SLIDER

Welcome to Crescent City


For the past two years, Kelly and I have celebrated our birthdays by going to England together. We’ve made the best memories, which you can see in my 2018 and 2019 trip recaps. If you can spend a week traveling with someone and still be sad to leave them at the end of the trip, you know that’s your person. I couldn't go with her on this year's trip, but I was able to console myself with some hot cocoa in my London mug while reading Sarah J. Maas' House of Earth and Blood and cuddling my baby. A new series from one of my favorite authors? Yes, please!

Kelly was reading it at the same time, so she would call me every night when she got back to her room to tell me all about her day and discuss the book together. The best part? We were at very different points in the book throughout the week, but we still managed to finish on the same day! I was originally going to review this in my March Quick Lit post, but then I realized I had too much to say about it. Buckle up – we're going on a journey.

I was apprehensive before I started reading House of Earth and Blood, especially because I have such high expectations when picking up something from Maas. Plus, it was a brand-new series – a total unknown! And y'all, this book was an experience. I went through almost every stage of my rating process while reading, so I've decided to structure my review that way. I'm going to start with my least favorite aspects and then work my way towards everything I adored, which mimics the way my final rating shifted from start to finish. Let's dive in – and there's no spoilers here:

SO DISLIKED IT:

+ The language. I don't mind cursing, but it got excessive here. It felt like a teenager trying to prove how grown-up they are and was distracting for me. Once I started to notice the frequency, I kept wondering how it served the story. And honestly, I'd love it if I never had to read the word "alphahole" again in my life! 

+ The drug / sexual content. This is definitely a matter of personal taste. The sexual content is not a new complaint for me, since that was my biggest dislike in the ACOTAR series, too. As for the drugs, they gave me such a bad impression of the characters at first. However, I can see why it was included in this particular story.

SO OKAY WITH IT:

+ The info dumps. The beginning of the book was packed with information about the characters and the world, and it wasn't always done in the most seamless way. I wanted to learn more but found myself bogged down by details and losing interest early on in the story. It would have benefited from heavier editing and losing about 200 pages.

+ The lack of glossary. This goes hand in hand with the previous issue. I would have loved if the book had a glossary, especially since so much new terminology was introduced right away. I kept getting hung on trying to decode acronyms and remember what certain words/places/roles meant. I did get past it eventually though!

SO LIKED IT:

+ The pacing. The first half of the book was hard for me to get into – for all the reasons I've discussed above. And then... the second half! By the 50% mark, I needed to know what happened next. And by 75%? I couldn't put it down! I wish the pace had been more even throughout but am so glad it ended on a high note.

+ The plot. In a lot of ways, the story at the heart of House of Earth and Blood is a mystery. What happened to Bryce's friends on that fateful night two years ago? I liked the investigation + search for the missing historical artifact, but I'm really looking forward to the next book because I think the conflict will be even richer.  

SO ENJOYED IT:

+ The world. Since I mentioned finding the world confusing at first, you might be surprised to find that I truly did enjoy it in the end. The more I was able to understand it, the more I wanted to know about its history. I can tell Maas put a lot of thought into it, and it was fun to see her try something new with an urban fantasy setting.

+ The romance. Initially, I wasn't completely sold on the romance. I needed to warm up to Bryce and Hunt! They've both survived painful things and have walls built up around their hearts. Slowly but surely, we began to see their vulnerabilities. Their banter, strength, and softness became an incredibly compelling dynamic.

SO LOVED IT:

+ The characters. Mass is always able to make me care deeply for so many characters – not just the protagonist. Crescent City was no exception! From the adorable sprite at Bryce's office to the hilarious creature she keeps as a pet, there's no shortage of people to love. And there's plenty that will keep you guessing on their motivations, too.

+ The emotions. When I reminded myself that Maas has always excelled at her characters, their relationships and the emotions they evoke, I was better able to focus on the heart of this story. And y'all, Maas definitely hit all the right emotional notes! You've got love, joy, sadness, anger, fear, contempt, and even some surprise. 

SO OBSESSED WITH IT:

+ The friendship. Maas made me so deeply invested in Bryce and Danika's friendship, in such a short amount of time, that the events from the summary were still a gut punch. I adored watching Bryce grapple with loss and remain loyal to her friends' memory. The love she and Danika had for each other was my favorite thing in the book!

+ The ending. I already said it, but it bears repeating: the last quarter of this book was incredible! Maas' ability to develop moving relationships, exciting twists and turns, and emotional climactic moments came to fruition here. And I loved that the ending didn't leave readers hanging. There's conflict to come, but this was nicely wrapped up.

Whew! Can you see how complicated my feelings were for this new release?! With that huge range of reactions, you might be wondering how I settled on my final rating for House of Earth and Blood. I was leaning towards So Enjoyed It (4 stars) for most of the book, but the way it all came together in the end left me on such a high. And I would always rather have a book start slowly but finish strong than the reverse! I found the last quarter so emotional and satisfying that it only felt right to go with 4.5 stars overall because I So Loved It by the end. 

It's definitely not my favorite book from Maas, but I have historically liked the first books in her series the least. So, I would not be surprised if my love for this series grows with each new release – and with each re-read. I'd be willing to bet that some of the things that felt slow or confusing on my first read won't even phase me the next time around! All that being said, I'm so excited to see where Maas takes these characters next. 

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