Sarah J. Maas is always a delight, but consistently the first book she writes of any series is the worst of an otherwise prodigious lot. If House of Earth and Blood is the low bar of her new Crescent City Series, then she’ll become the mother of the burgeoning New Adult Fiction Genre, if she isn’t already.
The book follows half-fae half-human protagonist Bryce Quinlan in an urban fantasy setting with faeries, angels, demons, mere-people, and additional otherworldly creatures. In this world, magic and science meet under an all-powerful regime of Archangels. The entire system is modeled after the Roman Empire, but at the same time the world has universities, nightclubs, computers, cars, and tanks. The best way I can describe Maas’s setting is as a “Land of the Lost,” a place where everything can coexist.
After a certain point, an invisible faerie with a sword and assault weapons stops being weird and just becomes so, so cool. I’ve seen some authors attempt genre-mixing worlds unsuccessfully, making it more an excuse to bring in any Deus Ex Machina, but Maas walks her tightrope perfectly.
The world she creates facilitates a fantastic plot and even better personas. I was loving and laughing with her characters by the second page, and was heartbroken by the 60th. Maas’ biggest triumphs, however, are in her character Bryce, and the climax she makes that character endure.
Bryce is someone I’ve never seen inside a book before. She is who I think a lot of people happily are, but is rarely written about because some consider her a bad role model.
She’s 24 in the novel, fresh out of Uni. Throughout the book she is snidely called a “party girl” by people who mean much worse. Bryce is aware that she is negatively stereotyped because of her lifestyle, but she chooses to do what she enjoys despite what others think. This outlook on oft overtly villainized stereotype is both refreshing and empowering because it allows for reflection. Though we aren’t condoning risky behaviors, we can applaud her autonomy when many young women have difficulties recognizing their own self-determination as a result of societal factors.
Besides being a New “New Woman,” she is extremely clever, strong-willed, and kind, which we see throughout the book. She is also loyal to and loved by an extremely positive friend group. She isn’t the suffering young adult that people assume a girl like her must be, not in the beginning anyway, but rather one that is coming into her own in a fantastic way. Through Bryce, Maas allows an entire generation of women to be unabashedly themselves inside the pages of her novel.
The book goes on to follow Bryce for two years. Two years of unimaginable, but completely realistic and relatable, torment as she tries to deal with and discover the truth about a mass murder that ruined her life. That journey finally accumulates into the wonderful climax of this wonderful book.
I will say simply, I was so hyped the entire time. I was literally shouting, “Yes!” or “No!” or “Run!” I was closing the book and slamming my eyes shut because I was so nervous for her. I was on the edge of my seat in a way that no other book has made me before. But I guess a city-wide war against magical creatures with not so magical weapons will do that to you. The way Bryce’s ordeal was portrayed, the growth she shows, the pure awesomeness of it, was immaculate.
There is so much more I can say is great about this book, but in the end it all boils down to the fact that it is excellent. The characters, setting, plot, are all superb, and I cannot recommend it enough.
Please keep in mind that it is New Adult Fiction, so it won’t be as clean as one might be used to, but if you can’t read it now, read it when you’re older.
It’s worth it.
Chaunti T. Hatchett