31 Days of Post, Day 3: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer (Review)
Before I begin my review, I have a confession to make. I do have a bit of a celebrity crush on Chris Colfer. Will this affect my ability to fairly review his first novel? I hope not. But let’s get to it regardless.
The Wishing Spell is the first book in a projected duology called The Land of Stories. The series follows twins Alex and Conner Bailey as they stumble into the Land of Stories. To return home, the two must complete the Wishing Spell. But the deposed Evil Queen (from Snow White) is after the spell for her own ends.
This novel is really good. One of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a while.
Mr. Colfer shows himself to be a wonderful storyteller. The narrative has moments where the pacing and flow are just amazing. Especially towards the end and any chapters staring the Evil Queen.
And his characterizations. . . some of the best I’ve seen. Especially in a new writer. He does an especially amazing job with the twins. Alex starts out the novel as a rather disagreeable character, but as the novel progresses her pain at being an outcast and her desires regarding the Land of Stories makes her ever more likeable. Conner surprised me. Though the less intelligent sibling, his common sense and bluntness is endearing. He is, by far, a favorite character of mine in this book. The supporting characters are all equally well done.
But I must give special mention to his treatment of the Evil Queen. Some of the best chapters in the novel are centered around her antics and machinations. Even when she is at her worst, there are still shards of sympathy in her depiction.
While The Wishing Spell is one extended scavenger hunt in a fairy tale world, there is also a very interesting exploration about the meanings of fairy tales going on.
At the beginning, there is a strong sense of the traditionalist view of fairy tales. Both Mrs. Peters and Alex argue that there is only one interpretation, one moral. This sentiment is challenged by Conner in a number of ways (like his novel interpretations of “Sleeping Beauty” and “Little Red Ridding Hood”). The debate continues throughout the novel as Alex tries her best to conform to the letter and spirit of the fairy tales while Conner continues to challenge prescribed actions. This extended debate is one of the pleasures of this novel.
Now, are there issues? Yes. Mr. Colfer’s writing is by no means perfect. This novel does have a number of flaws.
One huge issue is the tendency to tell rather than show. The narrative at times, especially at the beginning, seems to talk down to the reader (though that does seem to be a common issue with most children’s literature).
Another issue is that, again very early, it appears that the narrator is talking directly to the reader. Clearly that is a mistake because it never shows up again (and why the editor didn’t catch it I don’t know).
The middle of the novel, the Wishing Spell Scavenger Hunt, is a bit repetitious as the twins collect all of the needed items.
But the ending really knocks everything out of the park. The final act is amazing. And I love the final passages. It left me wanting more.
To conclude, Chris Colfer’s debut novel reveals him to be a very talented storyteller. As a first time novelist, he does display many of the flaws that plague first novels. But, he also shows a bright future ahead if he ever wishes to continue writing novels beyond The Land of Stories series. I know I’ll be looking forward to them.