House of Dark Shadows (Dreamhouse Kings #1) by Robert Liparulo

House of Dark Shadows
Dreamhouse Kings Series
Robert Liparulo
Thomas Nelson Publishers
2008
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Official Backpage Synopsis

Dream house . . . or bad dream?

When the Kings move from L.A. to a secluded small town, fifteen-year-old Xander is beyond disappointed. He and his friends loved to create amateur films . . . but the tiny town of Pinedale is the last place a movie buff and future filmmaker wants to land.

But he, David, and Toria are captivated by the many rooms in the old Victorian fixer-upper they moved into--as well as the heavy woods surrounding the house.

They soon discover there's something odd about the house. Sounds come from the wrong directions. Prints of giant, bare feet appear in the dust. And when David tries to hide in the linen closet, he winds up in locker 119 at his new school.

Then the really weird stuff kicks in: they find a hidden hallway with portals leading off to far-off places--in long-ago times. Xander is starting to wonder if this kind of travel is a teen's dream come true . . . or his worst nightmare.


My Take in 3 Parts

The Theme
This story appears at first glance to be just about a family moving from a huge city to a small town. They buy a house away from town in a very secluded part of the woods where strange things start to happen. Typical horror stuff, except that it's really not. What we have is a family that doesn't keep secrets from one another suddenly keeping secrets. We have two brothers, Xander and younger brother David, suddenly facing things they never imagined they would ever face. And suddenly Dad might not be quite as truthful as they'd always pictured him. It's a cautionary tale about the importance of honesty in any set of relationships.

Yeah, and it's also horror. Not mind-numbingly terrifying, but for someone like me who really doesn't read a lot of this type of stuff, it had me on the edge of my seat, gauging exactly how far I should let the sun set before closing the book for the night. For me at least, that's a sign of a successful story.

The Characters
I've always loved the male perspective in fiction so Xander is a main reason why I so thoroughly enjoyed this book. Yes, he's a teenager which means his common sense isn't fully formed yet and he makes some pretty glaring errors in judgement. But I love the protectiveness he exhibits towards his younger siblings and the deep-rooted affection he holds for his mother. There's really a lot to like about him, even down to how well he actually handled being uprooted from his friends and plopped down in the middle of nowhere.

As for David, he's a daredevil in the making. Literally. Xander experiences something terrifying and David wants to try it, even if it means he might get hurt or killed. He's crazy like that. But he also needs the assurance and comfort of his older brother's protection. They're a good match as siblings.

For anyone who follows the Myers Briggs personality typing, it's likely that Xander is an ISTP and David an ESTP. Neither minds a little danger but David's the one who'll jump headlong into it without thinking. They're both sharp, think on their feet, and adapt pretty well to their surroundings, Xander especially. Just a non-official, they might be these types, thrown in for fun.

The Writing
There's not much to say here except that I love Liparulo's style. It's a very active style, perfectly suited to teen fiction with lots of slang and a ton of pop culture references from 2008 that would have been relevant to teens of that year, and likely still relevant now. Loved the Supernatural reference, that was just freakin' awesome, dude!

Final Thoughts

Let's just say that I'm at once both drawn to and repulsed by horror. I fool myself into thinking that I don't like to be scared, but I actually do. Which is why I read all of Frank Peretti's Cooper Kids books when I was a teen. I gotta say that House of Dark Shadows is very reminiscent of Peretti, and yes, of Ted Dekker too. He's got that same vibe going on. You know the blood-pulsing, white-knuckle grip on the book type of vibe. It definitely kept me reading and as soon as I finished, I put book #2 in the series, Watcher in the Woods, on hold at my library. Now to just wait for it to come in.

I will say that if you're at all squeamish or hate seeing kids in danger, this might not be a good choice for you. There's very intense moments of violence, danger, and threat happening so definitely a PG13 rating. On the upside, it's definitely Christian teen fiction so no language, but it's definitely not preachy. More like clean teen fiction with a brief mention of church.

On the whole, I loved House of Dark Shadows. It was just what I expected and even more!

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