One of the nice things about receiving review copies is that I often end up reading things I wouldn’t otherwise read but find that I enjoy. Case in point, Aliette de Bodard’s new novel that was released in the US today, The House of Shattered Wings. (I’d like to very much thank Roc Books for the review copy.)
I’ve read some of de Bodard’s short fiction. I’d found it a bit slow moving for my taste, and so I was a little hesitant about reading this novel. (I’ve not read her earlier novels.) In addition, the premise of fallen angels isn’t one that holds much appeal for me. But I decided I would give it an honest try.
I’m glad I did. While I did find the pacing to be somewhat slow at times, especially in the first half of the book, overall I enjoyed the novel. Here’s the setup.
Fallen angels have taken up residence in Paris and set up Houses which don’t exactly get along. Whether these angels also exist in other parts of Europe wasn’t quite clear. We know that don’t exist in southeast Asia, because Christianity doesn’t exist there, at least not to any significant degree. House Silverspires was founded by Morningstar (AKA Lucifer), but he disappeared 20 years ago. Since then the Houses have fought a disasterous magical war that has devastated the city.
The book opens with an angel falling to Earth from Heaven for reasons that are never explained. It’s just something that happens from time to time. The angel takes a female form, but before she can regain consciousness, she is attacked by two people. Body parts of Fallen have a high value on the black market. They cut off two of her fingers, and one of them, Philippe drinks a bit of her blood. This will result in a psychic bond between him and the Fallen, who takes the name Isabelle.
The head of House Silvespires shows up at this point, takes Philippe captive, and returns to the House with both Philippe and Isabelle. Once back at the House, Philippe inadvertently triggers a curse that has been lying dormant for years. And people, both Fallen and mortal, begin dying.
Fans of lush, literary novels will like this one immensely. There’s plenty of intrigue, and de Bodard is an accomplished writer. Fans of high octane action will probably find the pacing slow. I tend to fall somewhere in the middle, although probably closer to the latter than the former. That being said, de Bodard’s prose is smooth flowing despite being lush.
There’s enough of a mystery here, and enough people keeping secrets, that the story not only held my interest but drew me in the further I got. The languid pace, I found, was worth the patience. The conclusion of the book was satisfying and held a higher degree of suspense than I anticipated when I started reading.
There’s room here for a sequel. Some of the causes of the war and the curse are filled in in what could best be described as broad strokes with little detail. There are still scores to be settled. De Bodard drops some hints that some of the Fallen from other Houses are playing some very long term games. Not surprising since Fallen, if they age at all, age very slowly compared to mortals.
So in conclusion, I’m glad I read The House of Fallen Wings. Although I’m probably not the target audience, Aliette de Bodard is a good enough writer to have made the experience worthwhile.