Overall rating: 4.5/5
It has been a long time since I have indulged in fantasy, and this book was the perfect novel to return to the genre. After all, Christmas is approaching, and what better way to embrace the festivity of the holiday season than with a book that is just as magical in spirit? Linus Baker is a dedicated case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. As a strict adherent of rules and regulations, he is hand-selected to investigate a mysterious orphanage, one that is home to some of the most unusual children under the tutelage of a man perhaps even more elusive. At the heart of this story lies a compelling message on acceptance, perspective, and family. Throw in hilarious commentary, heartwarming interpersonal relationships, and uncanny parallels to modern society, and you have The House in the Cerulean Sea. And I can promise you this much – it’s an absolute delight.
This book feels like lying in a blanket fort on a cold winter day. It’s cozy and warm, with just a bit of nonthreatening chill that makes its way through every once in a while. While the characters can fall into formulaic archetypes, they are interesting and just. so. lovable. Moreover, the chemistry between them is beautifully created through witty dialogue and well-developed relationships that make for several feel-good moments reflective of the book’s undeniable message around building relationships and finding commonality despite apparent differences. The plot is just as optimistic (this is quite refreshing given the sea of tragedies in which I tend to immerse myself) and embraces the concept of being unafraid of change. I would be remiss to not comment on the parallels to the difference in value our society confers upon human lives, influenced significantly by identity or background. Needless to say, you do not need to look hard to see a subtle political commentary emerge.
My one criticism is likely a product of my own pessimism – while the book is perfectly lovely, it holds steadfast to its rose-tinted glasses, making it appear a little less “realistic” (as far as fantasy would allow, anyways) and more juvenile in my eyes. I would have liked to see some of the more difficult moments in the book be expanded upon to really bring home the message around the experience and consequences of hate-driven marginalization.
I would recommend The House in the Cerulean Sea to quite literally anybody who is open to a little bit of magic in their reading. This book is a perfect way to bring some joy and relief into your TBR list, especially if you tend to choose more hard-hitting and “serious” fiction. It is a fast and easy read that is consistently elevated by Klune’s dreamy writing style and incredible imagination. But be warned: you might still shed a few tears.