Monday, June 17, 2013

The Beyonders Trilogy by Brandon Mull

I love the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull.  The author has another series, Beyonders, and I read the summary of the first book at least a year ago.
Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable—until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he’s ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.
This summary did not make me want to read the book.  It's hard for me to explain exactly why, but I didn't get a good idea of the content of the story.  I couldn't figure out exactly what this place, Lyrian, was like, so I couldn't tell whether I would like the story.  I also saw no reason why I would care.

I have tried reading the first few chapters of a number of fantasy children's books online in order to try to figure out whether they would appear to me.  So often, I can't get into the books at all, and the summaries, like the one I posted above, do not help me make the decision.

I have learned that even books that have high overall ratings and many five-star ratings do not necessarily appeal to me.  Also, reading the reviews is always dangerous, since I have had the endings of books spoiled that way.  Some people don't know when to leave out certain information.

I took the plunge and decided to read the first Beyonders book, A World without Heroes.  It was hard to get into the book at first, because it was a bit hard to understand what was really going on.  I decided to write my own summary in an attempt to better explain the content of the book.  Here it is.
Strange music coming from nowhere... Jason works at the zoo on a normal day after school but that music continues to play.  Jason traces the music to the hippotamus tank.  He leans forward, losing his balance and falling into the hippo's mouth.  Suddenly, Jason is transported into the middle of a forest while the music plays on.  Jason soon discovers that the source of the music is a raft of suicidal musicians, who are floating down a river towards a waterfall.

It is not until later that Jason learns of a prophecy concerning the magicians.  The musicians had been told by a prophet that by floating over the falls while playing music, they would summon a hero from the Beyond.  That hero would somehow challenge Maldor, whose absolute rule of Lyrian is unquestioned.  Jason has the uncomfortable feeling that he is the hero who was summoned by the musicians.

Jason learns that a girl named Rachel also appeared in this strange new world at about the same time as he did, so her fate is intertwined with his. Jason and Rachel want nothing more than to find a way back home out of this unfamiliar place.  Jason unwittingly learns part of the Word, which is the one way to depose Maldor.  Unfortunately, the information was contained within a book that is linked to Maldor's agents through magic.  Maldor knows of the breach, so Jason and Rachel become outlaws on the run with no choice but to seek the Word in hopes of destroying Maldor and then finding a way home.
A World without Heroes is an excellent book once the reader understands the plot.  The second book in the trilogy, Seeds of Rebellion, is even better, and the final book, Chasing the Prophecy, is absolutely outstanding.  I mentioned recently that many series fall flat towards the end; this one improves with each book and delivers a satisfying conclusion.

The conclusion of Chasing the Prophecy is so well-crafted and so moving that as I read the final page I began crying.  I don't normally cry when reading books.  If you have read the book or ever decide to read it, you'll understand why. And understand that the crying was not devastated crying.  I was simply very moved by what I read, and few books affect readers that strongly.

Brandon Mull has created a fabulous world in Beyonders, and he has created some memorable, unique fantasy races, such as the Amar Kabal, the torivors, and the drinlings.  I am not going to explain what they are, but suffice it to say that they are fascinating.  I recall one reviewer on Amazon who hoped that some of Mull's creations would find their way into works by other authors. 

I highly recommend the Beyonders trilogy to anyone who has enjoyed series like Harry Potter and Fablehaven.

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