On the recommendation of a friend, I bought The Wishing Spell for my 9 year old daughter last year for our family winter solstice book exchange. She devoured it and immediately began urging me to read it. “Mom, you’ll really like it. It’s so good!” So far in her life I’ve always been the one making recommendations of what to read. She was very excited to have a book she wanted to share with me. “It’s as good as Harry Potter!”, the highest praise she can bestow on a book. However, I put her off because my TBR pile is deep and I wanted to make a dent during the 2017 Cannonball. Throughout the year she pestered me, and as my goal crept closer, I decided to make it my half cannonball goal completing book. And here I am, completing my half cannonball with book review number 26 and first time making my goal!
Twins, Alex and Conner had a wonderful childhood suffused with the magic of fairy tales. Their favorite memories were of the times spent at their paternal Grandmother’s cabin deep in the woods, up in the mountains. Dad and Grandma would take turns reading fairy tales from Grandma’s book “The Land of Stories”. The stories were read to them with such detail and passion that they never tired of hearing them over and over again.
Whenever the twins had a problem, their father always had a story ready with an answer. Full of optimism, Alex easily sees the intended morals and deeper meanings in fairy tales. More cynical, Conner tends to find tongue in cheek lessons. To Alex, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ is about consequences. Conner sees a lesson in locking one’s doors, as robbers can come in any shape or size, even as a curly haired little girl. Sadly, a car crash unexpectedly takes Alex and Conner’s father away and changes their lives over night.
A year has gone past since that awful day but the effects still weigh heavy on the twins. Their mother, a nurse, has to work as many shifts as she can to make ends meet. And they are looking forward to a joyless 12th birthday. A surprise visit from their Grandmother on the special day means the world to Alex and Conner. As she leaves, Grandma gives them one last gift, “The Land of Stories” book. That night, while lovingly looking through the book, Alex wishes to be able to choose which world to live in, her own or the Land of Stories. Wishes are powerful things and it’s not long before Alex and Conner find themselves in the world of fairy tales with no clue of how to get home.
In the Land of Stories many of the classic fairy tales live together in kingdoms belonging to well known characters such as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. There are fanciful places like the Fairy kingdom, Mermaid Bay, and the ugly duckling pond. As well as scary places like the Troll and Goblin territory or the Dwarf Forests, where the Big Bad Wolf Pack roams. Torn between a desire to find a way home and the chance to explore the magic world they know so well, Alex and Conner are in a quandary before a chance encounter with a frog man gives them hope that a way home is possible through the wishing spell. A spell so powerful it can grant any wish. To cast the spell, a riddle must be deciphered to identify all the spell components. Some clues are easy, ‘Glass that housed a lonely soul up ’til midnight’s final toll’, Cinderella’s glass slipper. Some are harder, ‘ A saber from the deepest sea, meant for a groom’s mortality’. Alex and Conner immediately begin a magical scavenger hunt to gather all the items necessary to cast the spell and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. It is not long before the twins realize they aren’t the only ones seeking the wishing spell items and the race to collect them begins in earnest.
In this book, and presumably the rest of the series , Chris Colfer examines fairy tales both looking back, before the familiar start of the tales, and forward as to what happens after the stories end. For instance, why was Goldilocks in the three bears cottage? What would the long term effects be of having slept a hundred years, as the people of Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom did? Colfer has created thoughtful answers, fleshing out characters into more fully formed people. Like any proper fairy tale, he also instills his own lessons into the book, ‘”Be brave children,” Goldilocks said. “Courage is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you.”‘
While I wouldn’t necessarily put it on the same level as the Harry Potter series, The Wishing Spell was a delightful and entertaining read, and I did “really like it” as my daughter predicted.