This is my favorite book in the Fablehaven series thus far. In my experience the books tend to start out slow, and pick up speed towards the end of the first third, then they gain speed, and by the end is rolling so rapidly that it seems like Mull is rushing to get everything in that he had planned. The fourth book actually kept a nice pace throughout and it ended in a bit of a cliff hanger which makes you want to read the fifth book as soon as possible.
We are immediately thrown into Kendra and Seth’s non magical lives right before Christmas vacation. Security has tightened around them, but the best security is no match for the Society of the Evening Star and their mysterious leader, the Sphynx. Kendra gets kidnapped and as a result the reader learns that the Society is gaining power, information, and magical objects. Both Seth and Kendra find themselves in Fablehaven for safety reasons. Unfortunately, what with body doubles and evil magic, no place is really safe. A small group of trusted allies decides to penetrate a dragon sanctuary in order to retrieve one of the keys to a magical object. As usual, Seth and Kendra have to work together and trust one another in order to accomplish a goal.
I really enjoy the action sequences in the Fablehaven books. I feel less comfortable when Mull tries to get into the psyche of either Seth or Kendra especially when they are ‘learning’ a lesson. To trust themselves. To seek good rather than adventure. To push on through difficult situations. These portions of the book are awkward and almost uncomfortable to the reader. It is as though Mull has decided it is time for the narration to teach a moral. This is something I have always disliked with children’s books or young adult novels. More often than not the writer underestimates the audiences ability to reason and observe subtle changes, so they apply some heavy handed narrative. This is Mull’s largest failing as a writer. Happily, these sections are few so the reader can generally settle in and just enjoy the story.