Sunday, April 17, 2022

Book Series Review: "Dragonwatch" by Brandon Mull

Series Title: Dragonwatch
Author: Brandon Mull
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Reading Order & Individual Ratings:
  1. Dragonwatch - 4.5 // 5 stars
  2. Wrath of the Dragon King - 4.5 // 5 stars
  3. Master of the Phantom Isle - 4.5 // 5 stars
  4. Champion of the Titan Games - 4.5 // 5 stars
  5. Return of the Dragon Slayers - 4.5 // 5 stars
  6. Legend of the Dragon Slayer (companion)
Overall Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars

Let me just start out by saying that this series was a delight, I had so much fun reading it, and I look forward to returning to it again in the future! Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's get into the actual review.

So Dragonwatch is the sequel/spin-off series to Fablehaven, which is a series that is all about two kids who find out that their grandparents' house is actually on a magical preserve and grandparents interact with magical creatures every day. Obviously it's a bit more complicated and exciting than that, but at the very core that is what Fablehaven is about. Before I get into Dragonwatch, I want to warn that I cannot write this review without spoiling certain aspects of that first series. 

Dragonwatch is set just a few months after the events of the final Fablehaven book. Things have quieted down and our characters are mostly chilling after an intense couple of years. But, unrest among the dragons is brewing and only intensified after they were given a taste of freedom. That's where this series picks off, with Kendra and Seth on a new mission to save the world. 

This series was a delight. It was also very different than Fablehaven. For me, a lot of my feelings and thoughts around the first series come from reading the books as a child. In contrast, I am in my early twenties having just finished Dragonwatch so the feelings and experiences are different for both series. However, there remains a lot of nostalgia even with these new books that definitely made this sequel series fantastic. 

The main thing I liked about this series was getting to be back with these characters and this world. As I read this when I was really young, this has always been a very vivid, magical world for me and I've always connected hard with the characters. That made it very easy for me to fall back into this world, especially as I reread Fablehaven right before reading this series. 

Kendra and Seth have gotten a little wiser and a little older, but they still remain the same characters I grew to love and look up to as a child. Their younger cousins are introduced to this series and it's a very interesting dynamic to have Kendra and Seth be the experienced ones this time around. I found it really fascinating to watch how their characters have evolved and taken on these new roles. I honestly also expected Seth to take the forefront in this series, so when there was a pretty equal balance between Kendra and Seth, I was pleasantly surprised as Kendra has always been my favorite since I was nine years old. 

Of course, not only do Kendra and Seth return, but we also get a whole host of return side characters that I was so excited to see. Now, there were some side characters who I wish had gotten more page time but I am just happy to have more content with these characters in general. I also know that Kendra and Seth couldn't have grown and done the things they did if all of these side characters were present 100% of the time. 

I would say my favorite characters to see return were Warren, Tanu, Vanessa, Newel, and Doren. Of course, we have plenty of other side characters and new ones. There were some really great new characters that I loved reading about and being introduced to. The cast of characters is now quite large for this world. 

Apart from getting to spend more time with these characters and this world, one of the main things I loved about this series is getting to explore what was previously unexplored. This refers to not just new preserves and parts of the magical world but also legends and lore and types of magic and the like. It was fascinating and I would love an updated Caretaker's Guide that incorporates all of this new knowledge. 

I could live forever in this world and I don't think we would be able to explore it to its fullest extent, and that is really fascinating to me. Brandon Mull has taken our modern world but made it so much more magical than it already is. 

The plot itself was interesting and I could see the similarities to other Brandon Mull books I've read. However, the way this story was told was different from Fablehaven which I think both worked and didn't work in ways. Obviously it sets it apart as a new series that doesn't need to be a carbon copy to be interesting. On the other hand, it was a bit difficult to go from the high stakes of the last Fablehaven book to the events of this first book in Dragonwatch

This is not to say that the plot is unengaging or boring but the stakes feel lower. The big climax in the first book is less intense than any before in this world. And for me that made the first book feel more like part one with the sequel being part two of the same book. That's not to say it was boring, but it felt less complete than the other books.

On the other hand, the plot within this series was definitely more of a plot across five books rather than five books with interconnecting plots like Fablehaven seemed to be. This was enjoyable and I felt that it aged up the series a bit as you had to reflect on past books a lot more. I really liked that. 

While the main feelings I had at the end of each book were that I loved it, I also had a slight feeling of wanting more that never went away even with the final book. I loved them and I had such a fun time. I think being an adult who is no longer the target audience and who now reads such complex fantasy may be the reason for this feeling so it's definitely not a critique of the series. I am no longer the target audience no matter how much I love this world.

Overall, this was such a great series. I spent so long thinking that the stories in this world were done. To get another long series with so much more magic and adventures was a childhood dream come true. I could live forever in this world. I would read dozens of books about these characters, the adventures, the lore. It's just a fascinating world that I am so happy to have discovered all those years ago. 

It was also very bittersweet to finish this series. I finished this spin-off series in just a few days, but I've spent so much time with this characters that a final ending (supposedly) is very conflicting. It's a wonderful journey we've been on and I was so grateful to have this new one with them after having loved this world for over ten years. But Brandon Mull also said this is likely Kendra and Seth's final ending and that makes me a bit sad. However, I would also read any spin-off book about the side characters or the origins of this world in a heartbeat. 

This series was such a joy and, especially when paired with Fablehaven, will be one that I return to for years and years to come. I look forward to introducing my niece to these book and to rereading them when I miss the world and going on all these adventures again and again. But for now and until I picked back up Fablehaven again, I say goodbye. 

Thanks for reading!

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