Monday, July 12, 2010

Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison

In March, my family began the epic project of reading out loud the entire Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.  Sounds like we're some kind of awesome people, doesn't it?  It wasn't intentional at first.  The final book of the series came out in March and my husband bought it the day it came out.  He brought it home and put it on the table to tempt me.  I knew we'd have to do some negotiating about who would get to read it first, but he was going out of town soon, so I figured I could read it first and then he could take it with him when he left town.  Then he suggested we read it out loud to each other so we could enjoy it simultaneously.  I pointed out that he was going out of town and it didn't sound like any fun to be reading it over the phone or webcam.  He teased that he was just going to take it out of town with him anyway and leave me hanging.  Har har.  Then he suggested we read the entire series and then culminate with the fifth book.  I grumbled.  He upped the requirements by suggesting that we read the entire series as a family.  I grumbled some more, but mostly for show because it sounded like fun.  My oldest had read the first book, but no more.  We'd get to enjoy the series again through our kids, which was a worthy project.  I agreed and we began. 

Nearly every evening for more than three months we read.  Mostly it was one chapter at a time but we'd fit in two chapters when we could.  Nobody wanted to miss out so we had our bed full of kiddos while we read.  Good thing we bought a king-sized bed last year or there's no way all six of us would have fit.  My three-year-old would lose patience on occasion, but that wasn't until the later books when the plot got more complex.  We would placate her by reading a stack of picture books before we began.  One of my favorite parts was how my kids would talk about nothing else when an exciting part happened.  Or maybe it's when they would laugh over and over again when Seth was up to his antics.  Or maybe it's when they were absolutely entranced while we read to the point of hypnotism.  Or maybe it's when my oldest would exclaim every single night, "I can't stand cliffhangers!  Please read another chapter!"

By the time we got to the final book, it felt a bit like when the seventh Harry Potter came out.  The anticipation and build up for this culminating event was palpable.  We were all dying to find out what was going to happen.  We went on a trip out of the state at the same time we started it and I read sometimes four chapters a day while we drove or had down time.  When we reached the last ten chapters, I would read sometimes for an hour.  My husband had strep throat so I was doing all the reading.  It was worth it.

I've blogged about this series so many times, I'm not going to bother adding a link here.  Just put in the search box the word "Fablehaven" and see how many posts show up.  There's a bunch.  I have enjoyed this series each step along the way.  My only complaint is that the language some of the adults use seems forced.  Nobody really talks like that unless they're trying to sound intellectual.  On the flip side, Mull has got Seth and Kendra down pat.  He knows exactly how to write a kid's voice.  Plus, Seth and Kendra have a completely believable sibling relationship.  Since they are the focus of the book, it is a treat that he wrote them so perfectly.  And enjoyably.

I don't know exactly what to write about the final book, Keys to the Demon Prison.  If you haven't read any of the previous books, nothing I write would make any sense.  I think you'd have better luck reading previous posts to see if it's the kind of book you'd be interested in for yourself or a kid you know.  I will say that it delivered on every count and that it ended exactly how I hoped it would, but better because Brandon Mull has a better imagination than me.  I will also say that if you like Harry Potter, you'll like Fablehaven.  Harry Potter comparisons get old and are kind of ridiculous, but I'm comparing them in the sense that both series appeal to any age of reader.  Unless you hate fantasy books, which just makes me sad. 

Brandon Mull is coming out with a new series next year called The Beyonders.  I think it's safe to say that we'll be reading it at our house.  We'll have to read Mull's The Candy Shop War in the mean time to sate our need for his amazing writing.


  1. You *are* some kind of awesome people.

    And I didn't notice a problem with the adult voices (of course - as you can attest - I have been known to try to sound intellectual).

    I found his use of the astrids a little forced, but the final plot twist that ends the battle blew me away.

  2. We read this series with our 7 yr. old daughter, at your husband's suggestion. We just ended the last book a few days ago, and each night at bedtime there is almost this let down that we don't have a fabulous series to read right now. We found ourselves reading during lunch time and rearranging our schedules to make sure we'd all be home for story time. We thoroughly enjoyed it. The last time we felt this way was when we read the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a family.

    My only comment on the books would be that they sometimes get a bit violent and can be scary. I'm not saying this because it reached a level to bug me at all, just that some children might not be up for it. Our daughter is usually not really disturbed by this stuff, but she was getting into the story so completely that I think she found it scarier than other books because of how wrapped up in it she was.

    She drew tons of pictures of all the different characters from the book and hung them up in her room. She also would want to talk about the book all day long. It got so that our four year old knew just as much about the story even though she was not allowed to stay up while we read it (she needed to sleep so that she would be able to function the next day!).

    Thanks for the excellent reading suggestion!

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the Fablehaven books. I love the idea of reading an entire series aloud as a family. We just might have to give that a try with the Fablehaven books with Jacob. I also loved how well Mull wrote Kendra and Seth. It is so rare to read a book where the kids talk like kids without them sounding like complete morons. I just read The Candy Shop War and also really enjoyed it. It's a perfect summer read, and I think your kids will probably really love hearing it read aloud, too.

  4. Becca - Mike and I kept going back and forth on whether or not it was too violent for the kids, but it came down to the story being too good to stop. Is that good parenting? I don't know and I've decided I don't want to know. My kids have been playing Fablehaven for months and taking turns being Kendra and Seth. I'm so glad your family loved it!

    Rach - I totally want to read The Candy Shop War out loud next. I love that book! Love it, I say!