Fantasy, Romance

My Review: House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: March 3rd, 2020
Number of Pages: 803 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Through love, all is possible.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Earth and Blood”

I know, I know…it sounds like a really cheesy quote; like something straight out of a Sailor Moon movie where something flower or heart shaped pops out of Serena’s chest along with some song with those exact lyrics while she saves the world with the help of Tuxedo Mask and the other sailor scouts and everything becomes back to normal…Read this book though, and this quote will have much more meaning to you, along with the characters who say it.

So, it’s been a couple of days since I’d finished this behemoth of a book, and with the time away from it, I was able to fully absorb everything that happens and be able to organize my thoughts. I’ve also been able to get a Fancast for the series going on here as well

You should check out my in-progress Fancast/Dreamcast by clicking the link HERE!

Like any other title SJM has written, I’d gotten completely transported into the story with all its characters, and nothing else mattered to me but finding out what happened next. I know some people aren’t really fans of her work—a few who’ve read this couldn’t get past the repetitiveness of her words—but I can’t help but admit that I just really connect with her books! The plots, the characters, the twists, and the romance; I just can never get enough of it…Plus, isn’t it normal for an author to have similar themes and/or characters in their multiple work projects? If it works for them once, can’t it work again? Also, don’t readers also have a set of similar expectations whenever they check out the author’s other books anyways?

I had many different emotions while reading this book: the first one being confusion because right off the bat there was a TON of world-building info that honestly didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The next was the usual overall happiness because theres also a group dynamic amongst the main character, her long-time best friend, and their squad of wolves—not werewolves because they can choose when to change. The next was absolute heartbreak…then that turned back into excitement, and I’m not going to lie, I actually cried six times the last 25% of the book too, and now I need to know what happens next when the sequel doesn’t even have a release date yet!

Great…

I did have some initial hesitation going in that I thought was worth mentioning. Once I’d read the blurb, I was worried how similar this plot sounded compared to A LOT of other paranormal romance titles/series out there. One in particular that I’ve become obsessed with in 2020: The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. They both sounded too eerily similar: both include a young, gorgeous party girl who’s easy, party-drug induced world is flipped upside down when someone they care about more than anything else ends up mysteriously murdered. They’re thrust into deadly hunt to find some answers with the reluctant help of Mr. Tall, Dark, Gorgeous…and completely broody, cheeky alphahole. Together, they discover the dark workings of an underworld full of demons and other evil creatures, along with many sketchy beings, and make questionable alliances in order to learn the truth and save the world from impending doom. I was thankfully relieved when after I’d gotten a few chapters in at how different the two stories were able to remain amongst each other, especially as it would’ve looked worse for SJM since the Fever series has been coming out since 2006. She’d dodged the bullet there, and still managed to make another series that’s just as binge-worthy.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Development! So it can’t even be considered a spoiler because of the blurb, but there’s a romantic subplot that occurs between Bryce and Hunt. I would gladly categorize it under the “Enemies-to-Lovers” romance trope, and it’s honestly done to perfection. The two of them become reluctant partners to try and solve the big mystery of the murders, and as the stakes get higher, they grow closer along with the sexual tension rising at a really well drawn out slow burn. Hunt and Bryce really compliment each other well, and as they grow closer and become more vulnerable with each other, they reveal tidbits about themselves and realize how similar they both are. I seriously just loved their relationship, and how they’d come to mean so much to each other in the amount of time they spend together. I really, really hope they’re endgame because based off how SJM book romances go, the first love NEVER works out…Hopefully this relationship breaks the pattern.
  2. SJM Called Herself Out! SJM has gotten a reputation for having the same content in her books, but also excluding certain components too: mainly, people get sick of how she doesn’t seem to try and include diverse characters in terms of both ethnicity and sexual orientation; she only likes to write characters who are straight + white. They also say her male love interests are complete alphaholes— who gets way too possessive, jealous, and the word mixes the word alpha with asshole for those that couldn’t figure it out. He’s usually broody, moody, and scowls a lot while being considered an admirable/fearsome leader, and usually has a tragic background and doesn’t think he’ll ever find love…spoiler alert: he eventually does with the main character. There’s more to it, but I think you get the point…Bryce calls Hunt out right as their partnership is officially formed, and I actually laughed as I’d pictured SJM herself flicking off all the haters to show everyone that she sees them..and she beat them to the punch. It felt like SJM listened to the criticism she often receives from some readers, and showed them how she’s aware of it all, and honestly made an effort to change it for this book.
  3. Ruhn Danaan! I think he’s considered a minor character, but he also feels like a main character because you read his perspective throughout the story, but all I know is, he is by far one of the best characters in this book. He calls himself out on his “chosen one” status everyone has given him as the heir to the Fae throne in Crescent City, but based off his demeanor and how he’s gone all tattoos-and-piercings; he rebels against the expectations everyone has given him. His relationship as Bryce’s cousin…anyways, it’s also quite a treat to enjoy to see how it evolves and uncover hidden depths of its dynamic as you read on, so please enjoy!
  4. The Cover Design! House of Earth and Blood probably has to be her best cover yet! I’ve loved some of the Throne of Glass covers while not really the Court of Thorns and Roses covers, but this one instantly bops to the top!
  5. The Theme of Friendship! The deepest relationship besides Bryce and Hunt’s relationship explored is the friendship between Bryce and her sister from another mister, Danika. Throughout the story, their friendship really goes through the wringer, and is tested as more secrets are unveiled in order to solve the mystery. This was especially shocking because you know about Danika’s terrible fate even in the blurb. It’s a real emotional roller coaster, especially as you learn how hard it is for both women to actually say the words I love you to anyone else and how they’d literally die for each other and sacrifice everything in order for the other to be happy. Nothing exchanged between these two is insignificant, that’s for sure!
  6. The Swearing and the Sex Talk! Honestly, I am here for the amount of swearing there is in this book; it makes up for every “fuck” Aelin wanted to yell but wasn’t able to. I swear a lot when I talk amongst my friends or whenever I’m in a casual setting, so this truly resonated with me, and made the dialogue feel so much more natural! SJM has quite of bit of her characters lewdly talk about topics like sex, drugs, drinking, and partying because it’s stuff that people actually talk about in today’s world. At least, they are amongst my friends and age group of the New Adults aged 18-25. It makes it even cooler that in this book, the people doing it are Fae, Witches, Mermaids, Witches, Wolves, Vampires, and other creatures straight out of fairy tales.
  7. The Evolution of Danika! Like I’d mentioned above, Danika was a huge surprise for this book. Once the inevitable happens, I’d kind of written her off, but her character continued to stay relevant as the plot thickened. It turns out Danika had a lot of secrets to hide, and even has her moral code questioned at one point, only to develop even further, and I was amazed at how SJM was able to do that with a character that was never standing by the rest of the cast in present time. My favorite part of SJM’s writing is her character work, by far. She can even make a dead girl one of the most popular characters of the entire book, not to knock any of the characters still alive—just read the book to see what I mean.
  8. Aidas! A character we see only three times, and of course he’s the most interesting character to me despite that fact. He’s a level-5 demon prince from Hel (not a typo, thats how it’s spelled in this book), and since there’s only two other princes above his status, he’s kind of a big deal. He’s partially at fault with how I want the next book, like, NOW! The very last words are uttered by him, and with that, the torturous waiting has begun…

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Massive Info Dump at the Beginning…One of the biggest critiques this book has been receiving is the massive info dump that occurs within the very first few chapters, and I gotta say I’m in total agreement here. 80% of Chapter 1 is an info dump, and it’s just way too much too soon, and it hardly made any sense as quite a bit of the information doesn’t really come into play until much later in the book. I say, SJM should’ve spaced it out more to make even the opening chapter less overwhelming for everyone reading it for the first time. I can say, however, once you get past this initial set up, the book gets a whole lot better, and even the last third of the book is balls to the walls amazing! Seriously, if the book is dragging for you, PLEASE wait until the last 200 pages to really give it a chance, because it makes it all so worth it!
  2. The WorldBuilding is All Over the Place! With the info dumps at the beginning, it’s also confusing how so many cities and other civilizations are referenced so much in this story, but we don’t know where they are, or have any map for reference to help my fellow visual learners make reading it any easier. The only map we get is of Crescent City itself, so that was irksome…Hopefully another map of the whole world will be created soon, maybe even before the next book releases. Hopefully!
  3. Compared To Her Other Work…Not that I didn’t enjoy the book, but once people started pointing out certain things, I couldn’t ignore it. They’re saying she’s almost plagiarizing herself with how similar this book is compared to her Throne of Glass series. A lot of the character arcs all seem the same, and I don’t feel like going into detail about it all, but I can say that I definitely see the comparison made there.
  4. It’s Length…No, not the velvet wrapped steel SJM sometimes mentions in her sex scenes….you filthy perverts can go get your minds out of the gutters! I’m talking about how this is one thicccc book, and for those that are already on the fence about SJM and her books, this one will be a major test to see how you fare with her work because of the length, and how no major twists or revelations happen until after the 500 page mark. Even I can agree that the pages before you hit 500 could’ve been condensed a bit more in order to make it an easier read for some people. I remember I had a similar issue like this with The Priory of the Orange Tree, but I have other issues besides the length of that title, and I will say something controversial by stating I enjoyed this title more than the standalone literal brick by Samantha Shannon—check out my review in the embedded link to see my reasoning for that.

Conclusion:

At this point, I really take a lot of the criticism SJM books receive with a grain of salt. I’m always extremely emotionally invested in her stories whenever I open the pages of my copy of whatever book it is of hers, whether it’s for the first time ever or I’m able to squeeze in a reread of the previous book before the next one releases. I just connect with her style of writing so much, and enjoy her work more than so many other authors. I can recognize her faults as a writer too, and still be able to look past them to still be able to enjoy her stories. I just hope some people will learn to go out and find other authors that they can enjoy and praise more instead of wasting so much time and energy bashing her work just because she won’t include certain components into her titles. No writer should be forced to do something like that, to change how they tell a story just because certain members of the target audience require X,Y, and Z in order to be able to enjoy a work of fiction. Like I said, if you don’t like an author, simply go search for someone else’s work to praise instead. SJM has a huge following, her books are always popular, so some negative reviews on Goodreads aren’t going to change that anytime soon! Okay…rant over on that, now back to House of Earth and Blood:

Was this book perfect? No.

Is this book my new favorite? I’m not sure, but it’s defs up there!

Did I still enjoy this book? Hell yeah!

Did I cry while reading this book? Oh, you bet’cha…

Do I need the next book? Immediately!

I recommend this book to anyone who already enjoys Sarah J. Maas’s other books, maybe more her later work that gets more mature themes. Personally, I would be fine if she decides to stay this route and not continue with YA anymore just because I can tell she enjoys the more mature themes, like the swearing and sex scenes themselves that can only get a whole lot better as she keeps writing! I also recommend this book to people that enjoyed titles like the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning; Bryce Quinlan has a lot of similarities to Mackayla Lane that I think fans of both series will immensely enjoy, and might also enjoy comparing Hunt Athalar to Jericho Barrons! Total side note: but wow, their names sound so much more crazy when they’re next to each other like that… It’s a good thing I’m still crazy about those two alphaholes!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles

Fiction Tropes that I Love/Hate

The word “trope” is used to describe commonly recurring literary devices, motifs and clichés in creative. Clichés are usually viewed as a bad thing, but that’s not the case every single time, at least when it comes to tropes. Tropes, as overdone as they are, are usually what keeps the genre going forward in the world of literature and/or entertainment. They’re safe, they’re familiar, they’re comforting, and they’re usually what helps people connect stories to each other, like, when someone goes “If you love ______, then you’ll love _____.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase “The same…but different” before, which basically means that editors and agents of creative fields want something that seems different, but actually has a lot of qualities that have been used before. What I’ve deduced is that people want the same basic plot points to have as a comfort blanket, but they still want a new twist on it that makes it new, exciting, and original. Easier said than done, believe me…

Below here is a list that I generated thats composed of tropes that typically appear in the books/genres that I tend to read: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (both Adult and YA), Romance, a splash of Mystery and a dash of Horror. Some tropes I love and can’t get enough of…but then there are some I roll my eyes at, and hope that something else saves the story, so help me god…

Tropes that I Love:

  1. Fake Relationships. Whether it be to make someone jealous, to have a last minute date for a wedding, or to bring someone home to meet the parents, two people pretending to be in a relationship, then *gasp* unexpectedly falling for each other for real before their deal is up is a romance trope that I can always get behind! I find it amazing when they appear as a new couple in love to the masses, but get snappy once they’re alone, the sexual tension rises oh so amusingly until they reach the climax [of the story].
  2. Enemies-to-Lovers. Instead of Insta-love (which is mentioned down further), the two characters meet and absolutely HATE each other. Whether it be over opposing views, a misunderstanding, or maybe one of them is just a huge asshole; they don’t get along to any degree and readers always wonder “how will they ever get together?” How indeed…this romance trope usually leads to some comedic/touching moments where they have to team up and sort out their differences before they eventually, but inevitably, get to sexy time.
  3. Player falls for “Average Jane.” So, in the past it’s usually the popular guy who falls for the invisible girl, and she’s just entirely clueless to it all. How could he like her right? She’s so weird, so geeky, so not cool, and the guys would give him so much shit for it…Sometimes it’s a bet amongst the bros, or maybe its because she sees a side of him that he never opened up to before; the boy unexpectedly falls hard. Usually, he doesn’t see it until the girl gets a dramatic makeover (ladies, quick reminder that in 2019 you don’t need to change for your man), which is kind of ugh…but I can’t help but swoon when the guy gets that shocked, starry-eyed look in his eyes and he becomes a total sweetheart to her from then on, and maybe all douchey-ness is forgiven.
  4. Forced to share a room/bed. In a lot of romance books, there comes a moment when the two love interests check into a hotel room, or they’re with a group of friends and all crammed into a room, or some other similar reasoning. As it turns out, they are forced to be in an enclosed space together, there’s usually some sexual tension, and there’s only one bed…So, will they or won’t they? I don’t know, but OH it’s so much fun to find out! A similar set up is the ever timelessly popular “trapped in an elevator” together; nowhere to go, the two are forced to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
  5. The Alpha-Hole. The ever-popular “bad boy”: he’s broody, he’s gorgeous, he usually has dark (maybe ruffled) hair, stunning blue eyes, that smirk, plenty of sarcasm, a sketchy past, and loves to irritate the lead female to no end…but I love him, all variations of him. He’s usually one of my favorite characters because he usually has the smartass remarks, the one-liners and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Dreamy, right?…I know, I’m going to be single forever if THAT is my type…
  6. Fights that lead to Sexy Time. Now, this could mean they have a huge blow up at each other and battle it out in a combat of words, or maybe they go fists flying, literally kicking ass in a Mr. & Mrs. Smith style, but then leads to them hooking up because tensions are high, as are other emotions, and passions consumes them…I just live for the intensity of these kinds of scenes, okay?
  7. Secret Relationships. Kind of like “Forbidden Love” in a way; there’s two people that decide to get together, but they can’t tell anyone else about it. Sometimes it’s the boss-employee set up, teacher-student, opposite social circles/cliques, friends with benefits, wrong for their image, etc. but one person isn’t ready for everyone to know or even admit their feelings to themselves, so they suggest getting in a secret relationship. This trope is fun, especially when the two have to get creative at sneaking around and make hilarious excuses when they’re almost caught together. It’s even better when their friends secretly find out anyways, as the couple always eventually either gets caught, or one of them blabs because they’re in love and want the world to know (i.e: The Friends episode where Rachel and Phoebe try to crack Chandler when he’s been secretly seeing Monica).
  8. Sassy Heroine. Yas Queen, slay…She may not be big and strong, but don’t think that she can’t tear her enemies down with her sharp tongue and those snarky clap-backs. Usually, they are strong though, because usually they’re assassins or warriors that have killed men twice their size and flipped their hair like a queen while doing it. Celaena Sardothien, I’m raising my brow to you, girl. Love her and pretty much every Sarah J. Maas character (3/4’s of her male characters are on my book-boyfriends list (coming soon on here FYI)).
  9. The Second Chance at Love/Reunited Lovers. There is a difference between the two, believe it or not. The second chance is where the couple breaks up, but then gets back together again. Reunited is when they’re torn apart by circumstance, like a job causing one to move away, or one goes off to war, etc. but meet again years later. Either way, it’s way tragic and I swoon at the big scene where they’re reunited all that time later and all is forgiven.
  10. The Quest. In Fantasy books, the reluctant hero, along with his small group of secondary characters, set out on a long and perilous quest with a specific goal in mind. I like this one because it still leaves a lot of potential for something new and exciting because its so broad and open-ended. Anything can happen in Fantasy!

Tropes that I Hate:

  1. The Chosen One…This one feels like its in literally EVERY YA fantasy novel out there, just slight variations of it. It’s where the main character discovers through some prophecy or mentor that they’re incredibly special, and they’re the “savior” with extraordinary power that could defeat evil and change the course of time. It’s not entirely a bad trope/cliché, and it really works for some stories, but for the many that have come out all these years later after Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to be able to make it seem effective or original in terms of driving the overall story. I could still enjoy stories with this idea, but authors need to get more creative with how they use it in their stories moving forward.
  2. The Main Characters an Orphan…This is usually a package deal with #1, but the main character is usually an orphan who doesn’t have their parents in their lives anymore because they’re dead, missing, or just absent.
  3. Girl doesn’t see her beauty, despite instigating Love-Triangle(s)…She’s awkward, she’s clumsy, she’s mortal enemies with the mean girl (more on that bitch later), and is pretty much the Bella Swan or Lizzie McGuire of fiction in these modern times. She thinks she’s just average or even ugly, usually thanks to the mean girl putting her down with their own inner insecurities, but is actually incredibly attractive and has multiple guys chasing after her anyways. I no longer find it endearing or adorable, I’m just over it.
  4. Kinky, Emotionally Traumatized Millionaires…“Mr. Grey will see you now…” According almost every romance/erotic work of fiction, those readers LOVE the ultra rich, 20-something, gorgeous, brooding CEO of a company or some sort of position of power. Unfortunately, he usually had a pretty messed up/traumatizing childhood which made him get into some really kinky shit, BDSM usually. He also gets incredibly possessive with their love interest, gets upset if they wear too revealing of clothes and probably says these lines: “I want you so bad” “You’re mine” “I’m so hard for you” or something creepier or about their penis…Men, you have a lot to live up to…
  5. The Nerdy Best Friend who’s been in love with the Main Character for years but never said anything…So, the main character is falling for someone else, and things are going great, but their best friend begins to get moody and distant themselves. The main character confronts them about it, and then their best friend comes out and reveals that they’ve been in love with them for years…Usually it’s the smaller, skinny, sensitive guy friend with glasses, and it’s usually at the most inconvenient time. Umm this trope is also inconvenient for me to actually enjoy the story!
  6. Werewolves-vs-Vampires…I just want to give a huge shout-out to Twilight for that and every similar teen paranormal romance book that came out through the years of 2008-2014…thank god that this fad is pretty much over.
  7. Creepy Children in Horror…This one is just a big, fat NOPE. Usually they’ll giggle menacingly, or terribly sing some sing-along song that you loved as a child thats now ruined because of them. Like seriously, Ring Around the Rosie and even Happy Birthday…traumatizing.
  8. Insta-Love…I’ve seen and experienced insta-interest, but can someone really look at a complete stranger and all of a sudden everything but that person pops matters and the rest just fades into the background? It’s just been so overdone, and it’s not even realistic, so authors, lets develop those relationships and watch them grow before the word “love” is even mentioned, yeah?
  9. The Mean Girl…Like a token character, the Regina George wannabe in contemporary YA fiction is just there to be elitist, shallow, and just be the antagonist to the main character. Even worse, there’s literally no reason for them to be mean, they just are…so not fetch.
  10. Faithful Sidekicks…The minor characters that are literally only inserted to pretty much pimp out the main character are just so bleh…The story can move forward without them, they’re just there as cheerleaders, and are usually tokened off as a minority (either gay or as a person of color (POC)).
  11. The Belated Love Epiphany with a Chase Scene…You know the big romantic gesture where the person realizes they love someone, so they chase after them to catch them before they’re gone forever? Like running through the airport to catch the plane? Good luck with that in 2019…
  12. Token Diversity…It’s so offensive to any sort of minority who reads a character in a book that’s just been randomly added into a story just so it’s not all straight, white characters. They feel like an afterthought, and someone who just belongs in the background. It’s 2019, and representation matters so much now, especially in books, even more especially in YA fiction. The voices that feel like they’ve never been heard are the ones that are buying the books with lead characters like themselves so they don’t feel so alone and to feel like they matter, because they do.
  13. Revolution led by Teenager in a Dystopian World…I mean, who decides that a teenager should lead a violent revolution over a cruel and oppressive government anyways? This obviously refers to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, who did a tremendous job with that trilogy, but I’m talking about the other titles that came afterwards. For a short time, Dystopian YA was the popular theme that took over for Vampires and Werewolves, but none were really all that impressive or as close to successful with it in my opinion. Its literally just Miss Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior from Divergent that made it look good, but even the latter had a questioning ending, so I rest my case.
  14. Bumping into Each Other Meet-Cute…Girl is walking the halls, carrying an obviously heavy pile of books, eyes wide as saucers and she’s looking around, overwhelmed at the first day of class in a new school. Girl bumps into someone and all the books topple to the ground, the girl is embarrassed and bends over, the other person helps too, and she looks up to see a gorgeous guy assisting her with his charming smile…I’ll stop because you obviously need time to reminisce all the times you’ve seen this happen before, I get it.
  15. The Black and White Morality Theme…Let me say first that this has NOTHING to do with race or ethnicity, so please put those triggers away, trolls…I’m talking about the obvious line of “Good” and “Evil” in fantasy genre books. There is no in-between; you’re either a beautiful elf that shoots arrows with their hair blowing in the wind, or and ugly AF Orc that looks like a spat out wad of gum from seven years ago. I’m going to go into one of my many Game of Thrones references, but one of the reasons it was so great was because George R.R. Martin wrote many complex characters who all thought of themselves as the hero of their own story. They all had their own sets of morality and integrity, and it either meshed or messed with the others, and they all had their own justified reasons for doing what they did, even when it was downright despicable…that, my readers, helps create an interesting story.

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell