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REVIEW: ‘Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood’ by Sarah J. Maas grows from rocky to captivating

Despite its questionable start, ‘House of Earth and Blood’ finished leaving me desperate for more.
 

House of Earth and Blood is Sarah J. Maas’ first novel for adults, and as such contains language and scenes not suitable for those under 18.

The blurb:

Bryce Quinlan used to light up Crescent City, partying all night in the clubs where the strict classes of angel, shifter, human and Fae merge into a sea of beautiful bodies.

And then a demon murdered her closest friends.

Two years later, when the supposed killer is behind bars but the crimes start up again, the city’s leaders command Bryce to help investigate. They assign an enslaved fallen angel, Hunt Athalar, to make sure she does. But as Bryce fights to uncover the truth — and resist her attraction to the brooding angel who shadows her every step — she finds herself following a trail that leads deep into her own dark past.

As no doubt many of you will know by now, I am a huge Sarah J. Maas fan. I was excited to see how Crescent City would match up to her other series, Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

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Starting the book, I was a little thrown off by the amount of swearing. I found it very difficult to get involved in the story because I was jarred what felt like every four sentences with another expletive. It made me apprehensive for the rest of the book but, thankfully, it died down. Eventually.

I wondered, and part of me still wonders, if the shift from a young adult to an adult audience was a bit of a struggle for Maas. House of Earth and Blood follows a familiar theme to other Sarah J. Maas books, but has ratcheted up the swearing and sex scenes.

This book is not suitable for those under 18. I’m a little disappointed that this is the way Maas chose to up the age bracket for her new series, but luckily it isn’t the only way.

The plot doesn’t lend itself to a particularly adult audience. It is the cruelty of the characters, of the world, that launches it out of YA. There is violence, death, slavery, and more. It is not a book for the light-hearted. It is an action-packed, bloody, epic fantasy. Am I somewhat disappointed it took this turn? Maybe.

And yet I still ended up loving the book.

Our main characters are fierce, strong, flawed and vulnerable. But their development is oh so sweet. From the snarky, rude, potty-mouthed Bryce at the beginning of the novel, to the Bryce we see at the end…that is some impressive character development.

Sarah J Maas’ writing is so smooth that you can feel the characters improving, changing, as you read. It feels natural — and the length of the book certainly helps. Characters you may have questioned at the beginning (I wasn’t sure I liked Bryce at the start) become more human. They learn and change their bad behaviours to become better people. And you can’t help loving them for it.

The twists and turns of the novel are another point of excellence. Maas has always had an incredible ability to shock her readers as much as her characters, and House of Earth and Blood is no different.

The story is told from a variety of perspectives, with the dominant one being Bryce. These perspectives lull you into thinking you know the characters, understand their motivations, and trust their actions. We are, every one of us, fools.

The first instalment of the Crescent City series, a whopping 799 pages, is a whirlwind of violence, secrets, crime-solving and more. It is packed full of incredible characters and detailed settings. I think older Sarah J. Maas fans will end up just as captivated as I was.


4
A developing triumph
Plot
Characters
Writing
Theme/Message

Plot: the story moved in fascinating ways, producing moments of shock, devastation, and utter joy for the reader.

Characters: each character was incredibly well-rounded, flawed in all the right places, and demonstrated development.

Writing: the constant swearing at the beginning and whiplash-inducing jump to two years in the future brought this rating down for me. However it did pick up and demonstrated Maas’ talent by the end.

Theme: an epic fantasy with plenty of scope for change, House of Earth and Blood provides plenty of lessons to be learned, from equality to climate change.