James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Not the House of Shattered Wings

Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship & In Morningstar’s Shadow

By Aliette de Bodard 

21 Oct, 2015

Miscellaneous Reviews


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

My review title for for this is Not the House of Shattered Wings, but that is just to avoid confusion. What this really isn’t is de Bodard’s Harbinger of the Storm, which I am holding off on reviewing until its author brings the Acatl books back into print. House of the Shattered Wings (part of her Dominion of the Fallen sequence) was plan B until I discovered my Kitchener Public Library’s copy was signed out. 

The nice thing about being in a mood for a de Bodard story is that instant gratification by means of ebooks is now an option. Since I was thinking about de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen setting anyway, I bought her short story Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship” from Kobo and since I noticed her related collection In Morningstar’s Shadow was free, I grabbed that as well1.


The Dominion of the Fallen stories are set in a fantasy Paris dominated by houses led by Fallen Angels. The Fallen are not as mighty as they were in Heaven, but they are still far more powerful than any mortals. House Silverspire’s Morningstar is the greatest of the Fallen. Sensible humans find a way to ally with a Fallen House — and hope they picked the winner — lest they become collateral damage as Houses struggle against each other. 

Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship”

Once Morningstar’s apprentice, Emmanuelle has found a new identity as House Silverspires’ archivist. Selene is Morningstar’s current student. She is promising, but she is only the latest of a long sequence of seemingly promising adepts to catch the Fallen’s eye. Emmanuelle and Selene go on a bold excursion, right into the heart of enemy territory, which shows just how far people will go to get the attention of their crushes.


Aw. Is there anything more endearing than proposing what could very well be a life or death mission because one likes the shape of someone’s eyebrow and one wants to spend more time around that person?

I read this after In Morningstar’s Shadow. I am reviewing it first because that makes the layout of my review less confusing but also because I think it’s better to read What Has to Be Done” with some knowledge of Emmanuelle and Selene’s history, both with each other and with Morningstar. In other words, I read them in the wrong order.

In Morningstar’s Shadow

The Face of Heaven (House Silverspires, Ile de la Cité, 1917, during the Great Houses War)

A Great War between the Houses has torn Paris apart. Elizabeth’s children Marie-Aimée and Françoise are just two of a multitude of casualties. The scholarly pursuit to which she turned for solace after the death of her children makes Elizabeth uniquely useful to Morningstar.…


I would imagine that the setting the aftermath of the Great War. but I cannot be sure. The story gives only hints. 

Is it still fridging if the character provided motivational impetus by the death is a woman?

Paid Debts (Houseless areas near Galeries Lafayette, 1925)

Delayed too long in an enemy House, Imadan is caught in the streets as darkness falls. It could well be his final mistake. The streets of Paris are filled with legions of the desperate poor and Imadan’s magic-imbued organs have considerable commercial value, once harvested.…


This is a world that understands obligation. Compassion and charity seem to be more obscure concepts.

What Has to Be Done (House Silverspires, Ile de la Cité, 1958)

House Silverspire is left without its patron when Morningstar vanishes during a morning walk. Although its wards still stand, none can say how long they will continue to do so now that their creator has seemingly vanished. The obvious answer is for one of the other Fallen in the House to step into Morningstar’s place. While to outsiders that may look like a desirable promotion, Selene disagrees.


I am very certain that once I read The House of Shattered Wings, I will discover I should have read it before these stories. As it is, rereading this story it after Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship” was a very different experience from reading it before.

General comments:

I am going to assume the novel explains little details like how, if this is a world with living gods and angels that you can just walk up and prod with a stick immediately before you spontaneously explode into a cloud of Blue Morpho butterflies, is it that history is so similar to ours that there’s a Paris?” And if this is a world whose history parallels ours for some reason, was there a French Revolution? Did its Terror involve trying to guillotine Fallen Angels? How did that work out for the executioners? 

These were all very fine little confections filled with rewarding details, but they have a terrible flaw in that now I really don’t want to defer the gratification of reading and reviewing The House of Shattered Wings and there’s every chance I will work my way through all the short works on the author’s site.Learn from my mistakes! Buy the novel first! Then acquire Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship” here and In Morningstar’s Shadow here. In fact, you really can’t go wrong considering everything here.

1: I could have bought The House of Shattered Wings, but I’d already put a hold on it at KPL. I don’t like to place holds and then not pick up the book.