In my ever continuing search for YA fantasy, I’ve come across another great series. This one, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, is about Kendra and her brother Seth who are forced to visit their reclusive grandparents while their parents go on a cruise. But Grandma is visiting some unknown aunt and Grandpa is acting strange–strict, full of rules that are strange. Seth, the rebellious one of the two siblings is determined to break all the rules while Kendra, the obedient but inquisitive older sister is determined to discover the truth about Fablehaven. What she discovers is that the property is actually a magical preserve for mythical creatures like fairies, satyrs, and naiads. And there is something threatening the preserve.
Like Riordan does with the Percy Jackson series, Mull manages to weave mythology with modern times to create a new, exciting reality. His world bears some similarity to that of the Sisters Grimm, magical creatures relegated to a particular place, but the similarity ends there. His world is utterly his own. He explains things like why cows are worshiped in some parts of the world and what it’s like to look at the world from the perspective of an immortal. But he manages to go further, examining the idea of good and evil, of the virtues of rule-breaking, of what secrets are best kept or revealed, of whether mortality or immortality is a better life to live.
Mull has created a rich and imaginative world that always keeps you guessing. The writing is solid and though some of the lesser characters (such as Dale the caretaker) could use some more personality and backstory, the main characters are well-defined and distinctive.
The series has another four books for me to read (one coming out this March) and I can’t wait to get started on them (though I’m reading Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games at the moment so it will have to wait until after that).
Nearly every review I’ve seen about this series mentions Harry Potter. I hate that every series about magic is now compared to Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a great series, JKRowling has had a level of success that is unprecedented, but it isn’t the be all and end all of children’s fantasy. Yes, it is the degree of success that everyone aims for, but you can’t replicate the series in some other form. Some other good series will take its place. JKR has opened the door for kids to love reading and and they will search out other series that capture their imagination, but they won’t expect a duplication. Fantasy series will have similarities, but every one is different. They should be judged on their own merits, not merely in relation to another one.
Either way, I think Fablehaven stands on its own. And I hear that it is in the works of becoming a movie. Can’t wait to see that.