By Heather A.
4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆
In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. 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.
The House of Shattered Wings surprised me. All I knew going in was that it was set in Paris and it was about fallen angels. My twitter timeline exploded in positive admiration for the book when it was released. Of course, summing it up in a few words doesn’t really get at the heart of the complex political structure or multiple fantastical realms that it develops. Barely any of the Twitter proclamations mentioned that this novel delves into the mythology of Vietnamese culture or how Indochinese colonists was used in the French army in World War II. Growing up in a Western civilization blinds readers of the fantastic and interesting history of other parts of the world. I’m very thankful that de Bodard covered these topics.
I’m just guessing that most of the history part is true. And I trust the author based the Vietnamese mythology on real myths, too. These were the parts that fascinated me the most because I had no idea they existed until I read about them. I want to know more about the Jade Emperor and the people who are also dragons! (Maybe in the sequel?)
Getting back to the novel, the author created this complex political structure between angels and humans, where houses have formed to take care of fallen angels. There was a war that depleted the resources of the houses and caused the disappearance of the head of House Silverspires, Morningstar, aka the first fallen, aka Lucifer. Part of the novel is figuring out the mystery of Morningstar’s disappearance, and the other part is figuring out a curse that is unleashed on the house, based on actions taken by Morningstar. Meanwhile, Isabel, a newly fallen, and Philippe, are taken into House Silverspires when the curse begins and are caught in the middle of it. The plot is slow burning (as I’ve heard many reviews echo the same sentiment), but readers are pulled along by the swift, delicate, and lyrical writing.
Every word seemed to be painstakingly chosen. My favorite passages were of dark dungeons, the smell of the Asmodus, the leader of a rival house, and underwater in the river Seine. There was never a moment where I felt deprived of some sensory description. Further, the dialogue was equally compelling. There was not any wasted words.
I highly recommend this novel. The world left much to explore. While I did find some parts of the middle of the novel to be slow, I think that the politics and mythology is worth following. Looking forward to book #2!