house of flame and shadow by sarah j maas - book review

House of Flame and Shadow Review: Does it Live Up to the Hype?

There are few books that were more highly anticipated than House of Flame and Shadow (aka HOFAS), which is the first book Sarah J Maas has released in nearly two years. Those two years have felt like a really long time for us fans! 

Now, the book has been out for only a couple of weeks, and already the internet is swarming with mixed reviews. Some raves. Some calling it the worst book SJM has ever written. This might be causing you to panic if you’re still getting caught up on the series or otherwise haven’t read it or finished reading it yet. 

So what’s the deal? Is it good? Is it a disappointment? I had the good fortune of this book being released just before a long-anticipated vacation week, and I had lots of time to work my way through it and finish, so let me share my honest House of Flame and Shadow Review as well as why I think it’s release has been met with mixed reviews.

Note: This is going to be a mostly spoiler-free review of this book. (No major reveals.) But if you haven’t read House of Sky and Breath yet, there WILL be some spoilers from the first two books. 

**Affiliate disclosure: There are affiliate links below, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one, I may earn a commission. Full disclosure here.**

My House of Flame and Shadow Review


House of Flame and Shadow picks up right where we left off in House of Sky and Breath: Bryce starts off in Prythian with some familiar faces, where she must find a way to return home and save her world from the tyrannical Asteri. Hunt, Ruhn, and Baxion have all been captured by said parasitical beings and are being tortured for information as to Bryce’s whereabouts. 

The story also follows wolf-shifter, Ithan, on his quest to find a more just leader for the wolves, and the mer, Tharion, who freed himself from the River Queen only to end up in the decidedly more brutal clutches of the Viper Queen.

The book also centers more on Lidia, (aka The Hind), a villainous sort who we learned in HOSAB is actually working against the Asteri. 

This cast of friends and tentative allies band together in an effort to oust the Asteri from Lunathian once and for all. 

Reading Experience

It had been an entire year since I read House of Sky and Breath, and I could hardly remember anything that happened in this series. Like, at all. 

So the day my preordered copy showed up on my doorstep, I felt like a student who was about to take an exam they hadn’t studied for.

But, it turned out to be totally fine! SJM did a really good job of kind of recapping things a bit as she went. 

For example, I’d all but forgotten a lot of the more minor characters like Ariadne, Ithan, and Hypaxia. But as I read, SJM filled in the blanks enough to jog my memory and I wasn’t confused at all.

So if you’ve been holding off on reading it because you’re worried you don’t remember enough from the previous two books, I say, go ahead and give it a shot you will probably be okay. 

The Good

As with pretty much all her books, the plot really builds, and the last 100-200 pages are always a crazy ride, and this one was no exception. We get some jaw-dropping revelations about some of the characters, we get to learn more about the connections between Crescent City and other SJM realms, and it’s a great time. 

True to any Sarah J Maas book, HOFAS is filled with the romance and character interactions we’ve come to love and expect! I especially enjoyed Lidia and Ruhn’s story lines.

And even though Sarah J Maas has confirmed that HOFAS is not the last book in the series, it felt as though it could have been, it tied things up with the Asteri and the main characters in a really satisfying way that felt like closure. (Similar to how a Court of Wings and Ruin appeared to wrap everything up in the ACOTAR series, but was only the third of five – soon to be six – books.). 

It also left me really excited for the next Acotar book. 

The Bad

My biggest gripe with House of Flame and Shadow is the length. It did not need to be 800+ pages long. 

SJM is all about the character interactions which is great – it’s one of my favorite things about her books – but some of the things that happened weren’t really that integral to the plot or character development enough to justify the scenes. (It makes me wonder how long this book was before it went through the editing process! 2000 pages??)

Although the book wasn’t exactly slow, I couldn’t help but notice it took a No joke, Bryce is basically wandering through the same cave for nearly a third of the book. 

Lastly some of the character POVs were less inspired than others. (Tharion. Ithan. I’m looking at you!) They weren’t boring, exactly, but I found myself impatient to get back to Bryce, Hunt, Ruhn, and Lidia whenever one of Tharion’s or Ithan’s chapters took the stage. 

The entourage of characters with POVs worked well in the Throne of Glass series, but not quite as well in Crescent City. 

Why Does House of Flame and Shadow Have Mixed Reviews?

Although HOFAS has minor issues, I still really enoyed it. So then why are there so many mixed reviews? Why are there so many people saying this was the worst book in the SJM universe? 

Well, I have a few theories on why people might be disappointed:

Too Much Hype

Two years of buildup is a lot of time for people to hype up a book past the point where it can meet those expectations. We’ve all experienced this at one point or another where we hype up something so much in our minds that by the time we actually get it, or see it, or experience it, there’s no way it could have reached the pedestal we had put it on. 

There were so many theories, and some people were really heavily invested in it. (I’m talking spreadsheets, whiteboards, timelines, and all the rest!)

But then some of those theories were dispelled in this book. Many of them were not answered at all. Some people felt a little let down by the fact that this book didn’t have all the answers – not the answers they were hoping for.


After the crossover into ACOTAR at the end of House of Sky and Breath, we all got really excited about being back in the ACOTAR world, especially since there haven’t been any new books in the series since A Court of Silver Flames, which was released three years ago. 

And let’s be honest, we might love Crescent City, but for many, it is the least favorite of the three SJM series. (For me, A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass are both better by a significant margin.) 

Many people may have been disappointed that the crossover part of House of Flame and Shadow was relatively minimal. We only get to check in with really two of the ACOTAR characters in any significant capacity, and it isn’t for the whole book. 

I’m sure many people were so excited about the crossover that they forgot this is a Crescent City book when really what they want is another ACOTAR book. 

I get that. But if you accept the book for what it is (A Crescent City book) there’s a lot to like about it! 

In the meantime, we just have to be patient for the next ACOTAR book. The good news is that it’s next up in the queue as per a recent interview with Sarah J Maas!

Review Conclusion and Final Rating

Overall, I liked House of Flame and Shadow. Although it’s not SJM’s best book by any stretch, I definitely found it to be a satisfying installment to the series. 

My rating is 3.5 stars. 

I hope you enjoyed this House of Flame and Shadow review! If you read this book, I would love to know what you thought, just be sure ot be conscious of leaving spoilers in the comments for those who may not have read the book yet. And I’ll see you next time!


Do you need to read the A Court of Thorns and Roses Before series before the Crescent City Series?

Yes, I would strongly recommend it, especially before you read House of Sky and Breath. Otherwise, you will miss the meaning of some important developments!

Do you need to read the Throne of Glass series before the Crescent City series?

There are some easter eggs in House of Flame and Shadow that hit a lot harder if you have read the TOG series, but it is not strictly necessary. I highly recommend reading Throne of Glass regardless! 

Which is the Best Crescent City Book?

Personally, I like the first one best!

Which Sarah J Maas Series is Best?

Throne of Glass is easily my favorite series by Sarah J Maas, followed by A Court of Thorns and Roses.

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