I'm sorry. The number you have reached is not avail--
Sorry. That's the sound it makes when my mind has been blown.
And that's exactly what this series Dreamhouse Kings by Robert Liparulo did to me.
Before you start thinking Ken and Barbie, don't. Don't even go there. Because this Dreamhouse has doors to other periods in history all along its third floor. And the (mostly) unsuspecting King family has just moved in. One night, something comes out of one of the portals and steals Mom. That leaves it up to Dad, Xander, David, and Toria to navigate the portals and bring her home. And maybe to do something more than that--maybe, just maybe, to save the whole world.
No, literally. Save the whole world.
Of course, there is the matter of that freaky Assyrian guy hanging around town who enjoys killing and would very much like the Kings' house.
Dreamhouse . . . or nightmare?
My daddy was the one who stumbled across Dreamhouse Kings, mistakenly filed in the adult section of our church library--more specifically, book three. He recommended it to me. I ignored the skull and crossbones on the first page warning me to read books one and two first--after all, the library only had book three!--and blazed ahead anyway.
The result? Confusion.
Eventually, we begged our church librarian into purchasing the first two (thanks, church librarian!). My sister then amassed the entire series on her own. She graciously allowed me to borrow them. It may or may not have been because I annoyed her to death.
Family. At its core, Dreamhouse Kings is about family. In chapter one, we're introduced to a preoccupied dad, a moody teenager, a little brother who desperately wants his big brother back, the cute little sister that no one can resist, and the mom trying to hold them all together.
When Mom is kidnapped, the Kings have to work together to bring her back. Specifically Xander and David.
The brothers' relationship is one of the most real things in this book. They tackle, argue, hug, cry, laugh, and punch. As an older sibling, that was grabbed me the most. They clash. Xander wants to take action, and David just wants everyone to be happy. But as the series goes on, they change from two boys with the same last name to two brothers who would take anything for the other. Even re-work time.
This book is fast-paced. I could not put them down. Literally. I was so immersed, when I set the book down, my heart was pounding and I had to take a few deep breaths--before I scrambled through the house for the next book. This book yanks you into a portal alongside the characters.
Do make sure you read all the books in order, though. This series is chock-full of great Christian and family themes, but they don't come out right away. At first, the themes may seem like a weak crossover. The family recites a Bible verse, and Mom insists they find a church after the move. But it goes deeper as the series races on, as a character suggests God put the Kings in this house at this time for a reason. Not only are the Kings awakening to family, they're awakening to God and His purpose for them.
Consider yourself warned, though: there's a creep factor to this series. Rarely does a portal come that doesn't want to kill the Kings. The house seems haunted at first. That Assyrian guy doesn't mind talking about killing people . . . in creative ways, shall we say. There's one or two gross moments, usually involving dead bodies. But rarely does anything go beyond a shiver down your spine.
These books are often mistaken for Christian horror books. They're not. A creep factor? Yep. Some death, destruction, and mayhem? Yep. But horror? Nope.
These books aren't designed to create fear. They're designed to suck you through a portal of your own into the epic of a family trying to overcome fear (as well as assassins, time travel, and leftover spaghetti, for starters). It's a fast-paced thriller. And every thriller comes with some creeps.
Would I hand this to any random twelve-year-old? No. I know some kids who would fearfully check every door in their house should they be allowed to read it. But it shouldn't be anything that will keep teens and adults up at night--unless they're trying to finish the book, that is.
There's a few other bumps in the portal, too. Xander's nods to horror movies can get a little old. While meant to paint vivid and sometimes humorous word pictures, they fall rather flat coming from a fifteen-year-old. Especially when the reader hasn't watched said horror movies--and doesn't plan to, I might add.
A few time-travel descriptions left my head spinning. Not everything the Kings do is exactly, um, shall we say, legal or recommended to try at home. Xander also throws out a word or two from time to time, that, while not curse words by any stretch, aren't words you'll want a kid (or anyone else for that matter) repeating.
But those bumps are few and far-between and do little to slow down this brilliant story about a family trying to save their mom, each other, and the world.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!