By far the Keys to the Demon Prison is the strongest book in the Fablehaven series. In it, Mull corrects many of his earlier mistakes, by creating nua...moreBy far the Keys to the Demon Prison is the strongest book in the Fablehaven series. In it, Mull corrects many of his earlier mistakes, by creating nuanced and interesting characters on all sides. He highlights shifting alliances and the difficulties arising from allying with those currently convenient. Of particular note is the comparison that Mull draws between Seth and the Sphinx in the early part of the book.
The plot is also entertaining, with even more creative settings and creatures. Some of the flaws that plagued the early books, such as villain monologuing, plot that turns out to be largely unnecessary, and repetition of exposition to each character in turn, are still present in Keys to the Demon Prison, but in attenuated form. Mull also tries to actually highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each character, rather than play on gender norms as was the case in early books. (less)
I'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book & the ending. It was very strange and very unexpected. Overall, a lot of the characterizations...moreI'm still not quite sure how I feel about this book & the ending. It was very strange and very unexpected. Overall, a lot of the characterizations that were being built up were never really explained. There weren't any actual loose end; however, the conclusion felt pretty unsatisfying.
In any event, The Keys to the Kingdom books stand alone very poorly; by the seventh book every character, item and place has significance from earlier on in the book and there is no summarization of previous events. I would recommend re-reading the entire series before starting this.(less)
Harriet McBryde Johnson may have looked at her life as being "too late to die young;" however, she died younger than she should have and her unique, p...moreHarriet McBryde Johnson may have looked at her life as being "too late to die young;" however, she died younger than she should have and her unique, powerful voice was lost to us. I tend to be skeptical about freshman novels, skeptical about the first person, skeptical about authorial self-inserts and skeptical about manifestos parading as novels. Accidents of Nature falls into all of the above categories; however, it is transcendent.
First and foremost, for a lawyer with no formal training on creative writing, Johnson has an unbelievable knack with characterization. Her characters are understated, but unique; flawed but sympathetic. Even characters that disagree with her point of view are granted strengths. The message in Accidents of Nature is very similar to that of "Too Late to Die Young;" however, in novel format, it is somehow easier to understand -- that Johnson is suggesting an approach that is taken to all people with disabilities, not just razor sharp Southern ADA lawyers who happen to be disabled. And while groups such as Disability is Natural are beginning to champion similar movements, Johnson is one of the first and one of the loudest to take her approach to the disability movement. Accidents of Nature is guaranteed to challenge how all of us think disability and Johnson makes it clear, by inserting a caricature of herself, that even she is not above reproach.
I read this in a sitting, but it will stay with me for a long, long time.(less)
While unique in concept, there are so many things that bothered me about this book, I hardly know where to start.
First and foremost, while Sebold ach...moreWhile unique in concept, there are so many things that bothered me about this book, I hardly know where to start.
First and foremost, while Sebold achieved great commercial success with this freshman novel, it still reads as a freshman novel. The schtick is clearly the only part of the book thought through and exists to cover the lack of other literary elements.
The first person, omnipresent narrative is clunky and not well explained (if the narrator knows what people are thinking show her figuring out that she knows!) and leads to a very much told, rather than shown, storyline.
The historical setting is both unnecessary and goes unmentioned for several hundred pages, so when reminded 200 pages in that the date is 1977, it is very confusing.
There are a plethora of characters, all of whom seem minor, since not enough time is spent on any for them to be more of a cliche.
The pacing is deplorable -- several years will pass over the course of two pages and then 50 pages will be spent on a single day or two, with the years that pass without mention covering such important events as everyone coming to believe the main character's father on the identity of the killer, while the time that we focus on covers the sexual explorations of the main character's little sister. The payload of the book, as it were, comes in the last 20 pages, with no harbinger and no evidence that this was the intended ending.
The intended audience is also unclear. The writing style is clearly too juvenile for a larger adult/older teen audience, and the literary foibles are difficult to overlook, even for the audience of adults/older teens who read young adult fiction. At the same time, the focus on the book being rape and murder and several explicit sexual passages make this book at best uncomfortable reading for young teens.(less)