Thursday, February 23, 2017

Beyond the Kingdoms

Beyond the Kingdoms
by Chris Colfer
Recommended Ages: 12+

Twins Alex and Conner Bailey have permanently moved to the Land of Stories, where Alex is still growing into her powers as the new fairy godmother. But when nobody believes her claim that the twins' dead father is alive, well, and threatening all the fairy-tale kingdoms in the guise of a masked villain, her control seems to be slipping away from her. Next thing she knows, Alex is on the run, "ungodmothered" by the fairies, and with a bounty on her head. Meantime, an old flame, in the harshest sense of the word, flares up at the long-awaited wedding of King Charlie (a.k.a. "Froggy") and ex-queen Red Riding Hood. At the same moment - suspiciously perfect timing, don't you think? - the Masked Man raids a library full of books from the Otherworld - our world, where Alex and Conner were born - and begins using a potion that can open a portal into the world described in any book to recruit an army of literary villains.

Also, the witches are worried they will be blamed for the disappearance of a dozen children, though they aren't too concerned when Dead Man's Creek starts flowing backwards and depositing coffins full of unknown corpses on its bank. But they're the least of our worries, for now. Conner and Alex are mostly worried about catching up with the Masked Man, who has actually been unmasked (but don't look for a spoiler here), as he hares his way through Oz, Neverland, Wonderland, and who knows what other fictional worlds, in search of accomplices for his next attempt to destroy all the happily-ever-afters, ever. The twins make friends of their own within the masterworks of children's literature, including the tales of Robin Hood and King Arthur - but when they finally make it back to the Land of Stories, it may already be too late to stop the Masked Man, to say nothing of a fiendish plot among the witches. Their only hope may be to recruit a fictional army of their own - opening the door to another adventure across the boundaries of many "lands of stories."

This is the fourth book of the "Land of Stories" series written by the sometime star of TV's Glee. As always, Colfer shows a range of talent far beyond singing, dancing, and acting. He really has a grasp of the craft of writing, with a comic touch that keeps the laughs coming, a knack for pulling multiple storylines together into a thrilling adventure, and an overall style that perfectly captures the tone of voice of a smart, high-spirited middle-school kid. The series started with The Wishing Spell and continues, after this book, with An Author's Odyssey. It doesn't end there; a sixth book, Worlds Collide, is due to be released in July 2017. Colfer has also published the companion volumes The Mother Goose Diaries, Queen Red Riding Hoods's Guide to Royalty, A Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales, the upcoming children's picture-book Trollbella Throws a Party, and the stand-alone novels Struck By Lightning: The Carson Phillips Journal and Stranger Than Fanfiction.

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