Book Review: Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Charlie Holmberg

Welcome, book lovers! 

In this post, I discuss a charming cozy fantasy, Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Charlie Holmberg. If you’d prefer to listen to this review, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. (This is a spoiler-free post.)

You can also let me know your thoughts about this book by commenting on my Instagram post here.

Keeper of Enchanted Rooms by Charlie Holmber

Published: November 2022
Genre: Cozy Fantasy | Historical Fantasy
Format: Paperback
My Rating: READ IT!!!!!
My GR Rating: 5/5 ⭐

Book Synopsis: 

This is a story set in the 1840s.

Our two protagonists are Merritt Fernsby and Hulda Larkin. 

Merritt’s grandmother just passed away, and as he’s estranged from his family, he is surprised to find out that she left him Whimbrel House, a remote estate in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The house hasn’t been lived in in over 100 years, but Merritt is excited to have a home of his own finally. He’s a writer and working on his next novel, so he thinks it’ll be a great place to write. But little does he know that it’s enchanted, and once he arrives, it won’t let him leave. 

Hulda works at the Boston Institute for the Keeping of Enchanted Rooms and has been trained to tame enchanted buildings and homes in order to preserve their historical and magical significance. She knows how to deal with these “tantrums” and has some magical abilities herself. She’s armed with a bag of magic tricks and a vast knowledge of the arcane.

We learn about this whole magical system, and there are also people with magical powers or abilities, but soon find out that it’s a dying system and these types of houses are becoming fewer and fewer. 

So, Hulda travels to Whimbrel House to help Merritt as the housekeeper and to tame this unruly house. However, the house proved to be more difficult than expected. Together, Merritt and Hulda work to figure out the mystery of what is causing the enchantment of the house. Upon further investigation, they learn that there are many secrets about the house and the history of the family that go deeper than anyone expected. And Hulda never expected her past to catch up to her as well.

Overall Opinion:

I really didn’t know what to expect when I started this book, but I definitely didn’t think I’d fall so hard and so fast for these characters. I loved this book! It felt like a warm hug to my heart that I didn’t know I needed. This book has been categorized as cozy fantasy, so when I was diving deep into the genre, it was a popular title that many BookTubers recommended, so I decided to read it. It’s the second cozy fantasy book that I’ve read.

I read this in early March, late winter, but it would also be a good read for the fall season since it takes place during fall.

Book Details:

  • Length – I read the paperback version and it was 327 pages. It was a pretty quick read for me. I read it in just a few days because I couldn’t put it down. 
  • Writing Style – It’s very easy to read. Immersive and descriptive. I appreciated the shorter chapters. There are three POVs that the story is told from and it helps to tell the story. 
  • Cover Art – It’s very cute and whimsical. Love it!

What I Didn’t Like About It:

  • I felt like the pacing at the beginning was a little slow for me. It started out really strong, but then lulled for a bit. However, once it picked back up, which wasn’t too long of a wait, I couldn’t put it down. 
  • Also, it starts off going between two different stories and timelines. It was a little confusing for me, and I didn’t like the hopping back and forth, but it all came together in the end. 
  • The magic system is a little complex and confusing. There are many types of magic that we’re introduced to, and it was hard to keep them straight. At the beginning of the book, it lists out the system, and I found myself having to keep referring back to that list to understand what they were talking about and what was going on at certain times.
  • There is a miscommunication trope, which I actually like that trope and it definitely works here, but I wish it were introduced a bit sooner in the story so that we would get more romance between the couple.  
  • Before I started reading this book, many people recommended this book under the cozy fantasy genre, which is fantasy with low stakes. I wouldn’t call this story working with low stakes. In fact, I’d say some scenes are medium to high stakes, but overall, there is a warm, cozy feeling you get from this book. So I can see why they classify it as cozy fantasy, but I’m on the fence with that label. It does have some dark and mysterious parts to it. It might fit better under historical fantasy.

What I Liked About It:

  • This was my first historical fantasy AND magical realism book, which I absolutely loved and have really grown to enjoy. I find myself wanting to read more of these types of books.
  • For me, this story was like Mary Poppins meets Monster House, which the author said it’s like Mary Poppins meets Encanto, but I haven’t seen Encanto, so I can’t comment on that comparison. Hulda, the main female lead, was my favorite character. She reminded me of Mary Poppins immediately. I could hear Julie Andrews’s voice for the longest time, but then I realized that Hulda is not from England, so she wouldn’t have a British accent. But she is very prim, proper, and professional. She doesn’t put up with any nonsense. She’s a very strong and empowering female protagonist, even though she has her insecurities, which are very relatable. It was very easy to connect and relate with her. I found myself rooting for her the whole time. 
  • Immediately, I was intrigued when I first started reading this book. I thought it had a unique, creative plot, and the characters were very likable, real, and relatable. They really came to life for me. Ultimately, what really captured my heart were the characters. For me, what makes this such a good book is the character development and less about the plot.  
  • There is a found family in the book when a couple more employees join Whimbrel House, a maid, and a chef. As I mentioned in the plot, Merritt is estranged from his family, so after a while, he sees these employees as his new family.
  • I really enjoyed the enchanted house being a character. I found myself laughing at certain points because there is humor in what the house is doing to the main characters. It’s nothing sinister but rather amusing, endearing, and light-hearted. 
  • I became really immersed in the plot. There are a couple of big plot twists that I enjoyed. For the last quarter of the story, I had a hard time putting it down. There is some mystery involved, and it was fun also playing detective along with the characters. 
  • It’s written in the third person, but it does jump from different POVs – Merritt, Hulda, and Silas. Usually, I don’t like books where the POV jumps around, but it worked in this book, and I didn’t find it annoying at all. In fact, I think it helped tell the story through the different perspectives so we could see what everything was thinking as we progressed through the book. 
  • I like that we dive into really relatable themes, like abandonment, feeling like an outcast or the black sheep of the family, societal and familial expectations, dark family secrets, moving on from the past and not letting it dictate our future, learning to trust ourselves, worthiness, and believing in love.

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Read It:

If you like a cute budding romance, quirky, lovable characters, a good mystery, found family fuzzy feelings (how’s that for some alliteration?), and a fun magic system in a compelling story, then you’ll love this book. It’s very magical, whimsical yet dark, and very intriguing. All around, it gives you all the good feels.

Final Thoughts:

I’m still thinking about these characters well after I’ve read the book. This is the first time in a while that I really fell in love with characters from a book, and I’m dying to know what happens to them. I wanted to be part of this adorable found family, and didn’t want their story to end. Lucky for me, it doesn’t have to! I hope Charlie keeps writing more and more books in this series because I feel like I couldn’t ever get enough of these characters. 

Since reading this book, the sequel, Heir of Uncertain Magic, has been released, and I have read that one. I’m not going to do a full-length review on it because it is a sequel and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but even though I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as good as this first book. I loved being back in this world with these characters, but it felt a little lacking, the story wasn’t as compelling or interesting, and it kinda dragged on for a bit. However, I am glad that I read it because there is a third book coming out early next year in February. So I’m really, really excited to read that one. I’ll probably pre-order it when it’s available. 

Charlie Holmberg has quickly become one of my favorite all-time authors. I’ve read four of her books so far, and I know I’ll definitely read one more later this year. I’m working on reading her entire backlist. I just love her writing and creative stories that she tells. Plus, I’ve really come to love historical fantasy and magical realism stories. They are some of my favorites. So I can’t wait to continue reading her amazing books!

If you’re interested in this book, you can purchase it here and the sequel here.

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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