There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…
The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer
About the Book:
Twins Alex and Conner Bailey fall into their copy of ‘The Land of Stories’ and find themselves inside the fairy tales their grandmother used to read to them. To get home, they’ll need the ingredients for the wishing spell and a whole lot of luck.
All is not well inside The Land of Stories – The Evil Queen has escaped from prison and she’s after the wishing spell ingredients too!
What I liked:
First of all, this book is completely beautiful. The cover is gorgeous and reminds me of a book of fairy tales that I once owned. If you take off the dust cover, the spine has gold embossed text and looks like the type of book that you’ll still want to take off the shelves in fifty years time once the cover has been lost.
There’s a map in the front, showing all the places that Alex and Conner visit – and one that they don’t, perhaps to use in the next book. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter are great and even the text is beautifully designed, with different fonts scattered throughout for wanted posters, letters, diary entries and so on.
Whoever actually designed and illustrated this book did a great job. It looks like something you want to own and treasure.
There are also aspects of the plot and world building that were excellent. I loved Goldilocks and her horse. I loved Connor’s solution to the Troll bridge problem. I love the idea tied in throughout the book that the identities of Villains and Victims are really defined by who is telling the story and that often villains are only victims that we don’t understand.
I think, for a first novel, Chris Colfer should be really proud of this book. I enjoyed it and would recommend it.
Things I didn’t like:
The writing was often a little clumsy and actually I think that a firm hand in editing might have fixed that. There’s a scene where something is discussed on the phone and then the conversation is repeated to the children. I know that’s what happens in real life, but in a book it’s unnecessary and detracts from the flow of the story. We can assume that the children (having been in the same room as the mum on the phone) have figured out that she’s going to have to go in to work without having it spelled out for them.
There are also quite a few instances of tell rather than show. We’re left with absolutely no doubt about Alex’s scholastic aptitude as we’re told several times just how smart she is. The ingredients of the wishing spell were given to us as a riddle and then immediately explained. I know that this is a children’s book but it still would have been nice to have some room to figure them out ourselves.
There’s also a part towards the end that I didn’t like but I won’t spoil it and overall I thought the plot was good.
I definitely think that this is a book worth reading and I plan to pick up the next land of stories book. I can overlook the flaws because it is a first novel and it is written in a simpler child-friendly style. There’s also definitely room for improvement. Perhaps we should send Chris Colfer a copy of How Not To Write A Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman (my favourite funny go-to guide for common authorial mistakes!).
I give this book 3.5/5