Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea

“Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as you remember you’re not alone, you will overcome.”

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
393 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Published: Tor, 2020
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’m not sure I’ll come back to this one.
Reviewed by Indiana

This very quotable novel weaves dystopian notes together with a whimsical and heartfelt plot. It follows Linus Baker, an overweight office drone whose life consists of working at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, listening to records and trying to keep his cat happy. 

One day his banal and depressing routine is shaken up when he’s given a special assignment from Extremely Upper Management. He must investigate an orphanage for children with unusually powerful magical abilities, located on an isolated island and he must live there for a month. 

The orphanage is home to six unlikely children, including the spawn of the devil, a gnome, a shape shifter, and others. They’re all taught and nurtured by Arthur Parnassus, a sweet but mysterious man, who Linus is instructed by Extremely Upper Management to take careful notes on. 

During his stay, Linus begins to feel drawn to Arthur in a way he doesn’t entirely understand and as he warms up to the children, his perspective on the Department in Charge of Magical Youth and his job there begins to change. 

I really enjoyed the comedy of bureaucracy; the ridiculous names of all the departments and the impossibly long rule book that Linus somehow enjoys reading. The character arc of Linus was also a satisfying one, and the eclectic mix of characters at the orphanage was fun to get to know. 

The plot did become a bit muddled at points, as though there were just too many layers that weren’t quite fleshed out. Yet, overall, it radiated warmth and was packed with messages of acceptance.

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