Fablehaven is Brandon Mull‘s first in the series of the same title. The cover features endorsements by bestselling authors like Christopher Paolini (Eragon) and Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game). It’s an attractive book. The type of cover that calls out to kids (and adults like me) with a key scene and makes you wonder, “Now what is this all about then?”
Here’s the plot summary: When Mom and Dad win a cruise, Kendra and Seth Sorenson go off to stay with their grandparents. Little do they know that their grandparents are the caretakers of a magical preserve for mythical creatures. And when Seth decides to break some of the rules, the whole family is in danger. With enemies like wily witches and powerful demons, Kendra and Seth find help from a couple of rule-breaking satyrs and the Fairy Queen herself.
I don’t want to go to into detail here because it is a great read, and I would hate to spoil any of the twists that the author so skillfully weaves in.
That said, here are a few things that the author does well that we could all learn from.
Character Dichotomy – Kendra is definitely the protagonist, as we see the majority of the story through her eyes, but her brother Seth is the one who really moves the plot along, so I consider them both to be main characters. The great thing about having two main characters is that you can draw from their differences to enrich the story. Kendra is the quiet reflective one who follows orders well. Seth is her polar opposite. Either way, readers will have someone with whom they can identify.
Making It Worse – I sometimes feel bad for my own characters when I take them from one bad situation and place them in a worse one, but as long as we have characters that people care about, it is a great way to draw readers into our story and increase tension. Mull does a great job of both creating characters that we care about, as well as making them do things that make us cringe. I found myself often cursing Seth as I read because of the bad decisions that he made, but in the process, I was really saying that I care about these characters enough to want everything to turn out well in the end.
Parenting Tips – It’s kind of funny that in a story where the parent’s are absent (though not dead or completely out of the picture), real life parents would be able to pull so much out of the story in order to teach their kids. Many of the characters lend to teaching moments for parents who are reading this book with their kids (or teacher with their students). Things like, “Do you think it was a good idea for Seth to go off the path after his grandfather told him not to? What happened as a result?” Stuff like that.
Illustrations – I realize that this isn’t the author’s doing specifically, but kudos to the publisher (Aladdin – an imprint of Simon & Schuster) for including some excellent graphic illustrations in the book. They are one of the perks of the novel that have nothing to do with the story, but everything to do with the reading experience.
If you are a writer, check out this link for Brandon Mull’s advice to writers (young and otherwise). And whether you are a writer or not, pick up a copy of Fablehaven.