Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. I have a love/hate relationship with this series.
Literally. We have history.
I’ve been reading it since 2012 when the first one made its way to my library. I can’t think of the series without remembering being up with a flashlight after midnight that Christmas Eve, reading page after page after page. I am a fairytale nerd. If there is a retelling, I know about it. Whatever After? Been there. Liesl Shurtliff? Read it. A Hero’s Guide? Don’t ask, it’s kind of a fabulous train wreck. The original and complete Grimm’s fairytales? Those I had with me at university orientation (Friendly tip: they work like garlic. Nobody talks to the freaky nerd who has a book that could strain a muscle to lift and whose contents involve a lot of murder and blood pudding).
But Land of Stories…it’s different. It’s clever and witty and charming and unique enough that it’s not just repeating everything you’ve seen before. Simple, yes. Not everything they way I would have written it. But it’s quite its own thing.
You can imagine my excitement when I heard it was a series.
Skip ahead a bit, and I’m screaming my head off after finishing A Grimm Warning. After grumbling my way through the battle sequence, I received no end-book resolution. I hate books clearly written so you must buy the next one in the series to get any kind of completion. Yes, the cliffhanger sometimes happens. The Two Towers has a horrifying ending. But the sake of the book should be the story, not marketing. Colfer had a fine ending and ruined it within the last 20 pages. Material that could have been a perfect opening chapter, tacked on at the end. It’s a sticking point with me.
And he made Cinderella some kind of warrior/soldier murder thing. That’s a no.
I was furious enough at the lack of conclusion then I vowed never to read anything of his again, made a very good bookish friend over mutual ranting (she was unhappy about The Hunger Games), and life went on.
Page forward to my post-Lord of the Rings self being utterly disappointed with almost all literature because it isn’t as good and running my fingers along the blue spine of Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms.
I missed them. I still hated them, but I remembered all the good times I’d nearly laughed myself to tears over Mother Goose and Connor–the wedding of Goldilocks, that was golden–the research he’d put into Monte Carlo and Neuschwanstein Castle, the random granny who ran away with a circus in her youth–in a lot of ways, A Grimm Warning is one of Colfer’s best.
Not to say I was happy about it. But whether it made me angry or glad, Land of Stories did make me feel something. And frankly, that’s not something I could say about a lot of other books on the shelves, middle-grade or otherwise.
You guessed it. Beyond the Kingdoms made its way home with me.
I think I must have gone back to read The Enchantress Returns sometime…but I don’t honestly remember much of it. Beyond the Kingdoms didn’t stand out particularly well either. The premise is great, but Colfer works best when he’s building his own characters, not when he’s stealing them from classic stories. We all have our own ideas about what classic stories sound and feel like, and unless you can emulate that original author’s style exactly, someone isn’t going to be happy. Or more likely, a lot of someones.
In other words, don’t mess with my Robin Hood. There will be blood.
But to be perfectly fair…the clearest memories I have of reading Beyond the Kingdoms are in waiting rooms, tense about a loved one in the hospital, trying to make occasional polite conversation with family. One of my least favorite places in the world. That’s not the optimal situation for reading concentration, even if it has burned the experience permanently into my memory.
Which brings us to now. Land of Stories: An Author’s Odyssey. I wasn’t looking for it, but there it was, in the virtual OverDrive library, politely offering to entertain.
After Dune, I needed something to cheer me up. Light and easy. I was already thinking of the world-renowned outlaw Goldilocks, Alex and Connor Bailey, Emmerich Himmelsbach…Beyond the Kingdoms hadn’t ended on much less of a cliffhanger than A Grimm Warning, and I did want to know how it all might end.
To be honest, I’m not sure I went through that much thinking before I borrowed it. Time has a way of helping me forget the things I didn’t like about books. It was more of saw it, click it, now it’s mine.
But there was no possibility I could write a review without explaining some of the history that’s cropped up around this series for me. An explanation with why I’m starting here, with book 5, why I don’t currently have the guts to go back and relive my readings of all the others. Why I’m still reading them, despite my youthful fury years ago.
So, yeah. Backstory dump of a blog post. I take my book relationships very seriously.