Kendra and Seth have to spend 17 days with their grandparents who they barely know while their parents go on a trip. Dropped off at the huge isolated estate deep in the forest, the kids have no idea what to expect. Little did they think they would discover that their grandparents are the caretakers of a nature preserve for magical creatures of all sizes, shapes and inclinations. But now it seems that Grandma has mysteriously gone missing, and that is just the beginning of the problems the children will have to face.
Fablehaven (2006) has a great central concept — what happens when you put all the magical creatures from all over the world in a confined space, and have humans try to keep them secret from the world? This is a great idea, but it needed a better writer. The prose is serviceable, but doesn’t inspire any emotional reaction. The characters are flat and one-dimensional, with only Kendra showing any sort of growth throughout the novel.
In the end, the characters were saved by magical intervention rather than by their own abilities, and I felt like the kids were sold short. One of the greatest strengths of the Harry Potter books was that even though the kids were able to do magic, it wasn’t their magical abilities that saved them, but their own hard work, intelligence and loyalty. Fablehaven’s characters rely on an exterior source to be saved, which was especially disappointing for a book that emphasized obedience to rules, consequences for your actions, and “you reap what you sow.”
Interestingly, Fablehaven was originally published by a religious press and was picked up by a big press after the initial success. If it’s to be read as religious allegory (which explains being saved by an outside source), then portraying Jesus Christ as the Fairy Queen is a pretty controversial incarnation of deity for a kids book.
This is supposed to be a YA novel, with an intended audience of 9-12 year olds, and maybe a younger reader would be more enthralled than I was. However, good YA fiction is ageless in its appeal, and Fablehaven doesn’t have that quality to it. It’s a satisfactory book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone over the age of 12.
Fablehaven — (2006- ) Ages 9-12. Publisher: For centuries mystical creatures of all description were gathered into a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite. Kendra and her brother, Seth, have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws keep relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken — Seth is a bit too curious and reckless for his own good — powerful forces of evil are unleashed, and Kendra and her brother face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save their family, Fablehaven, and perhaps even the world, Kendra and Seth must find the courage to do what they fear most.