Friday, 18 March 2011

Book Review: Fablehaven

Title: Fablehaven
Author: Brandon Mull
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Country: United States of America
Edition / year: 1 / 2007
Pages: 352 pages (paperback)
Genre: Fiction - fantasy, adventure

So at first I was attracted to its cover. Who wouldn't? It's glowing green and it has a perfect layout with a central focus. The central focus is rather unusual too—a curious old female with a sinister look holding a rope in a way that there is something about the rope. The figure in itself already gives an interesting premise. Of course we all want to know more, don't we?

The first of the series introduces the magical preserve of Fablehaven to the readers as well as to the main characters: Kendra and his younger brother Seth. Fablehaven houses endangered beings of the netherworld: fairies, satyrs, ogres, trolls, centaurs, and many others, including creatures of darkness. Most of the harmful creatures are kept off the yards and gardens surrounding the caretaker's house, but those magical defenses fade off on some particular nights, and those are when all things are free to wander around. One such night is approaching, when Seth fails to obey their grandfather's command, dark beings wreak havoc in the house. Kendra and Seth find themselves all alone in the morning, house badly damaged, adults missing, and now it is up to them to restore the order in Fablehaven before it's too late (because a bad bad front cover witch is on the loose!).

Fablehaven is no doubt a very good fantasy. It's a page-turner and each chapter offers challenges after challenges, quests after quests, and all are engaging to follow. Readers are made to wonder whether they are facing true harm or just some bulky mass possessing no real threat, and whether they are tracing a significant path or a random track made by innocent beings. Being an American book written by an American author, sentences are shorter and more straightforward than its British fellows. Although, in some parts this American-ness somewhat disturbs the overall magical atmosphere of the story. I'm not saying this is bad, or that America is bad---too political an interpretation for such a simple statement!---but the type of fight Kendra has with his brother, for example, the exchange of insults and interjections, sound a bit too contemporary for their surroundings. But maybe that's just me, remembering that most of my life so far I've been exposed largely to British adventure novels.

Many of the creatures are classic especially to the European folklores, but like J.K. Rowling, the author manages to add his own twist so that the familiar becomes the strange. To say that Fablehaven is the new Harry Potter, however, is a bit of an overstatement for me. Fablehaven somehow still lacks the depth of Harry Potter. Maybe this book is targeted to younger audience? I don't know. As an adult I just don't find the same eerie details and foreshadowing of the Harry Potter world in Fablehaven. In Harry Potter, you can read it again and again and still be able to recognise new things or pick up new symbolism (why didn't I see it there before??). This isn't the case of Fablehaven.

Those of you who are only looking for a great memorable story, don't worry, Fablehaven is far from being a disappointment. Truly, I even ran to the bookstore and bought the rest of the series because I was so captivated by the first book. Nevertheless, don't get your hopes too high just because you read a review somewhere saying that Fablehaven is going to replace the legacy of Harry Potter. It's not. But it WILL satisfy you enough.

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