When Brendan, Cordelia and Nell move to Kristoff House they have no idea that they are about to unleash the dark magic locked within.
Now the Walker kids must battle against deadly pirates, bloodthirsty warriors and a bone-crunching giant. If they fail they will never see their parents again and a crazed witch will take over the world.
No pressure then…
House of Secrets is the first book in a major new series.
It’s going to be epic.
After an incident at work leaves their father jobless and the Walker family homeless, the discounted purchase of Kristoff House, the unusual but elegant creation of an eccentric novelist, is too good an opportunity to miss. While the monetary cost is nominal, it all too quickly becomes evident that someone intends for the family to pay a much higher price.
At over five hundred pages, the House of Secrets is a large book by most standards. For the middle grade category it is undoubtedly a beast of a book. But as it moves seamlessly from atmospherically creepy tension, to humor, via heart racing action, breath catching peril and wide-eyed surprise, I found that I was absorbed, entertained and delighted by every single page.
The co-writers film and TV backgrounds shine through. Reading the House Of Secrets was an almost cinematic experience full of wondrous Technicolor images and larger than life characters. This was enhanced by the multiple third person, past tense perspective.
I had no idea what was going to happen next or which fantastical being was about to be introduced to our cast and I felt like I was watching an epic adventure movie from my 80’s childhood.
Although very much a driven by the fast paced plot, I was delighted by the realistically flawed but likeable Walkers. As the eldest of four siblings, the squabbling, antagonistic, yet warm and protective relationship felt spot on and I could, all to easily, identify with the bossy, slightly condescending, mother hen, Cordelia.
While on the one hand the cinematic like nature of the plot, pacing and style kept me completely enthralled, I couldn’t help feeling slightly detached from the action, I definitely felt like an observer rather than a part of the action.
Even though the ending was a little too “Hollywood” for my tastes; ignoring the aftermath of the Walkers experiences on their character development and setting up a little too neatly for the sequel, it totally worked. I am caught hook, line and sinker. I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters develop following on from their fantastical experiences and just what (and who) else Vizzini and Columbus pull out of their collective imagination.
Verdict: Fast paced, action packed fantasy for middle grade to middle age.
Reviewed by Caroline
Read Ned’s guest post “A Day In The Life Of Ned Vizzini” (here).