Book Review: ‘Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague’ by Brandon Mull

Posted: 24 April 2013 in Book reviews
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I shall try to keep this review somewhat shorter than the last. I’ll try, but I make no promises.

Book 3 in the Fablehaven series begins on preserve with Seth doing some bartering with the Satyrs Doren and Newel. In order for the satyrs to keep their part of the bargain (gold for the batteries he brought), they plan on taking the gold from the nipsies. Nipsies are very tiny master artisans with penchant for shiny objects. When they got to the Seven Kingdoms (where the nipsies live), they found something unexpected: a darkness had contaminated a couple of the kingdoms and they had waged war on the other kingdoms. This is befuddling to Seth’s grandparents (since he ends up having to tell them about it). Nipsies do not have a fallen state like the fairies (who become imps when they fall). Later they see what they believe to be a fallen dwarf.

While the grandparents try to figure out what is going on, Kendra is taken to a meeting of the Knights of the Dawn with Coulter, Warren and Tanu. Because of her being fairykind, she is being admitted into the order as one of their youngest entrants. The society is very cloak and dagger. They wear masks and keep their identities secret to keep them safe from the Society of the Evening Star.

Once she gets her knighthood, she gets her first assignment the same night. One of the secret preserves is called Lost Mesa and is in Arizona. Their assignment is to recover the artefact. As with the last one, this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. Their first task is to access the mesa. The way to the top is hard to find and the one they typically use is known as the Twilight Way (because the can only find it at night), but they can’t find it. One night during a storm, Kendra happens to notice a stairway under a cascade of water. The group ascended the stairs and interrupted a rain dance by supernatural entities. A battle commences in which they lose Tammy (the girl from the preserve meant to guide them through the traps). They manage to get almost all of them through safely. The first obstacle was to navigate stalactites across a chasm. The second obstacle is crawling through a room of chokepods (a bubble that when you touch it, ruptures and produces a toxin that almost instantly kills you then later liquifies you) into a hole in the centre of the room. Then they have to pass a dragon. When they enter the room with the artefact, they find it gone, having been secretly relocated to Fablehaven.

Back in Fablehaven, they were having problems of their own. First, more of the creatures on the preserve were turning dark. Some dark fairies attacked Seth in the yard and Tanu and Coulter as they were checking out the nipsies. Tanu escaped thanks to a gas potion, but Coulter simply vanished. One evening, Seth sees a shadowy figure approach the house. The strange thing is that no one else can see him. They think he is playing a trick on them until it is revealed that the figure is actually Coulter. He wants to show them something, but grandpa isn’t sure he is the same Coulter they knew. Then later Tanu turns into a shadow after being attacked by Newel (who is now in a darkened state). Both Coulter and Tanu try to get grandpa and Seth to follow them, but grandpa won’t. So Seth sneaks out and follows them. Getting out of the yard doesn’t go that easily and grandpa ends of going with them. Their destination is the lair of Graulas, a once highly formidable demon. There, Seth learns that he is immune to magical fear (a byproduct of removing the nail from the revenant), the the Sphinx is the real traitor, that the prisoner from the Quiet Box is actually Navarog (an evil dragon prince), and that the plague of darkness was created by Kurisock (another powerful demon) and an unknown accomplice after Navarog delivered the nail to him.

When Kendra returns to Fablehaven, all hell seems to break loose. She is barely back a day when the brownies become infected and turn the house into a deathtrap. They escape the attic by rolling a rocking horse down the stairs which disengages most of the traps. Once everyone is out, the head to the pond (where the fairy queen’s shrine is). It is the only safe place they can go. They get attacked along the way, but otherwise arrive safely. There were tons of creatures there. Seth was excited about the centaurs, but Kendra needed to talk to Lena about the location of the Lost Mesa artefact. She tells them that it is located in a safe at the old manor. Getting there is going to be no easy feat. Since the enclosure was surrounded by dark creatures, they had to devise a plan to escape. The only way was to create a diversion. They tried to get the centaurs to help, but they only relented when Seth offended the honour of two of them. It worked and they made it there.

Once the group was inside, the attempted to make it to the room with the safe. Before they could get far, intense fear froze everyone but Seth. Then an apparition appeared. It turned Seth’s grandparents into shadows and shortly thereafter Warren and Dale. All Seth could do was run to the room, unlock the safe and grab the artefact. He presses a couple button in panic and suddenly Patton (a long dead relative) appears. They escape the house and return with Hugo to the enclosure. Patton ends up duelling a centaur in Seth’s place before visiting Lena (who leaves the water once again when she sees him). Lena has with her the silver cup that Kendra needs to visit the fairy queen’s shrine. The fairy queen understands the direness of the situation and destroys her shrine there in order to create an object with enough power to destroy the nail and the darkness it has produced.

The relationship between the two teenagers and the fantasy world has obviously expanded. Kendra, now a knight, has this idolised relationship with the fairy queen, while Seth has a new link to the dark. Interested how they are pretty much the exact opposites in every aspect, including magic. Seth is still as reckless as ever, but we are beginning to see a difference in the defiance than in the earlier books. He doesn’t just disobey because he is rebellious. He understands more that certain risks need to be taken not because it’d be cool, but because if those risks aren’t taken then opportunities might be missed (as when he follows shadow Coulter and Tanu to see Graulas). Kendra is as cautious as ever, but she doesn’t let her cautiousness keep her from doing what needs to be done. It would seem that both of the kids have learned some of the traits of each other. It is really fascinating seeing their powers develop. I personal love the powers that Seth has.

So we have also been introduced to a handful of new characters that will be prevalent in the upcoming books. The first is Dougan. He is a Lieutenant in the Knights of the Dawn and the commander of Kendra’s first mission. There really isn’t much to say about him. He is strong and the leading type, but otherwise we aren’t privy to much else about him.

The second character is Gavin Rose. He is the son of famed dragon tamer Chuck Rose (who was eaten by a dragon). No one even knew he’d had a son. He has a stutter and seems quite timid and reserved, but don’t let that fool you. He is very confident in what he can do. Kendra even develops a crush on him.

The last new character of note is Patton Burgess. He was a keeper of Fablehaven and a notorious adventurer. He and Seth are quite alike. Patton earned to love of a Naiad (Lena), killed a dragon, stole the artefact from Lost Mesa, earned the respect from many creatures (including the centaurs) in Fablehaven, and was very smart. In fact he is key to their success in this book and the next two. He is quite a cool character and to be honest, I’d love to have had some of the adventures he had.

Book3 definitely doesn’t disappoint. Mull does a great job in developing the characters further and creating an interesting plot for each book. It is well worth the time to sit and enjoy. If you don’t already have the books, I will once again post the link for the boxed set on Amazon(better to get them all at once as you will want to continue reading all of them once you start). There you go. Enjoy 😉

Fablehaven Boxed Set

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