Happy Monday. I’ve been holding on to this for a while now. I’m still not completely satisfied with this review, but honestly I’m running out of ways to really make it better. Ugh, proof reading really kills me.
Let’s get on into the review!
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City 1) by Sarah J. Maas
Synopsis From The Book
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night-until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose-to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion-one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom-and the power of love.
Fantasy | A – PW | Death, Prejudice, Drug Abuse | Loyalty, Love, Friendship, Identity
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
So I’ve never read a Sarah J. Maas book. Ever. Which is to say, I’m a bit worried about this, mostly because book club said it was going to take me a while to read. Because it took Book Club leader, a while to read and she loves Sarah J. Maas. What I think will ultimately end up happening, is that I read this each day at least a bit of it, as them normal people do. And supplement the rest of the day with other reading of other books that I can finish in a sitting. Probably, not sure. I have 7 days to read this tho. Time to get on it.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Alright so I decided to just split this up into the parts of the book. Reading it slowly instead of all at once. I still need to read the other book club book. So, far I have been torn up not gonna lie. Danika’s death DESTROYED me, and I’d only known her for a little. Then Hunt’s betrayal? Ripped me to SHREDS.
Okay so that end battle? It got me. From the moment Micah got to Bryce to the moment that Bryce saw Hunt’s eyes after her Drop. That whole sequence, everything. It got me. I was screaming and cheering, and laughing with them. Goodness. This book had no business doing that to me. Seriously. What am I supposed to do with these feelings? There isn’t another book coming any time soon.
I also didn’t really put this in the CW above, but there is a lot of swearing in this book. If that bothers you, be warned. It’s everywhere. Everywhere.
Bryce is a party girl working for a witch-turned sorcerer art dealer. Her best friend, Danika, is the leader of the wolf pack that controls the city. Danika is pissed that a man, a terrorist human, has gotten free due to a technicality. Bryce tells her it’ll be fine, and goes out for a date while Danika and her pack are having pack night at Danika and Bryce’s apartment. Bryce decides to break up with her boyfriend Reid and give Connor, Danika’s Second, a chance. She then goes out partying with her friends Fury and Juniper, taking a big cocktail of drugs. When she gets to her house she finds the door open and the pack annihilated. They were not just killed, but brutally murdered in such a way that they could not regrow. All of them. She freaks out but hears something in the laundry shoot and starts chasing it out of the apartment complex, down the street and all the way to an Angel who she tries to save. She is then interrogated about what she saw, but she has nothing to tell them.
Nearly two years later, Bryce turned around from being a party girl and is doing a deal for her boss when she runs into her brother. Her brother, who everyone thinks they are cousins, helps her away from a particularly handsy client. The next day she is confronted by two Angel Aux members (essentially military or police), who tell her that the client from the night before was dead in the same way that Danika died. Micha, Governor and Arch Angel of their city and region, puts Bryce and Hunt, known as The Shadow of Death, on the case to find out who did it. Its supposed to be on the hush hush. That doesn’t last for long as Bryce starts making a list of suspects as Hunt demands, and she goes to her brother Ruhn. He was tasked with finding Luna’s Horn that was stollen two years ago, by their father. She then goes to the Viper Queen in the Meat Market to get black salts and learn more on who. After a lot of soul searching and flirting with Hunt, Ruhn, Hunt, and Bryce are teamed up to find more. Ruhn realizing what the demon is, from histories, and that it is connected to the horn. They are searching for two people, the killer and the one with the horn. The woman who killed Hunt’s love, freaks him out and Bryce helps him. Ruhn and Bryce’s backstory is revealed a bit. Hunt sees an Oracle who tells Hunt that Bryce has a terrible future and to stay way (which Bryce already knew). They learn more about each other. Then Bryce has a panic attack and Hunt helps her, after shooting and seeing him not balk at her skills. Bryce learns how much Hunt loved Shahar, and she knows that he won’t like her. They run into Sabine, Danika’s mother, who demands the sword back and learn from one of Ruhn’s friends that Sabine may have messed with the recording of the night the Horn was stolen.
Hunt and Bryce debate if Sabine killed her own daughter. They go to confront Sabine who tells them that she did no such thing. Before seeing her, they run into someone who hated her because of what she did to Connor before he died. Ruhn talks to a medwitch who tells him about drug that could possibly heal the horn. Hunt gets attacked by the demon, and they have to save him and they realize that the demon that attacked him is not the same demon that attacked Danika. After talking to the mer, they find out that the creature’s venom is related to the Mer. Bryce and Hunt speak to a demon Aidas, who is the Prince of the Chasm (layer 5 of hell) and he tells them to investigate things they didn’t before. Doing so, they realize the drug, synth, was related to Danika’s death. Also they find out that she was selling the drug. The drug is made in the lab of Bryce’s ex bf, Reid. Sabine threatens them to stay away and that Danika is suffering in the afterlife because Bryce traded her place in the afterlife for Danika to get across. On Danika’s birthday, she is harassed by the wolves and Hunt threatens them. After speaking with her parents and Hunt, Bryce finally gets her scar healed, and research can be put into the synth antidote. Sabine retaliates from Hunt’s earlier threat and makes Micah cut off Hunt’s wings. Bryce and Hunt get all hot and steamy, but stop when he gets hurt due to his wounds. This entire time, Ruhn and Bryce’s relationship is getting better. Bryce finds out that Danika held a set of files in a flashback, and put it in her jacket. It shows that it is people taking Synth that destroyed Danika. She tells Hunt and he tells her to drop it. The Mer guy, Tharion, tells Bryce about another deal and she goes to investigate without telling Ruhn or Hunt about it and stumbles upon a bust where Hunt is buying Synth. Essentially he and two others are trying to buy it and are accused of wanting it to fight back against Micah. Hunt reveals that Danika was addicted to the drug, and that she had taken it and she was the one that killed Connor and the others. She is suffering in the afterlife because of what she did. Hunt knew for a while and didn’t tell Bryce. Bryce is betrayed and abandons him to the others. She finds from Ruhn that Hunt is alive but the other two are suffering deaths unlike any other.
Hunt had planned to use the drugs and take down Micah since he killed the three drug lords (earlier in the book). He did it to take life into his own hands, but after being with Bryce, he had decided not to and to stop it all but was too late. Hunt is tortured with the pictures of him and Bryce and truly seeing them fall in love. He then finds out he is being sold again. Bryce tries to bargain for his freedom and fails. Everyone finds out she is the Autumn King, Fae King’s, daughter. That night she is attacked by a demon. At the summit, the leaders gather together and Hunt is now in his new position, hating life. Bryce gets a package from the Medwitch, who is actually the Queen of Witches, with the antidote to the synth. Micah leaves the summit (sabotaging all their stuff) and goes to Bryce. She makes Jesiba turn it on the feeds at the summit, and so everyone is watching what she is going through. Micah reveals that he was behind everything, wanting to become a god and open the portals himself. Danika was trying to stop him, and he killed her for it (or injected her with the Synth and she killed her friends). He found out that Danika melted down the horn, made it into ink, and had it tattooed onto Bryces back. Micah is going to use her bloodline to activate the horn, and injects her with the synth to heal the horn. They fight and he tries to activate the horn. Bryce is able to fight him off for a moment and lock him in a bathroom. However he threw her pet chimera into a dangerous water pit with a dangerous creature, and Bryce gets him back but is injured. Lehabah, the slave fire sprite of the library, saves them and blasts open the water tank to give Bryce time. In that time Bryce drinks down the antidote to the synth effects (that would make her destroy herself), and grabbs riffle pieces and a bullet. She puts together the gun just in time to shot Micah. She then takes Danika’s sword she had hidden and destroys his body, then she sets it on fire, all in time for the aux to arrive seeing her vacuuming up the ashes. However, Micah was able to use the horn and gates have opened around the city. Demons are pouring out and it is chaos and no one can stop it. Bryce rushes to the human part of the city and Ithan, Connor’s little brother joins her with others. She is able to get him safe in a safe house but she is locked out. She calls Hunt tells him that she loves him and everyone else, and then she activates her starborn powers.
She, like her brother, has the powers. Unlike Ruhn, her’s are actually really powerful. She uses them to shut one gate. At the summit, they have watched all of this and Sandriel, evil ArcAngel who rebought Hunt and is the root of his trauma and hate, as told the gods everything and plans to kill Bryce. The Queen of Witches undoes Hunt’s slavery bindings, and he murders Sandriel with his newly released powers. (Note he is still a slave, but his powers are just unlocked). All the angels bow to him, their General returned, and he issues orders to save Bryce. They get there but the Asteri, gods, have sent war machines to kill the demons and Bryce. Hunt drops from the helicopter he was in, just in time to save her, but he’s now dying. Only knowing one thing to do, Bryce speaks into the gates and asks for anyone, anyone at all to help her make her Drop (they are kind of like whisper walls, where you can talk to anyone at a time). She says goodbye to Hunt, and Danika tells her to light it up, and Bryce Drops. Bryce drops to a power level greater than her father, un heard of and done because she is doing it while at the gate. She is getting the magic gifts given to the gate as she drops. She and Danika speak and Danika helps Bryce Ascend, essentially vanishing the last bit of her soul that remained after what happened to her. In the living world, Bryce’s drop created a firstlight powerful enough to shut all the gates and to heal the entire city. Hunt is performing CPR on Bryce to keep her heart beating as she races to life 0.003 from death. She makes it and they are save. She and Hunt go back to her house, and after being interrupted by Bryce’s mom, Hunt goes to help Isaiah out with the Angels. Bryce gets a call from an Asteri’s Hand, Rigelus. The Asteri have freed Hunt from Slavery. Ruhn and Bryce talk and cry. Others swear to Bryce that they have her back. Bryce says her final goodbyes to the Pack of Devils and erases their messages. She sees them across the river thanks to a revealing of the mists for a moment, and goes home.
Epilogue: Jesiba speaks with Aidas about the events. They speak of someone named Theia who was killed by the Fae prince Pelias. “It is still a a song in my blood.” Aidas says, and I’m interested in what that means. Hunt’s father was never revealed but Jesiba knows him best, although the both do. Additionally, something was in Jesiba’s library was moved (the library that had ancient texts proving the Asteri weren’t all powerful).
What I Liked:
Bryce Quinlan; I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about Bryce. For the most part I liked her. I thought her reaction to things and the way she developed to be interesting, but something about her threw me off. I’m not sure what it was exactly, but in general it wasn’t bad enough that it bothered me. The most of the book Bryce, I did appreciate for exploring her trauma and her relationship with Danika. However Bryce in the final act of the book, sign me UP. She shoots, then chops, then ignites, and cleans the mess UP. (If you didn’t read the plot synopsis and haven’t read the book, that really won’t make sense to you). And then this girl DROPS on her own? I was here for it. I’m interested to see where she goes from here.
Orion (Hunter) “Hunt” Athalar; Learning about him was a list of things. I had to write it down or else I was afraid that I’d forget. Little did I know how big those details would be later on. He’s a rebellion leader, a complete and total badass, who is called the shadow of death. I liked Hunt’s backstory so much. As a person I was like, he’s cool (I suppose??), but his backstory was the best part for me. I am interested to know what he continues to grow into. In many ways I really hope he dismantles the system in place. However as a character I do hope he grows a lot more.
Danika; I really did like her. It broke my heart when she died, terribly. I wasn’t the same as Bryce was not the same. Because it was horrifying. I loved seeing her memories and trying to understand her as the story progresses. Her relationship with Bryce was EVERYTHING. I think she also got the most development over most of the characters.
Rahn Danaan; The crown prince of the fae and Bryce’s brother. I really liked him, I think, the best. I like the balance he had to play from where he was and his connections to everyone. I am most interested in his story going forward.
Isaiah Tiberian; Commander of 33rd and The Umbra Mortis, a former soldier under Hunt. He was funny. I liked him.
Lehabah; I CRY. She was so sassy and cute and her death was just so tear worthy. I teared up but didn’t cry.
Ember Quinlan and Randall Silago; These parents are badasses, and they made their daughter into something fierce. Even if something about Bryce really infuriates me, her parents are still amazing.
Connor Holstrom; AHHHH my heart breaks. I also liked him. I think he and Bryce would have worked so well together before he died. I wanted so much more of him.
Queen Hypaxia; Healer Queen witch perfection. I can not WAIT to see how she develops in the next few books. She came in with answers and power to back her. I love.
Micah Domitus; I really didn’t see his twist coming. I probably should have, but I didn’t. As a person I did like him at first, but by the end I was like. Oh. Great. His death tho? Epic.
Sabine; She’s a complicated character that I also want to see more of. She’s rude and pretty horrible, but I think she has her reasons.
Jesiba; Perhaps the most mysterious character of the series. I know that she is going to be the big person the story revolves around based specifically on the end. Also she has a library, so I love.
Sandriel; I hated her, and I hated her because she was written to be horrifying. So that was great.
Pollux Antonius; I also hated him, although I do wish I got more to see why I should hate him.
Tristan Flynn and Declan Emmet; These two were so adorable. hahaha it was so great to have them
Fury Axtar; I’m so confused by so much about her, however I figure she’ll have a bigger part later on and I’m here for it.
Juniper; She’s cute. I like her.
World Building; So the first 200 pages or so of this book are thick world building. Once you get past that point, everything you learned in those first 200 pages is there throughout. It is a LOT. It is so MUCH. However, it is necessary for the rest of the book. I’m not sure I know exactly how everything works in this world but I do have a good idea. Essentially there are city states around the world. These city states are run by a council who listen to a higher council that rules over all the city-states. These city-state councils are run by the leader of each major house. The houses are divisions of citizenship who worship a particular god. If you are not in a house, essentially you are a second class citizen or a slave. The only way to be in a house is by birth, or being let in through a rigorous process. You can also switch houses in specific cases. Years ago there was a rebellion of an angel going against the system of oppression and she lost. All her followers were enslaved. Half bloods must be confirmed by their parents to have status in the world. And then there is magic.
Magic System; The magic system in this book is a little complicated. I’m going to try to explain it as easily as I can. Essentially, all of the races (but humans) have magic. This magic has a reading, a level (you can say) that shows just how much power they will be able to use and what they’ll be able to do. All people can be tested for this. However, it is not until they go through a process called The Drop, where they’ll be able to use it all. Most can only do a few paltry tricks and maybe a bit more depending on how strong they are. The stronger you are meant to be, the stronger you are before your Drop. Next, after the Drop, a person is essentially immortal. They will regrow unless completely destroyed. Its really hard to kill them. The Drop is the process of falling into one’s power all the way down to the base where your heart then stops. You then have a set time limit to go from the base of your power (the deepest point of your power) and to rise back up to the living world. Its a mental battle of sorts. You have to face yourself and a lot of other stuff. All of this can be read and tracked by professionals and machines. When going through the Drop a person will give off a Firstlight, which is basically like an umbilical chord but just a magic energy variant. (If you didn’t know, umbilical chords have a lot of information that is beneficial to biology and chemistry, and are used to help advance sciences.) In order to rise back from The Drop, someone has to be tethered by an outside force, to bring them back to the living. Once they wake back up, they are then in their full power and can use it as such. I’m not too sure yet what all is entailed in the magic itself, but the process of getting it, is so interesting.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Note that the book pages are like bible pages, aka super thin. I think I would have rather had a thicker book with normal thickness pages. I just felt like I was going to rip them at all times.
The murder mystery was also just meh to me. I was okay with it, but I really didn’t care much to it.
There was one person in the club who really hated the book. But other than her, most of the rest of us really loved it. From this point on, most of these thoughts as “we” are for those of us who loved it.
We all really liked it. We also lit candles for Lehabah. We talked about a lot of the book. We made comments on how Sarah J. Maas is probably going to change male leads and we all rolled our eyes. We did conclude that the first third of the book is really dense for world building, but once you get through it, things do change. And we all really loved the ending in terms of fighting.
For those who disliked it, their reasons were mostly that the real plot only came at the end. Other problems included the shaming of women (which is when I realized that was what I had an issue with Bryce about). Additionally, the way some of the world building was given was too tell not enough show.
“Alpha-holes” in general, seemed to be a complain. Also the use of male/female was frustrating for everyone.
“You look how I feel… everyday.” – pg 501
“I never realized it… that you and I are mirrors.” – pg 556
“My friends are with me and I am not afraid.” -pg 703
“That’s the point of it, Bryce. Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow. It makes everything that much more precious.” – pg 772-773