Welcome to the final book review in our #Norsevember series! This week we have my most anticipated read of the month (probably the year, to be honest): book one of the new Crescent City series, House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J Maas. Since I know some of you have yet to read it, I'll keep it as spoiler-free as I can. Onward!
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/Murder Mystery
Category: Epic Read
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Rating: 4/5 Stars
I would like to preface this by saying that I am a huge SJM fan, so I might be a little biased? But hey, we like what we like!
As a Taurus, I like pretty things—especially pretty books. If it weren't enough that the cover is freaking gorgeous AND there's a cute map, my boyfriend got me this signed copy for my birthday! *swoon*
I wanted to devour this book immediately, but decided to hold out for the end of Norsevember—and boy am I glad I did! While I would have enjoyed the book either way, diving into Nordic lore this month really helped me get deeper into the world Maas built than I would have going in with virtually no knowledge of the mythology.
Bryce Quinlan, a half-human and half-fey living in Lunathion, is content with her life. She works all day at Griffin Antiquities, then parties all night with her best friends. Everything is perfect—until a demon murders those closest to her. Two years later, while the "killer" is imprisoned, identical murders begin cropping up, and Bryce finds herself in the middle of the investigation—and lusting for revenge.
Protecting her is Hunt Athalar, a Fallen angel enslaved for his participation in a rebellion against the ruling Archangels. He now finds himself the tool of those he once sought to overthrow, his magic bound and his power used to carry out the dirty work of the elite. But if he can protect Bryce, find the perpetrator, and put a stop to the killings, his freedom might be closer than he thought.
HOW IT STACKS UP
House of Earth and Blood is not only book one of Maas's new series, it's also her debut adult fiction novel. As a huge fan of A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass, I was anxious to see how this new story compared to her earlier works. I had a few ideas—more smut and f-bombs flying now that Maas is no longer held back by a label. I was right on one account: Bryce has a filthy mouth. There were almost too many uses of the word, and that's coming from someone who has absolutely no qualms about using it.
Beyond that, it definitely feels like a classic Maas story: a main character with a secret, an artistic hobby, and a connection to the fey; strong, confident females; heartbreakingly beautiful friendships; a hot, broody male lead; characters bonding via trauma and healing. Maas once again touches on subjects like racism, slavery, inequality, LGBT+ relationships, trauma, and more. Unlike Erelia and Prythian, Lunathion, or "Crescent City," is a modernized city where cellphones, cameras, guns, etc. come into play. I enjoy the way she blends magic and technology, giving us a glimpse of what our world would be like if it were more magical. Seeing the characters text each other, watch TV, take selfies, scarf down pizzas and food truck noodles, and party the night away at clubs makes them feel a bit closer, easier to relate to.
House of Earth and Blood certainly feels closer to Throne of Glass between the excitement of a murder mystery, the tragic loss of close friends, the personalities of the main characters, and their romance. Rowaelin fans will enjoy the tension between Bryce and Hunt as they slowly go from enemies, to begrudging colleagues, to friends, to more. Bryce has many of the same qualities I love about Aelin—she's confident and sassy, but there's a depth others don't see for the pampered, somewhat bitchy exterior. Hunt reminds us of Rowan in how he doesn't take shit from Bryce, calls her out on her own alphahole behaviors, doesn't shy away from her rough edges and intimidating strengths, and is just what she needs after everything she's been through.
Bryce's friendship with Danika, her wolf-shifter BFF, reminds me of what it would be like if Aelin and Manon let loose with absolutely zero responsibility.
THOUGHTS AND FEELS
With inspiration drawn from Nordic and Celtic lore, this is a MAASSIVE world with a huge cast of diverse characters of all shapes and sizes. Bryce's investigation takes her all over a city that's on the brink of joining an ongoing war. Fey, angels, shifters, daemons, merfolk, hybrids, and everything in between can be found in one corner of Lunathion or another. Maas also tackles huge themes throughout the story and Bryce's journey through grief and vengeance. While it's a lot to take in, this is the beginning of what is sure to be a sprawling story/universe, and I fully believe it will be worth it in later installations.
Now the big question remains: with the ability to move through worlds shown in this story, can we expect a crossover or cameo in the future? Hey, she's done it before!
Whether you're a veteran SJM fanatic or new to her writing, I think any lover of fantasy, particularly inspired by Norse mythology, can appreciate this book. Plus it's so pretty! Even if you don't love the story as much as I did, it makes for good eye-candy on the shelf! So grab a copy here!
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