ARC Review: Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard

Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.

But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.

It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….

I definitely had hoped to start the Dominion of the Fallen series last month before I got to this novella, but I’ve been in a very unfortunate reading slump for a while now. But I’m thankful I was able to finish this one and it being short and interesting definitely helped.

While I’m completely unfamiliar with the Parisian world of the original trilogy, I didn’t feel very lost in this new dragon realm. The descriptions of the world as well as the different kinds of creatures who exist here, as well as the seamless integration of Viet culture was all very beautifully done and it’s definitely one reason I’m looking forward to reading more of the author’s works. While the resolution of the murder mystery itself didn’t take very long, the author managed to keep the stakes very high despite the low page count and I enjoyed it.

But the best part was definitely the way the characters interacted with each other. Thuan is a dragon prince who married out and had some unpleasant experiences in court before, but he is still a kind, bookish soul and feels loyal towards his family. He is also an idealist and wishes to do things the right way, even if they are not always practical. That’s why his ruthless fallen angel husband Asmodeus is perfectly complementary with his much more pragmatic outlook and absolute certainty in protecting what’s his. The relationship dynamics between them is fascinating and the dialogue/banter is just a delight to read and I just kept wishing that we would get a much more longer version of their story. The other character who is written very well is the Empress Dowager (Thuan’s grandmother) and even contemplating what she and Asmodeus might do if they team up sends shudders down my spine, but I’m sure it’ll be a very fun but murderous story.

Overall, this was a fun murder mystery novella that works well as a stand-alone but definitely leaves you wanting to know more about this world as well as the characters. It’s a good mix of banter, court intrigue and protocols as well as some subtle commentary about the need for rooting out corruption and changing the existing status quo when it’s not working for the people. I hope I get out of my slump completely very soon so that I can get started with the original trilogy. And I would recommend it to anyone who is finding it hard these days to read big fantasy books but still want to experience a new world in few pages.

PS: Thank you to Netgalley and JABberwocky Literary Agency for providing me with the advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.

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