The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion Of The Fallen book 1) by Aliette de Bodard (book review).

September 29, 2015 | By | Reply More

Paris is a dying city, with gangs of humans roaming the streets in search of enough food to stay alive. Yet not all the citizens of Paris live in such desperate situations. The Houses are thriving and the Fallen and those humans lucky enough to be in their protection have nothing to worry about. At least, that’s what everyone thought until the bodies started appearing, bodies of those known to be in the employ of different Houses. When Philippe discovers the newly Fallen, Isabelle, they are both drawn into the politics of the Houses. As each House fights for power, Philippe searches for the truth behind the killings and secrets from the past threaten to tear down the very foundation of Fallen society.


In ‘The House Of Shattered Wings’, author Aliette de Bodard paints a rich picture of a dystopian Paris, where most of the buildings have been destroyed and human civilisation is dependent on the goodwill of Fallen angels. These Fallen have been cast out of Heaven and land on Earth with a whole heap of raw magic but no memory of anything that came before. It makes for a neat little plot device to explain a whole range of details about the Houses (which are the major factions in control of Paris, all headed by different Fallen), the history of Paris and the different magics available to the Fallen. I know that sounds a tad cynical, to call it a plot device, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. It helps to have a reason for explaining things, so that the necessary bits of exposition fit seamlessly in with the story.

It also works with Isabelle as we see her develop really nicely through the book, from this naive childish girl to a powerful woman taking control of her abilities. Philippe is another great character and, I feel that at the end of this book, we’ve only just started to scratch the surface of him. Starting off in the first chapter where he seems to have powers neither human nor Fallen should possess, the mysteries surrounding him and his past are really intriguing. I definitely want to find out more about him and it looks like there’s a book two in the pipeline that will give me that opportunity – hurray! I found the hierarchy of all the characters in their different Houses a little complex to follow at times but, as the book progressed, it did become clearer as I was drawn further into this dark Paris with its political intrigues and its somewhat eerie feel.

The story takes these elements, adds in the unusual characters and then blends the political plotting with good old-fashioned murder mystery. It is a fairly complex narrative with lots of twists that are difficult to predict but never jarring and, ultimately, it is both satisfyingly concluded and still leaves plenty open to explore in a sequel. It ends up in the lighter realms of dark fantasy for the most part but there are a few genuinely dark moments, balanced nicely with some real moments of wonder.

Speaking of a sense of wonder, the cover image (I have the UK version with the stained glass window patterns in the shape of angel wings) is beautiful. It really captures the contrasting feel of the angels and their magic against the dystopian background of the city.

There’s plenty to enjoy here, whether you’re into the complex political machinations so favoured by the ASOIAF fans or prefer dark fantasy, whether you’re looking for mysteries to solve or magical beings to meet. It is a great mix of styles that come together in a satisfyingly complex web of magic and intrigue and I’m looking forward to exploring this world further in book two.

Vinca Russell

September 2015

(pub: Gollancz. 416 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-47321-255-8)

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Category: Books, Fantasy

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