(Book Review) Land of Stories: Worlds Collide

(Book Review) Land of Stories: Worlds Collide

Wanted thief Goldilocks, a baby on an adventure, witches in Manhattan, an old writer with memory problems, the fairytales you know and love in a bright shiny Land of Stories No. 6–what could possibly go wrong?

Well, before we get to that, it would be rude of me to skip the stats. Especially since this culminates an unexpected nine-year journey for me from Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell.

Book Review No. 27: Land of Stories: Worlds Collide by Chris Colfer

Series: Land of Stories, no. 6

Genre: Middle-grade fantasy/fairytale retelling

Content for the Sensitive Reader: mild language, 1 or 2 instances strong language, witches, curses, the violent (mostly bloodless) deaths of multiple villains and minor characters. Fine for most middle-grade readers.

BookmarkedOne Rating: 8/10 (Hey, guess who almost forgot she had to do a rating?)

There’s a lot to love about this book. And there’s a lot not to love. Let’s get the worst over with first, shall we? Then on to dessert.

Some of it is lovely, deep and gorgeous writing. That’s why I’m still here. And some of it isn’t. That’s what drives me nuts. One moment I’m thrilled…and then we’re back to stereotypical Marines shouting predictable orders to each other, wearing sunglasses, and willing to blow up all of New York over something that any hardened soldier would expect to be a hoax or a trick.

(What do you think you are, the first Avengers movie? *muffled Bookmarked screaming*)

Sorry, but that’s a lot of people very ready to believe in magic instead of expecting it to be an illusion…and as far as I’m aware, Colfer’s version of reality doesn’t have any exceptional features, urban legends, superheroes…you get the idea.

If someone appeared in New York right now summoning lightning from the sky, I highly doubt the first conclusion would be “Nuke it, it’s gotta be magic.”

Please. Anyone with lightning powers, prove me wrong.

Also I’m not sure Colfer understands how high-powered sniper rifles work (and I’ve also been informed Febreze doesn’t come in aerosol cans–which is awkward since it’s a plot point). But that’s my bone to pick with his overly tragic romanticism.

I hate love triangles.

Yeah. I’m calling it uneven writing until someone has a better term.

For example, how can he write characters that are as deep and complex as the Evil Queen or Bo Peep…and then write Little Red Riding Hood as Ye Predictable Millionare Blonde and Robin Hood as a total flirt?

Actually, I know the answer to that last one. Pretty sure that Colfer is basing his version of Robin not on the original stories or the collections by Creswick and Pyle but on the Kevin Costner film Prince of Thieves. Which by all marks in my humble opinion, does not merit being considered a Robin Hood version in the slightest (and is personally my least-favorite rendition. Go watch the Keira Knightley Princess of Thieves before you argue). Nor, may I add, is it grounded in any book.

Which for a book about characters from books in a book…is awkward. Again.

And while I’m complaining, I might as well tackle Worlds Collide on diversity.

This is a delicate subject. So I’m going to approach it with all the consideration I possibly can. But the flat answer is that I don’t appreciate the way he does it.

The last five books of the series haven’t been remarkable for their representation of any particular people group. Unless you want to consider gingers, which some people do. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that someone mentioned that fact to him, because lo and behold, here in book 6, we have…an effort.

A very small effort. Colfer introduces two LGBT+ couples as mention characters.

Important term, “mention characters.” They are not side characters. They could be eliminated and no one would notice. Together, they appear in maybe five pages of material. They’re literally just there to fill in background space. Like computer-generated Orcs in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

Personally, it’s irritating. If you want to make a diverse book, great. You do you. Tell the story you feel you need to tell.

Tell the story you feel you need to tell. Don’t make it about politics or agenda or doing it because everyone says it’s right. If you want to write an all-boy book, do it. If you want to write something with only minority characters, do that too. But please, don’t just casually mention different people groups in 70 characters or less only in the last book of a six book series like that suddenly makes you a patron of all inclusion and an angel to the world, your entire series the champion of diversity, and sparing you from all such criticism. I know, I’m going overboard. But really. I can’t help feeling like this isn’t inclusion, it’s just lip service–something never done because it comes from the heart. And when that’s the case–well, who wants a gift that someone only gives you to save face?

Anyway.

There’s a few other things that bugged me–the on-page final battle carnage that conveniently avoided bloodshed every time (death is death whether you strangle ’em, stab ’em, or magically vaporize, Colfer. Caught you), pondering if we have bordered on bestiality with an enchanted-animal character, witty remarks suddenly turning stale, exceptional convenience, why couldn’t we have librarians discover the fairytale world since they are clearly the most prepared and they were right there and we didn’t and now I’m disappointed because that’s how I would have written it, oh, imagine all the happy librarians wandering around Rapunzel’s tower and saving New York from doom–and could someone please explain to me why Conner didn’t bother to learn any magic from his sister while he had the chance so he isn’t so utterly helpless 80% of the time? Did I miss something? But that’s not worth going into.

On to the good stuff!

And oy, there is a lot of it! I laughed and cheered just as much as I grumbled. Just can’t help it with this stuff.

Besides. Mother Goose is back. I love Mother Goose.

And beyond the witty lines and fantastic magic–there’s heart in this story here too. Villains don’t always deserve “unhappily ever after.” You don’t have to be perfect to be happy. What you look like, appearances need never define who you are–ooh, that last one was good. From all sides.

And getting fairytale characters through airport security? Now that is what I came for! Not to mention Bree building a bomb in like 20 seconds, the return of characters absent since book one, the conclusion for the Book Huggers, Trollbella, Charlotte–arrgh, so many great moments! The thing is, these characters he invented are still as lovable as they always were.

It makes me wish he realized where his strengths really lie, and let the rest of the fluff worry about itself.

It’s not bad. There’s a lot concluded (which is a relief after the cliffhangers of several of the books in the series) and a lot left to hope for–not in the future of the series, but in the lives of the characters. And that’s the best ending of all–no “and they lived happily ever after,” but “and they lived on and had more wonderful and thrilling and dangerous adventures for the rest of their lives.”

At least, in my humble opinion.

So! Land of Stories. I don’t think I’m the only one curious to see what Colfer is up to next. What could he do outside the Land of Stories, do you think?


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