Read a full summary of House of Earth and Blood, book #1 of Sarah J. Maas’s new Crescent City series, right here! This page is full of spoilers, so beware. If you are wondering what happened in House of Earth and Blood, then you are in the right place!
Special thanks to Di, a new BSR contributor who wrote this great recap! Visit her blog to read her book reviews and recaps, and check out her Twitter and Goodreads pages (links at the end of the recap).
Sarah J. Maas
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in House of Earth and Blood?
Bryce Quinlan is the 23-year-old, half-Fae, assistant at Griffin Antiquities. The shop is located in Old Square and owned by 400-year-old enchantress, Jesiba Roga. Bryce’s job is to welcome clients and keep an eye on the secret archives with Lehaba, a tiny fire sprite and Syrinx, a chimera.
Bryce’s best friend is Danika, granddaughter to the Werewolf Prime and alpha to the Pack of Devils. They live together and recently got matching tattoos on a drunken night out which say ‘through love, all is possible.’
Breaking news is that Philip Briggs has just been released from jail on a technicality. A leader of the human rebellion in Pangera, he was caught by Danika’s pack planning to blow up a nightclub to spread the war between humans and vanir (those with magical abilities and longer lives).
Danika is meeting with Archangel Micah, Governor of Crescent City and wider Valbara, to complain about this. Whilst Micah rules the city, he is also Head of the Central Business District and is joined by six other Heads who each control a district. These are:
- The Prime of Wolves in Moonwood
- The Fae Autumn King in Five Roses (FiRo)
- The Under-King in the Bone Quarter
- The Viper Queen in the Meat Market
- The Oracle in Old Square
- The River Queen beneath the Istros River
The seventh district, Asphodel Meadows, is the human district and has no Head.
Bryce, meanwhile, has been tasked by Jesiba with finding Luna’s Horn, an ancient Fae relic, which was stolen during a recent power outage from Luna’s Temple.
Neither Bryce nor Danika have yet made the Drop into immortality, planning to do it together at 27. When they do, they will come into their full power and their aging will slow. Bryce is not expected to gain much power and, as a half-human who hasn’t Dropped, is considered vulnerable. Her only protection is a very expensive Archesian amulet, lent to her by Jesiba, which protects her from magical influence.
Bryce’s mother is Ember Quinlan, a human. Her step-father Randall raised her and taught her to shoot. Her biological father is an important Fae who has a full-Fae son, her half-brother, Ruhn Danaan.
Danika’s pack is her family and includes Connor, her second, and five others. Bryce and Connor’s brother, Ithan, are considered honorary members. Danika and Bryce are also friends with Fury, who may or may not be an assassin/mercenary and is of unknown pedigree, and Juniper, a faun and a ballet dancer.
On a whim, Danika and Bryce stop by the Heart Gate in Old Square. Each district has a Gate and ley lines run between them. Given a drop of magic, people at different gates can talk to one another. On each, a plaque reads: ‘The power shall always belong to those who give their lives to the city.’
To commiserate over Briggs’ release, the pack spends the evening at the flat and Bryce leaves for her date with Reid Redner, human heir to magi-tech company, Redner Industries. Danika met him doing part-time security for his company and introduced them. On her way out, Connor begs her to date him, saying they’ve been dancing around it a long time, but she turns him down.
When Reid arrives late, Bryce dumps him. She texts Connor to say she’ll go out with him and meets Fury and Juniper to go clubbing, taking drugs and drinking heavily as she dances and texts Danika.
Bryce stumbles home to find the door smashed and Danika and the pack in pieces. She sees a demon escaping and chases after it, catching up to it as it starts feasting on a downed angel. She hits it and it gouges her leg and runs. She stays to keep the angel alive.
Once found, Bryce is taken to a holding cell and watched over by two angels. Isaiah is leader of 33rd Legion and Micah’s Triarii, his most elite warrior unit. Hunt Athalar is his unofficial number two and Micah’s personal assassin. He has a very rare and powerful affinity for lightning and is more widely known as the Umbra Mortis, or Shadow of Death.
Hunt and Isaiah both took part in the angel rebellion 200 years ago. Led by Archangel Shahar, they fought against the Asteri, the six god-like rulers of Midgard, and the Republic’s rigid hierarchy. When the rebellion failed, they were proclaimed Fallen, marked with magical halos that limit their magic, and branded with SPQM slave tattoos.
Ruhn calls, saying he’s Bryce’s (distant) cousin, and insists they let Bryce go. He is son of the Autumn King, the Crown Prince of the Valbaran Fae, and Starborn, possessor of an extremely rare Fae magic. On top of this, he also has power over mist and shadows and is rumored to be telepathic. Isaiah has no choice but to release Bryce. Meanwhile, Briggs is arrested for summoning the demon that killed the Pack.
Days later, Ithan texts Bryce to say she is not welcome at Danika’s funeral.
Almost two years later, Bryce is meeting Maximus Tertian, a 200-year-old vampyr, at the White Raven to sell him an artifact. Later, Hunt and Isaiah visit Bryce at the shop to tell her Tertian was killed after his meeting with her. The injuries match those of Danika’s, suggesting her murderer is still out there. Micah arrives and asks her help finding the culprit as she’s the only link between the murders. He needs to have the situation under control ahead of Archangel Sandriel’s visit and the Summit next month, a once-a-decade event where Valbara’s ruling powers discuss policy.
Until four years ago, Hunt was owned by Sandriel, governor of northwest Pangera. She was Shahar’s twin, and Shahar was his lover and he her general. Sandriel spent 53 years trying and failing to break him. On buying him, Micah made him a bargain: take one life for every life he was responsible for taking during the rebellion and he’ll free him. So far, he has taken 82 of the 2217 he needs to.
Micah assigns Hunt to protect Bryce and to help her with her investigation. As an incentive, he says he’ll lower his debts to ten assignments if he solves the case quickly.
Ruhn is visiting his father, who doesn’t know the Oracle foresaw their royal line would end with Ruhn. The Autumn King wants Ruhn to consider a political marriage to Hypaxia, the new witch queen, and charges him with finding Luna’s Horn, which he hopes will rekindle the Fae’s power.
Bryce suspects the Viper Queen of the murders as they both knew her and the latter was killed on her soil, but a visit to the Meat Market proves she had an alibi. She visits Ruhn, who tells her the Horn was once the possession of Pelias, the first Starborn Prince, who used it to fight the demon hordes during the First War.
To counteract its effects, the Star Eater, the Demon Prince of the Pit, the seventh level of Hel, used Pelias’ blood to make a new demon, the Kristallos, which Bryce recognizes from that night. Before he’s killed, Pelias banishes the demons to Hel, sealing the northern rift, but the Horn is broken. Ruhn thinks both the Kristallos and his own Starborn power call to the Horn, meaning the Horn is connected to the murders.
Another body is found, an acolyte of Luna’s Temple. Hunt admits to her the angel Bryce saved that night was Micah, though Micah doesn’t want anyone knowing. Hunt also admits he suspected Bryce for a time, and she storms off, heading to the White Raven, which then explodes. The bomb featured a picture of a Horn on it and was supposedly planted by human rebels.
Hunt moves in with Bryce to provide around-the-clock protection.
In Jesiba’s archives, Ruhn discovers that Prince Pelias’ wife and daughter, Theia and Helena, were also Starborn. The Horn worked when Starborn poured Light into it and can only be fixed by ‘light that is not light; magic that is not magic.’ Meanwhile, Ruhn’s friend Declan discovers Danika was at Luna’s Temple on the night of the theft.
Hunt visits the Oracle for information and is told to stay away from Bryce. Bryce tells him whatever the Oracle saw when Bryce visited her at 13 left the Oracle blind for a week. The Autumn King, hosting her for her first visit, chucked her out because of it.
Bryce and Hunt visit Briggs, who claims he had nothing to do with any of the murders and that he liked Danika because she gave him fair warning about bringing him in.
There’s been another murder, a security guard from Luna’s Temple, and Bryce notices all of the murders occur near ley lines. Declan, meanwhile, discovers the camera footage from the night of the theft has been swapped. Bryce and Hunt both suspect Sabine, Danika’s hateful mother, as she’s one of the few who’d have access, but they need evidence.
Viktoria, a wraith in Micah’s Triarii, tracks the demon using temperature variations and notes it was in FiRo recently. Hunt and Bryce realize it’s using the sewers to get around, so they visit Hunt’s friend, Tharion, the River Queen’s Captain of Intelligence, and ask him to keep an eye out for unusual occurrences.
Next, they visit Sabine, who denies Danika was at the Temple that night and blames Bryce for her death. Ithan and his alpha Amelie are on guard and treat Bryce abominably, believing she cheated on Connor at the club just before his death. In the past, their behavior almost led Bryce to take her own life, though fortunately Juniper was there to stop her.
Getting some air on the streets of FiRo, Hunt and Bryce are attacked by the Kristallos. Hunt’s magic is negated by the demon’s bite, but together they’re able to kill it.
Once they make it home, they’re caught mid-kiss by Sabine, who arrives gun in hand. They accuse her of killing Danika, and she denies it, telling them it was Danika who stole the Horn. Sabine simply covered for her to protect her legacy.
Bryce sits in shock for five days until Ruhn comes to tell them about a new synthetic healing drug calling synth. Meanwhile, Tharion has discovered eight bodies he thinks were killed by the Kristallos. They make Bryce and Hunt question whether Danika really was killed by it as the wounds are different and there wasn’t any venom.
Bryce summons her friend, Aidas, to help. Aidas is the Prince of the Chasm, the 5th level of Hel. He met Bryce at 13 when, in the shape of a talking cat, he comforted her after she was thrown out by the Oracle. Aidas tells Hunt and Bryce the Asteri have spun false tales about Hel and the deeper demons have no interest in Midgard. Before he goes, he tells Bryce to find him once she’s made the drop.
At the shop, Jesiba has installed a giant tank for her new, lethal, aquatic acquisition: a Nøkk.
Viktoria retests Danika’s clothes from the night she was murdered and finds them covered in synth. Redner Industries have redacted most of the information after the drug but do say it contains obsidian salt, used to summon demons.
Tharion tells them Danika was seen dealing synth in a boat shortly before her death. In very high concentrations, the drug gives a burst of super strength, and, in humans, also lends magical powers.
On the anniversary of Danika’s murder, Bryce buys croissants to commemorate her but finds the word ‘trash’ iced onto one of them. In a rage, Hunt finds and threatens Amelie for doing it.
The next day, Bryce agrees to get her leg healed and a medwitch removes the Kristallos venom, storing it to use an antidote to synth.
Micah calls them to a meeting, and Sabine threatens retribution if Micah doesn’t punish Hunt for attacking Amelia. He refuses to kill Hunt but does cut off his wings. The experience is agonizing, though they grow back in weeks.
At the meeting, Bryce admits she made a bargain with the Under-King, trading her eternal resting place in the Bone Quarter for Danika’s assured passage, unwilling to risk the chance she wouldn’t make it.
Later, Bryce hacks into Danika’s Redner Industries accounts and finds videos of synth experiments. Humans injected with synth rip multiple vanir to shreds. Bryce and Hunt realize this must have been what killed the pack.
While Hunt sleeps, Bryce heads to her old flat but finds it on fire. Tharion calls to tell her a deal is going down on the river and she should come immediately. She recognizes the Viper Queen selling and Hunt buying.
As Tharion takes aboard, Micah, Isaiah, and others arrive. Micah claims Hunt realized the significance of synth days ago, and he, Viktoria, and Justinian, another member of the Triarii, had planned to buy it and distribute it to would-be rebels. Micah found out because they tried to recruit the wrong person and the Viper Queen informed him of the exchange.
Hunt apologizes to Bryce and explains Danika stole the formula and the stock two years ago and sold it. She and Tertian were addicts, and she very likely killed her pack before she tore herself apart. The obsidian in the synth was responsible for summoning the Kristallos, which killed indiscriminately. The Horn had nothing to do with the whole affair.
Hunt claims he changed his mind after he saw the test footage, that he tried to stop the exchange but it was too late. Fury arrives and, before leaving, Bryce tells him she never wants to see him again.
Hunt is locked up, Justinian is publicly crucified, and Viktoria is ripped from her body and dropped at the bottom of an ocean trench.
Days later, Sandriel arrives at Hunt’s cell and tortures him with a slideshow of the photos he and Bryce took together. She owns him now.
The medwitch who healed Bryce’s leg drops off a vial of synth antidote she produced from the venom. Bryce stores it in Jesiba’s safe. She decides that, no matter what Hunt did, she can’t just leave him to his fate.
As Sandriel escorts Hunt from his cell, Bryce steps up and offers to buy him from her for 97 million gold marks, money she’s borrowed from Jesiba, and her Archesian amulet, worth 3 million gold marks. Sandriel refuses and melts the amulet. Bryce offers herself in his place, and Sandriel announces that, as she’s the Autumn King’s daughter, the offer isn’t as bad as the onlookers might assume. Ruhn arrives and rescinds the offer.
Furious at Ruhn’s intervention, Bryce storms off and is attacked by the Kristallos almost immediately. Ruhn, Declan, and Flynn save her, and she goes home.
The Summit starts at a venue outside of the city and, alongside Sandriel, Hunt, and the city Heads, Fury and Jesiba are in attendance. The medwitch who’s been helping Ruhn with his recent research is revealed as Queen Hypaxia undercover, and Ruhn reveals his telepathic abilities to Hunt in order to commiserate on his situation.
Bryce is lounging in the archives when Micah arrives, having made his excuses at the Summit and bypassed the shop’s security system. Bryce covertly texts Jesiba, who immediately uploads the live camera feeds to the conference screens. Together, the Summit watch the interaction in horror, too far away to do anything but send an Auxiliary unit to help.
Micah reveals he’s known about Jesiba’s archive for a long time and it is, in fact, the mythical Library of Parthos. The books date from before the arrival of the vanir and the Asteri on Midgard, challenging their right to rule. Owning them is an executable offense. Most of the books were burned 15,000 years ago when the vanir first arrived through the Northern Rift, but the human Priestesses who protected the library managed to smuggle a few away. These same Priestesses were the original owners of the Archesian amulets.
Micah tells Bryce she is the Horn, that Danika stole it, ground it to dust, mixed it with witch ink, and had it tattooed on Bryce’s back when she was too drunk to say no. Its shape does not change its power, and Micah hopes that, by injecting Bryce with synth, he will heal the Horn and, alongside a blast of his own magic, give it the power it requires to activate.
Whilst Micah attacks and holds her, Bryce ekes a confession out of him.
Micah was a long-time investor in Redner Industries and knew about their experiments. It was Danika’s job to collect people useful to the company, including the scientists that first developed synth. After that, Danika kept an eye on the experiments, hoping they might help humans and half-humans against the predators of the world.
Danika soon became concerned, however, and stole the experiment footage. Micah released a batch of synth to the streets, knowing Danika would be worried and try to round it up. She did, and he ‘caught’ her with it. He demanded she steal the Horn for him in return for not arresting her.
Micah plans to use the Horn to summon an army from another world to decimate the rebel human army before war can spread to Valbara’s shores. He imagines that, with the power of the Horn behind him, he could even join the Asteri’s ranks. Danika, wary of his plans, hides the Horn. Micah waits until Briggs is released so he can act as the scapegoat, then, when she refuses to reveal the Horn’s location, injects her with a high dose of synth, knowing it was cause her to tear herself and her pack apart.
Micah has spent the last two years searching for the Horn and using the Kristallos to search for him. Coming up empty, he decides to use Bryce to find it, knowing she knew Danika best. He also seeds the idea in the Autumn King’s head so he’ll get Ruhn on the case.
Micah injects Tertian with synth, giving him the excuse to involve Bryce, and then regularly summons the Kristallos to hurry her along and nudge her toward the Horn. He detonated the bomb in the club for the same reason, also hoping that it would stir resentment between humans and vanir. By the time he burns Bryce’s flat, he just likes to watch her squirm.
Micah first suspected Bryce was the Horn when the Kristallos attacked her and Hunt. He knew when the Kristallos went right for her as soon as she took her amulet off. Bryce had put it together at the same time.
Micah injects her with synth, incidentally healing her wounds and allowing her to get free. In retaliation, Micah throws Syrinx into the Nøkk’s tank. He catches hold of her again and blasts power into the tattooed Horn. Nothing happens, and Bryce manages to use the magical books to get free and, with Lehabah’s help, seals him in the bathroom.
Whilst he’s locked away, Bryce enters the Nøkk’s tank and, despite being attacked by the beast, manages to escape with an unconscious Syrinx. She resuscitates him and tries to carry him to safety but struggles to walk with the new damage to her leg. Micah is almost free and, knowing they’ll never get out in time, Lehabah stays behind, smashing the Nøkk’s tank and sacrificing herself so Bryce and Syrinx can escape.
Bryce reaches Jesiba’s office, downs the antidote so the synth doesn’t drive her to destruction, and assembles the Godslayer gun Jesiba has displayed in parts on her wall. She shoots Micah in the head as he reaches the top of the stairs, then chops him to pieces, burns him to ash, and disposes of him in the bin.
Expecting arrest, she goes out to find the Horn has opened a portal to Hel in all seven of the city’s gates. Demons are everywhere, slaughtering those they see. The city has protective shelters whose doors automatically close one hour from activation, so Bryce takes her sword and her guns and heads to Asphodel Meadows to help protect the humans who have no magic or Auxiliary units to protect them.
Ithan disobeys Sabine’s orders to stay in Moonwood and joins Bryce, along with the rest of the city’s canines, shifters, and animals. Just as the last of shelters close their doors, Bryce shoves Ithan inside, leaving her outside alone.
Hunt and others try to leave for the city, but Micah has disabled or destroyed all means of transport. Sandriel then tells them the Asteri have ordered them all to stay and help is coming.
Bryce runs to the city Gate and begins to glow, announcing that she is the heir to the Starborn Fae. Only her mother, Randall, and Danika knew. She has more Light than any Starborn since the First Wars, though it is just light and not magic. Using her Light to command the Horn, she orders the Gate’s portal to close, and it does. The other Gates remain open, however, and Bryce is exhausted.
Those in the conference center know that Bryce, with the power to open a portal anywhere, now poses a threat to the Asteri, a threat they will do what they can do destroy. Whilst Sandriel is distracted, Hypaxia unlocks Hunt’s magic-quashing manacles and dissolves the Halo that binds his power. Hunt kills Sandriel, and he, Ruhn, Flynn, Amelie, and Fury leave for the city on the one remaining helicopter.
The Asterian Guard arrives, dropping a brimstone missile on the city. Bryce manages to find some shelter, but her leg is trapped under a lump of concrete. Just as another bomb is dropped, Hunt swoops in and protects her body with his own. The City is wrecked, and Bryce wakes from unconsciousness to find Hunt beside her, near death.
Bryce drags herself to the Gate and uses its crystals to speak to the other Gates around the city, begging for anyone to come and act as her Anchor as she makes the Drop. During a Drop, the body dies, and an Anchor is required to help guide them back to life before brain-death. The Firstlight produced during this heals but also generates a huge amount of power, usually used to power the grid. Bryce hopes it will close the portals. No one comes at Bryce’s call, but then she hears Danika’s voice coming from the Bone Quarter Gate, saying she’ll Anchor her.
Bryce Drops. Those in the conference center watch in horror, knowing a dead person can’t act as an Anchor. And Bryce’s power doesn’t stop where they expect it to, continuing on until she’s just passed the Autumn King’s level. Recognizing that she’s giving her life for the city, the Gate is giving her all the power it’s collected in tiny donations from millions over the millennia. The Gate begins to shine, and Firstlight spreads down the ley lines to the other Gates, lighting up every street in the city and sending the demons running for the closing portals. Buildings are repaired, and the injured are made whole again.
Instead of ascending immediately, Bryce stays to talk to the last remnant of Danika’s soul. Danika uses this remnant to boost Bryce back to life, enabling her to return just in time.
Hunt is healed and giving Bryce chest compressions. When she wakes, he takes her home, and Rigelus, one of the Asteri, calls. In thanks for her help protecting the city, he frees Hunt, removing his SPQR tattoo. They’re forgiven Micah and Sandriel’s murders but told to stay silent about what really happened and, from now on, to use their powers with discretion and never sound the Horn. If they do, they’ll face repercussions.
How does House of Earth and Blood end?
Jesiba meets Aidas in the Oracle’s Park. She asks him why he never told her about Bryce, and he says he couldn’t trust anyone with the secret. For a long time, he had thought Theia’s Light was destroyed when she was killed by Pelias on the last battlefield, but it’s here, in Bryce. Aidas comments that Hunt’s father would have been proud of Hunt’s actions but that Jesiba knew him best. Jesiba has moved the Library and warns Aidas not to screw them over this time. He doesn’t plan to.
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