World domination has a sweet tooth in Brandon Mull's latest fantasy adventure, about four kids who discover that too much candy can be REALLY bad for your health.
After a rather exciting prologue, the book slows to a moderate pace, with the new kid in town having to prove himself in order to join three other kids in their club. He does this by performing an impetuous* act which establishes him not only as a club member, but as a firm enemy of the inevitable gang of neighborhood bullies.
The next phase of the story revolves around the owner of a new sweet shop, who makes original confectionary in various forms, ranging from magical to addictive. Mrs. White, owner of the aforementioned shop, soon has the kids doing odd jobs in exchange for treats, but as the jobs get odder and odder, they begin to think there may be more tricks than treats in her bag.
Before long, the kids are breaking and entering, operating voodoo dolls, shape shifting, defying gravity and robbing graves, until an encounter with another magical sweet maker and a meeting with a stranger shifts their respective perspectives** somewhat. By the time you wrap your brain around all of that, Mull throws in a few space-time continuum mind teasers, takes you through the looking glass and then channels Ponce de Leon and the Holy Grail a la Indiana Jones.***
The sour drop I mentioned in the title of this review hit me early in the book, where the author on several occasions gratuitously* describes minor characters by their skin color, and then when the children magically change their appearances, he takes pains to mention not only that they change race, but also unnecessarily gives them a few stereotypical* traits in case you missed the previous race reference. The book would have felt no pain from the surgical removal of these references.
As imaginative and innovative as Fablehaven and its sequel Rise of the Evening Star, Candy Shop sometimes gets carried away with its cleverness, at times overdosing the reader with too much of a good thing. Notwithstanding* the aforementioned problems, however, the unique story line and interesting characters and character development makes for good reading if you don't mind the occasional inedible bit.
* big word
** two big rhyming words
*** I watch a lot of movies, don't I?
Amanda Richards, October 30, 2007