Whenever Sarah J. Maas comes out with a new book, it gets immediate priority on my to-read pile. According to my Goodreads, I had Crescent City on my TBR since May 2018, so I had plenty of time to plan my reading around its release. House of Earth and Blood, the first book in the Crescent City series, is SJM’s latest release since Kingdom of Ash came out in October 2018, so it was such an exciting experience going to the bookstore on release day and pick up her first adult fantasy book.
I highly recommend checking out SJM’s Crescent City Q&A on the World of Sarah J. Maas YouTube channel. Since she cancelled the Crescent City tour due to the health climate, SJM and her husband, Josh aka Papa Maas, hosted a live show answering readers’ questions about the new series and basically anything SJM related. With no spoilers, they shared a lot of fun details about the book and Sarah’s writing process. I loved when SJM talked about the cover design and revealed the hidden details within. She also talked about her life outside of being an author, from how she met her husband to what it’s been like being a mom and her struggle and journey with anxiety and depression. Although she warned that things could change, it looks like we’ll be getting the first book in the Nesta ACOTAR spin-off series and Crescent City #2 in 2021. Like Crescent City, the Nesta spin-off will also be considered adult fantasy. SJM revealed that the new ACOTAR covers coming in June are meant to grab more adult readers.
As one of my go-to authors, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even need to read the full synopsis of her books anymore to know if I’ll pick them up or not- the answer is always yes! Of course, having loved SJM’s young adult books about Fae, I was even more excited for Crescent City when it was announced that this urban fantasy series would follow a young half-Fae woman on a mission to find the demon that murdered her closest friends two years prior.
Summary (from the publisher): 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.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
It’s no surprise to anyone that I absolutely loved House of Earth and Blood. I am already crying over the fact that I finished it and need the sequel. While SJM’s books tend to be on the lengthy side normally, I read this 799 beast over the course of the week. I did have some other things in life going on at the time aka homework, dealing with a very much altered school schedule, and watching Star Wars, but I found that I couldn’t really fly through House of Earth and Blood because there are so many details. I also didn’t want to necessarily fly through me because I wanted to catch all the details and really enjoy being back in SJM’s writing.
House of Earth and Blood definitely has the most complex setting out of all sJM’s books. There are a lot of different places, characters, and hieracrchies that are definitely hard to keep track of the beginning. When I first started the book, I was making notes on characters and what house or group they belonged to. When I got to the 100 page mark or so, I stopped taking notes this way so I could just focus on the story. I highly recommend doing so as well. As you keep reading, the characters and world become easier to track as the world keeps building and you get more settled into the story. I found that my notes evolved from being phot-heavy into highlighting cute or funny moments. Because there is so much to the plot and world, I know I am going to need (and want) to reread House of Earth and Blood before the sequel- I’m thinking of creating some sort of refresher/world or character breakdown post beforehand!
Another part of the plot that I loved were the reveals throughout, as Hunt and Bryce hunt down Danika and her pack’s killer. SJM is just so good at revealsQ She’s also the queen of inserting things in the very beginning that later prove their significance or come back to life later on. While some readers may get annoyed by this, her characters often keep (big) secrets from both the other characters and the readers. This definitely made for some shocking moments throughout, keeping me on the edge of my seat or really whatever reading position I was in – I was reminded while reading House of Earth & Blood how heavy SJM’s books are and how difficult it is to remain in the same comfortable reading position. Anyway, the plot wasn’t hard to follow, but there were a lot of elements to keep in mind. I also found myself rereading passages to understand how one connection or character connected to another.
Listen, I have much love for Celaena/Aelin and always will, but Bryce may just be my favorite SJM protagonist yet! She did remind me a bit of Aelin- her love for dancing and romance books especially- but she really is her own unique self. I never really believed she was a indeed a true party girl, but throughout, Bryce proves that she is much more than the party girl than she’s led the world to believe- and honestly uses their thinking to her advantage. She was such a fun protagonist to follow throughout, and I’m so excited to see her journey in the next book.
Throughout all her books, SJM places such an emphasis on female friendship. I think Crescent City has the best female friendship out of all them, specifically between Danika and Bryce. Based on the synopsis of House of Earth and Blood, I knew that we wouldn’t be with Danika for too long, but those scenes after her death and Bryce’s grief throughout were so hard. SJM does such a fantastic job of sharing their friendship through flashbacks, Bryce’s uncovering of the murder, her honoring of Danika, and the ending. Without being too spoilery, there are so many beautiful messages within their friendship, and I love how one specifically makes full circle.
While discussing friendship, another favorite relationship of mine was between Bryce and Lehebah. Lehebah was the perfect form of comic relief. I loved her nickname for Bryce, her love for vampire reality TV, and her care and concern for Bryce overall. I basically flagged any remark from Lehebah when she first meets Hunt and Ruhn. I am also ready to adopt Syrinx as one of my bookish pets. I would love to dive more into Bryce’s friendships with Juniper and Fury in the next book as well.
While on characters, I think it’s time to include the boys/men of House of Earth and Blood: Hunt and Ruhn. While mostly following Bryce, the book also includes Hunt and Ruhn’s third person perspectives. Ruhn was a personal favorite of mine. It was interesting to dive into his relationship with Bryce while also seeing the pressure that comes with being the son of the Autumn King. Based on the Oracle’s message, I’m really intrigued to see his own journey. The leading man of House of Earth and Blood, I could not get enough of Hunt. I loved the progression of his relationship with Bryce, but I also feel like we really got to understand his characters and his past before serving for Micah. I flagged a lot of funny moments and sarcasm, but most came from between the pair.
Now the question that most readers have had before going into House of Earth and Blood: how much romance is there?? Based on the amount of romance in ACOTAR, when it was announced that Crescent City would be an adult fantasy, so many readers wanted to know how much SJM would up the romance game. Ultimately, there are may be a handful of romance scenes, although there are definitely a lot of sexual references. My personal favorite involved Hunt’s (innocent) discovery of something of Bryce’s in her hallway closet.
As someone who loves romance and fantasy as separate genres, I absolutely love SJM’s romance scenes! There are by no means overkill and really match the mood of the scene and characters’ feelings, but at the same time, I wouldn’t recommend them for younger-aged YA readers who might have read SJM’s other books (even though ACOMAF and ACOWAR have a few scenes I wouldn’t recommend for my younger sister either).
While the book does have a very satisfying conclusion, there is still so much left about the characters’ fate- especially after a certain Asteri’s warning and the epilogue- to explore. There are plenty of settings set both within and outside of Crescent City that we could possibly visit , and I do want to learn more about the different houses.
Overall, House of Earth and Blood is easily one of my favorite books of 2020- it is definitely a strong contender for being my favorite book of the year! This is definitely a lengthier review for me, but I could honestly go on and on about this book because there is just so much to unpack. As always, SJM is such a master storyteller. This book has so many elements I love across genres, romance, relationships, high stakes, world-building, humor, and personal growth all included. I cannot wait to see where Crescent City goes!
Have you read House of Earth & Blood? What’s your favorite SJM book? Share your thoughts and feels in the comments!