Seeds of Rebelion: Brandon Mull and the C.S.Lewis tradition

350px-brandon_mull_at_2008_mountain-con1Brandon Mull doesn’t get enough credit.

A few weeks ago, I attended a forum at the Salt Lake CominCon FanXperience for authors Brandon Sanderson and Brandon Mull. Both are a local (to Utah) authors, both are BYU grads, both write fantasy, both are New York Times bestselling authors, and both are at about the same place in their careers.

And yet it was clear, in watching the Q&A, that while there are many similarities, each writes for a different fan base that has guided the kind of writing they produce. Where Sanderson’s successful completion of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, as well as a fair measure of success in his own right, has brought him a substantial fan base among adults (I stood in line for the forum next to a couple of women who had driven from California to get into a con where they could actually meet Sanderson, San Diego’s ComiCon having gotten too large and difficult to get into), Mull’s fan base is substantially younger and, I surmised as I listened to question after question aimed at Sanderson while Mull sat alongside him patiently, less likely to show up at a con.

To those fans, Mull is to Sanderson what minor league baseball is major league: a step within the genre from one level of depth to the next.

That step–from fantasy fiction designed for a young reader, more heavily weighted with archetypal characters, a more action driven plot, and focused on protagonists in their early teens–is why I think Mull does not get the credit he deserves. His readers are just discovering fantasy for the first time, and Mull knows exactly how to talk their language. He understands, to quote Neil Gaiman (who is summarizing G.K. Chesterton), that “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

During the Salt Lake FanXperience forum with Sanderson, Mull was asked what he first read that got him into reading and into fantasy. Mull cited The Tales of Narnia, and indeed it is hard not to see C.S. Lewis in all Mull writes.

Lewis famously explained why he wrote fantasy for children when such might scare children. “Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. . . Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.”

And Mull’s stories are all about soundly killing the villain.

In Seeds of Rebellion, Jason returns to Lyrian carrying information crucial to the cause of all who oppose Maldor’s tyrannous reign. He is also looking for Rachel, the girl pulled from his world at the same time as him and from whom he became separated before being sent back to Earth surreptitiously. Jason wonders if he will be able find her, pass on the information before it is too late, and whether his role in the quest is over.

Meanwhile, on the run from Maldor’s agents, Rachel finds new friends and new talents that will mark her as a powerful force in the fight for freedom. Together, Jason and Rachel and their allies will begin a quest to raise the free people of Lyrian against Maldor’s growing reach. With hope growing dim, they will set out on a journey across lands wild and unknown to find the knowledge they need to raise a full scale rebellion.

A World Without Heroes (Beyonders #1) introduced us to Lyrian; Seeds of Rebellion reveals how complex, diverse and, at least from Jason and Rachel’s perspective, strange Lyrian really is. If Mull takes his lead from Lewis to craft a tale for adolescents, then he turns to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels for creative inspiration for the peoples created by Lyrian’s wizards. Each stage of the quest seems to pass through some land of peoples that are anything but entirely human.

Mull’s tale is exciting, archetypal, and hopeful. Aimed directly at young, growing adolescents and teens, it’s an excellent selection for an afternoon under a tree during summer break. If you’ve not found Mull before, pick up the Beyonders now, whether for your kids or to read to them, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself enjoying it along with them.

Seeds of Rebellion Book Cover Seeds of Rebellion
Beyonders #2
Brandon Mull
Fantasy - YA
March 13, 2012

After the cliffhanger ending of A World Without Heroes, Jason is back in the world he’s always known—yet for all his efforts to get home, he finds himself itching to return to Lyrian. Jason knows that the shocking truth he learned from Maldor is precious information that all of his friends in Lyrian, including Rachel, need if they have any hope of surviving and defeating the evil emperor.

About Daniel

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. He reads about history, politics, and current events, as well as more serious genres such as science fiction and fantasy. You can also follow him on his blog where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas.


  1. Anjuli says:

    Brandon Mull is Colin’s favorite author. I believe he has read all of his books at this point but Fablehaven and the Beyonders are his favorite. Though Candy Shop Wars is where he started with Mulls books. Thanks for a great review.

    • You know, Anjuli, that’s one of Mull’s that I’ve never actually read. I may have to pick that up one of these days. You aren’t the first to tell me how much they enjoyed it.

  2. Brandon Mull is so fantastic! I love these covers!

  3. Interesting post. I agree with these musings. I like both Mull and Sanderson a lot even though I’m allegedly “grown up” (chronologically over 40, anyways). At this stage of my life, Sanderson’s ‘cosmere’ books (eg Way of Kings, Mistborn) are the biggest draw for *me* but I still very much appreciate C.S. Lewis, specifically, being one of the prime door openers to all the great things in the fantasy genre for me at a young age and I can see Mull doing that for a lot of younger readers.

    And that is a great thing to be doing. And, frankly, not only is it a different endeavor than what Sanderson is doing when he writes a Stormlight book, I tend to like Mull’s YA/’younger’ fiction better than Sanderson’s (eg I’m not the huge Alcatraz fan that some of my kids are …)

    So while the book I’m most looking forward to in the near future is the next 1K+ installment after Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, comparing these two authors head-to-head is kinda ‘apples and oranges’, if you will. I’ve never seen them at an event together so your report of how that played out in that venue is most welcome.

    • It’s true: Mull and Sanderson is not a great match-up. Which is why I was a bit bemused to see them together.

      That said, what they do, IMHO, is very complementary.

      Like you I’m looking forward to Sanderson’s next tome, though I’ve not delved into Words of Radiance, yet. It’s sitting there, heavily, on my book stand…calling my name….

  4. Rachel Bradford says:

    Brandon Mull is my favorite YA novelist. 🙂