Kendra and her brother Seth are forced to visit their reclusive grandparents on the Fablehaven estate, while their parents go on a cruise. Grandma is visiting some unknown aunt and Grandpa is acting strangely strict, laying out rules that make no sense to the siblings. Seth, the rebellious sibling, is determined to break all the rules, while Kendra, the obedient yet inquisitive older sister, is determined to discover the truth about Fablehaven. What she discovers is that the property is actually a magical preserve for mythical creatures like fairies, satyrs, and naiads and there is something threatening the preserve.
Like Rick Riordan does with the Percy Jackson series, Brandon Mull manages to weave mythology with modern times to create a new, exciting reality. His world bears some similarity to other fairytale retellings, but he adds enough nuances and unique touches to make the world is utterly his own. He explains things like why cows are worshiped in some parts of the world and what it’s like to look at the world from the perspective of an immortal. Mull manages to go even further, examining the idea of good and evil, the virtues of rule-breaking, what secrets are best kept or revealed, and whether mortality or immortality creates a better life.
Mull has created a rich and imaginative world that always keeps you guessing. The writing is solid and though some of the lesser characters (such as Dale the caretaker) could use some more personality and backstory, the main characters are well-defined and distinctive. It is easy to root for them.
Fablehaven sets up an intriguing world with a bigger mystery still to come. (This book, and ultimately the series at large, us one of my favorites and squarely established Mull as one my favorite Middle Grade authors. I have read everything he has ever written and I have yet to be disappointed.)