The House of Shattered Wings
Multi-award winning author Aliette de Bodard, brings her story of the War in Heaven to Paris, igniting the City of Light in a fantasy of divine power and deep conspiracy…
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.
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.
Perhaps I should not have read this after reading "dead lands" and "jinni and the golem" but this book pales so much in comparison. The premise of the story does have a lot of potential but the characters are so one-dimensional that it was truly difficult to care for anything that happened to them. By extension the entire story feels flat, parts meant to be suspenseful feel empty, emotional ones feel campy and so on. In the end the intriguing premise is all there is here, the book itself just a slow walk to a conclusion that is meant to be emotional but feels hallow because, like the rest of the book, at its core are so many half developed caricatures of emotions.