[Book Review] The House in the Cerulean Sea

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Genre: LGBT; fiction; fantasy/magic; romance; contemporary; found family
Synopsis: (from 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.

Review: 5 Stars (spoilers)

I truly enjoyed this one, as evidenced by the 5 star review. For me, I think this is because of the found family aspects of the book. The main lead, Linus, isn’t the main character of his own story for the first 30 years or so of his life. He’s just kind of letting life pass him by. I like that about this book. He’s normal, average, an every man. There’s nothing exciting about Linus Baker. He’s written as a perfectly ordinary man doing nothing but his routine every single day. He is in a day-in-day-out job that he seemingly does because he enjoys it until he’s thrust into something new. It isn’t until then that he becomes the main character in his own story.

There are these brilliantly funny passages of dialogue where he is so deadpan and other people around him are just like, “Oh, you’re serious?” and he’s just kind of like, “What else would I be?” It’s written so well that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. All of this happens before the REAL story actually begins. Before he gets to the titular house in the cerulean sea.

From there, your heart will melt right along with Linus Baker’s as you meet the children, and the man who runs the orphanage, Arthur. It gives off a little Miss Peregrin’s, a little X-Men, but really, it’s all it’s own because the children just want to be children, and Arthur just wants them to be free. It’s really all sweet and so so cute.

About 100 pages in, Linus joins the rest of the crew for their first dinner together and I swear to you, the banter back and forth between the children (there are 6 of them) is so funny I couldn’t stop giggling when I read it.

(CW: character with unhealthy body image, dieting)

Linus is described as rather round in the middle, and previously in the book, this has been a major concern for him. At this first dinner with the children, he doesn’t attempt to eat more than a salad, and the kids all have something to say, but they don’t make a joke of him being round, instead, they’re quite encouraging, and then the conversation shifts in about 5 more directions in rapid succession, as children tend to do.

(CW: child abuse)

The lessons of this book are quite profound. One of the children is a victim of a lot of abuse in previous orphanages, and is very easily scared. As such, he’s the last to warm up to Linus Baker (newcomer). Linus is patient and regularly tells him that it’s okay to be scared and to hide away, as long as he know to come back out again. That’s pretty cool advice for everyone. Don’t get so scared that we shut ourselves out of the world.

At one point, the group encounters bigots who don’t like magical people. Linus (nonmagical, totally ordinary, right?) reminds one of the children, “Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heart. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome” (Klune 276).

When I read that, I immediately took a picture of that page so that I could remember it myself, because damn right, hate IS loud, but so many people lead with love, and I have to remember that.

Each one of the children is written so uniquely. They all have something special and individualized. There’s no laziness in the writing there at all. A gnome, a wyvern, something they can’t explain that wants to be a bellhop, a forest sprite, a shape shifter, and the anti-christ. They’re all perfectly hilarious and full of different personalities, desires, and worries. They all have a different background and Linus throws out the RULES AND REGULATIONS for each and every one of them.

The man in charge of all of them cares for each of them like a father, cares for the island they live on, and has this air of mystery about him that intrigues and frustrates Linus to no end. All of the above makes him, again, throw out the RULES AND REGULATIONS. This slow burn romance is so cute because they’re both so dumb about it. The island is owned by Zoe Whitechapel, a forest sprite (it’s her territory) who even says something to the effect of “Men are idiots” – girl, same.

This book has originality, beautiful scene descriptions, sweet and heart-warming character interactions, and a slow burn romance that doesn’t have any kind of triangle or romance drama.

I highly recommend this book!

Author: chelsea usher

Reader. Writer. Book Reviewer. Teacher. Traveler

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