House of Secrets
So, I don’t usually post negative reviews. But this is a book I was pretty excited about and seems, on the surface, like it’s perfect for a large portion of my audience. I mean, Chris Columbus! He directed Harry Potter! It has to be fun and full of whimsy, right? There are pirates, and knights, and witches, and houses that travel into books. This should be right in my wheel-house.
Let me give you a quick synopsis:
The book focuses on the three Walker children; Brendan, Eleanor, and Cordelia. Their father was once a famous surgeon until The Incident. It takes us a while to discover what The Incident was, but it resulted in him losing his job and most of his money fighting legal battles. The family has had to downsize from a posh mansion to a very small apartment. But, perhaps their luck is about to change! They have a line on a beautiful Victorian house in San Francisco. It’s being sold absurdly cheaply with all the antique furnishings included. This could be the first step to getting their old lives back.
The house is amazing! It’s got beautiful antiques, a library full of rare volumes by the original owner for Eleanor to love, an attic bedroom for Brendan, and even a dumb-waiter for Cordelia to send her dolls up and down in. Dr. and Mrs. Walker buy it on the spot! The only strange thing is that Brendan meets a crazy lady out back. She comes back on their first night in the new house and reveals herself as the Wind Witch. She sends a tornado tearing through the house. Brendan is knocked unconscious, but not before he sees his parents seriously injured.
When he wakes up, Brendan discovers that the house, sans parents, has been moved into a primeval forest; complete with giant, carnivorous dragonflies. They are beset by bloodthirsty knights, rescued by a WWI flying ace, and eventually attacked by pirates. Eleanor soon realizes that they are inside a series of books written by Denver Kristoff, the original owner of the house. To get an idea about Denver Kristoff think Lovecraft meets Poe. This is not a nice place to be and it will kill them if it possibly can.
The Wind Witch has brought them here to force them to find the Black Book for her. It was the original source of her power, but her father hid it away from her decades ago. Only a completely selfish action can bring the Black Book to light. Can you see where this is going yet?
I don’t want to do a complete blow-by-blow of the book, but lots of terrible things happen. And not in a whimsical way. The only actual whimsy in the entire thing is on the first two pages as Eleanor savages the real estate agent who is going to show them Kristoff house. Maids are murdered, resurrected, and then murdered again. The pirate captain, rather than being a Jack Sparrow-like figure enjoys practicing vivisection on his captives. The Walker children all take their turn acting on a selfish impulse and being faced with the book. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a series, so no matter how many horrible things happen this time, there will be more of them in the future! I can totally see why this wasn’t made into a movie. It would have to be categorized with the SAW series for gratuitous violence and gore!
I recommend staying away from this one. I kept reading because I kept hoping it would live up to the promises on the dust jacket. Eventually, I finished it so I could know what to warn my customers about. I hate to write a totally negative review. In fact, I think this might be the first one on this entire blog. But please, give this book a pass.