By reading these words, you have nominated yourself to recover the Key Word.
Move swiftly. The knowledge you now possess marks you for prompt execution.
The first syllable is “A”.
I’ve loved Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series for a while now. It’s that perfect blend of adventure and fantasy, with a strong and sassy sister/brother pair of protagonists in Kendra and Seth that connect to both the female and male readers – a perfect sell for a Teacher-Librarian like me. When the series wrapped up with book five, I mourned the passing of the series, and wondered what I might find next to spark the interest of my rabid ‘series hunters’ in the fantasy genre.
Never fear – Brandon Mull had my back! The new series, Beyonders promised to be as fun and adventurous as the previous series, and I looked forward to starting the series. I had my chance when the wonderful people at Simon & Shuster sent me books 1 and 2 for review.
Here then, is part one of my thoughts. Part two will be posted once the second book in the series is released on March 13th.
Beyonders #1: A World Without Heroes
Jason Walker is a teen who loves baseball, hanging out with his friends and is, in most ways, an average kid. What’s not so average, however, is his fall into the hippo pond at the local zoo – a fall which leads him to the mysterious land of Lyrian, ruled with an iron fist by the evil wizard Maldor. Jason becomes part of a greater quest to retrieve the mystical symbols that will create the word that will defend Maldor and restore peace to the land – if he can survive the journey. Along the way, he encounters a fellow “Beyonder” – that is, a person from Beyond – named Rachel, and various unique characters that will both aid and hinder his quest.
What I loved about this story was the quest. Truly, this is classic storytelling, complete with monsters, seemingly unattainable tasks and bursts of outright courage and bravado. The voyage to discover each of the syllables that form the mysterious word of power – syllables that cannot be written down or spoken aloud, lest the bearer’s memory be erased – is a perilous one, and Jason, Rachel and their travelling companions must encounter mythical obstacles in order to succeed. That the quest is for a mystical word of power appeals to the English major in me; fighting over language as a message of power is a fantastic premise!
Jason is a wonderfully drawn character; I’ll admit that he didn’t draw me in at first, but as he grows and develops throughout the voyage, he becomes a wonderful heroic figure. His growing loyalty to the people of Lyrian and to his friends is admirable, and his decision-making at the end of the book had me cheering on the sidelines.
The sheer variety of characters they encounter on the way – and the way that Mull does not shy away from illustrating the hardships and violent nature of the journey – keep the reader entertained throughout the book. Between sacrificial musicians, huge boarhounds, mystical librarians (yay!) giant Titan crabs, dismembered displacers, blind kings and other incredible figures, Jason and Rachel’s journey is never dull. They run from one dangerous and thrilling encounter to another, sometimes together, sometimes apart, but always on the journey for the elusive next piece of the puzzle.
My only quibble with the book is the start; Jason is far more interesting a character as he travels the Lyrian world, and it takes a while before he leaves our world for the challenges of the fantastic world beyond the Zoo. I would have liked to learn more about Rachel; she comes across as a bit of a know-it-all, and we aren’t given much of the story in her perspective. I’m really looking forward to learning more about her in the next book of the series.
This is a fantastic addition to the middle school fantasy roster, and I recommend it to both the male and female students in the library. My student beta testers LOVED the book, and are also eagerly anticipating the sequel; various treats and bribes have already been offered for the next installment, but they will have to wait until the 13th (or until I’ve finished with it!) just like everyone else. Want more info? Check out the link below from Simon & Schuster about this great series!
Beyonders Series Overview