Battle of the Beasts: House of Secrets, Book 2

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Battle of the Beasts: House of Secrets, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Series sequel stays exciting and high on action-violence.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Lots of mentions of historical figures (Nixon, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, William F. Buckley Jr., Mark Twain, Walter Cronkite). Plus the Walker kids end up in books loosely set in different periods in history: Ancient Rome and Nazi Germany, for example. There's mention of the Holocaust and what a swastika symbolized, as well as of the Iron Curtain and the Cold War.

Positive Messages

Loyalty to family and friends remains an important theme. The Book of Doom and Desire offers all kinds of temptations, leading to questions of what makes power -- or a leader with power -- good or evil. Another big temptation: living a life of ease in a fantasy world instead of enduring hardships in the real world.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Brendan goes through the biggest transformation in this sequel. He starts out boastful and lies to get fame and recognition. He definitely pays for his behavior and apologizes to his sisters. Cordelia and Eleanor are strong and resilient female characters. Cordelia discovers her gift for leadership and helping others.


Lots and lots of action-adventure violence, most of it in parallel fantasy worlds, most of it with three kids age 9 to 15 in constant mortal danger. One character is possessed by a witch who comes out of her mouth, leaving her as a husk that comes back to life. Another is nearly blown to pieces while the witch shouts, "Why can't you just...die! Die! Die!" She magically doesn't. Another is stabbed in the heart and comes back with magic. One main character is hung upside-down and covered in cheese, then attacked by rats. Two men are thrown in front of a San Francisco bus and die. Giant beasts rip apart men in battle (the men come back to life and the beasts are blown to bits). Some deaths from gunfire, tank fire, bombs, and people falling off cliffs. Plus there are a few fistfights, an avalanche, some angry ghosts swirling around, and a mention of men sacrificed to beasts.


A few flirty kisses, a mention of an affair, and some nonsexual nudity.


Will, the Brit, says "bloody hell" a few times. Plus "hell" and "tramp" and mention of a "very nasty curse word" written just like that.


About 20 brand mentions (Uggs, In-N-Out Burger, Snickers, Ferrari). Plus a big shout-out for Bruce Springsteen.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brendan, a minor, has a sip of wine at a banquet and spits it out in disgust. Mention of pilots drinking and boasting and that the Walker kids' Uncle Pete is an alcoholic.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Battle of the Beasts is the second book in the House of Secrets series coauthored by the late Ned Vizzini and Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter movies and writer of the scripts for The Goonies and Gremlins. Kids who dug the first in the series are in for more of the same nonstop action here with the same high dose of action-adventure violence. Luckily for the three kids at the center of the story, they can't be killed by their nemesis the Wind Witch. She possesses one kid and comes out of her body through her mouth, tries to blow apart another with wind (yelling "Why can't you just...die! Die! Die!" at a 9-year-old), and stabs the third, with no lasting results. One character is hung upside-down, covered in cheese, and set upon by rats, but he survives. Other characters aren't that lucky: Two men are thrown in front of a bus, some fall from cliffs, some get hit by gunfire and bombs, and some are sacrificed to giant beasts. This sequel's low on other types of mature content: Brands are mentioned in passing, a Brit shouts out "bloody hell" a few times, Cordelia gets a few flirty kisses, and Brendan spits out an alcoholic drink. One character finds himself tempted by power and fame and learns his lesson about what's really important. 

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What's the story?

Walker siblings Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor made a triumphant return from the dangerous fantasy world of Denver Kristoff novels at the end of Book 1. Now they're enjoying newfound wealth and their fancy private school education about as much as a trip to the orthodontist. Brendan's getting bullied, Eleanor doesn't feel like she fits in, and Cordelia is just starting to get asked out by a cute boy when her tooth falls out -- embarrassing and weird. Then her skin starts to wrinkle, and then more teeth fall out. What's going on? It's not long before the kids realize the Wind Witch can't possibly be as banished as they'd hoped. Yup, Denver Kristoff's power-mad daughter is back and out for revenge. Tossing the kids right back into another trio of her father's novels is only the beginning. She needs the Book of Doom and Desire that only the Walkers can summon so she can rule the world. Maybe a couple ravenous tigers in the Roman Colosseum will help persuade the siblings to give her what she wants. No? How about Nazi cyborgs? Man-eating monsters, perhaps?

Is it any good?

BATTLE OF THE BEASTS: HOUSE OF SECRETS, BOOK 2 is another fun fantasy diversion for action-adventure lovers. Book 1 had the pirates and skeletons and swashbuckling mayhem. Book 2 is another laundry list of action elements kids love -- plus Nazi cyborgs. It's pretty smart of coauthors Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini to pick a formula whereby kids move through three  fantasy worlds in each book. Sick of Rome and the Nazis already? Suddenly you're on a mountaintop with strange monks fighting giant beasts. 

Still, one part of their fun formula doesn't hold up this time: The House of Secrets is abandoned by the Walker kids partway through the story. Is the house out of secrets already?

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about real and fantasy worlds. Why was it so tempting to Brendan especially to stay in Rome? Why did Cordelia dislike the Roman emperor right away? 

  • Can you think of a book you'd actually like to live in? What would be the drawback? 

  • Were you excited for this sequel? Will you keep reading the series? 

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For kids who love fantasy and adventure

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