The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer
I haven’t seen Glee so I can’t say that I had any preconceived notions about this book being written by a TV star, except the usual ones that go along with celebrities jumping entertainment mediums. But I like kid’s books and I like fairy tales, and I like to be surprised, so I went in with an open mind.
The first part of the book is spent introducing the twins, Alex and Connor Bailey, who are very different from each other. Alex is bookish and uncool, a bit Hemione-esque. Connor has trouble staying awake in class (and trouble giving answers to the teacher which are not offensive), but has a wide circle of friends. Despite their differences, they have each other’s backs, especially as they work through their father’s recent death, the loss of their home, and their mother’s disappearance into two jobs to try to support them. When the twins’ grandmother comes to visit, to cheer them up she gives them the storybook they used to read with her and their father. The book turns out to be able to transport Alex and Connor to the place where fairy tales actually happened, where Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel are all queens married to the four eldest Charming brothers, and Goldilocks is an outlaw galloping all over the kingdoms breaking laws. In order to get home, Alex and Connor need to collect a list of magical items which will give them one wish, but the Evil Queen has escaped and is racing the twins to collect the items.
The setting is a little derivative for anyone who has seen Hallmark’s 1999 TV mini-series The 10th Kingdom, with the map of the fantastic kingdoms all next to each other, the look into happily ever after actually goes, and being chased all over the kingdoms by the Evil Queen’s lackeys. But, there are so many variations on twisted fairy tales, it’s not surprising that they may be beginning to bump shoulders. Despite that, Colfer’s ideas are sweet and his own. The writing is simple, clear for readers old enough to understand the twists on the familiar fairy tales but the 448 pages may be better suited to reading aloud before bed. Alex is transfixed by all of the fairy tale world, her knowledge helping to guide the reader along. Connor has some giggle-worthy lines, pointing out the things that modern readers and kids might wonder.
“Why do you want your victims chubby, anyway? Wouldn’t it be healthier if they were muscular and fit? If you ask me,” Conner continued, “you should turn your gingerbread house into a gingerbread gym and health club!”
Colfer has called this the first book of The Land of Stories. He is currently writing the second book, around his busy Glee filming schedule.
Reviewed by Aimee Miles