First impressions: The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is one that is hard to apply when it comes to actual books. The cover art illustrated by Carlos Quevedo is gorgeous. Even if everything Sarah J. Maas published wasn’t automatically put onto my pre-order list, I would pick this book up based on its dust jacket alone. The hardcover underneath this jacket is white with a red spine, gold lettering on the spine, and a gold crescent moon on the front. The inside cover artwork is very detailed and looks fantastic. Plus, it has a map! I am a sucker for books that have maps. This is a large book, as is typical of SJM. It’s about 800 pages in length. The pages have a thinner thickness which I am not a huge fan of. You can partially see the words on the other side of the page in spots, but this doesn’t hinder the reading experience.
*Spoiler alert: The following review will contain spoilers.*
Part I: The Hollow – SJM has consistently been one of the best world-builders and this novel is no exception. Part I sets up the world in which Bryce Quinlan lives. The story seems to start out slow and I found the first part harder to get into than I anticipated. I have never understood the appeal of drinking, partying, or doing drugs, so initially I had a hard time connecting to the characters whose lives seemed to revolve around these activities. I envy the friendship Bryce and Danika had. They truly loved each other and when times were hard they went to the bat for one another. I was looking forward to them making The Drop together and seeing how things would work between Connor and Bryce. However, SJM had other plans and decided to rip my heart out. I assumed there would be moments in this series that would be heart-wrenching but I did not expect one to happen so soon. Danika was my favorite character from the start, so naturally she had to die. When I got to the scene where Bryce stumbles into their apartment to find Danika, Connor and the Pack of Devils dead, it took everything in me not to throw the book across the room. But the way Bryce fought back, even in her drug induced haze really redeemed her character. She tried to single-handedly take on a demon and unknowingly saved the life of the most powerful archangel, Micah (UGH, by the end I wished she had just let him die!). I wasn’t the biggest fan of Bryce in the beginning but she really grew on me as it became clear that her party girl act was just a front that she put up to protect herself from the world. It was just after the attack that I became invested in what would happen to Bryce. Also, I love Syrinx he is so adorable! I really respect that Bryce indebted herself to years of serving Jesiba to free the chimera and give him a better life and home.
Through love, all is possible.Sarah J. Maas, House of Earth and Blood
Part II: The Trench – Bryce’s sarcasm and personality really shine in this part of the novel. Every time she referred to a male who was trying to protect or make decisions on her behalf as a “alphahole”, I couldn’t help but smile. The continuous back and forth between her and Hunt was extremely amusing. I have to say that she has guts to be so snarky with the Shadow of Death, the Viper Queen, or even Jesiba who daily threatens to turn her into various pests. That’s not even mentioning the fact that she summoned a Prince of Hel into her apartment. Bryce’s character also has a lot of depth. You can feel her suffering and pain as she mourns the loss of her best friend. She deeply cares about her friends, her mother and step-father, and her half-brother Ruhn. Bryce also handles being the unwanted half-fae daughter of the Autumn King with grace.
Hunt Athalar is everything. He sees Bryce for her true self. Their intensities match each other and they still have love for the worst in each other. I “shipped” them since Part I, but the scene at the shooting range really solidified how they truly understand each other’s soul. I believe this is, in part, because both are working through tragic losses in their lives. They feel broken and this pain has brought them together. While they have separate motives for finding who is summoning the kristallos demons, and hunting down the Horn, their mission brought gave them common ground and a foundation to build their relationship upon.
Look toward where it hurts the most. That’s always where the answers are.Sarah J. Maas, House of Earth and Blood
Part III: The Canyon When Sabine revealed that Danika stole the Horn, my heart broke for Bryce. She began to realize that she didn’t know everything about Danika that she thought she had. But even as everyone around her began to tarnish Danika’s name, Bryce stood behind her friend’s actions. Even when people accused Danika of dealing synth or being a rebel sympathizer, Bryce didn’t believe that of her friend. She knew the kind of person Danika was and refused to let others sway her beliefs. There were those who claimed Danika was weak and not deserving to have her soul at rest because she begged for mercy before her death. Bryce sacrificed her own final resting place to ensure Danika’s soul safely made it across to the Bone Quarter. When Sabine threw this in Bryce’s face, that now Danika had to suffer in shame for the rest of eternity, Bryce almost broke. She was trying to do her best to honor her best friend, more than Danika’s own mother was even willing to sacrifice. To be told this courageous act was actually cruel was a lot for Bryce to process.
When the Umbra Mortis, aka Angel of Death, aka Hunt Athalar came home from one of his kill missions, a condition of his enslavement, he was a broken soul. In order to complete these missions Athalar had to go to a dark place inside of him where he couldn’t think about what he was doing, and when it was over and he was covered in the blood of his victims he had a torturous ritual where he would turn the shower so hot he would burn off his skin just to feel clean. When Bryce finds Hunt in the shower, slumped against the wall, broken, she doesn’t run in fear from him even knowing what he must have just done. Instead she is gentle with him and holds him through his grief. Bryce feels responsible for Danika’s death, and on some level recognized what Hunt is going through. When Hunt awakens that night in her arms he says it smelled like home and where he was meant to be. This line rang deep with me because no matter where we are, as long as I am with my husband I feel like I am home.
“You look how I feel,” she whispered, her throat tight. “Every day.”Sarah J. Maas, House of Earth and Blood
A moment I slammed the book down and had to walk away was when the chocolate croissants Bryce ordered in honor of Danika’s birthday were defaced with the word “Trash” in frosting. My heart broke for Bryce. People would not let go of their past. She hadn’t touched alcohol or drugs since Danika passed, but people kept blaming their former lifestyle for Danika’s death. They wouldn’t let Bryce forget their mistakes or even grieve in her own way. It was exceptionally cruel. As independent as Bryce is, I was so glad that Athalar came to her defense, found Amelie and threatened her to leave Bryce alone. Even though she is always calling dominant males “alphaholes”, I was very glad he defended her. Until his punishment was The Living Death and they cut off his angel wings for doing so.
After the croissant incident, Bryce and Hunt became closer. At the appointment to heal Bryce’s leg my heart almost shattered when Bryce admitted that she never had her leg looked at by a medwitch after the demon attack because she didn’t deserve to be without pain. But Hunt looked into her eyes and gave her a kiss to get her through the worst of the pain their relationship really went beyond just physical attraction, or a possible crush. When Hunt’s wings were cut off I thought there might be a chance that they could make their relationship work. Then Hunt betrayed Bryce. He knew the entire time that Danika had been drugged with synth, that the overdose caused her to murder her pack, then ended in her horrific death of her tearing herself to shreds. But he kept Bryce going down a wild goose chase to connect synth to the missing Horn, so he could buy synth to use in a rebellion. It wasn’t until the last second that he told his fellow slaves that he wasn’t on board anymore, but by then it was too late. Bryce saw the truth and Hunt was arrested by Micah.
Part IV: The Ravine – Hunt’s accomplices were publicly executed, but Hunt’s fate was worse. Even with Hunt’s betrayal, Bryce couldn’t live with seeing him be given away to Sandriel who was his original enslaver who kept him in a dungeon unable to fly for years and subjected him to endless torture. Bryce was determined not to loose another person from her life, especially Hunt. Bryce made a deal with Jesiba, adding years to her debt, in exchange for more than Hunt’s asking price, in order to by his freedom, just as she had done for Syrinx. When this wasn’t enough for Sandriel, Bryce offered her life in exchange for Hunt’s. As the only (secret) daughter of the Autumn King, Sandriel was tempted. But Ruhn stopped this from taking place by claiming her as his kin and therefore the property of the fae. This infuriated Bryce, and even though he was doing it to save her she felt it was unforgivable. She put the blame on Ruhn for what was to happen to Hunt.
Then things started to get more intense. At first, I tolerated Micah. I wouldn’t say like per-say, but he was giving Hunt a way out. A terrible, vile way out, but at least it gave Hunt hope and got him out of the dungeons and into a semi-life. I figured Micah was the best of the archangels, not that that’s saying much. When Micah cut off Hunt’s wings, I almost felt compelled to give him a pass, because in doing so he really did say Hunt’s life. But then Micah revealed his true character. Honestly, I didn’t think I could hate a character as much as I hate Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter, but Micah comes close. He heads to Jesiba’s antiquities shop to use the Horn. Bryce knows that she is in danger and she keeps him talking until she can find a way out. Micah reveals that Danika stole the Horn to protect it from getting into the wrong hands. She ground up the Horn and had it tattooed onto Bryce’s back, because she knew Bryce’s secret, that she was Starborn. Now Bryce is the Horn and the Horn can only be used by the Starborn. Micah made the connection, but doesn’t know what Bryce is capable of, and he believes that synth can be used to wield the Horn. Danika stole footage of the synth trials gone wrong and she was never dealing in synth, she was trying to get it off the streets. Micah killed Danika for hindering his attempts to use the Horn to open a portal to form an army to kill the rebels. Micah drugged Bryce with synth, and blew the Horn.
Then Micah did the worst thing. He put Syrinx in the nokk tank to be eaten alive. I was in tears. I love Syrinx, he is the cutest pet ever. I felt Bryce’s panic and I could never imagine loosing my dog in such an awful manner. Bryce was barely able to save him without becoming a meal herself. Then the tears turned into full on sobs when the fire sprite Lehabah smashed the hundred thousand gallon water tank open knowing she would immediately die, in order to buy Bryce two seconds to escape Micah. Just before her sacrifice, Bryce confessed to Lehabah that she had paid for her freedom from Jesiba. This made Lehabah’s actions all the more meaningful. She could have had her dream to leave the library and be finally free. Instead she gave her life for her friends.
I am a descendant of Ranthia Drahl, Queen of Embers. She is with me now and I am not afraid. . . My friends are behind me, and I will protect them.Sarah J. Maas, House of Earth and Blood
Lehabahhhhhh oh Lehabah. I loved you. Thank you for giving your life and buying Bryce time. Bryce used this time wisely. Instead of running out of the shop, Bryce ran to assemble the Godslayer Rifle to kill the archangel. Bryce is exceptional. She is a sharpshooter, insanely brave, and thinks well on her feet. After she kills Micah, she burned the body, then used a vacuum to clean up his remains. I literally laughed out loud at the insanity of a half-fae female with almost negligible powers, vacuuming up the body of the most powerful Archangel in the city. (A freaking vacuum haha serves him right!) Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose outside as a portal to Hel was opened in every one of the seven gates and demons were pouring out into the city. Bryce courageously tore into the city to help those defenseless, and buying citizens time to make it to the shelter. In true Bryce fashion, when it came down to her or Connor’s younger brother being the last to make it into the shelter she sacrificed herself to ensure he was safe. Back at the Summit, Sandriel was killed by Hunt, the witch Queen, and Ruhn.
Bryce then used her starlight power to close the first gate. The amount of starlight she can summon is astounding. Ruhn, the Starborn Prince, and full-fae son of the Autumn King is only able to summon a kernel of starlight. Using herself as the Horn and her starlight she was able to close the first portal. No one knew she had this ability other than her mom, step-father, and Danika, because Bryce had to use it to save them at points in her life. Bryce kept this secret because she loves Ruhn. She allowed him to keep his title of the Chosen One and the high honor that it provided. An added bonus was that it annoyed the Autumn King to no end. After closing the first gate the archangels ordered that the city be bombed with brimestone, despite the fact that the only being capable of closing the portals was Bryce who was in the line of fire. She and Hunt (who had just made it to the seen) were caught in the cross-fire and Hunt was on deaths door. The demons were still pouring into the city and Bryce had no choice but to make the Drop. There is an old communication line between the gates, Bryce uses this to call out to anyone within range to help anchor her for the Drop so she can make it back alive. Miraculously, Danika’s soul answered from the Bone Quarter. Not only did she anchor Bryce, but sacrificed her soul in order to give her the boost she needed to make it back.
Light it up, Danika whispered to her. Into her heart.Sarah J. Maas, House of Earth and Blood
Bryce made the Drop without a living anchor. She did the impossible. She surpassed her power level, using the powers given to the gates over the years to reach a power level above that of the Autumn King. The firstlight given off by Bryce’s Drop connected to the Horn was enough to close the portals to Hel. Bryce proved to everyone who ever scoffed at her for being a half-breed, a party girl, worthless, powerless, or any of the other derogatory comments people made (I’m looking at you Amelie), that she is capable of things they could only dream of. Bryce has heart, courage, and compassion. These qualities go above power levels. Thank the gods the firstlight also healed Hunt. I wouldn’t be able to handle it if after everything they went through, if he didn’t survive. Everything Bryce did was hushed up by the angels. Hunt was granted freedom as long as Bryce didn’t cause any future problems with her newfound power. She was told to stay in her lane at the risk of destruction of herself and loved ones.
Epilogue – This page and a half epilogue stars the Prince of Hel, Aidas. I am looking forward to finding out what he is really up too. He is entwined with Jesiba, is focused on Bryce and her prophecy that she was Starborn.
Last Remarks – True to SJM style, all the build-up really paid off. Things that had been briefly discussed previously came together and became crucial to the story line. I love how Maas writes in such a connected way that things that may seem trivial come full circle by the end. The tattoo, need I say more?
I love Hunt, and this scares me. I am afraid that even after everything Bryce and Hunt have been through, something inevitably will happen that will break them apart and make me hate him with all of my being. SJM is notoriously skilled at making you fall in head over heels with a love interest then making you wish they never existed. AND I LOVE IT! This book had me laughing, sobbing, throwing things and every emotion in between. I would highly recommend House of Earth and Blood! I cannot wait for the next book in the Crescent City series. This book is long and dense so I am sure I have left out amazing characters and scenes. Who was your favorite/least favorite character? Did this book live up to the hype in your opinion?