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Book Review: "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell" by Chris Colfer

Darius is a former high school literary and feature writer that loves reading books, listening to music, and watching movies.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

A Fusion of Modern and Classic Fairy Tales

For many readers, the fantastic thoughts of jumping out from bland realities to living in a fictional world are wonderful dreams that cross our minds fairly often. Thankfully, former Glee actor Chris Colfer brought more magic and wonders through his book series The Land of Stories, using modern fusions, retellings, and even rewritings of classic fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and many more.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell will transport you to a new, magical, and terrifying place filled with new, seemingly distorted adventures and fantasies any reader could delight in. And as you (or any of your children) become immersed into these handcrafted, modified fantasy worlds, the thirst to know what the next books will be about is ever-more gripping and intriguing.

About the Book

  • Title: The Wishing Spell
  • Book Series: The Land of Stories
  • Author: Chris Colfer
  • Pages: 464
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Release Date: July 17, 2012
  • Genre: Children's Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
  • Reviews: 4.2/5 Goodreads, 5/5 Common Sense Media, 5/5 Toppsta

Plot Summary

A year and nine months after their father's tragic loss, twins Alex and Connor Bailey try to live the rest of their preteen days in normalcy while their mother also tries to balance work and life. On the twin's 12th birthday, their grandmother gifts them an old book. Alex later on finds the book mysteriously glowing, humming, and ominously making objects disappear. Against Conner's advice to throw the book away, Alex keeps the book and eventually reaches into it. Conner barges in to stop Alex from going into the book, but Alex loses her balance and falls into the book. Conner jumps in as well to go after Alex.

They find out the book is a portal to a fairy-tale world. There they meet an anthropomorphic human-like frog named Froggy. Froggy gives them a journal that tells of the Wishing Spell, a spell that can grant whatever wish the person wants if the person has eight items. To get back to their world, Alex and Conner must find the items that they need to complete the Wishing Spell. They go adventuring to find the eight items needed, which are scattered within the fairy-tale land, meeting more friends and foes along the way. When they manage to finally collect all the items, they are kidnapped by the Evil Queen and transported to the Sleeping Kingdom. After a climactic sequence, the book unfolds more twists and the twins successfully return to their world.

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Recommendations

I would recommend this book:

  • To people who are beginning or showing interest in the adventure and fantasy genres.
  • To anyone who enjoys the adventure-fantasy genre.
  • To parents with children to tell bedtime stories or to spend time with.
  • To those that are looking for an easy-to-read, easy-to-follow, fast-paced book.
  • To young kids, preteens, or even teens that may want to read a book series.
  • To those that enjoy fusions, retellings, and re-imaginations of classical stories.

Courage is one thing that no one can ever take away from you.

— Chris Colfer, "The Wishing Spell"

Reviews

  • "Sprinkled with a perfect blend of humour and sadness, with wit and positive messages about the true values of life–as referenced in the twins’ father’s stories–the Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell is a spectacular begin to a six-book series, and with talk of a film adaption in the coming years, these fractured fairy tales are soaring high for a new generation of readers." — Squishy Minnie Bookstore
  • "I really enjoyed reading the Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell. I found it so imaginative and descriptive that I felt I was there and the world was so clear in my head. I would recommend it for ages over 9." — The Guardian

There's a real heartfelt warmth to these characters and their situations, as well as the strong sensibility of an adult who hasn't forgotten the joys and the terrors of childhood.

— Mary Eisenheart, Common Sense Media

Takeaways

Though the book garnered mixed reviews from various critics, I personally liked it. I'm not a particularly huge fan of the adventure-fantasy genre, though I dabbled in it during my early years—since I favor those that are in the science fiction, romance, and horror genres. But the book welcomed me to a new world of magic, witches, princes, princesses, kingdoms, and many more. It allowed me to release the inner child within me, as those were some of my most enjoyable moments in my life.

I have to be frank, however, that the narratives and the plots are linear, easy-to-follow, and almost easily predictable. They're also easily understandable, since they're intended for young children. Although the story progression is somewhat fast-paced and lacks surprise elements to really rock me off my seat, the twists and turns redeemed those seemingly missing pieces that I was looking for and hooked me to finish every chapter.

I also came to think that some children's fantasy authors sometimes do not know that their intended audiences are way smarter than the authors think. This compromises the overall structures of storytelling in their book. I'd like them to ponder about giving their audiences more credit for being smart enough to read and immerse in books, and let the explosions of creativity run free.

The characters are one-dimensional in terms of personality, yet they are highly relatable. The antagonists aren't as compelling or "evil" as any other well-written villains out there, but the story within their stories were a good addition. The side characters offer nothing but a few information dumps, but they do appear in the next books later on—and it does so in a creative and easy-to-digest way.

I also don't really mind the modest profanity and foul language used in the overall writing. Nevertheless, the lack of breadth of vocabulary does put me off a bit, but nonetheless helped me digest the whole story through and through.

The overall storytelling gives us these "what-ifs" to our favorite, prominent, classical fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White, and many more. The book offers a glimpse of how famous stories would've been told after they were already told, and what happened before and after their stories are told.

Despite the sluggish opening until our protagonists managed to accidentally start their adventures on the fairy tale land, the compelling twists and turns did give sweet points for answering those commonly unanswered questions stuck within the confines of my subconscious. Don't get me wrong, I grew up reading and watching classical fantasy works of literature and mediums. It was quite interesting to see more points of view from their perspectives. The twins' adventures on the land, divided by kingdoms, also kept me wanting to read more just to know which characters they will meet next, what places they'll come to discover, and what twist lies ahead.

Overall, this is a good fantasy book for someone like me. I read The Wishing Spell about four or five years ago, and now I have read three from the series. It successfully hooked me early on, and I believe that it will continue to hook me if I ever read it once more. It may be an okay-ish book for nitpickers, scrutinizers, and fantasy genre over-critics. But it is a very enjoyable book (series) dedicated to young audiences and dreamers waiting to get transported into another world.

© 2020 Darius Razzle Paciente

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