Tom Trueheart and the Land of Dark Stories
by Ian Beck
Recommended Ages: 10+
In the sequel to The Secret History of Tom Trueheart, the youngest of seven brothers in the last surviving family of storybook heroes must, once again, set out to save the older six. Not only that, but he must rescue five princesses who were spirited away on their wedding day before the helpless, horrified eyes of their wedding guests. Also, he has to stop a renegade Story Bureau scribe, now styling himself the King of Unhappy Endings, from marching an Army of Darkness against the Land of Stories. Just to make it fair, Tom is given a storybook handicap: the role and dimensions of the title character in the tale of Tom Thumb.
Some kids, seeing all this stacked against them, might give up. But not Tom Trueheart. He hops on the back of his trusty friend Jollity, a talking crow. Together they fly to the horrible Land of Dark Stories, where it is always winter, where nobody's wishes come true, and where "happily ever after" has been officially canceled. There five of the Trueheart brothers sweat in a gold mine run by trolls and goblins. There five of the prettiest princesses in the history of fairy tales languish in a castle, guarded by wolves, crows, and bats. There Ormestone and his dark sprite minions mean to play out the nastier bits of the stories of Rumpelstiltskin and the Seven Swans, among others, all while scraping together enough sprite gold to buy the services of a skeleton army.
The only thing preventing the completion of the horde's hoard is a teensy detail of alchemy (namely, that it doesn't work), one full-size Trueheart brother's escape from custody with the aid of a devoted cart-horse, one sprite's hopeless crush on the princesses, and of course, the crack dark-castle-infiltrating team of Jollity and the thumb-sized Tom. Magic swords, a stitched-together man, a hungry spider, and the fate of Tom's long-lost father all come into play before the final free-for-all of magic, sword-fighting, skydiving, and escapes on a piratical airship. And though most of the mess is finally cleared up, the ending leaves open the door for at least one more adventure: Tom Trueheart and the Land of Myths and Legends.
Ian Beck has written and illustrated over a dozen picture-books, at least one chapter-book (The First Third Wish), a collection of fairy tales, and five other novels, including Pastworld and Samurai. Here's a complete list of them.