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Sarah Maas' New 'Crescent City' Is A Fantasy Murder Mystery — And A Love Story


Life is, yes, pretty scary right now, and you may very well be spending a lot of time at home. So it may be the moment to dig into a big, epic fantasy novel that takes you literally to another world. Sarah J. Maas is the bestselling fantasy author of two blockbuster series, and now she has a new one. The first installment is called "Crescent City: House Of Earth And Blood," and it is a murder mystery set in a world with angels, werewolves, demons, witches and fairies with a love story at its heart.

Sarah J. Maas joins me now from Philadelphia. Welcome to the program.

SARAH J MAAS: Hi. Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It is my pleasure. Ultimately, we should say this book is a murder mystery. The two main characters, though, are supernatural. Tell us about Bryce and Hunt and how they joined forces.

MAAS: Sure. So Bryce is a half-human, half-fay 20-something-year-old who works at this magical antiquities dealer. And when the book first begins, she is a bit of a party girl. She's got her close-knit group of friends. And one night, she's out partying, and the majority of her friends are all brutally murdered. And they think they catch the murderer, and the guy goes to jail.

And then the book jumps ahead two years to when the murders start up again, and they realize that the wrong person was put in jail. And Bryce gets paired up with Hunt Athalar, who is this notorious fallen angel. And they...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And interesting things ensue.

MAAS: Yes, lots of interesting things - twists and turns and then a slow-build romance between the two of them that was a lot of fun for me to write.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I understand that you wrote this book at a particularly difficult time. Can you talk about that?

MAAS: Yeah. I mean, this book actually - I mean, I don't want to give any spoilers away for the book. I mean, Bryce goes through, you know, depression, anxiety, PTSD. And those are things that I myself have struggled with, especially recently.

I was very hesitant to get help, mostly because I had just heard horror stories from other writers and creative types about how, you know, medication - the medication they were put on really messed with their creativity, and they couldn't create once they were put on medication. And I would have these, I guess, like, episodes, as - I called them episodes, where...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What'd it feel like?

MAAS: It was a couple days of just, like, pure panic and not - panic attacks. I didn't even know they were panic attacks until my psychiatrist later told me. But I was crying. I just had this overwhelming sense of panic and dread. And then this past November, I had, you know, this panic attack that went on for two weeks straight. And I started realizing that I can't live like this for the rest of my life. And I don't care if I can't write another word again, but I need help. I have a young son at home, and I want to be able to be present for him.

So I finally, in this past November, went to a psychiatrist who's just been amazing, and she got me on some medication. We've been doing talk therapy for months. And it's changed my life. But I mean, the medication did not mess up my creativity in any way. If anything, it gave me the space to be able to hear my own thoughts again and to be able to create without that overwhelming sense of panic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm so glad. And in the book, you can really see Bryce and the main character make that journey where she's suffering so much and sort of finds her way out of that.

MAAS: The path that she goes through from that place of darkness back to one of light was - that's very, very close to me now. And I think I processed a lot of what I was going through, perhaps even unconsciously, through Bryce and her journey.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Before I let you go, I want to tell you a true thing that happened at the airport. I was reading this book, and a lady next to me sort of kept on staring at me. And I was feeling a little bit uncomfortable. And then she finally said, how did you get that book? It's not out yet. And she is such a fan and wanted to know everything about the book.

MAAS: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So just know that you have some really loyal fans. She wanted to get the book from me.

MAAS: (Laughter) That's so fantastic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And you know, you do have these other two series of books, "Throne Of Glass" and "A Court Of Thorns" - bestsellers. And I'm wondering - is this the beginning of a long series of "Crescent City"?

MAAS: Yeah. Right now, we have three books under contract. But this world is already so big and there's so many characters that I have a feeling it's going to go beyond three books. And it will depend on the story that calls to me and the characters that call to me. But I definitely am looking beyond the core plot that will take place over the three books and seeing, you know, what other stories might be around for me to tell afterward.

It's hard for me to say goodbye to characters after just three books. I mean, all of my series have been really long. And yeah, I mean, there's a reason why "Crescent City" was 800 pages...


MAAS: ...Because I just loved the world and the characters so much that I wanted to spend all this time with them.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Sarah J. Maas. Her new book is "Crescent City: House Of Earth And Blood."

Thank you very much.

MAAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.