I didn't expect this level of over-detail and I didn't expect this level of world-building complexity. This was one dense, richly-developed world...in one (arguably) too long book. In honor of how freaking long this book was, my review is literally massive.
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Climax: ★★★★★ million freaking stars
Character development: ★★★★
Enjoyment: literally both ★★ and ★★★★★
(Read the blurb if you want to know the basics, this is a reaction review!)
So I've read and obsessed over Maas' other two series. I was primed to love this. I was ready for the angst and the drama. House of Earth and Blood was so not what I was expecting—in a really refreshing way, even if I didn't like parts of it.
It's really clear that this book was trying to distinguish itself from the author's previous works. The focus on drugs, sex as an outlet, trauma, death, and depression is on the immediate surface, and the insistence on character strengths felt like direct comparisons (or, honestly, "anti" comparisons) to other Maas characters.
This is a story that takes its time, and it doesn't give one crap about how you feel about it.
Was it too long? ...WOW, yes. This tome could have easily been a shorter novel. Scenes dragged, story arcs stagnated in the middle with filler content, and some things that were clearly meant to be character development felt like wasted space because it was just. too. much. A girl can only take so many hundred pages of investigation and undercover angst. (I'm sorry, Maas, I love you, but that needs to be said.)
The level of detail was oddly necessary. This world is SO complex, SO detailed, and obviously part of a larger concept. The new terms and sense of hierarchy alone were extremely confusing at the beginning, so I was happy to receive the paragraphs of detail. To be honest, if there had been more PLOT in the first half I would have said, hey, why didn't we hack this into two separate books? Easier doses, easier tomes to hold in your hand. (My wrists hurt now, this was so heavy!)
Ok, on to the world. I loved this universe. It feels like the perfect blend of paranormal, urban, high-fantasy, and noir. We've got levels of power, a crooked ruling class, angels, demons, oracles, Fae, lesser fae, sphyinx, mermaids, werewolves, shifters, vampires, undead, witches, humans, sharpshooters, wraiths, murders, side plots, fallen heroes, undercover drug operations, modern technology, burgers and fries, encrypted flash drives...
Overwhelmed? Yeah, same. (But it was awesome.)
So the two main characters. Bryce, the demi-Fae/human woman with no powers of her own but a LOT of rage. Hunt, the fallen angel with lightning abilities sold into slavery to the ruling Archangels.
I loved Bryce. I understood her, was interested in her motivations, and really enjoyed watching her character grow and morph through what felt like years of my life (god, such a long book. I can't say that enough.)
But Hunt... not so much. This was definitely a "me" problem, but I didn't really care about him. As he's half of the POV and meant to be the dreamy love interest, this sucked. I wanted to be swept away by a new version of a Maas male character—with hopefully less problematic pieces, but still—and instead I got an angel that I didn't know what to do with and didn't feel any draw towards. I just...didn't find him interesting. And so Bryce's fascination with him was boring. Etc. There is one VERY memorable turnaround for Hunt near the end, but I'm not sure I can forgive 75% of the story for extremely bland crap just because the last 25% made Hunt worth caring about. Is that just me?
But, despite all of the above that makes it sound like I didn't love this...I loved this. The last 100 pages made me gasp, ugly-cry, rage, gape, scream, weep softly, and ultimately toss the book to the side and go "damn" softly to myself. It was AMAZING. It was EPIC. It set us up perfectly for the NEXT ONE. It was absolutely worth the wait and made me forget the book's earlier frustrations. This kind of ending is just too fun to read to rate less than 5 stars. (At least for me.)
Just...maybe not so long next time? Please.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.