Fablehaven, the first novel in the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, is an exciting young adult fantasy story about courage and loyalty. These are the major characters in the book, explained along with their goals, functions in the story, and relationships to the other characters. There are some spoilers in these descriptions, and they are intended as a review for those who have already read the book.
Kendra and Seth Sorenson
Kendra and Seth are siblings, and are the protagonists of the story. As a team, they occupy different roles and have very different personalities. Kendra is 13, and is careful, quiet, and cautious to a fault. She does not take risks, and is always kind and polite to those she meets. Seth, at 11, is a highly energetic boy with a penchant for risk-taking and troublemaking. He isn’t a bad person, however, and he always has good intentions.
These two siblings play off each other throughout the novel, and show that both personality types have their advantages. Seth’s love of adventure and willingness to break rules gets them into trouble, but also leads them to discover more about Fablehaven and its secrets. His clever mind also finds solutions to several of their problems. In the end, however, it is Kendra’s caution that it portrayed as superior. She is the one who unravels the mystery of Fablehaven, and her politeness and way of sticking to the rules leaves her the only one immune to magical retribution, the only one who can stop the evil witch Muriel. She still cannot defeat the witch without taking a leaf out of her brother’s book, though—going to the island of the Fairy Queen is the kind of impulsive risk usually undertaken by Seth.
Stan and Ruth Sorenson
This husband and wife teams runs the Fablehaven preserve and plays a major role in the story, although Ruth is absent for much of the book. Stan and Ruth are Seth and Kendra’s paternal grandparents. Though Stan is technically the one in charge of Fablehaven, the responsibility having been passed down through his family, Ruth is portrayed as a strong, capable helper and not merely as Stan’s wife. She is a caretaker of Fablehaven in her own right, a strong female character who in the end must help rescue her husband from the witch.
Stan and Ruth are both portrayed as wise but not infallible. They are knowledgeable and understanding, giving Kendra and Seth second chances and letting them in on the secret of Fablehaven. They are dedicated to their work and set rules with the best of intentions. Yet they both make mistakes, and as is customary in a young adult book it is the children who save the day, not the adults.
Dale is a member of the Fablehaven community, a groundskeeper and helper to Stan and Ruth. His quiet, calm nature keeps him from playing too large a role in events, though he is the one who provides milk to the fairies and gives Kendra a clue that the milk is crucial to understanding Fablehaven. Dale introduces Seth and Kendra to the rock golem Hugo and teaches them how to command this powerful being. There is a hint of mystery about Dale—not much is known about him except that he stays at Fablehaven largely to care for his brother, who is in a magically induced catatonic state.
Lena at first seems a mere housekeeper, but is soon revealed to be far more. Lena was once a Naiad, an immortal water being, who left that life to be with a man named Patton Burgess. Patton was a caretaker of Fablehaven, and lured Lena from the pond to be his wife. Lena has lost most of her magical nature, though she has lived much longer than a typical human and doesn’t regret leaving her life as a Naiad. She appreciates the adventure and experience of being human. She is kind and wise, and an important helper to Kendra and Seth.
At the end of the book, however, she is returned by the well-meaning fairies to the pond, restored to her Naiad self and with few or no memories of her time as a human. Her story helps Kenda and Seth understand the nature of magical creatures and the differences between them and humans, as well as the dangers associated with becoming to close to magic. And her return to the pond balances out the triumph of Kenda’s defeat of Muriel, leaving the end of the book bittersweet.
As the antagonist of the novel, Muriel plays a fairly typical role as the evil witch trying to gain power for herself. Her backstory does provide her with some depth, though. Muriel was once the wife of a caretaker of Fablehaven, but she delved too deeply into magic and forbidden black arts and had to be magically imprisoned. This magic involved a rope with several knots, which can be undone one at a time if a human asks her for a favor.
Muriel illustrates the dangers of humans becoming too involved with magic, as well as the perils of greed and power. More than once throughout the book a protagonist is forced to ask her for a favor and untie a knot, which eventually leads to her being released. The lesson here, as with Seth’s impulsive actions, is that even the best of intentions can have unexpected and dangerous repercussions, and that nothing comes without a price.
The Fairy Queen
A mysterious character, the Fairy Queen is ruler of all fairykind and lives in a magical realm. She can be contacted through shrines such as the one on the island in Fablehaven, but she is hardly benevolent. Seth and Kendra learn of a former caretaker who tried to ask the Fairy Queen for a favor, but was turned to dandelion fluff as soon as he set foot on her island.
Despite this, Kenda demonstrates both courage and desperation by traveling to the island near the end of the book to ask for the Fairy Queen’s aid in rescuing her family. For some unknown reason the Fairy Queen grants Kenda’s wish in the form of a gift that helps her strike back against Muriel. Like all magical creatures in Fablehaven, the Fairy Queen clearly has her own agenda and manipulates humans to her own mysterious ends.