HOUSE OF EARTH AND BLOOD (CRESCENT CITY #1)
WHEW. What a ride, y'all. And I know–know– I'm going to be the odd one out here. I know I'm going to fall in the unpopular opinion category. Don't come at me.
I have a lot to say, so to save us all time, I'm directing you to Goodreads for a summary. And, this is your chance: if you have not read this book and plan to, save this review in your browser, close out, and come back when you're finished. This one is full of spoilers.
I have read Sarah J Maas's other books and I loved them. My favorite series by SJM is Throne of Glass for a lot of the reasons that I liked this book: there's amazing world building, I'm deeply invested in the secondary characters and always want more of them, and she can surely write a battle scene. This rings true for House of Earth and Blood. In fact, my favorite aspect of this book was the secondary characters. They're funny, they're deep, they have flaws that they try to overcome and they try like hell to do the right thing or they're villains that are villainous. I had the feels when they died because I cared so much. She really puts a lot of emphasis on friendship, how some friends have secrets of their own that can devastate you when they come out but true friendship, best friendship, overcomes the secrets. You can forgive the people you love when they're not always truthful with you even though it hurts. FOMO, right? And I loved the portrayal of grief. Grief doesn't go away overnight or in a year or two or ten. And grief can look like a lot of things: it can be depression that manifests as sadness, or breaking away from the people you love and ghosting because you don't want to know what it feels like to lose someone else, or being so fucking angry, all the time, and sometimes at the people you love the most. That was real. That was true. That's what I loved the most out of all 750+ whatever pages.
But...here we go with my (mostly likely) unpopular opinions.
1. The world building hits you right in the face from page one. I can't tell you how many times I flipped back to the map that's in the front of the book because I was like, wait, what? Where? Who? And sometimes what I was looking for wasn't on the map. I needed a universe map and maybe a family tree outlining all of the characters I was introduced to in the first page. And I get it- it's a new world and you need facts. But they were so upfront that I couldn't keep track and in the end I just said fuck it and moved on without caring, and hoped like hell I'd figure it all out later on. And I did, sort of, but it still wore on me that I wasn't really sure if I had things right.
2. The protagonists are not as great as the "secondary" characters. Bryce is sort of weak, to be honest. She doesn't stand up for herself when she should, especially for a character who has a rage she keeps in check. She's never really angry when it counts except toward the end. It take 700 pages for her to channel those emotions into something that matters. And up until then, she's passive in the way people treat her. And yes, I know, that's part of grief too– not giving a shit enough to stand up for yourself because in the end, who cares– but she lets Hunt and Ruhn and Danika do the aggression for her. And when you write a character like Aelin, I'm sorry, but I expect more out of leading female characters. Not to mention Hunt, who's...meh, at best. He's got a lot of baggage that he carries around but he's literally known for being the Shadow of Death and yet he's lukewarm when he should be fury. His character doesn't shout HONORABLE at all and he's not even that caring for Bryce until someone calls her trash a second time. He's not fierce. We never see him unleash the power and might that he has, and that was a serious let down. I wanted rage and lightning and frying people with detail, not smoke coming out of mouths and after-the-fact review.
3. The big reveals were unsurprising. There's a reason that I rarely read mystery: I hate guessing what happens. I went in thinking that I was going to be confused for good reasons and trying to guess what the heck had happened, that I'd put pieces together and end up wrong, but in the end I was right on multiple accounts. And my biggest gripe is that things weren't revealed, they were told. Micah's confession was a spew of boring monologue instead of a slow reveal, instead of shrouded in mystery. The one and only time I was surprised was by Hunt's drug deal and the problem I have with that is that it hardly fits his character. Every other "surprise" was not a surprise at all.
4. Alphaholes. Yes, I know, that's a phrase we in the romance community are familiar with and we love it (admit it, you hecking love an alphahole sometimes). I know that the intent behind using the phrase was to bring awareness to the behavior of possessive male characters, but I did not– I repeat, did not–need to read it as many times as I did. Once or twice would have been enough. I should have counted how many times it was used. Hindsight, man.
5. Whoever described this book as having "sizzling romance" has been alone for a long, long time. I'd describe it as lukewarm, at best. Is it a slow burn? Yes. But there's no real burn, in the end. Just some one-sided petting and dark looks.
6. It was s l o w. I know that world building takes time. I know that character development takes time. But honestly ya'll, nothing good happens until damn near page 650 (that's a guesstimate, don't you dare quote me). There's no real excitement until it's almost the end and then you're like, wait, it's over? Rainbows and firstlight? Really?
Look, I'm going to read the second one and the third one and if there's more, I'll read those, too. I have hope that the series will get better because it has to. But all in all, not my favorite. Might have even put it down if I wasn't driven by my own best friend to finish it.