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.

*****

Review:

I have no words. This book was just. So. Cute. So fucking cute. In the year 2020, we don’t deserve a book this adorable, but nevertheless, here it is. Shoutout to my blogging discord because I would have never given this book a chance without their half the server’s squeeing but damn am I glad I did (even if it took my library a couple months to get the audiobook). Just, so good. So so good.

I really don’t know where to start with this one because it’s so outside of the usual stuff I read. We have Linus, a 40-something social case-worker/bureaucrat stuck in a dull, thankless job with no friends and no future aspirations. When he’s sent to an island orphanage for a month on a case, he’s greeted with his six future children and the newfound love of his life. And okay yeah the kids are a bit weird and one of them regularly threatens disembowelment (just Antichrist things right?) and one of them might be a literal wyvern, but they’re cute and adorable all the same. As the story progresses, we watch Linus slowly break away from his emotional detachment, slowly find the friends and family he’s missed for so long, slowly find happiness and joy during his month at the orphanage and it’s just, such a delight to see. I had that stupid, feel-good grin on my face so often as I listened to this audiobook.

Essentially, this is a kids book for written for adults. And I say that in the best way possible. It has that feel-good atmosphere, fun, slightly bizarre characters (like a literal…slime? monster that just really wants to be a bellhop) often found in children’s book. And of course, a HEA ending between our two leads. Honestly, having grown up on similar books, this almost feels like an author reminiscing on children’s books he used to read and writing something in tribute, only this is it’s written from the fun adult’s perspective. This isn’t really a genre I ever considered, but having read one, man I really really want more.

I read this through listening to the audiobook at work and I’ve really gotta hand it to the narrator for doing such a fantastic job with the reading. The unique voices he gives to each character, especially the children, really manage to bring this book to life. It certainly kept me entertained during the more mundane parts of my day job. In particular, I really liked the personality and voice given to Chauncy, our resident…slime? unknown creature? Who know’s what a slime sounds like, but that kind of bizarre but still endearing voice pulled it off well. And of course,I have to say that Lucy, our Antichrist, just felt so so alive and childlike in the audiobook and quickly stole my heart as favorite character. And I don’t even like child characters. Finally, the parts between Arthur and Linus. Oh my god the parts between Arthur and Linus. I’m sure reading their scenes in print is great too, but my god the softness in the narration? That quiet vulnerability? Absolute perfection.

My one note for readers is that this book is very heavy handed with its messaging. Namely, messaging about accepting differences and embracing each other’s differences. As children deemed “special” even among magical children, they’re forced into these orphanages and isolated from society, with messaging from authority preaching “see something, say something”. Almost any conflict has to do with this issue, in a generally very un-subtle manner. As is common with actual children’s books, but to some readers, might find a little annoying when presented with it over and over again.

Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. An adorable cast of characters, a super cute m/m romance, and fantastic use of the found family trope. The book we don’t deserve in 2020 but got anyways.


r/Fantasy Bingo Squares:

  • Optimistic SFF (hard mode)
  • Novel Featuring Exploration
  • Novel with a Colour in the Title (hard mode)
  • Novel Published in 2020
  • A Book that Made You Laugh (hard mode)
  • Romantic Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

Publication Date: 17 March 2020
Publisher: Tor Books
Format: Audiobook
Pages: 393
Word Count: N/A
ISBN: 1250217288 
Buy It Here: Amazon Google Books | Barnes and Nobles | Goodreads

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