Goodreads: Zatanna and the House of Secrets
Zatanna lives with her father, a professional magician, in a house the neighborhood largely avoids. Still, her biggest worry is actually school. Her best friend seems to be growing up faster than she is and she’s tired of being teased by the school bullies. Then, one day, she returns home to find her house invaded by magical creatures. How did she never realize her house is actually the House of Secrets, full of magic many would dearly love to possess? Now it’s up to her to find her father and save the house.
Zatanna and the House of Secrets invited me to pick it up with its colorful and, dare I say, adorable artwork. The cartoony style, the soothing color palette, and the playful air Zatanna and her father possess all made me want to dive into what seemed like an exciting new middle grade graphic novel from DC Comics. Only later did I find out that Zatanna is actually a real sorcerer superhero in the DCU–complete with overly sexualized magician outfit. But no matter. In my heart, she will now always be a cute middle school student with her faithful rabbit sidekick Pocus.
The book drew me in from the start, introducing the delightful Zatanna and her equally delightful father–a magician who can make even breakfast amazing by making pancakes disappear! I loved their rapport and was excited to see where the story would take them. Clearly Zatanna was about to find out that maybe her father’s magic is real! Even though he did not appear in the story for long, it was easy to see how much he loves Zatanna and tries to care for her after her mother’s death.
The relationship between Zatanna and her father, unfortunately, ended up being one of the most developed in the book, her father’s disappearance notwithstanding. Her friend she gets teased about for having a crush on and her friend who seems to be growing up too fast are mere side notes, barely relevant to the plot or Zatanna’s character arc. The witch queen and her son who appear to threaten Zatanna and her house are also under-developed. Readers never know who the witch is or why specifically she wants the house’s magic. She’s really just a plot device, a reason for Zatanna to discover the house’s secrets.
Indeed, much of Zatanna’s world remains unexplained. How does magic work? Where is the witch queen from? What other magical creatures are out there? What’s up with Pocus? I love fantasy worlds that are highly developed, explaining the rules of magic–at least to some degree–and making it feel as if the world could be real. However, Zatanna’s world is merely a backdrop, a reason for her to have fun adventures. It does not feel like a world with real rules that someone thought out.
I enjoyed Zatanna and the House of Secrets and I would probably pick up a sequel if one ever appeared. However, I admit it is not my favorite in the DC line, largely because the worldbuilding simply is not there. I loved Zatanna and her dad, and I loved the artwork. But this just isn’t a memorable story that I can see myself recommending to others or rereading.