Beyond the Kingdoms: The Land of Stories, Book 4

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Beyond the Kingdoms: The Land of Stories, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Twins and friends fight magic villains in exciting sequel.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Some historic detail as the plot jumps around in time, including 19th-century Copenhagen and remarks such as, "Well, just like I said to Lewis and Clark, North America ain't gonna explore itself." Since the story involves forays into several other books -- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Robin Hood, Peter Pan -- it may inspire kids to read these books if they haven't already and to consider alternative versions of the stories.

Positive Messages

As usual, strong messages about kindness, friendship, collaboration, and the importance of each being's particular talents. Also frequent platitudes, such as, "Maybe greatness isn't about being immortal, or glorious, or popular -- it's about choosing to fight for the greater good of the world, even when the world's turned it's back on you." Colfer seems to see fairy tales as a superior substitute for religion, offering the idea (on pages 285–6) that fairy tales were given to human children to give them something to believe in. He also tends to caricature religion as backward and barbaric: "I was buried alive for two weeks once ... That's when I learned to ask questions before participating in a religious ritual, no matter how cute the islanders are."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fourteen-year-old twins Conner and Alex always try to act for the best, even when it's not appreciated. They continue to have a strong bond and often come to each other's rescue. Always-annoying, self-centered Red develops leadership skills and self-reliance as she tries to rescue her imprisoned fiancé. Conner's classmate Bree, along for the adventures in Book 3, tells her parents more whoppers and goes off on unauthorized adventures -- again, to save lives and kingdoms.

Violence

Grotesque descriptions of witches' rotting body parts, hanging eyeballs, and the like. Characters, including children, are kidnapped and imprisoned; some have their life force drained away by a witch and die; one bit of scene-setting involves coffins with dead bodies; assorted characters and factions are at war with others and perfectly willing, sometimes delighted, at the thought of killing their adversaries. Sometimes they succeed. Villainous characters hit one another. The Tin Woodman revisits how a witch cut off his limbs one at a time, then cut off his head and split open his body. A mother forcibly extracts the magic from her son and kills it, drowning it in a stream.

Sex

Two teens in love: "They lay under the stars and kissed each other until there was no moonlight left for the potion to absorb." A married character is pregnant, and there's much reference to hormone surges. The villain relates how he seduced and and married a character from Book 3 as part of his takeover plot.

Language

Some juvenile humor, such as:

"'Wait, what's a Winkie?' Red asked.

"'A Winkie is how my parents told Alex and me apart when we were infants,' Conner said, and laughed hysterically at his own joke -- although nobody joined him."

Consumerism

References to events in the previous books in the series could serve a marketing purpose. Occasional references to commercial products, such as Mother Goose exclaiming "Yahtzee!" in a triumphant moment.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Hard-drinking Mother Goose returns and spends quality time getting sloshed with Merlin. She also notes, "The last time I had pixie dust was 1964, and the next day I woke up on top of the Brooklyn Bridge with a tattoo of John Lennon on my ankle."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beyond the Kingdoms, Chris Colfer's latest installment in the Land of Stories series, continues the barrage of unlikely elements -- fairy tales, wisecracks, magic, pop culture, slapstick, gross-out, violence, low-level innuendo, teen romance, and facile platitudes -- concocted to keep the pages turning right up to the edge of the next cliff. With appealing 14-year-old twin protagonists trying to do their best to do the right thing and save a world, befriending a raft of fairy-tale and book characters along the way, Colfer has a successful formula -- and isn't afraid to use it. Expect grotesque descriptions of witches' rotting body parts, hanging eyeballs, and so on. Characters, including children, are kidnapped and imprisoned; some of them have their life force drained away by a witch and die. Villainous characters hit one another. Two teens kiss. Hard-drinking Mother Goose gets sloshed with Merlin.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHyoh M. July 11, 2017
Parent Written bywendel h. April 27, 2017

just plain crap.

don't even bother buying your kids this book.
Kid, 11 years old September 9, 2015

This is one of my favorite series EVER!!!:)

Chris Colfer did an AMAZING job on this book. I've read all four and they are really good. They are the perfect thing to read if you are wondering about t... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old September 5, 2015

Best Book Ever

This book is so so good I don't even have the words for it!!! But a fair warning, it is ended with a cliff hanger, but still very good! I hope the fifth bo... Continue reading

What's the story?

Following the events of Book 3, things aren't looking good for the Land of Stories: A sinister character who looks just like Alex and Conner's late father is determined to destroy the kingdoms and kill or imprison their residents. He's so determined that he's using a potion to go into assorted books -- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Robin Hood -- and recruit their evil forces to his cause. Right behind him, the 14-year-old twins and their friends also enlist assistance as they take their quest BEYOND THE KINGDOMS -- but will they be too late?

Is it any good?

Revelations, evil villains, wisecracks, and resourceful young heroes return in an onslaught of disparate elements that may not quite gel, but you'll be too busy flipping pages to notice. Mother Goose drinks like a fish, teens in love ponder self-sacrifice, innocents suffer, and worlds collide as over-the-top villainy threatens the fairy-tale world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about the idea of taking characters from one story and putting them in another. Have you seen this done in other books? Do you think this is an interesting technique, or is the author being lazy to use existing characters?

  • Do you believe in destiny, especially as something you're obliged to follow? How do you see this notion in play in your daily life?

  • Do you believe fairy tales are supposed to teach moral lessons or just be good stories?

Book details

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