Book Review: “The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms” by Chris Colfer

Accio Book!

Published July 7, 2015 by LBYR

The next book in Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series takes twins Alex and Conner beyond the fairy kingdom and into the realm of classic children’s literary worlds. Beyond the Kingdoms is a funny and moving addition to Colfer’s magical tale, which sees the twins maturing into independent teenagers without the guidance of their fairy godmother. With Robin Hood, Peter Pan, and the Tin Man thrown into the mix, talk about a whirlwind adventure! There are danger and villains around every topsy turvy corner, and the stakes are raised to the most dangerous battle yet.

As a big fan of these great middle grade fantasy stories, I had high expectations for Book 4, and it didn’t disappoint. Colfer takes his characters even further on their journeys of self discovery. Alex, still reeling from her discovery about the masked man’s identity, is suffering from some mismanaged magic and can’t get her furious emotions under control. Conner can’t stop worrying about his sister and feels guilty for not believing in her but soon must learn to believe in himself to save the day. And the path of true love never did run smooth as Red and King Charlie approach their grand wedding day.

There are two great villains of Book 4, the masked man, whose plot for revenge and mission to recruit an army of familiar villains will devastate his family, and the ram-horned witch Morina, who peddles beauty-enhancing spells with a dark side. Both villains are chilling, unpredictable, and unstoppable, and the twins have their work cut out trying to derail their plans. This leads the twins into a mad dash through story books that are familiar to all children of the Otherworld.

Branching out into other literary worlds gives Colfer scope to stretch his imagination and pay homage to some old favorites. He mixes up his writing style for each new world, bringing in wink nudge references for fans to pick up on, such as the silver shoes from the Wizard of Oz books, some rather mischievous lost boys from Peter Pan, and a Merlin who can conveniently predict the future much like Alex has already read the book. Colfer’s love and respect for these stories comes through in spades, and there is much fun to be had in the ways Alex and Conner pull the stories off the familiar path (what exactly does Dorothy do without the Tin Man by her side?). My only wish is that we could have spent a little more time in each world, though the race against the masked man works as a clever way to push the plot forward through each world hop.

If you are wondering which book Colfer would choose to visit himself, he answered during a tumblr Q&A, and the answer should be obvious to all Potterheads:

If you could jump into any book, fairy tale or not, which book and story would you like to see and be a part of? – Adele ox

I would love to go into the Harry Potter books – but I couldn’t hang with Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Their hobbies are far too dangerous for me. I’ll either be in the [p]refect[s’] bathroom relaxing in the bathtub or chatting with McGonagall about cats. They can knock themselves out with all the ‘Voldemort business.’

There are also visits from some old friends in Beyond the Kingdoms, like expectant parents Jack and Goldilocks (whose hormones are making her a touch sensitive to all news, good and bad) and Froggy and Red (whose wedding is sure to be a show stopper if Red has anything to do with it); Cornelius the dumpy unicorn appears, and so does our favorite boozy bird Mother Goose, always there to add a witticism to any given situation. Each time a character reappeared, it was worth it, their distinct personalities adding another layer to the story.

Back in the Otherworld, Bree and Emmerich, Conner’s companions from Book 3, are grounded for disappearing with no warning. However, Bree isn’t going to let that stop her from doing some digging. I love the character of Bree. She is like a mini Harriet the Spy, following clues and getting to the bottom of a mystery even as she dodges the attention of her school mates, the nosy conspiracy theorist book huggers.

As with his previous books, Colfer gives insight and advice to help guide the children on their path, often delivered from the mouths of new friends along the way. There is a particularly touching passage from the future King Arthur on the merits and disadvantages of destiny and expectation, which was followed up by some rather iffy dating advice from Conner to Robin Hood that had me cackling.

This book focuses quite heavily on Alex as the responsibility of being the new fairy godmother gets to her. A little out of control, her guilt, anger, and capacity for love backfire in some spectacular ways. But she is still a young, headstrong girl who knows that she can do some truly great things if she just puts her mind and heart to it.

Colfer is also a master of the cliffhanger ending that has you on the edge of your seat and usually leaves you feeling devastated. However, Book 4 had me punching the air in satisfaction, and now more than ever I cannot wait to find out what he has up his sleeves for the next book, particularly for Conner.

If you are on the lookout for a fun, heartfelt, magical series full to the brim with characters you will care about deeply, the Land of Stories books are going from strength to strength. With one more book in the series to come as well as some gift book spin-offs later this year, there’s lots more still to come from this fantastic world. You will be laughing, crying, and attempting to cast a spell on your bookshelves.

4 lightning bolts

This book was pretty good! I would recommend adding it to your reading list.

This book was a whirlwind read, full of magic.