cover image The House of Binding Thorns

The House of Binding Thorns

Aliette de Bodard. Ace, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-451-47739-2

Meddling gleefully in the affairs of devils and dragons, this affective sequel to 2015’s The House of Shattered Wings touches the heart as often as it cuts throats. In this alternate timeline, the Great War of the early 20th century was fought by competing houses of fallen angels and witches, and 60 years later, Paris is still a shambles. Disgraced alchemist Madeleine has returned to House Hawthorn, but she fears torment at the hands of its master, Asmodeus. She joins a delegation to the underwater Annamite dragon kingdom to secure a marriage alliance. Berith, Asmodeus’s sister, tries to shelter her pregnant mortal lover, Françoise, from a rival house as members of the local Vietnamese community are conscripted into a draconic rebellion. Philippe, a Vietnamese former immortal, mourns the fallen angel Isabelle and searches for a way to resurrect her. Having fully crafted her world, de Bodard is now completely in control: she can move swiftly from gentle poetic touches to bloody Grand Guignol gestures, and she sure-handedly holds the reader by exposing the vulnerabilities and needs that drive even the seemingly all-powerful figures of rebel angels and ancient serpents to surrender to a higher collective power. In this world lacking signs of heaven, redemptions are painful but possible. (Apr.)