The House in the Cerulean Sea by T J Klune – review

Published by Tor

Publication date – 16 September 2021

Source – own copy

He expected nothing. But they gave him everything . . .

Linus Baker leads a quiet life. At forty, he has a tiny house with a devious cat and his beloved records for company. And at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, he’s spent many dull years monitoring their orphanages.

Then one day, Linus is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a highly classified assignment. He must travel to an orphanage where six dangerous children reside, including the Antichrist. There, Linus must somehow determine if they could bring on the end of days. But their guardian, charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, will do anything to protect his wards. As Arthur and Linus grow ever closer, Linus must choose between duty and his dreams.

Linus lives in his little house with his cat, who barely tolerates him. He goes to work every day as an inspector of orphanages for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He has no social life, or romantic life and finds himself trapped in a cycle he didn’t realise he was in. Then Extremely Upper Management send him to an orphanage far away. There six children live. One of them happens to be the son of the Devil. Linus must assess whether the children will bring about the end of the world. What he finds when he gets there may just change his world forever.

I loved Linus. He is quiet and introspective. Keeps his head down at work and doesn’t step out of line. He is conscientious in his job, trying to ensure a balance between the needs of the orphanages he visits and the ministry. He is lonely, though he doesn’t realise how lonely he is until he meets Arthur and his charges. He hasn’t travelled far and so when he goes to the orphanage (with moody cat in tow), it is the first time he gets to see the ocean. It is also the first time he truly understands the meaning of family, even if this one has been created by circumstance.

There is a wonderful sense of place with this novel. Partly due to the magical element, partly due to the setting of the orphanage and the characters that inhabit it, there is a fairy tale feel that lets the reader, or this reader at least, feel transported to a place where it seems natural for realism and myth to meet.

The children each have their own quirks that make them a joy to read. From Talia, the 200 year old gnome (which makes her still a child) who is always one step away from clouting Linus with a spade, to Phee, the wood sprite who can conjure plants from the earth. There’s Theodore, a Wyvern who is inordinately proud of his button collection, Sal who shape shifts into a Pomeranian when scared and Chauncey who, although he may appear to be the consistency of a jellyfish, has one dream in life – to be a bellhop. Then there’s Lucy, a mad cap six year old who makes blood curdling threats for fun and who happens to be the son of the anti-Christ.

The orphanage is a house full of love. Each child has their own unique abilities and idiosyncrasies that make them who they are. They are a family brought together out of circumstance but sustained by the care they have for each other. The children may look different, and act different, but they want to play, to laugh, to explore and to be loved. Arthur gives them the home for them to be able to do that in safety, whilst protecting them from the outside world who would want to control them or hurt them due to their differences. It is through their eyes that Linus sees them. The children celebrate their differences, taking them as part and parcel of who each person is. As Arthur and Linus get closer each realise what they have been missing in their lives and as Linus gets to know the residents of the orphanage he finds something he has never really had, a truly loving family.

Linus helps Arthur face the residents of the village where the orphanage is located. Constantly met with contempt and bigotry, Arthur has tried to shield the children from the judgment of the residents. As Linus spends more time with the children he is determined to ensure that he can do all he can for them to be accepted as who they are.

The House in the Cerulean Sea is about prejudice. It’s about society imposing it’s ideals of what is and isn’t “normal” when there is no such thing. It is about imposing conditions on those who don’t fit the mould, putting them out of sight and what happens when they are embraced instead of shunned. It is a love story, a story of romantic love, familial love and all types of love in between.

A gentle, magical story about acceptance, love and being true to yourself.

Highly recommended.


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