Book Review by Debbie Winkler
After the death of their father, twins Alex and Connor Bailey find it difficult to pretend that life is normal. Their mother is working all the time, Connor is struggling in school and Alex doesn’t have any friends besides Connor. When their grandmother arrives to help them celebrate their twelfth birthday, she gives them The Land of Stories, a treasured fairy-tale book. But this is no ordinary book of stories, it contains the tales of real-life people who live in a magical land. When the book starts humming and glowing, Alex and Connor get sucked into it and find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime as they travel through their favorite fairy tales to locate the eight ingredients needed to create the wishing spell, which might be their only chance to go home.
This was a fun children’s book that fairy-tale lovers of all ages will appreciate and enjoy. The Land of Stories is made up of several separate kingdoms. The Fairy Kingdom is the home of the fairies, including the Fairy Council, which helps govern and rule the entire Land of Stories. Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and Mother Goose are the most powerful members, but other fairies of all shapes and sizes also help rule. The Dwarf Forests is the home of the seven dwarves who helped Snow White, along with their other brethren. It is also the home of Froggy, a giant frog the size and shape of a man; the wolf pack, led by the son of the wolf who ate Little Red Riding Hood; the witch’s gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel; Goldilocks, a felon wanted throughout all the kingdoms for her various crimes, starting with the Three Bears; and a host of other characters who prefer to live in darkness. The Corner Kingdom is where Rapunzel’s tower can be found. The Charming Kingdom is the home of Cinderella and her Prince Charming, the oldest of four Charming brothers. Cinderella is expecting their first child at any time and the whole kingdom is thrilled. Mermaid Bay houses the foam remains of The Little Mermaid and her mermaid sisters. The Sleeping Kingdom is ruled over by Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Charming. Their kingdom is still struggling to recover from Sleeping Beauty’s 100 years of slumber and people don’t get much done there. The Red Riding Hood Kingdom is surrounded by a very tall wall to keep the wolves out. Queen Red Riding Hood lives there, but she leaves all of the boring duties of a Queen to her grandmother. She is in love with Jack, famous for climbing the beanstalk, which can still be found in this kingdom, but Jack only has eyes for Goldilocks. The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Bo-Peep and Humpty Dumpty (or his wall, which is all that remains) can also be found there. The Northern Kingdom is the home of Snow White and her Prince Charming. Snow White is still struggling to understand what could drive her stepmother, the Evil Queen, to try to kill her so many times. A Hidden Place is where the Evil Queen is hiding out, plotting to find the eight components of the wishing spell before the twins and The Troll and Goblin Territory imprisons the goblins and trolls who are always trying to enslave humans. The twins will have to travel to all of these territories to gather the eight magical items that they need to cast the wishing spell and return home.
I loved the setting of this book and really enjoyed meeting my favorite fairy tale creatures. Chris Colfer also cleverly inserts some additional, original fairy tales such as “The Twisted Tree” and “The Walking Fish,” which the twins’ father told them when they were younger. It wasn’t difficult to figure out who the twins’ father really was or who Froggy true identity, but that did not prevent me from enjoying this book. What I did not enjoy about this book was the twins. Alex really bothered me. She is very book-smart, but people stupid and she made a lot of bad decisions in this book. Alex is more interested in meeting her favorite fairy-tale people than in getting home and doesn’t seem to be that worried about how their mother might be feeling. Alex forces Connor to kiss a troll princess, then punches him for saving her life when he drags her over a cliff to jump into the ocean. She can’t read the map that they have to get where they need to go, but finds a way to blame Connor for them getting lost. Alex was very grating and not likeable at all. She seems to focus on completely the wrong thing and, while she created more drama in the book, I could have done without her and been completely happy. Connor, on the other hand, is not a book-smart boy, but at least I liked him! He manages to find the courage to stand up to some very powerful people and say what needs to be said. Connor also has a fun, fresh take on life and I loved hearing his different perspectives of what fairy tales really mean. He was a lot more adventurous and focused so that they could go home. I am glad that they were together because, if Alex was the only hero in the story, I might have given up!
The book is well written and fast-paced. There is a new adventure or fairy-tale creature around every corner and I loved that! I also enjoyed the backstory that Chris Colfer created for the Evil Queen. She became a real person instead of one-dimensional villain. There are so many more villains out there – I can’t wait to see which one Chris Colfer tackles next! In the end of the book, we learn that the twins truly do belong in the Land of Stories, but they also belong in the real world. I am sure that they will be spending time in both and will have many more adventures together!
This book contains some scenes of mild peril and magical violence. Some characters die by falling to their death, being shot with arrows, stabbed or eaten by wolves. Some humans are enslaved by trolls and goblins. Recommended for ages 7 and up.