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Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea
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.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
Hi! So. I read this in February but I knew I wanted to review it because of how much I loved it. Enjoy this really long love letter ♥♥ (No, really, my blog is wide so it doesn’t look that long, but this is almost three pages on Word. 1,15 spacing…).
This is a book that will live in my heart forever. There’s much more I could say, but that’s the core of this review. It leaves you with a warm feeling and a sensation of safety and belonging so little books manage to accomplish.
This felt like a hug I didn’t know how much I needed. Like the author set to make a care package of hope and love and the idea that kindness and understanding can change the world too.
Maybe I need to be more specific, stop waxing poetic about this book and move into writing a real review but like… I don’t know if I am capable of such things.
Surprisingly, it took me a while to get into it. The beginning felt slow, and I thought maybe I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Oh, how wrong I was. The writing style is simple and direct, and it has this kind of weird feeling about it where the world feels cartoonish and realistic at the same time.
So. The best way I could describe this book is a children book for adults who maybe need a reminder that life can be gentle or like… not the same shade of grey every day.
Okay maybe I needed that reminder.
This isn’t a book that’s full of twists, for the most part it doesn’t even read as an urban/low fantasy. This is a book about making your own family and standing up for those you care about. I would call it a fable, for lack of a better word. But that doesn’t take away from the style: this is an enjoyable reading experience, with a fast pace and a comforting tone.
We follow our main character, Linus, a man in his forties whose life consist of going to work at a job he hates and then coming home to his cat. Both the job environment and description are part of the cartoonish feel of the book, but it’s obviously a slightly depiction of the nine to five work without pretensions of ever getting somewhere higher in life.
Linus biggest dream is seeing the sea. That’s where his expectations are at. He doesn’t believe he’s going to get a promotion. He’s openly gay but unmarried and doesn’t think he’s going to settle with anyone. He considers himself boring and unlikable and often describes his body in a negative light.
And then there’s his actual work description. While the office part sounds grey and isolating, the part of his job where he’s a case worker for orphanages that house magical youth is… well, sad. I think he grows a lot of as a character, but at the beginning he feels like someone who’s almost apathetic to his surroundings, who thinks is doing good but won’t step outside of his comfort zone and analyze why certain rules exist in the same place or what society puts value into.
Linus is a law-abiding type. Or maybe he doesn’t have the motivation. He has a heart, but he doesn’t see what’s wrong in the ways the world isolates and reprimands and punishes magical creatures for existing. He doesn’t understand why he should do more than what’s expected from him, not when everyone around him also follows the same rules.
And then he’s sent to a classified orphanage where he finds himself challenged by children whose existence exceeds his imagination, and that of most. He finds himself in front of the sea he’s always dreamt of but having to fight against both prejudices and self-hatred to find his place.
And I love them. I love these children with all of me. I want them to thrive and be who they want to be. The book presents us with a beautiful example of nature versus nurture and how people’s expectations could shape us if we allowed them to do so, but there’s also kind, good people that want to see us reach our true potential.
These kids are either considered too dangerous or too endangered to live in the middle of civilization. And it’s sad to see that even on their own little island they have to worry about people feeling threatened by their existence. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know how I would react if they told me Lucifer was living a few streets away from me…
But the author did a wonderful job, again with a touching but “cartoonish” style
and God how I wish I had another word to describe the style, of making sure the kids could be told apart perfectly and were well-fleshed characters and, at the same time, that you didn’t forget at any moment they were, well… kids, no matter their differences.
And much more than “a violent gnome” or a forest sprite or, yes, the antichrist. They have likes and dislikes and they play with the labels that people assigned to them much more than they abide to them.
The hate, bigotry and abuse magical youth (and magical people/creatures in general) face in this book is a clear metaphor for homophobia, racism and discrimination in real life, but it’s also amplified by the fact that they’re kids. Sometimes, they can’t even grasp why they are being treated like this when they haven’t done anything to deserve it. Some people are scared of the unknown, but some are cruel for the sake of being cruel. Some don’t want to understand and let go of their beliefs even though they’re hurting innocents.
I loved how their relationship with Linus helped both parts to tear down walls and create trust and develop a sense of self-assurance that wasn’t fully there at the beginning. Even reluctantly, Linus couldn’t help but caring about them. And they couldn’t help caring about Linus.
I mostly enjoyed his relationship with Lucy and Sal, how he respected their boundaries and found a way to understand them and relate to them and see them. And I think out of all the children Talia was the funniest to read, too. I adored both Arthur and Zoe and how much of themselves they put into turning that island into a safe space, a home, to make sure the children could leave their suffering behind. Arthur’s relationship with both Linus and the children makes you want to make sure he’s always happy and taken care of.
And I think I need to stop talking before I write you down the whole book. In my defense, I don’t think there’s much to hide. I hope you decide to pick up this book and, if you do, I hope you end up loving it as much as I did. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a sucker for comfort and found families and loving yourself and this book made me happy.
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