Kathryn Wesley,
The 10th Kingdom
(Hallmark Entertainment, 2000)

You live your life in the Big Apple, so you might expect things to be a little extra-ordinary, or at least a little strange. When you work as a waitress, however, you rarely expect that strangeness to include dogs who are princes, princes who are dogs, trolls, evil witches and another world that you only dreamed could exists. Thus is life for Virginia, who is thrown into the world of The 10th Kingdom after taking in a stray dog who is more than he seems to be. Virginia moves by magic and mayhem through her world and into another where fairy tales not only come true, but are the standard of life. Snow White Memorial Prison is home to the greatest criminals in the kingdoms, and watch out for the land where Jack used to live, because it is overrun with giant beanstalks.

This novel is based on Simon Moore's transcript for last year's NBC mini-series of the same name. The story is a fairly simple one of a everyday girl who learns that she is special through a mission to get home (think Dorothy), and incorporates just about every fairy tale ever done by Disney and then some.

The beauty of this book, however, lies in it's familiarity. The whole thing reads like a fun set of inside jokes, which any reader who know fairy tales can be privy to. The familiar stories are woven together using the backdrop of the 10th kingdom, where all of these things really happened, but given a modern twist with the moves in and out of New York City and with our modern heroine, Virginia. Though crossing that line into fantasy, which some people still don't like to do, the story reads more like a fairy tale than anything else, and even non-fantasy readers should be able to let their guards down in this very familiar territory.

The writing in The 10th Kingdom is by no means the best that I have ever encountered, but points are given for readability. The text is easy, and if not for the length (nearly 500 pages) I would recommend it for younger adult readers. The characters are not overly complex, but Virginia, her father and the enigmatic Wolf are all interesting enough to keep a reader engaged throughout the book. Another high point is the fact that this does not read like a made-for-TV book. The writing is good, and it is not simply dialogue with descriptions of setting attached, which many scripts turn into in book form. Though not one of the most memorable things I have ever read, I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a fun, engaging read that takes you through familiar stomping grounds on a wholly new path. Now I just need to find the many hours to set aside to watch the TV version.

[ by Kristy Tait ]

Buy The 10th Kingdom from Amazon.com.