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Dreamhouse Kings Series:
House of Dark Shadows
Watcher in the Woods
Thomas Nelson ($9.99-14.99 each)
by Kelly Everding
Adding up to almost 2000 pages, the six books in Robert Liparulo’s Dreamhouse Kings series follow roughly a week’s worth of jam-packed danger and adventure for the King family, Mom (Gertrude or “G”), Dad (Edward), Alexander (Xander, 15), David (Dae, 12), and Victoria (Toria, 9). While their given names are after kings and queens, everyone’s names get shortened for that added sense of urgency and intimacy. Dad uproots his family from Pasadena, California, to a small town six hundred miles north called Pinedale to take a job as principal in the local high school. Needless to say the kids are not happy about this, but they don’t have a choice, and so throw themselves into house hunting for a new home. The house they choose (or that chooses them?) is a fixer-upper to say the least, and from the very start it plays odd tricks on their eyes and ears. The weirdness mounts when David discovers that the linen closet is a portal that transports its occupant to locker #119 at their new high school. And if that weren’t strange enough, Xander and David discover a corridor of twenty rooms in the house’s attic, hidden behind a secret door. Each room contains a bench and a few strange items that give a hint of what lies beyond the interior door. Xander learns their purpose the hard way as he finds himself transported to the distant past right in the middle of a gladiator fight in the Roman Colosseum.
Despite the reading group guide questions provided at the back of each book, these time-traveling excursions are not harmless educational jaunts, but rather gritty, life-threatening lessons in the war- and murder-prone activities of human history. Liparulo puts the pressure on the Kings with the kidnapping of Mom (who becomes lost in time) and the evil machinations of a sociopathic assassin named Taksidian, who wants to use the house to usher along the apocalypse. The family dynamic comes into play as we learn of betrayals and lies that got the Kings to this desperate situation, and conflicts arise. Dad’s desire to step back, do research, and hold up some appearance of normalcy directly clashes with Xander’s impulsive desire to run head-long into each room and search throughout time for Mom. David at first follows Xander’s lead as the stalwart little brother. But as the days pass, David’s character begins to shine through, not so much as a negotiator, but as an evolving person of steady strength and resolve who dives into danger even though he is scared, and who allows himself to feel compassion for the suffering victims of each violent moment of the past he witnesses, be it the harsh conditions of the Civil War, the relentless Nazi tanks of World War II, or the indiscriminate brutality of crazed Norse berserkers. With every wound and broken bone, David carries on to the bitter end, even with an almost certain prediction of his death at the nefarious hands of Taksidian hanging over his head. Xander and David push the boundaries of their roles as sons and saviors, rising to their destiny as gatekeepers for the house’s time portals. With Dad’s determination, Toria’s spunky nurturing, and the arrival of unexpected help from an aged relative and his caretaker, you can bet the Kings manage to come out on top.
Rain Taxi Online Edition, Summer 2011 | © Rain Taxi, Inc. 2011