Dragonwatch, Book 1: A Fablehaven Adventure

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Dragonwatch, Book 1: A Fablehaven Adventure Book Poster Image
Wandering fantasy sequel will appeal to franchise fans.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Raises some important ethical issues, particularly on the idea of maintaining neutrality when those around you are struggling with great difficulties. Seth's decision to put his cousin in danger -- without his knowledge or consent -- also raises questions about whether the ends ever justify the means.

Positive Messages

Being underestimated can give you an advantage. People who bear great responsibility need to have trusted supporters and helpers to achieve their goals. Finding your courage is half the battle. Rules that seem to limit options can, on closer examination, point to creative solutions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Contemplative Kendra weighs her options carefully before committing to action. Seth is impulsive and tends to be self-absorbed, but he's willing to sacrifice himself for a greater cause. Adults are concerned for the teens' welfare and disapproving of Seth's methods but agree to put the children at risk and praise the results of Seth's bold, risky action to save the day.

Violence

Twice a teen boy risks another's death by putting the unwitting teen in a life-threatening situation, once for a frivolous reason and once out of desperation to save the world. Characters face several potentially deadly creatures including a demon, a troll, bears, and dragons. Teens are in near constant danger of being killed once they go to Dragonwatch. Spooky scene involves dead bodies with familiar faces and a mob of the undead. Many references to past battles and slayings.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

Mention of the game Scrabble.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Dragonwatch is the start of a sequel fantasy series set in the world of Brandon Mull's Fablehaven books, and it draws heavily on the characters and events from that original series. There are more references to violent battles in the Fablehaven series than actual fighting in this one, where the violence is mostly threatened or in the form of pursuits, such as circling dragons overhead or ogres and bears chasing heroes. Plot developments hinge on stretching and sometimes breaking rules, and one character twice thrusts an unaware teen into deadly peril. There's an intense dreamlike scene involving corpses of familiar characters and another involving a crowd of undead. Teens are in near constant peril from magical creatures including a demon, an ogre, and dragons.

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What's the story?

DRAGONWATCH returns Kendra, 15, and her brother, Seth, 13, to Fablehaven, the secret sanctuary for magical creatures overseen by their grandparents. All seems peaceful, but they soon learn trouble is brewing among the dragons. Celebrant the Dragon King is trying to take control of the Wyrmroost sanctuary, escape confinement, and begin a new age for dragons. It falls to Kendra and Seth to take over as the new caretakers, in uneasy partnership with Celebrant, who sees their youth and inexperience as weakness. The siblings know this assignment could easily end with their death, but they set out on a magic-steeped journey to shore up Wyrmroost's defenses and prove they're up to the task of overseeing the sanctuary.

Is it any good?

Brandon Mull returns to Fablehaven with a sequel that's wandering yet still sure to please fans with familiar characters, nods to early adventures, and new thrills among the dragons of Wyrmroost. Kendra and Seth are both a little wiser in Dragonwatch, but they're tested anew as they're thrust into the role of dragon keepers. Newcomers to Mull's work might also be tested, as he spends a fair amount of the book squeezing in references to characters and scenes from the first series.

Mull (Five Kingdoms series) tends to rely on convenient devices to advance the story: Each fresh challenge is resolved by discovering another rule to manipulate or a character's magical ability. Gender roles remain frustrating: Seth is headstrong, bold, and reckless, quick to break important rules. Kendra has proven herself a thoughtful warrior, but Mull peppers her narrative with so many self-directed questions she seems timid -- and she's distracted by attractive boys. Humor and rich characters keep things lively.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the gender roles in Dragonwatch. Seth is presented as headstrong, bold, and reckless. Kendra's frequent self-directed questions make her seem timid, and she's distracted by attractive boys. Do these differences between the two characters conform to gender stereotypes?

  • Why are books about dragons so popular?

  • If you've read the Fablehaven books, is this book an enjoyable extension of the story? If you're new to this world, does this book make you want to read the first series?

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