Synopsis: Kendra and Seth think they're in for a boring summer at their grandma and grandpa's house. But as soon as they arrive at the old manor, they notice a few strange things. First, grandma is nowhere in sight and no one can really give a reasonable explanation as to where she went. Then, they're forbidden to enter the reserve that grandpa is in charge of, but after a little investigating, they discover a beautiful lake with pavilions. And then there's the extraordinary number of large butterflies that are always in the back yard. Intrigued by milk that is always left out for the butterflies, Kendra tries it. Suddenly, she sees beautiful fairies in the place of butterflies and she and Seth realize that there's a lot more to grandma and grandpa's reserve than people are telling them. They soon learn that their grandparents run Fablehaven, a reserve for magical creatures, some good, but some terrible. Kendra and Seth discover just how terrible on Midsummer's night when goblins enter the house and take grandpa and his staff away. Only Seth and Kendra are left to save them, find grandma, and stop an evil demon from reemerging.
Summary: A mysterious organization called the Evening Star wants to take over the magical reserve of Fablehaven. Grandpa suspects that the group is already trying to get Kendra and Seth into their clutches. To protect them, he has the two brought up to his home. But even there they are not safe. Someone from Evening Star has indeed infiltrated Fablehaven and is trying to steal an important artifact kept on the reserve. The only problem is that there is a terrible spirit guarding the artifact that turns anyone who dares enter catatonic. Three people have already turned catatonic trying to get to the artifact, either to steal it or to hide it. Seth and Kendra must reach the artifact in time before the infiltrator does; a very difficult task as the infiltrator can control people in their sleep which means Seth and Kendra must not sleep or they will be in the clutches of the infiltrator as well!
Assessment: Brandon Mull makes an excellent debut with these novels. The problem that I have found with many novels since Harry Potter is that they try very hard to create a magical world, but lack in interesting characters, or fall short on plot. These books do neither. The characters of Kendra and Seth, being brother and sister, have good tension between them. Kendra likes to play by the rules, Seth likes to break them. At times they spar, quite humorously, and at times they are partners in crime. There is something to like in both characters for both boys and girls. The stories are also exciting with such thrilling endings that it is impossible to put the book down. I read the first book in a day and the second in two days. Although the first book starts off a little slow, once the action starts rolling, it doesn't stop and continues into the second. I look forward to reading more from Mull.