The House in the Cerulean Sea

by T. J. Klune

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 take

I’d heard this book described as a warm hug, or something similar, and that was what I needed after reading The Book of Accidents. I’d been thinking about how there aren’t many love stories with mature adults when lo and behold … It was wonderful watching Linus grow and bloom and come out of his shell. And it was never said whether Linus had any magical powers. A quiet, charming book about how small actions can make a big difference in a person’s life.

Then I looked at Goodreads because I couldn’t recall the main character’s name, and discovered that there’s a HUGE controversy about this book since it was supposedly inspired by the indigenous schools scandal in Canada. Someone gave the book a one star review for that reason alone. I eventually found the original author take on it here on John Scalzi’s blog. Yes, everything is political but it’s okay, even necessary, to have stories about making small changes. Not everything has to be giant, heroic, end of the world.

Coincidentally, that same day I read a review on Amazon (of a completely different book and author) where a reviewer gave a 3 star review and couldn’t recommend a book because of two sentences mentioning a rightwing radio talk show yet said nothing slamming the left. Sigh. Without reading the whole book, I personally thought those two sentences said a lot about the two characters quite succinctly.