Desert Isle Keeper
House of Earth and Blood
Narrated by Elizabeth Evans
Anyone who listens to or reads Fantasy novels on a regular basis is probably familiar with the work of Sarah J. Maas, but if you’re not, I’ve got the perfect introduction to her writing for you. With House of Earth and Blood, the first book in a brand-new series intended for adult readers, the author firmly cements her place on my list of favorite writers of all time. At over 800 pages in print and nearly twenty-eight hours in audio, this is a huge undertaking for any reader, but it’s absolutely worth it.
Our heroine is Bryce Quinlan, a half-human and half-fae female in her mid-twenties. She’s not exactly the most ambitious person in the world when we first meet her, spending her days working as the assistant to the owner of an art gallery with tons of secrets locked within its walls, and her nights in a drug-fueled haze. Her sort of life wouldn’t work for everyone, but Bryce thinks it’s pretty close to perfect. But everything changes when a group of her closest friends are violently murdered, leaving Bryce to cope with debilitating grief.
Two years later, with the man convicted of the crime locked safely behind bars, Bryce still isn’t doing all that well. She still goes to work every day, but she seems to have lost her spark, the joy she used to take in simply being alive. The things she loved most don’t seem to matter anymore, and she feels like a shadow of her former self, unwilling to allow anyone to get close to her. When another murder, eerily similar to the ones that changed Bryce’s life so completely, is committed, Bryce is ordered by a powerful archangel to help one of his soldiers solve the crime. She’s obviously not enthused by the prospect, but no one says no to an archangel and lives to tell the tale.
Her unwilling partner in the investigation is Hunt Athalar, a notorious fallen angel with a dark and dangerous past. Hunt is a slave to the governing body of archangels after taking part in an ill-fated rebellion. Desperate to regain his freedom, he’s entered into a bargain that could either free him or damn him for all eternity. He doesn’t have time for the antics of a party girl like Bryce. Instead, he needs a partner who is committed to finding the truth, no matter the cost.
The novel has an urban fantasy vibe that I absolutely adored, but it’s set in a completely fictional world. Society is different from ours, but there are some notable similarities that helped to deepen my understanding of how the world and culture operate. Magic is definitely present, but it’s kind of understated, and I’m wondering if we’ll learn more about it as the series continues.
If you’re looking for something with a high steam factor, this probably won’t be the book for you. Bryce and Hunt are unwilling allies at the start of the investigation, but as time passes and things begin heating up, each will find exactly what they need most in the other. Their relationship builds slowly, and I loved heariing them form a cautious friendship that later blossoms into something more. They’re both pretty damaged people with a lot to work through and things don’t change for them overnight, which is exactly how I like my romances.
I don’t consider myself someone who gushes about every book I read or listen to, but this one deserves all the gushing I can manage and then some. There’s so much depth and beauty, so many fabulous things I want to tell you but can’t for fear of spoilers. Bryce and Hunt are phenomenal leads, and the story arc is darkly complex. It’s an audiobook I hated to put down, but also wanted to linger over in hopes of making it last just a little longer, and that’s saying something since it’s the longest one I’ve listened to in quite some time. The author makes every page count though, and I honestly can’t imagine the story being told in any other way.
An extra layer of awesomeness is added by the skilled narration of Elizabeth Evans. She manages to voice the large cast of characters in distinct ways without making any of them sound silly or over the top. Her male voices are slightly lower than those of their female counterparts, but she never sounds as though she’s straining to differentiate the characters. She uses accents to great effect, especially considering the text itself doesn’t give much of a clue as to how people from various parts of the world should sound.
Whether you’re an established fan of the author’s work or someone listening or reading her for the first time, I urge you to pick this up as soon as you can. It’s lush and lovely, the perfect book to escape into when you need a break from your everyday life.
Running time: 27 hours 50 minutes
Breakdown of Grade: Story – A+ Narration: A