House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
By Sarah J. Maas
Originally Published March 3rd, 2020
Multi-POV, Third Person
The first half of Maas's long awaited step into "ADULT" fantasy promised a fresh and new voice within the Urban Fantasy genre, but the second half devolved back into Maas’s typical writing.
It’s a good thing I enjoy Maas's writing and storytelling to begin with or else I would be even more disappointed than I currently am. It's a giantess of a book, over 800 pages and the audiobook over 27 hours. I feel the only reason I got through the book at all was because A) It's Maas, and B) I could speed the audiobook up while listening. The first hundred pages are a convoluted hodgepodge of data overload for the reader, resulting in totally giving up trying to remember ANYTHING that is told to us. Still, Maas does what she does best in those pages, develop a liking to the heroine in a classic Maas book--a strong but damaged, independent yet sensitive MC. For the most part, Bryce was very likable and one of the strengths of the book, which was a good thing since, ya know, she's the main character. The next couple hundred pages plays out like a typical Urban Fantasy book, which I LOVED. It's no secret that Urban Fantasy is my all-time favorite genre and I really did think Maas was going into new and fresh territory with her book . . . there's a mystery, there's sleuthing, there's decent world building and witty banter . . . and then everything kind of slips.
The next chunk of the book, the biggest chunk, the book devolves into completely character-driven storytelling instead of the plot-driven pace we had the first half. The change is strange, unwaranted, and not welcome. The story loses its sense of urgency and instead turns into a classic YA/NA Maas book centered around two of the characters falling in love. Never mind the stakes that were originally set are completely pushed to the wayside and every scene seemed to be solely FOR THE PLOT instead of in line with previous character development. And let's talk about the character development: Bryce is a well rounded character, for the first half of the book, if you can get over every single character in the book wanting to sleep with her. Once the romance became the forefront of the story, she turns against everything we know her to be, going as far as to try and literally sell herself to a sadistic archangel to free Hunt (the love interest), whom she's known for about a week or so. Swell. Hunt himself was utterly disappointing and a waste of a character. It felt like Maas wanted to do what she always does with her male characters, make them uber powerful, super hot, and very deadly and dangerous. But then she was scared of doing that yet again in her new series so she pulled it back. Hunt is all those things, for sure, but we only get one single example of him being anything we are constantly TOLD he is. It was a horrid case of telling instead of showing. Shame.
My biggest problem with the book was the politics. I didn't buy a single thing the people in power were doing. This world is urban fantasy, set very much in a world with all the modern advancements of a first world country in the 21st century. However, the way the people in power operate and treat their SLAVES and HUMANS and populace in general is very much a third world country. There is no possible way their continents/cities would be what they are with how Maas has written this. There would be uprisings, rebellions, poverty, crime rates soaring . . . Slavery is an open and known thing--and everyone is okay with it. I believe Maas was trying to make a statement here, but she fell short for me. Yes, our world today still has slavery and still has its horrors. The difference is, unfortunately, it's not talked about, not discussed openly. Look at the state of the BLM movement today, we are finally talking about one artifice in the list of injustices of our country today, and we are having to fight for it, it's brutal. In Crescent City, these horrors aren't ignored, it's all an open affair and people are okay with their tyrannical and evil leaders. I simply DON'T BUY IT.
Really, nothing about this book felt different than Maas's other books in the end. I can’t decide if it’s because it still felt like her version of YA or if her version of YA is actually more adult to begin with. I’m thinking the later. It’s over 800 pages and could have either been two books or skimmed down dramatically. The world building was messy and thick, people rave about the last 200 pages because there is a lot of action--but that isn't what makes a good urban fantasy book, in my opinion, so it fell short for me.
Why three stars, then? Does it sound like I hated it? Not so, I did enjoy reading this hefty book, mostly because I simply enjoy Sarah J. Maas in general. Urban Fantasy, to me, is either phenomenally well done or blatantly mediocre. No in between. Either really good, or just bad. I can and will still read a bad Urban Fantasy book because it is my favorite form of escapism, I love everything UF has to offer in every book. The mystery, the monsters, the subtle (usually, not so much in this book) romance. So, overall Crescent City was a fun read even if I preferred the first couple hundred pages over the whole rest of the book.