Hello, Spongey here.
Time for more of HorrorLand Arc 2! I…got nothing to say for the intro here. Doing these Modern Goosebumps reviews is becoming as part of my work as the scene by scene reviews were.
And unlike them, there’s nothing to say for each intro, as each book has the same credited writer and now we’re at the point where they aren’t pulling directly from other sources. I mean, the last one had an odd concept and a interesting backstory.
This is just…a book. Spoilers, not even it’s quality is interesting to discuss beforehand. At this point, the intro just wastes time until the review. Hell, I’m only saying this because I have to say SOMETHING before we begin.
But seriously, there’s nothing to say. The Arc 2 books aren’t quite as interesting to introduce for reasons I went into. The rest could be amazing in execution but that would still be true.
So yeah, nothing to say about our third helping from Arc 2, so let’s just get into it. So far we haven’t hit a really good one yet, just a decent one and an average one. Hopefully this can change things up.
This, is Heads, You Lose!
The book opens with our female protagonist, Jessica, and her pal Ryan hanging out in the Zombie Plaza. They are big into magic and thus want to visit the Horrorland magic shop. Let’s just hope Amazo doesn’t get a cameo.
After a false scare so lame even the main character doesn’t fall for it (Seriously), they meet the owner who has tons of cool tricks. He shows them the forever box, which is supposed to make anyone who lies in it vanish forever.
That doesn’t sound as appealing as most magic tricks like it. Which of course means they try it out. Predictably he actually does vanish and can’t be found anywhere.
Jessica goes in the box to find him and the bottom falls out and long story short, she ends up in Chiller House where Ryan is. Okay, this opening was especially weak since it was short and the way they end up in Chiller House is too odd for the characters to not question.
But whatever, let’s get into the real story. Jonathan Chiller pops out and shows them around. The McGuffin of the book is a double headed coin that they think could be good for magic tricks.
And with that, they take it and are given the ‘pay later” spiel. End part 1. I think Stine is sick of these intro already given how weak of a start this was. At home, we get fluff with Jessica’s Dad before she heads off to school and bumps into a bully who is bothering Ryan.
“He’s like a bad cartoon’
I’ll be the judge of that!
Jessica pulls out her trick coin and she says if it lands on heads, he has to leave them alone and he gets their lunch money forever if it’s tails. He goes with it due to the 50 percent chance of gettign what he wants,
“Heads. You Lose”
This works and he leaves. Huh, I didn’t expect a bully to honor a deal like that. They accidenlty drop the coin and when they find it, they suddenly feel dizzy,’
The world starts looking weird, and long story short, they sit up and see that they seem to be somewhere else. They are in a big green field with no streets or anything like that. They wander around until they bump into a giant castle.
Yeah, spoilers, they are in the Middle Ages ala Terror Tower. Spoilers, this lacks the great twist. They find a blacksmith and try to figure what is going on.
“What year is this?”
“I am but a blacksmith. How would I know the year?”
I didn’t know you needed wealth or stature to keep track of time.
The Blacksmith thinks they are some people the guards have been searching for and he calls on them. They run but the guards catch them and they are mistaken for people who murdered the prince.
Whoa, framed for murder? That’s dark. Nice.
They are taken to the castle to be executed. They meet The Duke and his Wizard, the former of which likes to bet a lot. Gee, I wonder if this will be important. The kids try to explain themselves but of course they aren’t having any of it.
They take him to,…the prince who was killed. No, not his dead body. He’s alive…just with no head. Uh, they said the kids killed the prince. He’s not dead, the liars.
How is he alive? Magic. No, that’s the actual explanation which does make sense in this world. He demands to know where his head is, and since they won’t tell him, he orders them to be killed.
They are thus taken to the Not Lord High Exceuctinor.
“I could see the goose bumps on his arms”’
Before the book can end early, Jessica offers The Duke a bet in the form of a coin toss. Gee, didn’t I see that coming back. Her deal if if they win a coin toss, they have to be let go. Okay,. I see why it worked on a dumb bully, but someone in this time, who doesn’t seem too dumb? Really? He must have a real betting fetish.
It doesn’t matter because the Wizard won’t stand for this and wants them killed anyway .The Duke convinces him to honor the deal, but he wants them thrown in the dungeon so they can still be punish. Okay, is the bet scene pointless or not?
I guess it wasn’t because they are thrown in the dungeon like he requested. The kids think about how to get rid of this and try and see if the coin can bring them back. There’s a fakeout where they think they lost it, and a guard comes with prison food.
“What are we having for lunch?’
“”Lunch, what is lunch?”
“Don’t we get spoons?”
“Crazy prisoners, making up your own words”
I get spoons, but lunch wasn’t a concept back then?
The guard leaves, but Ryan was able to take his keys without him noticing. They establish that Ryan is a conveniently good pickpocket. Uh, wasn’t that also an element in Terror Tower? So far this at least had a different plot from that, but then they lifted that.
The kids escape and end up on the outside. They hear someone but there just happens to be a robe around there they can use to disguises themselves. This works but they can’t get the coin to work meaning they are stuck for the moment.
They figure the best thing to do in the meantime is find the real killer. Ah yes, now we are getting an interesting plot. This is now a murder mystery. Not something I expected in this series but it’s still interesting.
They figure whoever killed the prince is around since there’s no way he could he escaped with the guards around, and they perhaps dumped the head somewhere, since hey, their goal was to kill the prince so who cares where the head is, perhaps they didn’t know the prince could use magic to stay alive.
Some of the logic is slightly off, but this mostly checks out, at least enough for me.
So the kids decide to search for the head on off the chance it’s been hidden on castle grounds. They search in a shack and bump into a guy who claims to the prince’s…rat Tender. Yeah this is his…rat house.
“The prince likes his rats because he feeds them to his cat”
…Sure, why not.
The kids leave right after that. Well, that had a point to it. …Unless he’s the killer. Shit, forgot this is a murder mystery, so I have to suspect everyone! Um…I think either Duke or the Wizard guy did it.
They bump into the Blacksmith who isn’t sure if these are the kids who were taken by the guards, because robes are an amazing disguise somehow. While in his place, they find a human head. …Well, I was wrong.
The Blacksmith doesn’t act all weird about the kids seeing this though. I mean, he tells them it’s not leaving his place but that’s about it. Thankfully, they are able to escape with the head stupidly easily.
They plan to give themselves up to get the head back…but they have no proof someone else did it, so they’re gonna be boned. The guards take them to the prince and they hand him his head but…whoops, turns out it’s not his head.
It’s the head of a random enemy they caught once. I bet we’ll get an explanation for why the blacksmith had this random head in his house. The kids escape the guards (okay, these guys officially suck at their jobs) and notice something.
There’s no cats around like the rat guy said. Meaning Simon the rat guy lied to them.
“Maybe the rats are there to guard something that is hidden there”
“Like the prince’s head!”
- was joking when I said he might be the killer! I hope Stine isn’t THAT obvious. Even he has to knows the first rule of murder mysteries is that the first really obvious guy usually didnt’ do it.
They escape the castle (Seriously, the duke needs to fire everyone in charge of keeping people in the castle) and get to the Rat shack where they find the Prince’s head right away. How did they not find it earlier when they were looking for it?
Simon pops up but they get past him (the kids escape everything too easily) and find the guards who take them to the dungeon, They never show them the head for…reasons. They do show it to the Duke when he pops up. However..
“Once Warwick has head back, he’ll figure out that Henway and I are the ones who chopped it off!”
Yawn, called it. You know, to make a good mystery, you need more than 3 suspects. Heck, all 3 are involved as simon was hiding it for them. Because a shack two kids could get into is an amazing hiding place.
They killed him because they prefer to be in charge, and they were disguises when they did it so no one would know. Hey, that’s actually smart compared to their hiding place. They hid it because their attempts to burn the head failed. Because remember, prince has convenient magic.
So of course, the kids have to die to hide their secret. But of course, Jessica tries to appeal to his betting fetish again. This time if the kids win, they can go, although the bad guys keep the head. Eh, I guess no one will belelive them but come on, is your bet fetish so strong that you can’t think logically?
This time their plan fails as they catch on and switch it with a real coin which lands on tails. Okay, I can forgive his logic fail now. The kids are taken away…but then the prince’s head speaks up.
I get how this can happen (magic) but why didn’t he speak up until now? Now the prince knows…i think, so the bad guys need to keep the head with them. However, they end up losing it to two kids, as the manage to get it back to the prince.
And with that, the prince is whole again and sends the traitors to the dungeon. There’s only so many ways to snark on how easy the kids have it in this book. After that, they prince asks about the coin and points out that his head on his on it.
“It brought us back to help you”
Eh, fair enough. He flips the coin and like magic, it flips them back to the present. Next to Boomer who is pissed. They pull out their coin trick again which he falls for a 2nd time. …But it fails because the prince switched out the coins like a jerk for some reason.
So the main story ends with the kids having to give the bully their lunch money. I love a happy ending. And of course, we have the epilogue where that night the little horror takes them back to chiller house. No variation, just the same stuff from before. It’s book 3 and I’m already tried of it.
But yeah, the end!
This in the same category as Camp Slither, as it does nothing really wrong, but it’s nothing special either. It’s very average, but not even in the “So okay it’s average” as it does things right, and things wrong, but either no far in either direction.
The main problem is that half of this has nothing that interesting happening. The main draw in the location…which has been done in Terror Tower. It picks up near the end once it becomes a murder mystery.
But even then it’s mostly just kids running around. Not very exciting. The twists are predictable, although the 3rd act does become enjoyable for all the plot issues that pop up. I mean, the book is mildly enjoyable, it just rarely reaches beyond that.
I wish it did do very bad things so I could at least rant on it, but nope, it’s just…decent. A very basic kind of decent, where it doesn’t competent and that’s it. Don’t think this review is negative, because the book is fine, just nothing that special.
Hopefully this arc picks up soon cuz so far things have been pretty…eh.
Hopefully, that will happen as next we have a double length Halloween book…which I;ll review in October! Wow, It’s almost like I planned it that way!