The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)
by Aliette de Bodard.
The House of Shattered Wings is a story of fallen angels, strange magic, warring houses, and the ever-shifting balance of power between them. A great war has left the world in ruins. In Paris, survivors band together in houses for protection. The book weaves together the story of: Selene, head of House Silverspires, desperately trying to take the place of her mentor (Morningstar) as the House sinks further into disarray; Isabelle, a newly fallen angel who is nonetheless extremely powerful; and Philippe, a foreigner who sees more than he says and is not quite what he seems. Together in a tentative alliance, they face a creeping, shadowy magic that threatens to bring down House Silverspires.
I’m a bit torn about this one. On the one hand, I quite liked parts of it- good writing, very atmospheric, interesting characters. On the other hand, I felt like I never quite got my feet under me regarding understanding the world setup. It was recognizably Paris, but the exact time period and event timeline weren’t clear- and I wasn’t sure if that was deliberate or not. Morningstar is another name for Lucifer, and this a version of him getting cast out from Heaven, complete with a bunch of other angels falling to earth. But the ruins in Paris where this takes place are markedly more recent than normally associated with the Fall. From the Goodreads blurb, it’s clear the author was bringing the War of Heaven to earth in Paris in the last century or so, but nothing in the book lays it out as clearly.
It’s also not clear how the magic works, or what kind of world setup existed before the war that left everything in ruins. Again, the blurb mentions a Great Magicians war, but that’s more detail than the book actually provides. We get no backstory of that. I also didn’t understand why Philippe didn’t just leave Paris if he was sick of it. Nothing was really mentioned about outside the city or why everyone was stuck in Paris.
Overall, I guess the combo of the Fall with semi-modern Paris just didn’t work for me. But if I can ignore that it’s Paris, it’s a pretty interesting story. It still needs more backstory, but I’m hoping we get some of that in book 2.