(Cover picture courtesy of amaliehoward.com)
For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite…
Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken—Seth is a bit to curious and reckless for his own good—powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.
I have a feeling I’ve read this book before, but I know for a fact that I have not. Maybe it’s because it reads like every other children’s/young adult fantasy novel out there. There was quite a bit of hype about Fablehaven when it first came out and it was hailed by many as the second Harry Potter, but it is certainly not worth the hype. Is it a good book? I would call it a ‘meh’ book but the good elements outweigh the boring ones.
I had a very hard time getting into Fablehaven but had an even worse time sticking with it. Unfortunately it follows the typical kids discover magical place, are stupid and do something to unleash an evil creature and must right their wrongs formula. This formula has been used ad nauseum in children’s fantasy. It’s boring, cliché and predictable as heck. But I can usually forgive authors when they stick to formulas if their characters are great.
Kendra and Seth are ‘meh’ characters. Once again, they feel like typical children’s book protagonists. Seth is always getting into trouble and is a joker while Kendra is serious and never breaks the rules. Snore. Sure, tweens and teens will be able to identify with them, but they are still stock characters with very few interesting or unique traits. I couldn’t muster up the effort to actually emotionally connect with either Kendra or Seth. When I was the target age group for Fablehaven I may have connected with Kendra, but now that I have much more reading under my belt I find both characters tiresome. Call me cynical, but that’s the truth.
The idea of a haven for magical creatures is not new, but it really did have promise. It was not executed badly, but it could have been done better. There’s no explanation for why the magic exists, how the covenants came to be, what the dangerous day-to-day chores on the preserve are, etc. There’s also no explanation for why the giant cow’s milk carries magical properties. It just does. I don’t really consider myself a prudish person or someone that is easily disgusted (not possible when you grow up in the country), but the way Kendra and Seth milked the cow and the detail used to describe the process…it was distasteful and unnecessary. Especially in a book aimed at young teens/tweens. However, the fairies were fascinating and definitely made up for the disgusting cow scene.
I give this book 2/5 stars.