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The House in the Cerulean Sea

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2020)
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.

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.

394 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 16, 2020

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About the author

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it's important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 74,400 reviews
Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews152k followers
August 28, 2022
I think these days more than ever, with a pandemic ravaging every corner of the world, I understand more keenly how absolutely necessary it is to find the escape hatch in reality, to seek out a pleasant corner and while away the hours inside a story. And there is no better one I can think of than this one.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a nonstop pleasure. It flooded every corner of my mind with delight and warmth and made me feel reassured and nourished in channels of my heart which had stood scraped dry for weeks. It’s a feeling I wish I could put in a bottle to carry it with me through the dark.

The novel's premise is as simple as it is ripe with comedic potential. Caseworker Linus Baker of the Department in Charge of Magical Youths (DICOMY) has the distinct appearance of someone with a stick up his ass. His job is like a millstone, all weight and no warmth: investigate orphanages that house magical children, write a report that encourages either the continuation or discontinuation of these establishments, and justify it all within the uncompromising parameters of fairness. See, Linus Baker walks through life like a wound-up clock ticking dutifully through the seconds: he has a routine, rules that he follows with a stony rigidity, and a comfort zone that he’s sealed himself inside of. But when Linus is assigned to investigate an island orphanage for magical children deemed especially dangerous, his world unlocks.

There is something vital and wondrous about Arthur and the magical children that came to him with tragedies already packed in their suitcases, and Linus Baker is more or less the human opposite of vitality and wonder. During his stay in the house in the Cerulean sea, Linus becomes acutely, achingly aware of the empty place at his center, and starts wondering at the grim march of the life he’d lived before. At the beliefs he’d held close to his chest, and the rules he’d dutifully obeyed but never looked directly in the eyes. At the life that once seemed so perfectly fine, but which now pinches like tight shoes.

TJ Klune wears his heart on his sleeve, and The House in the Cerulean Sea is that much better for it. The novel is lively, exquisitely crafted and wildly propulsive. It brims and bubbles with quirkiness and playful detail, and the dialogue positively fizzes.

But it’s the cast of tenderly realized characters that carries the day.

There is something undeniably unconditional about the relationships here, and it stirred my heart. Klune’s cast of characters is achingly compelling. Arthur’s lightness of heart is infectious: he is a study in kindness, made of such a steadfast and dependable fiber, despite the sadness that haunts his eyes. His magical children are every inch as erratic and colorful as Linus is restrained and monochromatic, and together they made something like the word “family”, disappearing into one another like partly shuffled cards, and rubbing their rough edges smooth against each other. I can’t tell you how much I relish stories that don’t believe that blood makes a family, but that kin is the circle you create, hands held tight. Linus, Arthur and the kids could not have been more different, but they all formed the same desperate plea in their minds: to be seen, to be loved, to reach and to be reached for. And as they all moved, tremulously, one step along the road between unknown and familiar, I found myself full of wishes for them—for that house in the Cerulean sea, away from the gaze of malice and a happily-ever-after.

But as entertaining and unrelentingly fun The House in the Cerulean Sea is, it is hard to forget that it’s also calmly, intelligently damning, and full of tough questions about difference, prejudice and complacency. The novel delicately carves out the myriad ways in which we see and don’t see our own world and the people around us. It questions our tendency to categorize people to make them easier to understand, to slip into neatly received misconceptions and stereotypes to avoid the discomfort of confronting our own ignorance, our shame. But however grim the novel’s resonance with the real world is, The House in the Cerulean Sea is always leavened with hope. It knows hate, but believes in people too. It is, at its core, a joyful celebration of the nondiscriminatory nature of love that thoughtfully explores not only its rewards but its risks too, and a reminder of the extraordinary power of a gift as simple as kindness.

All in all, The House in the Cerulean Sea is a cracking, charming novel, and I find myself hoping for a sequel. In fact, knowing this is a standalone, and there are no more books to come in this wonderful world is the novel’s only disappointment.
Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews45.7k followers
December 5, 2022
after i'd already picked this up and read most of it, i learned through good samaritans in my comments that this was to some degree inspired by the Sixties Scoop.

i won't tell you how you should feel about this, but i think that taking the unbearable trauma (a trauma that included not just the murder of a culture but also murder in a quite literal sense) of real-world Native children and turning that into a happy-go-lucky tale of how Hate Is Bad but the fantastical equivalent of those disgusting and reprehensible nonfiction orphanages is good...

well. i think that's f*cking gross. (and i have read from indigenous voices on both the Pro side and the Con side of this story. i have seen significantly more Con.)

here are some better reviews you can read about this:

more of a review of my own to come.

okay, update - to give a bit more of a traditional review:

even had i not been informed of the at-least-partial inspiration behind this, there's no way this would have been higher than a 3 star read to me.

i don't like the saccharine or the sickly sweet. i don't like having to read about an unprecedentedly lonely man with a sh*tty life in a toxic workplace whose own cat, boss, coworkers, neighbors, and goddamn bus driver don't like him, in a city where it rains every day and he NEVER REMEMBERS HIS UMBRELLA.

i don’t like reading weirdly stilted dialogue, where the same sentences (“Quite.” “You dear man.” EVERY OTHER F*CKING SENTENCE SOME VARIATION “Oh you do, do you?” “Oh I did, didn’t I?” “Oh you have, have you?” “How I cherish/adore/simp for you.” Okay the last one I made up for a moment’s levity.)

i feel like this book could have been a hundred pages shorter and had the exact same impact on me. except it would be a touch and a tad more merciful, due to being shorter. this, to me, felt emotionally cheap and profoundly repetitive, as if enacting the same set of scenes where the characters show the same set of traits over and over would hypnotize me into falling in love with them.

this book is touted as feel-good kryptonite, but it didn’t make me feel good. it made me feel bad. maybe the rest of you are being deeply secretive about some magical island with cody ko-style blue ass water and a ragtag group of children sitting and waiting to give you unconditional love and a purpose in life, and also your soulmate and new best friend are there and baking pies, but…

many people are unhappy. many people are lonely. and as far as i can tell in the 23 years i’ve lived in this yucky world, there is no business trip that will deus ex machina your sorry ass into your place and your purpose and your people.

and i’ve never seen a wyvern either.

tbr review

i heard reading this is like a pure happiness injection, so here i am immediately

(thanks to diana for the rec!)


reading all books with LGBTQ+ rep for pride this month!

book 1: the gravity of us
book 2: the great american whatever
book 3: wild beauty
book 4: the affair of the mysterious letter
book 5: how we fight for our lives
book 6: blue lily, lily blue
book 7: the times i knew i was gay
book 8: conventionally yours
book 9: the hollow inside
book 10: nimona
book 11: dark and deepest red
book 12: the house in the cerulean sea
Profile Image for Kas.
38 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2021
Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

I'll be honest, I read it, and I loved it, writing was great and everything. Then months after reading it I discovered that his book was inspired by Canada's Sixties Scoop.

"It remained fuzzy until I stumbled across the Sixties Scoop, something I’d never heard of before, something I’d never been taught in school (I’m American, by the way). In Canada, beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the 1980s, indigenous children were taken from their homes and families and placed into government-sanctioned facilities, such as residential schools. The goal was for primarily white, middle-class families across Canada, the US, and even Europe—to adopt these children. It’s estimated that over 20,000 indigenous children were taken, and it wasn’t until 2017 that the families of those affected reached a financial settlement with the Canadian government totaling over eight hundred million dollars."

Even this description of residential schools is sugarcoating it. He bedazzled and turned into fantasy the trauma of children who were forcibly separated from their families in a cultural genocide(that involved torture, SA, and murder... so you know part of an actual genocide), and then acted like it was all figured out after a settlement. Literally profiting off of missing and undocumented children, and people who are STILL living with the trauma of residential schools, who are still living like second class citizens in THEIR country due to the impact of those schools(which ran well until the mid 90's) along with so many other atrocities committed against them over the past hundreds of years. Alsoooooooo from a podcast...

“I didn’t want to co-opt, you know, a history that wasn’t mine. I’m a cis white dude, so I can’t ever really go through something like what those children had to go through.

So I sat down and I was like, I’m just going to write this as a fantasy.”

I'm sorry, what? Can you imagine if someone said this EXACT same thing but with using the holocaust, or slavery in America? "You know as a cis white dude I don't understand what being a slave or being Black in America is like, but if I turn that story into a whimsical, humorous, fantasy, I think I can sort of maybe try"

And the icing on the cake, once you realise the source material is. The message is essentially "This place isn't so bad, they just needed to find someone in the system who cared about them... Also while they are still ~*~different~*~ they are still kids who deserve love". Stop it.

I honestly wish white folk would stop using BIPOC trauma as a springboard for their ideas.

ETA: Seeing as this is getting some traction I thought I would add some links of places you can donate to support survivors(all these links I originally found through lisa.beading on Instagram). Educate yourself and use your voices to amplify their stories, not twist and sugarcoat it into whatever this book was

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society

Legacy Of Hope Foundation

Kamloops Aboriginal Friendship Society

ETA 2 I truly hope if TJ reads this, he understand why what he did was so problematic, and educates himself. In part of that podcast episode I posted he says "We have to speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves. And that’s kind of the theme of the whole book is, is to raise your voice for those who don’t have one." You took someone elses story, and changed it to something more "palatable". You took their voices away. If this really struck a chord with you, you're a talented writer, you could have easily written something else, and still used your platform to elevate and amplify Indigenous voices. Something you can still do, if you choose to.
Profile Image for Sofia.
266 reviews6,185 followers
June 4, 2021
Retrowave - Disappointed but not surprised | Retrowave Text Generator | Memes quotes, Stupid memes, Reactions meme

I'm shaking my head and locking the gates.

Here I was thinking this book was just a wholesome story about kindness and acceptance.


TW for this review: rape, residential schools, ethnic cleansing, trauma

Edit: Apparently people are misunderstanding my review. The problem with this book isn't that it's based on historical events. Pretty much every fantasy book is. The problem is that it romanticizes and glorifies residential schools. If some author took a horrific event from the past of my culture, like the Nanjing Massacre, and made it into a love story where everything is solved by the power of love, I would be furious. I don't mean to take away OwnVoices, I'm just spreading awareness about something that feels intensely problematic to me.

Anyway, back to the review.

This book is actually inspired by Canadian residential schools, where indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to abandon their culture and learn the "proper" way to live. The children were mistreated terribly. They were raped and beaten.

Yes, this "wholesome" book is actually based off residential schools. Written by an author who thinks he can take away OwnVoices and use this horrible historical event as a romantic book he knows people will call precious and kind and important. He glorifies these schools, and despite his insistence that kindness is the answer, at the end of the book, the system is still in place. The message is that kindness solves everything. Which is honestly ridiculous.

He took the trauma of so many children and romanticized it, turning it into a cute fantasy where everything is solved at the end because people are kind to each other.

He said:

“I didn’t want to co-opt, you know, a history that wasn’t mine. I’m a cis white dude, so I can’t ever really go through something like what those children had to go through.

So I sat down and I was like, I’m just going to write this as a fantasy.”

I'm so done. I don't think I need to clarify why this is so problematic.

Linus comes in and once the children are LoVeD, all their problems are solved. Done. Gone. Nonexistent. Never mind that the children are still separated from their parents. Never mind that they are still being forced to blend in with a culture that isn't their own. Never mind that they're still being raped and tortured and beaten and mistreated.

The problem isn't that he based his book off real events. That can be done in a way that doesn't romanticize trauma and doesn't act like everything can be solved because one person LoVeS the children.

This book waters everything down and adds a healthy dose of sugar, covering all the suffering of these poor children with his own voice, rather than, you know, actually sticking to something he won't glorify, water down, or romanticize. He took something tragic and tried to make it cutesy.

Please read this review and this review to educate yourself further.

I will continue to read his books because I think he has the potential to be better than this.

I would give the actual book 3 stars. It was pretty cheesy and lukewarm, and the messages felt forced.
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,133 reviews39.3k followers
March 19, 2023
Hands down. This is one of the best things I’ve read this year! I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH!

I fell for the world building, creative-crazy-unique ideas, character development! This is not only a regular YA fantasy novel. This book is about acceptance, caring, opening your heart and soul! As a summary: this book is about unconditional love and respecting differences of others.

It’s a sweet, smart, entertaining and also heartwarming story hooks you from the first chapter, makes you giggle, smile, sigh.
Let’s take a quick look of the storyline and the characters:

Our narrator Linus Baker is, 40 years old,a quiet, simple, lonely man works as a caseworker at Department in Charge of Magical Youth, living a simple, quiet, lonely life, always following rules, doing what the government orders.

He always stays objective when he examines the orphanages filled with the kids who have supernatural abilities. He knows they’re different and he respects that. He never treats unfair and makes those children feel inferior. He treats them as equal as the normal kids but he never gets close or connects with them either.
He only does his job at the end of the day, going back his lonely house for arguing his noisy neighbor who tries to matchmake him with his accountant relative, playing music and talking with his grumpy cat which is his only real friend in this world.

But when he is summoned by Extremely Upper Management for an urgent meeting, he realizes his simple life will change forever.

Management hires him for a top secret mission: they want him to investigate Marysas Island Orphanage where six extremely dangerous kids reside: a gnome, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, a sprite and an baby Lucy Morningstar!

Thankfully he doesn’t learn the identities of the kids because he may have passed out during the meeting with his superiors!

And another fact kept secret from him: one of the children may have enough power to bring the “End of the Days”! ( You don’t have to guess which one is! Yes, the one with red eyes whose future self open a night club in LA!!)

He can’t reject the offer for the future of his job. He will spend one month in the island and he will not examine the well beings of the children but he will also investigate the master Arthur Parnassus and the way of doing his job.

He packs his bag and rides on his scheduled train accompanied by his cat. As soon as he reaches to the island, he realizes those kids are powerful, peculiar, different but they’re still kids. They are still looking for love, compassion. They are still needed to be taken care, educated, nurtured, healed. And their master enigmatic and also charming Arthur can connect with them. He’s doing an amazing job and kids love him, too.

For the first time, Linus breaks his all rules, empathizing with these kids, opening his heart to them. And for the first time he’s not alone or he doesn’t have to live quite, simple, lonely life when he opens his heart and soul to unconditional love!

But of course his decision will bring out different consequences and risks into his life.

Overall: I loved everything about this beautiful, remarkable, extraordinary story. No more words. Borrowing the entire galaxy stars and giving to this book!
Profile Image for Rick Riordan.
Author 321 books399k followers
January 31, 2022
An orphanage for magical children. An impossible romance between two gentle, caring men who live worlds apart. A shadowy bureaucracy that wants to keep magical children "safe" and away from the eyes of the general public. The power of found family and kindness against prejudice and fear.

Mix these elements, bake until sweet golden brown, take out of the oven and enjoy fresh and hot with your best friends . . . That is the taste of T. J. Klune's The House in the Cerulean Sea. Our hero Linus Baker would never consider himself a hero. He is a good man being slowly drained of life by his job as an inspector for DICOMY (Department in Charge of Magical Youth). He visits orphanages for magical children and inspects these places to recommend whether or not they should remain open. He truly cares for the well-being of the children, but he can't get attached. He stays at each orphanage only long enough to make his report, then he is off on his next assignment. What happens to the children when he leaves? What will happen to them when they grow up and face a harsh world that sees them as 'freaks'? Linus doesn't know. He has to keep his head down, do his job, and trust that Extremely Upper Management knows what they are doing. He can't let his heart be broken by the various banshees, dryads, fairies, werewolves and other magical children he meets during his inspections, many of whom have gone from foster home to foster home and suffered untold years of abuse just for being who they are.

But then Extremely Upper Management sends Linus on a special mission that is top secret: He is to spend one month evaluating the Marsyas Island Orphanage, run by Arthur Parnassus, and decide whether it should remain open. This is no ordinary magical home. The children there are special, terrifyingly special, and Arthur himself is hiding a deep secret. Can Linus keep his objectivity? Should he, once he discovers the truth?

This book is gentle and kind, full of faith in humanity's better nature despite all the ugliness and cruelty that tears us apart. At its core is a story about what good people do when faced with injustice, and how we find love, joy and family in difficult times. This book shows you a fantasy world you might not want to live in -- parts of it are depressingly familiar with government bureaucracies, dreary cities, uncaring neighbors and casual bigotry -- but you will definitely want to live on Marsyas Island with its wonderful cast of foundlings. Gay romance? Why, yes there is that too, absolutely: a tender, touching love story about how finding a true soulmate can make you the best version of yourself and give you courage to fight for what you care about.

Heartwarming and reaffirming . . . the kind of story we always need, these days perhaps more than ever.
Profile Image for Yun.
509 reviews19.1k followers
April 3, 2022
Please excuse me while I dry my tears and wipe that big goofy smile off my face. What an absolutely wondrous story The House in the Cerulean Sea turned out to be!

Linus is a buttoned-up, live-by-the-rules, no-fun employee who works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. When he gets his latest secret assignment from Extremely Upper Management to visit an orphanage on a remote island, he doesn't know what to expect. But soon his assignment turns into the adventure of a lifetime, one that will touch his heart and irrevocably change who he is.

This book has the most marvelous characters. Everyone we meet is kindhearted, if a bit prickly at first. As we get to know them, they unfurl into the most loveable creatures. They learn and unbend and grow into their potential, becoming so much more than they were before. The children especially, with their funny and exuberant antics, really grabbed my heart and refused to let go.

There was so much humor packed into the pages, I was constantly chuckling and smiling. It was dry and sarcastic and witty, poking gentle fun at work and bureaucracy and taking things too seriously. Humor is so subjective, so I'm not sure how this would appeal to everyone, but it totally resonated with me and kept me delighted.

At its heart, this is a story about acceptance and seeing someone for who they are on the inside. That is such a worthy view, and one I wholeheartedly agree with. There's definitely an element of cheesiness here that could feel a bit much. At times, it borderlines on preachy, but that's only a few paragraphs here and there, and the humor helps to balance it out.

Occasionally, I come across a book I fall in love with from the very first page, and that's what happened here. This sweet, whimsical, quirky, funny, and magical story gave me all the feelies. I laughed, I cried, I smiled so much that my cheeks hurt. Its message of kindness, joy, and unity makes my heart soar. Honestly, what more could I ask for?

See also, my thoughts on:
Under the Whispering Door

Profile Image for Holly.
1,415 reviews960 followers
January 12, 2023
Maybe I'm just a cold person but to me this book felt over the top with saccharine sweetness, went into overkill with the morality lessons, and the odd humor fell flat. I honestly almost gave up on this book at the 75% mark but at that point I figured I might as well just finish it out.

The book starts off just with a weird humorous tone - the heads of the corporation that the main character, Linus, works for is referred to only as "Extremely Upper Management". I'm not making that up. So from that I assumed that this book was supposed to be somewhat farcical, which I was not expecting in an adult fantasy book, but I went with it. However for the record, this kind of humor is not my cup of tea.

Once the story starts to actually get going, we are then hit left and right with lessons that the kids and Linus 'learn'. Here's a small sampling:

"We should always make time for the things we like. If we don't, we might forget how to be happy.'

"When something is broken, you can put it back together. It may not fit quite the same, or work like it did once before, but that doesn't mean it's no longer useful."

"A home isn't always the house we live in. It's also the people we choose to surround ourselves with."

These aren't bad lessons by any means, but they are simplistic, almost constant, and is a lot of 'telling' not 'showing' - something I expect to read in a YA book and/or Little Women (don't get me started on that book).

And then at the end, what should have been sweet touching moments, I was just ready for the book to end. Especially when hate in a whole village is overcome by a couple of speeches, a gardening Mayor, and a hippie record store owner.

I honestly would have rated this book lower, but it wasn't terrible as much as it was just NOT FOR ME.
Profile Image for T.J..
Author 58 books33.4k followers
December 29, 2020
Updated 12/29/20

The House in the Cerulean Sea is now out in paperback! Return to the island where everything is happy, and you'll only be threatened a little bit by a gnome with a shovel and the Antichrist. Now available wherever books are sold. (Buy link below, or support your local indie store!)



At last, at long last, my first book with Tor has released!

The House in the Cerulean Sea is a love letter to those who should be allowed to feel small and cared for when the world seems dark. Today, March 17, is a scary time. And it might get a little worse before it gets better. But I promise you it will. This book—this funny little book—is my way of helping you see sunlight through all the dark clouds. I hope you’re ready, because you’re about to go on an adventure you won’t expect.

Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for letting me do this because without you, I wouldn’t be here.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is now available wherever books are sold! And, if you can, please support your local indie bookstore! They are a big reason why Cerulean has hype. I appreciate all booksellers and librarians more than I could say.

Order today!
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
603 reviews87.3k followers
February 15, 2021
I really enjoyed this! It was filled with charming characters, children and adults alike, so much whimsy, a hint of romance, and was just an overall sweet read. However, I can't help but wonder how I would have felt about it had I not seen so much hype surrounding it. I think I would have liked it a bit more because while I enjoyed it a lot, my expectations were too high going in. That being said, I think that it was a very unique and fantastic read. Kind of like Miss Peregrine's but for adults in a way. I particularly enjoyed watching the main character contemplate what really matters in life and if the drudgery and routine of what he does every day is what he really wants, or if he can break out of that. Overall, a great read, but I do wish I hadn't had expectations going in.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
526 reviews57.7k followers
March 2, 2021
So... this was unexpected.

I'm not sure if it's 2020 or the Holidays getting to me but this was very wholesome!

This definitely felt a bit like a children's book but the characters were attaching and I definitely laughed/smiled a few times while listening to this audiobook.
Profile Image for Regan.
366 reviews109k followers
August 15, 2020
omfg this was so cute I am DYING
Profile Image for jessica.
2,511 reviews31k followers
November 14, 2021
i have actively avoided this book. even with all the hype its gotten over the past year and half, the story just didnt interest me in the slightest. but then i read TJKs ‘under the whispering door’ and it broke me. so here i am. hoping to have a similar experience.

and i did. gosh, there are so many little nuggets of wisdom and truth embedded in this. there are also moments of pure happiness and love. like this adorable gem:
‘youre too precious to put into words. i think… its like one of theodores buttons. if you asked him why he cared about them so, he would tell you its because they exist at all.’
i cant really add much to the thousands of reviews that have already been posted for this book. but for me, personally, this story is wonderfully life-affirming and gives me the hope in humanity that i desperately need.

5 stars
Profile Image for Maggie Stiefvater.
Author 65 books167k followers
May 3, 2022
this book is for people whose hearts are not crusted with barnacles

(my heart is crusted with barnacles)
Profile Image for Reading_ Tamishly.
4,178 reviews2,241 followers
March 11, 2023
This is one goddamn fairytale. An original one. Which won't be retold in such perfection. I can see authors trying to tell their versions of this fairytale in 2050. Even then, they will find this hidden in the internet archives that once a reviewer gramma wrote this and they would be low-key panicking whenever there's the feeling of thinking of rewriting this precious goddamn fairytale 😎

There's this stepmother (mean, biased fairytale writers! Why only stepmothers are grouchy bad eh??!)...well, I repeat, there's this cruel, strict stepmother-like top organization which send formal check rounds to see if the orphanages were functioning prim and proper.

A clueless prince is sent to an orphan home set miles away which an ocean (oh, Cerulean! Oh, it's a sea, not an ocean but the ocean is an ocean in the fairytale) seemingly keeps the living creatures (I meant that) in it separated from the rest of the world (sometimes I feel the word world is so undramatic. I wanted to use the universe or the galaxy. But that would not just fit.)

So this prince arrives, gets entangled in a mess like situation which makes him feel like he's been made fun of, or not taken seriously at all, or just that he's been taken as someone easy to be with.

And then there's this protective-as-heck-about-his-kids he. Yass, my he. The other he. (Stop it!) Nah. The he who's going to be the one who slow burns the grandma reviewer here with his being he. And these two hes will join forces in their fairy tale to actually fast burn the reader grandma towards the end with all their (beep..beep...beep).

And then there's my (okay, they are my family now. So my. Mine.) I repeat, then there's my kids, oh the little naughty, cute, broken, scarred, beautiful, scary, wonderful, playful demons.

(I didn't know I was the one who was going to write the retelling of this book. Nah. I would go and write the rest of this in my blog because GoodReads reviews are meant to have reviews...so here I go to my old blog. I have to write about the kids and the mayor and the two MCs!!!! 🙋 🎧 🧟 run don't walk away ⚔️ oh, she's sweet but a psycho 🎶

(Warning: this ain't a good review. Review? Forget it. It's just me going crazy about how much I love this book.)

Still in a daze. Since 5th September. The night I finished up reading this book and I am going to write a review which betrays justice. Yes, I am the criminal book reviewer reviewing books like my life depends on it when in real it's real. (See what I mean?!)

***Book hangover. My damon babies 💕😭🤗🤛🤛 Arthur. Linus. Phee. Talia. Even Calliope.***

*How can I ever get to get over this book?! 10 days after reading the book and I still feel the lump in my throat because I am still freaking happy and my feelings tend to crack like my heart cannot bear the love pain I have for the me-screaming-happy happy ending.

Sorry, I don't think I will ever get to write a proper mean review about this book. Like ever. Because it always has its way to unravel the muscle fibres of my heart to distinct skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Yes, there's no going back!🙋
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,843 reviews5,565 followers
August 27, 2020
An extraordinary treat for both T.J. Klune fans and those new to his writing, The House in the Cerulean Sea is a heart-warming, wholesome, diverse, ridiculous, and completely lovable fantasy story.

As a long-time T.J. Klune fan, as I'm sure many of you are, I know you are asking yourself what this book will be like now that T.J. Klune is publishing with the big boys. I'm very happy to report that the book read just like I was expecting it to, which means tight writing, romance (!), queer characters everywhere (natch), and a story you won't want to put down.

I wasn't sure how this book would be, to be honest, because it is billed as "contemporary fantasy," and I'm not really a fantasy reader. And, really, I'm surprised it's a contemporary because I would have placed the timeline as further in the past due to some of the details, but that's not really here nor there. It isn't an high fantasy, so it is good for low fantasy readers who simply like a little magic in their world, like me. But the bottom line is if you've enjoyed TJ's books in the past, you'll love this story. And if you are new to him, you'll soon be devouring his backlist. Welcome to the club.

I think this book could be enjoyed by all readers of all ages. It is probably meant for adults, but it's a great read for those as young as middle grade (I would let my 5th grader read it if her reading level was advanced enough). It has a lot of important lessons about how we judge one another and what our preconceived notions are about other people, and in this world, the more gentle learning we can take in, the better. It does edge a bit towards sentimental at times, but it just adds to the charm.

TJ is very adept at writing interesting young characters, and that's where this book really shines. The children in this story are all heart-breaking, and funny (the BEST parts of the story), and you'll fall in love with them all. I would be hard-pressed to pick my favorites, but Lucy and Chauncey stood out for me. Lucy has some of the best contrasts in the book, and Chauncey is just so pure. *1,000 heart-eye emojis.*

The story is fairly long, but that just means more to savor. You won't be bored for one minute, and you'll leave the story feeling happy and hopeful.

With his typical beautiful writing and unique style, T.J. Klune makes The House in the Cerulean Sea shine. With no end to his imagination in sight, I can't wait to see what TJ will come up with next.

*Copy provided in exchange for an honest review*

Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
389 reviews3,184 followers
March 14, 2023
Calliope was my favorite!

For the past 17 years, Linus Baker has been living a quiet life as a caseworker. He visits orphanages that are homes for children who are magical creatures. However, Linus is assigned to a top-secret mission: to inspect an orphanage for five very special magical creatures and their leader, Arthur. What will Linus discover?

First of all, the cover to this book is simply phenomenal! I have heard many people describe this book as a hug. And I did find it enjoyable and adorable. The cat, Calliope, was my favorite character (Is anyone really surprised by that?). This book was also unique and magical, and the fantasy wasn’t confusing or difficult to imagine. The characters were distinct enough that I was able to keep try of all of them.

That being said, this book seemed a little preachy and long-winded at times. “Don’t you wish you were here?” was mentioned ten times. It would have been more poignant if it wasn’t referenced so many times.

Overall, a very enjoyable read.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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871 reviews32 followers
December 7, 2020
The exercise of an “honest review” is an interesting one. Generally on goodreads I write frank reviews to vent or to remind myself of my thoughts for later. I tend to pick my reading for recreational purposes. That meshes well when I get a netgalley book to review which I would normally read anyway.

This book I asked for on the off chance that I’d like it, as some Klunes are desert island reads for me. Having quickly ascertained that this book was awful, I had to think a bit about what to do. If I had downloaded the sample from amazon, that would have been the end of it. If I had bought it, I would not have continued to read it, and returned it for a refund.

I’m not a professional book reviewer who has a broader job to review books, and liking or disliking a book is less central to how she goes about it.

But I got the copy in exchange for an honest review. Perhaps I got one out of a limited number, so it seems unfair not to do what I undertook.

If you like Klune, you will probably like this book. This is more juvenile fabulist Klune, not adult Klune. This is also Klune writing in this particular moment in time - of growing stress, hate, fear polarisation and evil on the part of those in power. This book is, in part a response to current political trends in the Anglosphere. In the book he basically exhorts all of us to speak out against tyranny and do what we can to stop it. Can’t argue with that.

Here are some issues I have with the book which many readers will not: the story is a bit like a fairy tale (I hate fairy tales) or a fable (I hate fables). The story is all about the kids (I hate kids).

Having said all those lengthy disclaimers, here is my review:

God it was awful.

The book starts out with the humour of discomfort. The MC is a misfit in a toxic workplace with a confined uncomfortable life. There is an air of Dickensian misery. There is an air of Englishness about the whole thing, perhaps the way everyone is trapped in miserable powerless damp grey lives. At the same time it has a theme of self fulfilment/individuality which is very American.

The book read like a juvenile. At one point I popped onto Amazon to see whether the book was marketed as for kids or young adults, and it is not. The narration talks down to the readers. The narration talks a lot generally. It is wordy and self indulgent. Someone has been reading too much Douglass Adams recently, and possibly Winnie the Pooh.

It’s pretty clear in the early chapters how the book is going to unfurl.

You can just tell By about page 5 that the MC’s arc will be about finding himself, a found family and self realisation. (And it is).

So he goes off to check out an orphanage for unusual children. At this point it is confirmed that the main theme is “even if you are unusual/a bit fat/everyone thinks you’re evil, you are a good person, accept yourself as you are. We should accept and welcome everyone”. (And it was).

There is lots of uncomfortable exchanges with people which I did not enjoy.

You can tell there is going to be a romantic arc between the MC and the fellow who runs the orphanage, and some revelation about the shenanigans of those in power. (And there was).

This book can be targeted at Young People as there isn’t any sex in it.(not that young people care, but older people in charge of marketing apparently do).

Another annoying aspect:
Profile Image for Warda.
1,125 reviews17.7k followers
April 4, 2021
If you were to ask me how I’m feeling today, I’ll tell you I’m feeling pretty fuckin’ perfect.

This book was unbelievably hyped. There are some hyped books you get, and an instinctual feeling sets in and you know that it’s deserved. Not just deserved: there’s something about it that sets it apart from others.

I knew my soul needed this book. And it’s not that themes discussed were anything new. Or all happy for that matter. But they made for great reminders and they made you feel content.
The author put his own spin on it, his own language. And then us readers find it and it makes every struggle you’re going through just that much more manageable. Your heart breathes better for it. It might possibly be even worth it?

“I don’t know why you can’t see it.”
“See what?”
“You. Everything you are.”

For those that want to feel seen, heard, understood and belong somewhere, this book is for you.
Profile Image for Riley.
424 reviews20.8k followers
April 17, 2020
this book is instant serotonin
It is a perfect magical escapist story filled with whimsy and enchantment. If you want a book that will make you happy from the first page to the last, look no further!
Profile Image for Mike.
478 reviews370 followers
March 12, 2021
This book as a major disappointment for me. Some spoilers to follow.

While there was a bundle of good messages at its core (don't be ashamed of who you are, don't judge others by outward appearance, change can happen) the story itself struck me as aggressively shallow. What I mean by this was that for all the neat or quirky ideas in the book there was little to no exploration of them.

For instance we learn that gnomes exist but have been greatly reduced in numbers (indigenous people parallel perhaps) but we never learn beyond that. The fact just sort of floats out there, untethered to any consequence in the story. We don't know why or how what happened to the gnomes even though one of the main children in the story is a gnome herself.

Another child is the Anti-Christ. How do we know this? It is written in a file. This leads to all sorts of theological questions: how do we know his father is the devil? What are the theological implications of this revelation (no pun intended)? Why, in God's name, is he not being monitored 24/7 or perpetually doused in holy water if he really is a threat to bring about the end of the world? Once again we see no real examination of the ideas the story presents us.

Why are people afraid of magical creatures? Unclear
How do magical children integrate into society when they come of age? Never spoken of even though their powers would have a lot of beneficial real world consequences.

There was just so many consequential world building aspects that were ignored. This resulted in a lot of blank space around the story. There was no sense of the world or why it was the way it was.

The story itself was rather predictable. Will the children win the heart and affection of the by-the-books but terribly lonely case worker? Will the sad sack case worker find true love and break out of his dismal existence? Will everything work out better than expected by the end? I think you know the answer to those question. There were no surprises of twists. No moral ambiguity or tests. Possible plot turns that were alluded to in the story never grew into anything.

The good guys were clearly just and right, the antagonists (which I suppose could be the system instead of individuals) were very passive and absent in the story. There was no clash in the story and the big decision the main character makes to change his life is painfully telegraphed by the cliched nature of the story up to that point. The book as a whole felt like a waste of time to me. While there were occasional chuckles elicited, the plot remained unengaging, the characters uninteresting, and the whole reading experience a chore.

It read like one big PSA that boiled down to: Don't judge a book by its cover. In this case the cover was much more pleasing than the book itself.
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
215 reviews2,577 followers
November 14, 2022
Check out my YouTube channel where I show my instant reactions upon finishing reading fantasy books.

A delightfully pleasant cozy fantasy book that will leave you smiling from beginning to end.

This book was not written for someone like me. I like huge, epic fantasy - and the darker and bloodier the most I will usually like it. So read a "cute", low stakes fantasy is just so contrary to what my tastes are.

But I actually had a good time reading this, and it actually served as a good palate cleaner between the more dense books than I am used to. While no part of this book "wowed" me, I just constant had a smile on my face while reading and was engrossed in finding out what would happen here with the plot - even though it's extremely obvious from the beginning.

The characters are the stars here, and are just so easy to fall in love with. Each of them is well developed and goes through nice character growth in a short amount of pages.

I'm going to keep this review short since seemingly everyone has read this book before and I'm no adding anything new to the discussion here, but I would recommend this to any fantasy fan who is alright with reading something slower and "cuter" than the traditional fantasy book.
February 24, 2021
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

“His thoughts were all cerulean.”

Mine, too. My thoughts are all cerulean, now that I have read TJ Klune’s wonderful novel, The House in the Cerulean Sea. And never have they been tinted such a brilliant, exquisite shade of blue.

Linus Baker lives routinely by the rules. He is a dedicated caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth; he knows every word of its RULES AND REGULATIONS by heart. At the end of each workday, he returns home to an empty house, comforted only by his classic record collection and his cantankerous (but lovable) cat, Calliope.

Then unexpectedly, Linus is given a top-secret assignment by Extremely Upper Management. His mission? To travel to a clandestine orphanage on Marsyas Island, where six highly magical, highly dangerous children live. While there, Linus is expected to observe both the children and the master of the orphanage, Arthur Parnassus, report his findings to Extremely Upper Management, and ultimately determine whether the orphanage should be closed.

But as in all good tales, Linus soon finds there is much more to Arthur and the children than meets the eye. And much to his astonishment, he also discovers a quiet yearning within his own heart for a life he never even knew he wanted.

Prepare yourselves. I am about to gush. Profusely.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an absolute treasure. It is a pot of gold found at the end of a rainbow. It is a priceless jewel cupped protectively in one’s hands. It is a perfectly delicious sundae with a cherry on top. It is a golden ray of sunlight shining through the blackest of clouds. It is a stunningly spectacular summer sunset.

And bar none, it is the kindest, gentlest, most loving story I have ever read. Ever. Love and kindness virtually radiate from Klune’s words and ever so tenderly spiral around you like a soft, warm blanket. The entire reading experience is incredibly comforting and calming.

Like Linus, the novel is one that I never even knew I needed. Or wanted. I am grateful to have found it.

Klune’s tale is, for sure, a fantastical one, filled with lovable magical children and endearing magical creatures. It has charm, whimsy, and a touch of romance. It has gorgeously simple writing.

It also has impeccable humor. The novel is truly hysterical, in a cleverly dry and witty sort of way. It may very well be the most amusing story I have ever read.

But do you know what I love most about The House in the Cerulean Sea?

Its gently powerful messages. Because not only is the novel about kindness – it’s about prejudice and how its roots burrow in fear and misunderstanding. It’s about encouraging people to be who they are and accepting and loving them for it. It’s about the freedom to love whomever you want to love, wholly and freely.

It’s beautiful. Klune has written a beautiful, beautiful book.

Indeed, the story does feel slightly preachy and a bit syrupy at times. The narrative is also quite predictable and crammed with many common literary tropes. But really, none of it matters.

Why? Because the The House in the Cerulean Sea is special. Books as unforgettable as this are few and far between. And even though it may feel like you’ve previously read this story, there is an exceptionally good chance you will adore it more than all the others that have come before.

Sincerely, I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. I will never be able to gather the proper words to accurately express how I marvel at the magic of this story.

I know, deep within my soul, that it should not be missed by anyone, as it is so lovingly written for everyone.

Anyone and everyone with a beating heart, that is.

And if, regrettably, you have misplaced your heart somewhere on this treacherous road known as life. . . The House in the Cerulean Sea may be just the story you need to find it once again.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for cossette.
284 reviews219 followers
May 31, 2021
edit: 5/31/21:

I'm just going to leave this quote here that TJ Klune said in this podcast.

“The House in the Cerulean Sea” is a, it’s a bit of a quirky fantasy, but it deals with some very real, topical, specific issues. It actually started from a Wikipedia article because I have a tendency to get lost in Wikipedia for a long time and that’s a problem. But I will be in one article and I’ll click on another one, then another one, and then another one until I’m completely off what I was trying to look up to begin with. But I came across something known as the Sixties Scoop, which was in Canada during the fifties and sixties, where indigenous children were taken from their homes and put into government sanctioned orphanages, for lack of a better word.

And the idea stuck with me. It was something that I could not shake. And this was, this was at the end of 2017-ish. I had just finished writing my YA debut, “The Extraordinaires,” and I was looking into wanting to continue along in that vein with something a little bit different. And so when I stumbled upon this article about children being taken because they were different or they didn’t adhere to what standards people thought should be at the time , it was something that I couldn’t get out of my head and, but I didn’t want to co-opt, you know, a history that wasn’t mine. I’m a cis white dude, so I can’t ever really go through something like what those children had to go through.

So I sat down and I was like, I’m just going to write this as a fantasy. "

because ... writing it as a fantasy ... is going to ... change the fact that — i simply just have no words.


update: 5/18

I'm honestly shocked & appalled at how frequently I've seen The House in the Cerulean Sea recommended for many reasons. I was incredibly put-off by the fatphobia while reading it, as well as the love interest being the "master of the orphanage" (which is also a conflict of interest + there’s an uneven power dynamic ... not to mention master of the orphanage sure is ... a choice), but it wasn't until after i finished the book and googled it that I realized T.J. Klune had written The House in the Cerulean Sea based off of the Sixties Scoop —

While clicking through Wikipedia--his favorite website, he said--one night, he discovered a page about the "Sixties Scoop," which refers to the Canadian government's practice of removing indigenous children from their homes with the intent of adopting them out to white, middle-class families.
source .

Although I believe The House in the Cerulean Sea sets out to send a message about celebrating differences, unpacking preconceived notions & stereotypes about others, and seeing what can happen when people are given a place where they feel safe & cherished, it does so in incredibly harmful ways. It quite frankly, lacks nuance. Linus has worked for what is essentially, a magical version of DCYF for seventeen years, and has never once questioned how these children come to be removed & separated from their homes, families and their cultures, placed into "homes" that aren't a good fit, never once wondered what happens to them after he's done evaluating the home? Never once thinks about who has the "rights" to make these decisions for these children? Never once questions or considers the trauma that they go through?

The House in the Cerulean Sea is quite frankly, shallow. The comparisons/parallels between these magical, sometimes human, sometimes not, children, and the sufferings between Indigenous people are awful. Can we talk about how TJ Klune found out about The Sixties Scoop and then went ~ ooh let me profit off of this and wrap it in a found family story and make it okay ~. We're supposed to just ... know that these magical beings have been greatly reduced in numbers, separated from their homes, and then ... what? That it's okay because they have a new home and things are "better" now? Better for who? In what sense? Is the best option not reunification with their family and cultures? Why isn't there any conversation about what happened to the magical adults?

There is no consideration to the actual historical or systemic oppression in the world of
The House in the Cerulean Sea , nor is there any consideration of it in our real world today. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that . The reason we're given for why humans hate magical beings is because they're afraid — we're told that if humans only got the chance to know these magical beings, then their prejudice would go away. That's ... not how oppression works. Racism and prejudices don't just go away from knowing someone of that marginalized group.

I would not recommend this book to anyone, and if you’d like to learn more about The Sixties Scoop, here are some books I plan on checking out:

Intimate Integration: A History of the Sixties Scoop and the Colonization of Indigenous Kinship
Ohpikiihaakan-Ohpihmeh (Raised Somewhere Else): A 60s Scoop Adoptee's Story of Coming Home
Behind the Smile: A Survivor of the Metis Sixties Scoop

previous review (5/16):

edit: what the fuck do you mean this is based off of "the Sixties Scoop, which refers to the Canadian government's practice of removing indigenous children from their homes with the intent of adopting them out to white, middle-class families." ( source )

this was .... a disappointment. i know so so many people who loved this book, but i really couldn't get into it. the repeated fatphobia, calling arthur the "master of the orphanage" ... there was just so much that didn't sit right with me.

bella's review here and this bit from thefourthvine's review highlights some of my biggest issues with this book:

i personally would not recommend this book.
Profile Image for carol..
1,517 reviews7,721 followers
July 30, 2020
This is a birthday cake of a book. Perhaps a birthday cake dressed up in scary themes, but ultimately, a heart-warming, delicious concoction of a story that just skirts being teeth-tinglingly sweet.


Thankfully, the children in the story are monsters enough to cut the sugar with a little milk.

I enjoyed Cerulean Sea, especially once our milquetoast hero, Linus, makes his way to the orphanage and meets the very special children The Department In Charge of Magical Youth wants examined. Until then, the build is slow going, as Linus lives in the black and white version of the world. It reminded me, perhaps unsurprisingly, of all the horrible conformity scenes in all the children's books I've ever read, particularly Doris Umbridge shouting over Potter, and those creepy synchronized children in the land controlled by It in A Wrinkle in Time. So: boring, creepy, overt. Let's get to Oz, shall we?

"Lucy puffed out his chest. 'I'm brave! And since I'm the leader, my brave order will be that Arthur goes first to make sure it's safe while the rest of us wait right here.'
Everyone nodded.
Including Linus.
Arthur arched an eyebrow at him.
'He has a point,' Linus said. 'Bravery is a virtue and all that.'
'Arthur's lips twitched. 'If I must.'
'You must,' Lucy told him. 'And if there are cannibals, yell back at us when they start to eat you so we know to run away.'
'What if they eat my mouth first?'"

Oz is where the magic happens, and where Linus suddenly connects with people, or at least, the children who live in the isolated orphanage. There's Chauncey, the nightmare who dreams of being a bellhop; Talia, the bearded gnome; Phee the forest sprite; Theodore the wyvern; Sid, who has a contagious form of the were virus; and Lucy. Talia has an obsession with graveyards and would love the opportunity to bury someone. When she first meets Linus, she rather hopes he would be her first.

“'You've gone awfully pale,' Talia said as she squinted up at him. 'And you're swaying. Are you ill? If you are, I think we should go back to the garden so you can die there. I don't want to have to drag you all the way back. You look really heavy.' She reached up and poked his stomach. 'So soft.'
I’m not ill,” he snapped at her. “I’m just processing.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. If your left upper arm starts to hurt, would you let me know?”
“Why would I – that’s a sign of a heart attack, isn’t it?”

So, of course Linus' heart grows three sizes, and he has to learn to stop being such a rule-follower and start actually standing up for a principle. All's well and good, isn't it?

Well, mostly. There's a few problems. Linus' internal voice is mostly observational, spending most of it's time observing his own feelings at that, and not particularly introspective or analytical. From the first scene, this is pointed out to him by a witch at an orphanage he's assessing, and while it presumably hits home, he doesn't analyze it much. So the reader has to interpret Linus' journey. Did he make it out of personal growth? Were the children a catalyst? Was it happening anyway? Or was this about L-U-V? There is telling, and there is showing, but there is also processing and how did we get there? Because it's one thing to have a Grinch have his heart grow three sizes; it's quite another to take a forty-year-old and make them willing to upend their life (and their career of seventeen years). I'm not saying I don't believe, because, honestly, who wouldn't want to hang out with a button-hunting wyvern and create awesome gardens with a gnome? but well, maybe I kinda am. Because I want to know how it's done.

But yes, those are the grown-up details that only occur after you finish reading it, or when you have to go back to real life and pay the insurance bill or something like that. The story itself is eminently charming and while it is very clear with its message of tolerance, it's a message that really deserves to be heard. And apparently some people do deserve hitting over the head. And if a garden gnome wants to take them and bury them in the garden, who am I to complain? At least fertilizer is useful.

So, read if you like birthday cake--the good kind, not the sickly sweet, teeth-itching kind--and want a change from the dark and dismal.
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