“Beyonders” – What Role Does Violence Play In Children’s Novels?

Book Review : Beyonders, A World Without Heros by Brandon Mull

Jason is a normal teen worried about girls and his pitching speed in baseball. He loves his job at the zoo and it is there, much to his surprise, that he enters another world, Lyrian.  When trying to find a way home Jason discovers a book that starts his quest to find a secret magical word that will destroy the sorcerer who wields absolute power in Lyrian. Jason finds Rachel, who also mysteriously appeared about the same time he arrived in this parallel universe. In Lyrian it is dangerous to stand up for what is right and the general population tries to remain anonymous to Maldor, the sorcerer king, to preserve their miserable lives.

Spoiler Alert!

Adult Point of View

The prologue is gruesome. The opening scene features a prince being tortured by the minions of the evil sorcerer Maldor. There are other scenes that are disturbing throughout the novel. For example, the Giddy Nine, a group of musicians, have tied themselves onto a raft set to plunge off a cliff in a suicide mission trying to call a hero to save the land of Lyrian. Another example would be witnessing the ruined state of the prince (Galloran) blind and mentally damaged. There are other torture scenes and atrocious beasts.

So, here is the question, what role does violence play in children’s novels? When the original Grimm Fairy tales were told the world was a harsh place with many people barely sustaining themselves. At that time, these violent tales served as a warning for children to obey their parents and to be frightened of the world. Some psychologists today feel that these stories with a lot of bite to them still serve a purpose giving a venue for children to express their fears and inward hostilities. The conundrum remains if the violence in the media fuels further violence or if it is merely a reflection of our world. I believe the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.

Over the last ten years I have witnessed more dark and violent children’s literature. Though many of these books are scary I have still enjoyed them. I believe that parents should be informed about what their children are reading to make the choice that is best for them.

Beyonders is listed as being for 8 – 12 year olds. I would not be comfortable with my 8 year old reading this book because he is so sheltered and innocent. Others, whose children are more savvy to the ways of the world may find that Beyonders has just enough drama to keep them interested in reading. I would let my child read this one at 11 years old.

I generally enjoy Mull’s writing style and the inherent sense of morality within his writing. I particularly like Mull’s characters.

The premise for Beyonders does not feel as original as some of Mull’s other books, though I am still amazed at some of his creative ideas. The plot devise of moving from one key character to the next to try and solve the puzzle was a bit choppy at first. The flow of the novel moved into a better rhythm after Jason and Rachel meet up with the displacer, a character that can remove body parts and then reconnect those same parts. Because of the age listed and the violence I am giving this book less stars than if the demographic was for older children.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

– the Mother

Teen Point of View
I enjoyed reading this book. The ending has a twist that was surprising, I didn’t expect it. After reading it, I was surprised for the ages that was suggested. Eight is too young to read  it, it is too graphic. Eleven and twelve are ideal. There was danger, and action. I liked it a lot and I’m waiting for the next to come. It was a step up in maturity from Fablehaven, I thought it was just as good though.

-the Teen

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About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow cooked in a tagine. Weekly I get together with friends and go to yoga for a bit of mommy time. Some may find me quirky, I prefer to think I am one of a kind.
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