"For centuries, mythical creatures of all description have been gathered to hidden refuges around the world where they are watched over by human caretakers. Kendra and her brother Seth discover that their grandfather is the caretaker of one of these secret wildlife sanctuaries—Fablehaven."
What Fablehaven actually is: A generic McFantasy with a side order of "Oh bother, this plot again?"
What Fablehaven ISN'T: a story about a wildlife refuge filled with mythical creatures.
What irks me the most is that Fablehaven isn't really a bad book. The prose is fairly standard and the characters are believable enough (although oftentimes annoying). There are a few original elements here and there, but the main plot is fairly cliche and ends in a sort of Deus ex Machina with faeries destroying a demon. Although some of the original elements were kind of weird, like Kendra having to milk a giant cow by sliding down its teats. . . or the kids having to give an ogre a foot massage. . .Wait, correction. Fablehaven IS a bad book. It's just not as horrible enough to be entertaining, merely placing it on the mid-icky end of the blah-scale.
The plot, for those who want to know, is that 13 year old Kendra (our standard responsible girly older sister archetype) and 11 year old Seth (our mischievous and disobedient rebellious little brother archetype) are spending a week or two (I can't remember) with their creepy old grandpa on his big estate land thingy while their parents are on vacation. Grandpa gives Kendra some keys and tells her to figure out what they open (kind of reminds me of one of the Spot books I enjoyed when I was 6). I personally would have just given her a Rubix cube, but whatever works I guess. One of the keys leads Kendra and Seth to the note telling them to drink the milk, so they do, and then they can see all the magical creatures, which mostly consists of faeries. Seth does some stupid stuff to screw everyone over and the kids end up having to fight an evil demon at the end. Yawn.
Why did Mull go the "epic battle against forces of darkness" route? This book had such great potential for stories. I simply ADORE the premise of a nature park for fantasy creatures--that's why I picked up the book! But this book could have just as well taken place in any Generic Fantasy Land. There are so many good conflicts and stories you can get from the premise. I thought of a few just today:
-An orphaned griffin shows up on the doorstep, and the caretakers must teach the griffin how to hunt
-An extra dry summer combined with a larger dragon litter than usual means trouble to the wood dwelling creatures
-There are too many predatory animals in Fablehaven, and some must be relocated.
-A unicorn escapes. Hijinks ensue.
I would love to read any of those, or any variation that would actually utilize, you know, A HAVEN FOR FABLE CREATURES. I'm utterly disappointed in Fablehaven. End vent.