I ended up loving this book so much more than I thought I would! I picked this one up at a conference last year (autographed!) and I am so glad my middle grade book club voted on it, and gave me an excuse to read it sooner that I would have otherwise. And, it made for a wonderful book club book too, with so much to discuss!
It doesn’t hurt that I am slightly obsessed with fairy tales, and the show, Glee (and the show, Once Upon a Time). I love when famous people are actually capable of doing other things besides acting! What a treat! Chris Colfer plays my favorite character, too.
Any way it’s about twins, Alex and Connor. Their father recently died, and nothing really seems to be going well for them until their grandmother leaves them with their favorite book of fairytales. After a few magical moments, and pencil tests experiments where the book physically sucked up the pencils Alex dropped in, it really was only a matter of time before the twins themselves would attempt going into the book.
Once in the land of stories, Connor immediately tries to figure a way home to their most likely frantic, widowed mother. And the kids kind of reverse their rolls. Alex, the good student who always does what she is told and who never really falls asleep in class, becomes the more irresponsible twin. She wants to sight see and go find her favorite fairytale characters! And Connor is the one worried about their mother.
The duo soon learns that the land of stories is not an easy land to live in. There are dangerous wolf packs, kidnapping dwarves, angry trolls, escaped evil witches, and a lot of politics. And the only way they find to get home is by collecting a list of ingredients for a wishing spell that sends them all over the many kingdoms collecting and often stealing important artifacts. Before long, they discover that they are not the only ones collecting these artifacts, and the spell can only be cast one more time…so there’s a bit of a race for time.
They meet so many great characters, like Froggy, and Goldilocks, and Jack. And they also meet annoying characters like Little Red Riding Hood. They get kidnapped. They steal glass slippers, set a castle to fire, collect tears from a fairy, and cooler than any of their interesting tasks is: they get to find out what happens to all their favorite characters after their stories are over. Did Goldilocks really break into those bears’ homes? Does Little Red Riding Hood really deserve her own kingdom or does it belong to her grandmother? How does Cinderella’s kingdom react to being ruled by a former lower class citizen?
There are fairies, mermaids, wolves, enchantresses, spells, jewels, castles, gingerbread houses, forests, beanstalks, and so many wonderful fairy tale elements all combined in this one book! There’s also a lot of drama! There’s a fairy tale love triangle. There’s an interesting history for the evil witch. There’s a giant mystery about the twins’ father that gets more and more interesting the longer they are in the land of stories. There’s a scavenger hunt to end all scavenger hunts!
And there even was a believable ending! This could easily be a stand-alone novel, but I know it’s not. It had a great ending! Though, I’m glad there are more books coming.
The only thing that sort of bothered me was just how accepting everyone was of the twins’ stories/explanations for why their parents weren’t around. Seriously, no one thought it was weird that two kids were by themselves all the time! I guess that is normal in fairy tales?
Also, it was a little too predictable for me. Granted it is for the younger spectrum of Young Adult readers, and I do read a lot of fairy tale retellings, so I know what to look out for, but still. I wish it took me a little bit longer to guess all the resolutions.
Overall though, this was an amazing adventure! I read it in one sitting. I loved the characters. I loved getting a little history for well-loved fairy tale characters. I loved the family drama for the twins! I loved Goldilocks the most! She was such a kick-butt character! Seriously, I’d want her to be on my side, always…I give this one a 9/10. And I look forward to anything more Mr. Colfer has to say!