Linus Baker is a cog in a bureaucratic machine. He is a case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, or DICOMY. He is average in nearly every way: average build, average house, average desk job. Everything in his life is routine from his bus ride to work, to grinning and bearing it when he has to put up with his boss on a power-trip or his neighbor butting her way into his life, to the detailed reports he completes for all of his cases. Everything is as boring as could possible be until he gets assigned to Marsyas Island where there is an orphanage for magical youth run by Arthur Parnassus so very unlike anything that Linus has ever encountered. Linus has a lot to learn about how the world works, who he is, and what unique piece of magic everyone, magical being or not, has to offer. The House in the Cerulean Sea is a funny and charming book about discovering who you truly are and how to live with kindness and love in world that can’t wait to tear you down.
Klune built this world so efficiently and easily. The descriptions of Linus’ desk job are soul-crushingly detailed without getting bogged down in minutia. The posters that read “See something, say something” and the little drops of details regarding magical-being registration set up this world perfectly to be intolerant towards magical-beings clearly without having a plan for how to handle or live with them. The prejudice in this book is developed the same way it is in the real world: little by little, comment by unchecked comment, small hateful action by larger hateful action until everything boils over.
The characters that Klune has created are also much fun and so very endearing. I don’t want to give away too much about who all lives on Marsyas Island, but rest assured that there is no such thing as a boring day with that bunch. We’re talking trees growing out of nowhere, vinyl records flying around rooms, hordes of hidden treasure, and a bellhop that hides under beds.
This is truly a beautiful book. There are important lessons about the dangers of prejudice and mob-mentality. An important theme from the book is self-acceptance (not the toxic-positivity kind of self-acceptance). Characters reflect on who they are and who they want to be and work to make changes. Klune doesn’t wave a magic wand from one scene to the next for characters to suddenly grow and develop. These characters do the work to be better: sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail, but they always have their family to support them, and they never give up.
Do yourself a favor, and pick up this book as quickly as you can.