Yes, it is THAT Chris Columbus, he of Harry Potter and The Goonies fame.
What a multi talent he really is: scriptwriter, director, producer and now – with the help of his writing buddy, Ned Vizzini – an author too. Sticking firmly within the young adult market, Columbus and Vizzini introduce a fresh generation of readers to a new series of adventures that will doubtless find their way onto the big screen.
The Walker family have fallen on hard times after Daddy Walker messes up at work and loses his job. Thinking that their luck is changing, they acquire the mysterious yet luxurious and fully furnished Kristoff House for a suspiciously bargain price.
At this point, the cynics among us may begin to suspect a slight glitch in this ‘too good to be true’ stroke of luck. Rightly so, because before you can say “Expelliarmus”, the three Walker children find themselves and their new house transported to a strange land on a mission to unearth a mysterious book of dark, untold powers, which may just help them save their parents and perhaps the world.
Given that this is, after all, a young adult novel, it may be wise for older readers to try their best to ignore the irritating clichés and predictable characters: the angry hormonal teenage girl, the annoying but perceptive kid brother on the brink of puberty and the cute, ever so slightly precocious eight-year old who you just know is destined to perform a heroic stunt.
There is an element of Jumanji about House Of Secrets; the action is relentless and unavoidable peril lurks round every corner, with a badass villain/monster not far behind. The plot is simple and a bit too obvious for the adult reader, but the youthful target audience will likely lap this up with excitable glee.
Even JK Rowling has resorted to using clichés to describe it; “A break-neck, jam-packed rollercoaster of an adventure.” But it is rather apt.