Book Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Title: House in the Cerulean Sea

Author: T.J. Klune

Series: N/A

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4/5 stars

The Overview: A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret. Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages. When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days. But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn. An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours. -Goodreads

The Review:

I went in skeptical… then came out a believer.

Truth be told it took about 50% into the book before I was totally hooked. Up to that point I was still enjoying the story, but didn’t feel the “magic” of it that so many claim to have experienced. It took time, but I got there.

The book was very nostalgic – evoking the same feelings I felt venturing into Harry Potter for the first time. It resonated with the beginnings of those books where Harry was still with the Dursley’s – the discovery that we’ve been living mundane muggle lives amidst wonderful magics in this world… that most people don’t acknowledge or talk about because it’s just not proper. The sense of discovery I felt seeing the magic come alive alongside this totally ordinary “muggle” of a main character was delightful.

Part of the reason it took a while for me to get on board was the pacing. Klune really took his time grounding the reader with the main character, building a slow momentum of development that eventually paid off brilliantly. It was honestly more slowly paced than I usually have patience to handle, but in hindsight the book ended up having a satisfyingly balance and I wouldn’t change a thing.

I am the last person to pick up on social commentary in books, but still noticed here a through-message of hope. Hope for those forced on the fringes of society because they are different than the masses. In here those differences were celebrated and I felt like the book did a good job giving the ostracized a voice. It was a subtle message – integrated organically through the characters – but one that shone for me, and I think if you’re going through anything hard, this book will put you in a much better mood.

Recommendations: despite a slow start, this book evolved into one of the most delightful things I’ve ever read. If you want a fun fantasy that will leave you in a better state of mind, this will do the trick. :)

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by Niki Hawkes

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