Hey everyone! Today we’ve got a special extra post to share! It’s our collaborative review of a book we both love dearly, The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. We hope you enjoy it and that it encourages you to pick up this wonderful, heartwarming story in the future!
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. 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.
Sabrina: Before picking up this book, I had heard so many people talking about it online and not a single person had not liked it. My expectations going in were quite high, making me a bit wary, so I was actually surprised when the book lived up to the hype. The copy I read had a quote on the cover from Seanan McGuire that I ended up completely agreeing with – “this book is very close to perfect.”
Vera: I have to agree with that quote – not only was this my favorite book of 2020, but it’s also joined my all time favorite books list. It’s a good thing that everyone kept talking about this book, because it took some time for me to understand that this is an adult, not a middle grade fantasy. I doubt I’d have picked it up had I believed it to be MG, which would have meant losing out on this wonderful story… which, I think, leads us to what made us adore this story.
Sabrina: The characters are what made the book for me. They were all well-developed and loveable so I couldn’t help caring deeply for them. The main character, Linus, was very endearing and so it was perfect to have the story from his perspective. His development over the course of the novel reflected my own growing affection for the story.
Vera: I agree with everything Sabrina said, and another thing I’d like to add is that the writing – something I rarely pay attention to – was also exceptional. I was engrossed in the novel from the first page because the story felt like a whimsical fairytale; actually, this is the most fairytale-like adult fantasy I’ve ever read, and I need more books like this!
Sabrina: I loved the writing as well! It was so engaging and as Vera says, fairytale-like, which is one of my favourite styles of writing. The writing was also great at helping me picture everything vividly in my mind. I could so clearly see this book playing out, as though it were an animated film. If it were a movie, my favourite scenes would probably be the same as my favourites in the book – all those that revolved around my favourite character, Chauncey. I found him to be so precious and even thinking about him now makes my heart seize up. I loved that he shared his dream with everyone and worked so hard to achieve it. This is a bit cheesy, but I really felt like I learnt a lot from him.
Vera: Chauncey was such a precious character, certainly one of the highlights of the novel. For me, what made the story extremely special was the relationship between the characters and how that developed throughout the story. Linus was incredibly wary of the kids, Zoe and Arthur, and to see that slowly change was a delight. I loved the way he kept trying to talk himself out of growing fond of the kids – and the adults – but that was obviously not something he could control. Oh, and Linus and Arthur had such a lovely romance – it wasn’t the focus of the novel, but it was nonetheless a memorable part of the story for me.
Sabrina: I thought the romance was really cute too, and it was nice that it was not the main focus of the book! Another thing I liked is that you can really understand where all the main characters are coming from when they make certain decisions, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. I guess that just goes to further show that the characters truly were the standout of this book for me.
Vera: It’s obvious that the characters were, as Sabrina said, what made this book, but the story itself and the plot were fantastic, as well. Linus, a very ordinary man, ends up accomplishing all sorts of extraordinary things throughout the story; even though he doesn’t necessarily set out to do anything special and doesn’t believe himself to be anyone special. I loved the message that, while we can never know how impactful our actions are going to be, we should still aim to do the best we can and see where that leads.
Have you read this book yet? Are you planning to soon? Do you have any heartwarming book recommendations? Let us know!