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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Taur Tuesday: Fablehaven

The only reason I picked up the Fablehaven books by Brandon Mull is this cover art. Centaurs aren't major characters in the series and don't appear until the 3rd book of the 5. Since the books are aimed at a pre-teen to 14 year-old reader range the centaurs aren't much more fleshed out than the ones occupying the Dark Forest in the Harry Potter series. In this series, as in that one, the centaurs are dismissive of humans, superior, arrogant, skilled, and intelligent. They merely deem to associate with the humans because it is beneficial to their tribe. Personally, I can understand a centaur feeling superior to a human because, in my fantasies, they are.

There are also a pair of reoccurring satyr characters in the series who are portrayed as perpetually selfish and immature con-men. 

The books are quick and fun reads and are well written. When I was ill last year I couldn't handle more adult material because it just added to my depression contemplating man's inhumanity to man and the means that bad people use to achieve their wicked goals. It seemed that every adult fantasy book I read followed the formula of murder and mayhem with chapters devoted to detailed fights, battles, bloodshed, and war. When your energy levels are depleted by illness focusing on negativity and the horrors of war isn't a good idea. I had to find a different type of escapism.

My personal opinion is that war is far too glorified in our culture and Sword and Sorcery books do just as much to further the cause of brainwashing impressionable young minds as Hollywood action movies. If you need a batch of fresh young soldier and sailor recruits, give them war games to play, war books to read, and war flicks to see. The dexterity developed in playing computer games can be readily applied to mastering arms. The next generation of master strategists may well come from kids who mastered the strategy of playing war and violence-oriented games. Nuff said.

I had enjoyed J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series so much that I looked for more books that were fun to read instead of baths in Hell. The Fablehaven books deal with the standard "Good Conquers Evil" format, but had decent story and character development and stories chock-full of magical and mythical characters. A combination I enjoy. I've found similar pleasure in the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathon Stroud and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy.

My health is much improved now, so I am not as likely to read only young adult fiction and even that light fare tends toward darkening a great deal before the happy ending invariably arrives. But the happy ending does arrive and I am nothing if not a true romantic at heart. 

A book like David Wroblewski's The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, a sort of retelling of Hamlet in Middle America with dogs, could leave me reeling for days afterward. As "full of heart" as that book is, the ending is a major bummer.

I recommend Mull's Fablehaven books to anyone who likes fun page turners with cliff hangers and books peopled by magical and mythical beings.

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