Author Charlie N. Holmberg writes a lot of fantasy, and her latest novel, “Heir of Uncertain Magic” is the sequel to “Keeper of Enchanted Rooms,” the first book in the “Whimbrel House” series. Unfortunately, neither title gives even a hint of the delightful character of this magic-filled series about two fairly tortured souls in search of some stability and in desperate need of some love in their lives. We meet those two, Merritt Fernsby and Hulda Larkin, in the first book as Merritt inherits a magical house, and Hulda is sent to help him figure out how to control the magic of the house. It’s filled with action, danger, and some truly heart-wrenching moments.
This second book begins right where the first one left off. We meet the residents of Whimbrel House. There is the chef Baptiste, a Frenchman Merritt hired; we also meet Beth Taylor, who was sent by BIKER (Boston Institute for the Keeping Enchanted Rooms) to keep the house organized and take care of its inhabitants, and Owein, who is the being who caused the house to be enchanted. He is now in the body of a dog, but he can communicate with Merritt.
Merritt is struggling with his newfound ability of communion. That ability means he can hear the thoughts of plants and animals, but the thoughts reach him throughout the day and night, and that phenomenon is causing him to be unable to sleep because of the constant bombardment of thoughts from all around, even the grass outside the house. He has learned that his father, who hated him and threw him out of the family, isn’t really his biological parent. He struggles with the idea of trying to go home to see his mother and sisters, whom he hasn’t seen in 13 years, and meeting his real father. He is tormented with doubt and feelings of insecurity, and because of his past, he is afraid of being rejected.
Hulda is alone in the world except for a few friends, among whom is her best friend, Myra. Myra was the director of BIKER and Hulda’s supervisor, but in the first book we learned about some malfeasance and that Myra worked to fix her mistakes and then disappeared. Hulda can’t believe that her friend would abandon BIKER, but that’s what it appears has happened. Hulda loves working for BIKER, and when some employees of the governing group, LIKER (London Institute for the Keeping of Enchanted Rooms), appear to investigate Myra’s disappearance and decide on the appointment of a new director, she is torn. Since their arrival, some strange things have been happening at BIKER. Hulda has yearned for romance and someone to have a family with, but she is very straight-laced and rigid, and she loves her job. She is insecure about Merritt’s feelings for her, and she, too, is afraid of getting rejected.
In this sequel, we see the progression of Merritt and Hulda’s romance, their continued realization of their affection for each other. We also see how, with the others who reside at Whimbrel House, they have formed a family of their own. When Hulda and Merritt are in trouble, the other residents of the house, including Owein, the boy-dog who is also Merritt’s great, great, great, great, great, great (and then some) uncle, are there to help. There is danger from unsuspected sources, and as the days inch forward (Holmberg provides the dates at the beginning of each chapter as if in a diary), we feel not only the chill of the Boston winter but the icy finger of danger from within.
A very minor gripe is that while we are thrown into the action, there isn’t a lot of recap from the first book. I plan on keeping my copy of this one so that when its sequel is released, I’ll have it to refer to.
This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.