Cynthia Ayala ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Paris has survived the Great Houses War, a war created by the Fallen Angels and their houses. Their blood and their essence has polluted the air. While the citizens continue to live on and fight for survival among their ailing country, the war of politics continues. Something from the past has come to undo House Silverspires, once the leader of the power games, but now a house in disarray. Something in the shadows is stalking them and killing innocents who come and go. But there are three people who might be able to save it: a naive and powerful fallen angel, an alchemist with a terrible addiction, and a seemingly young man from the Far East. But are they powerful enough to undo the sins of the father?
Published August 18, 2015 by Roc, Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings takes mystery into new territory, dealing with angelic mythology and urban fantasy to make a very interesting novel. Maybe now it has just become relevant, but the popularity of angelic mythology seems to be on the rise, and who can blame that rise when there are brilliantly-written novels such as this one.
This novel paints a history in different light, combining history and angelic mythology to weave a unique universe. When angels fell from heaven, they came to earth and asserted their powers over the mortals, creating houses of magic and power. Alchemists, witches, and fallen angels all exist together, but with power comes greed. This led to the Great Houses War, royalty of fallen angels fighting amongst themselves, trying to dominate the others to no avail. Now Paris is a dying land, and fallen angels are losing their powers the older they get, but their heavenly bodies pollute the lands.
It’s a very ironic twist that is written very well. These angels, once beings a pure goodness, have fallen and now live on earth with nothing but their magic and their angelic essence. Their essence kills the land. Power needs responsibility, and these angels have forgotten that in their arrogance. It is a very symbolic and realistic direction that the author has decided to take, because power can and will pollute those who would let it, and these angels have let it. Some of these characters are downright nasty, and it is no surprise they were cast out of heaven. But following Isabelle, the newest of the fallen angels, readers might feel sorry for some. After all, the story begins with her fall from heaven and the very experience she endures during and following her landing.
Nevertheless, this is a gripping story, because right when the reader thinks that the story or the plot can’t get even more intense, it does, but with elegance. There are so many points where the story could just end, it could close, but it does not. She chooses to continue the story; she continues to weave this mystery novel with such a strong hand, throwing curveball after curveball at the reader in order to keep them hooked. Moreover, it reads effortlessly. The story does jump a little past the halfway point of the novel as the pace continues to increase until the climax, but it is still able to hold itself together with strong scene specifics and character narrations. Point of view shifts are solid; it’s clear who is talking and when so when the pace rushes forward and the story begins to jump around, the reader is not going to get lost.
Novels such as this that combine a contemporary feel alongside an alternate history with paranormal and supernatural touches can be a hit and miss if written poorly. Thankfully, that is not the case here. Aliette de Bodard did an amazing job with this novel, combining many aesthetics to weave a wonderful and divine mystery that will keep any reader glued to the pages.