Actor, Golden Globe winner, 2-time Emmy nominee, one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, singer, screen writer, producer ... and now author? And all of that at just 22 years old? I understand how some people might be a bit skeptical in regards to Chris Colfer's actual writing talents, but the truth is - the guy just seems to be a natural-born storyteller, and it doesn't matter which medium he uses for it.
His first novel, "The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell", is the first book in what will become a series of novels about twins Alex and Conner Bailey.
For their twelfth birthday the twins' grandmother gives them a book that has been in the family for a long time - a collection of fairytales called "The Land of Stories". But as Conner and Alex soon find out - this is no ordinary book! When Alex accidentally falls into the book and Conner jumps after her, the twins find themselves in a world that is at once familiar and foreign - familiar, because they've grown up reading stories about the kingdoms of this fairytale world; and foreign because suddenly they are faced with the aftermath of "Happily Ever After": Goldilocks is a wanted fugitive; the big bad wolf may be dead but his pack is very much alive and hellbent on revenge; and the evil queen that almost succeeded in murdering Snow White has escaped from her prison.
Desperately trying to find their way home the twins start gathering a number of magical items in the hopes of successfully performing "The Wishing Spell". On their journey they meet many of the characters they've known since childhood along with numerous magical creatures. But Alex and Conner are not the only ones looking for the ingredients for the Wishing Spell, and what started out as a kind of scavenger hunt quickly turns into a race against time ...
Chris Colfer has a very vivid and descriptive style of writing that I personally liked very much. Whether he was describing castles, quaint villages or the dungeons of the Troll and Goblin Territory - it all came to life right before my eyes, and I could see every scene like a movie in my mind.
Conner and Alex were both likable and endearing lead characters. Where Alex is a too-smart-for-her-own-good bookworm, Conner is full of sarcasm. Despite their differences and their constant bickering and bantering - which makes for quite a few funny moments - it is clear that they have a close relationship and would never leave the other behind. But the twins are really just two out of a very large cast of characters, many of whom are of course already known to us from various fairytales. Personally, I have to admit I really liked Goldilocks - the girl kicked ass, so to speak ... ;o)
Children will absolutely love this book - in fact, they might want to live in it! - but that doesn't mean that it is only suitable for children. If you enjoy imaginative and fantastical stories full of magic, humor and adventure then you will probably adore TLOS! It really is a wonderful story for anyone who has ever loved fairytales ... and everyone who has remained young at heart!
Reading this book reminded me of how much I loved escaping into the world of books as a kid! Back then I would forget everything around me and just dive into different worlds to have amazing adventures. I could be a princess, a pirate or a rebel; I could travel the world, discover hidden treasures, or solve huge mysteries. In short - I could do or be anything I wanted!
I still love reading books but somehow I now often find it much harder to lose myself completely in a story like I used to do. But this particular book gave me back that feeling I remembered from my childhood - a sense of something magical! It would hold a special place in my heart for that alone, even if it wasn't as good as it actually is!
One thing I also liked was that Chris managed to tuck a few valuable lessons into his story, and he did so in a subtle way that never comes across as preachy. The message that he wants to give his readers is simple and yet so important: There is nothing wrong with just being yourself; don't try to mold yourself into something you're not comfortable with just to please other people; and don't disregard your own talents and capabilities just because they might not be the same as those of others.
Is TLOS a perfect book? No. Nor is it the best book I have ever read. But what it is is a wonderfully imaginative and fast-paced adventure that is very entertaining and definitely fun to read. It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and will certainly pick up and read again. The story has a good flow to it, I was never bored for even a moment, and I chuckled to myself (or even laughed out loud) more often than I can count. Yes, some of the scenes could have been elaborated a bit or fleshed out more, and yes - there were a few moments where I felt like the twins got away a little bit too easily, but those are just the little bumps that almost any novel by a first-time author has.
As for predictability - well, sure ... there were a few things that I guessed at pretty early on, but I have to say that there were quite a few surprising twists and turns in the final chapters that I definitely did not see coming! In fact, I think the last 100 or so pages were my favorite part of the book, and it felt like Chris really hit his stride as a writer the further into the story he got - something that certainly makes me excited for the sequel ... :o)
This book definitely proves that Chris Colfer is indeed a talented writer with a wonderful imagination whose storytelling ability will most likely only get better with age, and I for one cannot wait for all the other stories that will surely come out of his creative mind in the coming years!
So to sum this up .... what did I love most about TLOS? Well, I'd say its unique story and humor, the interesting characters - and the magical feeling it left me with ... :o)
Last but not least, one note about the audiobook:
It is read by Chris Colfer himself, and what a treat that is! He really has a unique voice - both literally and figuratively speaking - and his narrative is utterly engaging. He truly manages to give every character their own voice and personality (and that's no small feat considering the large number of characters in this book!), and I must say that I almost loved the audiobook a bit more than the actual printed book (which I read first) - and that means a lot coming from me since I'm not normally a fan of audiobooks at all ....!