Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull

I spent Sunday morning reading Brandon Mull’s debut children’s fantasy novel Fablehaven, and found it to be something of an emotional rollercoaster: this imaginative, fast-moving story had a lot going for it—which, unfortunately, made its weaknesses all the more apparent.

Kendra and her brother, Seth, have been sent to visit to their eccentric, reclusive grandparents for the first time ever, and it promises to be a weird trip—their grandmother is missing, and their grandfather informs them that the woods surrounding the house are absolutely off-limits. Seth (who spits on stern safety warnings) ignores that rule, and his illicit trips into the forest uncover a mind-boggling secret: their grandparents’ land is actually a magical wildlife preserve, full of fairies, satyrs, trolls, and witches.

Fablehaven is at its best when it focuses on the preserve and its inhabitants. The house and grounds are described in glowing detail and stocked with memorable otherworldly creatures. Mull has a gift for creating scenes of vivid, kid-appropriate horror, and several of his outstandingly creepy images—a wailing baby on a rooftop, a shriveled old woman tied up in a shack—will linger with readers long after they've forgotten the details of his plot.

On the down side, the book's human characters are uniformly one-dimensional. Seth is the rule-breaker, Kendra is well behaved and obedient, and their grandfather is a generic “wise man” character, full of vague-but-dire warnings. Readers aren’t given any sense of the characters' inner selves, and therefore never get to know any of them well enough to care about their various predicaments. (On the contrary, after watching Seth flout the rules again, and learn nothing from the consequences again, I found myself hoping that something truly awful would happen to him.)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Fablehaven might actually make a better movie than it is a book. A great film adaptation would showcase the story's strengths (the action-packed plot, the driving pace, the richly imagined world), while decent actors would lend depth and complexity to its one-note characters.
Posted by: Julianka


05 Dec, 2007 04:11 AM @ version 0

I was on the fence after reading the Amazon reviews, but I'll leave the 1D characters alone.

05 Dec, 2007 05:57 AM @ version 0

I was more irritated by the pointlessly weird setup. (The reason the main characters are going to their grandparents' house is because their OTHER grandparents asphyxiated in a trailer and insisted in their will that all of their children go on a Norwegian cruise.) Seriously--if you're going to use something that weird to kick off your book, then you need to DO something with it.

Anyway, I liked this book okay, but I think the Sisters Grimm series handles similar subject matter better.

18 Jan, 2008 10:01 PM @ version 0

I loved the book and really can not wait until the third book is released. This book kept my interest throughout and would recommend it to anyone, avid reader or not.

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