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.

The House in the Cerulean Sea in front of a purple trunk

This book has often been compared to the Harry Potter series, if only for the presence of magical beings. Protagonist Linus Baker is a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. It sounds like an interesting job, but in reality it is filled with stacks of paperwork and soul-sucking hours spent in a cramped office space with very specific rules and regulations. The highlight of Linus’s job is his trips to orphanages where he gets a chance to interview the children and inspect the facility for fitness. However, he soon learns that many children are afraid of case workers from the Department, with good reason. It is only when Linus is assigned to observe an orphanage located on a secluded island outside a small town that he begins to understand the long-term consequences of his job and his visits to orphanages.

The House in the Cerulean Sea can be compared to Harry Potter in that Mr. Parnassus reminds me of a young Dumbledore, but I would say the book is more akin to the movies for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s got the heart of those movies, the loveable characters, and the unlikely romance of course. Oh, and plenty of magical creatures to go around.

This book seems to be loved by many, but I didn’t fall in love with it nearly as much as I’d hoped. Linus is a likeable enough character, and Mr. Parnassus and every else at the Marsyas Island Orphanage are delightful. However, the pacing of the novel is rather slow, and I found myself debating whether I should set the book aside and come back to it another time. It’s a slow burn for sure, but if you’re willing to wade through the first 100 pages or so, it does get better. I think I would have been less disappointed with this book if it hadn’t been compared to Harry Potter.

I do, however, anticipate reading T.J. Klune’s next book, Under the Whispering Door, before I decide whether he’s an author I will continue to follow or if he’s one I will give up on. I will say, though, that the cover designs for both books are killing it, and they are a large part of why I wanted to read the book in the first place.

I fear I’ve given the book a bit of a bad rap by this point. The book was entertaining, and it’s a great work of fantasy writing, but the marketing for the book warped my perception of it and thus my expectations so that by the time I sat down to read it I had created an unrealistic expectation in my head that the book could never quite live up to.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

PUBLICATION DEETS: Tor Books, March 16, 2020, 396 pages

CATEGORIES: fantasy, fiction

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