A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Author Chris Colfer gallops headlong through and past several zillion subjects without pausing to give any of them deep consideration. From phrases in French and German to comments on Napoleonic wars and historic sites of England and Germany, as well as riffs on Lord of the Flies, his seemingly slapdash narrative may launch young readers into various studies on the side.
Strong messages about family love and the strong bonds among family members; loyalty to friends and companions; courage, kindness, collaboration, and plenty of creative thinking. Helping others, even when they're not especially grateful. Inclusiveness, in private life and public affairs, and judging people as individuals instead of making assumptions because they belong to a group. Valuing everyone's particular talents.
Positive Role Models
Believably flawed but appealing 14-year-olds Alex and Conner are creative, brave, and selfless as they protect loved ones and community. Though Alex, as the future Fairy Godmother, is conscientious to a fault, Conner's problem-solving skills are often risky and involve breaking rules, kidnapping an old lady, and more, all to save the Land of Stories. Supporting characters reveal the right skills in the nick of time, even if they've spent much of the tale being annoying.
Violence & Scariness
As in previous installments, good characters face constant danger -- to themselves and their worlds -- from evil ones. A beloved character dies; other characters are shot, kidnapped, imprisoned, incinerated, or devoured by a dragon. Battles with artillery and hand-to-hand combat (but not much gore) take place on- and offstage. Much of the violence is cartoonish but often dark: "The remains of the wooden soldiers were piled in the center of the prison. Many pieces, such as the legs and hands, still twitched. The general poured lamp oil over the pile of the fallen and lit it on fire so the prisoners above could watch the guards who had held them captive burn."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Both Alex and Conner, now 14, deal with their first crushes, but the romances don't go beyond a few brief kisses. A married character becomes pregnant, and an ill-fated past romance resulted in a child who's been spirited away. Unwanted marriage looms as a hazard for several characters, while others enjoy domestic bliss.
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Several uses of "screw" as a verb, both as "screwing things up" and "Screw the code!" (referring to the fairies' Code of Magic). Low-key innuendo and double entendre that kids may miss.
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Products & Purchases
Frequent mentions of real-life tourist attractions as part of scene setting; references to events in previous volumes, as well as literary works including Lord of the Flies and the tales of the Brothers Grimm.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The Mother Goose character is constantly drinking and often drunk; a number of her past adventures involve drinking buddies and seedy bars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Grimm Warning, the latest installment in the Land of Stories series, delivers still more of author Chris Colfer's frenetic but deft mash-up of unexpected elements. Here the now 14-year-old protagonists reunite and bring a few friends on their quest to save the fairy-tale world from a new peril: one of Napoleon's nastier generals, who's brought his Grande Armée along to conquer the place. Hair-raising adventures and questionable decisions abound (a lie here, a kidnapping there). Characters face many dangers, and some, including beloved ones, die from guns, swords, fire, and dragon attacks. Amid the excitement, teen heroes deal with their first crushes and first, brief kisses; there are occasional bits of crude wordplay ("kick your ashes") and jarring language, such as, "Screw the code!"
Is It Any Good?
Chris Colfer has the plot-device generator set on stun, racing at warp speed through Europe and fairy kingdoms while bombarding readers with wisecracks, pop culture, teen angst, and tender moments. You (and the characters) never get a chance to savor the moment or go, "Wait, what?" as the narrative juggernaut lurches along with lots of twists, terror, and life lessons. But as Colfer brings the fantasy adventure to the edge of yet another cliff at story's end, there's plenty to be resolved in Book 4.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.