Book Review: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

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.

I discovered the author’s novellas last year and completely fell in love with her worlds and writing style. So, I really wanted to read her full length trilogy as well, but the pandemic hit and my reading mood hit a low. But I’m so glad I decided to pick it up this year because this first book was so interesting.

I read a lot of books but I also tend to stick to very similar types of genres and don’t experiment much. So, an urban fantasy series set in a magical war torn Paris was itself a very fascinating prospect for me. And the author truly manages to bring the devastated feel of the city to life. I will agree that the world building is not comprehensive, we only get the information that we absolutely need for the purpose of the narrative, and don’t get to know much about the history of the war or details about how the Fallen came to inhabit this land. Nevertheless, it was still a very immersive world that I wanted to know more of. The writing style might take a bit of getting used to if you’re unfamiliar with her other works, but it took me just about 2 chapters to get fully engaged in it. The pacing is more on the steady side, with lots of mystery solving and twists happening along with intrigue, but this is not in any way an action packed novel.

This is thoroughly a very character driven story. Madeline is an alchemist who’s choices are defined by her past trauma but she is still good at heart and trying to do the right things sometimes. Isabelle is newly Fallen and the combination of her naïveté and ruthlessness was interesting to read, but she surprisingly turned out to be quite loyal. Philippe has a mysterious past and powers which everyone is trying to leverage, but it’s his longing for his homeland and his people that made me very emotional. And then there are the heads of the various houses… Selene, Claire, Asmodeus etc.. Their rivalry and fight to get one up on each other is really played like a delicate dance and it was quite enjoyable to read, even if the consequences tended to be quite devastating. I obviously am biased towards Asmodeus because I’ve met him already in a spin-off novella, and can’t wait to read more of the series from his perspective. There are also many side characters who had very important parts to play and I felt that the author did justice to all of them.

In conclusion, this was a very marked change from the kind of fantasies I usually read but it was cool. If you like urban fantasy settings outside of the US/UK with great characters, fallen angels and magicians, and lots of dark political intrigue, this might just be the series for you. I’m already so excited to binge read the whole trilogy.

11 thoughts on “Book Review: The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

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  1. Dark political intrigue are the three words I love to hear haha. I’ve got too many commitments to read this any time soon (booo) but I’m looking forward to finally having the chance to get to it. Hopefully sometime this year 🙂 Loved this review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you !!! You’re already trying out the Poppy War trilogy, so I’m sure this will have to wait a while 😂😂 but you already like the author’s writing, so hope you’ll enjoy it whenever you get the time to pick it up…

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