Protagonists: Alex and Connor Bailey haven't been back to the Land of Stories in nearly a year, and when they get back things aren't quite as they had left them. One of the things I was hoping to get out of this installment was some serious character development in our two protagonist and while we do get that, it happens a lot less gradually than I would have liked. Maybe I missed the subtle hints, but regardless of whether or not there were hints these characters still developed way too quickly. For a large portion of the book they were how they were when we left them at the end ofThe Wishing Spell, however fairly close to the end there's a moment when they change and develop but it happens so fast that I had wished it would be more gradual and less like a spell had been cast upon them that forced them to mature a bit more (just to be clear that was a metaphor and not a spoiler.)
World-Building: I love how much more of this world we got to see. With a large focus on the villains of fairy tales we are treated to back stories and twists to the classic tales that we know and love. While some of these villains have nearly redeeming backstories there are others that are evil for the sake of being evil, I appreciated this mix because it's hard to believe that everyone at one point was good, or that no one is evil for evil's sake. While shades of gray exist so do black and white. My only complaint is that with seeing so many villains, it's hard to see who could oppose our heroes in future installments. There are more parallels to the Narnia books, which the characters even comment on, and believe it or not there is an appearance by a Narnian character, but that's all I'm saying for now. Another thing that this book does was take some fan favorite minor characters and give them a larger part in this new journey which makes for the most hilarious group of travelers you could ever think of.
Predictability: I was actually surprised with how surprised I could be with the twists of this installment. While there were moments that were fairly predictable there was one moment in particular that I was so utterly shocked, not only by the gravity of the revelation and the impact it had on the story, but also by the fact that the twist could have been fairly easily figured out if the pieces didn't seem so unrelated. There were a few other moments that weren't as shocking but still caught me by surprise, mainly because things never really worked out in the way I would have thought.
Ending: It wasn't until the very last sentence that I let out a breath of relief. Up until then I was so convinced that this series was going to be made into a duology, because up until then everything seemed to be ending. Not ending in the way the first book had, where a sequel may or may not happen, but a real, honest to God ending that no one could come back from. So up until the very last line I was scared that this series would end far before it's time. Luckily my fear was all for nothing as the last line delivers a very definitive answer as to whether a sequel would be written.
I may have loved this installment a bit more than the first one though I think that may just be my mind playing tricks on me as the first installment to this series was beyond amazing. I would highly, very highly, recommend this series to those who enjoy their favorite childhood stories being twisted and reinterpreted in fun and thought provoking ways.