Title: The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories #1)
Author: Chris Colfer and Brandon Dorman (Illustrations)
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers
Check this book out on Goodreads.
“The Land of Stories” tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.
But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought. (Source: Goodreads)
Alex and Connor lost their father only a year ago, and they’re still reeling from the loss. When their grandmother comes to see them for the first time in a year things really start to turn around, especially when it turns out their beloved storybook is actually a gateway to another world. Unfortunately they don’t know how to get back home, so they set out on a quest to find The Wishing Spell and get home.
I just…really didn’t like this book. I can’t even put my finger on why. The plot was interesting, probably about the only interesting thing. The characters were poorly written, the book lacked the magic required for a book about magic, and the overall tone of the book was just either boring or straight up annoying. I just couldn’t get into it at all, and it took me ages to read.
The plot in this book was really great. The twins work their way across a world of magic and story book characters so they can get home. This is pretty well the perfect plot for a book in this age group. It’s the kind of stuff I absolutely loved at that age, and still enjoy sometimes now. I really liked the way the world was built with the overlapping storylines and the characters all interacting with each other on some level or another through their fairytales. I had a few problems with things. First of all the pacing was really off for me, it was very strange things felt like they were going too fast and also dragging on forever. A huge issue is the fact that the world is meant to be big but the characters get everywhere so fast, it doesn’t make sense at all. The other issue I had was that the first chapter is this in your face preachy section of anti-Disney ranting, that really didn’t need to be there, didn’t fit into the book, and really just killed the book for me. It didn’t make a lot of sense considering the book is basically…very Disney. So…mostly that was annoying.
Alex and Connor are really the two characters you get to know. Everyone else you infer things about from fairytales. Alex is supposed to be “precocious” I guess? Mostly she swings back and forth from obnoxious to annoying. She’s not very likeable at all. And then once they get into the fairytale world, she just becomes this whole other person and doesn’t fit into the previous storyline or characterization at all. Connor is pretty static, typical 11 year old boy, pretty dumb, pretty annoying, nothing too interesting. I felt like Colfer had a lot of room to do interesting things with the characters, but he really didn’t.
There’s a major problem with the writing in this book. I don’t know if it’s something about the writing needing a little more work, a little more time to work on the craft, but the book completely lacks magic. This means that you can’t buy into the fairytale world at all. It doesn’t feel magical in any way. It’s poorly described, and feels quite bland. I just wanted so much more from a world inhabited by story book characters, and Colfer really didn’t deliver at all.
Overall this just contributed to making a very disappointing book. I think there are much better books with very similar ideas in them that I would really recommend over this in a heart beat.