Since my review of Sarah J. Maas’ new Crescent City series was so in-depth, I’ve asked a friend to offer a different perspective on her newest installment, House of Sky and Breath. Leia is a choreographer by trade, and you can check her out on this site.
Comparing the first book and its sequel, the first Crescent City is better simply because of its through-line murder mystery plot.
You’re left feeling hollow. With all of this being said, it’s still a three-star book. For better or worse. I like the world, I find it comforting and Hunt and Ruhn have my heart. It’s no A Court of Mist and Fury. Will I be reading the next book?
Anything for you, Rhysand.
Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.
The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.
In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it.
MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS
!!This way there be spoilers!! Do not read this if you are not looking for spoilers.
As EJ has mentioned in her House of Earth and Blood review, Maas is a divisive author on social media, love her or hate her, everyone has something to say about her books. House of Sky and Breath is no different.
EJ finished both books before I’d even considered moving it up my TBR. Then I get a frantic message at midnight, telling me to read both now. Because something big happens. And I do. Immediately.
In the sequel, we follow Bryce, Hunt and Ruhn once again, as they get tangled in fighting for rebel agents against the big bad, the Asteri. Something they were told explicitly not to do. And there’s a war coming, because of course there is, along with more McGuffins. We also have two more characters to follow, Tharion and Ithan.
Cut to me, 14:20pm, it’s a sunny afternoon in March. I’ve finished the book. I am screaming, crying, and hysterical. Maas’ books are now a multiverse, which I must admit is madness. Bryce hurtles through a Gate, lands in a place akin to a fairytale. She’s taken to a townhouse. Boom, she meets the Inner Circle of the Night Court from ACOTAR.
“Hello, Bryce Quinlan. My name is Rhysand.”
Time begins to move again, I come down from my high at the revelation. What am I left with? A poor three-star book.
THE BAD KIND OF ASSASINATIONS
Let’s start with the characters, because in Maas’ books they tend to be her saving grace. *pregnant pause*
Bryce Quinlan is still the smart-mouthed independent woman as she was in the first book. However, she begins to do things that undermine her own character. This is probably for Maas to explain that she’s flawed but honestly just left a bad taste in my mouth. The book begins and Bryce and Hunt have a no sex rule until Winter Solstice in place, which perhaps might be a critique, but it might not. In the first book, Bryce is super sex positive, so a sex ban for my girl? Things don’t entirely add up for me. Nevertheless, her body, her choice. Though, while a sex ban isn’t character assassination worthy, the next two examples might be.
Her first offense for me was that she negates to tell Hunt anything of what she’s doing in the entire book. She even says to herself that she must sit down with Hunt and tell him everything but they never do. Even though they are now mates. She goes to the mystics, something Hunt said not to do in the previous book. So omitting things from your mate is okay now, Maas?
Her second offense is when she interferes with her friend Juniper’s dance career, by using her status as a princess to leverage her biological father’s sponsorship money for the ballet company until Juniper is made principal dancer. Ignorant and self-righteous. Bryce starts to feel like a self-centred, bitchy person and I found myself caring for her less and less. Or only caring about her because of her proximity to Hunt.
THE SEXY, SEXY ANGEL
Hunt, the sexy, sexy angel. I loved Hunt in the first book. I found him so compelling with his believable characterisation and the betrayal, his turmoil and redemption. He’s a traumatised man who tries to make fair decisions based on experience and the life he’s lived. Imagine my disappointment when he’s treated terribly by Bryce, and the poor man goes along with it, because he’s now mated. He becomes Bryce’s beck-and-call man, leaving a work function that he promised his new boss he’d stay at to support them. Just to be intimidating for the altercation happening at home.
She didn’t know why her eyes stung. “I wanted to tell you, I really did.”
His hands began to rove up her torso, loving and gentle. She arched against him, exposing her neck. “I understand why you didn’t.” He dragged his tongue up her throat. “I was…I was upset that you didn’t trust me. I thought we were a team. It rattled me.”
She made to turn around at that, but his hands tightened, holding her in place. So she said, “We are a team. But I wasn’t sure if you’d agree with me. That an ordinary human boy was worth the risk.”
He let her twist in his arms this time. And—shit. His eyes were wounded.
Now he’s always on the back foot because Bryce has become more secretive, omitting information from him. This tells the reader that their relationship is not based on trust. Or perhaps, it is based on blind trust. Which in this universe, could kill you. Hunt from the first book wouldn’t dare go against the Asteri to help some rebels in the conflict because of his trauma—having to watch his first love be killed and then be enslaved by them for hundreds of years. So it doesn’t make sense when he does, blindly trusting Bryce and going into the fold. Yes, he believes in the cause. But he still has wounds. Plus he would be worrying about Bryce’s safety. Even if this character plot had to play out, let there be more conflict and friction between Hunt and himself and him and Bryce to make this believable. The fights they did have were glossed over and half-assed at best.
His journey in this book ends with him becoming a slave again. It feels like a betrayal from Bryce to make him go through that again.
Ruhn probably has the best go of it in the book. So Maas must have a soft spot for him. I did find him more compelling in this book, but that might’ve simply been because I’ve had more time with him now. His decisions make sense as there’s always something new to do to rebel against his father. Though he reminds me of Hunt in the first book. Ruhn endeavours to be noble, because his father is not and he wants to do right by his sister. He’s also fiercely protective of her because that’s what he thinks a big brother should be. He cares so much about those he loves that you can’t help but root for him. Also the spice in Chapter 3 is a win.
…AND THE REST OF THE REBEL TRAITORS
I guess I have to talk about Tharion and Ithan.
I hate Tharion. Honestly, a waste of words and pages. At first, he’s used as a plot device because he’s looking for Sofie and Emile Renast (our McGuffins) for the River Queen. After that, he has nothing to do. His motivations are what is happening in his pants. He is a prick. He is only serving the River Queen because he wanted to have sex with her daughter. Now he regrets it, because he couldn’t hit it and run. Then he bails on the daughter at a party to have sex. It makes me hate men. Maas tries to make him somehow redeemable because he has a dead sister. It’s a no from me. We don’t put women in refrigerators here.
Ithan feels and is a loose end. He survived not being murdered with the Pack of Devils in the first book, and for what? The revelation that he was jealous of his brother for getting Bryce to agree to go on a date? Because he’s ALSO been pining after Bryce the entire time he’s known her. Going as far as to imagine the children they might have. Ithan, don’t make her head any bigger please. But we follow him and he has nothing to do. I got bored. Cardinal sin. He is banished from the wolf den and becomes a lone wolf. Boulevard of Broken Dreams is playing on repeat with this man. He finds a new potential Alpha to follow and believes he should save her from the Astronomer, even if that might not be what she wants.
There’s also a new guy called Cormac, and he is introduced as a possible foil to Hunt and Bryce’s relationship and while that was a ruse, it might’ve made the plot more fun. I was actually sad about his death at the end. Again, he reminds me of Hunt, because Cormac is trying to do the right thing, he’s a rebel and believes in the cause. It doesn’t hurt that he’s hot.
Let’s talk about the plot and structure of the book. Which admittedly, is the weaker part of Maas’ arsenal.
As you can probably tell, the book is all over the place. There are too many heads to follow, which exhausts the reader and you end up skimming, just to get the next character you like.
PLOT OR NOT
Crescent City has a new Governor. Our gang of characters are rightfully worried about that. Is the new Governor going to turn out like Micah? In a bin? Celestia feels like a tool for foreshadowing. She’s dropping seeds left and right, hoping that they might bloom. The blooming process was left to another character to see through. For me, it didn’t work. The signs were there then we took a hard left.
Then Hind’s gang comes in. We’re worried about that. Rightfully so. Hunt is terrified of them. And while they are menacing, they don’t really do much. They play out as a tease for the war coming. In whichever book that might be.
We meet the dangerous faction of rebels. And they do actually feel dangerous. Their ideology is extreme, if the Asteri are the enemy, then all magical beings are the enemy. It’s unsettling because we see extremism and terrorism in real life. We were warned about this type of extremism in the first book with Briggs and it’s replicated in this book. But we’re lacking any development.
We go to the Eternal City in a blink. 90 percent in. Then Bryce realises that the Asteri are the real, only, enemy. We do get foreshadowing for this, but because the plot is bogged down with nonsense there’s no payoff.
Now we’ve reached Danika, the poor girl. She’s got a character assassination and is a convenient plot device all in one. More is revealed about her that Bryce did not know about. In fact this happens no less than five times in the book. First, she’s revealed to be a bloodhound who can scent out anything. Then she talked to Sofie in emails about something mysterious, then her father is Mordoc, a murderous lunatic, then she’s MATED with someone from Hind’s gang. She overlooks the atrocities that her mate committed to be with them. Maas makes it clear in ACOTAR that you can reject a mating, why not do it here? Would have been more believable for Danika, to be honest. It’s then confirmed that Danika was indeed a rebel by habouring information that would help bring down the Asteri.
EJ mentioned in her review of CC that their friendship was one of the most important parts of that book. It was. It is. But it feels undermined for the convenience of the sequel’s plot. The repetition is cheap. It makes sense in the first book because we’re solving Danika’s murder. In this book, Bryce—and the reader—feels like she—we—didn’t know Danika at all.
NO CONSEQUENCES MAKES MAAS A VERY BORING BOOK
Smaller events in this book play out that feel like they might have consequences. Take Ithan’s throat being ripped out. I was on the edge of my seat, oh no, the last of the Pack of Devils is about to die— Oh, he lives. His throat is healed and is already talking in the next chapter. Doing this lessens tension and cheapens the stakes. Allowing your reader to get complacent. Bored.
The world we are occupying does get broadened in real time in this book instead of learning about the past. I love the richness of the hierarchies of the city. Angels, Fae, Shifters etc. This is a depth that I live for. We also learn that there are mystics that can see to other worlds. We visit them and learn more about Hel. Though this has potential for Maas’ overall universe(s). Oh, and Hel is a real place. Hel sounds so compelling. EJ and I agree that Maas should write a book set in Hel. It could be so rich with the different levels and princes. Her own Dante’s Inferno. Below: Aidas, the chattiest prince of Hel
But are we getting too deep? To me it’s apparent that details are mentioned in the book but they aren’t returned to. My worry is that Maas’ will not be able to see the woods for the trees. And the story and the crossovers will get so convoluted that we can’t follow it any more.
Quick word about the spice. It’s fine. Ruhn is the MVP. We love him. Bryce and Hunt’s escapades could have been longer and thus allowed breathing space for their relationship and the plot. Though the scenes in the gym and library are my vibe.
Comparing the first book and its sequel, the first one is better simply because of its through-line murder mystery plot. Even with the god-awful amount of info-dumping that could have been edited down, you’re able to follow along and tension really gets going at the 70 percent mark. HOSAB does not have a through-line plot hook, which means the plot itself feels unearned. It definitely should have been edited down. Maas doesn’t even lean into her it-gets-going-at-70-percent formula. Everything the characters go through are flashes in a pan. You’re left feeling hollow. With all of this being said, it’s still a three-star book. For better or worse. I like the world, I find it comforting and Hunt and Ruhn have my heart. It’s no A Court of Mist and Fury. Will I be reading the next book?
Anything for you, Rhysand.