Fantasy, New Adult, Urban Fantasy

[Review] House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK (Mar 3, 2020)
Series: Crescent City #1
Review copy courtesy of Definitely Books

Blurb from Goodreads:
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.

After disappearing off the face of the earth—joke, it was more like a hiatus—in 2019, best-selling author Sarah J. Maas is back with a brand-new series, Crescent City. Making her adult fantasy debut, House of Earth and Blood is the first book in the planned trilogy and it features angels, demons, faeries, spirits, werewolves and other zany characters you can find in an urban fantasy novel.

Half-fae and half-human Bryce Quinlan is living the life as an infamous party girl, social butterfly and she owns it. By day, she works at a gallery, making high-risk deals with shady clients. But when the sun sets, she’s ready to revel at parties and surrender herself to a life of hedonism. All that changes when tragedy strikes and she loses her friends to gruesome murders. Two years after their deaths, she is suddenly thrust back into the fray when bodies are found and they were murdered the same way her friends were. Now, she’s on a mission to uncover what truly transpired that night but not without the help of a brooding Fallen angel, Hunt Athalar.

“That’s the point of it, Bryce. Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow. It makes everything that much more precious.”

House of Earth and Blood introduces the world of Lunathion or Crescent City to readers as Sarah J. Maas brings her signature flair into writing a more contemporary setting in this book. Granted, I had my reservations because it’s either a hit-or-miss for authors who are accustomed to writing a specific genre to try their hand at writing another. We saw how that went with Adam Silvera’s Infinity Son. In this case, House of Earth and Blood is Sarah J. Maas’s attempt at writing urban fantasy, where she builds a world that is years ahead of her usual high fantasy setting. Think a metropolitan city with supernatural creatures and beings as its denizens. Not going to lie, I would live there in a heartbeat.

The thing about reading extremely thick tomes, particularly fantasy, is that you have to really commit yourself into reading and finishing it. It is no different with House of Earth and Blood because I was immediately hooked on the first page as Bryce’s story started off with a bang and I was totally invested in her story. I was ready to be hit by the feels and surely enough, the first 100 pages were incredibly addictive. However, it pains me to admit that the pacing took a bit of a dip in the middle and there were chapters that could have been compressed.

Fret not, readers, because this is Sarah J. Maas we are talking about and as expected, she did turn things around and the last 200 pages were a roller-coaster of emotions, heart-stopping action and complete badassery from one Bryce Quinlan who lit it up. If you are looking for a book that will tug at your heartstrings, rip out your heart and fill it with a heady dose of emotions, look no further because House of Earth and Blood really redeemed itself after the lull in the middle.

House of Earth and Blood

House of Earth and Blood features a cast of unforgettable characters, which pretty much what you can expect from a Sarah J. Maas novel. Ever since the world fell in love with the Inner Circle in A Court of Mist and Fury, she seems to realise that the way to readers’ hearts is through characters we would want to root for. Initially, I liked Bryce because she is fearless and nothing fazes her. Be that as it may, one of the most satisfying things to read is major character development throughout the book. As a reader, I find it wonderful whenever we see characters grow throughout a book and in the end of the book, I wanted Bryce to be my Danika.

The book also features deaths of loved ones and it was absolutely gut-wrenching to read about them but I have to give mad props to Sarah J. Maas who proved that she is able to write with such depth as she explores Bryce’s grief and trauma. It was deeply heartbreaking and this book packs an emotional punch.

“I am a descendant of Ranthia Drahl, Queen of Embers. She is with me now and I am not afraid. My friends are behind me, and I will protect them.”

For those who have read House of Earth and Blood, can we agree that Lehabah deserves all the love in the world because we love a fiery sprite who knows what a queen she is, isn’t afraid to let a man know that she’s into him, owns the fact that trashy TV shows are amazing and who is fiercely loyal? She has undoubtedly earned her rightful and much deserved spot as one of the most memorable characters in Sarah J. Maas’s books.

The first book in the Crescent City trilogy features my absolute favourite trope in literature: enemies-to-lover. Say what you want about tropes but nothing puts a grin on my face like a pair of characters who got at each other with snarky barbs and insults. I lived for Bryce and Hunt’s cheeky banter and outright rude and crude verbal exchanges as they were such a thrill to read and of course, it being an urban fantasy, how could we not have a bit of romance? The romance between Bryce and Hunt would seem to be the highlight of the book, but despite it being a bit of a slow-burn, I liked that things weren’t fireworks and sparkles. The low simmer that made its way to a sizzle got me invested. But can we trust Sarah J. Maas to not pull another Rhysand in this trilogy by introducing another swoon-worthy hero in the second book? Only time will tell.

“Through love, all is possible.”

Boasting a whopping 799 pages—100 pages more than ACOWAR—and possibly the second longest Sarah J. Maas novel behind Kingdom of Ash, House of Earth and Blood delivers heart-pounding and thrilling action, out-of-this-world characters that will crawl their way into your heart and an irresistible romance. Personally, I felt that this was close to perfection and the only things that stopped me from declaring House of Earth and Blood as my ultimate favourite are the length of this humongous tome and its inconsistent pacing. The ending reveals a multitude of possibilities and frankly, I can only start guessing at what Sarah J. Maas has planned for Bryce. What we can do is wait and be at the mercy of Ms Maas. Overall, reading House of Earth and Blood was indeed a satisfying experience and I am still at awe by that ending because it rendered me speechless and close to tears.

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