Length: 393 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, LGBTQ+
Publisher: Macmillan Books
Date of Publication: 17th March, 2020
Rating: 5/5 stars
I was in a terrible reading slump when I started noticing people loving The House in the Cerulean Sea, especially Bookster Sisters. Fantasy usually gets me out of slumps so I thought I would give it a go. It so happened that two of my Bookstagram friends, Rugma and Jaanaki also decided to join me on a buddy read for the book.
Edit: It was only after the review that I realised that the author capitalised on forced institutionalization of children belonging to aboriginal cultures. While I was surprised that I hadn’t made the connection myself, I was plain as day after it had been pointed out to me. I did not want to delete the review since I wanted it to strictly talk about the characters that meant a lot to me while I needed them.
“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.“
I often find that I have the hardest time writing reviews for books that mean the most to me. I never know how to put into words the myriad of emotions that the book evokes in me. I have drafts of reviews of my favorite books, still unpublished because I’m never quite happy with what’s written. The same holds good for The House in the Cerulean Sea. It filled my heart with so much joy that I thought it would burst! I cannot stop being grateful for Anjali and Gayathri for the recommendation.
The book has a mixture of regular human characters as well as magical characters. Reminiscent of the old tales of ill-managed orphanages that have resourceful children in them, here we have magical children in houses that are meant to care for them. Enter Linus, a case-worker who must remain impassive while making sure that these orphanages give the children what they need. He comes across as a timid man at the beginning of the book and I wasn’t sure that I liked him. But he later grew on me with the way he stood up for the children and his friends at their time of need.
The highlight of the book is the children at the house in the Cerulean Sea. Each of them is unique but lovable. We have the Garden Gnome Talia who would love to ‘brain’ people and bury them in her garden but is actually just fiercely protective of all her friends, Lucy the Anti-Christ who loves to be dramatic and is haunted by his origin and nightmares of dark places in his mind but loves to discuss philosophy and go exploring the island, Sol the large teenager who is so traumatized by his previous interactions with adults that he morphs into the tiniest of dogs at the slightest provocation, Phee the Forest Sprite who is powerful enough to turn adults into trees but instead, loves growing her forest more than anything, Chauncey the blob who has always been told that he is the scary monster under the bed but is actually a sweet little boy with a simple ambition in life and Theodore the Wyvren who’s chirps are as easily understood as human language if only you pay attention. The master of the house, Arthur is the perfect father-figure for this group of seeming misfits but he has his own sad past to overcome.
Each of the characters has both negatives as well as positives but the underlying message in the entire book is that good intentions always outweigh bad birth. Like Lucy says, “you are more than the sum of your parts”. The classic nature-versus-nurture argument is highlighted multiple times. The book shows that every person, human or magical, needs to be treated equally and given the same opportunities. It takes a fierce stand against racism. It also has one of the healthiest representation of LQBTQ+ that I’ve come across lately. It is not needlessly in-your-face but gets the message of inclusivity across.
TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.
TL;DR: A wonderful book that talks of the good in a person overriding the bad while growing up with positive role models
What are some of the books that have gotten you out of reading slumps?
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