Brandon Mull quietly invaded the juvenile fantasy scene in 2006 with his excellent first novel, Fablehaven, and now seems determined to stake out a large section of the reading real estate for himself. A second Fablehaven novel was published in 2007 and a third is forthcoming. In the meantime, he’s started another fantasy series with the publication of The Candy Shop War.
The conceit of Fablehaven is simple and elegant. There are sections of land that have been set aside for the preservation of mythological creatures, and caretakers have been appointed to manage them and see to their needs (as well as keep some of them from doing evil, but we’ll get to that).
13-year old Kendra and 11-year old Seth Sorenson don’t know much about their dad’s parents. They’ve rarely seen them because they’ve never been to visit their grandparents and their grandparents always seem too busy to come see them.
But when their mom’s parents die in a tragic accident, they’re suddenly off to their grandparents’ farm for an extended stay during the summer. Of course, while they’re there, Kendra and Seth find out what the Big Secret is.
The first part of the book is interesting and keeps readers turning the pages, but with the secret given away so readily by the intriguing cover and the back cover copy, it’s hard to not want to push through to the magical sequences. Still, the characterization and set up of Grandpa and Grandma Sorenson and the other household staff (including Lena – the housekeeper what used to be a naiad, Dale the farmhand, and Hugo the golem) are necessary.
The scene where Seth discovers the witch tied up with the knotted rope and playing with her limberjack is especially creepy. There were a lot of chills throughout the novel, and I have to admit that the Midsummer’s Eve assault on the farmhouse by the wicked fantasy creatures kept me glued. My son constantly asked, “What’s going to happen?” over and over through out that encounter, and he was only giving voice to what I wanted to know as well.