House of Dark Shadows, Robert Liparulo (2008, 302 pages) is the first in the six book Dreamhouse Kings series. (For more time travel book series see my post here.) I ordered it secondhand, and did not realize I had ordered the Cristian Retail Edition. I did not even realize “Christian Editions” were a thing. Apparently these books are exactly the same as the non-Christian editions, but with a religious note from the author at the beginning. Feeling I was being preached to put me off the book from the start. Excerpt:
..He tends to use us, His children, to fulfill His will. Take for instance how He brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt…
So it took a while for me to warm up to the book. I also had to rise above my pet peeve that this story begins as so many time travel tales do with a move to a new-to-the-main-character house, which as always, is not a new house in a subdivision, but rather an old house. I’ll allow in this story it has to be the house at the end of Gabriel Road. The house has history, to say the least.
I was soon won over by the main character, fifteen-year-old Xander, and his younger brother David. In addition, the concept of a house with different rooms that each lead to different time travel adventures could hardly fail to capture anyone’s attention
It was great to see how Xander and David respected each other despite their differences. Also, they did not shut their father out of their life, which was refreshing. They are a close family. However, although the story takes place over summer vacation so the kids aren’t attending school, it seemed a little strange to me how little interaction they had with the outside world, almost like they lived in a bubble.
There are about twenty special rooms in the house, aside from the regular bedrooms and bathrooms. There is a bench and shelf with coathooks in each special room. Each room has a few different objects. The artifacts in the room give a clue as to the destination of that room. For example, one room holds a beach umbrella, beach towel, snorkel and flip-flops. Another holds items for jungle exploration, and another even holds stuff for space exploration. I loved the idea, so simple really but which I can’t recall seeing done except in the dollhouse of the Sixty-Eight Rooms, (my review here), of different rooms as portals to different time travel adventures. And while the description of the layout of the house was a little lengthy, I understand the need for that since it is the first book in the series. Presumably, a reader might be wandering around in the house for some time. The time travel was too brief, but I’m guessing that was because the author had to lay the groundwork for the overarching plot. There may be relatively more time spent on time travel in the other books in the series. I enjoyed the spookiness of the setting.
Some negatives: I found a fight scene unconvincing, and a plot twist hard to believe. What I most disliked about the book is that there are no strong female characters in this book. The girl and woman in the book are basically just victims that need rescuing. (Blech.) I’m not moved to pick up the second book, but the characters in House of Dark Shadows are certainly appealing enough that I can imagine many kids would want to see what adventures they will experience in the other five books.