#575 – House of Secrets #2: Battle of the Beasts by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini

cover hs2House of Secrets, #2: Battle of the Beasts

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.”

The Story

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 hs2 a4begins 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.


House_in_the_Sea1-550x511I 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). hs2 a8 freeWill 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 1closely 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.

Buy House of Secrets #2: Battle of the Beasts at AmazonB&NiTunesAudible—HarperCollins—your local bookstore.


video is for House of Secrets, #1

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15 thoughts on “#575 – House of Secrets #2: Battle of the Beasts by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini

  1. I wonder how many people googled this author – very sad story. I see how there are two different book covers. The one looks like a middle grade book cover and the other like a YA cover. I wonder if there was a decision to try to cater to a different market at some point? I’m really curious about this series – I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for sharing in the Kid Lit Blog Hop.


    • I think you said this with book 1. I thought you would have devoured book 1 by now. Weird adventures mixing history and books. Actually, the last three MG books I think you would really enjoy. I’ve got one more to do that you will like. I am surprised you are not reviewing these. I was hoping I beta–finally! 😀


  2. I’ve had this series on my tbr for a while but haven’t got to it yet. I might leave it for even longer and savour the fact that it’s Ned Vizzini’s last work. Thanks 🙂


  3. You know, after your review of book one, I was totally intrigued, so I jumped on Amazon to see what others were saying about it and it was so mixed. The fact that book two sounds just as intricate is also intriguing. I think I am going to have to take your word on this one, and just get a copy of book 1. I didn’t realise that Ned Vizzini had left this world, so I googled it and was deeply saddened by such a senseless loss. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book on the Kid Lit Blog Hop.


    • I would have liked to say something about his death but didn’t think it was appropriate. I was shocked. More than shocked. If you read how he died you’ll understand why I say this. I think this is why the last half of the book has a different feel to it–but its still good, just different. I was not sure book 2 would ever release, figuring without Ned they had no story. Maybe he got all three finished, no, I heard this was his final work. But without book 3 the series will lay in limbo. So sad. And, as you said, shameless. Very.


  4. Oh, wow, a second book is out? It doesn’t seem that long since the first one was released, but chances are, it’s been a year already! lol I love the covers on this series. I read a couple of chapters from the first book and was enjoying it, but I often have to put it down because I either can’t afford to buy it or control myself, knowing how many books I’ve yet to read at home and from the library. I love the work Chris Columbus does with movies, so expect these to be great with his hand in it 🙂


    • Some reviews have said the series was sophomoric and bland, (I paraphrased, not sure the exact wording) but I think that is bull-ony The first is better than the second, which happens often, but I think it had more to do with one author’s tragic death. There is a whole lot going on in these books, but it flows well. If you like paranormal you will love this series. I do not like paranormal and I love this series, so go figure. nn:)


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