The back jacket of this book features kudos from the author of Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, a young adult fantasy novel in the same genre as Fablehaven. I have read, but have not posted reviews of, The Gateway to Foo, or its sequel, Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret, because it seemed such a shame to point out the flaws of a book series that could have been so much better*. Better, and more enjoyable, like Brandon Mull’s Fabelhaven.
This is a light, easy read, squarely focused on 13 year old Kendra and her 11 year old brother Seth. They are left at their grandparent’s estate for a couple of weeks while their parents take a dream cruise. They have rarely seen their grandparents before, and none have ever been to the sprawling house and gardens that lie in the woods. Left with some strict directions from their aloof grandfather (“stay out of the woods!!”), the brother and sister quickly get into some mischief while exploring their mysterious surroundings.
They come to discover that their grandparents’ land is actually a sanctuary for magical creatures – a haven for fabled beings. They delight in learning more about each of the creatures, especially the abundant fairies, until things turn a little chaotic and the darker forces on the land seek to take control. They have to work together as siblings, and draw closer to and earn the trust of their grandparents, to set everything right again.
I was surprised to find a reading guide at the back of the book; it brings up questions that I thought were a little too deep given the lighter weight of the book itself. Once I thought about it for a bit, though, I realized there were some valuable moral lessons in the book. Why do we have rules? Do they restrict us or protect us? How do we feel about being able to choose the actions, but not always the consequences? And some other themes on family and relationships.
Altogether, I think this was a very enjoyable book, and I look forward to the forthcoming books in the series.
*For just a word on Leven Thumps: I didn’t LOVE it, mostly because I thought it was overly ambitious. So many characters, so many amazing and unique things about each of them. The different worlds – ours and Foo. And what Foo is and how to get there and back. It was a little too convoluted for me, and I thought it suffered from wanting to be too much to too many people. Better to read the crisp, tight Fablehaven instead!
*Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links used.