For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with fairy tales. My mom tells me stories of how I would watch my favorite Disney movies, all of which are based in different fairy tale roots over, and over, and over again. I never tired of The Jungle Book where I would dance with Baloo and fret with Bagheera. I would be afraid of the ever evil Shere Khan and despise the python in his service. Growing up, Jasmine was my favorite princess. She was a fighter, feisty and committed to making her own way.
Every time that I get a chance to revisit my favorite fairy tales, I jump on the chance. I recently took a gamble on a new series by Chris Colfer. If you are asking yourself why that name seems so familiar, it is because he played Kurt Hummel in Glee, and let’s be honest, he was everyone’s favorite character.
Luckily, his creativity isn’t just on screen IN the last year, he has published three books, two of which are part of a series for middle grade readers.
The first thing that drew my attention to the new fantasy stories that Colfer had concocted was the cover. They are seriously beautiful displays of artistry. Even though they are geared to a younger audience, I had a blast reading both of them.
The first book in the series is The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell. This novel begins with the recently fatherless set of twins, Conner and Alex Bailey. Through an odd series of events, a loving but mysterious grandmother, and a book full of magical stories, the twins end up in a magical kingdom where the stories that they grew up hearing about not only existed, but were still being lived out.
The first book is all about getting back home to their mother, who must be worried sick about them. On the way, they meet and are helped by an unlikely cast of characters, like Goldilocks (who is seriously awesome, if not a lot angsty), Jack (of the beanstalk variety), a giant frog with a big secret, a fairy godmother, several princesses, and an interesting journal that leads them on a search for some of the most magical elements in the land.
So, for this first book, I was inclined to finish because o the characters and the original take on the old fairy tales. Considering this is a time when fairy tales are all the rage, it was nice to get such an enticingly new look on an old tale. Sometimes, I had a hard time getting into that middle grader mindset. I felt like some of the resolutions were forced, or almost too easy. Every chapter followed a fairly strict structure and I found it frustrating when someone came in to rescue the twins. The writing was a little clunky at times, but the pros in character development and originality far outweighed the cons.
I loved the characters. My eleven year old self would have really related to Alex, but my grown-up self loved Conner. He was a little rough around the edges, but his heart was always in the right spot. There are these moments of pure “AWWWWW!!” when the rule following Alex does something out of character to help her brother. The relationship between these two twins was amazing.
One of my favorite parts involved Conner telling off an entire fairy council saying something along the lines of “Listen, Orange” to one of the high fairies. Seriously, I can’t say enough how much I loved these two characters.
Now, I don’t want to ruin anything for you , but book two, The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns was SO much better. I could really tell that Colfer’s writing had improved greatly, his story structure was much more daring, and the characters only became more lovable. Within the first four chapters, I could already tell a huge difference.
And the ending, OH THE ENDING! As soon as I was done, I was frustrated because the third book, The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning, wasn’t out yet. Unfortunately, all we know at this point is it will be released in 2014. I need it now! Chris, if you are reading this, I would love a pre-release copy!
So, my recommendation: If you love fairy tales, young, strong characters, visible growth for the writer, and a just plain feel good wonderful tale of good over evil, pick them up!