Brandon Mull, best known for his Fablehaven fantasy series, is back with A World Without Heroes, the first in a three-book series called The Beyonders. Mull creates an alternate world, Lyrian, which needs a hero to overturn an evil emperor. Enter Jason, an average 12-year-old Colorado kid, who falls through a hippo’s mouth and ends up in Lyrian and quickly becomes entangled in its intrigue and adventure. Rachel, a gutsy and clever homeschooler, who also unwittingly ends up in Lyrian, joins him in the quest. These two Beyonders (what Lyrians call people from Earth) attempt to find and piece together the syllables that form a secret word that can destroy the evil emperor when uttered in his presence.
Broadway actor and new narrator Jeremy Bobb shines with the varied and numerous characters. He seamlessly switches among the dozens of characters while keeping them distinct and recognizable in the dialogue-heavy scenes. However, Bobb’s performance is too low energy for the material. This flatness emphasizes some stilted writing and undermines the exciting action sequences.
In A World Without Heroes, Mull successfully creates a full, rich fantastical world. In keeping with the fantasy genre, he includes wizards and invents fun creatures, such as displacers, who can remove and reattach body parts. Though the writing is somewhat mediocre and his protagonists not fully developed, the novel is still entertaining. There are several interesting and shocking plot twists and turns that make this better than the average fantasy. Mull knows his audience and the action, humor, and fast pace are perfect for his readership. The content is age-appropriate and, with both male and female protagonists, adults can enjoy listening with their sons and daughters.
A World Without Heroes is a nice addition to the middle school fantasy genre. Mull fans and fantasy fans will love this new series. Listeners who latch onto Bobb’s character interpretation will anxiously await the next Beyonders installment. Julie MacDonald
Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable - until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he's ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcmoed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.
In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.
©2011 Brandon Mull (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
At first, I was comparing this to something akin to lord of the rings, or Wizard of Oz, but by the end I must say that Brandon mall has concocted original characters and the plot worthy of having his own recognition.
Its up there with some good ones.
The notion of the plot, and gathering up components of a word to destroy the wizard. Pretty cool.
The scenes with the lore master.
Beyonders: A World Without Heroes Book Review
I give this book 4 out of 5 Bubblefruits.
By Brandon Mull
I'm listening to the end of this book on audio as I begin to write this review. The first book of the Beyonders series is a good story. Brandon Mull certainly has a very creative mind, and that shows through brilliantly in this novel.
From a pacing perspective, this book starts slow. I remember trying to listen to the audiobook version before, months ago in fact, and after falling in love with the prologue and getting excited for the rest of the story, I ran into chapter 1. I got so bored that I stopped listening to it. It was all kids, baseball, and look, those girls are cute. I'm not sure what finally brought me back to the book again, but I am glad that I gave it another chance. Once the main character, Jason, gets into the other world, and on with his quest, the book takes off nicely. (Yes, you'll come to find out that baseball actually matters later.)
From a world-building perspective, Brandon Mull leverages his wild imagination to create a fascinating environment with crazy creatures, strange food customs, and shifty characters. This world is devoid of heroes, which is by the villain, Maldor's design. As the main characters from our world visit that one, Jason and Rachel fumble their way through distraught cities, questionable taverns, and the open road.
The plot is fantastic. The world has no heroes, and there is an evil emperor that rules the land through fear, control, and manipulation. The Emporer also happens to be a wizard, but a wizard with one serious flaw—there is a magic word, that, if spoken will be his instant demise. Jason comes across this information, and the first clue to learning the word. This starts his quest.
The one thing I struggle with in Brandon Mull books is his characters' dialogue. Sometimes it just doesn't sound right. In some cases it's related to diction, and in other cases its just the way it flows and how it sounds. I suppose this is a minor thing, but I thought I'd call it out.
If you are looking for a fun summertime read that can help you escape reality a little bit. This book can definitely fit the bill. Check it out. It's a fun read.
I've been a fan of the Beyonders series ever since it came out, and I've read it dozens of times, so I was excited to hear the audiobook. I'm afraid I was rather disappointed by the performance. The odd and unexpected accents for some of the characters were very distracting and honestly sounded quite silly. I'm also perplexed by why it seemed that accents were necessary. For the character of Jasher, perhaps it was justified, since the book specifically states that he has one, but why in all the world was Ferrin Irish? None of the voices attempted worked for me, and I really would have preferred he not try. I also felt that often the wrong tone or inflection was used, particularly for dialogue, which made it even more distracting and irritating. That without the accents might have been passable, but with them it was unbearable. Of course, I had already formed my own idea of what all these characters sounded like, so maybe this is all personal preference. All in all it was a bit of a struggle to get through this one. Anyone who is interested in the story will find an absolutely worthwhile tale, but I might recommend reading it on your own first.
We have spent a lot of time together in the car as a family this summer. We have enjoyed listening to this book. My kids quietly listen and it is equally entertaining to me as well. I would say it is appealing for about age 6/7 and up.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
Originally posted at Fantasy Literature:
Jason Walker, an eighth grader, was having a fairly normal day — playing baseball with his friends and working at the zoo — until he heard music coming from the hippopotamus tank. When he leaned over the rail to listen more closely, he fell in and was swallowed by the hippo. Instead of ending up in the hippo’s digestive tract, though, he ended up in a parallel universe named Lyrian. Rachel Woodford, a smart home-schooled girl around Jason’s age, was on vacation with her parents in Bryce Canyon when she followed a strange butterfly through a stone arch and ended up in Lyrian, too.
Jason and Rachel quickly meet up in this strange world and discover that they are not the first “Beyonders” to visit the place, but Beyonders have been rare since the evil emperor Maldor came to the throne. Maldor has horded all magic knowledge and is using it to terrorize his citizens. For Jason and Rachel to be able to use magic to get back to their own world, they’ll need to defeat Maldor. In order to defeat him, they must go on a quest to find the six syllables of a word that will destroy him. They’ll be hunted all the way, but fortunately they’ll get some help from some rebels who are eager to see Maldor dethroned.
A World Without Heroes is the first book in Brandon Mull’s BEYONDERS series and it features two children, a boy and a girl, who are likeable heroes. Because they are kids from our time who end up in a medieval-style world, they have modern voices and sensibilities. It’s fun to hear Jason good-naturedly accusing Rachel of not being well socialized because she’s homeschooled and it’s endearing that Rachel is a little feminist who gets annoyed when the server at a Lyrian tavern expects Jason to order Rachel’s dinner for her. The two children tease each other, but it’s clear that Brandon Mull is aware that too much of this will annoy us — he does it just right.
Mull creates some imaginative races to populate Lyrian. I was totally creeped out by his displacers — human-like creatures who can lop off their body parts and stick them back on at will. This is a handy skill. (… handy… yeah.) Then there are the seed folk who can regrow themselves from a seed after they die. These weird characters make interesting companions for Jason and Rachel. Some of the other secondary characters who don’t have odd skills are indistinguishable from each other, though.
During their quest, Jason and Rachel have lots of adventures. They dive from high cliffs, fight giant man-eating crabs and frogs, discover a severed head in a bag, spend the night in a slimy snake-filled swamp, and learn a lot about loyalty and treachery. Mull uses his platform to teach, without being preachy, the importance of heroism and the folly of self-indulgence. These ideas are not dealt with in a superficial or condescending way, but are related thoughtfully enough for an adult to appreciate.
Even so, I think Mull’s story will be most appealing to the audience it’s being marketed to (ages 8 and up). While I enjoyed the story, I found the plot just a little too simple and linear to satisfy me completely and I found myself mostly admiring the book for Mull’s imaginative elements and his thoughtful messages about heroic behavior. At the same time, I fear that some of Brandon Mull’s vocabulary and sentence structures may be a little difficult for the target audience. Most children will need to consult a dictionary regularly. Brandon Mull uses words such as enmity, alleviate, machinations, subjugation, discernment, trivialities, ascent, accommodate, reminisce… (those are just random words I picked by flipping through several pages). I’m all for not dumbing it down, and I certainly believe that reading is how children build their vocabularies, but I just want to point this out so that parents and children will know what to expect. If your eight year old is easily frustrated by having to ask or look up definitions, you might want to wait on this one until middle school, or perhaps you could read the book with your child, helping them with the unknown words.
Readers who enjoy A World Without Heroes will want to have book two, Seeds of Rebellion on hand. The story is not wrapped up at the end of A World Without Heroes and there’s a big twist that I didn’t see coming. I’m reading the audio version which is wonderfully narrated by Jeremy Bobb. I’ve already downloaded Seeds of Rebellion.
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