Well, this is an awkward review to write. I know that this book is widely beloved, but I just…didn’t love it. It was FINE! I wasn’t mad at it! But something about it failed to sufficiently warm the cockles of my cold, dead heart.
This is my second T.J. Klune, and I didn’t love Under the Whispering Door, either. But people told me that I would like this one more. And I did, just not a lot more. I actually feel like if I had read this one first, I would have liked Whispering Door even less. Because, ultimately, something about the emotional beats of each book felt very same-y to me. And the issues that I had with Whispering Door showed up in Cerulean Sea as well.
I liked the orphans in this book very much. I liked that there were grownups in their lives who felt strongly about taking care of them, and judging them on their own merits.
I did not like the complete lack of any subtlety when describing the workers at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth and their 1984-level drudgery. I did not like the cartoonishly awful Extremely Upper Management. I did not like that the book couldn’t seem to decide if it was set in the US or the UK. But mostly, I did not like that there was no real character development of anyone except for Linus, and the relationship at the end didn’t seem fully realized. I get why Linus would fall in love with the island and the children and Arthur, but we don’t get much build up for why they love him back.
I expected this book to be a five-star read, but I just couldn’t get there.