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
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.
I enjoyed this book much more than any of Mull's Fable Haven books. It was a better concept driven forward by better overall pacing , better character interaction, and a more interesting story line. I can only hope the succeeding books can keep it going...
Brandon Mull is certainly in no want of vocabulary. But the world painted in this first book starts off as a pretty middle-of-the-road fantasy. What he does do is lay a solid foundation for the world and the reasons for its unusual inhabitants, even as to why everyone speaks English.
The cleverness really starts to shine when we meet some of the alternate races that inhabit the land. Their abilities are well-thought-out and employed cleverly within the story.
The villian, Maldor (really?), is also a step up from the usually-faceless baddies by having some actual character, and some actual interaction with the protagonists.
The books probably can also win a prize for the cleverest world-transitioning mechanism yet devised.
The story is a series of puzzles that have to be solved, and some of the solutions are clever, while others are pure luck. I'm still ambivilant about whether that was good or bad.
The biggest down-side was the performance. The voice-work was very well-done, with each of the primary characters given a distinct voice and manner of speach that made it easy to follow who was talking, especially later on when the party grows in number. However, there is a passive quality to the reading that really shows up in some of the action scenes, that makes it sound like we're listening to a report rather than a story. Some of that can be attributed to the passive language chosen in the writing, but much of it was due to the pacing of the reading.
But despite that complaint, it was a good, original fantasy, and worth the time.
I love reading a book and listening to a book.
I love this book and highly recommend the series to anyone who loves classic adventure fantasy.
The book was targeted towards younger teens. I am not in that age range so I did not find this book to appealing.
After six chapters I just could not take it any more. I even think the narrator was bored. Try Butcher or Hearne for well writen books.
I love listening to books while I walk and drive.
The story teller is good, the way it is written and read brings the world to life. Can't wait to get the next one.
The Story is almost as good to me as Potter.
My favorite scene was when he was at the feast and realized that you never get anywhere by staying where you are comfortable.
I wish they would make these a movie, It would probably read Classic in the making, Exciting, adventure.
Highly recommended. Anyone who likes YA fiction should try these.
Do you like the dialogue level of writing in Scooby Doo cartoons? Then you'll slide right through this book without a cringe. This is written at a sixth grade level, and that is being generous. The authors concept is interesting, and full of potential, but it remains unfullfilled. There is zero character development through events, and zero plot tension, at least in the first half of the book. I couldn't go any further. It was boring. All you learn about the characters is through the dialogue, and did I mention it is inane. Example: he said, "insert four words here", she said "insert five words here", he said "insert one word here". That's how all the dialogue is written. I guess it wouldn't have been so obviously bad except the reader drones in a monotone, put you to sleep voice. Fortunately every sentence of dialogue is preceded by he said, she said so you know which character is speaking, but there are no unique voices or characterization for anyone except a few transient characters. It's poorly written and poorly read, but probably still good for 5th and 6th graders who have an interest in magic and Scooby Doo.
A dreamer who loves the adventures hidden in every story!!
I really enjoyed the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull and likewise this first book in the Beyonders saga does not disappoint. It is narrated really well and the story grips you from start to finish. The characters are well thought out and very well written.
The story starts out with Jason getting accidently drawn into another world through a hippo. When he gets there all he wants to do is find a way home. Along the way he discovers a secret that he needs to see to fruition if he wants to survive and get home. During his quest he meets an interesting plethora of characters that add both a touch of humor and intrigue to the story.
If YA fiction is your kind of thing, and you have enjoyed the Fablehaven series, then definitely give this a go. I am starting the second book and looking quite forward to it.
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