Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold!
Written by: Terry Brooks
Published by: Del Rey
Reviewed by Ismael Manzano
I’ve been an avid fan of Terry Brooks since I was about twelve. I’ve read almost all of his Shannara series and am always surprised by the depth to which he takes his prose in that world. So, you could imagine my surprise when I learned that Mr. Brooks had done another fantasy series, apart from the Shannara universe. Magic Kingdom for Sale: Sold! was actually written about twenty years ago, but being obsessed with the Shannara books, I never noticed this book. Of course, when I did notice it, I picked it up and read through it at breakneck speed, eager to see if Mr. Brooks could duplicate the magic of Shannara.
Ben Holiday is a corporate lawyer and owner of a law firm that he copartners with his lifelong friend Miles Bennett. Ben is also a widower; his wife, Annie, died two years earlier and his life has been a constant source of repetitious, monotonous work that he uses to hide from the world. Miles remains his only friend, but even he can’t get past Ben’s defenses. Ben is stuck in the past, stuck in the loss of his wife, and headed down a depressive spiral.
So when he finds an ad in a reputable sales catalogue claiming to have a magical kingdom for sale, Ben Holiday is, at first, skeptical, but almost immediately intrigued. The ad states the buyer will receive kingship over the mystical realm, Landover, and promises adventure, damsels, dragons and magic. The fine print of the contract is that he has only ten days with which to decide if he will stay in Landover where a refund will be granted; after that, if he leaves, he loses the money. Ben finds that he needs to believe in something so badly, that he can not get the idea of Landover out of his mind, even though he’s certain it’s all a scam of some sort.
Nevertheless, Ben Holiday, corporate lawyer and co-owner of his own law firm, liquidates one million dollars of his assets, purchases Landover from the catalogue—and receives instructions on how to travel to his new kingdom—tells Miles and his firm that he will be going on an extended vacation, gets his personal and business affairs in order, packs a few things, and follows the instructions given. His certainty that Landover is some Hollywood trick, that the dragons are just big iguanas and the castle just a prop, doesn’t last too long.
Upon entering Landover, he is attacked by a demon—later revealed to be the Iron Mark, leader of all the demons that live beneath Landover—saved by a mysterious knight and nearly killed by a dragon named Strabo. But his unwelcoming introduction to his new kingdom isn’t the end of his misadventures. Ben soon meets his followers, a blundering court wizard, Quester Thews, a scribe that had once been a man, but was now a dog, and two kobolds who do not speak his language—that’s it. To make matters worse, he finds that his castle, Sterling Sliver, is in ruins and falling more apart by the day. The castle is suffering from the same disease that is afflicting the rest of the kingdom—without a King, Landover is dying, and there hasn’t been a true King in Landover for over twenty years.
Stuck with a lemon of a castle, a bad joke for servants, a kingdom with no respect toward or hope for a king, a demon lord out for his head, and a conscience that will not let him simply walk away from his finally chance at finding something worth living for, can Ben Holiday overcome the odds and turn a dying land into the beautiful kingdom no one believes he can make it?
I simply loved this book. While the prose is, by far, subtler than that used in the Shannara series, and the theme is more lighthearted, it lacks for nothing and is, in my opinion, as good as anything Terry Brooks has written to date. It appealed to that part of all of us—or maybe just me—that longs for a crack in reality into which we can slip into and shed the expectations and bindings of this world, if only for a short period of time. Anyway, in case you couldn’t figure it out, I recommend this book to any fantasy lover. You won’t be disappointed.