Have you ever imagined opening a door in a house and finding a wonderful new land? Houses where magic is right around the corner seems to appeal to readers and writers alike. I just finished reading another book with a magical house as central to the plot. It got me wondering how many fantasy books do I own where the house is magic itself? Here’s a round-up of some of my favorites.

But beware, not all houses are friendly —

Octavia Bloom and the Missing Key by Estelle Grace Tudor

Almost 10-year-old Octavia Bloom is looking for adventure, but when it comes it’s in the shape of a tiny fairy door. Dragging her reluctant sister and cousins into the mystery, Octavia discovers her family are hiding not ONE but TWO life-changing secrets. Why is her mother searching for an elusive flower? And does she have what it takes to reunite her fractured family?

What a delight this book is! If you have middle-schooler looking for something after they’ve read Narnia, I can’t recommend this one enough. Octavia, her sister, and two cousins go to the land of fairy to try to save her long-lost brother. There are elements of the Wizard of Oz here, along with Narnia, that provides a sweet adventure read for those who want to escape away to another land.

Traveler by Jinn Nelson

The barista finished the drink and with a victorious flourish set it before the blue-haired girl.
“Just in time. Thanks,” the girl said insincerely. She stood and gathered her papers.
“No, I meant you don’t have any more time,” said the man. “The world ends in—” he glanced at his watch again “forty-eight seconds.”

Trapped in a cafe that travels to seven dimensions on an infinite loop, Jaz Contra serves coffee while trying to locate the mysterious white-haired man who put her there. Not technically a house but a coffee shop that is more than it seems.

This was one of my favorite reads last year. It is more science-fiction than fantasy perhaps, but the seven worlds and the characters make for a fascinating read.

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

Sweet and proper, Karah’s future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life. . . if she agrees to play their game. Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage’s offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

When the father of a family of daughters (there’s really too many girls and the story focuses on the two above), dies, they scramble to keep the business afloat. That means Karah enters prostitution (Geisha style, so the dark reality of this is watered down) and Nemienne is indentured to a sorcerer. The wizard’s house is darker and more powerful than its owner and Nemienne is quickly drawn into magic that may be too powerful for her to control.

This book one of two. I’m not as fond of book 2 as I think it went off track by following the men – the daughters were far more interesting. Should be fine for upper high school and above readers.

House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great-Uncle William’s tiny cottage while he’s ill should have been easy. But Great-Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland, and his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places—the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, and the Royal Mansion, to name just a few.

A nice middle-school read with a lovely heroine who really deserved to be the star of the book. Technically book 3 in the Howl’s Moving Castle, but I would hesitate to call it that. Yes, Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer show up but the story is better when it is about Charmain Baker. This is the penultimate book Jones wrote before her death (Enchanted Glass was her last).

Like most magic houses, this one has rooms that are hard to find, that drop you into elsewhere, and is mysteriously connected to another part of the kingdom. On the whole, the house is on the side of good. It doesn’t have a personality though, which I would have loved!

Solstice Wood by Patricia McKillip

When bookstore owner Sylvia Lynn returns to her childhood home in upstate New York, she meets the Fiber Guild-a group of local women who meet to knit, embroider, and sew-and learns why her grandmother watches her so closely. A primitive power exists in the forest, a force the Fiber Guild seeks to bind in its stitches and weavings. And Sylvia is no stranger to the woods

When Sylvia comes home for a funeral, her grandmother tries to wrap her up in secrets. Technically, the house isn’t magical, the wood is. But there is one really interesting scene here where Sylvia is in the land of fairy and happens upon a mirror of the house her grandmother lives in. It makes for a really interesting scene.

For those who love Practical Magic by Hoffman, I think you will enjoy this book. Ignore the horrible Gothic romance cover.

A Red Heart of Memories and Past the Size of Dreaming by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Matilda “Matt” Black possesses the unique ability to speak with inanimate objects and witness the dreams of other people. Alone, yet never lonely, she’s now found a kindred spirit in Edmund Reynolds—a wandering witch of a spiritual quest to help those in need. Together, these two special people who live outside normal reality will embark on an odyssey of the imagination.

A 2-book series (which could be read as a standalone), these out of print books are well worth pursuing. Hoffman is a Nebula and World-Fantasy author who is an extremely talent writer. I think these two books were ahead of their time for they have almost an anti-hero theme and deals with some different ideas of how people live their lives. Edmund is essentially a homeless wizard, and Matt has used her talent to sleep in people’s homes without their awareness of her visit.

The house has a personality and consciousness, in part due to the ghost that lives there, and what adventures have happened within its walls. Like much of Hoffman’s work, these two stories discuss the imbalance of power and the often very dangerous things that happen because of it. Upper teen to adult, and not for kiddies.

Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold

Middle-aged Mira Fenn knows she has an uncomfortably exotic past. As a small girl, she lived in a ornate old house in tiny Las Vegas, New Mexico, tended by oddly silent servant women and ruled by her coldly flamboyant mother Colette. When Mira was nine, Colette went on one of her unexplained trips, only this time she never returned.

The painted lady or Victorian home in this book has influenced and controlled the family for generations. Could it even be the reason why Colette left home one day and never returned? Why was Mira adopted by a couple who had to change their names and move away? And who are the silent women who manage the house?

A fascinating book when it delves into the relationship between Mira and what she remembers about her mother, Colette. The spooky, hair raising parts is when you read about Mira’s interaction with her narcissistic mother. Where the book suffers is when Lindskold wanders around incorporating local travel news into the story. Haunting and well worth a read.

What books about magical houses have you read?

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