Foreword Reviews

The Enigma House

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

The Enigma House is magical and intriguing, making it a cozy choice for young readers.

Rebecca Rokey’s The Enigma House is an inventive young-adult mystery about a family’s move into a strange old house that has rules, and maybe even a mind, all its own.

After a fire destroys their home, Henry and Jean Miller feel fortunate to find an impressive old house in the woods. It seems too good to be true—until extraordinary things begin to happen to the family’s three children, and then to the adults, too. Teenage artist Emma suspects ghosts, while her younger brother, Michael, tries to find a rational explanation; the two unite to figure the house out.

Emma and Michael’s use of books and libraries in their research will charm bookworms. In a wonderful scene, Michael ventures into the old house’s library and encounters shelves full of books that want to be read, and that let him know it. Each child’s bedroom has one or more magical features that the house seems to playfully concoct just for them. These happenings, and the attic they aren’t allowed to visit, add suspense to the book; the Millers literally live inside a mystery.

The story establishes a good rhythm as it moves from character to character, and in and out of a story-within-a-story that is revealed through the journal of the original homeowner. The plot is propelled more by curiosity—what will happen next in the unusual house?—than by urgency or fear. Whimsical occurrences and characters, like the quintet of sentient purple furballs who befriend the youngest Miller child, are delightful, inspired surprises.

Much of the kids’ planning and speculation happens in dialogue, yet character voices blend together. Michael and Emma sound mature for their years, while their parents are surprisingly blasé about having moved into an animate house. Jean enjoys the supernatural help in the kitchen, though later, with no dramatic impetus, she becomes scared of the house and decides she wants to move. Such shifts are jarring.

Some of the book’s most dynamic objects are historical—a Victorian newspaper, an old journal that tells the story of Native Americans who once lived on the land—and give the work a timeless feeling. The house by a pond in the woods feels like it could be anywhere, in almost any time.

The Enigma House is magical and intriguing, making it a cozy choice for young readers.

Reviewed by Meredith Grahl Counts

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Load Next Review