Brandon 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: Solid sequel (fantasyliterature.com)
- Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull (20four12.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: Seeds of Rebellion (readingfairytales.blogspot.com)
- A World Without Heroes: Appealing characters, imaginative world (fantasyliterature.com)
- Beyonders Series, by Brandon Mull (smithgift.wordpress.com)
- Chasing the Prophecy: Mull doesn’t take the easy way out (fantasyliterature.com)
- Beyonders : a world without heroes. Fantasy and adventure @brandonmull (booktrailers4kidsandya.wordpress.com)
- Book Review: A World Without Heroes (Beyonders #1) by Brandon Mull (karenmkrueger.wordpress.com)