Violence and gore, blood, vomiting, guns, death, drowning, grief, depression, drug use, suicidal thoughts
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night-until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose-to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion-one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
*Some spoilers ahead! Read at your own risk*
Never have I ever felt so conflicted after reading a Sarah J. Maas book.
Coming into House of Earth and Blood, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it would be totally different from any SJM book I’ve ever read, since it’s an Adult novel set in a completely new world. However, I never expected it to leave me as torn as I now am!
I suppose what I struggled with most was being introduced to this new world and set of characters. The bulk of this book focuses on world building and character development, which Maas does a decent job at. The first 500-600 pages consisted of a fair amount of info dumps, but what else can you expect when an author is trying to get you to understand the many elements of a vast, complicated setting? I will, however, admit that all of this world-building did slow down the plot… a lot. For a majority of the book, it was a battle to keep reading. The pacing was just totally off. Every once in a while, we’d get little tidbits of action that had me thinking we were finally getting to the good stuff. But then after 2-3 pages, I would realize that the story was still as boring as ever and that it was just a false alarm. Yes, yes, I understand that good world-building often comes with a cost… that cost being boredom. But I’ve read Maas’s past work, and I know that she’s capable of building a fleshed out world while weaving together a fast paced plot at the same time. Which is why I’m slightly disappointed that this new release of hers was much slower than many of the other books that she’s written.
Moving on, let’s talk about characters, an aspect of the book where Maas has truly outdone herself. Bryce, our protagonist, was a fantastic heroine, not just because she was brave, strong, and badass (though she was indeed all of those things), but because she was realistic, relatable, and very flawed. After the heartbreaking deaths of her best friends, Bryce is completely broken. She feels as though she’s lost everything, and she battles with constant grief, guilt, depression, and even suicidal thoughts. If you’ve read Maas’s other books, you’ll know that this is uncharted territory for her. Grief and depression aren’t common themes among her past works, which is why the realistic portrayal of mental health in House of Earth and Blood was an astonishingly pleasant surprise. I read several interviews where Maas revealed that she channeled her own struggles with mental illness into Bryce’s story, and I think that that’s an absolutely wonderful thing. This is a very refreshing layer to Maas’s writing that I’m looking forward to seeing more of in future books.
In addition to Bryce, I really loved all of the other female characters in this book. The friendship between Bryce and Danika was so beautiful and empowering, which is why I was completely heartbroken when the latter was brutally killed. I also adored the friendship between Bryce and Lehabah… and yet again, I was shattered by the loss of Lehabah. WHY DID YOU DESTROY ALL OF THESE AMAZING RELATIONSHIPS, SARAH J. MAAS? What awesome female friendships am I supposed to root for now?
Beyond female friendships, I enjoyed reading the familial relationships in House of Earth and Blood as well. Bryce’s feelings towards her brother, Ruhn, were messy and complicated, but at the end of the day, she loved him unconditionally. And let’s just take a moment to appreciate the supportive parents and step-parents in this novel! No dead parents trope, yay! Bryce has a loving mother and step-father who are always there for her no matter what. We hardly ever see such things in fantasy anymore, so it was incredibly heartwarming to read.
Surprisingly enough, I didn’t really mind the romance in this book either. At the beginning of the book, I couldn’t stand Hunt at all, but he slowly grew on me. You could tell he really cared about Bryce and that he viewed her as an equal rather than a piece of property. I bring this up because in SJM’s other novels, her romantic relationships tend to be based off of ownership and inequality. Yet again, I’m impressed with her ability to improve upon her way of writing and creating relationships.
Even though a majority of the book was super slow, I’m glad I pushed through and resisted DNFing it, because holy crap… that ending! I practically devoured the last 200 pages or so of the book. They were filled with the signature Sarah J. Maas action we all know and love. The ending of the book was unexpected, but absolutely spectacular. I didn’t predict it at all, but looking back at the clues hidden throughout the story, it definitely makes sense.
Honestly, other than the slowness, there’s not much more to complain about. The only other thing I can think of is the excessive use of the f-word, but that’s kind of personal preference.
Taking everything into consideration, if you can get through the first 500 pages of somewhat boring world-building and character development, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Don’t go into it expecting it to be like any previous Sarah J. Maas book, because trust me, it’s not.
I’m really glad I read this one, and I can’t wait for Byrce’s story to continue. Agh, just give me book two already!
This is irrelevant, but…
Is anyone else who has read the book confused by the title? Like, the House of Earth and Blood isn’t a vital part of the story at all, so why is that the title of the frickin book? All I know is that Sarah J. Maas sure loves titling her books “something of something and something”.