This is a spoiler free review.
A World Without Heroes (Beyonders #1) by Brandon Mull
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable–until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he’s ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail. In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.
I have to be honest: I don’t read a lot of middle grade anymore. I’m 21 years old now, and although I’m a firm believer in reading whatever you want, it’s just a lot harder for me to relate to it now. But I saw a hardcover of this book at Bookfest for about €4, so I couldn’t really pass it up.
I’m very glad I picked it up though. This is one of those books I wish I would’ve known about when I was 13. Then again, this book wasn’t published yet when I was 13. But you know what I mean! I would have adored this. Now, I did enjoy it -but I didn’t love it. Just because it’s harder for me to relate to a 13 year old boy and girl.
I think it’s safe to say that I really enjoyed the world in this book. Jason and Rachel each come to Lyrian differently: one through a hippopotamus, one because of a butterfly. So at first, you don’t really know much about the world, aside from the fact that Maldor conquered all the countries (well, almost) and wants to rule it all.
However, because the characters travel a lot on their quest, you slowly learn more and more. For example, everyone is suspicious of travelers. Maldor encourages this because it decreases the likelihood of the other cities/kingdoms to band together and oppose him. HOW SMART IS THAT?
You slowly come to know the lands alongside Jason and Rachel, as they go on their quest. It had swamps, deserts, forests, rivers and big cities. So definitely a whole variety! And it wasn’t just the land that was interesting to me. They had different creatures -like evil toads/frogs- and fruits we have never heard of. All of that combined makes for an intriguing world.
Like I said, this is a quest novel. Jason and Rachel have both ended up in this other world, and have to find the Word to unmake the evil emperor, Maldor.
I quite like the idea that one word could unmake a wizard, as a safeguard for when they turn evil. And I like the idea that you can think of each syllable, but as soon as you say it out loud, you’ll forget it. You also can’t write it down. Smart, no? So Jason and Rachel travel the lands, in search for the syllables of the Word. All over the country, Lyrian, people are hidden in places which are hard to reach. These people know one syllable of the Word, and can maybe direct you to the next one.
I was intrigued by the journey, and happily followed along. Sometimes the story skips a few days so you won’t just see their life on the road if nothing happens to them. It’ll skip to the moment they are close to arriving, or something happens. I actually didn’t mind it, really because it kept the pacing fairly quick.
I love the title of this book. In the novel, it is pointed out that anyone can become a hero. You don’t need any special talents. You just need to do what’s right, even if that’s not the easier choice. I think that’s a great message, no?
I also really enjoyed the big twist! That’s actually the main reason I want to continue with the series, because I want to know how they’ll solve this.
First up, Jason. I really enjoyed reading from his point of view. Jason is a 13-year-old American boy, who studies hard, plays baseball and works at a zoo. Sounds like a pretty normal kid to me. Which is the main message of this book: anyone can be a hero. In my opinion, Jason is a good person. He tries to help this world, to which he has no connection. He also misses his friends and family, and isn’t afraid to mention it or think about it. That’s another reason I liked this book. I mean, if I were to fall through a hippo (which I hope will never happen, that’s gross) I would be worried about my family and friends. What would they think? So I’m glad that wasn’t left out in this book.
Then, Rachel. She is an American girl who is home-schooled and travels a lot with her parents. She’s an only child, while Jason has some brothers. I really enjoyed Rachel. She was smart -so was Jason by the way- but not afraid to say what’s on her mind. In Lyrian, women don’t really have much of a role. In villages, people often spoke to Jason and ignored her. She wasn’t afraid to comment on that, which is nice to read!
I had a lot of fun following these two on their quest, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store for them next.
Overall, I would recommend this book if you enjoy middle grade novels, and feel like trying out some fantasy. It’s a quick and easy read, but an entertaining one too. I felt like this book had some great messages, such as “anyone can be a hero”. And it pointed out gender inequality in a fantasy world, which is always welcome to me. I do think I’ll be continuing the series! I really want to know what will happen next. Like I said, I didn’t expect to want to read on, as I don’t read much middle grade. I’ll make an exception for this one though!