Title: House of Secrets
Author: Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini
Page Count/Review Word Count: 560
Disclaimer: While I aim to be unbiased, I received a copy of this for free to review.
You might have heard of Chris Columbus before as the director of a couple of the Harry Potter movies and the mind behind Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire and other classic movies. Here, he teams up with the talented Ned Vizzini, a YA author who sadly fell to his death just before Christmas in 2013, in what’s believed to be a suicide.
The two writers have a good connection, inasmuch as it’s effectively impossible to tell who wrote what – it just reads like a novel that was written by one person, which can only be a good thing. This is the first book in the series, although I accidentally read it second because I received the two books out of order when they were sent to me by the publisher. Both of the books are a lot of fun, and it’s hard to pick which of the two I preferred.
My main gripe with this is actually in the language that the characters occasionally use to refer to their English friend, Will. The American characters keep making vaguely xenophobic digs about his nationality, suggesting that Brits don’t brush their teeth and only bathe once a week. That’s simply not true, I bathe way less than that – I’m a shower guy.
Will doesn’t actually exist – in fact, he’s a character in one of the books that they end up in. See, they move into the house that was formerly occupied by Denver Kristoff, a writer who went kind of crazy when he found The Book of Doom and Desire and ended up becoming the Storm King.
The main story-line in this, the first novel in the series, follows the story of the younger members of the Walker family, as they’re sucked into a strange world comprised of a mixture of three of Denver Kristoff’s novels. Of course, there’s a bad guy who’s ultimately responsible, and this bad guy ain’t Denver Kristoff – it’s the evil Wind Witch, who claims that the Walkers’ new house belongs to her and banishes the kids to the fictional world in the first place.
Once they’re there, they have to somehow find their way back, and so there are many similarities between this book and the second in the series. That said, both books have a character of their own, and if anything there are even more twists in the second book – you certainly won’t be bored, especially if you’re a teenager or if you’re reading to young adults.
One other point to mention – I’d strongly recommend reading the series in order, unlike myself. It’s not that the books don’t work as standalones, but there are a few in-jokes here and there in the second book that you’d only understand if you’ve read the first one. It’s also cool to see how some of the recurring characters manage to develop over time.
The House of Secrets series hasn’t exactly blown my mind, and there are better YA fantasy series out there (see Shane Hegarty’s Darkmouth), but it’s still a good-quality book and an interesting read. If you’re a fantasy fiend or if you love YA books, get it.