I had read and enjoyed the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, so was excited to see he has started on a new series. This one is called Beyonders, and the first installment is A World Without Heroes.
The story starts with Jason, a normal thirteen year old boy doing normal thirteen year old boy things, practicing baseball, hanging out with his friends, studying, thinking about girls, having arguments with his parents... Then he falls into the hippo tank at the zoo and gets transported to another world called Lyrian.
Lyrian is a dangerous place ruled by the evil wizard Maldor. All Jason wants is to go home and along the way he meets up with Rachel, a girl his age who was also mysteriously drawn into Lyrian. The two beyonders, those who come from beyond, begin a perilous quest to find all of the syllables of a magic word which, when spoken, will kill Maldor. All the heroes of Lyrian seem to have given up on this quest as Maldor has beaten them down, killed them or enticed them to the eternal feast. Everyone else is too scared to try. However, the pair feel that their best chance to get home is to find the word and save Lyrian.
I loved reading Beyonders, it is full of adventure, wonderful descriptions, and interesting creatures. Brandon Mull has a real flair and imagination for describing Lyrian and those who live there. His language is rich and vivid and even humorous at times. There is one sentence in particular that hooked me early on:
He surveyed the vicinity - the mossy trees along the river, the shrubs below, the insects buzzing nearby - mildly astonished how acceptable the impossible had become once it had transpired. (p. 20)A World Without Heroes moves along pretty fast and was easy to read, though it starts off a little bit slowly. Brandon Mull does a good job with his characters, developing them and having them grow. They are likable and we wanted to see them succeed. For example, even though Rachel comes off as abrasive at first, she changes and is very strong - I love to see strong female characters.
There are also some great plot twists. I don't want to give anything away, but these are children in a strange land and they have to rely on other people, some are their friends and some are not. The ending is great and unexpected. This novel is also fairly dark with lots of evil looming, graphically described fighting scenes and even some torture.
The book kept me entertained and, at times, had me on the edge of my seat - I am so happy that two more installments are planned. I am sure middle school grade kids and up (and even adults) who enjoy fantasy will love this book.
Here is the YouTube book trailer for this book, it sets the tone for the book really well.