This post includes reviews of all individual installments of the How I Stole the Princess’s White Knight and Turned Him to Villainy series.
The author admits to this project being “crack” in the back cover description, so I went in anticipating humor and ridiculousness. I was not disappointed, and I enjoyed myself even more than I expected. This is a total Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy world, in which the vibes and tropes are more important than logical word-building, and Sherwood hits each note perfectly.
The best thing about this sort of storytelling is that twisting the expected tropes, one of my favorite things, is practically the point. I was intrigued by Devan’s reasons for going to a Black Sorcerer for help, and the reality of Tan’s character made the story even more interesting. He’s the definition of chaotic good to Devan’s lawful good, but both are obviously attracted to competency, which each man has in spades. While the flirting itself verges on manic, it’s appropriate to the tone of the writing.
This installment isn’t much more than the meet-cute that sets up the characters and world, but I’m already hooked. Tan has already declared Devan to be his, and I look forward to following along as Devan acknowledges (and accepts) the inevitable.
The second installment of this serial adventure-romance more than lives up to the high expectations set by the first. Devan continues to exemplify all the aspects of a true fantasy hero, braving the worst that faces the kingdom he serves so that others don’t have to. When he learns the danger might be even too great for him, he takes a risk by calling on someone quickly inching from ally to friend territory.
Tan, of course, when given an inch will take a mile, and happily throws himself into assisting Devan by bringing in reinforcements. The colorful cast of this saga grows with the introduction of Tan’s siblings who are just as ridiculous as he is (in all the best ways). Their quest leans into classic table-top RPG tropes with enough self-awareness to be entertaining instead of cliche, especially since they are essentially the worst-balanced party ever.
Working together inevitably brings Devan and Tan closer, and I enjoyed the genuine affection that is developing on both sides, underpinning Tan’s over-the-top flirtations. Sherwood is working the long game with this couple, and I’m already more than invested in this relationship that has drama and serious character considerations but no unnecessary angst to distract from the light-hearted tone.
Having just seen the recent release of Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves in the theater, I’m once again impressed by how well Sherwood has channeled the vibe of “non-player characters” in a D&D world. This installment in particular focuses on how Devon and Tan clean up the messes created by hapless adventuring parties. It would be easy for these characters to fall into archetype, especially with the low-key way Tan drops hints about how powerful he truly is, but Sherwood gives them enough depth for me to care about them as truly individual personalities.
Devan is nicely settling into the acceptance phase of his friendship with Tan, but he’s too much of a “good” hero to take the more that is being freely offered. This could be angst-city, but once again, Devan’s goodness keeps things on the sweet side. For his part, Tan does have enough emotional intelligence to respect at least a few of Devan’s boundaries, despite the silliness he evokes most of the time.
This installment was a solid middle story that incorporated enough external plot to keep things moving even when the relationship aspect is in that awkward stage of finding its footing. I’m definitely still invested in finding out what comes next.
The halfway point of a serial is perfect for a major turning point, and that’s exactly what we get here as Devan and Tan are brought together for another adventure. This time, we learn a bit more of Devan’s backstory along the way. I adore how he’s the black sheep of the family for being the “good” one, but it certainly explains his tolerance for Tan’s specific shade of gray. They’ve got another classic campaign mystery to solve, which they do with their usual blend of competence and absurdity (which is common to pretty much any successful table-top RPG adventure).
Their quest is more of a side adventure compared with the character and relationship development at the heart of this installment. We finally get the long-awaited first kiss during a quiet story moment, and I’m pleased that these two are as ridiculously cute together as Sherwood has quietly promised through all their interactions so far. A significant but personal revelation from Devan is also as satisfying as the shift in his dynamic with Tan.
This story’s previous slow burn is now a properly lit fire, and it’s both sexy and fun. I look forward to seeing how this shift and Devan’s new goals influence their next gaming session, I mean, adventure together.
Tan should really not be left unsupervised now that he has Devan in his life. I loved the dichotomy of how Tan’s actions at the beginning of this book to make perfect sense from Tan’s point of view while also allowing the reader to understand that what he’s planning is a terrible idea. The excellent repercussions of said terrible idea dramatically enhance the plot tensions and completely upend Devan’s carefully laid plans from the previous installment of this series.
The daring escape that results is stressful but also seemed a bit too easy. However, it’s also only the first half of the story. Everything that comes after is progressively more intense, while Devan truly finds his own shades of gray as he fights alongside Tan. There are no sagging middles here—I gasped out loud at the not-quite cliffhanger, and it was all I could do to pull myself away long enough to write this review before I dive into the epic finale of this entertaining saga.
Sherwood doesn’t let us linger at the cliffhanger she left us on, and I was thrilled when Devan and Tan take overt action instead of allowing Devan to be dragged back into court intrigue. This decision allows the events that follow to ramp up in scale until I seamlessly found myself transferred from a tabletop RPG adventure to a true epic fantasy. (After all, what do you do with your characters once they level up so high that it’s finally time to confront the campaign’s overarching conflict?)
We’ve known since the first installment of this serial that the true villain, despite Tan’s best intentions, is the Princess that Devan has faithfully served for too long. She is not pleased by Devan’s “betrayal,” which brings up interesting themes of good versus evil that are a fun subversion of the typical storytelling tropes of the fantasy genre. I also found myself both amused and fascinated by the interesting politics of kingdoms in this type of world, and the thoughtful intention Sherwood has obviously put into an economy partially based on random teams of adventurers, even though it mostly serves as background work.
The romance between Devan and Tan is solidly established at this point, and I’d have been okay with them retreating to Tan’s tower for their happily ever after. However, this is where the shades of gray of these characters truly come into play. This story features exactly the epic conclusion that I didn’t know I wanted, and one much more satisfying than I’d have settled for.