24th Room: The Vale Legend surrounds the ancestral Vale home, currently host to 16 year old twins Shay and Jaxon. Their home as 23 rooms, but a 24th room that is joined to the 5th dimension opens itself to under 18s of the Vale household. It, in its synopsis at least, sounds promising.
However, that’s where it ends. It feels like a book written for children, but where Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is written for children and clearly written by an adult, this feels like it’s actually written by a youngster. Coraline seems the best comparison, as both deal with a secret room/place not to be messed with, and in turn the troubles that arise from it.
But here, there are no troubles. The twins are told about the story from an old lady in town and just accept it. They’re given a book on the building’s history (conveniently) and buy it without fail. They meet two new immediate friends, share their stories of the 24th room, and they too buy it with little doubt.
L.J., the spirit of their dead ancestor, is met without question. A scream here and there on initial contact, but immediate friendship comes. Tell their parents? God forbid! Every potential plot focus is dealt with this way – nothing is extended beyond an initial gasp, if even that.
The 24th room itself had the potential for real jeopardy, but is an airy place that adapts to the generations as time progresses – a spirit world with the latest commodities, where children can come together from all around the world and make friends and share cultures. Any explanation into how that works? No. Any reason as to why there are portals in certain houses and not others? No.
More so, a villain appears from the 4th dimension. Skipped over. No information. It just is.
Even the warlord who threatens the whole 24th room does not possess drama. He shows up, immediately goes into battle with Jaxon (who defeats him easily, repeatedly), and is in turn called a dufus. I think the repeated use of the world ‘dufus’ is supposed to be funny. It’s not. More so, despite the fact it’s made clear that Lords of the Vale are the powerful ones in this place, Shay keeps pitching for girl power, which (I guess) is an attempt to balance the sexes, but it comes off petty and pointless when it’s been made clear that only the Lords can do certain things through the tradition of the room.
Unfortunately, it is just a badly written book. There’s even a moment after they find out that their dad used to visit the room and was friends with Rand, and out of nowhere the dad (past 18, so can no longer remember the room’s existence) launches into a speech-to-self about how he misses Rand, and how he feels close to him here. It’s too coincidental and without any link to reality.
The synopsis was written better than the book itself, and it was without any hook, arc or plot twist. It simply was.