Author: Chris Colfer
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 438 pages
Source: Purchased Audio Book
The fifth book in Chris Colfer's #1 New York Times bestselling series The Land of Stories!
In the highly anticipated continuation of the Land of Stories series, Conner learns that the only place to fight the Masked Man's literary army is inside his own short stories!
When the twins and their friends enter worlds crafted from Conner's imagination, finding allies no one else could have ever dreamed of, the race begins to put an end to the Masked Man's reign of terror.
Can the twins finally restore peace in the fairy tale world?
Protagonists: Alex and Conner Bailey once again face a great challenge. After their Uncle Lloyd, also known as the Masked Man, unleashes an army of literary villains and takes over the Land of Stories, the only and best chance the twins have to save the land is to recruit characters from Conner's stories that he wrote based around his adventures, but as they explore these stories to help take back the Fairy Tale Land they love, something far more sinister is going on back in the fairytale world and who knows if they'll be back in time to save everyone. One of the things that I loved about this book is how much is revealed about these characters, specifically Conner, as the twins traverse his stories. At first, the stories have a very shallow, although exciting premise, but as they continue their travels more about who Conner is, his experiences and feelings about his life reveal themselves in elements of his stories. There are many third-person perspectives in this story, each with great development and character building, but, as the title suggests, if this book belongs to one POV it's Conner Bailey.
World Building: I was a bit apprehensive going into this book. The charm and hook of the previous installments of this book relied on two characters traversing classic stories and interacting with this author's versions of the classic characters that inhabit them. However, this book, on a whole, deals with new characters that were created in the mind of Conner Bailey, one of the main characters of this book. Keeping that in mind I was anxious to see how I would like traversing into unknown territory in a series as connected to classic characters as this one is. It turns out... I LOVED IT! Don't get me wrong, there were some trippy moments in the stories, but that had more to do with the fact that many of the characters in these stories are based on the fairy tale characters we already know, such as Goldilocks, Jack, Queen Red, and more. There are also moments with other characters, continuing Bree's storyline from the previous book, seeing (Not-Yet-King) Arthur again, and even learning what the royals and rebels have been up to since the hostile takeover.
Predictability: Normally these books have a good balance of the predictable and the unpredictable. However, I was almost pleased to see that this book had far more twists than I was expecting and many of them were very unpredictable. I love how this author mixes foreshadowing and cliches and still manages to have so many things be as unpredictable as they are. There are many times when I knew that something was meant to always be a surprise, and others when once the twist had come that you could almost follow a trail of breadcrumbs back to where it was first foreshadowed. I loved every twisty moment of this book but there were predictable moments that I know weren't meant to be a surprise that found a way to impact me in a similar, though not the same, way as even the most shocking twist.
Ending: As this story got closer and closer to the end it became perfectly apparent that while this book was at one point meant to be the finale of this series, it isn't so anymore. Granted I'm sure there was probably a tweet or blog post that announced that this was not the end, but I never saw it, so I have a very mixed feel on this ending. On the one hand I'm a bit upset that I thought going into this book that it was going to be the end, however, I'm overjoyed that we're going to get more books in this fantastic series. The final climax of this book was awesome and provided some much-needed information and closure for one character in particular and then we have an ending that if you hadn't gotten the memo by then surely told you that this isn't the final book due to the tremendous cliffhanger at the end.
It's funny looking back how similar this book is with the previous installment, however, that book felt almost like filler whereas this book definitely had the feeling of getting ready for one last battle that will decide the fate of all realms.