Title: House of Shattered Wings
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0
This one took me a great long while to read. That’s not to say that it was a bad book (the rating obviously says otherwise), but more so because I’m easily distracted and adult fantasy always takes me forever to read. De Bodard has created a very original post-apocalyptic urban world and also taken other well used fantasy elements, such as, angels and dragons, and made them completely her own. The positives of this book included world building and characterisation, however there are problems with pacing throughout the novel.
The novel has a well-sized cast that never feels too big as de Bodard makes sure to develop each character to the extent that the audience understands who they are. This development ensures that while I was reading I was never confused about who was who nor about who belonged to which house. Additionally, de Bodard never went down the path of casting characters as heroes or villains. They were all morally grey and that made the book even more enjoyable as I wanted to know what each of the characters would do next. There are two characters who are in positions of power in the novel and are LGBT, however I would consider these characters to be secondary characters. There is also a fair amount of POV changes, however de Bodard makes it work and it never feels as though the same story is being told twice. Rather, it gives a good overview of the action taking place and the impact that major events have on the different characters.
De Bodard has an interesting take on angels. They fall to earth and parts of them are essentially harvested to produce objects of power. Angels have formed Houses in the post apocalyptic world which fight against one another, once outright, but now in more subtle ways. Everyone gets pulled into this war including one of the main characters, Philippe. He is a Vietnamese soldier conscripted into the war who settles in Paris after it ends and there is definitely more to him than meets the eye as the reader and the other characters in the novel soon find out. De Bodard also features dragons which are inspired by the Chinese tradition. They have connections to sources of water and reside in the Seine. And through this, de Bodard also makes a point to speak on environmental concerns in our modern world which are so important.
The pacing of the book leaves much to be desired in places. It begins with a very tense scene which is resolved and after this the books falls into a bit of tedium. There were parts where I had to push myself to keep reading or was distracted by other books because events were unfolding a little too slowly for my tastes. I enjoyed the ending through and felt de Bodard perfectly captured the urgency that the characters felt by the unfolding events. The ending also leaves many questions unanswered about a fair number of the characters. Hopefully the sequel answers these questions and gives de Bodard a chance to grow the already interesting world building.