Book Review: ‘Fablehaven’ by Brandon Mull

Posted: 7 April 2013 in Book reviews
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Well hello there. I was in England for for two weeks over Easter and am finally able to sit down and write another review. The next five reviews are going to be for Brandon Mull’s five book ‘Fablehaven’ series. I’ll just say it now that I love this series. I won’t elaborate on why just yet. I’m sure you’ll be able to tell from what I write.

The story starts with siblings Kendra and Seth begin taken to their reclusive grandparents in Connecticut. Following the accidental deaths of one set of grandparents, their parents were to be sent on a 17-day cruise with other relatives, children not invited. Nor of course were they invited to stay at Fablehaven, the estate that the Sorenson’s (the grandparents) had inherited. Kendra had overheard her mother talking with Grandpa Sorenson and she did not have high hopes for this trip. As they had no other alternative, Fablehaven it was.

Their stay started out a little apprehensive but things quickly mellowed out. They were shown to their room, given some instructions (such as to stay out of the forest), and left to themselves. Then things got strange. While swimming, the kids notice many insects and other flying creatures interacting curiously with a mirror. While exploring the forest (a blatant breaking of the rules), Seth discovers an eerie woman living in a shack. Kendra sees Dale (a helper on the estate) setting out tins of milk for the insects, but evades her queries into the milk. Seth then finds a park with a pond and a gazebo. But it isn’t until Kendra and Seth solve the mystery with the keys Grandpa Sorenson gave Kendra that all the curiosities start to make sense. The are directed to try to very milk that Dale had warned her not to drink as it was filled with dangerous bacteria. What it really did was open their eyes to all the fantastic creatures hidden in plain site in the guises of normal creatures.

By solving the puzzle, the kids have shown their Grandpa that they are the type of people worthy of learning the secrets of the preserve, that is what Fablehaven really was. Fablehaven is one of five secret preserves located all over the world. It is home to dryads, fairies, demons, satyrs, centaurs, naiads, and a witch (the woman Seth encountered), among countless other mythological creatures. They have now become a part of a fantastical new world that is a deadly as it is beautiful. They are protected largely by a law of retribution, basically an eye for an eye. Seth learns this lesson the hard way when he captures a fairy which results in her turning into an imp. The fairies retaliate by turning him into a mix-n-match creature. The only way to get him back to normal is to have the witch do it.

Seth’s actions end of having far worse consequences than anyone could have known. Midsummer Eve was approaching and the most the fairies that helped prepare the safeguards for the house were unwilling to help. Hugo (a faux golem) helped do most of the grunt work, but sadly the preparations were to not be enough. To make matters worse, the kids were warned to stay in the attic (the only truly safe place in the house) and not to look outside. Did they listen? Kendra did. Seth didn’t (which is not really a surprise considering his track record for disobeying). The result was some creatures getting into the attic. Thankfully nothing happened to either of them (and the pet chicken they were also tasked to care for), but  when they woke the next morning the house was destroyed, their grandpa and Lena were kidnapped, and Dale was turned to metal. To top it all of, it turns out that the chicken they were to watch is actually their grandmother.

The next task was to get their grandmother turned back into a human. They are instructed (through asking questions) to get the witch to change her back. What Grandma Sorenson didn’t realise was that the witch had only more knot keeping her imprisoned (that will make more sense when you read the book). With Grandma Sorenson human again and the witch freed, the three begin their search for Grandpa Sorenson and Lena. Their first stop is to consult with the troll Nero. They hope to have him see into his seeing stone to discern where grandpa and Lena were. Their bargaining tool is a massage, which he accepts.

Now with a destination in hand (the Forgotten Chapel), they return to the house to prepare. Grandma Sorenson relays to the the history of the preserve as well as telling them about the other preserves and the Society of the Evening Star. She also tells them of the incredibly dangerous demon Bahumat at the Forgotten Chapel that Muriel (the witch) is trying to release. If they don’t hurry, the preserve would fall and they all would die. With the help of Hugo, the arrive at the chapel. They venture inside and down into the bowels of the building. In the basement they find Grandpa Sorenson and Lena chained to the wall and Muriel (now restored to her formal self) working on releasing the demon. Grandma Sorenson commands Hugo to attack the imps that were filling the room and capture the witch. Before long, all but Kendra are captured because she has not worked any mischief and damaged the treaty. Her only option is to escape. She quickly hurries to the park where the shrine of the Fairy Queen is located. She knows it is dangerous and that she might die, but if she doesn’t try, then everyone would all die. Her need is dire. Would the Fairy Queen respect her need and grant her access?

As I said in the beginning, I love this series. The story is very well developed and the characters are unique and interesting. I’ll quickly do a recap on the characters.

In book 1 there are seven principal characters and the bad guy. The main two characters are the siblings Kendra and Seth. Kendra is the older of the two and the more responsible. Seth craves adventure which usually gets him into trouble as it is often a result of his breaking some kind of rule. Kendra is fairly lever-headed and cautious. She doesn’t often do things that would result in anything disastrous. Seth is just the opposite and to the point of annoyance. He doesn’t seem to understand that the rules were set in place to protect them not hinder them. He doesn’t really consider how his actions will affect others. Granted he is only 11 years old.

Their grandparents also tend to have quite polar personalities. Grandpa Sorenson is generous and willing to give second chances. Grandma Sorenson is no nonsense and is very solid. She does not forget and forgiveness doesn’t seem to come by very easy with her. While we only see them a handful of times (the grandma obviously much less than the grandpa), it isn’t very easy to get a good idea to their personalities.

Dale has some cameo appearances, but plays a much bigger role as the books progress. We learn he has a brother Warren on the preserve whom he cares for. Otherwise, he tends to the preserve with the grandpa.

Lena is a former naiad who left the pond because of her love for a human. She is spurned for it, but it doesn’t really bother her. She has been alive for quite a long time but has finally started to slow down. She is an amazing cook and quite a nice person. She is able to help the kids adapt to their new understandings.

Hugo is the faux golem. I know it is strange considering him as an important character is the story as he is a mindless mound of dirt and stone, but that is just how he is seen for book 1. He is one of my favourite characters in the series.

Of course, the bad guy is Muriel. At one time she was a caretaker for Fablehaven, but her dabbling in the dark arts resulted in her being imprisoned. She is quite powerful.

There is so much I could praise the book for. As I stated earlier, the story is very well developed and presented. The characters are unique and interesting. The writing and grammar are excellent. All of that put together create a literary experience that I hated having to put down. You become entranced by the trials these children go through and their tenacity and courage. On top of it, as this is a teen book (and by an LDS author) there is no harsh language, sex, drugs, or anything else inappropriate for the intended audience. So if you are looking for a book that will transport you to that fantasy world you want to disappear to, this is a great series to delve into. Enjoy 😉

p.s. Here is the link for the boxed set on Amazon. I suggest getting them all at one time as once you finish the first you will immediately want to start the second 😉

Amazon Fablehaven Boxed Set

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