Alex and Conner Bailey have spent a long time waiting to return to the Land of Stories, a magical world they thought only existed in their favorite fairytales. However, after the events of the first story, The Wishing Spell, the twins know that all their favorite stories are true. After they defeated the Evil Queen in the last book, they returned home dreaming of their next adventure. But, their Grandmother, the legendary Fairy Godmother, has been missing for months, cutting off the twin’s contact to the magic realm. Then, their mother is suddenly kidnapped by the evil Enchantress. In order to bring their mother home, the children are forced to return the Land of Stories without their Grandmother’s help.
Once in the Land of Stories, the twins quickly realize why their Grandmother has been so busy. The Enchantress Ezmia, a wicked sorceress responsible for the former curse on Sleeping Beauty, has returned to take over the fairytale world and the human world. Their only hope to stop her is the Wand of Wonderment, a staff powerful enough to best Ezmia’s magic. The twins must travel through the fairytale kingdoms with their allies in search of magical items to make the Wand, all while avoiding Ezmia and the wrath of other evil beings. Once the staff is assembled, the twins confront the greatest threat of all: Ezmia’s unwavering cruelty. Is magic powerful enough to convince the Enchantress to put an end to her evil plans?
The thrilling second installment in the Land of Stories Series has just as much action, adventure, and fairytale magic as the first book. The Enchantress Returns will hold the reader’s attention at every turn, and readers will be fascinated by the conclusion. Unlike fairytales and their shallow villains, the evil characters in this series have more depth than the average book, making this story an interesting read. In the final battle against the Enchantress, Alex says, “Ezmia, I’ll never be like you. I would rather have nothing and a big heart, than everything and no heart at all. . . I’ll always have the most powerful magic of all inside me–compassion. And I have enough inside of me even for you.” When Alex forgives the Enchantress, Ezmia loses her power, proving that love can overpower hate, even when it’s difficult to extend sympathy to others. Alex’s willingness to forgive shows that she’s not only kind but powerful, even without the use of magic.
The Enchantress Returns also emphasizes the need for belonging. The Enchantress never felt like she belonged, so she made others feel powerless. Alex also never felt like she belonged in the human world since other kids didn’t understood her love for fairytales and magic. Even though it’s a hard decision, Alex chooses to stay in the Land of Stories where she doesn’t feel like an outcast. This parallel ending shows that the heroes and villains of the stories aren’t so different, but how they handle their situations shows their true character.
Readers searching for a funny yet intricate fantasy about the characters from their favorite bedtime stories will find what they’re looking for in The Land of Stories Series. However, there are some scenes that may disturb sensitive readers. Despite this, The Enchantress Returns is an engaging book that teaches important lessons about forgiveness and compassion. Readers who want more fairytale action can jump into an intriguing world where famous villains such as Cinderella’s stepmother and the Big Bad Wolf have changed their ways and become good in the Fairy Tale Reform School Series by Jen Calonita.
- A kiss wakes Sleeping Beauty.
- Sleeping Beauty’s husband kisses her hand.
- Alex is in the library secretly looking at books. When Conner finds Alex, he says, that he is also reading, but “I didn’t try to get to first base with any of [the books].”
- Mother Goose says she had a “fling” with Leonardo da Vinci.
- While drinking, Mother Goose admits, “I haven’t had this much fun since I was so very young – and used to rub-a-dub-dub with the three men in the tub!”
- Jack and Goldilocks kiss once.
- Red kisses Froggy. “She pulled [Froggy] closer and kissed his slimy green lips.” She also kisses him later “repeatedly all over his big frog head.”
- The twins’ mom kisses her boyfriend.
- Originally, the Enchantress cursed Sleeping Beauty and her entire kingdom to die after pricking her finger on the spinning wheel, but the curse was reformed by the fairies so that everyone fell asleep instead.
- The Enchantress causes a thornbush to grow over Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom. “Scattered all across the castle grounds, [Sleeping Beauty] saw soldiers and servants fighting off the rogue thornbushes and vines growing around them. The plants grew straight out of the ground and attacked them, like serpents wrapping around their prey. The vines crept up the sides of the castle, breaking through the windows and pulling people out, dangling them hundreds of feet in the air… [Sleeping Beauty] saw villagers fall victim to the leafy monsters.”
- The Enchantress attacks Sleeping Beauty’s carriage and her soldiers. “Sleeping Beauty looked out the window just in time to see a soldier and his horse thrown high into the forest beside the path. A whooshing sound swooped toward them, and another soldier and his horse were thrown into the trees on the other side of the path. Every other second was filled with the terrified cries of the soldiers and horses as they were flung into the forest. . . One final swoop took the remaining horses and soldiers with it; their cries echoed in the night.”
- In the same attack, Sleeping Beauty is hurt when her carriage is overturned. “The carriage crashed to the ground, falling on its side and skidding across the ground until coming to a stop. . . Sleeping Beauty crawled through the carriage door. . . she was limping and clutched her left wrist.”
- Soldiers attack Bob, the twin’s mother’s boyfriend. “A dozen soldiers dressed in silver armor barged through the door. One slammed Bob hard against the wall. Alex screamed.” No one is injured.
- The Enchantress, Ezmia, says that The Evil Queen, Evly, tried to kill her. “Evly laced a small dagger with poison and stabbed me with it. The poison almost killed me; I shriveled down to the state of a dying human.” Ezmia is later nursed back to health.
- The Enchantress kidnaps Cinderella’s daughter. Cinderella threatens the Enchantress by saying, “I’ll pull you apart limb from limb if you hurt my daughter.”
- Ezmia describes the abusive nature of one of her past affairs with a man she calls The Locksmith. “The Locksmith was a troubled man. A testament to his profession, he liked keeping his properties locked down, and I was no exception. . . He never looked me in the eye and when he touched me, it was rarely out of affection. He definitely left his mark on me – several, actually.”
- A polar bear hurts Goldilocks. The polar bear “charged toward Goldilocks. With one swipe of his paw, he knocked Goldilocks to the ground.” Goldilocks is not injured.
- Jack is hurt during a battle with the Snow Queen. “The Snow Queen heard [Jack] and pointed her scepter directly at him. A bright icy blast erupted from its tip and hit Jack. He crashed into a pillar. He scrambled to his feet but was hit again by another icy blast from the Snow Queen – this time, a sheet of thick ice pinned his hands and chest to the pillar behind him.”
- The Sea Witch’s cave is filled with her past victims. “Dozens of mermaids were hung upside down from their tails across the dome-shaped cave ceiling. They were all weak and frail; some breathed heavily while others didn’t breathe at all; some were just skeletons, while others were close to becoming one.”
- The Sea Witch attacks Froggy and the twins. “The Sea Witch threw her cuttlefish and it hit Froggy, wrapping its legs around his face. [The twins and Froggy] frantically fought off the sea creatures attacking them, but it was no use. The crabs pinched and poked the twins, scratching them and drawing blood. Jack ran to the twins’ side and, with two quick blows of his ax, chopped both the crabs in half.”
- Jack, Froggy, Goldilocks, Red, and the twins escape the Sea Witch’s lair, but she sends an army of sharks and fish after them. “Jack was quick to punch [a shark] in the nose. . . Froggy kicked another one and it crashed into yet another. . .” Then mermaids come to their rescue and “the twins saw hundreds of mermaids shooting through the ocean and tackling the harmful fish around them.”
- While visiting Sleeping Beauty’s Kingdom, the twins see the destruction left by Ezmia. “The twins saw soldiers and servants and villagers spread across the land with vines coiled around them like serpents covering their prey. Some were pinned to the ground, while others were suspended hundreds of feet in the air over the castle.” It’s unclear if they are living or dead.
- Ezmia dangles Queen Cinderella’s daughter, Princess Hope, over a fire. “Ezmia snapped her fingers and her vines pulled Princess Hope through the cage. The child was screaming; tears and snot ran down her terrified face. The vines dangled the princess over the flames of the fire.” Hope is not injured and is returned to Cinderella afterwards.
- Rumpelstiltskin, who formerly worked for Ezmia, saves Alex’s life. Rumpelstiltskin “came out of nowhere and jumped in front of Alex. The blast [from Ezmia] hit him in the chest and he fell to the ground. . . [Rumpelstiltskin] smiled up at the twins, closed his eyes for the last time, and died in Alex’s arms.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- The twins get a dog named Buster who misbehaves often. Conner says, “that dog needs to be on medication.”
- Mother Goose seems to be constantly intoxicated, indicated by the thermos she always carries with her. She calls the liquid inside “bubbly.” Conner says, “[Mother Goose] really lets loose after a few sips of whatever she was drinking.”
- Mother Goose was friends with Humpty Dumpty before he fell off the wall due to being intoxicated. Mother Goose says, “Humpty had a fall, right there and right then, because poor Humpty couldn’t hold his gin.”
- Alex gives Mother Goose a bottle of champagne, which Mother Goose drinks.
- Mother Goose reprimands her flying goose by saying, “Good lord. . . You call that a landing?!” She also calls the goose a “stupid gander,” and a “stupid bird.”
- Mother Goose says, “Jack is nimble, Jack is quick, but Jack can be such a —” the rhyme isn’t written, but implied. “[Mother Goose] stopped herself from finishing the thought, perhaps remembering she was talking to thirteen-year-olds.”
- Conner says, “what the heck.”
- Queen Red Riding Hood calls the twins “brats.” Alex calls Ezmia a brat later on as well.
- Queen Red and Goldilocks dislike each other. When Goldilocks visits, Queen Red says, “You bet your porridge-loving indecisive behind you won’t be harming me.”
- Conner says, “God, I hate this flipping cat.”
- Darn, damn, and crap are all used once.
- Conner calls Ezmia a “wench.”
- “Good lord” is said once.
- Sleeping Beauty says, “Dear God. . . Does the Enchantress have no soul?”
- The Land of Stories is a fairytale world where classic fairytales are real, such as Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood. Talking animals and mythical creatures like unicorns, mermaids, and trolls are also featured in the story.
- Contact exists between the fairytale world and the human world (known as the “Otherworld”) due to portals. One portal exists in the Land of Stories storybook that belongs to Alex and Conner’s grandmother.
- The twins’ grandmother is the Fairy Godmother. Fairies can teleport and do magic. One fairy has hair that is constantly on fire.
- Buster, the twins’ dog, turns out to be a soldier in disguise. He is transformed from a human into a dog by the Fairy Godmother.
- Prince Charlie Charming is known as “Froggy” to the kids because he’s been transformed into a walking, talking frog.
- Conner sees a ghost, who eventually guides the twins on their journey.
- The twins’ father is dead. When they learn their mother is dating someone new (Bob), Conner says, “It’s something I’ve always wondered about people who lose their husbands or wives. But one day, if we’re all in, well, heaven, I guess, isn’t it going to be a little awkward with Bob and Dad there?”
- Ezmia collects the souls of people she dislikes and keeps them in jars.