The House of Shattered Wings: Hark! The Fallen Angels Sing

Title: The House of Shattered Wings

Author: Aliette de Bodard

Elevator pitch: A mysterious young man of unknown magical origin, stranded in Paris and captured by the most powerful fallen angel faction, is forced to hunt a supernatural killer.

Why did I pick this book up? Typically, I don’t read angel books. But I was willing to give fallen angels in an alternate reality 1930s Paris a chance.

Main Characters: Philippe is foreigner stranded in Paris trying to survive without calling too much attention to himself. Then he gets caught trying to mainline fallen angel blood, a highly addictive a powerful magic-inducing drug.

Isabelle has the most recent, but fading, connection to Heaven. She is the newest fallen angel who hits the pavement in the first chapter and nearly becomes savaged for her potent blood.

Selene inherited a broken faction when their great leader went for a walk and never came back. She is in over her head and is desperately trying to hold her faction together.

Madeline is the most capable alchemist in the city, but also a tormented angel-drug addict trying to forget the horrible things that have happened to her during her service to angels.

Thoughts and Musings
Have you ever watched a movie where the two hours leading up to the ending credits feel like prologue, and you think “This is where the movie should have started. Right here. This would be really interesting to see what happens next.” This story begins after The End.

The House of Shattered Wings is an aftermath story. It’s set in an alternate Paris during the 1930s where the fallen angels of Heaven have set up an empire, nearly destroyed themselves and everyone else in a civil war between factions, and their greatest leader has disappeared. The main events leading up to the story have already happened, and now the characters are dealing with the fallout. It’s like reading about Rome in the immediate years after its collapse.

Starting here is a big risk for the author to take. Whatever comes next has to be at least as compelling as all the backstory. I think against the odds, it works.

At its core, The House of Shattered Wings is simple who-done-it mystery. Someone/something is killing people and the characters have to find and stop the killer. Compared to the backstory, this doesn’t sound nearly as interesting. However, Bodard surrounds the mystery with layers on layers of complicated politics, questions of faith, conflicting relationships, and intersecting world mythologies. And as the mystery begins to unravel, it intersects with several pre-novel plotlines. This intersection helps keep the main storyline as compelling as the pre-book storyline.

House of Shattered wings is the first in a series, but it works as a solo novel. The ending has a satisfactory conclusion. When the next book comes out, I’ll pick it up.

Please, share your thoughts.

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