Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star
by Brandon Mull
Review by Sam Lubell
Shadow Mountain Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781590387429
Date: 01 May 2007 List Price $17.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
An author's second book is frequently a bit of a disappointment. Not so with Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, the second book in what evidently is becoming a continuing series. This book overcame a couple minor flaws of the previous book and has enough twists to make the book entertaining for adult readers as well.
In the first book, Kendra and Seth, in the eighth and sixth grades respectively, found that their grandparents were the caretakers of Fablehaven, a secret refuge for magical creatures, including fairies. After several adventures, Kendra was rewarded with the ability to see through the magical illusions that cloak magic as mundane. In Rise of the Evening Star, Kendra and Seth agree to help a Kobold exterminator, who says he was sent by a friend of their grandparents, drive a kobold out of Kendra's school by stealing a toad statute. Ultimately, this leads to a confrontation with the Society of the Evening Star, a secret society determined to destroy Fablehaven and obtain its ancient talisman that forms part of a key to a prison housing demons the Society would release. On the advice of the mysterious Sphinx, advisor to the Conservators' Alliance, their grandparents agree to move to the talisman but must first find it.
Three new characters agree to help find the artifact – a potion master, a collector of magical relics, and a tamer of mystical animals – and also to help train the children as the future caretakers of Fablehaven. But Grandma warns that one of these experts may be a traitor. This brings up a major theme of the book which is trust and betrayal. The two children spend much of the plot trying to uncover the secret traitor. Another threat comes from the toad statue that Seth unwittingly stole, which is really a demon who eats the person who awakened it, namely Seth.
One flaw in the first Fablehaven was that Seth was always running off without thinking and almost always did the wrong thing. In this book, this rashness has become more bravery and in a couple of instances leads him to do the right thing. This book also handles the relationship of the children to the adults better than the Harry Potter series. The children don't have to do everything on their own or hide their actions from well-meaning but ineffectual adults. Instead, circumstances develop that leave the children the only ones who can act.
At nearly 450 pages, Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star is unusually long for a children's story. And the focus on trying to uncover the traitor may be a bit more sophisticated for some of the book's younger readers, although it's well handled and well explained. I'd say the book is best suited for 12 – 15 year olds although some adults will want to borrow it while their kids are asleep. Unlike the first Fablehaven, I think boys and girls will enjoy this equally, since Seth plays more of a positive role and the fairies are less central. Inevitably, this book will be compared to Harry Potter, especially since this book also features a potion master, the idea of magic hiding out of sight of the normal people, and the idea of teaching the children who will confront the evil. But these are only surface similarities and at its root the book is more hopeful. While Harry Potter seems to treat magic as a tool, a subject whose rules are memorized from books, the magic of Fablehaven remains mostly mysterious, the gift of the fairy creatures.