The House in the Cerulean Sea: A melody of themes or lacking focus?

The House in the Cerulean Sea is an indulgent fantasy written by T.J. Klune. The 416 page read presents a wide variety of themes revolving around the blindness of prejudice, finding oneself, and standing against unfair systems. Although the novel is written in a manner similar to that of children’s books, The House in the Cerulean Sea addresses some ideas that may be slightly too mature for younger readers. However, It is a good fit for high school readers and mature readers looking for something a little less serious that is still engaging.

We find ourselves following the story of Linus Baker, a 40 year old homosexual who enjoys a boring and unemotional life. His ability to be so emotionless and his extreme attention to detail makes him a great case worker for the “Department in charge of magical youth” (referred to as DICOMY) where he finds himself summoned to a meeting with extremely upper management. There he is given instructions to travel to an orphanage consisting of six magical children and carefully record anything and everything about them and the orphanage’s master. 

Upon his initial arrival, Linus is scared of the children and the power they possess. After spending months with the children, however, Linus begins to realize that “All children, no matter their … disposition or what they’re capable of, must be protected regardless of the cost.” Linus’s realization of this and his growing love for the children leads him to question his work and whether DICOMY is truly doing the right thing. As Linus navigates trying to understand these children, he also navigates his own identity and learns the importance of believing in himself. 

There were many great aspects of Klune’s novel which made it enjoyable to read. The lighthearted tone of the book made it extremely fun to read and allowed for a nostalgic feeling that reminded me of some of the more innocent fantasies I read for bedtime stories as a kid. I also liked the effort by Klune to intertwine commentary on the problems with DICOMY’s treatment of children, Linus growing as a person by gaining confidence, and the social with prejudice. These sub-plots added layers of depth to the novel. 

With this said, I feel it could have been better executed. The devotion to developing the various plots equally led to the feeling that they were all lacking something. The story’s structure could have been more effective had Klune focused more on a specific plot line and developed the others as minor ones. Despite this, the novel was still very enjoyable and made me feel warm inside during the more tender moments. Anyone looking for a heartfelt fantasy to escape into will really enjoy The House in the Cerulean Sea.

All things considered, The House in the Cerulean Sea is a charming book to be enjoyed by just about anyone mature enough to want to read something childish. I found this book similar to Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, as they are both emotional journeys about finding one’s true self. Both include plotlines that leave you wondering if you are living your life to the fullest or are too scared of what it may entail.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐