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“The world fails to realize that a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told,” The Evil Queen. –The Wishing Spell
The Wishing Spell
The Land of Stories #1
by Chris Colfer
Twins, Alex, and Conner Bailey are no longer living in a fairytale. After their father dies in a car accident, their mother struggles to make ends meet, and leaves the twins to fend for themselves on their birthday. Despite struggles in school and trouble making friends, both twins find comfort in the fairytales told to them by their late father and grandmother. A storybook from their grandmother titled, The Land of Stories allows the twins to enter a world of magic where fairytales become reality, but not everything happens as it was written.
In The Land of Stories, Goldilocks is a sword fighting outlaw, Little Red Riding Hood is a self-obsessed queen, and one of their greatest allies is a talking frog. However, as magical as the world may seem, the dangers are just as real, especially since the Evil Queen–from the tale of Snow White–has escaped from prison. To return to the safety of the real world, Alex and Conner need to find the items of “the Wishing Spell,” a legendary incantation that will allow them to wish their way home. But the Evil Queen is after it too. The twins are in a race against the Queen. Who will find the items of the Wishing Spell first? The twins will have to work together to settle their differences if they ever wish to return home.
The Wishing Spell is an entertaining and creative retelling of many classic fairytales including Jack and the Beanstalk and Cinderella. The Land of Stories is a well-crafted world, filled with many well-known tales that are explored in more depth. Because of that, the fairy tale characters develop intricate personalities, which are an enjoyable part of the book. The complicated plot is explained well, but the large cast of characters may be difficult for readers to remember. As for the main characters, Alex and Conner are opposites–Alex is a diligent, well-read girl with an introverted and idealistic personality, while Conner is a class-clown type character that provides comic relief and serves as a “realist” when needed. Combined, they make an engaging and loveable pair.
In the end, the twins learn that there is more to each story than what meets the eye. Alex and Conner are thwarted by the Queen, resulting in her using the Wishing Spell items before they can. However, they learn about her motives that reveal her to be less evil and more misunderstood, which deepens their compassion for her. As Alex says, “I think what I’ve learned from all this is that villains are mostly just people villainized by circumstance.”
In the end, the Evil Queen dies, and the truth of her motives—to save her lover who is trapped in the magic mirror—die with her. The twins learn that, while “happy ever after” may not be a reality for everyone, genuine kindness and love does exist. The story highlights the importance of treating others with respect and patience so misunderstandings can be prevented. No one can go back in time to save the Evil Queen from her demise, but Snow White concludes that “the best thing we can do now to honor her memory is to live every day with the compassion and understanding no one ever gave her.”
- Conner says he remembers the location of a room because of a painting beside it. Conner says, “I remember that portrait of Red being next to the basket room.” Conner pointed to a portrait where Red Riding Hood was barely clothed, with only a wolf-skin coat to cover her. Alex gave Conner a dirty look. “‘What?’ Conner asked with a smirk. ‘It’s memorable.’”
- Goldilocks and Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) are in love. They kiss. Jack “reached through the gate and pulled Goldilocks close to him, and they kissed. It was passionate, pure, and long overdue.”
- To get released from prison, Conner has to kiss a troll. “At a snail’s pace, [Conner] approached Trollbella with his lips extended. He wasn’t going fast enough for Alex, so she pushed him toward the cell door and Trollbella grabbed hold of him through the bars. She planted a big, fat, juicy kiss on him.”
- When Goldilocks is rescued from the palace wreckage, she and Jack kiss. Goldilocks and “Jack collided into each other’s arms. They shared a kiss so passionate that a few of the soldiers blushed.”
- Goldilocks and her horse, Porridge, fight with a pack of wolves. “One wolf tried to pounce on Porridge, but the horse kicked him away with her hind legs. Another wolf tried to bite Goldilocks, but she struck him with her sword, drawing blood, and he whimpered away. . . A wolf leaped and sank his claws into Porridge’s back. The horse bucked to free herself. In one quick slice, Goldilocks chopped one of wolves’ paws off. . . Goldilocks swung [her sword] hard at the wolves closing in on her, leaving large gashes in their muzzles.”
- The goblins and trolls keep other beings as slaves who dig tunnels for them. They whip and imprison the humans, but it is not described in depth.
- The twins fight back when they are chased by wolves in a minecart. “A few of the wolves swiped at them with their claws. The twins ducked down as far as they could in the cart, but not before one of them reached Conner and left a bloody scratch on his forearm. Alex kicked another right in the snout, and it whimpered away.”
- The Evil Queen hits Conner. “She struck him hard across the face with the back of her hand. Conner’s whole body shifted with the blow.”
- The Evil Queen’s Huntsman tries to kill Jack but ends up getting killed. “The Huntsman began shooting arrows at Jack. . . Jack was trying to block the arrows with the sword. . . He hit one [arrow] perfectly, and it flew behind the Huntsman. The Huntsman grunted and froze. His eyes bulged and he fell flat on his face. The arrow had bounced off the wall behind him and was now sticking out of his back. The Huntsman was dead.”
- The Huntsman’s daughter, the Huntress, tries to kill Jack in retaliation. “Jack turned around and the Huntress stabbed him in the arm with her dagger. . . He dropped the sword and fell to the ground. . . He was clutching his arm. Blood was everywhere.”
- To protect him, Goldilocks intervenes and fights the Huntress. “Goldilocks blocked the dagger with her sword. . . [Then Goldilocks] kicked the Huntress in the stomach. The Huntress rolled to the other side of the room and hopped back to her feet. Goldilocks swung her sword at the Huntress and the duel began. . .” The fight lasts five pages and ends with the pair dueling on the palace roof. Jack interferes to save Goldilocks. “He ran over to a cannon and lit it. He wrenched it toward the Huntress’s direction, and it fired. A cannonball soared towards the women and blasted away the section of roof the Huntress was standing on. [The Huntress] fell the entire height of the castle and into the moat, silently screaming the entire way. There was no way she could have survived the fall.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- Mrs. Peters, the kids’ teacher, gives a patronizing look. “‘And why is that?’ Mrs. Peters said, as if asking, ‘What on earth could you possibly be confused about, idiot?’”
- Conner says, “Don’t piss off your neighbors.” He also says “stupid” once.
- A farmer says, “the damn thing never worked” talking about a magic watering can.
- Alex calls Conner an “idiot” when Connor screams in surprise at his reflection in a mirror.
- Conner calls Queen Red Riding Hood a “self-obsessed twit.”
- Froggy, a talking frog, says “damn you, miserable plants,” when the twins are attacked by vines.
- Goldilocks insults Red Riding Hood a few times, calling her a “red-hooded harlot” and a “basket carrying bimbo.”
- When the Evil Queen hits Conner, she calls him a “stupid boy.”
- The kids use the fictional storybook The Land of Stories to travel to a magical land where all fairytales are true—with varying degrees of truth, such as Goldilocks becoming an outlaw after her run in with the three bears.
- In The Land of Stories, there are talking animals, fictional creatures such as fairies, and magic.
- Conner wonders why Snow White’s kingdom would have so many tributes to apples because they were what almost killed her. Alex says, “I suppose it’s symbolic for the kingdom. Like a cross in the church.”
- When Connor and Alex wake up in the Mermaid Kingdom, Conner thinks that they have died. He thinks, “We must be in heaven.” Conner also mistakes the mermaids for angels.
by Maddie Shooter