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The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de…

The House of Binding Thorns

by Aliette de Bodard

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The House of Binding Thorns, Aliette de Bodard’s novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, is the follow up to The House of Shattered Wings, which won the 2015 British Science Fiction Association Award. The books are set in an alternate Paris, where dragons and other sea-creatures drawn from Vietnamese mythology control the river Seine, and the Fallen, ruthless angels expelled from heaven, control everything else.
The reader is enveloped in gossamer threads of dread, as she reads about the struggles of various characters to escape domination and cruelty. Both the dragon kingdom and the Houses of the Fallen offer nuanced gradients of aggression; there is no refuge for the powerless. A pregnant Vietnamese woman, an immortal from Asia who lost most of his power, and a French woman who is addicted to the magic found in angel bones, all try to find their way among the shifting alliances, subterfuges, and occasional rewards of a decaying and rotting city. This is low fantasy: magic mixed with political machinations, the ethereal mixed with the pain of labor.
With the plot occasionally taking a backseat to setting, there is nothing for it but to give yourself over to the heavy, evocative atmosphere, and let it subjugate you with its hypnotic cloud of magic. Ms. de Bodard’s observant eye captures the subtleties of various cultures, genders, and fantastical creatures in a believable and visceral way.

( )
  AuthorGabrielle | May 28, 2017 |
...I generally enjoy De Bodard's work, both stylistically and because of the themes she uses, and this novel is no exception. I thought the plot of this novel flowed a bit more smoothly than that of the House of Shattered Wings. It is dark and desperate, full of characters overreaching in an effort to prevent what little they have managed to salvage from destruction slipping from their grasp. It tackles some of the problems of today's society with a touch of Victor Hugo and a bit of magic. It blends the Christian power of sacrifice and redemption with the eastern flow of life force and sense of duty. It is a novel that has a lot to offer. One of those books that will yield more on a reread. The House of Binding Thorns was high on the to read list for this year and fully lived up to my expectations. Not many books manage to do that.

Full Random Comments review. ( )
  Valashain | Apr 30, 2017 |
Any book that has me struggling not to squeak on public transport and then has me nearly miss my bus stop is going to get a big thumbs-up. I loved Aliette de Bodard’s introduction to her vision of a blasted, magic-torn Paris in The House of Shattered Wings and I delighted in the chance to return to it and peer into one of the darker Fallen Houses.

Madeleine is back in House Hawthorn, terrified of her future and unable to move on from her past. When Asmodeus makes it clear she can choose to die but not the manner of her dying, her fear drives her to once again swear allegiance. But can she be a faithful servant of House Hawthorn?

Philippe is living in the Annamite community, surreptitiously using his magic to heal and trying to avoid attention while he tries to find a way to resurrect Isabelle.

Asmodeus himself is seeking alliance with the dragon kingdom beneath the Seine, but the rong have their own issues: a rebellion and an insidious plague of addiction to angel essence. When his envoy disappears, he sends another - and Madeleine - to seal the deal.

We also meet new characters, get to know old enemies better and uncover unexpected secrets. I found this a gripping read from start to finish, just about approachable as a stand alone but all the richer if you have the context of House of Shattered Wings. The dragon kingdom and House Hawthorn are fascinating contrasts to Silverspires.

I look forward to whatever the future may hold for poor, battered Paris and her inhabitants.

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I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review ( )
  imyril | Mar 29, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451477391, Hardcover)

The multi-award-winning author of The House of Shattered Wings continues her Dominion of the Fallen saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war....
As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.
House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Phillippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal—to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic might be more than he can bear.
In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater dragon kingdom—and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear....
As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength—or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 28 Nov 2016 02:04:41 -0500)

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