“House of Earth of Blood” Mixes Murder Mystery with Fantasy


Sarah J. Mass returns to the fantasy genre with “House of Earth and Blood.” (Courtesy of Instagram)

“That’s the point of it, Bryce … Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow. It makes everything that much more precious.”

Sarah J. Maas is notorious for writing the most epic tales filled with characters that seem larger than life. “House of Earth and Blood” was no disappointment for die-hard fans, making waves when it came out a few years ago. This novel was a long one, borderline criminal at the number of names and history that readers had to quickly get used to. However, the witty dialogue and relatable characters broke up long pages of world-building. 

Bryce Quinlan is half human, half-Fae. Belonging to a legendary race that owes allegiance to the House of Sky and Breath, Bryce is all too used to the complex bureaucracy of her world. 

By day, Bryce works as a clerical assistant to the powerful sorcerer Jesiba in her antique shop. At night, she is a self-proclaimed party girl, wild and unabashed, indulging in the notorious nightlife that Crescent City has to offer. 

So far, Bryce has been pretty pleased with her life of glamor and contentment. That is, until one night she finds herself witnessing something she is most certainly not privy to. Swearing to do anything to get vengeance for those she lost, Bryce now has to wrestle with the disturbing truth of her new reality. Enter Hunt Athalar. He is the infamous “Umbra Mortis,” literally translated to “shadow of death.” The witty banter between these two characters is what made the novel for me, and the murder mystery concept was different from Maas’ previous fantastical adventures. 

As mentioned, the intense world-building was my one qualm for this book, mostly because it was a glaring one. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that fantasy is already difficult to get into since the reader has to quickly get their bearings in a world vastly different from their own. Maas does not make it any easier for the reader to understand her world as she tends to dump information at inopportune times. This is not the only issue, as she also does this heavily during the first two hundred pages. 

Even with this issue, I still found that once that first section was transgressed, the story flowed fluidly. There was a time jump that Maas executed well, especially since it was after the dense world-building. Furthermore, the characterizations of the new protagonists in “House of Earth and Blood” was one of my favorite parts of the novel. Maas did a phenomenal job of separating them from characters she had written in previous books, doing well to still keep them relatable enough that readers cared if they lived or died.

Maas’ high fantasy world combined the best of each reality. Readers can see modern technology in a city sprawling with angels and spirits. The underground is run by a Viper Queen while Bryce’s favorite hobby growing up was learning how to shoot a rifle. While these worlds initially seem unable to fit together, they make an unlikely pair. Personally, seeing Bryce utterly enrage Hunt with her lack of knowledge about “sunball,” was particularly hilarious. (Baseball, if the resemblance wasn’t obvious enough). 

Overall, I think “House of Earth and Blood” was a remarkable re-entry into the market of adult fantasy.