Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Itsmagic 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, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .
Aliette de Bodard is one of those authors whose works I’ve been meaning to read for a while now but have never had the chance to get around to giving them a go until I was able to get The House of Shattered Wings a couple of months ago and ended up really enjoying its rich world, with a compelling alternate history scenario that looks at Paris in war ravaged environment. The Notre-Dame is gone and the City of Lights is no longer as glamorous as it once was, but beneath the rubble, the wars for the City are still continuing as political battles between Great Houses makes for an interesting and unique backdrop for this story.
The book itself weaves the fallen angels into the mythos of 1930s Paris very well indeed, with the city trying to recover from the Great Magicians War. It’s well written and incredibly gripping, falling into the category of alternate history very well indeed as the atmosphere feels superb, offering a different take to the normal standard of post apocalyptic novels that readers find on shelves nowadays. The rich world building and attention to detail really is the key to making this book, and manages to handle its characters strongly and will ultimately leave the readers satisfied by the time the book has run its course. The characters are fantastic and we get a real insit into them, looking at Isabelle, a young Fallen Angel out of her depth in Paris, where her kind have a long history. We learn that the Angels have split into various factions and House Silverspires holds the high ground at the moment, having taken over following the disappearance of its original creator Morningstar. Silverspines is now led by Selene, and it’s Isabelle who is kidnapped by them. She’s joined by a mysterious immortal named Phillipe, who isn’t exactly a Fallen himself.
The plot is engaging and captivating as Aliette de Bodard pulls you firmly into the world and makes you want to return to read more. I love reading books that are set in Paris and the city is captured incredibly well, with the vivid detail bringing the scenery to life for the reader. Yet at the same time, the world building does not overshadow the plot, which gives enough time to make its characters strong, leading and well rounded. As well as Selene, Isabelle and Phillpe we are also introduced to Madeline, the alchemist of House Silverspires, and through them, we experience a strong, well crafted story that really works.
This may be the first novel that I’ve read by Aliette de Bodard but it most certainly won’t be the last. Working as a bold new start to an exciting series, I can’t wait to see what happens next in this world, and it’ll be very interesting to return to for sure. In the meantime though, it looks like I’ll have to make the wait a little shorter by catching up on her Obsidian and Blood series.