The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
|Book Name:||The House of Shattered Wings|
|Author:||Aliette de Bodard|
|Publisher(s):||Roc (US) Gollancz (UK)|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Urban Fantasy / Alternate History|
|Release Date:||August 18, 2015 (US) August 20, 2015 (UK)|
Zombies and vampires are so yesterday. Angel mythology appears to be the new frontier. The House of Shattered Wings spins its tale about The Fallen, angels who have been cast out of heaven for reasons unremembered. They set up camp on Earth in an alternate history of Paris, France. Houses are founded by the most powerful among them, Silverspires being headed by Morningstar himself—the first Fallen.
In the late twentieth century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins, the aftermath of a Great War between arcane powers. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.
This is a story unlike anything I’ve read before. Two aspects have burned an impression into my mind: the unusual tale itself and the writing – the beautiful, almost unearthly writing.
You are immersed into a gentle wave of words spinning a tale of cold, deep-seated hatred. Rather incongruous, right? Yet, the effect astounds me. I admit that it took longer than usual for me to read this book but not because it was boring. Work kept pulling me away, but when I did pick up the book again, I fell right back into the reverie the writing evoked. Here’s an example*:
In the river, dragons flowed like the wakes of boats, sleek and elegant and deadly, and so removed from anything in the world of mortals. One of them looked up at him with intense eyes, the color of dull nacre…
The whole book is written in this tone. Although quite remarkable, the constant, even flow of the mood it maintained, at times, took away from some of the more intense scenes that could have used more energy for greater contrast and emphasis.
The main characters of Philippe, Isabelle, and Madeleine are studies in falling from grace. Philippe ascended to become an Immortal (different from an angel) and was stripped of it centuries ago for reasons unbeknownst to us. Isabelle is a new Fallen and bears the innocence of one. Madeleine is a mortal human, rescued from death’s door by an act of mercy only to court it for the rest of her life.
When the body count starts to rise, all tied to the House of Silverspires, a long-awaited revenge is coming to fruition. Reaping what is sown is the question that bears contemplation, but in the case of the Fallen, it may be that the lesser evil is all we can hope for.
Many questions are left unanswered, but the tale was spun with such ethereal resonance that I was not left feeling bereft or unsatisfied. Merely mesmerized. How does one do that? Obviously, it is beyond my writing skills, but I eagerly await more from Ms. de Bodard and her spellcasting.
*ARC provided by Ace/Roc for honest review. Quotations here may differ from final printing.