The House of Shattered Wings Hardcover – August 18, 2015
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“Her fiction is exciting because it is both familiar and strange.”—Mary Robinette Kowal, author of Valour and Vanity
"A Gothic masterpiece of supernatural intrigues, loves and betrayals in a ruined and decadent future Paris—wildly imaginative and completely convincing, this novel will haunt you long after you've put it down."—Tim Powers, author of The Anubis Gates
“A writer who deserves attention.”—SF Signal
“Aliette de Bodard is one of the hottest things in SF right now.”—Elizabeth Bear, author of Steles of the Sky
About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.4 pounds
- Hardcover : 416 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0451477383
- ISBN-13 : 978-0451477385
- Dimensions : 6.31 x 1.38 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Ace; First Edition (August 18, 2015)
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #856,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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But...The whole time I felt like I was reading the version of a friend of a friend of the characters. I actually thought I had mistakenly purchased a book further on in the trilogy and not the first book because there was so much backstory I didn't get. Maybe fans of the whole angel genre have more information on House politics and Fallen Angels work but there was a lot that I didn't get.
The premise is good and the murder mystery itself is good, but it all felt a little distant to me. Perhaps it's that sort of Goth thing that makes action feel distant, otherworldly, like the reader is a voyeur, that may captivate fans of these stories. It just didn't fully wow me, but lovers of vampire/fallen/goth sagas will probably love it.
Selene is the head of the one of the most powerful Angel houses in post war Paris but her house is constantly being threatened by other houses. She is the 2nd head of Silverspires as Morningstar (read Lucifer) was the first but he has simply disappeared without a trace. Selene knows she is no Morningstar but she does her best to keep the house together. Phillipe acts like he's mortal but Selene quickly realizes there is more to him than meets the eye. In fact, Phillipe is an immortal from Vietnam who was conscribed to fight in the great war by the colonial powers. Selene uses her powers to lock Phillipe to Silverspires against his will and he is quite bitter about it. However, because he got a taste of Isabelle's blood they are permanently bound together.
Then there's Madeleine, one of the rare humans who get a major part, who is the alchemist for Silverspires. She is also an addict to angel essence, something you can get from the flesh, blood, etc., of a dead angel, which gives one powers. She keeps her addiction a secret, however, but it is slowly killing her and if Selene finds out Madeleine will be cast out of Silverspires and on her own which is very dangerous. She is another interesting character, I just wasn't as drawn to her as I was Isabelle and Phillipe.
There are numerous story lines going on in this novel. The main two seem to be who is trying to kill off everyone from the House of Silverspires. This investigation leads to a lot of politics between the houses as we learn of other house leaders and how each house hates the other. Then there's the mystery of what happened to Morningstar and this was a huge surprise. Also there is the side story of Phillipe and what all occurs to him throughout the novel. I felt a certain sympathy and good will towards him throughout.
Once I started this novel I simply could not put it down. I have thought about it many times since I finished it and no other book since has filled that void. This novel is full of magic, mystery and mythology, and is simply too wonderful for a review to do justice to it. You simply must read it for yourself and become immersed in this magical world. I certainly hope there's a sequel!
Top reviews from other countries
The House of Shattered Wings follows the story of Paris following the fall of the angels and their subsequent war of dynasties; a clash of powerful houses which has already obliterated Paris and threatens to shake the city to its foundations once again. The Morningstar is gone, disappeared or dead – no one knows. His continued absence has left a void in House Silverspires and his apprentice and heir, Selene, must hold her House together. Something she is prepared to do at all costs.
But when a young angel falls to earth and is rescued from being brutally harvested for her magic, or Angel Essence, House Silverspires is turned on its head. A darkness is stalking its halls, killing its people and will stop at nothing but the complete destruction of the House. As we follow the story of Selene as she fights to retain power, along with Isabelle, the young fallen angel; Philippe, her would be murderer; and Madeleine, House Silverspires’ addict Alchemist, one thing remains uncertain – can House Silverspires survive those who conspire against her? Or will the darkness consume them all?
The true strength of this novel is de Bodard’s skill at descriptive worldbuilding. A ruined Paris is described in sumptuous detail – landmarks stand proud in their ruinous glory and its poisoned artery, the Seine, which has turned black with the corruption of magic, continues to flow through the heart of the city bringing with it death and ruin. de Bodard delights in taking the city apart, pulling down its stonework, shattering its stained glass, and creating a stunning backdrop to this new world of angels intent on underhanded and duplicitous warfare.
This is a novel with incredible vision and scope. Each dynasty, each House, is bound tightly in a web of intrigue, House politics and power struggles. Every character is tied just as tightly to their House, whether through free will or imprisonment, their very lives are linked to the House’s beating heart. And at the heart of House Silverspires is a distinct absence, a void left by the disappearance of the Morningstar. Without his power and influence, and with the other Houses vying for Silverspires’ destruction, it can only be a matter of time before it falls.
Characterisation in this novel is a much harder subject to tackle. Whilst each character is, in their own right, intriguing with the promise of a rich and detailed back-story, there was something about their depiction which failed to inspire an emotional connection in me that they otherwise might have. Madeleine was perhaps the exception to this trait. A flawed essence addict, she stumbles through the novel finding darkness and trouble at every opportunity with the inability to either confront or counter it. She remains a troubled but endearing character throughout whose singular emotional connection served to make her something of a heroine in this novel.
The majority of characters, however, read more like historical figures from a textbook; figures which tend to keep the reader at an arms length, are firmly separated by time, yet remain compelling enough to mitigate any negative impact their characterisation may have on the storyline. These characters remain fascinating to read but a further emotional connection would have served to win me over fully and add yet another dimension to the narrative.
The House of Shattered Wings is a vast and richly imagined novel which perhaps came to a head too soon. Although the storyline wraps up relatively neatly at its conclusion, I felt the absence of Morningstar and would have preferred the main antagonist to have featured more throughout the narrative and particularly towards the end of the novel. Despite these minor quibbles, this is a novel which also exhibits a lot of skill and strength in its writing – I defy anyone to not find any beauty in de Bodard’s descriptions – and, whilst I might not have connected with the majority of the cast, their promise of a rich and detailed history left me anxious to know more.
The House of Shattered Wings is a beautiful book with an impressive list of attributes to its name. Whilst there were some elements of the story which I wish were elaborated upon or explored further, it remains a distinctive, imaginative and exciting novel which takes its time to see you through to the end. I am definitely looking forward to spending more time in the Dominion of the Fallen.
Philippe was brought to wrecked, magically polluted Paris when the Fallen forcibly drafted people from the colonies to fight their battles. Now he runs with the gangs, stripped of all hope of returning home. When he stumbles across newly-Fallen Isabelle, they are both seized by House Silverspires and taken to Notre Dame. But Silverspires – founded by Morningstar, its influence slowly crumbling following his disappearance – is under insidious attack. Philippe and Isabelle find themselves at the centre of the storm as loyalties shift and bonds are forged.
I ended up admiring and being incredibly frustrated by the world-building. It’s good – very good – in the sense that this decaying, dull Paris feels real, it’s inhabitants creeping through mouldering ruins and avoiding the terrors of the blackened Seine. The Houses have real stature; the stricken buildings loom large above the devastated city, bastions of power and influence run by Fallen overlords one can serve or avoid but rarely ignore. The Fallen, with their crisp suits and Louis XV furniture, are a lofty 1% who rarely value human lives as they play malicious games of influence.
The frustrating bit is the lack of detail. The Fallen know their own history on Earth; Philippe knows the history of the apocalyptic war that destroyed Europe; but none of this is spelled out. We get only fragments. Part of me is rather impressed that de Bodard has managed to construct something that feels so real without ever really giving more than glimpses of what holds it together. It frustrates me only because when I know I’m dealing with an alternate history, I like to know how it fits together.
The story itself is fairly traditional, but expressed in interesting ways thanks to the infusion of Vietnamese mythology and enough twists to make you genuinely unsure of whether this will end well or badly. This is a dark (but not grimdark) story, with a flawed, flailing cast of characters who are riven by self-doubt and House politics. I couldn’t guess how it would end, and I’m happy to say I didn’t call it although I’ll admit that one outcome was both so obvious and so unexpected I felt like a right twit.
Doubleplus points for the rich relationships, strong characters, shady morality, difficult decisions and proper consequences. Good stuff.
The dark, velvety decay of Paris, sometime in the future past reels with the metaphysical possibilities at play: Fallen exiled to Earth go about their power games in Houses that appear to be but faded relics of their former glory, mingling with mortal adepts (both of politics and magic), and a growing sense throughout the novel that 'bad things are going down.'
Ostensibly set around a curse of revenge, the introduction of Philippe - at turns reviled and coveted for his exotic powers, his secrets and ultimately his soul - throws the Houses into disarray, and as the power plays rage, he is forced to seek escape, and answers, in places darker still.
There's a good array of characters here, with many of the worse qualities of innate power on display; vanity, arrogance, disdain and spite, but also many of the best ones too; hope, courage, ingenuity, friendship - and the ending will have you waiting eagerly for the next one.
These include Madeleine, a mortal who is addicted to angel essence, which here is a kind of magic-infused cocaine that imbues her with elemental powers but at terrible cost; Phillipe, who is an immortal of Vietnamese origin whose longevity is merely a means of preserving a state of miserable exile in the ruined capital of a state that wrenched him from home in the first place, and Isabelle, the Fallen whose crunching descent begins the novel and whose maiming haunts both her and Phillipe, who was responsible for it.
Everyone in the novel is obsessed with angels, even the angels themselves. House Silver spires mourns the loss of its founder, Morningstar, whose mysterious disappearance drives the intrigue. Meanwhile, in a gruesome combination of celebrity and Auschwitz cultures, angel body parts are commodified as charms, drugs and power sources. Madeleine, an alchemist, scrapes angel flesh from bones and clips hair and nails in a frantic attempt to preserve the magic that has been blasted from everywhere else in the world.
This novel is one of the best contemporary expressions of entropy I’ve read; only claustrophobia offsets the exhaustion. However, the three protagonists use their outsider status to find ways of subverting this stifling state of affairs. Phillipe employs a form of Eastern magic unfamiliar to the beleaguered matriarch of Silver spires while Madeline has her forbidden drugs and reluctant affinity with a rival house. No Fallen has any knowledge of the celestial city they came from or the reason they were ejected from it and Isabelle’s lack of self-knowledge makes her an enigma whose true identity could resolve the problems facing the House or destroy it altogether.
The author brings an engineer’s precision to the both the rigorously defined magic system and also uncanny physiologies like the muscular/skeletal requirements of supporting humanoid wings. Then there is the layout of Silver spires, which is spread over a section of the real Paris, liberally dosed with post-apocalyptic gloom and a pleasing touch of Gormenghast. These details are cleverly underplayed however; the main focus is the lethal game of manners carried on between the Houses, each one using depleted resources to outdo the others, more for the sake of it than anything else.
It is up to the Phillipe to express rage at the colonial arrogance which brought about the annihilation that makes the dismal Silver spires a desirable residence, although he is not the only one. The fate of Morningstar and a series of strange, impossible-to-explain deaths are also rooted in fury and it is a testament to the author’s skill in depicting her main characters, especially the resigned but eternally decent Phillipe, that we care so much about the outcome.