Title: House of Earth and Blood
Series: Crescent City #1
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Published: March 3rd, 2020 (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Synopsis: Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.
Remember that you will die.”
Bryce Quinlan is a half human, half Fae content with her party lifestyle in Crescent City until the day she returns home to find her best friends brutally murdered, leaving her broken and alone. Hunt Athalar is a Fallen angel who is basically enslaved to the Archangel Micah as punishment for his attempt to rebel many years ago, and acts as his personal assassin until his debt is paid. When, two years after the murders, the killings start again with the same pattern despite the accused having been put behind bars, he is offered a deal – work with Bryce to track down the murderer and his sentence will be reduced with freedom within reach. The mystery of these brutal murders is far more than tracking down one demon however, and as Bryce and Hunt unwillingly partner up to descend into Crescent City’s darkest places, the secrets they begin to uncover make it very clear that nothing and no one is as they seem.
I definitely had my doubts about this book for a few reasons. Urban high fantasy is usually a very hard genre for me to get into – there’s just something extremely jarring about having modern comforts and technology mixed in with the feeling of a well imagined world, and it never quite draws me in like a normal fantasy novel would. And second, the length of the book – there is no reason why the first book in a new series should be 800+ pages and that is for me, a glaring sign of too many info dumps.
But Sarah J. Maas has done it yet again, bringing us into an intricate, magnificent new world, in a city ruled by immortal leaders of various species, where magic and technology exist side by side, in what is undoubtedly, one of her finest works. Sure, my concerns were partially justified – the beginning was definitely awkward in terms of pacing and narration with so much information to convey, and it does take a good 150 pages for the story to really get going, but once it does, it’s a roller coaster ride that never stops. The amount of detail in the world building is next level, but it is necessary due to its complexity. This could have been easily split into two or even three novels, with the sheer amount of content in here, not to mention the astonishing number of potential cliffhanger points. I’m kind of glad that it wasn’t though, since there is no way I would have had the patience for it, considering I practically binge read this and then needed to sit quietly for a while after I finished it just to gather my thoughts.
Let’s talk about the rating of this book for a minute. I find it funny that this is considered an adult fantasy especially since the author’s previous two series were classified YA. Throne of Glass toed the line of YA until book 5 and was definitely atleast new adult after that. As for ACOTAR, well, that was definitely not YA either. In comparison, Crescent City is actually rather tame, and the only major content warnings I would really point out are some violence, language, drug use and possibly graphic descriptions of murder. Besides that however, this first book atleast has nothing major to be worried about.
Bryce is one of the most atypical main characters I have ever come across. She starts off as a not very likeable personality and to be honest, maintains that for quite some time. She is excessively judgemental of all males (the why is only alluded to vaguely), and is easily provoked on the matter. What was surprising though, was that I eventually did grow to like her, despite her having something of a heroic, self-sacrificing complex, and that was because her character was so real and so flawed. Hunt on the other hand, despite being entirely the typical brooding male with a tragic past, was almost instantly a likeable character for me.
Danika – brave, reckless, wild, and utterly loyal Danika, may have been present physically for very little of this book, but her presence lingers throughout and her deep friendship with Bryce really forms the backbone of the story. The scene where Bryce finally makes the Drop was so touching. Too few books really take the time to explore the grief of loss in such a manner, and I think Maas has done a fantastic job at handling these heavy themes with such ease. I could literally write pages about the amazing characters in this book, from Ruhn to Lehabah and so many more, but I’ll leave it at this – even though the narrative focuses on maybe five or six characters, by the end of it, I felt so invested in every last one of them and I’m really curious to see where this epic tale is going next. I’m also looking forward to learning more about the magic system since it was left to rather vague descriptions with more focus on history as well as societal and political structure.
To say I did not see the ending coming is a huge understatement. I was literally so wrapped up in the story, that I didn’t even take a moment to theorize as I usually do, and it completely blew me away. And yes, those final fifteen or so chapters most definitely had me in tears. In terms of storytelling, pacing and even the feel of the novel, House of Earth and Blood is a huge change from Maas’ previous works – and I enjoyed it thoroughly. With its rich, and frankly addicting narration, this is a book that you will find impossible to put down. If you’ve enjoyed Throne of Glass and ACOTAR, I would highly recommend this book. Now, excuse me while I go back to reread my favourite parts again – oh and also figure out how to avoid the massive reading slump this book is about to send me into.
“Through love, all is possible.”
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: