Fablehaven Book Review

Fablehaven is the kind of series you recall with fond memories and feelings, and regret only that you can never read it again for the first time. But you’ll still read it again, of course.

I recall vividly, certain scenes from these books. An early one in the first book especially sticks with me; it is set by the pool in the sprawling backyard on a bright summer morning. Kendra and Seth, young siblings, are swimming when they notice a small assortment of tiny winged insects, abuzz with delight. Dragonflies and butterflies and hummingbirds are all gathered together, staring at a mirror by the pool. Kendra and Seth watch, befuddled by this strange action. Seth flips the mirror over to see if it is the mirror the creatures like, or their reflections. They seem to prefer their reflections.


This scene sticks with me because it is a foreshadowing of fairies, and also an early sign that the strange supernatural world of Fablehaven is all around them, and not another world separated from the mundane by dimensions or doorways. Plus, the innocent curiosity of the kids grounds them as likeable and engaging characters.

A sense of playfulness, combined with the thrill of discovery is perfectly captured by Brandon Mull in this series.

All the best fantasies create a sense of excitement through enthusiastic characters.

They also ground their fantastic elements in reality through realistic characteristics.

Seth is an 11 year old boy whose adventurous curiosity always supersedes his sense of obedience. Kendra is a teenage girl whose responsibility for her younger brother becomes a full time job when they realize they are in a wonderland of otherworldly mayhem, and that Seth is atwitter with the compulsion to investigate. She wants to go home. He wants to be free to do what he wants. Seth gets hungry. Kendra gets annoyed.

How to Blend Magic with Reality

By blending the real and commonplace with talking demons and flying dragons, readers are apt to forgive the unbelievable by suspending their unbelief so that they might enjoy the tale set before them.

Another thing I love about the Fablehaven series is the growing excitement with each book. The ratcheting suspense never lets up. You also get the sense that each book is building to a larger overarching storyline—and that is what makes good fantasies great. Five self-contained stories punctuated by hints of a grander design or force at work.

You couldn’t pay me to choose my favorite of the five books in the box set. They are all equally outstanding. The first is a great introduction to the world of Fablehaven; it doesn’t get overly ambitious and throw too much at us. It allows the story and fantastic elements to grow, slowly introducing bigger uncanny beings. We are even treated to glimpses of the larger plot, quick snippets of dialogue or passing references to some ultimate baddie. All serving to whet our appetite for more Fablehaven mayhem and magic.

Rate that Series

Out of 10 stars, I would give this series 9. Almost perfect. It has everything I could want in a fantasy series, except perhaps for a taste of adult situations, some more mature elements, like the kind you might find in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. But that doesn’t matter much, because these books don’t call for it. My own Young Adult fantasy, W.A.N.D. incorporates similar elements, like the thrill of discovery and flawed, enthusiastic characters, with some hints at mature interests. Boy likes girl and fantasizes. Girl snubs boy and outsmarts him.

Brandon Mull’s writing is what I consider ‘non-distracting’ which simply means the author never intrudes with his agenda or tries to sound erudite by adding third-tier synonyms no one has ever heard before. Short sentences, realistic dialogue, and simple straightforward descriptive passages make for fast reads. It’s a lot like The Heroes of Olympus series, in writing style.

I highly recommend this series. Buy the books, and lose yourself for a few weeks in the strange, exciting, sometimes terrifying world of Fablehaven.

The No. 1 Tip for Writing Unforgettable Supporting Characters

In this guide we are going to discover the quick and simple secret to making the supporting characters in your novels really POP. It’s vital that you learn to make your ‘guest’ cast interesting. They may be secondary to your protagonist and antagonist, but they are still a key to crafting dynamite books.

The Walk-On Waiter is a Person Too

There’s no reason to treat a walk-on as a second class character. As novelists (as in real life, unfortunately), we often skim over certain individuals. We have a scene—or SCENE—in mind that will illuminate or ennoble our MC, and so we tend to brush off any other characters that happen to be in that scene. AN EXAMPLE:

In your scene you are conveying vital information from—let’s say the wife—to her estranged husband. They are sitting in a fancy restaurant, pouring their hearts out, a cornucopia of emotion all over the fine linen tablecloth, and the waiter show up to offer the wine list. You have your MC brush him off with a wave. We don’t meet the waiter, or even see what he looks like. You do this to show the intense focus of you MC, to display the blatantly obvious fact that he is too absorbed with the MAIN STORY to be pestered by some trivial non-character like the waiter.

(Why then did you bother including the waiter? To remind us that the wife and estranged husband are not alone? You might’ve been better off having them cast furtive glances around, paranoid that someone is listening in. That at least would’ve added something to the scene: a sense of dramatic tension.)

This practice of overlooking minor characters is not conducive to the creation of a fully fleshed out world within your manuscript. You can do so much better. Here’s how: Continue reading “The No. 1 Tip for Writing Unforgettable Supporting Characters”