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House of Secrets review

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'House of Secrets' review by Milo

 

House of Secrets book cover

 

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Harry Potter alumni, Chris Columbus, had co-written a novel, and I was even more intrigued by the quote from J.K. Rowling on the front cover which reads; "A break-neck, jam-packed, roller coaster of an adventure." If it has Jo's approval then it's good enough for me, right?

Upon receiving my copy of 'House of Secrets', I was already deep in the pages of 'A Game of Thrones', so I thought to myself a change of flavour would be welcome. And what better way to mix it up, than a tale that, from the cover page, has all the hallmarks of something that enchanted us akin to J.K Rowling with Potter. Directly under the title it reads "Three Normal Kids. One Hell of a Curse," so there was nothing more to it and I began to read.

'House of Secrets' centres around the Walker family, who live in modern day (2013) San Francisco. The three main characters are the children, Cordelia (the eldest daughter and book worm), Brendan (the average 15 year old, who likes games and sports) and Eleanor (the youngest, who has a learning disability but is quite possibly smarter than you think). A perfect trio, these are the characters who we spend most of, well almost entirely, the length of the book with. As I said, the story begins in modern day, and features an array of pop culture references, which almost jump out from the page (I haven't been used to reading such things in quite a while) and these continue throughout the story, which I think helps keep a keen sense of the characters and where they have come from. After a turn of events, some which are genuinely scary to read, we find ourselves whisked away into a not too familiar alternate world. Without giving away too much of what happens, the plot enables itself to switch and intermingle with many different characters, time periods and locations. This is very much a story written for young people of today’s generation, and its that factor that allows Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini to create this world which they can drop these characters into and still keep the writing style and language contemporary.

The book itself is quite lengthy, and I even found myself overwhelmed by how big it is, considering it’s the first volume in what may possibly become a trilogy. But what Columbus and Vizzini do quite cleverly is that they make each chapter rather short, and almost every one of them ends on a cliffhanger. Coming in at over 550 pages, you'd think this device would get quite tiresome, but on the contrary, it works very well and had me constantly turning the pages to find out what happens. It's not a difficult story to grasp, the intended audience is clear, but it does combine all elements of fantasy and history, and really creates a world which you haven't quite seen or read the likes of before. The Chris Columbus element in the equation really had me comparing it to his Potter outings and I could see quite easily how it would translate into a possible screen adaptation, and at times I could feel the Potter influences coming through into the work, which isn't a bad thing at all.

In the end, ‘House of Secrets' didn't quite capture me the way Potter did (I don't think there'll ever be a fantasy story that can quite top it anyway), but what it did do was immerse me into a world that, even as a young adult, I found very enthralling and entertaining. The pop culture references, though not too subtle, did give the story that extra kick and added sense of realism in something that could have quite easily got lost within itself.

Chris Columbus is a man who knows how to tell stories and, like us, loves to read. And that message comes across in this book. If you love to read, and fantasy adventure novels are your thing, then definitely add this one to your list.

‘House of Secrets’ was released this week and is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

 

 

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 April 2013 13:57 )  

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