Book Review: The House of Shattered Wings

I could be a better literary citizen when it comes to where and how I buy books. Most of my purchases come from used book stores. I love the idea of giving lost titles new life, and supporting small businesses, but I can’t help but feel a twinge of guilt knowing the authors aren’t ultimately seeing any of that money. I enjoy books and the idea of reading so much that even before my 2019 renewed commitment to reading, my wife and I ended many dates meandering the aisles, reading back covers, and taking a book or five home. The result is that I have a significant backlog on my own bookshelves just waiting to get picked up. It was in this catalog that I unearthed this week’s subject – chilling on the “blue shelf” (yes, they are color-coded), waiting to be remembered. I am very glad to have rediscovered this atmospheric, award-winning novel.

The Basics

Title: The House of Shattered Wings
Author: Aliette De Bodard
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance, Mystery
Publisher: Roc, 2015

Spoiler-Free Summary

The House… is a broken stained-glass window – beautiful. Tragic. A reminder of things lost. It transports the reader to a post-apocalyptic Europe where World War I played out not between nations, but Great Houses ruled by fallen angels (“the Fallen”). Their wrath devastated the world. These houses are equal parts feudalism and organized crime syndicate. We narrow our focus on a divided Paris, where Phillipe, a Viet who is a little more than meets the eye, and Isabelle, a new Fallen finding her place in the world, are swept into the “protection” of House Silverspires, the legacy of the First Fallen.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Pexels.com

All is not well in the house – Phillipe and Isabelle’s slow-burning Romeo-and-Juliet romance is subsumed by a series of brutal murders. Can Silverspires outrun the revenge born of its violent past? Can the House survive the machinations of their rivals, who would love to see the first House humbled? Will Phillipe and Isabelle survive the wrath of a killer who strikes without mercy and leaves no trace?

Why This Book is For You

De Bodard is an absolute master of tone. Everything about her prose – the measured pace, haunting language, and dream-like descriptions – works together to support the feeling of loss and unfulfilled potential that lurks beneath every page. It’s poetic. It’s beautiful. It’s worth reading for the style alone… but that packaging enshrouds a moving story.

The mystery is the definition of surprising-but-inevitable: The reader pieces it together just a few pages before each reveal, which, in my opinion, is the whodunnit sweet-spot. You need to know who the killer is and why, what Phillipe is, how he came to Paris from half a world away, and how the once-proud House came to the brink of destruction.

If you enjoyed Night Circus or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, you should give The House of Shattered Wings a chance.

Where Can You Find More?

Check out the Dominion of the Fallen series summary on De Bodard’s web site, or this review of the same from Tor.

As always, happy reading, and happy writing.

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Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

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