Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Review: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

by TJ Klune
Release Date: March 17th 2020
2020 Tor Books
Kindle Edition; 394 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250217318
Audiobook: B074BS795T 
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

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.
My Thoughts
The House in the Cerulean Sea was a heart-warming journey of transformation, but underneath that wholesome layer is a slew of other layers just waiting to be peeled, dissected, and examined.  I liken this story to an onion, where if you wish to go through the layers, you can, but if you don't, you don't have to.  While on the outside, this story presents as one of transformation, it does touch upon such themes as child abuse, negligence, family, hope, fear, loyalty, and perseverance.   

I really liked Linus Baker as a main character.  When we first meet him, he is living in London and everything around him is grey and dull, kind of like his life. When he is assigned  a highly classified assignment, the orphanage is bright, full of colour, and also, full of what society would term as monsters.  The contrast sort of reminded me of the movie The Wizard of Oz, and I kept comparing it to that.  Linus' character is very well fleshed out and he learns to open his mind, and his heart, to new possibilities, rather than constantly following his rule book.  To be honest, I found his constant references to his rules quite hilarious.  As he learns about the children, and becomes less afraid of them, his heart opens more and more to other possibilities, and especially as to what may have been hidden from him or what ha has chosen to ignore over his career.  I enjoyed watching his progress and his growth as a character.  I also liked that he wasn't the usual character in a physical sense as well.  I've read so many comments about how the author has gone overboard when it comes to Linus complaining about his body, but if you have never been overweight, you have no idea what it is like, the constant justification and the constant self-reassurance one does.  I personally thought the author got it spot on.

The children were a delight and I enjoyed all of their personalities.  There were many times I laughed out loud at their antics and thought it was just pure fun; but underneath that fun there often an element of seriousness that addresses a lot of the issues the children had dealt with in the past and it is sad, things from child abuse to neglect to being told they are monsters.  

And while the book is warm and hopeful, with a good dash of fun, there are definitely some things that don't make sense.  While Linus was fully fleshed as a character, I don't feel like the other adult characters were treated with the same character development, and I would have loved to learn more about Zoe.  And while some of the characters were a bit suspicious at the beginning as Linus was there to observe them on behalf of Extremely Upper Management, I did think the reactions of the rest of them were a bit off and weird.  I just didn't understand why everyone had such high hopes in him as there was nothing to suggest that he would report in their favour.

The House in the Cerulean Sea was a lovely book with some great underlying messages.  The concept isn't a new one, but I thoroughly enjoyed following Linus as he grew and discovered there was more to life than rules and regulations, and was willing to open his mind to other possibilities.  The other characters were a lot of fun, and the themes running through the book were subtle, but profound, and I thought about them for a few days after I was finished the book.  I would definitely recommend this book if you are looking for whimsy, comfort, and colour!!