Aladdin, New York, 2011
Awards: New York Times #1 Best Seller
Beyonders, by Brandon Mull, is one of my favorite Fantasy books of all time. The protagonist Jason Walker, an everyday teen age boy who loves baseball and works at a zoo, hears music coming from the hippo tank. He investigates the strange music trying to identify its source. He leans over the water toward the hippo trying to figure out how the sound could be coming from inside the tank. He accidentally falls into the pool and in one big gulp he is swallowed. As he slides down the hippo’s throat it turns into a long tunnel that dumps him into the hollow trunk of a dead tree. That is how Jason ends up in the fantasy world called Lyrian.
It takes some time for Jason to adjust to such a strange place, but in the process he stumbles on the beginning of a word. This single syllable makes him a threat to the only wizard left in Lyrian, Maldor. This wizard is an evil man who controls nearly all of Lyrian and its inhabitants. While running from Maldor, Jason meets The Blind King and another visitor to Lyrian Rachel. The Blind King is broken both physically and mentally. He was the last great challenger to Maldor and he fell victim to the wizards cruel experiments. The Blind King calls Jason and Rachel Beyonders, because they came from beyond Lyrian. He tells Jason and Rachel that Maldor is curious about his enemies and their best chance at survival is to find the rest of the word that Jason discovered. The word is a magical word that will unmake the evil ruler. Jason and Rachel just want to find a way home, but under the circumstances, they agree to find the rest of the word to improve their chances for survival.
This book has everything for the young adult reader. It presents many challenges, and circumstances force them to make dangerous choices, but do they decide to become heroes? I won’t give any spoilers. I also like the support from Mull and the publisher who provide a great deal for educators to assist in helping young adults think about situations presented in the book. The book is written with the classroom in mind.