Title: house of dark shadows
Author: Robert liparulo
Review: House of Dark Shadows is the first in the Dreamhouse Kings – a new series for young adults from Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. Young Alexander, Xander for short, and his family – the Kings, move from Pasadena to the small town of Pinedale when their father Edward accepts the position of principal at the Pinedale high school. The King family moves into an unsettling house with a dark history; a shadowed past that has made it a focal point for speculation and rumour amongst the townspeople of Pinedale.
It soon becomes apparent to the Kings that their move into the house has thrown them into a world where nothing is as it seems. Brothers Xander and David soon discover mysterious portals on a hidden third floor that seem to lead into the past. Unfortunately most of these portals lead into life-threatening scenarios – once entered into they require some effort to escape from.
The story moves at a brisk pace and readers soon find themselves contemplating the nature of the mysterious house and trying to unravel its mysteries. The chapters are short – 40 chapters to 283 pages of story, keeping the level of suspense high and the reader moving from one scene to the next. The entire story takes place in a very short time period, approximately one week. Once Liparulo has his hooks in the reader, he blazes through the story, bringing the action on at an unrelenting pace.
Aimed at teenagers, the writing style is easy to read and highly accessible. Though written for a young audience, adults who appreciate a suspenseful and unusual tale will also enjoy this series. An age appropriate discussion guide is also included to guide readers into further examination of the events and speculation about the mysteries of the house. While intense events are taking place all around them, the King family remains realistic. Sibling rivalry, teenage angst, self-absorption and day-to-day family squabbles are all presented realistically and woven into the dramatic storyline. Young readers are certain to empathize with these everyday occurrences and struggles that are intertwined with the highly unusual events the King family experiences.
Liparulo is well known for his work in the genre of thrillers, with several adult titles already published. While House of Dark Shadows is eerie and unsettling I didn’t have any nightmares after reading it, and I’m not exceptionally brave. Most readers should be able to read this title without undue distress or horror depending upon their age and comfort levels.
While published by a Christian publisher and marketed to a Christian audience this title does not contain a strong faith message. Interviews with the author have indicated that when the series is viewed in its entirety readers will be able to see the message that Liparulo has written into the books, but that it will be subtle. The King family does include references such as to God, church, and creation, building a Christian worldview into the backdrop of the storyline. However, the plot does not focus on the characters’ relationships with God, but rather the unusual events and struggles they encounter, as well as their changing family dynamics. Those without a Christian background will enjoy this work as much as Christian readers will.
With this first title the mystery has only begun. The cliffhanger ending leaves readers with a long list of questions and a miniscule list of answers. Thankfully readers can dive into the second book in the series, Watcher in the Woods, which has already been published.
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