ARC Review: The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee — An Ode to Autumn Full of Mystery and Spookiness

Hi guys! Fall is almost here, so today I am reviewing The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee, an MG fantasy set in a small Tennessee town (go Tennessee!) in the fall. With Halloween coming up, I think this murder mystery is perfect for those who need a good spook. I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe House in Poplar Wood

For as long as the Vickery twins can remember, they’ve only ever been able to leave the house together once a year, on Halloween. The rest of the year, Lee and his mother serve Memory, while Felix and his father assist Death. This is the Agreement.

But one Halloween, Gretchen Whipple smashes her way into their lives. Her bargain is simple: If the twins help her solve the murder of local girl Essie Hasting, she’ll help them break the Agreement. The more the three investigate, however, the more they realize that something’s gone terribly wrong in their town. Death is on the loose, and if history repeats itself, Essie’s might not be the last murder in Poplar Wood.

Simultaneously heartwarming and delightfully spooky, The House in Poplar Wood is the story about a boy’s desire to be free, a girl’s desire to make a difference, and a family’s desire to be together again.

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3 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This will not affect my review in any way.

I’ve never read one of K. E. Ormsbee’s MG novels, so I was really excited to have the opportunity to review her latest novel The House in Poplar Wood. I was really excited to read about all of the magic regarding Death, Memory, and Passion. Magical realism and contemporary fantasy fascinate me very much. Unfortunately, The House in Poplar Wood fell short of my expectations. I did not feel any emotional connection to the story at all until the very end. To me, it wasn’t bad but it just wasn’t very good. I wish I could have enjoyed it a lot more, but I felt as if I was reading words off of a page rather than being transported into a story.

The House in Poplar Wood did have some really intriguing world-building. Each town has three Shades—Death, Memory, and Passion—that the townspeople do not know about, but they involve themselves in the affairs of the citizens. Boone Ridge’s Shades are at odds with each other, and Lee and Felix’s family are under an Agreement that has torn apart the family for over a decade. The twins meet a feisty girl named Gretchen, who is from the Mayor’s family and thus sworn enemies of the Vickeries as Summoners. They team up to solve the mystery regarding the death of a teen girl in the town, who was killed before her appointed time, and Death and the Mayor may be in a conspiracy behind it. This is what intrigued me about the book, and it was such a great premise.

Sadly, it just wasn’t executed well enough for me—I just did not feel transported into the book. There was no emotional spark that wrenched my heart throughout the book. I even disliked Gretchen is much at first because of her inconsiderate personality, but I was able to warm up to her by the end. While there was a lot of clever plot twists and surprises, I did predict a few of them.

I am very sure that many kids would love The House in Poplar Wood more than I would. My main issue was not really with the world-building or the plot but with the emotional connection. I wanted so badly to become swept away and never leave, but this book did not accomplish that for me. I would recommend this for readers who love books set in the fall. It definitely had an eerie atmosphere along with detailed world-building. The House in Poplar Wood is an ode to autumn that shows the power of hope and perseverance in a pair of twins’ fight to reunite their family.


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read The House in Poplar Wood? Do you like MG fantasy?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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