So I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while, even before Klune got a traditional publishing deal and the The House in the Cerulean Sea broke out, but I didn’t bite the bullet and actually decide to read it until I saw that this gorgeous edition was being released in September 2022. I did end up ordering the Waterstones edition with the gorgeous sprayed edges, and I have no regrets (except for when my copy arrived completely ruined from water damage, but they replaced it so it’s fine).
I was a little wary to read this one because it seemed very fraught and long and like there might be a lot of emotional buy-in to enjoy it. And I wasn’t wrong! There’s definitely an element of the self-published/fanfic kind of id-writing you get in those spaces. But if you’re willing to just let the book happen to you, it works. Even though it was SO ANGSTY. Until this book, I’d only read Klune’s heartwarming, cozy fantasy, and this is definitely not that. These characters are put through it, and they have ALL CAPS EMOTIONS.
Our main character is Ox, and we meet him on the day that his father leaves him and his mother. Both living with his father, who is emotionally abusive and sometimes physically as well, and his father leaving make huge impressions on young Ox, who is a bit different than most people. He’s a big kid, and is often seen as less intelligent because he’s quiet and thinks and responds differently than others do. It’s this emotional hole that draws Ox to the Bennett family, who move in down the road when Ox is almost an adult. They bring Ox into their family and he basically becomes an honorary member, but it’s their youngest son, Joe, who Ox develops the closest bond with. And the Bennetts have a secret, which I’m just going to tell you, and it’s that they are werewolves. We follow both Ox and Joe as they grow up and into their family, with not a small amount of drama and sadness along the way, but always that family unit to fall back on.
I really liked this, and felt that the length was worth it. Ox was a compelling main character, and I think Klune does a good job easing the reader into the world of the story so that you are more easily able to buy in to some of the more out-there elements. Werewolf stories tend to be different author to author, but this take on them felt especially unique, but to say why would be spoilers.
I will definitely be reading the rest of the books in the series, and I think I’m going to wait for them all to be re-released instead of reading the self-pub versions. I’m sure my massive TBR that I will never complete will entertain me in the meanwhile.