Just realized that I never rated this one. 3.5 for now. Knowing my love for Brandon Mull's stories, the rating will probably get higher as the years pass.
I haven't quite fallen in love with Five Kingdoms as much as I did with Fablehaven and Beyonders, but I do take quite a bit of time to get attached, and I can only think of one series where the first installment has been my favorite, so I might try re-reading it soon. I was so eager to finish that I missed tooons of details (not to mention my emotional instability at that point in time was messing with my ability to enjoy just about anything). I trust Brandon Mull to tell a good story with complex, enjoyable characters and fantastic worldbuilding. I'll definitely be buying the next books in the series.
Maybe what's different about Five Kingdoms for me is that it's truly a novel about children, in a way. Fablehaven had Kendra and Seth at the root, but Kendra was quite mature and there were many adult figures throughout. It was similar with Jason and Rachel in Beyonders. There are older characters in this series for sure, but the main story is centered on Cole, Mira, Jace, and Twitch, a ragtag gang of pre-teens often going with little adult supervision. Sometimes that just proves to be an adjustment for my nineteen-year-old mind.
That being said, I especially adored Twitch and Liam's characters quite a bit, and I loved Cole's journey into the outskirts. Something about that walk behind a dusty wagon earned him my sympathy. Shaping is an interesting concept and I look forward to seeing what it's like in the four other kingdoms. I feel like Five Kingdoms has really allowed Brandon Mull to release quite a bit of creativity that wouldn't have worked in his other novels. So much of it seems almost random, strange, and rather whimsical, but it works in this universe.