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Friday, 14 December 2012

Review: The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories #1)

Twins Alex and Conner grew up listening to the wonderful fairytales in their grandmother’s special book, The Land of Stories. When their grandmother gives them the book for their 12th birthday, they discover that it isn’t just a collection of stories about Rapunzel and Cinderella and other fairytale characters, it is a doorway into the world where those stories continue.

Alex and Conner find themselves in the Land of Stories, meeting mermaids, fairies, goblins, trolls and all sorts of characters they thought only existed in their imagination. Now they must set of on an adventure of their own to find everything they need to perform the Wishing Spell so that they can return home.

As they collect the items they need for the Wishing Spell, Alex and Conner travel all around the Land of Stories dodging dangerous trolls, goblins and wolves and meeting amazing characters, but the Evil Queen wants to perform The Wishing Spell as well. Will Alex and Conner be able to gather the items together so that they can return safely home or will the Evil Queen succeed, trapping the twins in the Land of Stories forever?

With interesting twists on favourite fairytales, debut author Chris Colfer brings children a wonderful adventure story filled with enchantment and intrigue. The Evil Queen is up to no good, Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive, Red Riding Hood has her own kingdom (no wolves allowed, of course) and Queen Cinderella is about to become a mother. There are fairies, mermaids and even an enchanted talking frog.

The Land of Stories is wonderful simply for the sense of adventure and humour, the moments of suspense and the delight of revisiting favourite fairytales. There is more to it though and the book also offers something of deeper significance as Alex and Conner deal with their grief at the sudden loss of their father in a car accident and the changes this has brought into their family. Their grief and the impact of their father's death is portrayed with sensitivity and adds a real depth to the story. A glimpse into the past of the Evil Queen adds another thoughtful moment.

For me, this novel is a celebration of the power of stories – the power to connect people, to comfort, entertain and instruct. I was wary at first, as I always am with debut novels by authors who are well known for other pursuits (Chris Colfer is best known for his role as Kurt Hummel on Glee), but I was already warming to the story after reading the dedication and opening quote (from C S Lewis) and by the end of the first chapter I was intrigued. I was disappointed that the writing was at times clumsy and awkward, particularly noticeable in descriptions of people and places, but I am eagerly awaiting further adventures in The Land of Stories series.

This is a fun modern fairytale, bringing the same combination of entertainment and instruction as traditional fairytales and offering a thrilling quest that young (and young-at-heart) readers won’t be able to resist.

Title: The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories #1)
Author: Chris Colfer
Publisher: ATOM, $24.99 RRP
Publication Date: August 2012
Format: Hardcover (with dustjacket)
ISBN: 9781907411762
For ages: 8 - 13 years
Type: Junior fiction (confident readers), Older junior fiction

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