Lyrian is a world where its people have been beaten down by its fearsome ruler, Maldor. The evil magician has completely destroyed each of his opponents down to their core. Some of the would-be heroes were defeated physically and left trapped in a perpetual prison. The others are invited to spend the rest of their lives in a resort enjoying food, comfort and peace, but also giving up any chance to be heroic.
This is the setting of Brandon Mull's new Beyonders series, which begins with A World Without Heroes. Jason and Rachel are known as Beyonders because in separate incidents they stumbled from our world into the alternate universe of Lyrian.
13-year old Jason soon gets into trouble in this strange land and finds a book with a cover of human skin. In the book is part of a word that can unmake Maldor, but opening the book also means that Jason has made himself known to Maldor. Now the only way to figure out a way home is to take the advice of the Blind King, find the six syllables of the word and save Lyrian from Maldor.
Mull has made Maldor a much more complex villain than we usually see in fantasy novels. He is devastatingly cunning and seems to loom over everything Jason and Rachel does to find the pieces of the word. There are a few rebels, but Maldor has left the people of Lyrian suspicious and afraid of everyone.
The plot in A World Without Heroes is often surprising, the former heroes are heartbreaking and the villains are quite sneaky and cruel. All of this adds to the tension for Jason and Rachel to succeed in their quest. Mull quite impressively fits a lot of ideas in a book that is driven by action and adventure. Our young characters learn a lot about the trap of being passive throughout life and what it means to be heroic.
I was incredible impressed with this book and look forward to the rest of the series. Fans of Mull's previous series, Fablehaven, will enjoy this as well as readers of Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) and Philip Caveney (Sebastian Darke series).