House of Secrets’ (2013) happy ending gives way to new problems for the Walker children, both in reality and in writer-wizard Denver Kristoff’s pulpy genre-book worlds.
While the Walkers appear to be living large with the $10,000,000 wished for by Eleanor at the end of their last adventure, their new life is neither happy nor stable. Brendan struggles to fit in at his new elite private school. Cordelia fits in fine—thrives even—but experiences strange symptoms (she always feels very cold, for instance), hinting at a threat left over from their first adventure. Eleanor misses the camaraderie and closeness among the siblings when they had to work together. Worst, their father’s strange actions and decisions put their whole family at risk. But as the Wind Witch was banished and not eliminated, soon she returns and casts the children back into book worlds, still in pursuit of the magic book—but this time getting out will be harder. They end up tangling with gladiators, Nazis, cyborgs and more in a storyline that, despite its high levels of action, takes care to highlight the characters’ inner turmoil. What does it mean to fit in? Is the book world preferable to their crumbling reality? The prose is occasionally jumpy and chaotic, but the content always entertains. This collaboration with Columbus is Vizzini’s (1981-2013) final book; the future of the projected trilogy is unclear.
A dark action-adventure-fantasy with surprising heart. (Fantasy. 10-14)