For two hundred years, only boys have been born into the Melchior family – that is, until Henrietta Madeline Melchior came into the world, followed by a trio of shrieks eleven years, eight months and nine and a half days ago. This is how the first book in the new series from acclaimed New Zealand-born, Australian children’s author Petra James, House of Heroes, begins.
When Henrie receives a mysterious letter, she sets off on an adventure with her new friend Alex and they find themselves at HoMe – the House of Melchior. Henrie tells the story of her birth and life in a dramatic and exciting way, with her own twist on the facts. Up until this point, Henrie has been living with Aunt Ellie, who has been estranged from the Melchior family since she took Henrie into her care. As the book progresses, we find out that her story is not as far-fetched as Aunt Ellie had her believe. At HoMe, Henrie learns secrets about her family – her parents, her ancestors and a mysterious missing portrait of another Henry – as she navigates trying to outsmart her girl-hating boy cousins.
Henrie soon ventures from home, following the letter, and subsequently falls into a trap on her way to Moldovia. Her friend Alex tags along for the journey, who mysteriously disappears once at HoMe – which becomes part of the mystery of the new house Henrie finds herself in. Once there, Henrie starts to learn about the history of her family – and there are a few surprises along the way.
The brilliance of these secrets was the hints and Easter Eggs that were dropped, and it doesn’t matter if you pick up on them or not. It’s equally fun working the answer out on your own or waiting for the big reveal later on in the book. I do hope that characters involved in this secret return later on in the series, because I feel like there could be a big surprise on the way for readers.
What I found enjoyable about this book was the way Henrie didn’t give up, yet there were times when she did show vulnerability, and this was perfectly balanced for readers of middle-grade fiction like this. The magic in this book is that it will have a wide appeal, with the inclusion of spies, heroes and age-old attitudes turned on their heads, such as gender roles and the Melchior family’s opinions about girls.
Henrie is a fabulous character who is bound to have many fabulous adventures and take readers on a spectacular journey through the world of spies and heroes. It is a book that also has an eye-catching cover, characters that you can cheer on and characters who you will love to see fail; I’m sure they’ll be back throughout the series to cause trouble for Henrie. This is executed in an entertaining way – as the author attempts to play a few tricks on the reader, which adds to the fun and intrigue. All in all, I adored this book and would like to seek out more in this series when they come out.