review: the house in the cerulean sea by tj klune

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.


Book info:
Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: T.J. Klune
Publisher: Tor Books
Length: 398 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Adult

mlm main characters, non-white characters, fat characters, side wlw relationship

Content and Trigger warnings:
abuse (mentioned), anxiety (trauma-related), bigotry, body shaming, bullying, child abuse (backstory), fatphobia (internalized), homophobia, microaggressions, queerphobia, violence (against children)

If a hug could take the form of a book, it would be The House in the Cerulean Sea.

I read The House in the Cerulean Sea while listening to the audiobook — my first experience — and I loved the all thing so deeply — the story and the narration.

I am now using the CAWPILE rating system. If you want to know more, please visit my explanation page.

Characters: 9.5/10

I fell in love with each and every one of them. Linus, Arthur, the kids, Zoe… There isn’t one I don’t cherish — except for the town’s bigots, of course. Each of them is complex in their own way, and I love their duality (Lucy, the Antichrist, is a six-year-old boy who loves old music, Sal is a tall teenager who wants to feel small and write in peace, Arthur is powerful and yet so soft…) and how real they felt. Following them around was a real pleasure, as well as seeing them evolve and grow.
The only downside is that some characters weren’t as prominent as the others, like Phee who haven’t an arc of her own.

Atmosphere/Setting: 10/10

This is one of my favorite aspects of this book. I love the world TJ Klune created, a mix between fantasy, bureaucracy, and modern world. And the whole thing is so soft — even if there are bigots and mean characters, but that’s the way the world is. Since I’ve closed the book, I found myself longing for Marsyas Island and its ambiance: I just want to live there, in the middle of nowhere, and go on adventures with the kids.

Writing Style: 10/10

I have nothing to say except that I love how T.J. Klune writes and he is now one of my favorite authors. His way of writing is very funny and quirky and full of very pretty sentences. Focused on Linus in a third-person narration, it also depicts the other characters with precision — we can guess what they’re thinking without having to read their points of view. It’s a very natural writing, plausible and descriptive just right. It serves the story perfectly.

It’s the little things. Little treasures we find without knowing their origin. And they come when we least expect them.

The House in the Cerulean Sea, T.J. Klune

Plot: 6.5/10

I gave it the lowest rating because I didn’t feel like there were much of a plot. Linus is a caseworker who must inspect the orphanage run by Arthur, where extraordinary children are taken care of: his decision will influence if the orphanage stays open, or if it must be closed. That’s the whole plot, and you shouldn’t expect many plot twists: it’s a peaceful ride. There are some surprises, but nothing too shocking. But the lack of a mastermind plot isn’t to despair: the rest of the story, calm as it is, is perfectly enough to enjoy the book. Sometimes, you don’t need much but softness and a few laughs.

Intrigue: 9/10

I couldn’t put the book down. I’m a slow reader and I usually don’t spend too much time reading at once, but with The House in the Cerulean Sea, I spent several hours reading and listening to the story. And when I was not reading, I was thinking about Marsyas Island and the group. I was hooked, hence the high score.

Logic: 10/10

I didn’t feel like anything was out of place, or illogical. I liked how, when things made sense to Linus, we some remember of what happened earlier and how it was hinted — we were reliving it alongside Linus. There were no plot holes, and things unfolded smoothly.

Enjoyment: 10/10

As you may have guessed, I loved the book. I took pleasure in every one of its pages, every sentence. The ending was perfect and it still makes me smile just thinking about it. It was a wonderful story and I could only enjoy my reading.

Final rating: 65/70 (score of 9.3)

Note : 5 sur 5.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a hug made book, soft and caring: if you’re going through a harsh time, then this is the book you need. You’ll love The House in the Cerulean Sea if you love light-hearted fantasy, gentle stories, and the found-family trope.

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