Reviews: de Bodard, Aliette

When The Blind Remove Their Blinders

The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2017 The Dragon that Flew out of the Sun: Stories of the Xuya Universe collects three stories set in her alternate-future Xuya universe.

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Screaming to Say

In the Vanisher’s Palace — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2018 novel In the Vanishers’ Palace is a standalone secondary world fantasy (unless it’s SF; see comments).

The Vanishers used the world as their toy until they broke it. Having ruined the world, they absconded, leaving their former slaves and playthings behind to scrabble for life in the poisoned wreckage.

Yên’s village has no room for the useless or the weak. Her mother’s knack for healing magic pays her own way, but it’s not enough to support Yên. She is only a mediocre scholar. She has failed to pass the metropolitan exam and escape to the comparative security of the imperial court. It’s only a matter of time before Elder Tho finds a pretext to eject Yên from the village or feed her to the purifying artifact in the Plague Grove.

Giving Yên to a dragon to do with as the dragon wishes is also acceptable to Elder Tho.

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We Are Select

The Tea Master and the Detective — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2018 mystery The Tea Master and the Detective takes place in her Xuya universe.

Cashiered following a deep-space calamity, shipmind The Shadow’s Child now makes a meagre living brewing medicinal infusions. It claims that these infusions will alleviate the stresses of other-dimensional travel.

Long Chau seems to be just another human client. She is in fact something unusual.

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Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home

The Citadel of Weeping Pearls — Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard’s 2015 space-opera The Citadel of Weeping Pearls is an instalment in her Universe of Xuya, an alternate history/future in which the West never dominated the world. The galaxy is ruled by Confucian powers.

Suu Nuoc is woken from a sound sleep by his alarmed shipmind, The Turtle’s Golden Claw. The artificial intelligence reports that Grand Master of Design Harmony Bach Cuc has seemingly vanished, in a manner the shipmind cannot comprehend. As far as The Turtle’s Golden Claw is concerned, it is up to Suu Nuoc — an Official of the First Order despite his low birth — to work out what happened to the missing scientist.

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Cast Me Down Where the Devil Don’t Go

The House of Binding Thorns — Aliette de Bodard
Dominion of the Fallen, book 2

The House of Binding Thorns is the second volume in Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen series.

The dragon realm hidden under the Seine has until now held itself aloof. Their kingdom has been known only to a very few in ruined Paris. Now something has changed. An ongoing crisis in their realm gives Asmodeus, head of House Hawthorn, a chance to open diplomatic exchange with the hermit domain. More than exchange: dynastic merger.

Of course, the dragon kingdom has its own agenda, not to mention long experience of cunning plans aimed its way. The diplomatic mission may well be one from which none will return. It is a risk Asmodeus is willing to accept. That’s why he is sending trusted or expendable (such as returned exile and angel-essence-addict Madeleine) subordinates to conduct the negotiations.

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We All Must Go Down Into Darkness

Master of the House of Darts — Aliette de Bodard
Obsidian and Blood, book 3

2011’s Master of the House of Darts is the third and to date final volume in Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood series. In the previous volume, Harbinger of the Storm, High Priest of the Dead Acatl and his allies resorted to some rather extreme measures to keep the Fifth World functioning (for the moment). This volume explores the consequences of that bold gambit.

The Empire now has a Revered Speaker and all should be well with the world. Should. In fact, Revered Speaker Tizoc-tzin’s first holy war gained a merely marginal victory and produced only a handful of prisoners for sacrifice. The gods may have spared the world, for now, but they certainly do not seem to be happy.

When a warrior collapses and dies during a holy rite, it falls to Acatl to investigate.

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Death is the beginning

Harbinger of the Storm — Aliette de Bodard
Obsidian and Blood, book 2

2011’s Harbinger of the Storm is the second volume in Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood Trilogy.

Acatl, Tenochtitlan’s High Priest of the Dead, knows immediately when the Revered Speaker Axayacatl, Emperor of the Mexica, dies. The Emperor was vital to the maintenance of the wards that protect his empire from star demons, and his death has weakened the wards. A new emperor must be installed … quickly!

The new emperor will be chosen by the council, but the council finds itself under attack. A star demon has invaded the imperial palace and dismembered one of the councillors. Since the wards are only weakened, not gone, the star demon could not have entered without inside help. Some human sorcerer is meddling. It is up to Acatl to discover the identity and motives of the culprit, then frustrate the plot.

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Where Angels Rule

The House of Shattered Wings — Aliette de Bodard
Dominion of the Fallen, book 1

2015’s The House of Shattered Wings is the first novel in Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen setting1. Dominion of the Fallen features a world much like our own, so much like ours as to have its own Paris, City of Lights. This secondary world has been a refuge for Fallen angels for at least the last eight hundred years. Powerful and avaricious, the Fallen easily dominate the humans around them. They have transformed France into a paramount power ruled over by the angel-led Great Houses of Paris.

In 1914, the Great Houses turned on each other, transforming Paris from one of the world’s wonders into one of its great horrors. At the time in which this novel is set, the Great Houses War is long over, but Paris remains a post-apocalyptic desolation. Some Houses still stand, but they are much reduced from their glory days.

Thus far, House Silverspires has been one of the lucky ones. It survived the War. It survived the loss of its founder, Morningstar. It survived the unending jockeying for position between the surviving Houses. Whether House Silverspires can survive what is to come is entirely unclear.

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Not the House of Shattered Wings

Of Books, and Earth, and Courtship & In Morningstar’s Shadow — Aliette de Bodard

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.


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Tenochtitlan Mystery

Servant of the Underworld — Aliette De Bodard
Obsidian and Blood, book 1

Aliette De Bodard’s 2010 novel, Servant of the Underworld, is the first of her Acatl novels. For some reason I had the impression these were straight-up mysteries set in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. There’s definitely a strong mystery element; her protagonist, Acatl, would certainly find much in common with Benny Cooperman, Philip Marlowe, and Hercule Poirot. The main difference would be that none of those famous detectives ever had to deal with a living god. For Acatl, High Priest of Mictlantecuhtli, dealing with the gods is a daily reality.

A mysterious summons draws Acatl, priest to the god of the dead, out of his own temple and into the House of Tears, a school for girls. There he learns that the priestess Eleuia has been abducted. Her room is splashed with enough blood to cast her survival into doubt. Not only that … it is clear that she has been carried off by some occult means.

Another thing is clear; the list of possible suspects is very short and the man at the top of that short list is Acatl’s own older brother, the warrior Neutemoc.

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On a Red Station, Drifting

Aliette de Bodard

Just a short review today; I thought this was a full length novel and when I discovered it wasn’t, it was too late to bring a back-up book.

The Dai Viet Empire spans star systems but it spans fewer systems than it did a few years previously. As an ineffectual emperor and his court abandon peripheral systems to warlords, Linh, a functionary haunted by guilt over having abandoned her responsibilities flees towards Prosper Station and what she hopes will be refuge in the arms of family.

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