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  • Ananya Ak

House in the Cerulean Sea: A Book I want to Hug

A mobile phone resting against a blue wall, with the cover of House in the Cerulean Sea open. On its right is an origami house with a little gnome on top and a green blob next to the door. An origami dog and dragon are standing in front of the house, facing it. Scattered across are some sea shells.

While I typically write matter-of-fact reviews about exactly how I feel, this book spoke to me in a different way, so you’re stuck with something entirely different.

Mr Baker,

You are being sent for the most important of assignments. Remember that this is a CLASSIFIED LEVEL FOUR assignment. If you disclose any information about it to those who do not meet the required classification level, you will receive grave punishment that could end in up to ten years’ incarceration.

Your assignment is this:

You are to leave post-haste to the Marsys Island Orphanage, where there reside six children and their master, Arthur Parnassus. Enclosed, you will find seven files – one for each of them. Under no circumstances are you to share the contents of these files with the residents of the orphanage. They are for your eyes only. Do not open the files until you get off the train that will take you to your destination.

Please be advised that this orphanage is different from any you have ever been to as a case worker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth (DICOMY). The children are different and highly dangerous. Do your best to protect yourself.

Your work on this assignment is important; perhaps the most important you have ever done so far. Your reports will provide us with the information required to decide if this orphanage should remain open, or if it needs to be shut permanently. Keep your eyes and ears open, Mr Baker. We expect the absolute honestly you are known for, and the objectivity that our RULES AND REGULATIONS prescribe.

If anything appears out of the ordinary, we expect you to report on it. Make sure that the rules are followed. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is that you bring any discrepancy to our notice immediately.

Your priority is the safety of the children, of course. Make sure the children are safe from each other, and themselves. One in particular. His file is at the top.

We look forward to your thorough and candid reports.


Charles Werner,

Extremely Upper Management


Linus Baker’s Notes On The Inhabitants

ZOE CHAPELWHITE: The caretaker of Marsys Island. Rude and quite condescending.

LUCY: The most terrifying child of all. Beware of him.

TALIA: Has a garden. Threatens to bury people with shovels. Quite dangerous.

THEODORE: Loves hoarding things; especially buttons.

PHEE: Powerful for her age. Loves plants.

SAL: A born writer, but perpetually afraid. Handle with care.

CHAUNCEY: Species unknown. Wants to be a bellhop when he grows up.

ARTHUR: Master of the orphanage. Quite handsome.

MERLE: The boatman. Always demands double the fee.

THE VILLAGERS: Quite cold and insular. Wonder what’s up with them.

Random thoughts:

I loved this book, in case you can’t tell from the fact that it inspired me to write something out of my comfort zone. It was a wonderful breath of fresh air; one I really needed as I was going through a massive reading slump (I hate ‘em, don’t you?)

I read an ebook version of it (thanks to my friend Shweta @whatsshwereading), but it’s so wholesome and so…nice (no other word for it) that I want a physical copy because I want to give the book a massive hug, damnit! (And, spoiler alert: I’ve already bought it from Bookstrunk – yeah, I’m hopeless.)

It’s hard not to love this book (although I’ve heard it called “vanilla”, and I wonder what’s happened to the readers; why they only prefer tragic stories with lots of violence). It’s got dragons (wyverns, to be precise) and sprites and gnomes, and the representation is just amazing. Linus Baker (the protagonist) is queer, the children are, well…different, and racism in that world is to discriminate against such people who are not entirely human. The way those issues are handled, so gently, so adorably, deserves to be applauded.

I’m seriously waiting for the book to arrive. I want to hug it!

About the Author:

TJ Klune

It often saddens me to see so little info about brilliant authors of wonderful books online. But in TJ Klune’s case, it might actually be deliberate. This is all I found about him on his website, so I presume he quite likes his privacy:

TJ Klune is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. He’s also queer and believes that it’s more important than ever to have accurate, positive queer representation in stories (and I must say, with The House in the Cerulean Sea, he does a great job.


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