Monday, March 9, 2020

Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Publication Date: March 17th, 2020
Hardcover. 400 pages

About 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."

I absolutely adored this book and as such, this review is mostly going to be me gushing about it, but I'll try to keep it coherent. I'm almost nervous to write this review because I don't know where to start and I don't know how to do this book justice, but I am going to try!

The first and most important thing about this book are the characters. I genuinely loved and cared about each and every one of these characters (and I sort of feel so protective of them that I swear I would die for any one of them). Linus Baker, our protagonist, is living a quiet life working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY) as a Case Worker. He seems to mostly enjoy his job, but it's clear to readers that despite whatever Linus chooses to tell himself about his life, he isn't really living and to say he's 'happy' seems a stretch. Linus is one of those characters that you sort of just want to hug (although you probably wouldn't because he doesn't seem like the type to enjoy hugs from random people) and watching him embark on an experience unlike any he's ever been on, where he learns new things about himself and the world around him, was remarkable. I was so drawn to Linus' character and found that so many of the things he struggled with were applicable to my own--such as realizing that sometimes 'good enough' isn't really enough--and I couldn't have asked for a more wonderful character to follow. He isn't the most enthusiastic sort of person, but he has this fantastic dry wit for his sense of humor that I couldn't get enough of.

In addition to Linus is the rest of our phenomenal cast of characters: there's Arthur Parnassus, the man in charge of the orphanage Linus visits; the magical youth living at the orphanage: Chauncey, Lucy, Sal, Talia, Phee, and Theodore; the resident island sprite, Zoe; and, of course, we can't forget Linus' cat, Calliope. I fell so hard for all of these characters and sincerely loved all of them. Each one was so carefully crafted with such distinct and wide-ranging personalities--it's rare to see such amazing characterization that holds strong and true for each and every character, but I can tell that characters must be Klune's strong point because they were all so well-written. I would try to pinpoint one of my favorites, but honestly, I think they are all my favorites. Linus' cat, Calliope, truly steals every scene she's in, though. Altogether, each and every one of these extremely varied and rather odd characters makes up the most perfect mismatched family and I have never want to be a part of a family as much as I wanted to be a part of this one!

Klune also appears to be a master at writing dialogue, and the banter among all of the youth easily became of the most enjoyable parts of this book. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book and I felt so fulfilled and happy every time I picked it up and put it down. The way that he captures what it's like for an adult like Linus to be interacting with such a wild and unpredictable group of magical youth was a true delight. Additionally, the more serious dialogue that occurred for more serious and difficult topics was also carefully done and felt both authentic and full of impact. Klune is really good at maneuvering within a huge variety of topics in such a deft way that never makes it feel difficult to get through or understand.

I don't want to spoil anything specific about the plot, but I can tell you that one of the reasons that I think I liked this so much is because of it's sort of 'slice-of-life' feel, where there aren't really intense action-packed scenes or anything, but rather it is following Linus as he observes and tries to understand how things at Mr. Parnassus' orphanage work and about the youth that live there. The pacing was perfect for me and was what I would call very steady--not too slow, but not too fast, either, just very continuously moving forward while still taking the time to focus on certain topics and scenes whenever necessary. There is also a tiny bit of romance in this book and it is so beautiful and innocent and truly made my cold black heart just melt. It doesn't take over the story, but it fits in like the perfect final piece of a puzzle--small, but vital to the completion of the entire puzzle.

This story handles some extremely heavy but very important topics and I think Klune weaved all of those elements into the story so smoothly so that they never felt overwhelming, but they were very clear and easily understood. Honestly, this book is just beautiful. I laughed and teared up (for both happy and sad reasons) and I also found myself subconsciously reading this book so slooowly because I don't think I ever wanted to finish. It was hard for me to move on from this book and get my headspace ready for another book after because it just made me feel so good to read this book. It spoke to me not only from a personally relevant standpoint, but because it's such a wonderful story of love, acceptance, and what it means to be a family.

Overall, I've given The House in the Cerulean Sea an obvious five stars. This is easily going to be a book that I re-read and re-read over and and over, especially when I'm struggling a lot with depression or anxiety because it made me feel so at home and content and happy. I really can't recommend this story enough--it's bittersweet at times, but also hilarious, relevant, and full of life and love and family.

*I received a copy of The House in the Cerulean Sea courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. I just love this review, and you've decided my next read for me, so thank you for that! I've been reading some very heavy, grim, not happy stories lately and I'm ready for something uplifting­čśü

    1. This will be perfect for that, I hope you love it! :D It was definitely something I didn't realize I needed as a sort of break from all the other stuff I've been reading lately.

  2. This is going on my tbr! I'm sold. :)