Hello Humans! As you may have seen in my September TBR video, The House of Sundering Flames was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019….that I kind of forgot about! The House of Shattered Wings was a book I purchased many years ago and sat unread on my shelf for quite a few years until I started blogging and got more intentional about reading the things I buy – though as you may be able to tell I’m not great at that. But to finally get to the conclusion of such an amazing trilogy is a truly exciting moment and I’m delighted to be able to review the book here!
Probable spoilers ahead for The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns but spoiler-free for this book.
The great magical Houses of Paris – headed by Fallen angels and magicians – were, however temporarily, at peace with each other. Until House Harrier was levelled by a powerful explosion. Now that peace has become chaos, tearing apart old alliances and setting off a race in which each House hoards magic and resources to protect itself against another such blast.
Thuan, the Dragon head of the divided House Hawthorn, is still consolidating his power when war comes to his doorstep. Aurore – exiled from and almost beaten to death by House Harrier – sees her moment to seek power in order to protect her family, even if she must venture back to her destroyed former home to get it. And Emmanuelle finds herself alone in the middle of it all, driven to protect others, trying to piece together what has happened, and hoping – eventually – to make sense of it all.
None of them know what destroyed House Harrier, though . . . and when they do uncover that fiery, destructive magic then divided Houses, old enemies and estranged friends will all have to make a decision: stand together, or burn alone . . .
I have a weird relationship with these books, and with Aliette’s writing – to be perfectly honest. While I’m reading the books I’m utterly captivated, they are page-turners in the truest form of the word, I can’t stop reading them once I’ve begun.
But then…once it’s done.
Can I remember what happened with much clarity? Can I tell you, with any confidence, what happened? Honestly? No.
I don’t know what it is but these books totally slip through my mind as soon as I finish them! I don’t see that as a bad thing, I’d describe it as being as close as I am ever going to get to those moments in books where a character discovers that the strange shop at which they purchased the magical item has mysteriously disappeared. It’s not a bad feeling it’s just a little…magical?
So, while I can’t talk with much authority as to the plot of the book what I will talk about is atmosphere – because I think that’s what these books, and this book, in particular, do well.
The way that Aliette De Bodard has captured a Paris in the aftermath of a magical war is absolutely beautiful. I’ve mentioned it in a review before, but I have a somewhat complex relationship with Paris (basically I think Paris gets more credit than it is due). But these books make me love Paris again because they are written from the perspective of someone who loves the city for more than its ‘postcard potential’ but who appreciates the vibe that the city has beyond tourism, the history and the conflict that contribute to the essence of the city. Add a frack-tonne of magic on top of that and you’ve got something truly wonderful.
I could wax lyrical about other aspects of this book, I could talk about the effortless (at least seemingly effortless) inclusion of queer characters, the fascinating magic system, the complex political machinations that flow throughout the book, the inclusion of so many intersectional elements – but I’d be doing you a disservice. I know as a reviewer it’s my job to tell you why you should (or in some cases shouldn’t) read a book. But in this case, I truly believe that every person will get something different out of this series. It may not be a series for everyone, I’d probably hesitate to tell you that YES YOU SHOULD GO READ IT NOW. But for those like me, who love that magical, otherworldly, weird and vivid world that Aliette has created I think these are worth discovering on your own.
I will absolutely be going back and reading this series from the beginning – I have no doubt that I will appreciate something anew with each re-read.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
The House of Sundering Flames is available now!
What say you? What are some of the most atmospheric books you’ve read? Let me know in the comments below!