by Brandon Mull
Aladdin, 2011. 446 pgs. Fiction.
In this first volume of the Beyonders series, Jason Walker doesn't waste time fiddling around in an old wardrobe to find his way into a fantastical world--he dives down a hippo's throat. Finding himself in Lyrian, the world whose heroes have essentially been eliminated by Maldor the evil emperor magician, Jason hunts for a way to get back to Colorado but instead manages to get on the wrong side of the bad guys when he looks in a skin-covered eyeball-ridden book that tells of a Word of Power that will destroy Maldor and free the Lyrians. Hoping that his quest to save himself will coincide with his unexpected responsibility to save the Lyrians, Jason sets out with Rachel, another Beyonder, to find the syllables that will bring Maldor down. Macroid the Giant Crab, the Pythoness of the Sunken Lands, the detachable appendages guys, and my favorite, the Duel to the Death (almost) with Billiard Balls all either help or hinder the two teens along their way to a cliff-hanger ending that will have to wait until next year for the temporary resolution of a second volume. Jason and Rachel are fine, funny young people who should appeal to and inspire Mull's many many many many readers. A more rigorous editorial hand could have tightened the narrative some, but the story is imaginative and memorable. Brandon Mull has done it again.