WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
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.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
MY THOUGHTS (spoiler-free):
This book has been blurbed as “very close to perfect” and I can only agree wholeheartedly. It’s a gem of a story, one which not only made it to my top yearly favorites, but will undoubtedly be a favorite for many, many years to come and will definitely be re-read multiple times.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is like a ray of sunshine, a shot of serotonin and a warm hug combined. It’s magical, charming, quirky and diverse. It’s everything the world needs right now and here’s why:
The found family trope at its finest.
I’m a sucker for the found family trope, and this book has one of the most lovely found families ever. Our main character Linus is a case worker sent to a mysterious island to spend one month at an orphanage with 6 dangerous magical kids and their caretaker, Arthur, in order to judge if it should be closed or can stay open. During this time, he starts to care for the inhabitants and it. is. everything. They all just fit so well together and are such a wonderful family and then Linus comes and unexpectedly, he fits in perfectly! The way all those different kids are like brothers and sisters who have gone through so much and just want to be loved, the way Arthur would do anything to keep them safe and happy, the way island sprite Zoe is fiercely protective: my heart melted into a big puddle several times throughout the book.
The adorably quirky magical kids.
Every single one of these kids is precious and also none of them are what they seem. I want to rave about every single one of them and I originally started writing more about why I love them all but then I deleted it all again because I think it’s best if you discover them all together with Linus. Don’t worry, you will be endeared by them all, I have no doubt about it.
Linus Baker: awkward, quiet, wonderful man.
Linus is such a wonderful and original main character and his character arc is amazing. His life at the beginning of the book is very boring and quite lonely. He lives for his job, he’s a stickler for following the rules and all he does is stay home to listen to his records and talk to his cat (#relatable). But from the beginning, it’s also clear that he’s very caring and has a big heart. So it’s fun to see him going on this journey and get out of his comfort zone, while never changing his inner fierceness, passion and awesomeness.
The super soft and subtle m/m romance.
The romance blossoming between Linus and Arthur is the sweetest, softest slow burn and I loved it. Their every interaction is adorable and I especially loved when Arthur became more vocal and forward about his adoration, causing Linus to be an awkward, blushing, stumbling mess. That said, the romance never takes over the story, as it is a story about found family first and foremost. The romance is just the cherry on top.
The look at prejudice and stereotypes
In this world, magical creatures may live among humans, but they are feared. Even hated. The kids from the orphanage, as well as so many other magical children in this world, have to deal with so much prejudice. It has shaped their young lives and they are all healing in different ways. This story depicts it all and talks about hate, stereotypes and prejudice in a way that’s never preachy and makes you come out of it with a heart full of hope.
The humor: morbid, quirky AND endearing at the same time.
I love the kind of humor in this book. It’s a subtle kind of humor, found in the children’s interactions and personalities, in Linus’ awkwardness and internal monologue and in his interactions with everyone where he tries to be formal and proper and doesn’t always succeed. It’s a humor that’s precious and heartwarming and I love every quirky second of it.
Overall, this is just a modern fairy tale that is basically happiness in book format. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop raving about this book. I don’t think I want to stop raving about this book. I recommend it to absolutely everyone who wants to feel instant happiness. Also, I listened to this on audiobook and the narration is just perfect. 10/10 recommend.
“Humanity is so weird. If we’re not laughing, we’re crying or running for our lives because monsters are trying to eat us. And they don’t even have to be real monsters. They could be the ones we make up in our heads. Don’t you think that’s weird?”
“Hate is loud, but I think you’ll learn it’s because it’s only a few people shouting, desperate to be heard. You might not ever be able to change their minds, but so long as your remember you’re not alone, you will overcome.”
“A home isn’t always the house we live in. It’s also the people we choose to surround ourselves with. You may not live on the island, but you can’t tell me it’s not your home. Your bubble, Mr. Baker. It’s been popped. Why would you allow it to grow around you again?”
“Just because you don’t experience prejudice in your everyday doesn’t stop it from existing for the rest of us.”
“We get trapped in our own little bubbles, and even though the world is a wide and mysterious place, our bubbles keep us safe from that. To our detriment.” She sighed. “But it’s so easy because there’s something soothing about routine. Day in and day out, it’s always the same. When we’re shaken from that, when that bubble bursts, it can be hard to understand all that we’ve missed.”
“Zoe choked on a laugh. “Come on. Let’s leave the dumb adults to it. We absolutely will go inside and start dinner and not watch them through the windows.”
“Ooh,” Talia said. “I get it. Yes, let’s go watch—I mean, make dinner.”
“But guess what?”
“There was no treasure after all! It was a lie to get you here for your party!”
“Oh. I see. So the real treasure was the friendships we made along the way?”
“You guys are the worst,” Lucy muttered. “The literal worst.”