Visiting the Happily Ever After amusement park is every child’s dream . . .
until Taylan and Colby find out that the characters aren’t just people dressing up.
They are real Ever Afters trapped in the parks and battling it out with the dark ones every night. If Taylan and Colby can’t help them, then the Evil Queen might take over the park for good.
Will they be able to survive the chaos of the park after dark?
Everyone knows fairytales are not real, which is why Taylan is angry when her mother decides to punish her for telling her younger sister exactly this while queuing to meet her favourite princess at the Happily Ever After amusement park. Livid at the unfair punishment, Taylan and her brother Colby set out to prove once and for all that everyone in the park is just a good actor.
But what they discover might be more than they bargained for, as they find themselves tangled in a secret battle between the good and the evil Ever Afters. As none of the familiar tales reflect the truth, Taylan and Colby will have to decide who among the Ever Afters can be trusted, defeat the Evil Queen before she takes over… and try to make it out of the park alive.
The Land of Fake Believe is a highly original and captivating take on the recent fairytale retellings trend, geared towards a middle-grade audience. The fast-moving plot is engaging, delivering a well-paced combination of action, reveals, and character development. There was never a dull moment and the slow unveiling of the workings of the park and different Ever Afters’ true stories kept the story moving forward while providing a solid worldbuilding base. Quite a lot of this happened through dialogue and exposition, which occasionally resulted in a few info-dumps, but it didn’t massively affect the flow and engagement.
The characters were well drawn, if not particularly rounded, which would probably not have worked as well for an older audience but is highly likely to not be an issue for the target audience. Taylan is the centre of it all and she was a lovely character to follow, as she struggles with the typical issues of a young girl her age while discovering a whole new world of magic and facing great evil. The sibling relationship was especially well crafted, and a fair bit of growing up was involved by the end of the book, which was great to see.
The Ever Afters were also fascinating characters, and it is clear that a good deal of creativity and detail went into crafting the amusement park setting, characters’ backstories and their dynamics. It was a pleasure to discover all of this as it was slowly unveiled, even though at times certain characters came across as a bit lacking or incomplete.
Although the majority of the book was well-paced, the ending itself felt slightly rushed, which was a shame after having spent so long getting into the thick of things, but there seemed to be a suggestion of a second book to come so we may get to spend some more time with the characters after all.
Overall, this was an extremely pleasant read despite a few minor issues and would suit a younger audience as well as any grown-up who loves a good twist on fairytales and an amusement park setting.
This review was originally published on Reedsy Discovery.