ben Holiday was stubborn. . . .
Ben: Introduction of MC in Chicago. Ben Holiday is in mourning after his wife died due to injuries incurred from a car wreck. A wealthy lawyer, some from his own relatively easy job, most from investments made with his dead parents wealth. Lives in a high rise over looking the city. Decides to look through the Christmas catalgoue his dead wife loved to look at while drinking. Comes across an article about a fairytale land for sale and let’s it nag at him. Sounds like you need a therapist and to lay off the booze, Ben.
Meeks: Well, after telling his business partner, who told him he was being a loon. After more rounds of Glinlivet and contemplation, he decides he’s bored and Annie would get a kick out of the thing, so he rings up the catalogue about his interest, flights out and talks to a shrewd man who sells him on the idea of Landover.
Landover: Hello Landover, our location of choice. Took you long enough to arrive. Hello there Mark, Paladin, and Strabo, the three major problems in this whole story. Oh, and would you look at that, the description is oh so very, Wizard of Oz crossed with lots of fog. Yes. Fog. We get it. Enough with the fucking fog.
Questor Thews: The patsy secondary that likes to be annoying and in the way all the freaking time, but escapes when there are serious answers needed for serious questions, which are all the time. Not really trustworthy. Why the hell are you just following this guy around?
Sterling Silver: Hello womb analogies. So many uncomfortable descriptions that are just…no, please stop. Oh, of course, a man needs to come protect her and restore her to proper value. Thanks.Women just stop being pretty when their king is no longer home. That’s the castle of Sterling Silver.
Coronation: So, Quester ‘accidentaly’ dosed Ben to sleep for a week, leaving him with only two days to figure out if he wanted to back out of the contract. Awesome. That’s not dodgy at all. Then, rush for the coronation. Wait, where are all the people? Oh, well you know, we’ve had a ton of other people in through here as king before you in the twenty years time because my half-brother, oh, you didn’t know Meeks was Questor’s half brother? anyways so yeah, the people don’t trust us anymore. Wait, who is that evil thing? Just the Mark. A demon? That thing tried to eat me. Well yes. Wait, you can summon the Paladin? Oh you might just be useful after all. Who the hell is the Paladin. I’m not telling you right now.
Paladin: Somber moment. Explanations. Paladin is the protector. No one knew what happened to the protector. Long drawn out explanation of just what kind of a weasily worm Questor and his half-brother are. You know, red flags. The types that tell you to quit with this endeavor because idiots at large. I digress. Apparently they decide they need to go talk to some people to form an alliance because laws of the land, which, Ben, you still haven’t actually looked at the laws of the land. Somehow you’ve come to a conclusion that all you are is a giant magic transistor battery for the kingdom to go back to being pretty. But, he has the Paladin, which might mean he can actually be a good king.
Lords of the Greensward: Asshole. Asshole. Hey look, another asshole. Oh wait, you’re trying to entrap the king into a marriae and get an heir so you can kill off the king, like that’s not obvious. Hey look, he called you out on it and used his dead wife and his mourning as a defense against it. And now they’re boxing. Really? We went from lawyer to fisticuffs. Alright then. It’s fallen apart. Crap. Escape.
Willow: “Go down to the river to pray.” ehem. Sorry. Oh Brother where art Thou suddenly came to mind. So, The world is magical. The guy has been using his dead wife as his crutch for having come to this looney bin. He goes down to the river to wash, and bam, naked Sylph that the author describes as, and I quote “Her face was so youthful that it made her seem hardly more than a girl. But her body…” – (note, I did not put in those three dots. That’s in the text.) I was trying really hard to ignore the tropes. Kobolds being one of them. But this one and the subsequent passage of him suddenly going gaga over a naked sylph body who tells him she ‘belongs to him’ because prophecy for him seeing her naked, etc. etc. This was set up to be a horney bit of flesh, but it really fell like a cold bucket of pedophilic water. Weren’t we just going on about buying a kingdom and a kingship because he’s bored and in mourning. After literally three days of being awake in this hell hole, a bit of boobage, and that conviction of dead wife dead wife evaporates. Then he has all those background moral dilemmas of here, let me not look like a randy pig so I can justify this reaction. Oh, and there’s Abernathy the scribe getting him for dinner and you think a blanket’s gonna cover up that hard on you most likely have after all that poetic exposition. I think not.
River Master: Long descriptive exposition of Elderew, after Ben has a moment of turning puppy eyed at the fixation of Willow. Great, okay, got it after the fourth page. Oh, Willow’s one of the River Master’s descendants. Awesome, just awesome. And another of those stupid conditions, because no one trusts ‘another’ king. This one feels like a heavy nod to the pollution/water way desctruction advertisement of the Scicilian dressed as an Indigenous person crying – once we got out of the whole, here, let me describe the set of the bog swamp from: Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, Princess Bride, I could go on…
Elderew: The people of the lake country throw a wild party, Willow shows Ben her mother, Willow turns into a tree. Ben suddenly has a moment of panic at the thought he wanted to bed a tree and is lost and confused as to why in three days he’s suddenly horney for a tree ‘girl’, still waffling about maybe being in morning, and still frustrated that he can’t get anyone to pledge loyalty to him. Nothing’s changed, other than willow telling him that he must ask her father to let Ben take her from the Lake Country. Oh, and now his little group of merry men decide to inform him what Willow is and try to tell him it must be a shock. Could you have done that for literally everything else the man has encountered up to this point? No? Then why are you bothering coddling him over a tree spirit? I am not amused with the way Willow has been introduced, or her character portrayal up to this point. The way she is written, she sounds like a naive brainless ditz, and I don’t like it when authors throw in ‘decorative women’ just to have some side flesh through a story. It riles me something fierce. Can you tell?
G’home Gnome: Learning montage for Benny. Oh, hello, more ingrained clique grouping systems that Ben gets to learn from his servants, who like to utilize the word ‘primitive’. Oh, the gnomes like to take things that aren’t theirs, damage property, and eat dogs and cats. Let’s just…not go there, shall we? Yep, trolls and gnomes, apparently both falling in the ‘unsophisticated, tribal’ bracket. Well, and he’s off to figure out how to help both teams find a compromise because one group decided to eat pet tree sloths and the other decided to force the eaters of tree sloths into slavery. Great times. Great times…Oh wait, and a quick evening jaunt in the Landsview magical apparatus to go see if you can peek on Willow, but no, now you get to think solemnly on Annie and all your bad life choices that have led you to this bizarre midlife crisis.
Crag Trolls: Let’s open on a prophecy nightmare shall we? Oh, no, we’re gonna scrap that and run to the hill country instead. Right. To sort out sloth eating gnomes and slaving trolls. Let’s have a fantastic revisit moment of the orcs of Mordor from The Lord of the Rings for just a jiffy here. Lots of the use of the word felt and began. Can we not? Oh wait, you made the trolls mad? Great job there Benny, great job. Yes, now we have something that could possibly be in line with the climax building phase that usually shows up within chapter 13-15 of any regularly structured fiction novel. Just as planned. Oh, hello willow you’ve come to rescue the foolish man playing king, but are exiled because reasons. At least Ben does keep saying she doesn’t belong to him. It’s infuriating that she keeps saying she does. There are verbiage choices authors can make. This is one such choice that should have been adjusted. I digress, for the moment. They escape, awesome.
Crystal: Accept your fate, oh great and powerful Ben, for having just been rescued by your infatuation from a cattle pen, you are the next best thing since sliced bread, we all can feel it…Do you feel the sarcasm yet? Oh, thanks Questor for explaining that you were still hiding secrets. Look, I get it, everyone has secrets and need to keep some things private, but most of his secrets are the life and death type that actually affect how Ben is supposed to do anything. Smack both these two upside the head with a 2×4 and Abernathy, your sarcastic drips of info aren’t of much help. Oh, and P.S., lets go talk to the witch.
Deep Fell: Well, off on a merry trapse through the gloomy woods to the witch’s house we go, shall we? Let’s pause for a moment to sleep in a tent and ponder how you can be a better man and contemplate life with Willow. You’ve only talked to her a handful of times you know. Ever heard of a date? Coffee? Maybe a bit of bonding time and character exposition? She turned into a tree in front of you and showed you her mom dancing in the woods. Not sure if that counts as a date exactly here. So, focus and get a grip man, your romantic subplot is hanging on by a thread. Ah, so the two gnomes are actually useful in this plot by way of sneaking you into the witch without her going all banshee on your group. Ever heard of knocking? Women like knocking and respectful interactions, not ruddy sneakthieves. Wait. Wait stop the presses, Ben grew a pair and actually had some character exposition with Willow, announcing that he couldn’t just do that first-sighted love thing…that he’s been doing. Benny boy, Benny boy. We need to talk about your methods of expression.
Nightshade: Into the ever more creepy darkness. How do you know how magic works, Ben asks the half magical woman he has determined to use as a way of showing that he does not need protection (oh wait, is this one of those, ‘here, I can protect a woman/ damsel in distress plots’, please say it isn’t so) …my eyes have rolled to my brows and back so many times in reading this that the muscles in my forehead grow sore. – a side note: please, try for the love of all that is holy in the writing world to avoid could, felt, feel, and seemed, it drags the story. I say from experience in reading this particular book. Oh come on ‘the land needs me, the people need me, you need me’ ploy again, Ben? You’ve done this with a couple different people already, for the sake of our sanity, please don’t do this a third time. Nightshade even told you she’s been following you around. She’s heard this shpeel already. Come up with something a bit more creative. Oh, wow, Willow has a broad grasp on multisyllabic lexicon, fantastic change of character attributes suddenly.
Fairy: Well hello there decent chapter, I actually got through a decent handful of pages. We had actual character and emotional interaction, though it was the first time where we actually got a description of your wife. Thanks for the heart wrench there for a minute. Oh wait. We’re going back to your lalaland? So, everyone is miserable without you. You get to decide what you’re gonna put up with. After all, Willow told you the fairy world was one of emotion. So Let’s go for a little ride through Ben’s emotional upheaval. Yes. ‘Fear in the mind killer I will face my fear and let it pass through me.’ Wait what? I vaguely get the feeling the author either read Dune or joined in with a yoga meditation class during the writing of this chapter.
Io Dust: Off to fight the witch, the wonderful witch of Landover. So, here’s the first ‘major climax rising point it seems. Snare the witch, make her cough up secrets, send her into the fairy mist for being evil, not before admitting the dragon is the linchpin to this whole operation. Have you noticed my snarky sarcasm waning? That’s because the writing actually developed. Finally. Though I kept reading it as Iocane powder, with the intonation and everything from Princess Bride.
Strabo: Well, let’s go make friends with a dragon, shall we? Oh, isn’t that lovely, the Dragon talks, and is rather respectable in it’s speech patterns. Again, another sentient being that doesn’t want to pledge allegiance to the throne. Ben Io powders him into obedience. A lot of the setting descriptors are ok, but easy to skip over, now that I’m familiar with the guy’s writing system and not liable to miss tiny little essential bits of the story in long winded this lake, that lake, and the other lake is on fire descriptors. Yes, we get it, no body likes dragons. No body likes anyone. Slap a saddle on the dragon and let’s go already.
Abaddon: Yep. Pit of hell. Pit of hell. Oh hell, Willow had her eating spell in hell and now is dying cause she couldn’t eat, off to talk to her father I suppose. We go all lion king for half a fade out black moment on love in the air as Willow and Ben get to terms with the Landsview. – As a random side note, the last couple chapters have been shorter than the beginning of the book, making the reading quicker and more pleasant, that and the whole predictable writing methodology that makes it easy to skip over descriptors.
Iron Mark: Hear ye hear ye, bring forth all the lords who are supposed to obey Ben Holiday. They show up, do their little, ‘yeah, still not gonna call you king because you don’t have the paladin bit’ and leave him to face the ‘big baddy’. Hello, he just took out Nightshade, and tamed Strabo (kind of), and those two were supposed to be hella powerful. There’s this whole bravery, I must face the Mark on my own. Get off the throne. Everyone off the throne but me. I must be the brave sacrifice.
Medallion: Rusty old medallion to the rescue, only after a short expose on the whole ‘Fear is the mind killer biz again’. Yes, we get it, fear is bad, makes things not work in landover. You can have emotions, just not fear. Awesome. Great note. Get on with it already. Revelations occur. Things get a bit wibbledy-wobbledy. Ben ‘find himself in the lands magic.’ He grows as a human being. Defeats the Mark because the medallion pretty much just makes him the next best thing to a god, apparently. It becomes apparent that the other lords of the realm just didn’t want to follow a king who couldn’t actually you know, be a knight too and fight and do the real heavy lifting when heavy lifting needed doing. Magic in the realm again. Yes, yes, this just feels like a tired trope at this point. Got it. ‘K.
King: Awesome, you’re a king Ben Holiday. You’ve found the true meaning of Christmas after all. Wait, sorry. That’s not right. Happiness, feasting, guarded pledges of possible allegiance because everyone’s still getting to know each other, but there’s feasting, and a discovery of what friendship really is. And that, my friends, is The Magical book: Terry Brooks, Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold – A Magic Kingdom of Landover Novel.
This is my second go at trying to read through Terry Brook’s Landover series. Initially I had read the first chapter once before, but due to getting through a large stack of Library books, it did not catch my interest long enough to keep me engaged to pursuing it further.
This time, knowing that I was going into this book with the purpose of writing a full review of the story, I pressed through. This particular story was written well before the #metoo movement, during the breakout time of sci-fi and fantasy inundation in the 70s and 80s by a wide swath of authors. Having been written by an individual both trained in writing and as a lawyer, it was an interesting premise to approach what would happen if a properly trained lawyer took over the position of power for a country.
The deeper I dug into the basic outline of the story though, the more I discovered I could not connect with the premise or the main character, or any of the secondary characters really. A millionaire lawyer, bored with his job, relatively friendless save for his snide business partner, and in mourning, decides to buy a kingship of a magical kingdom. He keeps saying its not a whim. That he’s thought through it. He spends way too many pages in the beginning blathering on about how he’s thought this through, all over a bunch of glasses of Glenlivet, and it’s for him to have a change of pace because he misses his wife and knows he needs to get into something more engaging than winning all his cases. This is where any sane individual would point out a therapist would be a great idea, especially for someone who can afford sessions.
When people go through grief, they might do some crazy things. But, this one just is hard to suspend belief on. Not only does he meet with a shady character to buy the property, when he gets over, he has a crew of individuals with a predisposition to being dodgy about answering questions. I’m sorry, but I’d be jaunting on out of there after the first ‘drugged into sleeping for a week’ bit, not deciding to take on the crown of the kingdom and trying to reunite a people, because sorry, I can’t trust you anymore. Couldn’t trust you in the first place, but major red flags.
Big issue number 2 was the way in which the character Willow was introduced.
Let me just state right now, though I can provide some grace for an author being poetic about ethereal beauty and such what have yous – that’s normal for most of this type of stuff and to be expected – I take umbrage with the paragraph utilizing the word ‘girl.’
This whole fixated section on a naked bathing sylph in the moonlight after literally not more than a couple pages or half a day before this interaction, the MC stated he’d not marry any of the women because he was still in mourning for his wife. Now, grant it, he laid that out because he also didn’t want the lords to kill him off as soon as a viable heir was produced, but still, that’s been the whole swing of this thing up until suddenly – oh, pretty ‘girl’ shows up and says she belongs to the first man who sees her naked. Come on! Hell no. Maybe I’m just being even more sensitive to it because of the BLM initiative that has ran across the US this summer (2020), but not only comparing her to a girl, but also making her a different skin color/ ‘creature’ and then making her belong to you because she’s been seen naked. Can I just…is this section just me? ‘Cause it feels hella problematic.
Honestly, this feels like this section was written five months after Brooks went through writer’s block and forgot what the beginning of the story was about. The cadence of the sentence structure shifted slightly within this particular chapter, like it was written at a different time comparatively if not underwritten by an editor or ghostwriter. It was startling, if not jarring and a turn off and a cold bucket of water dropped on me. Look, I like romance and teaser scenes. I write romance, but this one felt like a weird placement, especially for someone escaping into this because he was in mourning, and only having really been awake in Landover for 3 days at this point. Let’s not talk about all the descriptions of Sterling Silver (the castle) sounding like living in a womb fixation.
Some time about 3/4 of the way through the novel, the pacing improved, the chapters got shorter, some of the egregiously long description paragraphs were axed, and hey look, we get actual dialogue of a consistent nature with actual character development, oh, wait, now, we swing back to just a bunch of guys poking each other with sticks. So, it sort of improves in the end, but not by much.
*ranting directed at the MC* – You’re a millionaire bored with your job, frequently drinking, ‘in mourning’ as a way to excuse burying yourself in your work, and not seeking productive therapy. I’m having a difficult time relating to you as a character. Yes. I get it. Fog. Fog on everything. Tarnish. Oh the whole place is creepy if you say it enough times. I get it, move on and get to the point of the story.
Okay, so, pulling away from my moaning about some basic constructs of the story that I have an issue with at a moral level, if we’re talking the story as a fantasy setting, or the linguist prowess of the writer. Sure. You’ve got a glorified version of the Wizard of Oz mixed in with egregious amounts of long winded descriptors that aren’t even vivid. Yes, that sounds like an oxymoron. Also, so many -ly words, was phrases, were phrases, and felt/feeling telling not showing phrases. I doth complain. The structure fits rigidly within the basic rising and falling frame with appropriately spaced small rise/fall interactions to slowly build tension, though the tension is lacking. The length by which descriptors are utilized feels like what a high schooler does to pad a report. Otherwise the story would be literally half the length. So, get into it, and either love descriptors or learn how to read the first 1-2 sentences of any long paragraph you run across if you feel like finishing this story some time this century. I am typically of the skip the descriptors mentality, so this is painful reading, because I’m making myself read every word, please make this insanity stop.
Is it something I would suggest to read? No. Not unless you like heavy handed tropes, predictable story-lines, objectification of the love interest, and general flash backs on fear, friendship, and bravery. Sort of fitting for teens, but the MC might be difficult to connect to, seeing as it reads like a full blown mid-life crisis.There are many science fiction and fantasy novels out there with similar settings written to fit hand-in-hand with current morals and grammatical standards.
This particular story did not age well from the point in time that it was written. There will be those who still enjoy it, and that is their prerogative. For some people, it was their coming of age teen read when action, adventure, dragons, and sex objects were still top of their head. For individuals approaching it for a first time who are deep in the womanist/feminist/lgbtq/escape toxic masculinity communities, this may ruffle your feathers. I’d like to think more people are walking away from stories objectifying people and trying to ‘legitimize’ servitudeship and things of that nature and veil it with the character being marginally uncomfortable, but accepting it as inevitable because ‘When in Rome.’ No, you can grow a spine and stand up for injustices to humans, women, kobolds, and anyone else who’s being repressed, and objectified. He does come out and say things are wrong about a couple instances, but most of it is all internal emotional checks about revultion, not necessarily a changing of the system itself.
Will I review The Black Unicorn and Wizard at Large?
Yes. I will. But, be prepared, I am approaching these old school stories with the eyes of someone in the modern era.
Have you read Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold? Did you see these critical issues within the sub-straight of the storyline? When did you read it for depth and not just escapism?
If you want to call me out for being overly sensitive and critical, here’s the amazon link where you can check it out for yourself: