“Through love, all is possible.”
Sarah J Maas, when you look through the internet, seems to be regarded as one of the Queens of YA fantasy writing. I am shameful to admit that I have never read Maas’ previous novels, despite having actually owned quite a few in the past. I think it was the classic case of, when something is so hyped up, you just can’t be bothered to read it. Like, in those cases, I instantly get the ikk. Which doesn’t make sense, I’ll grant you, but are we really going to start questioning the inner workings of consciusness?
The House of Earth and Blood is Sarah J Mass’ debut into the realm of adult fiction, having preivously only been involved in YA. For this read, that seems to mean the majority of the narrative circling explicit topics, such as sexualisation, racism, drug abuse, physical and emotional abuse, neglect, slavery etc. I think this is worthwhile mentioning as these are quite triggering topics. I think fantasy, especially adult fantasy, is often guilty of not advertising these, often traumatic for some, topics, and therefore I don’t want to start this review properly without mentioning them.
Unlike some adult fantasy reads that surround these issues, I didn’t find their mentioning too jarring, as they were embedded into the narrative and characterisation. They work to present the reality of Crescent City as a corrupt, exploitative, and brutal place to live, leaving scars in its residents who have been force to adapt to survive.
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.
Having a look around social media, the main reason that a lot of people seem hesitant to dive straight into this read is its size. I won’t lie, it shocked me too when I first held it in my hands. Coming in at 800 pages, this read is the definiton of a rollercoaster. It truly felt like a saga and the writng was very episodic, the journies the characters and plot went through truly feeling like a huge milestone and event, rather than the natural progression of a normal narrative. At every turn I thought I had met the ‘big shock’ of the read, the climax of the action, but in fifty pages I was reeling once more. The last 100 pages of this novel were truly shocking and I felt completely immersed in the world and action. The phrase ‘hanging by the edge of my seat’ certainly couldn’t be more appropriate for the conclusion of this read. I thought I would find it quite difficult because of the size to lose myself in this read, but everytime I returned back to this read, I lost myself within it instantly. Because the narrative is so action led, with focus on events rather than descriptions, there was a distinct ‘Dark Artifices’ feel to it, but I think that came from the fact it was dark and gritty – and probably because I loved both.
What stops this read feeling too much like a mammoth and an ordeal is the fact that the writing is incredibly multi-layered. Combining humour, brutalism, horror, and violence whilst seemingly being set in an Earthlike setting created a world which was completely compelling and intriguing. I was particularly fascintated with the aspects of social heirarchy in this novel, each time being fascinated by the different rules and customs the character are led by. The world Maas creates is so complex and intricate, full of mysteries and scandals, that I felt myself tearing thorugh every page.
For me, the real selling point of this novel was the main character, Bryce Quinlan. Half-Fae and full of sass, Bryce refuses to simply be rescued and dominated by those who regard her as weak and abhorrent. Bryce commands her identity, refusing to conform to prejudices of her world. I loved her tenacity, how she used other people assumptions about her against them. Maas also uses Bryce to call out many of the fantasy cliches that would paint her as a victim, and this level of metafiction certainly allowed for comedy.
I absolutely adored this read and cannot wait for the sequel that I heard rumoured. I read this for the OWLS readathon, which is happening throughout April, having swapped my original choice for Care of Magical Creatures ( a book with a beak on the front cover) for this read. If you’re looking for a bit of escapism, this is definitely a world to lose yourself in.