© 2006 Brandon Mull
Grandma's dead, but she left money for the family to go on a cruise with. Correction: she left money for mom and dad to go on a cruise with. The kids, Seth and Kendra, get left with their other grandparents -- the creepy ones that never come to parties, who live out in the middle of nowhere with signs warning that Certain Death awaits trespassers. But at least the attic is filled with toys to play with, and there's a chicken the kids can treat as a pet while they're there. True, their other grandma is missing and the woods are Strictly Offlimits, but it could be worse. They could be on the cruise, eating fish eggs like their parents. Little do Seth and Kendra know that they're in for a decidedly exciting few weeks.
After getting into trouble for sneaking into the woods, the two are told by their grandfather that he is in fact the guardian of a very special kind of nature reserve -- a reserve dominated by magical creatures, like fairies and satyrs. A great deal can go wrong on a job like this, so it's imperative that they follow the rules.So naturally, they don't, and soon they've got a destroyed house and a missing grandpa. Left to fend for themselves, the kids must outwit a wily witch who is determined to free a demon from his prison, without being drowned by naiads, vaporized by fairy magic, or turned into a hearty stew by the resident ogress.
Fablehaven is the first book in a larger series, and though it hasn't quite gotten its hooks into me I enjoyed it well enough. The initial premise of two ordinary kids finding out they're heirs to magical status and then immediately thrown into a battle between light and darkness is a little wearing after having read Rick Riordan's series, but Mull sets up an interesting dynamic between his two main characters. Kendra, the narrator, is prudent to the point of timidity; Seth, on other hand, is recklessly brave and gets the pair into trouble. As much as I might prefer Kendra's attitude to Seth's, sometimes ignoring the rules and crashing into danger is required....especially when your entire family is trapped by a witch. Fablehaven has a fascinating world; the preserve is governed by a treaty, with fundamental laws like that of the harvest; actions beget consequences. No creature can harm another, or trespass into another's territory, without losing the magical protection of the treaty. When Seth accidentally hurts a fairy, he is exposed to their wrath, and turned into a walrus. I liked that Mull writes not just to entertain, but to provoke kids into thinking about particular issues -- consequences and the need for balance between caution and courage, for instance. Fablehaven's magical environment seems a bit scattered at the moment, in contrast to Riordan's way of tightly connecting his characters' abilities to a particular mythology, but perhaps more order will emerge as I read further into the series.