Title: Fablehaven (Fablehaven, #1)
Author: Brandon Mull
Genre: Children, Middle Grade, Fantasy
Themes: Honesty, Bravery, Curiosity, Discovery
Publication Date: June 7, 2006
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Siblings Kendra and Seth are brought to their Grandpa’s farm to be taken care of as their parents go on a cruise. What seems like it would be a boring time ends up being an unforgettable experience that the two are sad to return home.
Grandpa Sorensen’s farm is a magical land filled with some fantastical creatures. However, when Grandpa isn’t 100% forthcoming to the kids, one of them makes a grave mistake. One that leads to an evil that wants nothing more than to destroy Grandpa’s magical sanctuary, Fablehaven. Can everything be restored to the way it once was? Will everyone come out safely in the end?
I have had this children’s/middle grade book on my list to read for quite some time now. As I waited for another book to come from the library, I decided to begin this series.
Fablehaven left me with very mixed feelings and thoughts. I’ll start with the positives. I love that the kids’ grandfather has this unique world he takes care of and manages. The author paints a fun and creative picture of the types of creatures that can be found in this world. It was also great to learn the different parts of Fablehaven. There’s the sweet side, mostly on Grandpa’s farm; then, there’s the beautiful, yet dangerous side where the naiads reside; finally, there’s the dangerous and creepy side where true evils can be found. I found myself wanting to learn more and see what else Brandon Mull has stored up.
It both interesting and irritating how the children (and the reader) are only given partial truths. It can be a good storytelling technique – just give a little more and a little more every chapter or every few chapters to keep the reader invested in the story. However, since the children were only given partial truths, then mishaps happens (sometimes severe) and it could have been prevented if only they were told of the real consequences from the beginning. I can’t remember how many times this happened here, but it was enough to be bothersome and tedious to read.
In addition, I found both Seth and Kendra fairly unlikable. Seth is meant to be a mischievous young boy, but his antics were just selfish and unkind, with again sometimes severe consequences. Then, when he is portrayed as the brave one of the two children, I just ended up rolling my eyes. When reading about Kendra, I found myself getting frustrated with her. Though she is kind and a rule-follower, she was portrayed as kind of unintelligent and her younger brother seemed to understand things more quickly. At the end, she showed more bravery, which was good, but most of the book she seemed to rely on her brother to be more courageous. In general, it becomes challenging for me to enjoy a book to its fullest if I can’t latch on to at least one character. Unfortunately, I didn’t latch onto anyone.
As a side note – there is a bit of animal cruelty here that I could not get on board with. Gosh, if what was done to this animal done to me, I would be pain for quite some time…
Finally, there was the writing…for most of the book, I did not mind the way the author chose to share his story. However, there was a section that I wanted to pull my hair while reading. It was when the children were arguing with an adult about letting them go on a dangerous trek. The “conversation” between the three just kept going and going and going. As the reader, I knew they were going to join the adult and I can understand the need for some push back, but it was too much here. It didn’t add to the plot and, in fact, it dragged the plot unnecessarily and made me less excited to begin the path of the story’s climax.
Overall, I started out loving this book, then it took a turn and it left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. I’m not in a rush to continue the series, if I do end up continuing, unfortunately.
Perhaps middle-grade children who enjoy fantasy and reading about a hidden world would enjoy this read.