Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Tor, 2020 (Paperback)
Length: 396 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Fantasy
Started: July 12, 2021
Finished: July 15, 2021
From the back cover:
A magical island.
A dangerous task.
A burning secret.
Linus Baker is a by-the-book caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records for company. But his quiet life is about to change.
Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to an orphanage on a distant island and determine whether six dangerous magical children are so dangerous, in fact, that they're likely to bring about the end of days.
When Linus arrives at the strangest of islands he's greeted by a series of mysterious figures, the greatest mystery of which is Arthur Parnassus, the master of the orphanage. As Linus and Arthur grow closer, Linus discovers the master would do anything to keep the children safe, even if the world has to burn. Or worse, his secret comes to light.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place - and realizing that family is yours.
I have TikTok to thank for a massive surge in my reading recommendations, this being one of them. So many people have posted about this particular book with the description that it "made your cold dead heart feel something for the first time in years" and "simply brought joy to your soul." I concur with both of those statements wholeheartedly.
Linus Baker lives in a world (reminiscent of 1984 and X-men combined) where those born with powers are kept under control and monitored by the government. Many of these magical children are orphans and live in government-controlled institutions. Linus is his world's equivalent to a children's aid caseworker, visiting these orphanages and determining whether they should remain open or be shut down. Linus genuinely cares about his work and the children he's tasked to look in on, but his life has otherwise become a bit stagnant.
He's ordered by the higher ups of his organization to observe the Marsyas Island Orphanage due to the unique abilities of the six children that live there. When they include the literal Antichrist, a wyvern, and a child that defies all explanation, he's not sure what to expect. This is made even more confusing when the master of the house, Arthur, doesn't always abide by the organization's rules. As Linus learns more about the house's inhabitants and bonds with them, he has to decide what should become of the place, and what to do when his one-month stay is over.
Reading this book is like being wrapped in a cuddly blanket. There are some pretty dark and relatable themes of government control, prejudice, abuse, and hatred towards the "other", but those are tempered with humour and some of the most adorable moments that will just make your heart melt.
The plot of the book is not overly complicated and it's pretty clear early on how the story will play out, but that's not the point of reading this book. The beauty is in the details.
The characters are immediately relatable and endearing. Linus is just precious in how he cares about people in spite of his adherence to rules. Arthur is soft and fatherly, you just want to hug him. The kids are both adorable and hilarious, my favourite being Lucy, the devil himself, because his lines made me laugh so hard. All the other characters are amazing too, there honestly wasn't one that failed to capture my interest.
The writing is simple, but nonetheless beautiful. The setting is described evocatively to the point where I, like Linus, was enchanted by the beauty of the island. There are so many beautiful quotes in this story that will make you laugh and cry, possibly at the same time.
I can't recommend this book enough. It's become an instant favourite of mine, similar to everyone else who's read it (there's a reason it's so popular). If you want a book to enrapture you, go read this.
Thoughts on the cover:
Simple, but good. The art style almost makes this seem like a children's book, but I find it charming.