The moment Bryce lays eyes on Crescent City’s male lead and thinks: “I hate his guts, but at least he’s a drop dead gorgeous brooding supernatural badass,” I knew exactly where this book was going, but I didn’t expect to enjoy the ride as much as I did.
In Crescent City, Sarah J. Maas takes two standard fantasy novel formulas, paranormal romance and ‘which supernatural beastie did the murder’ and executes them flawlessly. I don’t even really like paranormal romance, so I tended to skip through descriptions of lusty stares and sexy growling, but I have it on good authority they were the right sorts of lusty stares and sexy growls. But the fantasy story slaps. It’s complicated, engaging, and every time I thought “wow, it’d be cool if…” I turned the page and got to think “oh I was right that WAS cool.” While the book slows down a little towards the end, the climax made me scream, cry, jump up and down, cry AGAIN, and then walk circles around my apartment while I read. I’m an emotive reader though, so your milage may vary.
All the little technical details are there. Sarah J. Maas is a veteran author at this point, so the prose does what it needs to. The story structure is sound; every single detail in the climax is set up ahead of time. The characters are interesting and get nice, satisfying arcs despite being unbearable a**holes. The book is relatively safe; it only wrenches your heart at appropriately dramatic moments. And the world building is wild. I sort of imagine Maas trying to decide what kind of lore her universe was going to have, struggling to pick, and then shrugging and saying “you know what, let’s just use all of it.” The end result is a world where angels have anti-fae ballistic missiles, and instead of being dumb it kicks a**. (If you feel the need to tell me that brimstone missiles affect ALL Vanir by disabling their fast healing, congratulations on having already read the book.)
Crescent City doesn’t really make any sort of statement or have a challenging theme. I don’t think it’s really adding anything new or unique to fantasy, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Not every book can confront you with the horrors of racism or the costs of revolution. I wouldn’t want every book to challenge me like that. Sometimes fantasy novels are fun stories about a half-fae museum curator and her boyfriend’s rippling biceps, and that’s enough for me.