by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini
Greg Call, illustrator
Balzer + Bray 3/25/2014
Age 8 to 12 480 pages
“Since the siblings’ last adventure, life in the Walker household is much improved—the family is rich and the Wind Witch is banished! But no Walker will be safe until she is found, and summoning her to San Francisco brings all the danger that comes with her and puts the Walkers in the crosshairs of a mysterious journey through Denver Kristoff’s books. As the Walkers travel from ancient Rome to World War II to Tibet, they’ll be tested in ways that cut deeper than before, by Denver Kristoff, the Wind Witch, and each other.”
“Brendan Walker knew the package would be there by eight a. m. It had to be.”
Eleanor, Brenda, and Cordelia Walker return, but not ready to take on more novel-dictated adventures. Dr. Walker (dad) is secretly—and quickly—tossing away all the fortune Eleanor arranged for the family at the end of book 1. Despite defeating the Wind Witch and safely returning home to finding mom and dad alive, none of the kids is faring well. Then Denver Kristoff appears as Dr. Walker and kidnaps Eleanor, taking her to the Bohemian Club in downtown San Francisco. He really wants Cordelia, but she ran off. Soon Brendan and Will arrive and finally Cordelia. Thus begins their adventures with the Wind Witch.
The kids land, house and all, outside the Roman Coliseum, once again in the middle of a Denver Kristoff novel. Brendan envies Emperor Occipus, ruler of Rome, and stays to live—and die—as a powerful, greedy Roman Emperor-in-training. Cordelia, Eleanor, and World War I pilot Will leave without Brendan. The trio deal with three Denver Kristoff novel changes. They face robotic World War II Nazis, odd Himalayan mountain top monastery monks with a wild frozen beast to defeat, the Romans once again, and then the Wind Witch once more.
Off all the battles, that with the Wind Witch proves to be the most difficult. She may lead the kids home, but what she says in the process will shock them, mostly Cordelia, as they try to understand and accept their fates. Book 3 is the final installment of House of Secrets.
I looked forward to Battle of the Beasts and torn into once it arrived. I was immediately put-off by Brendan’s attitude and that carried into the Rome story. He behaves like a spoiled, whiny, rich kid. Leaving him in Rome suited me fine. After that, the story picked up and began to zoom just as book 1 had from almost the beginning.
Not as many of the secondary characters stood out as they had in the first book. World War I pilot Will returned to San Francisco with the kids but then became homeless and lost. I do not understand the reasoning behind this and find this storyline unnecessary, especially considering how quickly Cordelia found Will (though the kids had looked for a year prior to the start of book 2). Will easily returned to his old self.
I enjoyed the gladiator Felix. Bravely he leaves Rome with the kids. This new strapping man is not the most educated and misunderstands much of the new worlds he encounters with the Walkers and Will. I wish Felix would have stayed, as Will did, ready to begin the final installment. There are many humorous moments and statements, and twists and turns to enjoy. and loads of miscalculations by the Wind Witch, who can’t decide if she will kill the kids or if a relational endearment she feels, sI enjoyed them all.
The strangest occurrence is not Emperor Occipus, robotic Nazis, frost beasts, odd monks, or anything else that occurs, except for one. The Wind Witch’s declaration to Cordelia that they are closely related—won’t say in what way—is the strangest, yet most logical twist. Cordelia found an old diary belonging to the Wind Witch’s mother. In it, she read more than she told the others I think she already knew but hearing it, straight from your . . . witch’s mouth, made this final and real.
That one statement explains the Walkers and their canny abilities to survive. The Wind Witch suffers many miscalculations and fights her own emotions. She wants the Walker kids dead, but her aims fail. Is it possible the relationship that exists causes an endearment toward the kids, which does not allow her to follow through? How this will play out in the final book I cannot imagine, but it should be one of the biggest sensations in middle grade novels when it does. Time will tell.
end of spoiler
The writing is great as it is in book one. I did notice a slight change, imperceptible but there, after the first half of the story. This made me wonder how much of Battle of the Beasts Ned Vizzini completed before his premature death. Something felt off, yet examples or proof elude me. I had to put the book down for a while and read something else. I enjoyed Battle of the Beasts, though not as much as the first book.
Kids who enjoyed House of Secrets, book 1 will enjoy Battle of the Beasts. The action is constant, once it begins, and the adventures unusual and varied, yet play on what seem to be the same field. None of the novels is located far from the others, or so it felt. There is nothing that will give kids nightmares, but the action is imaginative and often intense. Boys will probably like the robotic Nazis best. This group reminded me of the white soldiers in Star Wars. At 480 pages, Battle of the Beasts is a long read, making this a great book for advanced readers and those with long attention spans. Reluctant readers should stay away.
HOUSE OF SECRETS #2: BATTLE OF THE BEASTS. Text copyright © 2014 by
Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus dba Novel Approach, LLC. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Greg Call. Published 2014 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY.
video is for House of Secrets, #1