Inventive trials and supporting characters boost this otherwise standard-issue quest fantasy. Middle-schooler Jason falls through a zoo hippo's mouth into Lyrian, a land ruled by a wizard named Maldor, whose only weakness is a magical Word that will unmake him. Each of that Word's six syllables are hidden behind different defenses, and Jason and sidekick Rachel—a lost Beyonder like him, who proves to be just as intrepid and at least as pig-stubborn—face a series of trials. There is a lake in which anything that stops moving for even an instant gets sucked down, a tree (in the middle of a swamp well-stocked with giant carnivorous toads) that robs interlopers of their short-term memories, a deadly political battle waged with riddles and other tests. Along with such allies as a gent who can detach and reattach any of his body parts (including his head) at will and a warrior who gets to start over as a 20-year-old any time he's killed, Mull provides his young protagonists with a foe as genuinely clever as he is powerful and rescues an ambling plot with a devastating climactic twist. Readers fond of fantasies that don't take themselves too seriously will enjoy this trilogy opener. (Fantasy. 10-13)Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Mull (the Fablehaven series) launches the Beyonders trilogy with a dark tale that updates classic tropes with solid contemporary characters. Thirteen-year-old Jason is transported (via hippopotamus gullet, no less) from Colorado to Lyrian, a magical world ruled by the despotic sorcerer Maldor. After witnessing some horrific deaths and learning the history of Lyrian, Jason discovers that his quest to return home might be impossible without defeating Maldor, which can only be done by finding the syllables of a long-lost magic word that erases itself from the memory of those who utter it. He's given this task by the Blind King, the last man to discover the word, who also introduces him to Rachel, another refugee from Earth. Mull throws some magical creatures--including a race that can be dismembered and still live--and plenty of challenges at Jason and Rachel, who must use their wits to survive. Death and betrayal often dominate the plot, but Mull moves his story at a brisk pace, preventing the tragedies from overwhelming the adventure, while offering ample action and feisty dialogue to keep fantasy lovers entertained. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC
Gr 5-8--Jason Walker is a typical 13-year-old, doing his best to fit in with friends in Vista, CO. His internship at a local zoo puts him in close contact with wild animals. Unbeknownst to him, the zoo contains a portal in the hippopotamus tank. One day, the portal, exuding whimsical music, lures him in, and Jason is immediately transported to a new world called Lyrian. In this epic tale that's filled with adventure on every page turn, Jason initially tries desperately to discover a way to get home to his parents and his previous life, but as his journey continues, he finds himself drawn into the political unrest of an empire ruled by a powerful and sinister wizard. Tortured and neglected members of society hope Jason will be their hero and save them from Maldor. The teen befriends the desperate citizens of Lyrian and commits to taking down the evil emperor. Jason's journey will require readers to think hard about life's unpredictable nature and the difficult decisions that must be made. It also touches on finding trust in others and the importance of asking for help. While there are a few places where readers need a little more detail between one scene and the next, this book is highly recommended for those fantasy-hungry readers who frequent the stacks.--Kathryn Kennedy, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA[Page 166]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.