The first book in a new series, House of Earth and Blood is a powerful novel, pulling you into a fantastical world full of magic, politics – and evil. Bryce Quinlan has the life that many would dream of; the best of friends, a party life hard to stay track of, and the beauty of her half fae linage. On a perfectly normal night, Bryce parties with the backing of drink and drugs. And on the same night, one of her best friends is murdered.
Two years later, and Bryce hasn’t moved on, or even tried to process what has happened. Instead she has pushed it down, down, down, pretending that she has things under control and that she is perfectly fine. She keeps up her party girl exterior. She goes to work every day. She runs. She keeps running.
But she can’t run when she is approached by the archangel in charge of of her city, asking for her help in chasing down the demons that attacked that horrible night. He pairs her with the notorious, powerful, and now enslaved angel Hunt Athalar, who works for the equivalent of the legal department – but with more blood. Both Bryce and Hunt are opposed to the match, fighting against each other with a passion that soon starts to burn in other ways. But despite their personal feelings, there is a case to solve, and much on the line.
In one sentence: I loved this book. I absolutely loved it. I devoured each page, unable to put it down, and it was one of those books where I felt like if I was doing anything other than reading my book, I was wasting my time. Since finishing it, I’ve felt utterly bereft, and no book is quite filling the Bryce-and-Athalar sized gap in my life. Drama very much intended.
It’s taken a while for me to embrace reading fantasy, feeling foolishly that I was too old to read such books. Since getting over myself, this was the perfect place to start. I’ve never read any Sarah J. Maas before, but have been aware of her work. The difference is that this is an adult series – although amusingly a friend of mine who has read all Maas’s work assures me there is more sex in the YA – and the one criticism I would have of the book is at times the language use veers back into YA level, with certain characters having descriptions regularly applied to them that, however accurate, do feel repetitive. This was a bit annoying at times and I did feel myself rolling my eyes on occasion.
My criticism over with, the first thing I need to praise beyond measure is the creativity of the world creation that makes up Crescent City and the world outside of the city lines. We are given a full history of how the world came to be, the politics at play and the status of power that tips very much in favour of the Archangels that didn’t rebel. This is obviously spoiler free, so I’m being light on the details, but when it comes to the details, there is an impressive amount of them to absorb. Never since Harry Potter have I felt a world has been created with as much planning as with this.
There was a distinct effort to break stereotypes when it came to the people we met along the way; powerful women, emotional men, breaking traditions… These are the kinds of things I like to see in the world! It certainly makes a book more enjoyable when there is power at play, and that power is used to break down walls. Of course no book is perfect and I know some people have felt that the whole “I am woman hear me roar” dynamic was cliche, but personally I felt it was well written, with enough twists and turns to remain interesting beyond happening just by itself.
Grief is a key factor in the tale. Various people are grieving, and as in real life, everyone grieves differently. Watching these little yarns unwind to show the separate struggles but the unity within them, is something powerful, and speaks to everyone in life, whatever their place and whoever they might have lost. I had huge respect for the way grief was displayed in Crescent City, finding it an honest presentation, and strong enough to make me think about the people I have lost in time that I miss so dearly.
Overall, this story is about love, in so many different forms: self love, romantic love, and most importantly, the power of friendship. Never giving up on the people you love is the biggest line throughout the story, and it had me in tears multiple times. This is the book for you if you want to be totally absorbed by something, to lose yourself in a universe with as many details as our own, and want to follow the twists and turns of a tale that eventually bring you to a place where you feel empowered by who – and what – you have encountered along the way.
I don’t do star ratings, but I will say this is one of my top books of all time, not to mention of this year. Simply wonderful.