Monday, June 9, 2008
by Brandon Mull
Kendra is not excited to visit her grandparents while her parents are away on a cruise. She hardly knows them, and she overheard her grandfather trying to talk he mom into having someone else watch them. When Kendra and her little brother, Seth, arrive, they discover that grandma is away tending to a sick sister. Grandpa gives the kids some strict rules (under no circumstances can they go into the forest or the barn), but allows them free reign of their bedroom and the gardens. Unfortunately, Seth is a bit of a mischief maker and is quickly exploring the forbidden areas, dragging Kendra along for the ride. Eventually, the kids discover that the place they are staying at is actually a preserve for magical creatures that their grandparents are the caretakers of. When Seth brakes another rule, he allows some evil mythical creatures to kidnap his grandfather, and the two kids must work together to try and save him and the magical preserve, Fablehaven, as well.
There's a lot to like about Fablehaven. I thought Kendra was a rather intriguing character. There was a lot about her that reminded me of me - especially her inability/unwillingness to break rules, willingness to tattle on disobedient little brothers, etc. Her determination to figure out the secret of the keys was impressive though - I'm not sure at 11 I would have continued looking after the first day or so. I thought as the story progressed she seemed to grow up and mature a bit, though there is a lot of potential for more growth in the sequels. Especially with some of the new developments at the end of the story.
I struggled more with pretty much every other character. Grandpa was pretty grumpy. Even once we learned why (trying to protect the kids and all), it was kind of frustrating. Especially since most of the problems would have been easily resolved if he had just been honest with them. The whole time I just kept thinking "tell them the truth!" Hopefully now that the big secret has been released (the house being a magical preserve), grandpa will be more honest with the kids.
I also really didn't like Seth much. I know a foil was needed for Kendra's goody-two shoes character and Seth fit that well, but it was annoying how little punishment there was for him. Like I said, I'm a rule-abiding citizen (to a fault) and it just kind of grated on me.
In general, it seems like when an author wants to show character development in kids, the kid has to start off pretty annoying (Lloyd Alexander's Pydain Chronicles are a good example of this one). Has anyone else noticed this?
However, even with the fussy characters, I really enjoyed the story as a whole. The magical creatures were all really interesting, and I hope the future books will focus more on them. We really only interacted with some fairies (never named), a nasty old witch, and some demons. It seems that there should be a lot more creatures on a preserve, and hopefully that will come out as the series continues.
Overall, it was a fairly quick and easy read, and I would recommend it.
4 out of 5 stars
Posted by KT at 10:45 PM