There are stories that will always stay with us. Stories we read again and again for comfort, lessons and to escape from daily life. For Alex Bailey from Chris Colfer’s book ‘The Land of Stories: the Wishing Spell’ those stories are fairy tales.
Her twinbrother and her have to live with missing their father, who recentely deceased. When their grandmother visits she gives the twins the fairytale book that she used to read from when they were little. Alex keeps it with her at all times, but then something weird happens. Alex and her brother find out it’s a portal to another world! Alex decides to go there, because in this world there’s no one that understands. Her brother Connor tries to stop her, but gets sucked in as well. Before they know it they’re trapped in the land of stories, where all the fairy tale characters are alive – and older as in the stories we know. All of them are there, including villains like the Evil Queen and the Big Bad Wolf. Can the twins find a way out before it’s too late?
First of all I love Chris Colfer (known as Kurt Hummel on Glee, now also a parttime writer). His fantastic, witty humor shines through in everything he does, so the Land of Stories is no exception. I’d say he’s written some really good oneliners in his debut novel. The dialogue is actually really good. Several times I’ve had to try not to laugh because of Connor’s feisty ways around the system or Alex’ know-it-all attitude. Especially Connor had some really good lines. He always had to have the last word, but his laidback vision on the fairytale world was refreshing.
The Land of Stories is a children book – and it shows. Colfer spends most of his chapters creating a problem and having them solved within a few pages. Everything is made super extra clear. There are no subtle hints, but only in your face situations. This does get better in the end, when he saves some of the good stuff. I think this is due to Chris Colfer being a younger writer, just at the start of his abilities. He hasn’t had the change to grow and learn much as a writer. Although I enjoyed this book, it does show. Lately I’ve read a lot of books for children. None of them need to emphatize what the characters feel as much as this one. There are a few unwritten rules of writing, one of them is: show, don’t tell. No matter if you’re writing a New Journalism piece, a thriller or a children’s story.
It’s not like Colfer shunned away from some maturer themes (which I have to give him credit for). Some might argue that Red Riding Hood was too flirty for a children’s novel. He also made Goldilocks a fugitive and wrote about killing. Actually Colfer obviously prefers the old stories above the Disney ones. That much was clear after reading some of Alex’ thoughts about it. Some of these themes didn’t go with the writing, that still felt a little immature. Colfer still seemed to be searching for the right words when he wasn’t using dialogue. I think he has to learn to hold back some of the information, so things have more affect. Children aren’t dumb. They like to figure things out on their own. Of course, it is hard to do this. Especially in a debut novel. I often look back at my stories and realize I’ve given away too much of what was already clear. The trick is to tease, I think.
I’m not saying this is a bad book. I actually really liked it. Some of Chris’ ideas were really interesting. The scenes written from the Evil Queen’s perspective were good, because in these he did hold back some of the information. I liked that she was mysterious. Somehow it increased his writing style.
I’m not saying Chris Colfer is a bad writer. I think he’s a good writer, but he’s only beginning and has much to learn. I think he will learn and will grow up to sell much more bestsellers that hopefully will be as witty as this one. It’s just that I was dissapointed, because I had some high expectations because of the plot and my slight adoration for Colfer.