While I maybe didn’t have the best luck with life in 2022, I did have some good luck with books. The House in the Cerulean Sea is one of those books you don’t realize you need until you pick it up and find yourself smiling despite yourself. It’s quirky, a little weird, and wildly original.
Linus Baker is quite bored, even if he doesn’t quite realize it. He lives alone with a cat who begrudgingly tolerates him in exchange for periodic sustenance, hates his job as a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth which he is, unfortunately, very good at, and derives pleasure only from his collection of old records. When Linus is sent to evaluate an orphanage on a remote island where the most dangerous children are being kept, he is thrust into a world of secrets and enchantments that will change his life in a number of ways. And he might just find precisely what he didn’t know he was looking for in the first place.
To say this book is a breath of fresh air would be putting it mildly. It’s full of the most delightful characters, each of which is unique and lovely in their own way. The atmosphere of the book, the beautiful island and the haunting old house with all its charms, and even the town with its eclectic mix of humans, is utterly captivating. This is one of those books you’ll want to imagine in vibrant color and intricate detail. Klune manages through expert writing to paint vivid and beautiful images that will stick with you for some time.
On the surface, this seems like a feel good novel about friendship, but it’s also so much more than that. Mixed among the humor and captivating fantasy elements is more than a smattering of depth. This novel explores real-world issues through fantasy in a way that’s both powerful and enjoyable. You’ll find yourself contemplating prejudice, morality, and the line between good and evil. What makes one evil? Is a person evil simply because we say they are? Is it wrapped up solely in nature, or is there a driving force behind the descent into darkness that’s rooted in rejection and fear of someone or something who is different? Can this concept be challenged by opening our hearts and our minds? And what’s the point in which prejudice is so ingrained it can’t be changed, if ever? I absolutely love when I find a book that is this enjoyable that can cause me to contemplate such subjects so deeply. Klune made me laugh and made me think, and that’s a testament to his skill. He’s a natural story-teller, and this book is simply delightful. Oh, and the sweet love story brings on some serious tingles.
Published March 17, 2020 by Tor Books. ISBN 1250264294. Runtime 12 hrs, 12 mins. Narrated by Daniel Henning.