Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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.


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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

The House in the Cerulean Sea exceeded my expectations, and introduced me to the brilliance of T.J. Klune. The blurb compared this book to The Umbrella Academy (which I loved), and Douglas Adams. While I'm only somewhat familiar with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this book definitely had the magical-misfit-vibes of The Umbrella Academy. I adored all of the characters, and I really hope there is another book set in this world! The ending wrapped up very nicely in an epilogue, but there's definitely room for more. ;)

Klune has created complex and fantastic characters, and their individual stories were wonderfully written. We follow Linus as he navigates a grey world filled with prejudice and hatred, as we're slowly introduced to the way this particular society works. DICOMY is the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, and Linus is one of its many caseworkers. While magical creatures are acknowledged, they're not necessarily accepted. People don't see children with powers, they see monsters with wicked intentions. It's how they were raised, and the cycle continues with every new generation. We see how the voices of a few start to change the minds of the many, and it was a lovely thing to experience.

Linus isn't your typical hero. He doesn't carry a sword or swing his fists; he isn't the most handsome, or super fit. He's an average guy that uses his mind and his words to battle injustice. Linus was relatable, ordinary, and somehow managed to make his own magic. He's also objective, thorough, and always has the best interest's of the children in mind. He inspects the homes where they live, and determines if they are safe or being mistreated in some way. Unfortunately, we see how some of the children are abused for something out of their control (lots of sad and ragey feelings in this one). They cannot help how they came into the world, but they still suffer for being different. I thought the author delicately and expertly wove words together that effectively pulled at my heartstrings.

The children! Lucy was delightful and endearing. I really loved him and his antics. He purposefully tries to be scary, but that was more due to his age than his parentage. Talia was not someone to be trifled with (unless you wanted to be brained with a shovel), and I'm sure I'll think about her garden while planting my own. Chauncey was the sweetest and most sincere of them all, and desperately wants to be a bellhop when he grows up. Phee was standoffish and reserved, and while I wish we'd seen more from her, I can understand why she didn't have a large presence. Sal was obviously healing, but it didn't stifle his creativity. He wrote something that will stay with me much like Talia's garden: 

"I am but paper. Brittle and thin. I am held up to the sun, and it shines right through me. I get written on, and I can never be used again. These scratches are a history. They're a story. They tell things for others to read, but they only see the words, and not what the words are written upon. I am but paper, and though there are many like me, none are exactly the same. I am parched parchment. I have lines. I have holes. Get me wet, and I melt. Light me on fire, and I burn. Take me in hardened hands, and I crumple. I tear. I am but paper. Brittle and thin."

Theodore never spoke in English, although I felt like he could still be heard through the pages of this book. His chirps and clicks were a language of their own, and through the other characters, I felt like his voice was clear. It's amazing how the author managed to make me feel as if I heard a language that wasn't really there. All of the children were unique and offered so much to the story as a whole. They were simply trying to exist, but they've left a lasting impression (on me as well as the other characters in this story). They're children first and foremost, but I enjoyed the parts that made them special.

Arthur. Always Arthur. It's something Linus said often, and it's another thing that will stick with me. Arthur's smile was another aspect that could be felt through the pages, and I really enjoyed learning more about him as the story progressed. He is an enigma at first--quiet and reserved, yet fiercely protective of the children--and I think his journey tugged at my heart the most. He's been through so much--they all have--but they are thriving on the island. They've found their home with each other. Zoe, too.

I cannot sing this book's praises enough, although I do have one very tiny complaint: at times the dialogue felt a bit wordy, and so the book was maybe a tad longer than it needed to be. Other than that, I thought it was perfect. The world-building, the characters, the otherness the author managed to channel into his writing--amazing. (★★★★⋆)


21 comments:

  1. I love the cover and have this on my goodreads already. Excellent review!

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    1. Thanks! The cover is what initially drew me in, and I am so happy I took a chance on this one! It's definitely a forever favorite. <3

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  2. I love the cover, too! It's so intriguing and fun. I'm glad the story inside lives up to its magical book art.

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    1. Me too! The story was lovely, so the cover is an accurate representation. ;)

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  3. Ok, this is completely new to me, but I loved both books they compare it to and your review sold it!

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    1. Yay! I hope you have a chance to read it soon, Kimberly! It's definitely a 2020 favorite. :)

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  4. This definitively sounds memorable and I love that quote!

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  5. Most likely if I like the cover I will read the book.

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  6. That sounds like one heck of an incredible cast of characters. A were-Pomeranian. lol I love it.

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  7. Oh it sounds great :D Tad bit too long, ok, been there, but if it still works then yay

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  8. This sounds ridiculously good! Thanks for sharing your review. I'm adding it to Goodreads. 👍✨

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  9. Yay, I'm so glad that you loved this one. I have it on my wish list, and I really hope to read it soon.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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  10. First of all I love this title. And that premise is amazing too- I love the idea of gnomes and wyverns and whatnot. What a mix of character! I may have to get this. Sounds like the characters really click.

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  11. Oh. My. Goodness. This sounds utterly wonderful and I need it in my life!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  12. Glad you enjoyed this one despite the long dialogues. It does sound adorable. I see you are reading Lair of Dreams. I hope to start it tomorrow! Loving the series!

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  13. I LOVE the cover and you've made me so curious about this book! I think that this is one I'd highly enjoy...

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  14. I haven't heard about this author before. But you made thsi book sound very exciting. Great review!

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  15. I can definitely see the similarities to The Umbrella Academy! This sounds like the perfect kind of book to get sucked into!

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  16. Oh wow, this sounds wonderful! I haven't tried TJ Klune's books yet, but I just got approved for an ARC of his latest, The Extraordinaries, and I'm really looking forward to diving into it since I keep hearing such great things about his writing.

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless