Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Review of Brandon Mull's Beyonders

I've been moving recently so haven’t been updating, but now I have the time to review a book series I read recently: Brandon Mull’s Beyonders. Having made it through most of Fablehaven, I had high, or at least moderate, hopes for this new series. The world he creates is intriguing but ultimately my hopes were unfulfilled. I’m going to try to review this series without any tremendous spoilers so this may be a bit more vague than some of my other reviews.

  • The main character, Jason, is transported to another world—as children are perpetually having happen to them in YA fiction. It’s a pretty interesting world really and I wish we got to see more of it throughout the series. 
  • There are many different types of places Jason goes on his travels, my favorite being the Sunken Lands which is comprised almost primarily of an under-water city. I like the creatures there, and the constant danger the characters are in really comes through.
  • The magical races Brandon invents are very unique with powers and abilities that fulfill traditional fantasy roles, but in some very interesting and surprising ways. My favorites are the Displacers—a race that can detach their body parts at will, like the Fire Gang from Labyrinth, but human looking. I also really liked the Torivors even if they had way too many names in the books (darklings, lurkers, etc.). 
  • The iconic main hero, Galaran, was awesome and I really enjoyed his character as well. 
  • The end of the first book has a pretty good twist.

  • Too many irrelevant references to food that just tastes different from our food.
  • Way too many occurrences when a character no one cares about dies and everyone gets upset, versus main characters who die and no one has an emotional reaction WHATSOEVER!
  • The magic system revolves around people speaking magic words and then getting tired if they use their ability too much. This is extremely stale and unimaginative but at least he doesn’t try to hide that.
  • The two main characters spend most of the three books separated and that is very annoying.
  • The juggling between viewpoints is not handled well, especially because one of the characters is going on a quest and the other is mostly waiting around. They spend large portions of the story wandering, not sure what to do. This is how real life is and is not interesting in story form (read Deathly Hollows if you want more of this crap).
  • THE WORST ENDING I HAVE EVER READ IN ANY BOOK OR SEEN IN ANY MOVIE EVER. Don’t know how else to say it really. I also don’t want to tell you what it is for spoiler purposes, but the main characters do not directly take part in this achievement or in fact even witness it even though it involves an entire mountain being leveled (ok minor spoiler) that they happen to be next to.
  • THE MAIN BAD GUY IS NOT BAD OR SCARY OR INTERESTING. This goes out to all the creative people in the universe. Please have good endings and interesting villains. Stop trying to be so creative with your endings that they end up being completely unsatisfying crap craters. 
  • Zombies for the sake of zombies. Stop putting zombies in everything.
  • At some point it feels like the author lost interest in what was happening and was just writing for word count or to get to the end.

This would have been a much stronger series if it had been cut to two books. A lot of book and movie series are that way really. They are less and less aggressively edited as time goes on and I’m really tired of things being stretched too far just to achieve a certain word count goal.

The Beyonders had a lot of promise. You could tell Mull put a lot of thought into the world building and what happens behind the scenes, but in the end, it was poorly executed. There were far too many characters for him to juggle. I can see younger readers enjoying it immensely and hey—that was the target audience, so there you go.

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