Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

It's not often these days that I come across a fantasy novel that I would stay up past my bedtime to read. I was happy to discover that Beyonders is one of these books.

Jason is just a regular high middle school kid who loves baseball and animals. While volunteering at the zoo one day, he hears strange music coming from the hippo and falls into its mouth... and into the world of Lyrian. In his attempt to find his way back to his world, he stumbles on a creepy book bound in skin (complete with a blinking human eye) and learns about a magical word that will defeat the evil magician currently ruling Lyrian. He is suddenly being hunted down by soldiers, giant boarhounds, and other scary creatures and embarks on a quest to find all the syllables of the magical word before he is disposed of. Along the way he is joined by Rachel, another girl from his world who has also been mysteriously transported to Lyrian, and Farin, a creature who can detach his limbs at will. To find the syllables, they must battle man eating crabs, get across a quicksand lake, survive a treacherous swamp full of poisonous snakes and bugs, all the while trying to evade the evil magician's minions.

I was a bit wary at first since the idea of falling into a hippo's mouth seemed a bit far-fetched, but as a read on, I found that the plot moved well and that the magical world was definitely intriguing enough to keep me interested. The characters are complex enough that you're not always sure whether they are good or bad, and there's a great twist at the end. ( I don't want to reveal too much or I'll spoil it for those of you who might read this book!) While this is often classified under children's fantasy, I would recommend it to teens looking for a fast paced, easy to read fantasy.

Brandon Mull is also the author of the Fablehaven series (which I am now planning to read as well). This is the first in the Beyonders series, and I can't wait to read the sequel...
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