#Review: House of Earth and Blood, by Sarah J. Maas

It’s always interesting when an author whose previous work is all in the same series breaks away from it and writes something new. This isn’t quite true for Sarah J. Maas, whose eight-book Throne of Glass series I read in its entirety last year; she has a second series out there that I’ve not read any of, but ToG is something like seven thousand pages all by itself, so I’m pretty well acquainted with her style.

One way or another, though, when an author does something like that you get an idea pretty quickly of what sorts of things are just part of her books and what was just meant to be included in that previous series. Stephen King’s books tend to be set in Maine. John Irving’s books tend to include wrestling, bears and dismemberment. Stuff like that.

Well, Sarah J. Maas likes to write about the following things:

  • Beings of incredible power opposing one another;
  • Female main characters with hidden pasts;
  • Smartasses;
  • Explicit sex;
  • Nonhuman, long-lived races, particularly the Fae, which appear to be pretty similar in this book and in ToG;
  • The words “male” and “female” to refer to nonhuman races, used instead of “man” and “woman.”

The main thing that seems to make this an “adult” book and not an incorrectly-shelved YA series like ToG is the swearing. I’m not about to go back and look but I feel like the word fuck is used about three thousand times more in this book alone than in the entirety of ToG. Beyond that, though, the tone is basically the same.

When I talked about this book the other day, I was 200 pages into it, and the most interesting thing about it was the worldbuilding. The fact that so many ancient Earth cultures seemed to have representation in House of Earth and Blood, and that one of the main characters is literally an angel, was mostly passing without comment, and at the time that was what had me the most curious. Well, you don’t really get any resolution on that front, but a couple of interesting things do get dropped in later on– an explicit reference to the date, where the year is in the 15000s somewhere, and a reference to an angelic rebellion on Mount Hermon. The rebellion part was there from the beginning, but the idea that it happened at an actual place on Earth kinda erases any idea that there’s not something going on here, and not just the author reaching for names.

As far as the book itself: it does this amazing thing where the last three hundred pages or so are one long action scene, and I basically finished the last half of the (800-page) book at a sitting after taking longer than I’d expected to read the first half. It takes a while to get going– and if you balk at the idea of four hundred pages being “a while to get going,” I’m not going to blame you– but Jesus, once this book shifts into high gear it just never lets up, and it has one of the most memorable deaths I think I’ve ever read at about the 700-page mark.

I am, I admit, more interested in the stuff going on in the background than I was the A plot, which does end up being a nicely satisfying and twisty murder mystery, but as a guy with advanced degrees in Biblical studies that can’t really be helped; that’s more of a personal reaction than “the background is more interesting than the plot” would normally indicate. I think it’s pretty fair to say that if you enjoyed her previous work, you’ll enjoy this; it’s a little more tropey than I expected, honestly, but where it does right it does really right and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, which hopefully will get out of the titular Crescent City and tell us more about the rest of the world.

12:44 PM, Sunday May 17: 1,474,127 confirmed cases and 88,836 Americans dead.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.