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Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

February 3, 2021

Alex and her twin brother, Conner, fall into a strange world and take a dangerous and exciting adventure. This adventure leads them toward knowing more about their family and themselves. The Land Of Stories: The Wishing Spell, by Chris Colfer, is an exciting story of many tales from many children’s books: from Jack and the Beanstalk to Sleeping Beauty. Some of the characters in these familiar stories are not what they seem in this strange twist of a world, and the reader gets to see their true selves. Alex and Conner find lots of friends but many enemies, too. With adventures into the sea, mines, lairs and castles, the twins collect important pieces so that they can find a way home, but it is harder than it seems.

With action-packed and challenging missions, Colfer allows Conner and Alex to find their way into a lot of trouble, and they have to do some dangerous things to get out. What Colfer does to set the scene for more books in the Land of Stories series is have Alex make friends she never had before, so she changes as these new relationships form.

Alex and Conner lost their dad a few years ago to a car crash, and their mother had to sell the bookstore they owned, in order to take a full time job that meant she barely saw the twins except on break. Alex is twelve just like Conner and loves to read, so in school she knows all the answers to all the questions.  Everyone dislikes her because she acts like a teacher’s pet. Colfer shows that Alex doesn’t have any friends and is lonely, while Conner is the complete opposite. He is not as smart as Alex in school, but he plays a big part in their trip into the Land of Stories and reveals how smart he is, even when he falls asleep in class nearly every day and has many friends, unlike Alex. Readers will like how Colfer made Alex and Conner so different in some ways, yet similar at the same time.

I appreciated this book because Chris Colfer is a very descriptive and thoughtful writer. For example: 

“It was, undoubtedly, a witch, and although they had never seen a real witch to make a comparison to, she was more grotesque than they could have imagined. Her skin was wrinkled and pale with a yellowish tint. Her eyes were bloodshot and bulged out of her head. She was hunched over and had an enormous hump on her back.”

“Hello, children,” the witch said. 

I love how much description Colfer puts in, without ever dragging out the moment or slowing the pace. My rating for this book is a ten out of ten. I found this novel to be unpredictable, even though it has familiar characters with their stories retold. Readers will never know what will happen next or who will appear next. If you like adventure, fantasy, and twists, this book is just the one for you.


Little, Brown, 438 pages

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

February 2, 2018

Shahrzad is out for revenge. Or at least that’s what she thinks when she marries the murderous Khalid, Caliph of Khorasan, whose pervious brides have been found murdered by the break of dawn. But this time it will be different. To avenge her best friend before her, Shahrzad captivates the Caliph by telling an elaborate fairytale—one in which he must keep her alive to know what happens next. But as days turn into weeks, Shahrzad begins falling for the Caliph. As a result, the underlying secret Khalid and the whole palace have been keeping from the kingdom is revealed. Now they must destroy it, before it destroys them.

This powerful re-telling is based on the book A Thousand and One Nights, and not only has the element of romance, but is also a thrilling page-turner. The perspective switches between the two main characters, Shahrzad and Khalid, giving the reader their separate views on the situation. Ahdieh also employs character development extremely well, as the two personalities complement each other; both try to deny the fact that they love the other because of the positions they’re in.

Another well-crafted feature of this book was the development of secondary characters such as Sharzad’s handmaiden, Despina, whom she becomes close with as the book progresses. Characters like this are built up, and their stories unraveled, resulting in a captivating plotline with mulitiple elements. Ahdieh’s writing sweeps readers into a new land, where they experience the emotions of the characters right alongside them.

Something else particularly enjoyable about the tone of the book was that it wasn’t entirely a romance novel. Ahdieh incorporated this factor into the re-telling plotline, but there was a balance between the two genres. Although this made the novel slightly complicated, the author beautifully crafts the book in an understandable fashion. This allows the story to become complex without confusion.

The diction that Ahdieh uses puts the reader right into the scene, making it easy to picture this time and place through her amazing description and vivid details. The plot comes to life in readers’ minds, and holds their attention to the last page. Another aspect of the book that was interesting was how Ahdieh created Shahrzad as a character. She is nervous and scared, but too proud to show it, which makes for a surprising turn when she begins to fall in love with Khalid.

I definitely give this book a ten for its enticing and well-crafted plot. I recommend this book to students in middle school or above who enjoy fairytale-like stories with a romantic twist. Ahdieh also wrote a sequel to The Wrath and The Dawn titled The Rose and The Dagger, which is a continuation of the previous book and just as amazing. I hope you allow Ahdieh’s writing to transport you into the world of Sharzad and Khalid, and that you find it just as wonderful as I did.


Putnam, 404 pages

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