Warren the 13th is back in another lushly illustrated middle grade adventure in the spirit of Edward Gorey and Lemony Snicket.
This fast-paced and beautifully-designed sequel to Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is packed with nonstop action, adventure, and mystery for middle grade readers. Twelve-year-old Warren has learned that his beloved hotel can walk, and now it’s ferrying guests around the countryside, transporting tourists to strange and foreign destinations. But when an unexpected detour brings everyone into the dark and sinister Malwoods, Warren finds himself separated from his hotel and his friends—and racing after them on foot through a forest teeming with witches, snakes, talking trees, and mind-boggling riddles, all accompanied by stunning illustrations and gorgeous design from Will Staehle on every page.
About the Author
Tania del Rio is the author of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye (Quirk, 2015). A professional comic book writer and artist, her clients include Archie Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel. She is best known for her work writing and drawing the 42-issue run of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. She lives in Los Angeles. Will Staehle illustrated and designed Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye, plus many dozens of award-winning book jackets. Print magazine named him one of the Top Twenty under Thirty New Visual Artists. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
Read an Excerpt
It was a warm summer afternoon, and the Warren Hotel trundled over the countryside upon its enormous metal legs. The steady CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! of its footfalls were loud enough to be heard for miles, but Warren the 13th hardly noticed; the deafening din had become as comforting and familiar to him as the gentle ticking of a grandfather clock.
Warren knelt on the hotel roof, repairing a broken tile with a hammer and nails. The six crows who lived in the rooftop birdhouse poked their heads out of its windows, croaking for food. Warren set down his hammer and removed a sketchbook from his pocket; he always kept a few slices of cheese tucked between its pages. He tossed them to the birds, who promptly began squabbling over the pieces.
“Share, share!” Warren admonished. “There’s enough for everyone.”
The crows were lazy and wouldn’t leave the birdhouse to search for their own food, but Warren didn’t mind. He enjoyed caring for each and every guest of his hotel, even the ones with feathers.
As the birds ate, Warren leaned back against the chimney and flipped through his sketchbook. Its pages were filled with charcoal drawings: doodles of his friends and family at the hotel, and portraits of the fantastic landscapes he’d seen on his travels. But Warren had no time for sketching today; there were too many other problems demanding his attention. He turned to a fresh page and began jotting down a lengthy to-do list, based on all the calls to the front desk he’d received that morning:
Small leak in bathroom ceiling.
Large leak in bathroom ceiling.
Giant leak in bathroom ceiling.
Overflowing toilet; water won't turn off.
Warren was very busy, yet he had no complaints. In fact, he felt like the luckiest boy on earth. He ran the world’s first—and only—traveling hotel, and it was so popular that every room was filled! On top of that, the hotel was generating so much money that Warren was finally able to make some much-needed improvements to the antiquated structure. He’d installed a viewing room lined with panoramic windows for the guests to enjoy the scenery as the hotel went along its way. He also added a large window to the control room, so he no longer had to rely on a tiny periscope to navigate the terrain.
Perhaps the biggest advancement was a hidden feature that Warren had discovered inside the control room. It turned out that one of his ancestors, Warren the 2nd, had had a few tricks up his sleeve when he designed the walking hotel, including a special autopilot feature. This option ensured that the hotel would dutifully continue along the road following the precise coordinates input by Warren each morning. Placing the hotel on autopilot spared Warren from having to drive the hotel all day long. Instead, he had the freedom to roam about, mingle with guests, and head up to the roof to repair broken tiles and make to-do lists.
Suddenly, Warren’s concentration was broken by the sound of a sputtering engine and a HONK! HONK! HONK! He dropped down on his hands and knees and scrambled to the edge of the roof. Far below, an odd-looking automobile was weaving dangerously between the hotel’s enormous legs. It had oversized wheels and was painted in garish colors. Its carriage was cluttered with crates, bags, and jugs. On the side were fancy, curlicue letters proclaiming:
SLY'S MIRACLE ELIXIRS, TINCTURES, AND CORDIALS
The car continued to honk as it screeched around the hotel’s crashing footfalls. “Be careful!” Warren yelled, even as he realized that yelling was pointless; the car had already passed the hotel and was now branching off the main road, following a dustier and narrower path that offered a direct route to the Malwoods. Warren watched until he couldn’t see the car anymore, wondering why anyone would drive toward such a spooky place.
Over the past few months, Warren had piloted the hotel to many unusual destinations, but one place he swore he’d never go was the Malwoods—a shadowy and twisted forest teeming with witches and other, even more dangerous creatures. Because Warren took the safety of his guests very seriously, he hesitated to travel within five miles of the Malwoods. He opened his sketchbook and added yet another item to his to-do list: Rewire autopilot to avoid this intersection altogether.
He had barely finished writing when the air beside him shimmered. A swirling portal materialized, and out stepped his best friend, Petula. She wore a grave expression. Behind her the pool of silvery-looking liquid vanished.
“The guest in Room 204 just called to complain,” she said. “Something about a leaky ceiling.”
Warren sighed. “Sometimes I wish there were two of me,” he admitted.
He tucked away his sketchbook and Petula helped him to his feet. The first time Warren had met Petula, he’d mistaken her for a ghost. She always dressed entirely in white, and her skin was so pale that it looked nearly translucent. He’d since learned that this was just one of her many unusual traits, along with her ability to draw magical pathways between short distances. She was a young perfumier-in-training, and she was learning the fine art of witch capturing from her mother, Beatrice.
Petula glanced down at Warren’s to-do list. “Maybe you should hire a maintenance person,” she suggested. “So you don’t have to do everything yourself.”
Warren shook his head. “My dad always said that a good manager doesn’t sit behind a desk and bark orders. A good manager pitches in and helps with the dirty work.” He grimaced. “Even if it means unclogging a toilet.”
“You might be taking your father’s advice a bit too literally,” Petula said.
“Maybe,” Warren said, “but someone has to do the work.”
Tucking his sketchbook in his pocket, Warren started to stand up but lost his balance, landing with a hard thump.
“Ow!” Warren cried. He felt as if the roof had slipped out from under him.
Petula looked alarmed. “What was that?” But before Warren could answer, the hotel lurched again, harder, and this time Warren fell face-first. He realized he was rushing forward—in fact, the entire hotel was rushing forward. Warren scrabbled against the slick tiles, trying to grab something— anything—but his fingers were too short to get a good grip. He found himself sliding on his belly, headed for the edge of the roof. And so was Petula!
“Warren!” she cried.
Warren’s stomach flipped as he picked up speed. The edge of the roof zoomed toward him—but there, at the end of the tiles, was a skinny tin gutter. If he timed it just right . . .
Squeezing his eyes shut, Warren flung out an arm. His fingers met metal. He grabbed hard. And he held on tight. Warren opened his eyes just in time to see Petula tumbling past him. Her hand missed the gutter by inches, but at the very last moment she managed to grasp Warren’s ankle.
“Hold on!” he yelled. He saw Petula dangling from his foot by one hand, the ground rushing up behind her. “Because here comes the—”
And with that, the building smashed into the earth with a loud crash.
Somehow, the hotel had fallen.
“Are you okay?” called Petula.
“I—I think so,” Warren called back. Clouds of dust rose around them and the air was eerily still. Warren’s arms started to shake from the effort of holding on to the gutter.
The weight on his ankle disappeared and a portal materialized on the side—well, now the top—of the hotel. Out jumped Petula. She grabbed Warren by both wrists and yanked him upright next to her.
“What happened?” he said.
“I think the hotel tripped,” Petula said. She looked even paler than usual.
“Tripped?” Warren said. “But that’s impossible!” In the past six months, the hotel had marched up hillsides, forded streams, and crossed chasms, all without a single misstep. “There are seven different safety features to keep the hotel from falling over!”
“Well, all seven of them must have failed,” said Petula, “because the hotel fell right on its face. See?” She pointed at their feet.
Sure enough, instead of the roof, Warren’s shoes were resting on a pane of glass—a window! On the other side, two angry guests lay crumpled on the floor—well, actually the wall, which was now the floor—shaking angry fists in his direction.
“We'd better get to the control room,” Warren said.
“Do you want me to draw a portal?” Petula asked.
“No, thanks.” Ordinarily, a portal would be welcome, since the control room was all the way down in the basement. But after falling and rolling off the side of the building, Warren was way too dizzy for the head-spinning side effects of magical travel. “Let’s take the long way.”
Of course, the long way was now extra long, thanks to the topsy-turvy state of the hotel. Carefully, Warren picked his way over to the window of his attic bedroom, sliding it open and dropping through the gap as if it was a trap door. He landed with both feet on a wall he’d decorated with sketches and drawings. When he realized he was standing on one of his favorite illustrations, he quickly hopped off.
Petula climbed down after him, then looked around in astonishment. “Weird!” It was weird. Normally, Warren accessed his bedroom through a trap door in the floor, but now the trap door was in the middle of a wall. Warren pulled it open like a porthole, pushed himself up, and wriggled his way headfirst to the other side. The long hallway was familiar but mixed-up, with doors in the ceiling, doors in the floor, and miniature chandeliers dangling from either side of the trap door like a pair of earrings. Warren felt dizzy and confused just looking at them.
Clearly he wasn’t the only one. Behind the floor-doors and the ceiling-doors, Warren could hear the muffled voices of guests. And they were not happy.
“What’s going on?” one angry man shouted.
“Just a tiny mishap,” Warren answered back.
“How do we get out of here?” cried a woman’s voice.
“Stay in your room, ma’am,” Petula advised. “We’ll be up and running in just a few minutes.”
Warren gulped. He certainly hoped that was true.
Above them, between the ceiling-doors, was the gap that led to the grand staircase, which descended through each of the eight levels of the hotel. Normally, Warren could ride the bannister all the way down to the lobby, but gravity was no longer on his side. They’d have to find another way.
“We can take the elevator,” Petula said.
“But it hasn’t worked in years,” Warren said.
“Exactly!” Petula replied.
Warren realized what Petula meant. With the hotel now lying on its side, the elevator shaft was the most direct route from the top floor to the lobby. He took off for the end of the hallway, carefully jumping over the doors and wall sconces under his feet.
The doors were closed, as always, and a sign on the front said:
OUT OF SERVICE
Our apologies for the inconvenience.
Warren had written the words himself, using his best handwriting. He’d been especially proud to sign it “Mgmt.,” knowing that he was the one doing the managing these days. But now the sign had to come off. He removed it carefully, then rolled up his sleeves. “We’re going to have to pry it open.”
Petula nodded, and together she and Warren wiggled their fingers into the seam between the doors. With a great groaning creak, the two heavy panels grated apart, one rolling up and the other disappearing down. Inside, the elevator shaft was very dark.
“You first,” Warren said, hoping he sounded polite rather than scared.
Petula went ahead, ducking quickly out of sight.
“Wow!” came her voice. Warren scrambled after her. The elevator shaft was chilly and smelled like axle grease. They picked their way down—or, Warren supposed, across—toward the lobby. Pipes, pulleys, chains, and gears crowded their footsteps, and the only light came from thin strips that shone through the doors at every floor they passed. After counting down from eight, they reached the final set of doors. With a mighty push—and help from Petula—Warren wrenched the doors open and tumbled forward into the lobby.
“Oh dear,” Petula said.
Rubbing his head, Warren rose to his feet. Oh dear was right. The lobby—the grand entrance to the Warren Hotel, the first thing that guests saw upon arriving and the last thing they saw before they left—was in utter chaos. The stately potted plants had tipped over, spilling dirt everywhere. The curtains had slid off their rods and lay lumped in the corner of the room like sad velvety ghosts. The lobby desk had overturned, its papers scattered across the ground. The grand chandelier hung limply from the side of the room, opposite the checkered tile floor that was now acting as the wall.
“This is going to require a lot of cleanup,” Petula observed.
Warren almost sighed but stopped short. No true manager would ever act so unprofessionally. “Let’s check the kitchen,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone’s okay.”
If the lobby was chaos, the kitchen was an absolute disaster. Every pot, pan, utensil, and ingredient that wasn’t secured had tumbled to the wall that Warren was now standing on. Splattered eggs and a soupy stew were dripping down the ceiling. At first, Chef Bunion and his assistant, Sketchy, were nowhere to be found. But after Warren hoisted himself into the room—and Petula after him—he found one of Sketchy’s tentacles wiggling under a tangle of cookware, apples, potatoes, and canned goods. Chef Bunion, it turned out, was buried under a mound of flour.
“No worries, my boy!” Chef said, clapping the white dust off his apron after Warren dug him out. “We’ll get this mess sorted out in no time.”
Sketchy let out a weak whistle that didn’t sound nearly as certain.
“Oh, come now,” Chef said. “I’ve been meaning to rearrange the kitchen anyway!”
“Well, whatever you need, I’ll be back to help,” Warren said. “But first I have to get to the control room, so we can get the hotel back on its feet.”
They hurried through the basement to the secret passageway that led to the control room. At the end of the passage, Warren could just make out the doors lying open, likely from the crash.
“That looks bad,” Petula said.
And it only got worse. Inside the room, the air snapped with hissing and crackling from what seemed like every part of the hotel’s navigation machinery. Sparks leapt from the control panel, which was now hanging upside down. Tendrils of smoke curled out from between buttons, levers, and knobs. The candy-colored lights, usually lively and bright, flickered dimly.
“Oh no!” Warren cried, running his hands through his hair. “How could this happen? Uncle Rupert was supposed to be in charge of the controls . . .”
“Warren?” said a voice. “Is that you?”
Even though the room was nearly pitch black—the windows now rested on the ground outside—there was just enough light to reveal the guilty expression on Uncle Rupert’s face.
“What happened?” Warren asked.
“How should I know?” his uncle exclaimed innocently. Ever since relinquishing management of the hotel to Warren, he had taken to dressing far more casually than his usual suit and tie; currently he was sporting beach attire, complete with a sun hat and sandals, no doubt anticipating the next scheduled stop in the seaside town of Shellby. “There I was, just minding my own business, resting in my hammock and trying to enjoy a cold drink, when suddenly out of nowhere a giant moth flew in my cup!”
“I don’t understand . . . ,” Warren said.
Rupert puffed himself up to his full height, which was still not particularly tall. “Well, I was simply so frightened that I threw my drink across the room. And I suppose it might have landed on the control panel—”
Warren took a closer look at the array of buttons, levers, and knobs. Sure enough, a syrupy liquid dripped over its sides. Warren reached out a finger, but a spark sizzled at him and he quickly pulled it back.
“But you know the control panel can’t get wet!” Warren exclaimed.
“I wasn’t drinking water,” Rupert said. “I happened to have been enjoying a pineapple sarsaparilla. Anyway, tell me something, Warren. Why is everything so lopsided? It’s making me dizzy!”
Petula drew herself a portal. “I’ll go get a soapy rag from the supply room.”
“Wait—” Warren said, but before he could stop her she had disappeared. His frustration growing, he turned back to his uncle. “I’m announcing a new rule, Uncle Rupert: No more drinks in the control room. Water or otherwise!”
“But—but—” Uncle Rupert stammered, gesturing to the hammock that had been strung from wall to wall but now drooped from the ceiling. “Where else will I be able to enjoy my daily sarsaparilla?”
“Anyplace but here!” Warren said.
Uncle Rupert pouted. “I say we ought to address the moth problem before making any new rules.”
Fortunately, just then another portal materialized and Petula reappeared, soapy rag in hand. “A lot of upset guests have made it to the lobby,” she said. “I’ll try to clean the panel while you go talk to them.”
“No!” Warren snapped, snatching the rag from Petula. “Weren’t you listening? Cleaning it isn’t going to work—the control panel is too delicate.”
Petula scowled. “I was only trying to help.”
Warren felt a twinge of shame. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I'd better get to the lobby and see to the guests.”
Petula drew him a portal, and this time Warren didn’t object. He stepped into the vortex, and after a twisty sensation that made his stomach feel inside out, he emerged into the lobby, which was now packed full of angry people. As soon as they caught sight of Warren, everyone began complaining:
“What took you so long?”
“Why has the hotel tipped over?”
“I sprained my wrist when I fell!”
“This stop isn’t listed on the itinerary!”
“What a horribly jarring experience!”
“This hotel feels like a fun house, but I’m not having any fun at all!”
Warren hurried over to the desk and flipped it upright. “I apologize for the inconvenience, ladies and gentlemen, it’s just a small technical difficulty! We’ll be on our way shortly.”
“I paid a lot of money to stay in a moving hotel,” one guest blustered. “What’s the point if it’s not even moving?”
“Exactly!” another guest chimed in. “I’m checking out, and I demand a full refund!” Warren blanched. “But we’re miles from the next town. There’s nowhere to go!”
The guests shouted back their complaints in unison:
“I’d rather walk all day than spend one more moment here!”
“I have a bruise the size of a grapefruit!”
“How am I supposed to sleep when my bed is upside down?”
“I’m checking out, too! And I want my money back!”
Warren did his best to placate his disgruntled clientele and convince them otherwise, but they were beyond reason. A line began to form behind the counter—with, Warren noticed in dismay, a visiting journalist named Mr. Vanderbelly lurking nearby to record every detail on his ever-present notepad.
“Please tell me you’re not going to write about this,” Warren said to him.
“A journalist must record what he sees,” Mr. Vanderbelly said, nodding his head mournfully. “Headline: ‘The Warren Stumbles! Is This the End of a Fad?’ Or how about: ‘The Warren Hotel Plummets—Along with Its Profits!’”
Warren groaned. There was no way around it: he would have to start handing out refunds.
Within an hour, the lobby was empty . . . and so was the hotel’s cash box.
Warren turned to Mr. Vanderbelly. “I suppose you’ll be checking out, too?”
“And miss documenting the story of the year?” he said with a guffaw. “I think not!”
Before Warren could reply, a loud HONK! HONK! HONK! sounded outside. Curious, he peered out the closest window. His former guests were walking down the road toward the next town, luggage in tow, but their way was being blocked by a strangelooking car—the same vehicle Warren had seen earlier that morning. The driver’s-side door flung open and out stepped a barrel-chested man in an ill-fitting purple suit. He had thinning hair, long curled mustachios that twitched like antennae, and spidery legs. Surveying the crowd, he smiled broadly, causing several gold teeth to glint in the sun.
After briefly wrestling with a sideways doorknob, Warren hurried outside, ready to intervene.
“Greetings, travelers!” the man exclaimed. “It appears you’re on your way to Pineycones. If anyone’s interested in a ride, I’ll be happy to drive you . . . for a reasonable fee, of course! My trusty jalopy can seat six passengers, and this opportunity is firstcome, first-served. Now hop aboard if you’d like to make the initial departure!” All at once, the Warren's former guests began pushing and shoving into the car. Somehow ten people managed to squeeze their way into six seats. Those remaining looked put out.
“Don’t worry, don’t worry!” the man said smoothly. “I’ll happily make extra trips for paying customers!”
Warren shook his head. He hated to see anyone taking advantage of his guests. Except that they weren’t his guests anymore. They had checked out, and until he could get the hotel up and walking again, Warren was out of luck. With a heavy heart, he climbed back into the lobby, the front doors falling closed behind him.
“Mr. Warren!” Mr. Vanderbelly called, waving his pen in the air. “A few questions about your most recent failure!”
“Maybe later,” Warren said with a sigh. “First, I need to call an emergency meeting.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods picks up where Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye left off. It was discovered at the end of the first story that the hotel could walk, so it became the world's first Traveling Hotel. In this story, the twelve year old orphan Warren the 13th is making a good living running the family hotel, that is until he gets taken in by a mimic. When the mimic traps him in a store and takes over the hotel, the trouble begins. I do not want to spoil the story except to day that once again the witches are involved. The queen, an especially powerful and evil witch, plans to steal the hotel for her own purposes. Warren is able to escape and now must cross the Malwoods, a dangerous forest full of sinister trees to save his hotel and rescue his friends. I enjoyed this book more than the first. The characters are stronger and their friendships have grown. We see new characters and new situations. The messages of kindness, hard work, using your brain, loyalty, and the love of family and friends are strong in this book. Once again the illustrations add so much to the story that children will love it. A great addition to a school, public or personal library. Thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.