Book Review – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette De Bodard

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its
magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something
from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires‘ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

Review:

This is a book I chose to start reading for a very trivial reason but I’m so glad I did because it’s fantastic. Every time I go to a bookshop, I play a game in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section where I see how many shelves I’ve read a book from. Last time I did this, there was only one shelf I didn’t “have” and so naturally I just had to read a book from it (actually I read two, just to be extra certain). This book sounded fascinating and the cover is just beautiful so I just had to read it. Best part is that since it’s urban Fantasy and the author lives in France, I’m counting this as my French entry for my Read Around the World challenge.

The setting for this novel is absolutely fantastic. It’s set in Paris, but not the Paris we all know and love. This Paris is the decaying remains of the once great city with ruins everywhere and the Seine is now a lurking source of danger. In this novel, many of the characters are either humans or Fallen, who are the Fallen Angels from Heaven that have been cast out.

Our main characters are Philippe who is neither mortal nor a Fallen and Isabelle, a newly arrived Fallen and together they are bound by some sort of link. Isabelle is rescued by house Silverspires and the novel focuses on both her and Philippe as they, along with other members of the house, work on trying to figure out what is haunting House Silverspires.

There is quite a bit of diversity in this book which is always great to see in Urban Fantasy. Philippe himself is from Vietnam and quite a few of the major characters are in same-sex relationships.

What originally was chosen as a book just to complete a personal challenge turned out to be a fantastic Urban Fantasy which I absolutely adored and I’m definitely planning on both reading the next in the series and of trying to get the rest of her books as I was a huge fan of both the plot and the writing itself which I found very descriptive.

For those looking to get into Urban Fantasy, this is a book I would highly recommend. It’s a genre that I don’t read much of but from what I’ve read, this is by far one of my favourites.

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Book Review – The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Set in a Scottish caravan park during a freak winter – it is snowing in Jerusalem, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to arrive off the coast of Scotland – THE SUNLIGHT PILGRIMS tells the story of a small Scottish community living through what people have begun to think is the end of times. Bodies are found frozen in the street with their eyes open, euthanasia has become an acceptable response to economic collapse, schooling and health care are run primarily on a voluntary basis. But daily life carries on: Dylan, a refugee from panic-stricken London who is grieving for his mother and his grandmother, arrives in the caravan park in the middle of the night – to begin his life anew.

Review:

One of my personal goals this year is to read more Scottish literature and when I saw this book on the list, I fell in love with the cover. It’s so beautiful I want to buy my own copy of it (and it was good enough that I’d happily have a copy to lend to people).

Before her death, Dylan’s mother travelled to a small fictional community in Scotland, called Clachan Fells, and bought a caravan in cash knowing that the family business was deep in debt and this way Dylan would have somewhere to live after his home was repossessed. He moves into the caravan and soon falls for his neighbour Constance. Constance has a young daughter called Stella and the story focuses primarily on the three of them and how they cope with the winter as it gradually gets colder and colder.

The characters are all really interesting and I loved how unashamed Constance was about being polyamorous and how accepting she was of her daughter when she came out as trans. The setting of the slow encroach of winter was fantastic and evocative and although Clachan Fells is a fictional setting, it was really brought to life and felt like a real place somewhere not far from Edinburgh.

Overall, I’m really glad I picked this as my choice for reading more Scottish literature and I really loved this novel. I would definitely recommend it as the writing is beautiful and the setting and story are fascinating and it’s a chilling look at what global warming could potentially cause without ever feeling like it was trying to be preachy.