Battle for the Harry Potter Throne: Fablehaven vs. Tapestry

I may be a 34-year-old man, but I don’t mind getting childish now and then — especially when it comes to literature.  I’ve always loved and appreciated young adult novels, feeling that they’re somehow more free to be imaginative than some of the adult stuff out there.  As such, over the last month or so I’ve been digging into two YA fantasy series that have come highly recommended: Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series (5 books in all) and Henry H. Neff’s Tapestry series (3 books so far).

With the absence of any more Harry Potter novels, it seems as though there’s this worldwide talent search to crown a new fantasy series as “the next Harry Potter”.  I guess that speaks to a void in some folks’ lives, although personally, I don’t see why there’s a desperate need for more Harry Potterness.  Both Fablehaven and The Tapestry are brought up as Harry Potter heirs, but that’s kind of a disservice to the authors.  I don’t think they wrote these books trying to out-Potter J.K. Rowling, but just to have fun in the field of fantasy, as many YA authors have done before and since.

Still, I can see why some people try to make the Potter connection, as they share themes (themes, I might add, that often pop up in YA fantasy).  There’s the young child (or children) from the regular world who discover that there’s a whole ‘nother world hidden around us — in the case of Fablehaven, it’s magical creatures hidden in preserves; in the case of the Tapestry, it’s the remnants of Old Magic that still course through pockets of the world.  The children come to a special place to learn about this fantastic world, and in so doing develop magical powers and special abilities of their own.  Then there’s a huge overarching enemy that threatens the safety of the whole world, and for some reason, only the kids are able to stop it.

But really, neither Fablehaven nor The Tapestry follow the Potter template, but instead choose to forge their own paths.  Fablehaven is more concerned with fantastic creatures from classic mythology — fairies, dragons, ogres, demons, etc. — while The Tapestry dabbles in dozens of fantasy tropes, from inner magic to cool gadgets (namely, the struggle between magic and technology, or nature and technology).  Only The Tapestry features a school for gifted kids like Harry Potter, although this school isn’t the focus of the series, and in the second book is abandoned for a good chunk.

I grew to love three things about Fablehaven.  The first is that Mull is pretty imaginative, and keeps coming up with cool new twists and locations and secrets to spill, tying all sorts of things together over the course of five books.  The second is that by having two main protagonists with two wildly different personalities and focuses — the girl has “light” magic and often is seen with fairies and other girly creatures, the boy has “shadow” magic and consorts with monsters — it markets itself to both genders fairly well.  The third is that Mull finishes each book with a series of discussion questions for parents to ask to their kids, often revolving around morality and tough choices.

I’m still trying to get a handle on The Tapestry.  As a story, it moves rapidly fast at points, throwing in gobs of new locations and events with little to no immediate follow-up.  You begin the books expecting it to be about a group of kids who get the Harry Potter schooling experience, but that’s quickly abandoned for larger happenings.  By the end of the second book, everything’s progressed so fast and far that I felt like it was the end of a seven-book series, and it gets really dark, really fast.

Both series have their darker moments, mind you, and don’t shy away from deaths and torture and hard questions.  But The Tapestry is actually a little frightening and gory — although I am starting to like it more than Fablehaven (the characters have more personality, for one thing), and am really interested to see where they go with the third installment.

Anyway, both series get a thumbs-up, and I think I’ll be moving on to read The Passage after this.

11 thoughts on “Battle for the Harry Potter Throne: Fablehaven vs. Tapestry

  1. Jomu July 14, 2010 / 3:05 pm

    that ddo pando booster sunk it’s claws into my pc before i could delete it; now i got some malware on it that can’t be removed 😦

  2. Salaryn July 14, 2010 / 9:49 pm

    Good recommendations. I’ve been thinking about picking up Fablehaven since the kids like it so much. I haven’t seen the Tapestry series at all. Looks interesting.
    Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson Books and his new Red Pyramid book are the big rage with the Harry Potter age crowd, and they also are avid for the 39 Clues books.

  3. Crim July 15, 2010 / 12:23 am

    (Long time reader delurking) While I liked Fablehaven very much, I couldn’t help but notice that the characters change very little over the span of the series. I understand that this is YA lit with an emphasis on “young” and that I am outside the target audience (I’m 30), but it just made me lose interest in the last books. The gender-coded personality and magic was a bit laughable at times, though kudos for the fact that the girl can outright control fairies while the guy can mostly sweet-talk creatures.

    I’m gonna check out The Tapestry now, it sounds interesting.

  4. Llokki July 15, 2010 / 7:45 am

    The Passage by Justin Cronin? I’m looking forward to getting into that one soon, as I’ve heard many good things.

  5. Professor Beej July 15, 2010 / 10:43 am

    I have Fablehaven on my list of books to read once I get a chance. I keep hearing great things about it, and this only reinforces that.

    I’ve never heard about The Tapestry, but I may have to give it a shot as well. I do very much love YA fantasy.

    I don’t get why some things have to be the “next Harry Potter,” though. I’m as guilty of labeling stuff like that as anyone. When something is as large a phenomenon as Harry Potter, it’s only natural to look to it to set the standard for what comes after, and it’s only natural to look for the next thing that is bigger and better. But I think that’s confining to the other literature as well as to the authors who do legitimately interesting things on their own (probably) without ever thinking about what Rowling did. Sure, there are similarities, but those can be tied to genre convention as much as anything. It’s both an honor and an insult to be labeled the next Harry Potter.

    It’s kind of like being called a WoW-killer. While it’s great to be considered in such an esteem, why does there always have to be a competition? Why can’t the community embrace the fact that there can be two (or three or four) top-notch industry standards–each possessing qualities similar yet different from the others?

    As much as Twilight and Harry Potter have comparisons drawn between them, there’s no real reason to. They don’t even target the same demographic (yes, the same age-group, but not the same sex since HP goes unisex while Twilight is primarily for a female audience). The stories are nothing alike. Even their genres are so far apart, that YA fantasy is too broad a term to really describe how they’re similar. Yet, they’re both touted as being competitors just because they sell well and kids/teenagers like them. It’s silly.

    I’d better stop rambling now. 😛

  6. lovebooks November 13, 2011 / 12:18 pm

    fablehaven is a good book the 1 4 and 5 books are the best the 4 book was a little sad im not gonna spoil it for ppl who didnt read it yet

  7. Ray September 19, 2012 / 10:37 pm

    In my opinion, The Tapestry was had almost the same plot as Harry Potter. The characters in both The Tapestry and Harry Potter are almost the same. They have a ball, a magic school, an invitation letter from the school, the main character in The Tapestry lives in the “Muggle” world.

    I do not recommend The Tapestry because of the similarities to Harry Potter, but Fablehaven is a must read.

  8. SophZuZu September 20, 2012 / 12:18 am

    I simply MUST agree with Ray ^
    The harry potter elements in Tapestry stared at me right in the face. It was glaringly obvious. Fablehaven is an EXCELLENT book. I loved everything about it.

  9. ... November 10, 2012 / 12:44 pm

    above are wrong they have only read book one. the series goes of differnt in the later books

  10. Kelly January 26, 2013 / 10:43 pm

    I’ve heard of Fablehaven and read every tapestry book to date (there’s four out now).

    As far as the similarities with the Tapestry and Harry Potter – coming from a Harry Potter lover – yeah, in the first book you see the similarities pretty quick (some of them being the the main character, the quirky non-human members of the cast, and the fact that there is a magic school). I don’t think it detracts from the book much and I still absolutely love the series, but yeah, it’s noticeable. Though if you read at least the first two books, you’ll see that Neff has created something original.

    After the second book, however, Max grows up WAY faster than Harry and Max has a lot more responsibility too. It can seem a little rushed, but the story line is so interesting and the characters so lovable, it makes up for it. My recommendation is, unless small similarities bug you, read it, read it, READ IT. I also now what to read Fablehaven. Sorry for the rant, just wanted to give my opinion.

  11. Saulo April 9, 2015 / 1:53 pm

    Never read Fablehaven, however, the Tapestry Series is amazing. Really, the Potter similarities end very fast, and the author adds just enought Celtic mithology and twists to keep you thoroughly glued to the books. The main character, Max McDaniels, is very different to Harry Potter, and the books present a lot more gritty account than Potter. In a lot of senses, you can say that the Tapestry Series present more mature reads than Harry Potter. I found it very enjoyable

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