Review: House of Sky and Breath

4 out of 5 stars

The end. THE END! My screaming. And everything before it is good, too.

House of Sky and Breath, by Sarah J. Maas (Crescent City #2)

I would have said that “all the things” happen in House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1, 3.5 stars), but Sarah J. Maas had another 768 pages of whiz-bang waiting for the second book. I honestly don’t know how she keeps it straight.

Bryce Quinlan, half-fat, half-human twentysomething started this series as a trashy drunk acting dumb because she thought it made her cute. Now she’s the legendary Starborn Princess, and a mystery-solving, oppressor-killing, species-equalizing, apocalypse-averting heroine, forever in a thong and stilettos. Her police-angel boyfriend Hunt Athalar is crazy hot and powerful. Her prince brother Ruhn is crazy hot and less powerful. Their cronies are, respectively, crazy hot and a merman, crazy hot and a werewolf, crazy hot and a teleporter… the list goes on. They’re all half in love with Bryce, which is pretty much the A-plot of this series.

The rest of HOSAB’s story is as nuts as Book 1, when Bryce saved the city of Lunathion. Now she’s graduated to saving the world. Archangels rule Midgard, and their overload Asteri rule the world. Vanir (supernatural beings with powers) are the upper class, while humans live alongside them in some places, and are enslaved in others. Now those humans are rising up. A war approaches. That makes it an opportune time for Hell itself to get involved. This book has more plots than pages – and SJM makes them all shine.

For a spoiler-free review, let’s stick to discussing how Sarah J. Maas’s hot button issues show up for work:

Writing: Her overwrought, breathless, bodice-ripping vocabulary cannot be overestimated. Every chest heaves, every muscle ripples, every stubbed toe barks. My long-time nemesis was her devotion to the phrase “phantom wind” – used at least 250 times in previous series, it’s only used three times here. (That’s one more than Book 1.) Honestly, you either love or hate-love SJM’s writing. It’s exciting and racy or cheap and trashy. I hate-love it. The writing in this series is noticeable more erudite than ACOTAR or TOG, but I say “traaaaaaaash” out loud at least 50 times per book – while eagerly turning pages.

Porn: Here it is, friends. This is SJM’s brand. Book 1 had almost none (deadass surprising), but Book 2 makes up for it, plus extra. This is another hate-love for me. It’s hot, but painstaking. Every inch of skin and drop of sweat are salaciously described in excruciating detail. It’s more a medical textbook than a sex scene. And it happens like 5 times. We’re way past blushing – SJM wants you wringing out your panties every 100 pages. Instead, I ended up fast-forwarding because it’s repetitive and I miss the story. Either way, this is a windows-up-at-stoplights audiobook, and definitely pause it before entering the drive-thru.

Story: HUGE. Epic. As always, SJM overdelivers on world building and intricacy. She must have a house full of murderboards to keep this stuff straight. As with Book 1, CC’s modern day, technological era-setting is super appealing to me. The story requires so much investment that it’s like Alice’s rabbit hole: the only way out is through, and every turn is wild. Story is where SJM stands above and beyond so many writers, both YA and otherwise.

Female Protagonist: I quite like Bryce (Adelaide Quinlan, though I’ll never know why her full name is required so many times). She started off a gross mess in Book 1, but the story’s arc brought her around. She’s got tireless sass and a lot of loyalty, along with some intentional flaws. Bryce does two dumb-just-to-drive-drama things in this book, which seemed a touch beneath SJM’s usual talent. It’s also really dull that every single male character is half in love with her. Too facile. But while she’s no Feyre, she’s definitely a character I want to stick with to the end.

Pace: Breakneck. There is no downtime. This audiobook is over 27 hours (It’s $42!!) and it’s never boring or slow. SJM manages to keep the story clear and moving ahead even at terminal velocity. It’s a huge accomplishment. She has said the CC series will be only three books, and she appears to be packing in as much as all eight books in the TOG series.

And then there is the end. As I said, HOLY CRAP. HOSAB has a screamer of a last page. Wait for it, then get on board with the rest of us desperately waiting for Book 3.

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