Book Review: The House of Shattered Wings

4-star

Title:  The House of Shattered Wings

Author:  Aliette de Bodard

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Rating:  4/5 stars

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I bought this book because I was promised a Vietnamese immortal trapped amidst broken and fallen-angel ridden Paris. Did the book deliver? YESSSS.

Review-House-of-Shattered-Wings

NOT YOUR USUAL FALLEN ANGELS

A Fallen. A young one, barely manifested in the world, lying in pain, somewhere close; somewhere vulnerable in a city where young Fallen were merchandise, creatures to be taken apart and killed before they became too powerful and did the taking apart and the killing.

The book puts a twisted, dark spin on the standard fallen angel mythology.  In this alternate world’s decaying Paris, the Seine is blackened with ashes, while the streets are ruled by a motley of gangs and Houses. Paris is deprived of magic, its only source being the Fallen and their corporeal body, down to their very bones, blood, skin, and hair.  Newly formed Fallen, fresh out of the sky, are prey to unsavoury character who wouldn’t hesitate to mutilate them for a taste of magic.  I loved this horrific spin on the usual angel lore, as it at once confronts the dark side of humanity and the depth to which the angels have fallen.  The atmosphere of the book follows suit, it’s steeped in secrecy, in whispers of sins and secrecy.

STORY & SETTING

At the core of the plot is a mystery surrounding House Silverspires.  Once, it stood at the top, reigning over the Paris under the rule of its famous leader: The Morningstar, Lightbringer, Lucifer. Since his mysterious disappearance years ago, his apprentice, Selene, has shouldered the momentous task of keeping the House alive.  Death are littered through the book, each deceased are inexplicably linked to House Silverspire.  Part of the story focuses on the unraveling of this mystery, though there are plenty of deviations from this main story.  The pacing of The House of Shattered Wings is at times languorous, however, I still enjoyed it as it allowed me to immerse in the world and setting.

The river was dark and dangerous, like everything else in Paris: waters that would eat at your flesh, waves that would reach out, grab you from the embankments, and drag you under the choppy surface to drown.

Paris itself is a prominent character in this book, with detailed description of its terrible, catastrophic beauty highlighted frequently throughout the story.  We see characters reminiscing Paris in its golden days, when Morningstar still ruled – and mourning the splendour slowly lost through the ages. I adore seeing real world places in a fantasy setting, it’s like stepping into a parallel universe. Seeing this bleak and destroyed version of Paris makes me want to visit the real place, it appeals to me in a way staged tourism leaflets never could!  *weirdo*

VIETNAM REPRESENT!

“Annam … is a land of spirits,” Emmanuelle said. “Magic is tied to the land—there’s a spirit for each village, for each household—for mountains and rivers and rain.”

Do you know how frickin’ hard it is for me to see fellow Viet in fiction, let alone fantasy fiction?! Their presence in this book made me shed tears of happiness.  If the descriptions of Paris gave me a touch of wanderlust, then the descriptions of Annam made me homesick.  Aliette de Bodard has it right you all, the scent of lemongrass, the slight obsession with nuoc mam, and the elusive spirits that govern our lands.

Though the main character, Phillipe, never set foot in Annam for the entirety of the novel, his yearning for home and detailed prose about the country made me feel like I was there again with him.  I also loved the incorporation of the East Asian mythology into a story about angels.  A world where the Jade Emperor co-exist with Lucifer?  YES PLEASE.  The book craftily combines the folk tale I grew up listening to, with the Western supernatural narrative I often read – how could I not love it?!  This is diversity done right, and it makes me happy to my core!

HINTS OF MORE EXPANSIVE MYTHOLOGY

Beyond Europe, before the mad rush to colonize other countries and bring their wealth back to the motherland, there had been—other beings, other Houses: the nahual shape-shifters of Mexico, the jinn of Arab countries, the Jewish shedim and nephilim—and once, a long time ago, the demigods and heroes of ancient Greece and ancient Rome—long since vanished and crushed by newer magics

It’s not just angels and Jade Emperors, you guys, there’s hints of other mythology at play in this book as well.  In fact, there’s an appearance from at least one other pantheon in this book – though I don’t want to give anything away.  I love the set up of this, and hope to see more of the world being developed in future instalments.  I am also looking forward to seeing more development into the angel lore we explored in this book. Though the main plot is largely resolved within The House of Shattered Wings, there are still plenty of plot threads I’m excited about for future books.

I also hope to develop more of a connection to the characters at a later stage. While I loved the premise and the world building, I felt a little disconnected from the multiple POVs we had in this book – even my fellow Vietnamese, Philippe! I have high hopes though, so I will be checking out the sequel for sure.

37 thoughts on “Book Review: The House of Shattered Wings

  1. WOAH WHAT. I’M TEARING UP. VIETNAMESE IMMORTALS. OUR CULTURE IN A FANTASY BOOK THAT IS ACTUALLY GOOD AND WANDERLUST?! Sign me up. I need this book ASAP. This book sounds beautiful. I’m so pumped up to read it. I hope the sequel and more are all successful as well. This is the best news!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YESSSS You need this in your life, Diana! Vietnamese in fantasy is all too rare, and after seeing it in this book, I am ready for it to become and common occurence! I hope you enjoy it!! The author is half Viet so all the better!!

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    1. I would love to hear what you think of this, Alyssa ❤ ASIANS IN A WESTERN FANTASY? Too rare, sadly. The author is also Half Viet, yay for WOC writing about POC.

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    1. The writing is so gorgeous, if you love Paris, you definitely need to read this version of it! Thanks for commenting, I am glad to help with the TBR!

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    1. Yess! Asians in an Asian inspired fantasy? Awesome! Asians kicking ass in a Western world while sick for home? TOO AWESOME FOR WORDS. I hope you’ll get to check this one out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. WHAT? Vietnamese people in fantasy western fiction??? That’s also good?? This has to be a joke..
    But it sounds so cool too and I’ve been interested in angellore ever since I read Angelfall haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss for fellow nuoc mam addict, I love eating it with rau muong or just alone with rice ahaha. I am curious to see what you think of this, so I hope you’ll check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve rarely seen anything Viet in books. Tbh the most I know about Vietnam is the Vietnam War, Pho, and Viet curry. So I think this book would probably be really good for me to learn more about the environment! I practically imagine you gushing wistfully about this book! Fabulous review. I’d pick this up for the way the author describes Vietnam alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As the book is set in Paris, majority of the description is of France, not of VN – but I love the incorporation of the mythology and the home sick character! Hope you’ll enjoy it when you read it 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, maybe! The Selene here is nothing like Celaena, though – she’s a middle aged Fallen and the matriarch of her house. Though both characters are awesome!

      You’re right, the writing in this book is STUNNING.

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  4. Did I just read that correctly? A FELLOW VIET IN THE FICTIONAL WORLD? YESSSS. I added it to my GR TBR immediately just for that reason. I’m so glad this first installment lived up to your expectations! Hurrah for that!

    (And I’ll pass with the nuoc mam. Unless it’s the sugar, non-fish kind since I’m veggie.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh being vegetarian is easy for Viet though, I love our focus on fresh veggie in the cuisine 😀 AND YAASSSS I hope you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did, Summer. Just having Vietnamese people in books make me happy haha.

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  5. This sounds totally fantastic. I love the reverse-mythology kind of? of the angels here! I don’t think that’s the sort of angel premise that I’ve seen before so it definitely has that unique factor on. Plus, A VIET HEROINE. I wish there were more heroines/heroes from other ethnic backgrounds not just in contemporary fiction but in other genres too 😦 A filipino heroine in a fantasy setting would be HEAVEN for me. So glad you got to read about someone from a common background, Aentee! I know I already told you this on Twitter but I need to check the heck out of this book!

    Faye at The Social Potato

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a darker spin on the usual angel mythology. They’re not all-powerful here, their relationship with magic leaves them quite vulnerable towards scavengers. Philippe is a dude though hehe. But I agree I wish that there were more POC in fantasy setting, especially WESTERN fantasy setting. It shouldn’t be the domain of white people, I mean, there are heaps of Asians everywhere in the world, yet we are conspicuously absent from UF.

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  6. LOVED this review! This series sounds do cool. It’s been taunting me on my TBR for a while but now I really want to pick it up and read it. A+ for asian representation and diversity in books, let a lone a fantasy book. Even more reason to read it!

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  7. A wonderful review for a fantastic book! I really felt for Philippe in this one. The fallen angel life seemed pretty difficult for the other characters. I loved how Bodard has these different magic systems co-existing in her universe and I really wanted to explore more of the river god’s underworld. I think her sequels will follow different Houses but I hope Philippe brings us over to Annam too!

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