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The Beyonders is a young adult fantasy novel series, written by Brandon Mull (who also wrote Fablehaven and The Candy Shop War). It marks Mull's first foray into high fantasy. However, like his other novels, this take on the genre is a little bit weirder than usual... And it's also really, really dark, especially considering its target audience.

Jason thinks he's going crazy when he hears music coming from the hippo's mouth at the zoo. He just has to lean in for a closer listen--and when he does, it's not surprising that he ends up swallowed by the hippo. But he doesn't end up in the hippo's stomach. He finds himself at the base of a rotting tree stump by a river, as a group of musicians drifts to their deaths. One horribly bungled attempt at saving them from a Suicide Pact later, and he ends up at a strange library-like place called the Repository of Knowledge, getting a crash-course in the history of the world he's stumbled into.

He has entered Lyrian. And while people from his world have wound up there before, "Beyonders" such as him have been unknown for quite some time. Emperor Maldor won't stand for that kind of talk. Maldor has been surpressing all kinds of "dangerous" ideas, and to be absolutely sure that no one stands against him in this, he's even bought out (or broken) all of the land's heroes. Even with heroes, though, he would be difficult to stop, as he's the world's only remaining wizard.

And Jason would probably be able to lie low for a good long while in the Repository, if he didn't take some Schmuck Bait and read the Book of Salzared. He accidentally learns of Maldor's Achilles Heel: Long ago, when he was but an apprentice, his teacher built a magical failsafe called a Key Word into him. Whoever speaks this word to Maldor will utterly obliterate him. But the syllables are broken up; scattered so that none may casually speak it. Unfortunately, Maldor quickly learns of Jason's knowledge. Now Jason's best chance for survival is to seek the rest of the word's syllables and try to destroy Maldor.

Luckily, he is joined in his quest by Rachael--another Beyonder like him who fell through at the same time he did. But even together, will they survive Maldor's tests to destroy him once and for all?

This novel provides examples of:

  • A Fete Worse Than Death: The Eternal Feast, if you're a really determined hero.
  • Action Girl: Rachael; quite insistantly so, in fact, since she's Genre Savvy about Neutral Female and refuses to let it happen to her.
  • Arc Syllables: A-rim-fex-en-dra-puse!
  • Badass Abnormal: Rachael. In the second book, she discovers her aptitude for Edomic, and quickly becomes the team's Black Magician Girl.
  • Badass Normal: Jason. Whereas most of the people in La Résistance have some sort of special power (even Galloran--or rather, especially Galloran), Jason's main skills are his leadership, determination, and ability to rally people around him.
  • Big Friendly Dog: Feracles. Puggles, too, but that doesn't last.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The Tavern-Go-Round, which, as you might expect, combines tavern and merry-go-round.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Conscriptors have this power; they "conscript" people to fight for them in this fashion.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Word was proven to be a fake, so clearly, it's useless, right? Well, as it just so happens, Orruck, the wizard it was intended to destroy, is still around. And if the shoe fits...
  • The Chessmaster: Maldor.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Maldor knows the rules. And just the right ways to twist them.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Getting invited to the Eternal Feast is a marvelous and completely horrific way to go.
  • Death Seeker: Drake is an unusual case. Since his race regrow from seeds, he's mostly just been seeking interesting ways to die or waste away to cure his boredom. However, it's over now, since his seed has failed to form properly.
  • Detachment Combat: The special power of displacers: They can split apart and "displace."
  • Dying Race: Wizardborn races tend to have this problem. Displacers suffer from almost no females, due to an inbuilt bias in their genes against having female children. The Amar Kabal are populous and live many lives, but most of them have become infertile. The drinlings were nearly hunted to extinction, but unlike most wizardborns, they were intended to breed quickly, so they've been making a recovery.
  • The Empire: A peculiar take on it. Maldor doesn't really let people travel or communicate, so his lands aren't necessarily unified. He just terrorizes uniformly enough to be in charge. He's also setting up and manipulating different forms of ruling as experiments, to see which form of government works best, once he gets down to consolidating them.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Care for a bubblefruit?
  • Fantasy World Map: Averted in the first book, but present in the second. This makes sense, as Maldor does not like maps of Lyrian to be known... but in the second book, when the rebellion against him mounts, acts of rebellion like maps become more commonplace.
  • Femme Fatale: The seer of the swamp is a legendarily devious, conniving, and wicked woman. Or, she might have been. The position is now filled by her daughter Corianne, who is one of the nicest and sweetest people in Lyrian. She just lives a terrible existence cooped up in a tree because, if she leaves, she'll forget who she is.
  • Feminist Fantasy: Not just in the fact that there's a female protagonist and lots of Badass female supporting characters, but heroine Rachael is also rather Genre Savvy about things such as the Neutral Female and the gender inequality inherent in the rather medieval Lyrian. She actively seeks to avoid it, and knows that she has to work harder to prove herself to most of the people of this less enlightened world. (Except for the Amar Kabal, which she openly notes are more feminist.)
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Jason and Rachel don't start off as great friends, but their trials do serve to bring them closer, and help them to each become less self-centered.
  • Foreign Queasine: Puckerlies are medium-sized, clam-like shellfish, served with inky black sauce... eaten raw and alive. They have the consistency of raw egg yolk, and seeing as it's shellfish, a bad one will make you really, really ill. However, it's subverted when we find out the place that sells them is very particular about theirs--and when Jason and Rachael actually try them, they realize that they actually taste pretty good once you get past the slime.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: "Affectionately" dubbed "Macroid" by the hermit who lives next to her.
  • Government in Exile: Galloran--he still has followers, but Maldor has stripped him of his power.
  • Handicapped Badass: You do not mess with Galloran.
  • The Heart: This is protagonist Jason's main "power." While he lacks the combat skills and magical powers of the rest of his team, he is excellent at rallying people to join him, and he serves as the glue that keeps most of the resistance together.
  • Hide Your Children: Toyed with. When Jason and Rachael see children for the first time in Lyrian, they're stunned that children could grow up in a place as horrifying as it, and Rachael even has to force herself to not think of their existence--it's too depressing.
  • Human Resources: Salzared provided the binding for his own Tome of Eldritch Lore in a very personal way.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Galloran actually makes Jason and Rachael into them--he gives them lordship over a worthless domain, but the fact that they have that title will earn them respect from his followers, should they need it.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: The raft the Giddy Nine are on drifts toward one--by their own choice.
  • Lady of War: The standard model for female Amar Kabal, as well as Corinne.
  • La Résistance
  • Living Shadow: The torivors. According to Galloran, they're not of Lyrian, or even the Beyond--they're from somewhere beyond the Beyond, a Beyond beyond comprehension.
  • Losing Your Head: Jason and Rachel first meet Ferrin when his head is hung up, separated from his (buried) body.
  • Lotus Eater Machine: The Eternal Feast offers several varieties, such as hunger berries.
  • Love Triangle: In Book 2, Rachel likes Jason, but Jason likes Corinne.
  • MacGuffin: The Key Word. It's fake. It is a genuine word of power to undo the works of a wizard, just not Maldor.
  • Mauve Shirt: Par for the course for Brandon Mull, but the most mauve-ish are probably the syllable guardians, most of which are slain.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Maldor, quite intensely so. To the point of setting up his own MacGuffin that doesn't work.
  • The Mole: Ferrin. He later apologizes for it.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Maldor.
  • Neutral Female: Discussed and defied. Rachael is Genre Savvy about girls not getting to do things, especially since Lyrian is still rather unfair to women. Thus, she insists on doing her part, and when Jason initially charges on ahead without her, she makes him promise that "The next cliff is mine"--I.E., she takes the next big risk. It ends up being Whitelake, and she performs beyond admirably.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine
  • Oh Crap: Jason's reaction when he realizes what he's just volunteered himself to do by reading the Book of Salzared.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Amar Kabal (seedmen), who regrow from seeds when they die (provided their seed is not destroyed or stranded.) The series begins with just Jashur and Drake, but many more join the cast.
  • Punny Title: The second book's title is "Seeds of Rebellion." Much of the book revolves around the seedmen.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Jashur, amusingly, has long flowing black hair that goes on past his waist.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Dolan. He's not as noble as Galloran, and he's definitely self-serving, but he does not ultimately seem to be a bad person, and he is sympathetic to Jason.
  • Retired Badass: Galloran.
  • Secret Test: The entire story. The Key Word doesn't even work. It's just to find out who's strong enough to really work with Maldor.
  • Send Me Back: Jason does this after Ferrin forces him to go home.
  • Shown Their Work: Whitelake, the supposedly cursed lake in which everything sinks, is a non-Newtonian fluid and behaves correctly for one.
    • There's also orantium, which is, essentially, an alkalai metal on steroids. It explodes on contact with air or water, and has to be sealed in a "pure gas" (I.E., a noble gas) to keep from reacting. Although its reaction is abnormally violent, it is otherwise accurate to its elemental origins.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: In comparison to Fablehaven and The Candy Shop War, which were more idealistic (even at their darkest), this series is way, way, way more cynical and dark.
  • Standard Fantasy Setting: Word of God is that Lyrian is, in many ways, a deliberate aversion. Although it wears the trappings of the genre, Mull wanted to be sure to include as few familiar elements as possible, so he made up a lot of new things.
  • Suicide Pact: The Giddy Nine made one because they believed it would summon a hero.
  • Surveillance as the Plot Demands
  • Survivor Guilt: Tark, the Sole Survivor of the Giddy Nine's sacrifice, feels troubled that he didn't go down with his band.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jason and Rachael don't exactly hate each other, but Jason isn't the most cooperative kid, and Rachael is opinionated. Arguments ensue.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The Book of Salzared--bound in the man's own skin, no less.
  • Tortured Abomination: Orruck.
  • Truth Serums: In a way. The venom of the serpent used to torture Jason is one that as a side-effect makes one's memories crystal clear and removes any filters or inhibitions against sharing this information. Thus, Maldor's torturers are able to find out all of Jason's secrets and fears.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Jason and Rachael want to know this of Ferrin when they discover he's a spy. Even he's not sure if it was--he claims to truly be their friend, but even he admits it's hard to outgrow his lying habit, and he's not sure of who he is anymore.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Discussed. Humans live a very short time in comparison to wizards and the Amar Kabal... but their lifespan is gigantic when compared to the short-lived drinlings, who have lifespans comparable to rodents. Drinlings Io and Nia bring this up with Jason and Rachael, and they collectively muse on their lifespans and how their lives play out.
  • We Can Rule Together: The entire gambit with the Words was just so Maldor could find out who was strong enough to rule with him.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Way longer.
  • Words Can Break My Bones It doesn't work so well on Maldor, but Orruck, on the other hand...
  • The Worm That Walks: Lyrian's zombies are corpses controlled by thousands of worms, acting as a Hive Mind.
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