Brandon Mull's Fablehaven is bursting with adventure, imagination, and heroism. Kendra and her younger brother, Seth, are less than excited when their parents drop them at their distant grandparents' house and head off on a seventeen day cruise. The kids are shown to an attic playroom stocked with magnificent toys and even a live hen, Goldilocks, to keep them busy. But they soon find out the real excitement is waiting outside, on the grounds of what they come to find out is a magical creature preserve. It doesn't take long for Seth's adventurousness and Kendra's astuteness to uncover the truth about the preserve, but once they've been let in on the secret, they find there's much more yet to be discovered.
Although long and a bit slow at times, Fablehaven is packed with magic, courage, and adventure. Mull uses the setting of an enchanted preserve to get readers thinking about important environmental issues, and the story of an unusual family crisis to inspire thoughts on wrong and right, courage and resourcefulness, and even religion and spirituality. The author has included a reader's guide at the end of the book to encourage discussion about the material and the topics it broaches. The vocabulary readers will find in Fablehaven may present a challenge for the 9 - 12 group for which it is intended, with words like "verdant," "espalier," and "ubiquitous" gracing the pages, but as long as there's a dictionary nearby, young readers will benefit from the new terminology. More awkward is stilted prose resulting from a lack of contractions. Mull's predilection to spell out every "it is" and the like in the non-dialogue parts of the narrative slows readers down and sounds unnatural; a small stumbling block to overcome in return for Mull's bountiful imagination.