Sarah J. Maas is an auto-buy author for me. (I can hear Sara and Ashley snickering right now because I DO have a lot of auto-buy authors . . . but seriously, I've pre-ordered every Maas book since her first.) I had pre-ordered House of Earth and Blood as soon as I could, but I didn't pick it up to read it immediately. It's 800ish pages, and I wanted to be able to read without stress or tons of interruptions.
So, now we're under quarantine, and my "to do" list has shifted radically. My stress level is weird--I'm an instructional technology teacher, so while I'm working to support teachers, we've also been on hold to see how our division is going to respond to this long closure. Anyway, all that to say, this past weekend, I had a long stretch of time. And so I picked up House of Earth and Blood. Wow.
This book, which launches Maas's new Crescent City series, does feel different from some of her other books. It's labeled as her first "adult" series, but I don't think it felt any steamier than A Court of Thorns and Roses. It's also an urban fantasy book, so the world itself is different, but the world building is just as captivating as her other books. Yes, there are new types of creatures and divisions (houses) and a new city map to learn. But good world building persists no matter the type of world being built, and Maas is, I think, an expert.
Her touch with characters is also as strong as always. Though she does shift perspectives through the novel, for me, the key protagonist is Bryce Quinlan, a character both strong and weak, certainly flawed, though with much to admire. This type of great, feminist character will certainly seem familiar from Maas's other books, and while Bryce fits a type, she is also definitely a distinctive and unique character.
The plot MOVES. I can't read an 800-page book in one sitting any more, but I came as close as possible for a mom and wife and teacher. (It helps that I have an understanding husband and kids who can work and play together independently when they're not fighting.) There is one big plot point fairly late in the book that REALLY bothered me. (Message me on social media if you've read the book and want to discuss!) I didn't feel as if this moment was earned, and I even turned back the pages and re-read the scenes and chapters before it happened a couple of times in case I had been reading too fast and missed something. Nope. It just didn't feel earned, and it didn't feel true to the characters and plot that came before. I read on with some resentment. (Okay, true confession: I absolutely sulked for a chapter or two.) But Maas won me back, so I'll just count that point as an inevitable moment for a reader in an epic novel.
All in all? I LOVED this book. I loved the romance between Bryce, half-fae and half-human, and the guy who is her romantic interest (I'll leave that identity for you to discover. No spoilers here.) I love her family story, the ways that Maas is tapping into the ideas of angels and demons and fairies and vampires and werewolves . . . and everyone else. I love the way she has organized her world and the premises on which that world rests. Really, really great fantasy novel. Now I just have to wait--who knows for how long!!!--for book 2.
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