A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Death Weavers is the fourth book in the Five Kingdoms series from fantasy author Brandon Mull, who developed a big fan base from his Fablehaven and Beyonders series. If kids have already read some of Mull's books, they'll find this series less violent and a little less complex than Beyonders. While less violent, most of the story takes place in a purgatory-like environment (with ghosts) called Echoland, leading to much talk about death and resisting the call of the Other. Some characters are taken to this realm by force, still alive, leaving their bodies behind. General fantasy violence includes fights with swords, arrows, fists, and horses that trample some bad guys to death. Two bloody events -- a sword through a back and a fatal arrow wound and throat slitting -- are not described much beyond that. The main character of the series, Cole, continues to be thoughtful and selfless. Here he's nearly driven to despair as he must make choices between his own happiness and what he believes is his duty to his friends.
What's the story?
When friends Cole, Princess Mira, Joe, Dalton, Jace, and Cole's long-lost brother Hunter arrive in Necronum to rescue Mira's missing sisters, they have no idea where they should start looking. So first they visit the closest shrine filled with Echos, or spirits, to find out what the dead may know. Did the sisters pass through there? Are they in danger? They're sent to the Cave of Memory, where anyone who passes through leaves an imprint with their memories attached. Cole finds Destiny and Honor's imprints and discovers where they could have run next: the ruins of an ancient prison. The team members know they're walking into danger and find it at the prison. In an ambush, the bodies of Mira, Joe, and Jace go limp as their spirits are kidnapped and taken to Echoland, a purgatory where a powerful and evil magician is imprisoned by Grand Shapers and trying to use the princesses' powers to break free. Cole is worried that Mira's other sisters are trapped there as well and decides that he must go after them. But whom should he rescue first: Mira or her sisters? And how will he escape the call of the Other -- permanent death -- when he leaves the mortal world and his body behind?
Is it any good?
Author Brandon Mull takes readers on an intriguing trip to a purgatory called the Echolands, but the story bogs down in too many details. If readers have made it to Book 4 in the Five Kingdoms series, you know how Mull rolls: 75 percent fascinating world-building (this time, two new worlds!) to 25 percent storytelling (expect many travel detours and delays). Readers actually spend most of their time in DEATH WEAVERS in Echolands, where bodies are left behind and some crazy rules apply -- such as people and most places having distinctive musical footprints.
While it's hard to feel grounded in such a celestial-style environment, Mull's decision to keep focused on Cole almost the entire time doesn't help. Cole travels from hermit sage to hermit sage gathering more information about his rescue mission, oodles of advice and praise for being brave, and lots and lots of background about Grand Shapers and torivors and the Founding Stone and every single rule about how to traverse the Echolands. Getting so wrapped up in the whys and hows of this world without a reminder of why we really like the characters Cole is rescuing depletes the story's urgency and keeps us at too great a distance. Visiting memory imprints of two of the princesses at the beginning of the book just isn't enough. Knowing if and how they got captured and exactly what they're going through would keep the adventure high throughout and the story grounded in this remarkable realm Mull created.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about all the different lands you've visited in this series, usually one per book. But this time author Brandon Mull invents a whole afterlife, as well. Which is your favorite world? When it's time, would you like to inhabit any part of the afterlife Mull describes?
The violence in this series as a whole is not gory, but the ghost stuff in this book may seem scary to some. Did characters such as Sando and Nazeem seem scary? Why, or why not?
Will you keep reading about the final kingdom in Book 5? Why, or why not? What do you think is in store for Cole and his friends from Earth? And for the princesses?
- Author: Brandon Mull
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Great Boy Role Models, Horses and Farm Animals, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: March 15, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 512
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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