Okay, everyone who’s read any reviews I’ve written lately probably already knows that I am a HUGE Sarah J. Maas fan. It all started when I encountered the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, picking it up on an absolute whim when I was at the bookstore one day. It was my first proper foray into the fantasy genre, and I really thought I wouldn’t like it all that much…but by the end of the novel I was, to put it mildly, OBSESSED. I devoured the entire ACOTAR series (and have since read ACOMAF three times over!) and I delved a year later into Maas’ first series, Throne of Glass. That one started a bit rocky for me, but again, by the conclusion, I was a loyal fan of Aelin and her court, and consequently, a true Maas lover.
When I found out Sarah J. Maas was releasing her first “adult” fantasy novel this year, it immediately climbed to the top of my To-Read List. I preordered it as soon as it was available on my bookstore’s website, and when it came in the mail last week, I couldn’t rush to my mailbox fast enough. (I can’t say it was easy to make it back upstairs to my home with both this massive book and my 5-month old in my arms, but I somehow managed…where there’s a will, there’s a way…haha!) The thing is, I had no idea what to expect from this entirely new series and story, and I was both nervous and excited.
Now, more than a week later, my thoughts are all over the place. I adored House of Earth and Blood by the final (799th!) page…but I didn’t fall in love with it at first sight. Like Throne of Glass before it, and similarly to ACOTAR in many ways, it took me a little bit to get into this new world and cast of characters. Honestly, I wouldn’t say that I found my groove until around 400 pages in, which is a big commitment to make, especially if you’re not already a fan of Maas’ catalogue. I certainly wouldn’t recommend picking this up as you first encounter with Maas’ writing, but if you are a fan of hers, I do think House of Earth and Blood is a book you will really grow to appreciate. It is full of information that is really hard to digest at first (tbh, I still think I don’t understand 100% of the setting or magic system), but it is definitely worth slogging through some of the info dumps and letting the characters grow on you. There is remarkable pay-off at the end, let me tell you.
This review will be approximately 2.5 billion words long if I don’t condense it somehow, so I want to briefly focus on two of my favourite aspects of House of Earth and Blood that I believe Maas treated particularly well.
“And though the path she’d been thrust onto was royally fucked, and had led her through the lightless halls of grief and despair…Here, here before her, was light. True light. What she’d raced toward during the Ascent.”
Ever since reading ACOTAR, I have felt that Sarah J. Maas handles trauma, depression and anxiety better than most authors out there in this day and age. As someone who suffers from severe anxiety myself and recently went through a very rough bout with postpartum anxiety and depression, I sincerely appreciate how delicately but realistically Maas portrays PTSD in her characters. Feyre and Aelin certainly go through their share of horrific events and are permanently changed by them, and Bryce of House of Earth and Blood is similarly afflicted. From only a few chapters in, we learn how resilient but also damaged Bryce is, and her entire character is centred on her experiences in the start of the novel. Sure, Maas’ characters don’t always handle their anxiety and depression in the exact same way that I would (they are decidedly more sassy, haha!), but they are extremely real and human, and it is touching to behold. I personally have found strength in thinking about Feyre and Aelin during my darkest times, and Bryce will be added to my list as a literary idol.
I also sincerely appreciate the way Maas portrays the struggle with anxiety and depression in male characters. This is most notable in characters like Rhysand (*sigh*) and Rowan, and Hunt Athalar is another hero who is largely in turmoil but is still able to emerge with grace and light.
I was almost brought to tears on a few occasions while reading about the characters’ internal battles – one scene in particular, when Bryce undergoes a very painful procedure on her leg while Hunt supports her reminded me very much of my experiences during my emergency C-section, and I think the way Maas described the unspoken bond between these two characters was moving and poignant.
What can I say, Maas is an expert at creating characters that just jump off of the page and straight into your heart and those in House of Earth and Blood are no exception.
“‘That’s the point, Bryce. Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow. It makes everything that much more precious.’”
House of Earth and Blood feels wholly different from ACOTAR and Throne of Glass, to me, because of its focus on friendship over romantic interaction. Indeed, Bryce and Hunt’s relationship is firmly platonic for much of the novel, and this is a refreshing departure from the steamy and sexy relationships between Feyre and Rhysand and Aelin and Rowan. Having said that, even when Bryce and Hunt start to get, as they themselves say, “hot and bothered”, their love takes a backseat to the all-encompassing friendship between Danika and Bryce.
This was surprisingly fitting for me because my best friend of over 18 years and I actually decided to take the plunge and get matching BFF tattoos this past weekend. Ironically, we chose sun and moon symbols for our tattoos, and mine is a crescent moon…coincidence?
I did literally tear up as I read about Danika and Bryce’s encounter at the end of the story, it was truly that moving. I was so easily able to picture my best friend and me in the same position, and I knew that we would act in just the same way because there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other. I’ve learned the hard way recently that sometimes friendships that you really think are going to be forever don’t always withstand life’s toughest tests, and it was a breath of fresh air to read a novel by Maas that emphasized the strength between two females who have weathered many storms together and emerged even more connected. Although Maas has definitely touched on that in her other books, Danika and Bryce’s relationship far surpassed anything she’s written before in the way of female friendship. Not only did Bryce grow on her own journey and with her lover, Hunt, she also grew because of her experiences with Danika and Danika’s constant presence in her life, and this was really touching. Even when their relationship seemed rocky, it was still somehow so firm, and it ultimately did conquer all, which was beautiful to behold.
Somehow this review did end up being super long, despite my best efforts…but sometimes I just can’t help myself. House of Earth and Blood is just plain good, and if you like Sarah J. Maas, I’m confident you’ll come out liking this read. One thing I will say, though, is other than a bit more swearing, it didn’t seem that much more adult than ACOTAR or Throne of Glass…just the right amount of sizzle and suspense without being too crass…utterly perfect if you ask me! 😉
Can’t wait to read everyone’s thoughts on it! ❤
❥❥❥❥❥ (out of 5)
Girl with a Green Heart