A couple of weeks ago I posted a link to “Molly of Mars” and thought it was a solid story, and the author’s series could have had a small run from a traditional publisher (assuming the author wanted that). This week’s book WAS traditionally published, way back in 2007, and after reading it, was surprised it didn’t sell better. If you’ve never heard of Fablehaven, but want to find a book you might have missed, here it is. Upper Middle Grade (UMG)
*note: I am an Oxford Comma-nist. So there.
Where I found it: Barnes and Nobles, a PHYSICAL STORE! If you can believe those exist anymore.
Plot: Kendra Sorenson and her younger brother Seth are sent to stay with their grandparents because, you know, convenient family vacay that doesn’t include the kids. And of course the grandparents are keeping a magical secret and just so happen to want to share it with their grandkids.
After the first four chapters, the plot comes through. Kendra and Seth learn about Fablehaven, a magical sanctuary which protects magical creatures, good and bad, from being discovered by the outside world. Think a wildlife preserve you can’t see. Early in the book Seth finds a witch bound by ropes. If she gets free, she intends to unleash an ancient evil.
As I must, anyone who writes a children’s fantasy series must be compared to The Greatest Book Series Ever Written (other than the Bible). In fact, it actually was. So, here goes: Mull loses on originality. Both use trolls and witches, but there was more creativity from Rowling when it came to magic spells and the objects and creatures of the world. Fablehaven is generic fantasy, in terms of creatures and world-building. Also, the book is very long for a book officially aimed at kids (353 pages for book 1- longer than the Sorcerer’s Stone, which was 309 pages). That is a minus point.
Having said that, I was more hooked at 26 years old on Fablehaven than I was at 11 with the Sorcerer’s Stone (disclosure: It was the Chamber of Secrets which got me interested in the Harry Potter series). Seriously. Now the Potter series I expect is better, which I presume having not read the final four Fablehaven books. But Fablehaven goes toe-to-toe with the third-most-famous-Harry-from-the UK. Because the plot is so sound, I will give him his point back for my previous mentions. 2/2*
Style: There were a few times in the beginning when the author did the ol’ switcheroo with character viewpoints within chapters, something I don’t like. Then, he stopped doing it. I won’t dock him for the switching in chapters because he only did it a couple of times. Seth annoyed me in a kid-like way, acted immature, which is exactly what I want to see: an eleven-year-old who acts and speaks his age. 2/2
Editing: Well polished, with a consistent story. I spotted no errors in the plot or in the proofreading. 2/2
Book Cover: Just look at that adorable black creature with razor-sharp spikes on its jet black back. Yes you’re adorable, you cuddwy thing, you. 2/2
Intangibles: If you like Harry Potter, you WILL love this one. No, it will not grab you quite as much, but you will feel Kendra’s sense of urgency when something terrible happens to her family. No magic wands or spell classes, but you will get to know Fablehaven and why it matters. The second book in the series is set up nicely. 2/2
Overall: Like Molly of Mars, I have to give a top score for this book. Even if I thought it was a little too long for book #1 for UMG or not original enough I’d award him a bonus for the plot anyway. Too bad for Brandon his series never caught more fire, and thus did not become the “heir” (translation: another pre-teen book series which catches a sliver of Potter’s fire) For those waiting on the movie version, try Kickstarter. I’d go to see it, but I doubt Hollywood is going to ever get around to making it. 10/10
Buy the book here
Visit the author’s site here