Full of complex sociopolitical commentary and steamy romance, it earns the more mature label, with depictions of toe-curling sex, explicit violence, and liberal swearing (don’t worry, we won’t tell your parents) ... a dizzying, suspenseful whirl that surprises at every turn ... The author’s world-building skills have long been considered among the finest of her peers. And they’re newly thrilling in Earth and Blood, intricately rendering Crescent City as a place that feels both familiar and wildly imagined. But it’s Maas’ sweeping feel for love stories, and particularly her essential take on female fellowship, that cast the real spell.
... not a work for the fantasy purist, but its eclecticism—names borrowed from Old Norse and the Bible, creatures from every corner of folk tale—keeps you guessing, and the clashes between the mundane and the magical are often funny as well as provocative. Moreover, Ms. Maas has the main talent a fantasy author needs: continuous invention, new twists all the time.
The beginning of this 800-pager is simply awful, rife with the kind of fantasist characterization and shoehorned exposition that teenagers write on the internet in anonymity. I was afraid of what I’d have to say in this space if the book had continued to be so bad as its initial eighth, but, thankfully, it got better. The problem of Maas really needing an editor to mitigate her worst habits did, however, continue. Her main character turns out to be a world-class Mary Sue, a kind of Swiss Army Knife of supernatural ability. Often, the reader’s inability to predict what comes next depends not on organic character and plot movements, but on the narrators keeping secrets from the reader. This is a cheap way to spice up the plot ... Further, Maas’s writing is not up to par ... Maas’s work is sort-of addictive ... While certain setups were so telegraphed that their conclusions were as meaningful as toast popping up when it’s done, others had satisfying payoffs. A handful of scenes felt so genuine that I read them twice, enjoying how conversations and characterization snaked around to emotional resolutions. And Maas knows how to write dialogue that crackles and snarks along as capably as Joss Whedon’s, which is a major asset. Still. On balance, House of Earth and Blood is not a terribly good book. It is ingenuous, and its characters are appealing, and its universe is complex enough to make for great cosplay and fanfic (key for its target audience). I enjoyed some of the reading experience, if not quite half of it.