House of Secrets tells the story of the Walker family and the tragic events and epic adventure that follows their move into a new home known as Kristoff House (formerly the home of prolific author Dennis Kristoff). When siblings Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor cross paths with a terrifying figure known as the Wind Witch, they find themselves trapped in a world where Kristoff’s novels (and characters) have come to life. Confronting giant dragonflies, roaming raiding parties, pirates, sharks, skeleton armies, and more, the Walkers are forced to seek out “The Book of Doom and Desire,” a mystical text hidden from the Wind Witch within the world of Kristoff’s novels, if they ever wish to see their parents, or their own world, again!
Legendary YA author J.K. Rowling (the Harry Potter series) describes House of Secrets as “ . . . a breakneck roller coaster of an adventure,” and if you don’t want to take this famous muggle's word on the subject, let me confirm that she describes House of Secrets perfectly. Benefiting from Vizzini’s knack for interesting, well-rounded characters and witty dialogue (sprinkled with delicious pop-culture references) and Columbus’ ability to design adventures for children that are thrilling, surprising, and constantly building in intensity, the writers’ two styles have merged to create a non-stop thrill ride that is sure to satisfy and delight both adults and children.
Columbus and Vizzini also add several unique elements to House of Secrets that make it stand a little taller than the rest of the “pack” of YA novels currently flooding the market (as if an endorsement by Rowling and myself are not enough - Ha!). First off, House of Secrets has a great message about the power of reading and books, themselves, that never comes off as preachy or overly simplified, but may cause a few readers to take pride in their book-devouring habits (as they should!). Columbus and Vizzini also choose to pepper the story of the Walkers with current, real-world elements, like the family’s financial strife and Eleanor’s struggle with dyslexia, that are sure to hit close to home for many readers and make the world of House of Secrets that much more real and relatable for them. (The authors also include plenty of current video game references, and one charming Buffy the Vampire Slayer nod, that are sure to thrill the geeky among us). I also found the book itself, in physical form, quite impressive and stunning. The cover design is full of vibrant colors and features a “gold” masthead and lettering that convey the feeling of a powerful and important volume. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you should certainly enjoy the additional benefit of House of Secrets’ beautiful and impressive exterior.
In the end, House of Secrets is a journey that YA fans and literary adventure hounds will not want to miss. The story is electrifying, the characters are charismatic and enjoyable, and the authors seem to intend to continue the tale beyond this initial book. Once the addiction kicks in, you should be able to feed your craving for more adventures with the Walker clan. (No need to use that colorful “pirate vocab,” despite what you make have read in House of Secrets.) While you’re waiting, be sure to visit San Fran and stop by The Bohemian Club. As the book states, “You can visit anytime you want.” Say hi to The Storm King for me.
4 Refreshing Drinks of Toilet Water out of 5 (In an adventure like this one, sometimes toilet water is the freshest water you can find!)
House of Secrets is available on Amazon.com. Also, be sure to follow author Ned Vizzini on Twitter (@ned_vizzini) and visit his official website for some cool, additional materials and exciting House of Secrets contests and giveaways.