The only books I’ve read from Maas are those in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and even those were very recent reads for me. In comparison to those, Crescent City is pretty wildly different while still delivering the plucky, surly, fallible heroine archetype and sultry, multifaceted, misunderstood love interest they’ve come to expect from her work. While the world building was excessive and clunky, the addition of an intriguing murder mystery kept me interested enough to keep reading. I’m glad I did because, though this book had some issues, the back half made it very much worth reading.
The story itself: great. The info-dumping: not so much. Also, so many incredibly stupid decisions are made. Repeatedly. Like, people just don’t learn from their own actions. Do they still end up being epic? Yep. Do I root for them? Absolutely. But I just wanted to shake sense into multiple characters multiple times. Dumb decisions that characters don’t seem to really even learn from drive me nuts.
Bryce, our main protagonist, is nowhere near perfect. She has a ton of faults and failings. But those serve to make her stronger in my mind, more interesting and sympathetic and multifaceted than she could’ve been without them. She reminded me some of Nesta, but with self-denial replacing self-destruction. While I can see why some readers weren’t her biggest fan, I think rooting for Bryce felt like a very natural progression for those who grew to love Nesta. I also enjoyed the inclusion of Hunt as a second perspective character, and am interested to see where the story takes the two of them.
But why did Maas name this world Midgard? Is there is link to Norse mythology that hasn’t been revealed yet? If not, then the Midgard name and the frequent use of Hel as an in-world curse feels incredibly lazy. However, I did like seeing basically every magical entity ever imagined coexisting relatively peacefully in one world, and I appreciated the undercurrent of bigotry and classism Maas revealed as the book progressed. That inclusion made the world feel far more likely, if not realistic. My favorite tiny detail was the addition of messenger otters. They’re wholly unmagical and absolutely adorable.
The last 250 pages or so were INSANE. And yes, those caps are needed. By the end of the book, my skin actually hurt from having chills for so long. I cried more than once, which I absolutely didn’t expect from this book seeing as I didn’t initially feel much of a connection. Brandon Sanderson enthusiasts refer to the final, prolonged, brilliant climaxes of his novels as the Sanderlanche. I honestly think Maas does something very similar in this book. A Maas-valanche, if you will. While I do think that the book could have been trimmed down by a couple of hundred pages and benefited greatly from the inclusion of an index in place of some of the info-dumping, the huge buildup and climax made even those elements worth it.
I kind of hate me a villain monologue. I find them incredibly cheesy. But the way this one was done, with so many characters watching on in horror with no way to intervene, provided enough tension for me to suspend my distaste and disbelief and become deeply invested in the play-by-play. I also dislike Mary Sue protagonists but, when said protagonist did not start out all powerful but in some way worked hard and paid for that power, I’m all in. There were high stakes, and even some losses, but somehow this still delivered a bit of a fairytale ending. Which makes me hesitant to pick up the next book, as I’m sure everything that resolved here gets blown all to pieces.
Overall, House of Earth and Blood is not an instant favorite for me, but I can see why it’s popular. It’s also the type of book I can see myself not only rereading but potentially enjoying more on a revisit. I’m definitely interested in seeing where the Crescent City series goes from here, but I’m not in a huge hurry to find out.