YA Friday: Beyonders: A World Without Heroes and Giveaway

Friday, March 11, 2011

When I received an email asking me to review the first book in local author Brandon Mull's new trilogy, Beyonders, I jumped all over it. I was reading the first book of the Fablehaven series at the time and enjoying it. I expected a mildly enjoyable fantasy adventure, but this book blew me away. I believe the words I used when I was talking to my husband last night were "sick awesome."

Jason is a Beyonder - a person who has slipped into Lyrian from another world, in this case ours. He enters through the portal of a hippopotamus's mouth and finds a group of musicians cheerfully floating in a raft to their death. However, the suicidal musicians, known as the Giddy Nine, are just the beginning of the bizarre things Jason encounters in Lyrian. Soon Jason finds himself caught up in a quest to destroy the evil emperor Maldor, who has absolute control over the land. No one is willing to risk their safety or their comfort to improve life (thus, A World Without Heroes). However, Jason and Rachel, another Beyonder he finds along the way, are determined to fulfill their quest and save Lyrian from Maldor.

Beyonders is more intense than Fablehaven, or at least the Fablehaven book that I have read. There are many battle scenes that often relate in the death of characters. Creatures called displacers lead to especially gory moments, but I'll leave it to you to read the book to find out what displacers are. The book is definitely more violent than I was expecting, but we are talking more of the epic fantasy violence (think Harry Potter or Redwall). The world that Brandon Mull has created is a dark and dangerous place, full of manipulative men and dangerous creatures (my favorite? An army of giant, flesh-eating frogs).

It was very interesting to see that world developed. At the beginning of the book, I was confused at times. Jason is thrust into the world very quickly, within the first few pages, and the characters talk very matter-of-factly about their world without really explaining anything to Jason. At first, this really annoyed me. There were so many unfamiliar words and places and I felt lost in the book. However, in retrospect I think this was a great literary device. Mull caused me to feel just how Jason was feeling, surrounded by the unfamiliar. Slowly the confusing things were explained, but they weren't conveniently defined at the beginning of the story. Jason had to figure things out as he traveled and so did we. I was impressed with how thoroughly Brandon Mull fleshed out this world, complete with traditions, customs, and laws.

However, I also enjoyed the way modern experiences from our world influenced Jason's survival in Lyrian. A pitcher, he saves his skin more than once by hurling objects with high accuracy at high speeds. He also uses experiences from his life in a battle of wits with one of the most devious men in Lyrian.

One of the parts of the book I most enjoyed were the characters (ok, so that's usually what I most enjoy). I've found that occasionally in YA and MG books, the characters seem flat to me because the author is writing for a shorter book for a younger audience and doesn't flesh out the complexities of human nature. However, this book is full of contradictions. Jason himself has to overcome his conflicting desires to just go home or to sacrifice everything and become a hero for Lyrian. The character Ferrin is also an interesting character study. I won't say much about him, but I was struck with his apparent easy-going nature and his willingness to instantly dispatch anyone who opposed him when he was traveling with Jason and Rachel. And Maldor himself was a fantastic villain, as devious and manipulative as they come. His hold of power on the land of Lyrian is so perfectly executed and held, it is no surprise that no one attempts to oppose him. Instead of torturing and maiming his most determined opponents, he offers them a life in a paradise of rich food and addictive pleasures. They usually go willingly and never return. He is charismatic and persuasive - I think he is a good personification of the devil. Even as I was hating him for being so organized and good at evil, I relished the complexities of his character. The only character I would have liked more development with was Rachel. While she has a few shining moments, she is mainly in the background of this book. Lyrian is a misogynistic place where women are not supposed to speak out of turn or be independent, but I'm hoping that she gets more of a voice in the next books in the trilogy.

Overall, this was an awesome book. I am looking forward to the next installments of the trilogy, coming in spring 2012 and spring 2013. It is a fascinating adventure that I couldn't put down.

Readability - A little confusing at the beginning, like I explained earlier in the review, but everything comes together.
Plot - 4
Characters - 5
Writing - 3 - at times a little cheesy, but well done overall.
Personal response - 4
Overall - 4

I am also excited to announce that I will be holding a GIVEAWAY - my very first! Aladdin books has generously given me all five Fablehaven books to give away as a set to one lucky US resident. Here are the rules:

1. You must be a US resident.
2. You must be 13 years old or older.
3. You don't have to be a follower to enter - but if you like the blog I hope you will follow. ;)
4. To enter, comment with your email address by 11:59 PM MST on Sunday, March 13. I will draw a name out of a hat on Monday and email the winner.
5. Just one entry per person!

Good luck! :)

FTC Disclosure: Book received from publisher


  1. Good review! I would love to get the Fablehaven books! :D


  2. mama.laughead@gmail.com
    I put you on my google reader a few days ago. I think your sister or sister-in-law linked to you from her blog or something like that.

  3. I love reading your reviews—you are so great! I still have that list set aside that you made me in France on books you thought I'd enjoy... one day I'll actually find/make the time to read them :)

  4. I have read all the Fablehaven books and loved them--I would like the set so count me in. Beyonder's is pre-ordered. Great Review.

    theriverdaughter at gmail dot com

  5. Love reading your reviews Lorren! I would LOVE to win this set!


  6. I know Jared has read some of these but now I want to read them! So exciting to have a giveaway! Do you feel a little like Oprah?

  7. Sounds interesting-I've been dying for some good fantasy. bookworm1858 AT hotmail DOT com

  8. I love your review. The characters sound great and so does the adventure. I love when the characters are really deep and I get to know them and get into their minds.

    I am only 11, so I can't enter your giveaway, but good luck to everyone who enters.

  9. Contest contestants - I am drawing names in about five minutes... so you'll know soon!

    Natalie - I freaking love you.

    Kass - Haha I so feel like Oprah. I was actually thinking of Jared when I read Beyonders - he should definitely read it when it comes out on Tuesday!

    Melina - Thanks for stopping by! I'm sad you can't enter my giveaway. Silly internet rules...


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