I approached Fablehaven with wary curiosity and interest. I'd heard that it was a fabulous series. I'd read another book (Candy Shop War) by the same author and had enjoyed it. However, I was a little concerned and wondering how fresh and new this story would be, especially considering the market saturation of young books centered around modern day kids/teens interacting with magic and fantasy in our modern world. So perhaps I went into this book being more skeptical than I should have been. In the end, however, I found this to be a fun and engaging read.
As I mentioned above, the high-level concept felt initially a little overdone…a pair of young kids visit their grandparents' estate only to find it teeming with magical creatures and then they find themselves in the middle of a fantastic adventure. So yeah, from a high level, it feels similar to a lot of other stuff out there.
Fortunately, Mull brings a level of freshness and excitement into the story that sets it apart enough to leave me not only enjoying this first book but also interested in following the series.
Our two young heroes are quirky and fun. Sometimes they felt a little "old" for their age, but generally they felt realistic and likable. I enjoyed the brother-sister dynamic as well as their sometimes polarized personalities. Kendra is methodical, thoughtful, insightful and careful. Seth is headstrong, curious, action-prone and one who leaps-before-he-looks.
The world of Fablehaven is curious and intriguing. Each of the adults who live and work at Fablehaven have their own backstory and unique elements to bring. The wide variety of creatures and regions on the Fablehaven estate are also deep and interesting. Mull did a great job creating a vivid world with vivid characters. Elements of the plot reminded me of other books I'd read recently but the core details are different enough to make the story fresh and exciting.
As an adult, I really enjoyed this book. As a parent, I have no problem having my kids read this if they want to (in fact, my oldest has just finished plowing through the series). As a kid in the target audience (~9-13?), I think this fantasy adventure would be a lot of fun and really enjoyable. By having two central characters, a boy and a girl, I suspect the story will be accessible and relatable to a wider range of readers.
The writing is simple and easy to follow for young readers while also having enough depth to keep older readers engaged. The mystery and intrigue of the plot is well developed enough to make kids feel smart rather than talked down to even in the more in-depth parts of the narrative.
This is a great start to the series and I look forward to reading more.
4.5 out of 5 stars
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