Let me begin by saying that I never really thought much of Colfer and his role on Glee. Sure, he had a difficult character to play, but I was kind of meh about him (back when I watched the show in the first season). Then, I saw these books and was surprised to see he had written them. Then they kept popping up on me in various forums I would read. So, I decided to take a chance ont he first one...and AM I EVER GLAD I DID!
They are truly fantastic. Like, buy them for every 10-100 year old you know, fantastic. Colfer can weave a really great story.
Yes - they are Young Adult, but they are just a magical read that I think truly appeals across a wider age spectrum.
Here's the premise:
Young Alex and Connor Baily are twins. They live with their mother, who was widowed a couple of years earlier. Their fun grandmother travels a lot so is hardly around...but when she shows up to celebrate their 12th birthdays - she brings a very special gift with her. The Land of Stories is the storybook their grandmother and father used to read to them.
Then, that night, Alex has the book in her room with her and it starts to buzz and glow. Soon, she discovers that if she places an object on the pages - it gets sucked into the book...
Then, one day after school - she herself gets sucked into the book...and enters the Land of Stories (with Connor not far behind her).
Warning: The descriptions below may contain spoilers, though I will try hard to keep it pretty generic.
After falling into the Land of Stories - Alex and Connor immediately embark on an adventure to get themselves home. A man-size frog tells them about a spell called the Wishing Spell that will grant them one wish if they can complie all of the items on a list - things like Cinderella's glass slipper and a lock of Rapunzel's hair -and he happens to have a journal telling them exactly how to do that. What they don't know is that an evil queen is also seeking the items for a wish of her own and it is a race to see who can collect them all first. Along the way, they learn many surprises about their own connection to the Land of Stories and a discover about exactly who their grandmother and father REALLY were.
Life outside of the Land of Stories is plain old boring for Alex and Connor. Alex feels like she is not meant to be in the Otherworld anymore and would give anything to go back. When, all of a sudden, their mother goes missing, their home in the Otherworld fills up with protectors to keep them safe since it appears the evil Enchantress who cast the sleeping curse on Sleeping Beauty has taken their mother - thinking SHE was Alex! As the days stretch on - Alex knows she could help if only she could get back into the land of Stories and she hatches a secret plan to do just that. Of course, she doesn't think Connor will be able to figure it out and follow her...until he does.
The Land of Stories looks much different than the last time they were there - it has become a much darker and scarier place under the threat of the Evil Enchantress, Ezmia. With the help of their old friends, the twins embark on another quest to collect the items to build the Wand of Wonderment to stop the enchantress and Alex learns some surprising things about herself along the way that force her to make a difficult decision.
With the portal completely closed between the Land of Stories and the Otherworld, Connor and Alex are both engrossed in their own studies. An opportunity presents itself for Connor to travel to Germany for the unveiling of three new stories by the Brothers Grimm, who had previously been locked away in a time capsule for the past 200 years. Imagine his surprise when the first two are tales his father had often told him and Alex. The third is the most surprising in that it contains a warning for the Land of Stories about an army who has been inside an enchanted portal since Napoleon's time with the intent of conquering the Land of Stories in the name of France! Connor MUST get a message through to the fairies but no one is answering the enchanted mirror. Finally - Mother Goose intercepts his call and is most distraught because her darkest secret is about to be realized.
Connor and a classmate on the trip start an adventure of their own to reopen the portal and travel to the land of Stories to help. Sure, it involves kidnapping an old lady and then accidentally causing a young german boy to fall into the portal with them...but they get there with their terrible news. Reunited with his sister, now the twins can plan how to avoid this fresh threat to the Land of Stories.
Ok - that is all I can say. I want to tell so many more spoilers than that, but I also want you all to discover this story fresh for yourselves. Think of them as a "behind the scenes" on every fairy tale you have ever read or heard. He also delves into feelings and experiences that are a part of growing up that I think any pre-teen would find help or comfort in - including feelings of isolation, emotional changes and difficult relationships, both with peers and of the romantic persuasion. These stories could only have been written by someone who truly loves and knows fairy tales. The rich tapestry of the world Colfer creates is truly magical. I loved reading them and I look forward to one day sharing them with my own twins. I think they will love them every bit as much as I did.. I can honestly say that future books int he series will be on my Kobo the day they are released.