Book Review: House of Earth and Blood


House of Earth and Blood is the first novel in Sarah J. Maas’ brand-new adult fantasy series Crescent City, and it’s brilliant. Bryce Quinlan, half-Fae and half-human, is irrevocably changed on the night that her closest friends are murdered by a demon. When similar murders begin happening again in Lunathion, Bryce gets involved in the investigation. With help from friends and foes alike, including her official Fallen Angel partner Hunt Athalar, Bryce’s investigation leads her deep into the underbelly of her beloved City. But it quickly becomes clear that the murders are only a small fraction of the real conspiracy and that there are more powerful dark forces a play.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I loved House of Earth and Blood.

I have been a fan of Sarah’s work for years now. Every time she releases a new novel, I’m always impressed by her gift for storytelling. She manages to outdo herself every single time! It’s not just the consistent demonstration of her technical skills that continues to wow me, but it’s also the evidence of how her imagination and creativity continue to flourish. There’s an unspoken but implied promise with every book that there will continue to be new, exciting stories and lovable characters to come from her for as long she keeps on writing – and that’s certainly true of this book.

Three things you can expect from House of Earth and Blood (and really, these are hallmarks of all Sarah’s work):

A+ worldbuilding

Crescent City (otherwise known as Lunathion) is fascinating. I’m convinced that it must exist, because everything about it just felt true. The sensory experiences of sight and sound and smell and taste and feel as Bryce and company travel the city. The colorful history and structured society where everyone has their place. The rich lore for each race, which sharpens into something even more specific when considered on the individual level. It is, admittedly, an intricate and complex world that proves a bit of a challenge to keep straight in your head, and readers will find themselves thrown right into it from the very first page. But it’s impossible to resist its lure (or at least it was for me) and I really enjoyed learning all about this world, though I can’t help feeling like we’ve only really scratched the surface. (It reminded me a bit of New York, both in terms of the vibe I got while reading and in my own experience of ‘learning’ the Big Apple.)

A well-plotted tale

I’m partial to fantasy stories that include a murder mystery investigation plot, so this story was immediately appealing to me. The beginning leans heavily on the set-up: immersing readers directly into this world, introducing the main players and inviting readers to witness the inciting incident that divides Bryce’s life into a “before” and an “after. But once everything is, so to speak, on the table, the story takes off. Not only do Bryce and Hunt begin their actual investigation (complete with both being sneaky and seeing some action), but it is also revealed that there is more going on in the city, including bargains, secrets and political unrest. And on top of that, we also get great character development (on an individual level and in relation to one another, but more on that shortly). It’s a compelling mix of plot threads that Sarah wields with a deft hand, and the result is incredibly satisfying to read.

A captivating cast

When it comes right down to it, the real way this novel earned its place in my heart was through the characters. Sarah’s ensembles are always something to eagerly anticipate, and I love this new cast! There’s a lovely variety of individuals, and whether I loved them immediately or it took a little (or a lot) more time to care for them, by the end, I just wanted to hang out with everyone and be a part of their stories. I appreciate, as always, that these characters are multi-faceted; they are gifted and they are special, but they are also flawed and that makes them feel real. Their relationships (and I mean across the board because there’s quite the variety in this aspect as well) are also equally complex and feel incredibly dynamic (and relatable on a whole lot of levels). It is delightful to have more fictional folks to love, and I will happily follow them to whatever end. Especially my newest favorite heroine, Bryce Quinlan, who stole my heart away (and I’m happy to let her keep it) with her fierce, flawed, fabulous self. 

Clearly, House of Earth and Blood blew me away, as I’d already suspected it would. It was a welcome and entertaining escape from reality to dive deep into this tale, and I’m sure readers will appreciate it for that. But, in my case, it was even more special to discover that there were aspects that resonated with me on an emotional level. It was clear that Sarah poured a lot of her heart into these pages, and that raw authenticity came across so clearly that it touched my heart in turn. House of Earth and Blood was a spectacular start to a brand-new series, and I can’t wait for more!

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1) is out today, March 3, 2020 from Bloomsbury.
I received a copy from the publisher for review, but all opinions stated here are my own.

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