FABLEHAVEN: RISE OF THE EVENING STAR, by Brandon Mull, Shadow Mountain, 448 pages, $17.95

Locally-based author Brandon Mull has conquered the "sophomore slump." His new book, "Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star," the second installation of the popular "Fablehaven" series, reads better, stronger and faster than last-year's "Fablehaven" debut.

The new book will hit book stores on Tuesday.

A year has passed since siblings Kendra and Seth Sorensen visited their grandparents' ranch, Fablehaven, a sanctuary for fairies, satyrs and other magical creatures. This time, the Sorensen kids are taken to the fortress for their own protection and to protect their grandparents.

A demon frog is trying to eat Seth and an insidious group called the Society of the Evening Star is attempting to locate an ancient and powerful relic rumored to be lost on the Fablehaven grounds.

Mull's prose makes the page turning easy and his characters, especially Kendra and Seth, have matured since the last book.

In fact, Seth's problems don't come because he's mischievous, as in the last book. They come because he tries to do the right things.

While Kendra remains the cautious older sister, she still possesses subtle fairy powers thanks to events that occurred in the first book.

Readers will be glad to know that reading the first "Fablehaven" book, simply titled "Fablehaven," is not a prerequisite to enjoy "Rise of the Evening Star." Mull gives enough background in the new book that will make the new reader comfortable. However, it is always a good idea to read the previous book in this series, if only to get a full picture of the "Fablehaven" world.

A zombie, an elemental demon, an animated giant wooden puppet, gnomes, mazes and a battle-infused climax with an acid-spewing panther make some Dungeons & Dragons skirmishes seem mild in comparison.

When the dust settles, the crafty and unexpected twist at the end of the book creates the scenario for the next novel.

As with most fantasy books, "Rise of the Evening Star" contains good and bad magic spells and magic potion use — including a pivotal scene of Seth swigging shots of hot liquid courage.

E-mail: scott@desnews.com