|The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Louise Jones|
|Summary: The Masked Man is running amok; recruiting the most dastardly villains from literature to join his dark army. Can Alex and Conner stop him?|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 624||Date: August 2015|
|Publisher: Little Brown Books|
|External links: Author's website|
The last Land of Stories book left readers on a cliffhanger with a shock revelation about the identity of the antagonist, the villainous 'Masked Man'. Since then, fans, myself included, have been waiting desperately for the next book in the series in order to see how our twin heroes Alex and Conner deal with this surprising twist in the tale. The waiting is over; the new book is here and ready to transport us once again to the magical Land of Stories...
Although the book is based on traditional fairy tales, Colfer has continued to develop the characters in a way peculiarly his own. Red, Froggy, Goldie, Jack and the twins now feel like old friends and returning to the story is like a warm reunion. At the beginning of this book, Red is preparing for her ostentatious wedding, Goldilocks is struggling with pregnancy hormones and Alex is having problems controlling her magical powers. Meanwhile, the masked man is on the loose and recruiting dark allies in order to destroy the fairytale realm completely.
This book introduces an exciting new twist; a potion that can transport a person to the world inside any book. Colfer has essentially opened up the borders and created the potential for a wealth of new storylines and characters. As the cover art suggests, we see the characters travel to Oz, Wonderland, Neverland and Robin Hood's Nottingham in pursuit of the masked man who is recruiting all of the villains from these stories to join his army. I loved the multi layered 'Inception'-style of travel, as each subsequent world takes the travellers a layer deeper each time. Then, of course, there is the terrifying possibility of getting trapped within a book if anything should happen to it...
Beyond the Kingdoms sees plenty of enjoyable plot twists and character development. Red, in particular, really comes into her own when she is forced to become a hero in order to save her beloved Froggy. Alex also has an exciting story arc as she struggles to control her magical powers and is ousted from her position on the Fairy Council. Although she is one of the main protagonists, the story seems to be taking her down a dark path and it will be interesting to see how things develop for her.
The book has a somewhat darker tone than the previous ones in the series and some of the content may disturb sensitive younger readers. Part of the plot involves coffins containing withered corpses being floated down-river to the witches coven so that they may harvest the body parts. When the identity of the corpses is revealed, it really is the stuff of nightmares and parents should consider this when allowing very young children to read the book.
The story is, essentially, a bridge to the next book in the series and readers looking for a resolution to the various plot lines will be disappointed. There are rather too many individual stories going on at the same time and it feels as though Colfer has given himself too many plates to spin. Each chapter seems to introduce a new story arc and some, like Bree's story, are barely skimmed over. The author has set himself a monumental task for his next book, with a whole tangled mass of plot threads to neatly resolve. I also worry that by the time the next book comes out, I may need to re-read this one in order to remind myself of what is happening with each character.
Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the latest instalment in the series and wait with bated breath for the next one. Please don't keep us waiting too long. Many grateful thanks to the publishers for my review copy.
This is book 4 in the series and new readers will struggle with the storyline if they dive right in at this point. We recommend starting at the very beginning with The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms by Chris Colfer at Amazon.com.
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