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Friday November 16, 2012

Glee's Chris Colfer can also write

The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell
Author: Chris Colfer
Publisher: Little, Brown/Hachette, 438 pages

WE all know that Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt Hummel on the television show Glee, can sing, dance and act. With his new young adult book, The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell now out, the question is, can he also write?

Following current trends in YA authorship, Colfer’s story embraces those traditional and familiar fairy tales like Snow White, Cinderella and Red Riding Hood, among others, and gives them a twist of his own.

The Land Of Stories is about the adventures of 12-year-old twins Alex and Conner Bailey. Alex is the smart one, who is trying vainly not to be viewed as a teacher’s pet by her peers, while Conner is the fun-loving, mischievous one, who doesn’t really pay too much attention in class.

Fairy tales have always been a big part of their lives, with their favourite memories consisting of trips to their grandmother’s cottage in the mountains, where their grandmother and grandfather would take turns making their grandmother’s book of fairy tales come alive through their animated storytelling.

But things change when they lose their father in a car accident; Their mother, a nurse, has to work very hard to keep the family afloat, and they’ve had to move away from their beloved home.

Then strange things start to happen when their grandmother pays them an unexpected visit on their 12th birthday, and gives them her old book of fairy tales. The book turns out to be some sort of portal, and the twins accidentally fall through it – right into the Land of Stories, where all the fairy tales live.

Wanting to get home, the twins start a quest to find eight rare items that make up the legendary Wishing Spell, which will grant any wish to the person who has all the items.

Their journey takes them through the various fairy-tale kingdoms where they encounter characters like Goldilocks, a fierce outlaw on the run, a crush-obsessed Red Riding Hood, a kind, but troubled Sleeping Beauty, and more than one Prince Charming!

The search is made more difficult as they also have to race against the Huntsman’s daughter, who has been commanded by the Evil Queen, Snow White’s stepmother, to gather those very same items for the queen’s own Wishing Spell.

All in all, the story is a good debut effort. The writing is not perfect, especially the dialogue where the twins seem far older than their age, and speak far more formally than regular people do in casual conversation.

You can also see how Colfer’s TV experiences have influenced his writing, as some sections of his book seem more suitable to a larger-than-life screenplay, rather than a prose fiction.

A few of the “original” ideas expanding on familiar fairy-tale characters, like Snow White and the Evil Queen, are not so original any more, considering the number of books and television shows revolving around fairy tales that have come our way of late.

The beginning is also too preachy for my liking, as it practically shoves down the reader’s throat the idea that fairy tales are the panacea to the world’s ills.

However, as far as books go, The Land Of Stories is a fairly entertaining read, with good reimaginings of popular fairy tale characters and their current kingdoms (or queendoms, as most of them are).

And considering the revelations in the ending, it looks like this might be the first book in a series set in this land.

A decent YA book revolving around fairytales, which I would suggest for the precocious story-loving tween in your life.


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