Brandon Mull – Series Addiction

So this time I made sure there more in the series before I started on book one of Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.  There are five in the series, all published, and I just finished book three, Grip of the Shadow Plague. Needless to say, I love them! These might be good reading for someone who loved Harry Potter, because although there is no school for wizards, the two protagonists, brother Seth and older sister Kendra, are immersed in magic up to their necks when they visit their grandparents at what turns out to not be a ranch but a magical preserve, sort of like a wlidlife preserve but for magical creatures.  Their grandparents are the caretakers, and hope to pass on the job to Seth and Kendra.  And so begins their training. 

   
Ok, I just went down the rabbit hole looking for images of the covers, and there is a lot of wonderful fan art, including sculptures, of the different characters in the books, like the lovable golem, Hugo, who is made of earth and twigs and rocks, is about ten feet tall, and can easily carry Seth and Kendra comfortably in his huge palms while running away from baddies to the sanctuary of their grandparents’ house.

So, yes, there are naughty magical creatures as well as friendly ones. But they have just as much right to be there as the benign creatures, and there is a pact at Fablehaven that does not allow any creature to kill another, so that keeps mayhem in check. Sometimes.  Of course there are loopholes, and there is a rival organization to the caretakers of such places as Fablehaven, The Society of the Evening Star, who want to do away with all magical preserves and release the power of some really nasty demons upon the world.  

Seth and Kendra find themselves battling for the survival of Fablehaven, learning skills from different magical tutors, and gaining special powers as a result of some of these battles.  Their parents have no clue what’s really going on, as they are not receptive to the idea of the existence of magic.  Too bad! So the kids find themselves forming new bonds with not only their grandparents, but with their tutors, and even with some of the magical creatures.  Some of the tutors will turn out to be traitors, but some will be loyal to the death.

This is an engaging, exciting series full of magic, but also down-to-earth enough to include sibling rivalry between Seth and Kendra, and each kid deals with their own age-appropriate challenges that every kid reading this can relate to.  Seth is always looking for adventure, so he has a habit of breaking the rules, which gets them all into serious trouble at times.  Kendra is book-smart but doesn’t feel brave enough to deal with some of the unexpected challenges thrown at her.  She sometimes wonders if it would be better never to have known about Fablehaven and her grandparents’ secret.

  
Oh, did I mention Mull has written several other series’ as well?  When I couldn’t wait for my hold on the next book in the Fablehaven series to come in to the library, I grabbed this one: The Candy Shop War. I mean, how can you resist that title? I couldn’t. If you’re not into fairies, satyrs, and naiads, check out this action, that happens right in town. When a new candy shop opens, pals Nate, Summer, Trevor and Pigeon stop in on their walk home from school.  The proprietor, Mrs. White, offers them some free candy if they’ll help out around the store. They willingly agree. At first, she just wants to them give white fudge to all their families and friends, but warns them not to eat it themselves.  This seems a little odd, but they do as they are asked, and pretty soon they notice everyone eating the fudge is oblivious to what’s going on around them. Then Mrs. White starts asking them to steal things, artifacts that will assist her in some kind of treasure hunt.

With each new task, the group gets new magical candy to try out, which is fun, but they start to question whether or not they are doing the wrong thing, and whether they should trust this woman. Then along comes another magician, someone they all thought they knew, and the kids have to decide who to trust. It’s not an easy decision, and probably one a lot of children can relate to (minus the magic), trying to figure out which adults in their lives are trustworthy and which are just using them for their own gain.

There are two books in this series, and it’s very different from Fablehaven, although just as entertaining!

Ack! What Have I Done?!

Oh no! How did I get myself into this  mess?  You’ve probably done the same at one time or another–thought you were safe, just picked a title off the shelf with no prior knowledge of it, right?  So you start reading this randomly chosen book, and you find it’s really good, you’re completely engaged, when suddenly you realize–it’s the first in a series, and the second one hasn’t been published yet!

  

I hate it when I do this to myself.  Oh well. The book in question is called The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare. I’ve read Black’s Doll Bones and vowed to read more of her work, when this popped up on the shelf in front of me.  

The basic story is that there’s a magic school (the Magisterium, also the series title) that kids with special talents are going to, and Callum really doesn’t want to go.  All the other children treat their selection as a special honor, but not Callum.  He tries to fail his entrance test, but they choose him anyway. From as far back as he can remember, Call’s father Alistair has told him that the Magisterium is evil, that it uses children, that the teachers don’t care about the children, and that magic is nothing but trouble. But now that Call is stuck attending the Magisterium (you can’t refuse to go), he finds that he’s enjoying himself.  Yes, it’s unpleasant to be underground all the time (think boarding school in caves), and the teachers can be demanding, but the food is really good, and for once he doesn’t stick out as the weird kid (he’s got a permanent limp from a childhood accident). He’s got a talent for using magic, and for the first time ever, he’s making real friends who care about him.  This is confusing, and makes him feel disloyal to Alistair, who is still adamantly opposed to the school and trying to find a way to get Callum home.

A Prologue hints at why Alistair is so bitterly opposed to the use of magic: as a young mage, Alistair was the one to discover that the Enemy had tricked the Magisterium and its army, so that while their greatest warrior mage waited on the battlefield, the Enemy slaughtered the women and children in the Magisterium’s hideout. The only one left alive was Alistair’s infant son, Callum, and if his wife’s dying message was to be trusted–“kill the child”–he should have died as well.

I really enjoyed the complexity of this story, how the sides of good and evil are unclear, and even though it’s about magic, that experience of trying to figure out who to trust in the adult world when you’re a kid is all too familiar.  That transition period that you go through when you realize you can’t just rely on your parent(s) to figure out the world for you, it’s an important time.  Lucky for Call he’s got real friends now to help him.  I look forward to reading the next in the series, which is supposed to be out in the Fall, so I shouldn’t complain, I don’t have to suffer too long, and I’m already on the library’s waiting list for it.