The House in the Cerulean Sea Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
"Daniel Henning is a great narrator for this quirky and theatrical audiobook.... Henning revels in a cornucopia of characters, diving into nuanced voices and colorful moments with accents and growls, tone shifts and whispers.... This is definitely a title for those who enjoy fantasy stories replete with gnomes and witches and all in between." (AudioFile Magazine)
Lambda Literary Award-winning author TJ Klune's breakout contemporary fantasy
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world.
Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is an enchanting love story, masterfully told, about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place - and realizing that family is yours.
Chicago Tribune Best Books of the Year - 2020
Amazon.com Best Books of the Year - 2020
A Macmillan Audio production from Tor Books
"1984 meets The Umbrella Academy with a pinch of Douglas Adams thrown in." (Gail Carriger, New York Times best-selling author of Soulless)
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|Listening Length||12 hours and 12 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||March 17, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #407 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#1 in LGBTQ+ Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#1 in Humorous Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#1 in LGBTQ+ Humorous Fiction (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on March 22, 2023
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I have sat with this review for a couple of days because I simply don't have adequate words for how wonderful this book truly is. TJ Klune is a storytelling genius and I will read every single book he ever writes from here on out. Magic flows from his fingertips.
I have been reading for over 40 years and this is easily one of my Top 5 most favorite books I have ever read. I laughed, I cried, I laughed a whole lot more and I shed so many tears of happiness.
The children that he created for this story may be magical creatures, but they are children none the less and many times I had to remind myself that they were "magical creatures" who look so different from those of us mere humans. These children are beautifully written, beautifully unique and they have all lived through far too much tragedy in their short lives. Well....Talia is an exception to this statement, as she will tell you she is quite capable of taking care of herself at 263 yrs old. While Linus reminds her that Gnomes don't reach maturity until 500 years old, Talia isn't phased by him or his lack of faith in her ability to take care of herself. HAHAHA!
Linus lived a mundane and lonely life before DICOMY (Department in Charge of Magical Youth) assigned him to a special top secret, Level Four nonetheless, case at a secret orphanage on an island. He packs up his cat, Calliope, hops on a bus and train and heads off on his assignment. Little does he know that his life is about to be turned upside down, sideways and everything he thought he knew about life is about to be thrown out the window.
Once he arrives at the orphanage, he meets Talia, the Gnome, Phee, a forest sprite, Theodore, a wyvern, Chauncey, a jelly like critter of unknown origin, Sal, a were-Pomeranian and Lucy, short for Lucifer the anticrist, along with their caregivers, Arthur and Zoe. Everyone is leery of Linus, some more than others. I won't give any spoilers by telling you more about the characters. What I will say is that each child is beautiful in their own unique way, each child teaches Linus something important about life and I hope you see the lessons, as they made me love them even more. Some characters developed more than others, I would've liked to have seen more of Phee, but I understand why we didn't, as Sprites are very solitary and her relationship is more with Zoe than anyone else in the book. I have to admit I had a favorite, while I loved them all and each one had a storyline that gave me tears of either empathy, love or both, Talia was my favorite fierce, mischievous and independent little girl. She reminded me of myself and I think there will be a character in this book that will remind you of yourself. I think there's a piece of us in many of the characters if we really pay attention to them.
Linus learns so much about himself and life as he spends a month on the island and adventures into the nearby village with the children, Arthur and Zoe. There's prejudice, bigotry, compassion, empathy, recognition and growth throughout this story. It really is a great representation of humans and how diverse we are. Despite these children being written as magical creatures, they are unique, they are different from the average human and this book depicts how humans judge others based on preconceived ideas, appearance and stereotypes. It is hopefully an eye opener for some to judge less and love more, while it's a reminder to all of us to be kind, loving and remember that our uniqueness makes us beautiful in our own special way.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is the story of Linus Baker, a government worker in a fictional (and nominally magical) world who is desperately lonely, but keeps himself too busy fulfilling his job according to the draconian Rules and Regulations to think very deeply about his dissatisfaction with his life. The only bits of happiness he has are the sunflowers in his garden, his cat Calliope, and his record collection. Linus’ internal monologue is immediately hilarious, but his life overall is sad and dreary. This metaphor is extended even further in tragicomic fashion: Linus constantly misses the bus (or it is late), forgets his umbrella on rainy days, and engages in light self-hatred (about his weight), along with holding a seeming life-long goal of blending in with the wall paint. Luckily, the business of the book is to make him happy. Author Klune accomplishes this by delving into the fantasy portion of the novel, when Linus must make an unusual casework visit to a whimsical island and observe the family who live there. Over the course of his visit, Linus (or Mr. Baker, as he goes by at the orphanage he is “investigating”) slowly develops his capacity for happiness, and by the end of the book all’s well that ends well.
What I knew going into reading the book: magical house/school, cozy vibes, quiet read, LGBTQ+ characters. What I got in the first several chapters: an absolutely miserable main character in an awful desk job that gave me flashbacks to some of my own worst working experiences. Let’s just say there was some whiplash between expectations and reality. I almost put the book down about 5 times in the first 5 chapters. I kept going because of the promised payoff from the recommendations of others. So, with that off my chest, I can say… this book IS lovely in many ways, as is Linus, but they both require a bit of patience from the reader to uncover their strengths and treasures.
Author Klune’s task in this novel is a complex and delicate one: to start with a character that the reader can immediately identify as unhappy, unambitious, and with low self-esteem, and expose them to a combination of plot and character elements that will thoroughly change their outlook on life, actions, and future, all without seeming “out of character.” It is a masterful character study, but it doesn’t feel contrived – it instead is a story suffused with homey, magical details, and I think that is why it is so beloved.
So, that’s the book. I think it was successful on its own merits, and a feat of engineering! And obviously, cozy vibes and quiet reads are nothing to shake a stick at. BUT DID I ENJOY IT??? That is a tough question, and one I’ve been asking myself over and over again in the last 12 hours or so since I finished the book. And I think the answer is, to use one of my favorite words, complex. On one hand: yes. I can appreciate the underpinnings that make this book art, and I appreciate the aura of it all, and of course I love magical stories. But one thing about being in the head of a character with such low self-esteem, and such a dreary outlook on life, is that is hard not to get trapped in the emotional transference. Other people in the book kept telling Linus he was worthy and delightful, and yet… on his side, he couldn’t see it. And thus, in a way, the reader (or at least THIS reader) couldn’t see it. As I said, complex. I feel satisfied that I didn’t waste my time reading the book, but it’s not a favorite, or even a “keep it on my shelf” book. It’ll go live instead in my classroom library at school!
I do appreciate LGBTQ+ characters getting to live everyday lives, and being the centers of cozy books. I also appreciated that, while the book is marketed to adults, it will be very popular with younger readers and those who read YA and crossover titles. Because of the novel’s focus on children’s lives and children’s well-being through Linus’ line of work, the feel is quite innocent and light, even when it deals with heavier themes like prejudice and child abuse.
In all, a perfectly satisfactory summer read, and one for when you need a dash of whimsy and warmth in your life.
Recommended for: fans of Katherine Addison’s books (especially The Angel of the Crows, which I read and also enjoyed in a complex way last summer), those who enjoy quiet fantasy with hints of Diana Wynne Jones and/or Robin McKinley, and anyone who wants to see more LGBTQ+ representation in science fiction and fantasy!
Top reviews from other countries
Every paragraph, every page....there's an overbearing and preachy lesson. It feels fake and forced. It's like someone decided to write the book and start with the 'agenda' rather than the story. Yes, by all means, write a book about inclusivity and accepting your differences, but do it in a more natural way. Stop telling the reader the same thing on every page, stop making up trite instances to prove it's okay to be different. The book was exhausting. I'm three quarters of the way through and struggling to finish.
I loved this quiet book filled with kindness and love. I cried at the ending not because it was sad but because it was filled with such hope for the future.
40-year-old Linus Baker has been working as a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth for many years and, though he leads a solitary and rather humdrum life, he takes pride in his work making sure that orphanages for magical, non-human children are taking good care of their charges. He never lets himself get attached to the children—until he’s sent to Marsyas Island Orphanage, run by a Mr. Arthur Parnassus, where six extraordinary, potentially dangerous children are living. There’s Talia the garden gnome; Chauncey the tentacle ‘monster’; Sal the were-Pomeranian; Theodore the wyvern; Phee the forest sprite; and Lucy, the son of Satan. Linus must live with them for a month, reporting back to DICOMY, and decide if the orphanage should stay open.
And DICOMY would prefer it if he didn’t fall in love with Arthur and his little family of misfits while he’s there.
The House in the Cerulean Sea is a big, warm, comforting hug wrapped up in a novel, and it’s one of the most hopeful fantasy novels I’ve read. If you’re looking for a book that will bring you shameless joy and fill your heart to the point where you think it might burst, then look no further than this one. It’s such a tender story and a love letter to found families.
As Arthur himself states, calling his house an orphanage makes no sense; no one is coming to adopt these children, as far as Arthur is concerned the children are his, and as such he is incredibly protective of them. Unfortunately he needs to be in a world where magical and non-human people are treated like monsters that need to be feared, to the point where some of the children believe it themselves. With Arthur, however, they’re given a chance at a childhood where they’re able to learn and play and express themselves without having to worry about being punished simply for existing. The orphanage might be where these children live, but Arthur is their home.
It would be so easy for this novel to be twee and so overly sweet it could cause cavities, but Klune writes these children so well and in such a way that it’s impossible not to fall in love with them. They all have their own strong personalities, and their own issues to work through, but at their heart they’re all children who are desperate to be loved and desperate for a place they can call home.
Linus and Arthur are also utterly lovely and it was so refreshing to read a romance blossoming between two adults in their forties, one of whom is a little overweight and whose hair is thinning. Linus isn’t a young Case Worker who’s fresh on the job and learning the truth behind some of the behaviour DICOMY’s strict rules are allowing, but a man who’s been trying to do his best for children for years and is finally able to discover the courage he’s needed to say what he really thinks when he falls in love with this little family, and having an older protagonist at the centre of this novel made the story all the more powerful for me. You don’t have to be 25 and classically handsome to change the world, and some of the smallest changes we make can make the biggest ripples.
This story reads like a Middle Grade novel from the point of view of the adults and it’s wonderful. I can’t recommend it enough.
Our erstwhile hero, Linus, lives in a lonely, colourless bubble. He has his little house, he has his somewhat aloof cat Calliope, and he has the job he loves likes-ish as a Case Worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. That is his lot in life and he has accepted it. Linus lives his life by the book, the one in question being a hefty tome entitled 'Rules and Responsibilities' and published by his employer, DICOMY. It is that very adherence to the rules that sees him sent off on a special assignment, one that will call into question the beliefs he has held dear for most of his life.
This is a captivating story about found family, prejudice, fragile hope, fear and love. A story of six very special, very amazing, children and the adults in their lives. I fell in love with the antichrist, a white-haired gnomish girl, a boy who just wanted to be a bellhop, a girl who made things grow, a teenager with words in his soul and a wyvern with a not-so-secret hoard. My heart was stolen from the very first page and never given back. I want to stand on that island in the cerulean sea, visit that garden, tip the boy who does my laundry, watch plants emerge from the ground, read those typewritten words, add buttons to that hoard and dance to Bobby Darin. I want to meet a phoenix, an island sprite, a revolutionary, I want to meet those children and the adults who care for them.
I laughed, cried, swooned and cheered as I read. My heart broke repeatedly but was always put back together again by the love these perfectly mismatched individuals held for one another. Linus and Arthur are the most unlikely, ill-equipped men to be partners and parents, yet they were the best Dads in the world - ever.
The House in the Cerulean Sea will stay with me for a long time. The characters have created themselves a home inside my heart and I have no intention of ever asking them to leave. I am now on a mission to persuade as many people as I can to read this delightfully charming tale. A tale as beautiful as this one should be compulsory reading.
Having read rave reviews for The House in the Cerulean Sea, this was a highly anticipated read, and I was prepared to find myself disappointed if it didn't live up to expectations, however, thankfully that was not the case. I completely get the hype around the book, and have to say it is one of my favorite reads of the year so far.
The first few chapters revolve around Linus' rather drab and mundane life working at DICOMY. The author writes with a rather quirky sense of humour, which did gain my attention from the off, and once Linus is set his special assignment, I was intrigued as to what he would uncover at the Marsyas Orphanage. It wasn't until Linus arrives at the Island though that I fell completely in love with this book, and after that it really was just a glorious escape of a read, guaranteed to put a smile on my face. In fact, I'm not sure I've read anything quite as uplifting in a while; this book is like a syrupy treat!
The characters in this book were so vivid and full of life. The children at the orphanage in particular completely stole my heart, every single one of them, and often had me in stitches. I loved Arthur, and I also really enjoyed watching the change in Linus, how he was helpless but to fall in love with the children and way of life on the Island too, and just loosen up and learn to live in the moment, as opposed to by the rules. In fact I thought Linus made for rather a refreshing and unlikely hero, and I also enjoyed the little sprinkling of romance in the book too.
The book is not very heavy on plot or action, it is in essence a simple story, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment of it. In many ways this read like a sort of fable or fairy-tale for adults. It had strong messages and themes at its heart, and yes, sometimes these messages were hammered home a bit, and perhaps could have been conveyed a bit more subtly, but that didn't stop the themes from resonating.
This is a story about acceptance, of not judging people because they are different or fearing them for their differences. Whilst in the book these themes are explored in relation to Magical Beings and how they are treated and viewed by humans, they are of course just as translatable in real life. The book highlights the dangers of bureaucracy, whilst also championing the power of the voices of the few, because even if just one person makes a stand, it can trigger a change. The story also encourages one to be brave, both in terms of standing up for those around you and challenging views, but also in terms of living one's own life. It can be easy to become complacent, to accept one's lot, even if deep down one wishes for something else or to be somewhere else, and I loved this aspect of Linus' arc, in terms of how he found a more fulfilling life by being a little braver and more adventurous.
Overall, this was a really refreshing and heart-warming read, with a unique voice and style, important themes and wonderful characters who will stay with me for a long time.