Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

book review

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Publisher: Tor

Publication date: 01 April 2020

Genre: Fantasy

Page count: 400 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a spoiler-free review

I had been hearing nothing but rave reviews for The House in the Cerulean Sea when it came out this spring — what better time for a wholesome book than during quarantine? I didn’t get around to reading it until August, but I’m so glad I picked up this lovely book! A cosy read that pairs perfectly with a rainy day, a cup of tea, and a cat in your lap, The House in the Cerulean Sea is sure to warm you heart.

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

This book takes place in a world much like our own, but it has a bit of a twist. The existence of magical creatures is widely known, and such beings are monitored by the government. This concept hit so hard, especially in the wake of the protests around racism across the globe this summer, as well as the number of people burying their heads in the sand and pretending that societal issues such as racism don’t exist where they live. Klune did a fabulous job of making this important aspect of the world building so neferious and so realistic, that it was actually a little unsettling. You don’t need to read between the lines to see what’s wrong with this world and see how people try their best to not deal with ‘others’.

Despite this quite dark background, The House in the Cerulean Sea has so much charm. From Klune’s light and clever writing style and the playful banter between characters, it’s hard to not fall in love with the characters that drive the story. Linus, our POV character, is someone who grows so much over the course of the story, and it was a delight to see him begin to recognise the issues around him and begin to question the authority that has governed him for so long. He is a quiet and unassuming man who blends into the background, but he cares so deeply for the children he works with and this compassion makes him shine. He morphs from a passive kind of carer to an active one, and his growth reflects the awakening that so many people of privilage have been experiencing. 

Much of his growth is in relation to the other characters of the book — how he interacts with them and learns to challenge his preconcieved notions of what a magical child is and can be plays a huge role in his development. From Arthur, the man who runs the orphanage and steals Linus’s heart, to the unique children that live within its walls (Chauncey has my heart forever), the chemistry between the characters was so lovely and totally believeable.

Overall, I really enjoyed The House in the Cerulean Sea. While it got a little too sickly sweet for my taste in some places, it was such a departure from my usual grim fantasy novels that I couldn’t help but be swept up in the wholesome story. I’d highly recommend this book for readers of any age range who want a comforting and charming tale to counteract the difficult times we life in.

Want to pick up a copy of The House in the Cerulean Sea for yourself? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):

Book Depository | Blackwells

Have you read The House in the Cerulean Sea? What did you think? Is it in your TBR? Let me know!

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