Hello beautiful! I hope you’re having a wonderful, adventurous day.
I have been on a reading kick for middle grade fiction lately. So far, I’ve been reading books I’ve already purchased, because all of my local bookstores are closed. It’s probably a good thing, in all honesty, because there are several books I’ve bought but have yet to read.
Today’s series is one of those! I’ve had the House of Secrets trilogy for around six months. I found one of the books at Dollar Tree for one dollar and figured hey, it’s worth a shot for that price. I hunted the other two down at a bargain store (because I’m not one to start a series and not have the sequel in hand).
I read book one in two days and I have quite a few thoughts on it. Without further ado, here’s my review!
House of Secrets by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini
Goodreads Synopsis: Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia Walker once had everything: two loving parents, a beautiful house in San Francisco, and all the portable electronic devices they could want. But everything changed when Dr. Walker lost his job in the wake of a mysterious incident. Now in dire straits, the family must relocate to an old Victorian house that used to be the home of occult novelist Denver Kristoff—a house that feels simultaneously creepy and too good to be true.
By the time the Walkers realize that one of their neighbors has sinister plans for them, they’re banished to a primeval forest way off the grid. Their parents? Gone. Their friends? A world away. And they aren’t alone. Bloodthirsty medieval warriors patrol the woods around them, supernatural pirates roam the neighboring seas, and a power-hungry queen rules the land. To survive, the siblings will have to be braver than they ever thought possible—and fight against their darkest impulses. The key may lie in their own connection to the secret Kristoff legacy. But as they unravel that legacy, they’ll discover it’s not just their family that’s in danger . . . it’s the entire world.
Okay y’all. This book gives me mixed feelings.
Also, I just found out that it was endorsed by J.K. Rowling and apparently had advertisements on TV, so that’s cool.
Plot: The overarching plot of this book is…well…it’s okay. You’ve got your scary villain, your enchanted object, your cast of dastardly characters. It’s all there. I guess the endgame point of the story was fairly well done, with a definite goal and moment that goal was achieved.
For the first, oh, I don’t know, half of this book, the plot was a bit scattered. It felt like Columbus and Vizzini just wanted to through in every fantasy element they could, just for the heck of it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed some of the scenes, but they did little to further the story and added a disjointed feeling to the book. This feeling doesn’t entirely go away as the book goes on, but it does get better. There are a few plot holes, as well, which bugged me a little bit.
There’s nothing particularly unique about the plot in my mind, but there’s nothing I dislike about it either. It’s memorable enough, and the authors did a decent job of tying in early events with the main plot and conflict. It was not very complicated, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I give the plot a solid 4/5.
Characters: Ah. Characters. Well.
The characters in this book did not feel very fleshed out to me. The three main characters, Brendan, Cordelia, and Eleanor are siblings. Brendan plays video games and remembers things well, Cordelia reads a lot and is responsible, and Eleanor is dyslexic and the youngest. That’s pretty much what we know about each of them. They don’t change much throughout the story, and I couldn’t help but come away from the book feeling like something was missing.
Character arcs were practically nonexistent. I think the intent was that they became closer as siblings and learned not to be selfish, but, to be fair, they seemed that way from the very beginning. Eleanor’s character was a bit inconsistent, though. She would act like a five year old in one scene and then would speak like a twelve year old in the next.
Secondary characters were okay. Will, a character they meet close to the beginning of the book, had some potential, but the authors completely skipped out on it. *minor spoilers* They had so much opportunity to dive into his feelings about being a fictional character, or deciding he wanted to be real *end of spoilers*. Also, his relationship with Cordelia felt really forced and shallow. It was just plain uncomfortable.
The villain was actually one of the more developed characters, in my opinion. She had a clear motivation, consistent behavior, and a fairly fleshed-out backstory. Aside from her, I give the characters 2.5/5.
Ending: This section may have some minor spoilers.
I think the ending was one of the better parts of the book. There was a section a few chapters from the end that seemed like it would be the climax, but ended up leading the characters to the true ending. I thought that was well done; the action in the last few chapters was one of the most interesting parts of the book. It also was surprisingly violent, at times, for a children’s book. There wasn’t anything really disturbing, but I was not expecting it. The battles had high stakes and did have a few casualties.
The resolution of the problem, I must say, was not as climactic as I was hoping, especially after the build up. Everything ended up fine, and the epilogue set the story up well for a sequel. We’ll see how that goes. For now, I give the ending 3/5.
I am planning to read the other two books in this series within the next few days. The story has a lot of potential, especially if the writers recognized some of their problems and improved after book one.
I’ve decided my final rating for book one is three out of five stars.
Have you read this series? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!
Have an adventurous day!