(Cover picture courtesy of Brandon Mull’s website.)
Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable—until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason transporting from the hippo tank into a strange, imperiled world.
Lyrian is full of dangers and challenges unlike any place Jason has ever known. The people live in fear of their malicious wizard emperor, Maldor. The brave resistors who once opposed Maldor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.
In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.
If I had not been lazy and checked the name of the author, I never would have picked up A World Without Heroes from the library. As you may recall, I was less than impressed with Brandon Mull’s more famous novel, Fablehaven. But I’m glad I picked up his new Beyonders trilogy; it was really a pleasant surprise.
No, there are no terrifyingly disgusting giant cow milking scenes in A World Without Heroes. Instead, there’s a little bit of tongue-in-cheek parody of traditional fantasy novels, but also some very new ideas that I’ve never seen in fantasy before. Considering how much fantasy I read, this is quite an achievement. The idea that finding a true name for the villain could destroy them is not exactly new, but Brandon Mull threw in enough plot twists and had such excellent world-building that I can forgive him for that.
In the world of Lyrian we actually have a quite plausible evil overlord scenario. Maldor was an apprentice magician who killed off his mentor, thus becoming the only magician in the land. The only way to destroy him is by using his special name, which has had the syllables scattered around the entire world. Rachel and Jason, being Beyonders (from our own world) are in danger from Maldor from the beginning, so they might as well try to find a way to destroy him. How does Maldor maintain his power? Well, he severely restricts travel, eliminates his enemies by offering them eternal paradise and slowly, slowly conquers the few remaining independent regions.
Jason and Rachel are decent enough characters. They have elements of a typical fantasy duo, but Brandon Mull has once again put twists on old clichés and made his main characters somewhat unique this time. Sure Rachel seems like your stereotypical smart girl and Jason your typical male lead, but by the end they’ve changed in believable, gradual character arcs. What a novel concept!
I give this book 4.5/5 stars.