Every now and then you stumble across a book that changes everything. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a literary marvel that will make your heart explode. With rich characters and a magical backdrop, this quirky little book has quickly become an all time favourite read.
All the stars.
Check out our review of The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune below.
Note: may contain minor spoilers
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (+ all the stars in the universe)
- “Change often starts with the smallest of whispers. Like-minded people building it up to a roar.”
- “We should always make time for the things we like. If we don’t, we might forget how to be happy.”
- “You’re too precious to put into words. I think … it’s like one of Theodore’s buttons. If you asked him why he cared about them so, he would tell you it’s because they exist at all.”
Genre: Adult fiction, LGBT and fantasy
Want to read it? Add it to your Goodreads TBR here
What’s the book about?
View this post on Instagram
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.
What did I think?
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (+ all the stars in the universe)
This book is now a part of me and hands down may be my new favourite book of all time!
I didn’t know what I was in for when I picked this up and while I certainly loved all of the magical elements, it’s the moments of connection, love and growth that will sit with me forever.
The story follows Linus, a lonely 40 year-old man who works as a caseworker for the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth. Very by the book, Linus lives a seemingly mundane life where abiding by the rules and regulations that guide his job have become part of his DNA. When Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and sent on a secretive mission to assess the magical children living in a remote orphanage along with their caretaker, Linus finds himself in a situation that both challenges and changes him so fiercely.
The beauty of this book lies less in the world building and more in the character work.
I think Linus may be one of my all time favourite narrators. What a sweet and complicated man.
Linus is clearly lonely when we first meet him, moving only through life because of a career that brings him ‘joy’ and a set of rules and regulations he lives by. By the time he meets Arthur and the children in the orphanage, Linus is already overwhelmed with the task at hand. When he meets young Tilly in the garden, it becomes clear that this initial interaction starts off the transition in his character that he deserves.
From here on out the Linus we experience feels strangely new, and if I’m honest, the unravelling of his character is some of the finest writing I’ve ever experienced. His interactions with three of the children (Judy, Chauncey and Tilly) were absolute highlights and watching him fall in love with what it means to be human, to be alive and to be cared for sent a wave of emotions through me.
Meet the children
I could say so much about the children because for me, they were one of the best parts of the book. I was so engaged with finding out more about each of the kids and delighted in every mischievous, sweet and heartwarming interaction they had with Linus, Arthur and each other.
Each of the kids harnesses their own magical abilities and the reasons for why they inhabit this particular orphanage are revealed slowly throughout the story. As we get to know them more, it becomes clear that they’ve been shunned by the world simply for who and what they are, and while that may harden most people, under the guidance of Arthur they’ve become kindhearted individuals with simple wishes and desires. I also love that they’ve been able to find family and community amongst one another.
A warm, quirky and mysterious character, Arthur is a paternal man who thinks outside the box. As the head of the orphanage, Arthur is at the centre of all that happens on the island and it is clear from the outset that he cares deeply for the children he oversees. I loved his fatherly interactions with all of the children and thought he had some of the sweetest scenes with even the smallest of troublemakers.
For the majority of the book, his comings-and-goings remain a mystery to both Linus and the reader but as his larger character traits are revealed, we find that his history is coveted in both tragedy and a self-assured power.
To round the character journey’s off, it’s the interactions between Linus and Arthur that I found to be absolutely delightful. The slow burn M/M romance had me all in the feels (for about the 187th time) and set off the character development in Linus that I was waiting for. His shift from a by-the-book stoic caseworker to a caring and fulfilled man was an absolute joy to experience.
While this book positions itself as a magical tale, it so brilliantly discusses the themes of self-acceptance, family, what it means to be human and the power of prejudice and fear. Klune’s commentary is subtle yet brilliant in its crafting and his takes on societal issues add to the power of his storytelling.
The occupants of the local village best portray how fear can act as a powerful motivator for hate and the children themselves are an excellent example of how home and family can be forged based on who we choose to surround ourselves with. I absolutely adored this element of the book and thought it added so much weight to the story as a whole.
The book also speaks to the power of kindness – especially in the eyes of a child. Whether its fighting imaginary man-eating snakes on an explorers adventure, holding a scared child through a nightmare or the simple act of gifting a button (still sobbing), Klune so beautifully portrays how easy and meaningful a kind act can be in shaping the world around us.
I could probably rave about this book forever so just know this, The House in the Cerulean Sea is enchanting AF and is a masterful take on the fantasy genre. Can’t recommend this book enough.
Written by Monique Renee
Usually barefoot and deep in wanderlust mode, Mon loves binging Netflix, cuddling babies and stalking through Instagram looking for boho decor inspo and hotties with man buns. You’ll usually find her on holiday, planning a holiday or thinking about holidays.
Favourite Instagram to follow: @the_female_lead