Tuesday, March 24, 2020

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maa

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas
Release Date - March 3, 2020
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 803 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**arc received from the publisher for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

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.
House of Earth and Blood  is a compelling mix of urban fantasy and murder mystery backstopped against a  well developed setting that adds in emotional character arcs that offer satisfying conclusions at the end. It's a fun page turning read that I couldn't put down.

The world of Crescent City is rich and layered. It's a world populated by vampires, mermaids, fae, witches, angels and other beings. There are various Houses which each have their own system of power and hierarchy. The figureheads of these Houses all answer to the Archangels who have their own power dynamics. The angels in turn answer to a another group named the Asteri. It's a very politically driven book in that the power struggles and complexities directly impact the plot. It's all so intertwined that I was impressed at things that ended up connecting in the end. The world itself is very modern but with a twist. It is immediately recognizable with magical embellishments. It's those little details that made the world pop along with the creatures that inhabit it.

When we meet Bryce Quinlan she is broken. Her best friend's murder is a trauma that she hasn't healed from and, more importantly, hasn't wanted to let herself heal from. She carries her pain both both internally and externally. She is apologetically herself, and doesn't care what others think. The change within her is perhaps my favourite part of the story as she not only learns to open herself up to others again.

I typically do not like the typical alpha male stereotype that tends to be found in Maas books. They do nothing for me, and I often find them borderline, if not outright, abusive. Hunt read different for me. He's much more interesting than the other love interests in Maas' previous books. He has the required tragic backstory but it fits within the story seamlessly. It helps that Bryce calls him out on his behaviour, and that he trusts in her when it counts.

Trauma and the weight of it is such a vital part of this story. Both Bryce and Hunt are working through their own tragedies and each of them carry a guilt that is palpable. It makes their romance a salve and a light in the darkness they live in.

The romance is actually a pretty slow burn. Sure, there sexual tension jumping off the pages between the two of them, but it takes longer than I expected for anything to really happen. They learn to trust each other and a genuine friendship develops. They end up being good for each other in a lot of ways.

The relationship that feels the most important in this story is the one between Bryce and Danika. Their friendship is what propels the entire plot of the novel. Bryce is trying to find out who killed her friend. The emotional anchor echoes throughout the entire story. It pulses through Bryce's character and shades everything that she does. That connection is vital to the entire story and I was delighted to see such a strong female friendship have such a resonance. I would call it the real love story of this book. It's the most emotional part of the story and it hits all those buttons hard by the end of the story.

The mystery and its resolution ended up feeling really satisfying to me. There were multiple times that I thought we had the final piece of the puzzle only for it to get more complex and detailed. It was not as straightforward as I anticipated. This book is the first in a series so while the main questions do get answered those answers serve to upend everything and provide a very promising sequel.

Much was made of Maas releasing her first adult novel. Other than the inclusion of more swear words, I didn't find too much difference between her A Court Of Thorns and Roses series (especially the later ones) and this.  I think that if you were okay with those that reading this wouldn't be too different. There are some sexy scenes, and even some actual sex but it is not the focus. It is rather tame considering. However, I feel this style suits Maas more. There is a ease with her writing that feels a little more natural than in previous books.

If you loved this author's other works you will absolutely devour this one. It has the elements that her books are known for. If you like urban fantasy I would definitely recommend giving it a try. It certainly made me desperate to get my hands on the sequel to fall back into this lush, imaginative world filled with characters I have come to care about. I cannot wait to see where Bryce's story takes her next.

1 comment:

  1. Great and thorough review! I loved the urban fantasy world and Hunt's backstory so much. It helped that we had Hunt's perspective from the beginning.


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