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Book Review

The Enchantress Returns by Chris Colfer has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the second book in the "Land of Stories" series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

It has been over a year since 13-year-old twins Alex and Conner Bailey learned that their late father came from the Land of Stories, a place where all the characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales live. Originally, they fell through a picture in a book sent by their grandmother, who happened to be the Fairy Godmother. After an adventure, and once they finally returned home, their grandmother took the book back to the Land of Stories. Since then, the children have been waiting impatiently for her to visit, but she has not even written them a letter.

Alex has been taking special classes once a week at the community college in the next town. When she arrives home, Connor seems agitated. Their mother is late coming home from work and a bouquet of roses was delivered to the house. The attached card is from their mother’s friend, Bob, a doctor at the hospital. Bob signed it with the symbols for hugs and kisses, and his note celebrated their six-month anniversary.

Bob has been a good friend to the family, even bringing the children a dog, but the twins are unnerved that their mom might think of him as more than a friend. They still miss their father and are worried about letting another man into their lives. They question their mother when she gets home, and she admits that she and Bob have been dating. She assures them that she will always love their father but that he would approve of her moving on with her life.

A few days later, Bob meets secretly with the children to ask their blessing to propose to their mother. They all conspire to make a special dinner for her the following week. The children wonder how they should tell Bob about their grandmother and the Land of Stories. When the big day arrives, Bob and the children wait anxiously for Charlotte to come home from work. As the hours tick by, they all imagine the worst.

Bob answers a knock at the door, only to be surrounded by armored guards from the Charming Kingdom. Their grandmother arrives with the horrible news that their mother has been kidnapped. She leaves soldiers at the house to guard them and travels back to the Land of Stories to try and save Charlotte. She insists the children remain in the house at all times and not let anyone but Bob visit.

The twins are angry at being treated like prisoners, even if it is for their own safety. They are also worried about their mother. Mother Goose arrives on her giant goose to help take care of the children. Alex figures out that their grandmother may have made another portal at her cottage to the Land of Stories. She escapes one night to find it after Mother Goose has fallen asleep.

Conner catches up with her by flying on the giant goose. The two arrive at their grandmother’s cottage. When Alex concentrates on making a passage to the other world, she ends up transporting the whole house. Unfortunately, she sets the house down in a lake. The twins manage to escape, but the cottage sinks to the bottom.

The twins meet up with their old friend Froggy, who is actually a Prince. He has again assumed the appearance of a giant frog in order to seek out information about the Enchantress. Froggy escorts them to Red Riding Hood’s castle. (Froggy has been dating Red for some time.)

While there, Red receives an urgent message informing her that the evil Enchantress, who had once cursed Sleeping Beauty, has attacked a prison with her evil plants. All the heads of state are requested to attend a meeting at the Charming Palace to discuss how they might combat her. The children insist on going with her since the evil fairy has their mother. Red hides them under the skirt of her dress so they can attend. They learn that Rumpelstiltskin kidnapped Cinderella’s baby girl after the Enchantress freed him.

The fairy council arrives, including the Fairy Godmother. She explains that many years ago she brought the Enchantress, whose name is Ezmia, from the Otherworld when her parents were killed. She lived with the fairies, and as she grew, she became very powerful. At first she had been kind and loving. The Fairy Godmother had believed Ezmia would one day become the leader of the fairies. But as she became an adult, Ezmia became aggressive and cruel.

When someone else was appointed the leader of the fairies, Ezmia fled. She returned to curse Sleeping Beauty, and then disappeared again. Many thought she had died; however, when the Fairy Godmother discovered small weeds growing in the Northeast, weeds like those Ezmia had used to cover Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom, she knew the Enchantress would soon be resurfacing.

Ezmia appears in the castle. She asks all the kings and queens to turn over their kingdoms willingly to her. When they refuse, she captures the Fairy Godmother in a jar and disappears.

Back at Ezmia’s home, Charlotte takes care of Cinderella’s daughter and talks to Rumpelstiltskin. He became Ezmia’s apprentice only because he wanted to escape a life in the mines, the only job available for dwarves. Ezmia arrives with the Fairy Godmother and adds the jar to her collection. She has stolen the souls of the five men who broke her heart in one way or another. When she had first tried to confide her heartbreak to the other fairies, they had laughed at her, glad to see her finally unsuccessful at something. Their scorn and her pain soon led her to seek revenge on those who were hurting her.

The children return with Red and Froggy to her kingdom, only to discover Ezmia has begun her attacks by removing the wall that protects the people. Goldilocks and Jack arrive to offer their help in stopping the Enchantress. Conner finds the book of spells that helped them last time they were in the Land of Stories. He finds another spell, this one to make the most powerful wand in the world. Whoever holds it will be invincible.

The wand is made from the six most prized possessions of the six most hated people. They deduce that the six people are Jack’s giant, Snow White’s evil queen, the Snow Queen, the Sea Witch, Cinderella’s stepmother and Ezmia. The twins, along with Red, Froggy, Goldilocks and Jack, determine to find the objects together. While Red stays behind to supervise the making of a hot air balloon so they can travel faster, Jack and the twins find the peddler who sold Jack the magic beans. They buy the man’s last bean and plant it.

The children travel to the Snow Queen’s kingdom and steal her magic scepter. When they return to the balloon, they discover Red has adopted what she believes is a puppy. It is actually a wolf cub that she names Clawdius.

The next stop on their adventure is Cinderella’s old house. The children learn that the wicked stepmother was cruel to Cinderella because every time she looked at the girl she was reminded of her grief. The stepmother actually feels horrible for the way she treated Cinderella, but no one, except Cinderella, will forgive her. She and her daughters are locked in their house for their own protection so that others will not hurt them. Her most prized possession is her wedding ring, and she gladly gives it to the children, hoping to make some atonement for her mistakes.

As the children search, Ezmia continues her attacks on the kingdoms. She floods the Land of the Trolls, knocks down Rapunzel’s tower and sends her plants to attack Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom.

The twins and their friends return to Red’s kingdom to find the beanstalk fully grown. They climb to the giant’s house and discover that his castle is filled with pictures of the golden harp. It was his most favored possession, and Jack already owns it. They narrowly escape the giant’s huge cat before making it safely home. Jack retrieves the harp, and they set off the following night to find the rest of the items.

Conner is woken during the night by the appearance of a ghost. The woman does not speak to him, and Conner is afraid to mention it to anyone. They return to the Evil Queen’s castle and find her trapped inside the broken magic mirror. She has been cursed to remain in the shards, searching desperately for her lost love. As the mirror was her prized possession, the children take a shard back to the balloon. The various items begin to join themselves together to form the Wand of Wonder.

Their next stop is to make a deal with the Sea Witch. They trick her into giving up some of her precious jewels. The twins are shocked to see their mother’s engagement ring among the Sea Witch’s possessions. They escape her underwater lair, but she destroys their hot air balloon, causing them to crash in the Land of the Trolls.

The trolls take them prisoner. In prison, they discover their mother’s boyfriend, Bob. He slipped through a magical doorway that Mother Goose made. He has been searching for Charlotte and the kids for a week. Conner becomes the object of affection of Trollbella, the queen of the trolls and goblins. They escape from the trolls when Ezmia floods the kingdom.

The ghost appears again to Conner. He and Alex follow it throughout the night and wind up in Sleeping Beauty’s castle. King Chase explains that the ghost they followed was that of Beauty’s grandmother. She was the original Beauty, the one who married the Beast. Ezmia had cursed the Beast because he did not love her. The ghost explains that what Ezmia values most is her pride.

Ezmia builds herself a giant pedestal, the size of a mountain. She sends her vines out to capture all the kings and queens and bring them to her throne. Conner is caught when he tries to save Queen Trollbella from being taken. Ezmia forces them all to give their kingdoms to her.

As she is completing her own powerful spell, one that will open up a portal to the Otherworld so that she can rule it as well, Alex climbs the tower with the completed Wand of Wonder and confronts the Enchantress. Ezmia sends the brave girl high into the air. Fortunately, the wand makes Alex invincible.

She finds herself in a kind of dream, where she talks to the heroes of her favorite stories—Dorothy, Wendy and Alice. They convince her that violence is not the answer to defeat Ezmia. Alex must take away her hate and anger. Alex wakes up to find Bob standing over her. Using the wand, she transforms Bob into a flying horse and rides him back up to Ezmia.

The Enchantress is enraged because although all the kingdoms are now hers, the portal did not open. She believes she has all the items she needs, but she is wrong. One of the things needed is the Fairy Godmother’s granddaughter. Ezmia did not realize that Charlotte was Alex’s mother and not Alex.

When the young girl arrives, she again confronts Ezmia. This time, Alex apologizes for all the wrong people have done to the Enchantress. Ezmia is caught off guard, but shakes off her confusion. When she tries to attack Alex, she discovers her powers are gone. Alex has taken her rage for her wounded pride and so stolen her power. Ezmia uses the wand to cast a spell to kill Alex, but Rumpelstiltskin dives in front of the girl, sacrificing himself to save her. Eventually, the Enchantress disintegrates into nothing.

As the kings and queens celebrate, Bob officially proposes to Charlotte. They agree to get married in the Land of Stories and will have another ceremony with their friends at home. The Fairy Godmother reveals that she will close all the portals to the Otherworld so that no one will be able to cross over again. Alex asks her mother if she might stay in the Land of Stories and study magic under her grandmother.

Charlotte agrees, knowing Alex will never be happy in the Otherworld. Conner cannot believe he must live without his sister, but eventually comes to terms with it. He insists that Cinderella’s stepfamily be able to come to the Otherworld with him so that they might start a new life, free from their past. As he passes through the portal, he realizes his sister is still within his heart. He also knows that their paths will cross again.

Christian Beliefs

The twins’ mother says that she prays she never has to experience the fear she felt when her children were lost in the Land of Shadows the previous year. Conner wonders if it will be awkward if his mother marries Bob and then is reunited with his father in heaven.

Other Belief Systems

The Land of Magic is just that, a place of magic and supernatural happenings. Fairies cast spells to turn people into frogs, harps, gingerbread men etc. The Enchantress uses magic vines to crush buildings and hurt people. The Sea Witch and Ezmia both capture the souls of others and keep them as hostages. Jack says they can convince Red to house the golden harp by telling her it will be feng shui.

Conner sees the ghost of a woman. The woman does not speak to him the first time he sees her. The second time the ghost appears to Conner, he and Alex follow it to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The ghost they followed was that of Beauty’s grandmother. She was the original Beauty, the one who married the Beast. The ghost explains that what Ezmia values most is her pride.

Authority Roles

Charlotte loves her children and works long hours to care for them. She has an open relationship with them in which they feel comfortable talking with her about their questions. She also allows herself to be taken prisoner by the Enchantress to save Alex. Throughout the story, however, the children face life-threatening dangers and save the kingdom, oftentimes on their own.

Profanity/Violence

The name of God is used alone and with oh my. Good lord is also used. The only profanity used is d--n. Other objectionable words are darn and heck.

The Enchantress sends vines to attack the people of Sleeping Beauty’s kingdom. Rumpelstiltskin could hear the screams of the wooden soldiers as their bodies thudded to the floor when Ezmia attacked his prison. When soldiers attacked and killed Ezmia’s family, she used magic to start a fire that consumed her village and all the soldiers.

Ezmia condemned those who hurt her to various lives of torture — turning them into harps or beasts, or cursing them to death. The Snow Queen has polar bear guards that attack the twins and their companions. One knocks Goldilocks to the ground. She breaks the ice beneath it, sending it into the freezing water.

The Sea Witch attacks them as well, destroying their balloon and sending them plummeting to the ground. Ezmia floods the Land of the Trolls, and those in the tunnels below ground must run for their lives. She sends her vines to capture the kings and queens and drag them up to her giant pedestal. She threatens to throw Cinderella’s baby into a fire if the queen will not surrender her kingdom. She holds the Fairy Godmother over the flames as well so the fairies will give up control of the council.

Ezmia throws Alex off the giant pedestal, presumably to her death. Ezmia tries to kill Alex with the Wand of Wonder, but Rumpelstiltskin jumps in front of her, taking the deadly hit and saving her life. Ezmia disintegrates into nothing.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Charlotte and Bob share several kisses. They are not described in any sensual detail. Mother Goose babbles a rather suggestive rhyme that includes a line about rub-a-dub-dubbing with three men in a tub. Ezmia tells the story of the Evil Queen, Evly. Evly’s mother had her out of wedlock.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Mother Goose drinks bubbly that slurs her speech and makes her drowsy. She says Humpty Dumpty fell from the wall because he could not hold his gin.

Gambling: Mother Goose shares how she gambled with cards. She shows up in the Land of Stories wearing a hat from Las Vegas.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org. Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

10 and up

Author

Chris Colfer

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group

Released

On Video

Year Published

2013

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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