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. 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, 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 . . .
Nebula-winner de Bodard makes her big-house debut (following the Obsidian and Blood trilogy, published by Angry Robot) with a gripping tragedy of forlorn individuals caught up in an angelic version of the Cold War. In this rendition of history, Paris was devastated by a Great War that began in 1914 a war waged by its competing houses of Fallen angels and witches. Sixty years later, the city is still in ruins. Two Frenchwomen have very different relationships with the supernatural side of Paris: Selene, the leader of House Silverspires, struggles to step into the shoes of its founder, the mysteriously missing Morningstar (aka Lucifer), and House alchemist Madeleine must balance her addiction to angel essence against her fears of being sent back to her former master, Asmodeus. Philippe, a Vietnamese conscript and former Immortal, is caught sampling the blood of a newly Fallen angel, and his attempt to escape precipitates a long-hidden curse on Silverspires that sets the Furies and the other houses to seek its destruction. The story holds up well as a standalone, with clear possibilities but no pressing need for a sequel. De Bodard aptly mixes moral conflicts and the desperate need to survive in a fantastical spy thriller that reads like a hybrid of le Carr and Milton, all tinged with the melancholy of golden ages lost.
Excellent characterisation. Solid and very original story. Very well paced and an intriguing mix of eastern and western mythology thrown in. An over used term but definitely a 'must read' for fantasy fans.