Very rarely do I sit and devour a 240,000-word novel just five days after its release—especially with a full-time job, three-year-old son, two dogs, and my own writing to do. But that’s what book one of the Crescent City series did. House of Earth and Blood is the widely anticipated adult debut by renowned fantasy author, Sarah J Maas. She is best known for the YA/NA Throne of Glass books and the Court of Thorns and Roses series—both of which I’ve happily read cover to cover. In the last year. I personally can’t get enough of Sarah J Maas.
If you’re looking for an author with a knack for developing immersive worlds and deeply beautiful characters, give Maas a try. Her writing is gorgeous, poetry at times, and she never fails to tap into the anger and loss and love that I feel while losing myself in her stories. It doesn’t hurt that her books are crammed full of romance, too.
Her stories check all the boxes for me: strong women leads, mystery, action, swoon-worthy romance, suspense, humor, incredible world-building, and gut-punch tragedies. Crescent City’s first book doesn’t disappoint.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas summary
I’m not a fan of reading back covers or dust jackets. Synopses just give too much away. This is also true of movie trailers. Too many damn plot points are given away!
I know, I know.
“But, Sandra, how are you supposed to know whether you’ll enjoy a book or not without having any idea what it’s about?”
Easy. I look at the book’s genre or the catalog details often listed in the front matter (on the copyright page, sometimes you’ll see additional themes of the book: magical realism, Gay/Lesbian, etc). This is like getting more detailed genre information. If I’m still on the fence, I check out Goodreads ratings and quickly glance through reviews while avoiding any spoilers. I can also get a sense of whether I’d enjoy a book by seeing what bloggers are sharing on their Instagram. Reading a synopsis is always my last choice.
That’s why House of Earth and Blood completely destroyed me. I had no idea what sort of heartbreak awaited me once I got to chapter five. I was distraught—beside myself—on what the hell I had just read. It was that tragic. And that’s just part one.
The book is comprised of four parts, and each one is juicy and riddled with mystery and suspense. Throughout the book, you get to read from various points of view: Bryce, Hunt, and Ruhn. Maas cleverly weaves their stories together, forcing you to keep guessing about characters’ intentions and the secrets that lie beneath.
Characters: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas
Speaking of characters… Below are quick snippets about four of the biggest ones in the story. Honorable mentions: Connor, Fury, Juniper, Lehabah, Jesiba, Sandriel, Sabine, Isaiah, and Micah.
Who is Bryce Quinlan?
Bryce Quinlan (aka Sweetheart 😉) is the half-Fae, half-human protagonist of House of Earth and Blood. She has no magical abilities, no superior strength or dexterity. But she does have the keener sense of smell and hearing that is typical of the Fae in Maas’s works. Her father is a big-time Fae who wants nothing to do with her, and her mother is a human woman named Ember who ended up with a legendary sharpshooter human named Randall. Randall is who Bryce considers her father. He taught her everything he knows about shooting and basic combat.
In her mid-20s, a screening confirmed that Bryce will live out an immortal lifespan, given she makes the “Drop.” The Drop is like a rite of passage for sentient non-humans. I won’t go into the details but essentially, if they complete the Drop, they are then given immortality and potentially several hundreds of years to live. However, if anything happens to them before making the Drop, death can very easily occur. They are just as vulnerable as humans until they survive the Drop.
When we meet Bryce, she is a hell-raising party girl who lives life unapologetically alongside her BFF-partner-in-crime, Danika, plus two other friends named Fury and Juniper. Bryce works as a sorceress’s assistant and spends her days procuring valued goods and making drops with sleazy clientele. Sex, drugs, booze, dancing, and trouble are pretty much Bryce’s day-to-day. Until chapter five.
Who is Danika Fendyr?
Danika is Bryce’s best friend—basically a sister. She’s a powerful wolf-shifter and leads up the Pack of Devils: Connor, Nathalie, Ithan, Bronson, Zach, Zelda, and Thorne. Word is that Danika is so powerful the title of Prime will skip over her mother, Sabine, and go right to her (which mommy dearest isn’t happy about). But we see how that turns out.
Like Bryce, Danika is into drinking and drugs and men and brawls. She and her pack work as a security detail within Crescent City. And it’s that line of work combined with Danika’s good heart that gets her in trouble.
Who is Hunt Athalar?
Hunt Athalar, the Umbra Mortis (Shadow of Death), is an angel who commanded a rebel army against the hierarchy of archangels 200 years ago. He joined the cause by way of his lover, Shahar—it was her movement. Shahar has an identical twin sister named Sandriel, who they fought against. But the rebel side lost, and Sandriel killed her own sister. As punishment, Hunt is now a slave at the disposal of archangel Micah. Hunt’s enslavement involves administering methods of torture and brutal death to whoever Micah desires.
There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Hunt Athalar. He has one of the rarest abilities: he can summon powerful lightning. Enough to set off a massive explosion and kill a whole bunch of people all at once. Micah ends up using Hunt to track down a serial killer and that’s how Hunt meets Bryce Quinlan. Hung up on his dead lover from 200 years ago, he has to untangle his feelings for Bryce while fulfilling the terms of his enslavement to Micah.
Who is Ruhn Danaan?
Ruhn is Bryce’s half-brother. He’s full-blooded Fae. And unlike Bryce, he is on speaking terms with their very high-up father. Ruhn and Bryce actually love each other very much and had a close childhood together until she turned 13. A sibling spat drove them apart.
Now, Ruhn spends his days trying to get back into Bryce’s good graces and preparing to one day inherit his father’s seat of power. He’s skilled in combat and has a couple of different abilities thanks to his bloodline and strikes me as being a handsome playboy. He is rarely without his closest friends and roommates, Declan and Flynn.
Book review: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas (Crescent City #1)
I loved this book and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. Even as an 800-page first book in a new series, it never felt long to me. All of the scenes were important and full of depth and emotion, past experiences and historical events haunting each of the characters. Maas didn’t pull any punches in that regard.
I did find it odd that critics touted this book as her debut adult novel, though. Readers acquainted with Throne of Glass or A Court of Thorns and Roses know Maas’s books are full of hot romance and simmering sex scenes. Those series, by the way, are treated as Young Adult/New Adult genres. Besides the ages being slightly older in Crescent City book one, there were few differences in the content matter.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas actually had far less sex than the other series and comparable amounts of violence and action. But maybe it comes down to age and drug use. This book had lots of drug use and more cussing than both YA/NA series.
It’s interesting because Leigh Bardugo also had her adult debut recently with Ninth House. But I observed more differences in Ninth House versus the Grishaverse books that would justify that. There was a paranormal rape scene, lots of violence, and the world just felt really dark and gritty. That was one of my favorite reads of 2019, and I’ll definitely review it soon.
The only problem with HOEAB is that it’s the first book. ::sigh:: Now, I’ll have to wait a couple of years for the second one to come out. I had the pleasure of binge-reading Maas’s other two series, so having to wait will be tough. But it’ll be so worth it.
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Crescent City quotes
As it stands, House of Earth and Blood didn’t disappoint. Maas is probably one of my favorite authors to read because of her make-no-apologies writing style, and at times, the language and imagery she uses can be so beautiful.
Plus, she’s always sure to inject a good amount of funny banter in the dialogue—there will be moments when you laugh out loud. Here are a few quotes.
- She was sea and sky and stone and blood and wings and earth and stars and darkness and light and bone and flame.
- Through love, all is possible.
- Look toward where it hurts the most. That’s always where the answers are.
- Then let the world know that my first act of freedom was to help my friends.
- What’s the point of being immortal badasses if we have sagging tits?
- You pretend to be irreverent and lazy, but deep down, you don’t give up. Because you know that if you do, then they win.
- Fangs and Bangs is on in five minutes. You want to watch?
Questions for you, dear reader: If you’ve read HOEAB, what were your favorite scenes? Did anything shock you?
Comment and share down below!
Need a fix?
In the meantime, you might try Margaret Rogerson’s standalone YA fantasy novel An Enchantment of Ravens if you’re looking for something less serious, but equally enjoyable.