It's not often I talk about non-Oz books on this blog. When I do, they have some connection to Oz, usually their author or illustrator. In this case, I initially had no intention to write about this series on this blog. But, well, when the latest volume has the Emerald City, the Tin Woodman and the Yellow Brick Road on the front cover, you gotta reconsider, right?
The series at hand is The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer, who is popular for playing Kurt Hummel on the TV series Glee. However, he branched out into writing with a screenplay titled Struck By Lightning and later got it produced, and also went into publishing with a novel adaptation of the screenplay as well as the series at hand.
One of Napoleon's armies was attempting to march to the fairy tale world, but were fooled by the Brothers Grimm into a portal that was inactive. However, the portal is now active, and an army of thousands is arriving in the fairy tale world. With only a little time, the fairy tale kingdom must muster its forces to fight the invaders and a threat they haven't faced in centuries: a dragon.
And yes, the first book they have to enter is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They manage to get to a slightly different part of Oz and have the Tin Woodman join them as they hurry to stop the Masked Man from meeting the Wicked Witch of the West. However, things aren't going to be quite so easy. Their journeys will also lead them to meet Peter Pan, the Queen of Hearts, Merlin and Robin Hood.
Since Colfer's take on Oz is supposed to be them actually entering the book, he has his work cut out for him sticking to Baum's world. (So note, they don't actually go to Oz and mess up the story, they enter a realization of the book.) Colfer wisely limits his character use to just the Tin Woodman and Wicked Witch (with brief appearances by Dorothy and her family early in), and sticks to character quite well, actually. The Wicked Witch doesn't make much of an appearance, but Colfer describes her in a manner matching W.W. Denslow's pictures.
Colfer's writing style is quite enjoyable. His biggest strength is characterization, having a wide array of characters in his books. There's the lively Mother Goose, who has a wide variety of acquaintances when she visited "the Otherworld" (our world, as C.S. Lewis would call it) and enjoys a supply of "bubbly" with her giant goose Lester. There's renegade Goldilocks and her love Jack (who once climbed a beanstalk) and Queen Red Riding Hood who enjoys pretty dresses and high culture. And there's Froggy, who is seemingly based on a popular fairy tale, but also seems to owe a little wink and nod to a more obscure Oz character, the Frogman. And that's just some of the major characters in the series!
There also seems to be an overarching plot in the series, but to discuss that further might drop too many spoilers. It might be coming to a head at the end of Beyond the Kingdoms, or else we might be in for a huge twist.
Overall, I'm really enjoying the series and would recommend it to any Oz fan who might want to try some more recent fantasy series aimed at today's youth. (And, y'know, Chris, if you ever wanted to write an actual Oz book... we wouldn't say no...)