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Fablehaven by Brandon Mull is is the first of a five part middle grade fantasy series. I listened to the audio version performed by E.B. Stevens.
The book shares a pair of protagonists, Kendra and her younger brother, Seth, as is the current trend in tween fantasy. They have been sent to their eccentric grandparents' estate after their parents are invited to a mandatory cruise cum wake. That ridiculous set up combined with the sibling's non-stop squabbling for the first couple chapters didn't give me hope for the remainder of the book (or series).
Fortunately though, things do settle down and it's quickly settled that Kendra's the smart one and Seth is the blindly brave one. Much of the discoveries about Fablehaven's true nature though are revealed through Seth's stubborn stupidity. Thankfully he gets most of this out of his system in this first book.
The book has three main parts: the solving on a puzzle left in the playroom, the added freedom that comes with solving said puzzle and then all hell breaking loose — mostly from the Grandfather's reluctance to share the truth with his unruly grandchildren.
The puzzle solving section is pretty tame and predictable. Don't give up though. By the time the puzzle is solved the plot picks up and Fablehaven comes alive, first for the good, and then for the bad and dangerous.
As I mentioned before, I listened to the audio version. I take along audio books for long drives to keep my kids entertained. The children thoroughly enjoyed the book, including the way in which it was read. To my ears, though, the narrator's voice, diction, pacing and mispronunciation of words grates on my nerves. Fortunately the plot of Fablehaven is strong enough to survive a less than stellar reading.