Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Grimm Warning

A Grimm Warning
by Chris Colfer
Recommended Ages: 12+

In this third installment in the "Land of Stories" series (after The Wishing Spell and The Enchantress Returns), twins Alex and Conner are separated by a barrier that should be sealed forever - the portal between this world and the Land of Stories which their grandma, the Fairy Godmother, sealed between them at the end of their previous adventure. But now there's a chance that barrier may come open again; and although the twins miss each other a lot, that's not good news. As Alex comes into her full power as the Fairy Godmother's heir and experiences her first stirrings of romantic love, Conner and his sixth-grade crush Bree run away from a class trip to Europe in a race to find out whether a warning, hidden in a never-before-read Grimm fairy tale unearthed after 200 years in a time capsule, means grave danger is imminent for the fairy-tale world.

You see, thanks to some quick thinking by Mother Goose, an army of thousands is caught in the middle of a portal to the Land of Stories, thinking they're going to conquer it in the name of Napoleon Bonaparte. What Mother Goose didn't count on, 200 years ago, was that the twins' grandma would begin to die - or, in fairy terms, return to magic - right at the expiration date of the Grand Armee's interdimensional exile. With her dies the magic that keeps the portal closed. And once the French soldiers arrive, they immediately threaten all the kingdoms of the fairy-tale world, including the fairies themselves. Worse yet, they have allied themselves with the most villainous villains in the land, including a certain masked man who claims to wield a weapon guaranteeing the fall of the Happily Ever After Assembly.

Back together again, Conner and Alex must dare much, including trying to make alliances with creatures who have never been friends of the fairies before. Among them are elves whose awesome tree kingdom is seen all to briefly, and the "troblin" queen Trollbella, who tends to carry on one-sided love affairs (hint: she still calls Conner her "Butterboy"). The tale builds up to a climax that threatens to tear the Land of Stories apart.

I continue to enjoy this series by one of the former stars of the TV series "Glee." It's a wholesome, thrilling entertainment that honors the tradition of fairy tales, with the added twist that they are based on true events in an alternate dimension. The dialogue is perky, the characters are well-developed, and the writing bears evidence of an a very intelligent young writer with a rich sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed Conner and Bree's adventure across Europe. The one thing I found disappointing was the way Bree's character seems to be pushed to one side after they land in the Land of Stories; I sensed potential in her, and her relationship with Conner, that went somewhat unfulfilled in the latter part of the book. Nevertheless, the book as a whole takes one on a delightful and well-paced journey; a few bumps in the road, style-wise, may be taken as a sign an ambitious and fearless author is at work. And the ending is a definite hook to draw readers into the remaining books in the series, Beyond the Kingdoms and An Author's Odyssey.

Colfer's other work include several companion books to this series: The Mother Goose Diaries, Queen Red Riding Hood's Guide to Royalty, Trollbella Throws a Party, The Curvy Tree, a picture-book based on a fictitious Grimm fairy tale, and A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales, in which Colfer retells 35 of his favorite stories. His standalone novels include Struck by Lightning and Stranger Than Fanfiction.

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