by Brandon Mull
First sentence: “
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy sent by the publisher because this is my January book group pick at work.
Content: Some mild fantasy violence, and one intense scene. Resides happily in the middle grade (3-5th grade) section of the store, though the language may be a bit difficult for the younger end of the spectrum.
People have been telling me for YEARS that I need to read Fablehaven. That they LOVE Fablehaven. That it’s brilliant. So I jumped at the chance to pick it for my 3-5th grade book group.
Seth and Kendra are off to spend a couple of weeks at their grandparents’ house while their parents are off on a cruise. The thing is: this is the side of the family they don’t know very well (you know there’s always one). Their grandparents are reclusive, and they’ve hardly seen them. In fact, their mom had to beg and plead in order to get them to let Seth and Kendra to stay there. So no one is really expecting things to go well. This feeling is exacerbated when, upon arriving, Seth and Kendra are shuttled off to the attic and told to stay either there or in the yard.
(Complaint #1: REALLY? I’ve heard of controlling parents, but controlling grandparents is a first. I wanted to smack Grandpa for this. “It’s for your safety.” BAH. It’s a middle grade fantasy novel. Lighten up. Also: if that’s the way he treats the creatures in Fablehaven, I’m not surprised at the way he treats his grandkids.)
The kids are complete opposites. Kendra follows everything to. the. letter while Seth is the macho end of things and completely disregards Grandpa’s rules. (Complaint #2: why is it that 11-year-old boys are often
portrayed as brats? I don’t have a son, so I don’t know if it’s typical. But I wanted to smack. the. kid. I also wanted to shake Kendra: lighten up a little, girl.) This not only leads to the discovery that Grandpa’s house (Grandma’s “missing”; she turns up later, just in time to help save the day. Which leads to Complaint #3: while Seth did a grand job creating conflict, the kids did very little in solving it. Sure, they were there, and they helped, but they didn’t DO much of anything.) is full of fairies and mythical creatures, but also to Seth creating a whole bunch of havoc.
And the book is already half done.
(Complaint #4: It seems like authors use series books to be lazy with world building. They take half the book SETTING THINGS UP and then hurry to wrap things up — or not — in the second half. *sigh*)
I wasn’t much interested in Seth or Kendra much after the halfway point. They did some stuff, they got Grandpa into deeper hot water, they rescued Grandma, blah, blah, blah.
I just didn’t care.
Perhaps this was a victim of high expectations. Or maybe it was reading it after reading So Many Cybils books (it wouldn’t have made my shortlist!). Or maybe it was lousy world building, with obnoxious characters, excessively floral language, and an uninteresting plot.
But it could be me.