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.
“Change often starts with the smallest of whispers. Like-minded people building it up to a roar.”
Have you ever read a book where each line makes you feel like you’re being wrapped in a warm hug? If not then I insist you read this book immediately. I can’t tell you how much I needed this book in my life. This book filled with found families, a slow burn m/m romance where they’re both idiots in love, and a cast of characters that have no trouble pulling on every single heart string. I defy you reading this to not get emotionally invested, in fact I would go to say it is virtually impossible. It’s a rare book where you finish it & instantly want to re-read, but I honestly think this is one book I could read every day and never get bored of it. The story and characters are equally well built, and while the story took me on an emotional and wild ride, it is the characters that will stay with me for the longest.
“Regardless of what else he is, he is still a child, as they all are. And don’t all children deserve to be protected? To be loved and nurtured so that they may grow and shape the world to make it a better place? In that way, they are no different than any other child in the village, or beyond. But they’re told they are, by people such as yourselves, and people who govern them and our world. People who put rules and restrictions in place to keep them separated and isolated. I don’t know what it will take to change that, if anything. But it won’t start at the top. It’ll start with us.”
Linus Baker is a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He lives his life by the Rules and Regulations set out by DICOMY, traipsing from orphanage to orphanage checking all is up to standard and never getting too invested in the children. His life is quite mundane, until he gets a request from Extremely Upper Management and is sent to an Island to discern whether an ‘Orphanage’ with incredibly powerful children should be allowed to stay open. Linus is wary, especially when he finds out one of the children is the Antichrist… though he prefers to go by Lucy. But what he finds on the Island isn’t an orphanage full of weird and wonderful children, it’s a home run by the most incredible man who makes these children feel loved, despite their differences. Spending a month on the Island sounds daunting at first, but Linus comes to realise that life cannot always be lived by the Rules and Regulations, and that throwing the rule book away might just open him up to a world of possibility filled with love and just maybe, a family.
Lucy, The Antichrist is your normal 6 year old child, if your normal 6 year old child can boil the blood of humans and send them to a world of perpetual dark (which he threatens to do on far too many occasions) but really, his bark is worse than his bite. He loves music, especially music by dead performers – it’s not weird he has a thing with death, he is literally the spawn of Lucifer – and would be happy to spend his days singing along to his records, helping Ms Chapelwhite in the Kitchen and leading the other children on daring adventures filled with Cannibals (not real) and talking trees ( most definitely real).
Chauncey is, well no one really knows. Green and gooey with suction cups for hands, he has spent his life believing he is the monster under the bed, that he should be feared, not liked. His one goal in life? To be the best Bellhop there has ever been, he spends his days lifting luggage, doing laundry, practising for a job that will more than likely never come to pass. But who are we to dispel his dreams. Linus is initially wary of the young boy washing his unmentionables, but quickly gets used to being asked for a tip, even if Chauncey was simply nice to him.
Theodore is a Wyvern, one of the last few alive. Yet to grow into his wings, he spends his days tripping over himself in his excitement to get places. He may not speak as we know it, but he has a language all of his own and can communicate with the others through chirps and chirrups. He spends his day guarding his hoard, the latest instalment to which is a shiny brass button given by no other than Linus Baker himself.
Sal is a Were-Pomeranian (yes you read that right) whose bite is most definitely worse than his bark. If you want a character who will pull at your heartstrings then look no further. Bounced between 12 homes, never fitting in anywhere, Sal is incredibly shy and in fact the first time he meets Linus gets that scared that he shifts. He is wary of everybody, except the people he now views as family, but especially of Linus because he is the one person who can take his home away from him. Sal may be one of the more human looking of the bunch but if asked, he would quite happily live out his life on the Island.
Talia is a Gnome. She spends her days out in her Garden, which she is incredibly proud of, and is excited when Linus turns up because an uninvited visitor means human fertiliser, and she hasn’t tried that out yet (shes joking… mostly.)For someone so small she packs a punch. She may seem brave and bold, but underneath she is simply a child who has nowhere else to go. A child that finally feels accepted on the Island, with these people she views as family.
Phee is a Sprite, and an incredibly powerful one at that. After having to watch her mother die, and turning the men who came to take her into trees (they were fine, don’t worry) she finally feels at home here. On the Island she can hone her skills, grow trees, make flowers bloom, and she thrives under the tutelage of Ms chapelwhite.
Zoe, Ms Chapelwhite is an Island Sprite, in fact Marsyas Island is hers and so Linus is incredibly happy when he realises she invited him in … otherwise the outcome may have been slightly more dire. She has spent her life since the orphanage opened looking after the children, making sure they are fed, travelling to the mainland to pick up supplies as well as surprising guests. The children are like family to her, and she would do anything to protect them.
Arthur Parnassus is the owner of the orphanage and to Linus, a bit of a conundrum. He has never met a ‘master’ who teaches his children like Arthur. Allowing them time for their own pursuits, taking them on adventures through the Island. Linus is sure that Arthur has never read the rules and regulations once in his life, but the more time he spends on the Island, the more he realises that with these children, there is no other way to do it. Arthur is spry and gangly with a constant twinkle in his eye, something that Linus spends far too much time trying not to notice. But he is also the children’s father, if not by blood then by circumstance and he will do everything in his power to ensure their safety.
“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.”
The interactions between all the children and Linus make for some hilarious as well as heartwarming scenes. Seeing him at the start, terrified of them all, adamant that Lucy or Talia were going to off him when Arthur’s back was turned, and then watching him grow to like them, love them even. He switches from scared stranger to protective dad mode easily, and I loved how the author spent the time showing us how he bonded with them all. Giving us little, beautifully written scenes where he becomes accepted and also learns to accept the children as they are. He has been almost brainwashed into believing that caring is a weakness, told all his life to put a professional distance between himself and the children he is sent to look over, something he has done so well in the past. But once he realises his mistake, he also realises that there must be an ulterior motive as to why Extremely Upper Management sent him here, and he becomes determined to work it out so he can ensure the safety of all residents of the Island.
“Linus. I heard you had quite the adventure.” “Indeed. A bit out of my comfort zone.” “I expect that’s how most explorers feel when they step out of the only world they know for the first time.”
The House in the Cerulean Sea, delves into some hard hitting topics, but with a levity that allows you to truly embrace the story without feeling like you are being preached too. One of the things (amongst so many) that I loved was how it showed the absolute trust and acceptance that only children show. Yes the Children were wary when Linus first came to the Island, especially seeing as he is the one person who can rip their home apart. But as they grew to know him, and he them, bonds were formed and the children learned to place their trust in the strange man. As well as this we see how the children are treated on the mainland, the ‘normal’ children see nothing wrong with them, happy to wave, smile and interact. But it also shows us the opposite, the prejudice and dislike of adults when it comes to somebody different. These kids have been gawked at and feared, simply for being a little different, and seeing them thrive with Arthur, seeing them feel like they belong not just in a place but as part of something bigger, as part of a family. I defy anyone to not get overly attached to them all, even the ones who threaten to kill you more often than not, yes Lucy and Talia… I am talking to you.
“You’re too precious to put into words. I think … it’s like one of Theodore’s buttons. If you asked him why he cared about them so, he would tell you it’s because they exist at all.”
If you love a good slow burn centred around two absolute idiots who can’t express their feelings even though EVERYONE knows they love each other, then I can guarantee you will love this book. I adored the scenes between Linus and Arthur, sometimes angst filled and other times just plain old secret glances and knowing smiles, understanding how it would end but enjoying the ride nonetheless. But the main bonds and love shown through this book has to be familial. It shows how family can grow in the strangest of places, with the strangest of people. Linus certainly never went to the Island with the intention of forming life long bonds ( I mean one of the children is the Antichrist for gods sake) but once he went there, met this wonderful bunch of children and the charming man who makes their orphanage a home, how could he not form a connection. It shows how blood isn’t always what makes a family and how impossible it is to leave somewhere you finally feel like you belong.
“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?”
I will admit to becoming an emotional wreck by the end of this book, which I’m sure surprises no body. I’m equally mad at myself for not listening to all my blogger friends who told me I would love this & picking it up sooner, and almost glad that I left it until now. The House in the Cerulean Sea is quirky and lovable and just flows with an ease that makes it almost impossible to put down. It is most certainly a book that will stick with me for a long time to come, and also a book that I will find myself returning too when I need cheering up. It sounds weird to say you belong in a book, but this book made me feel that way. It made me realise there is a place for me in this world, whether I’m different or normal. This review was seriously hard to write, and I still don’t feel I’ve done this incredible story justice, so just read it. Read it if you’re a loner, someone who doesn’t feel like they fit in, someone a little ‘different’, or some as normal as can be. I can grantee you will not be disappointed.