The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard



  I finished The House of Shattered Wings two weeks ago now and because of the amount of things I wanted to say about it, I started writing my review even before finishing it. However, writing a review when you are very angry against a book is not the best thing to do if you want to say something with a bit of coherence, so I decided to wait a day or two before writing this and, well, those days became weeks. So now is the time to write this damn review because if I don’t, I’ll never do it. 😉

Since I know I won’t be able to do my own synopsys without being sarcastic and annoyed, I am just going to copy paste the publisher’s blurb.

“Paris has survived the Great Houses War – just. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens continue to live, love, fight and survive in their war-torn city, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over the once grand capital.

House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, 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, a alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation. They may be the architects of its last, irreversible fall…”

So this book won the BSFA.

It’s not much of a surprise really but still, it doesn’t mean that I am happy with it. I have read two others books in the shortlist and Bodard’s novel definitely is the novel I disliked the most.

So, why did I dislike this book so much?

If you want the short answer : bad characterization + bad worldbuilding + underwhelming setting + lacking plot = Maryam (that’s me) not happy.

  So as I said, I had huge problems with the characters in this book and especially with the character development, or more exactly, the lack of with it. Almsot every character in this book was dimensional and frustrating which made the enjoyment of the story very difficult because when you feel like you don’t know any of the characters and that they keep making stupid decision, you really don’t care if they all die. actually you almost want them all to die because that would mean that you could read another book.

The only character that I actually cared about was the leader of House Hawthorn because at least, he was a bit complex but still, I finished this book two weeks ago and I don’t even remember his name (Asmodeus? Asmodes? Something like this?) (yeah this book obviously  made a big impact on me).

  During the entire novel, the characters made stupid decisons. You could synopsys this entire book by “this a story about a bunch of dumb magic people doing stupid things and accusing each other of their infortune”.

  I usually don’t mind if a character makes a dumb decision once or twice, because, no one is perfect and it is normal to make mistakes but, to be utterly stupid all the time is not a pleasant thing to read about, especially when the characters mentionned are supposed to have lived for centuries since they are immortals. I mean how could you be thousands of years old and act like a teenager?

For example, two of the main characters Sélène, a fallen, and Phillipe an immortal spent the entire novel saying that their problems were each other fault. Again, if it had happened once or twice, I wouldn’t have seen it but really after the hundred “It wouldn’t have happened if not for Phillipe” or “It is Sélène’s fault, she imprisonned me” I was like “CAN YOU STOP PLEASE??!”.

However, the character I despised the most was Morningstar. Most of the characters spent half of the novel being like “Where is Morningstar? We need him. He is so powerful and he has iron wings so it must means that he is the most powerful of us all and that he has to lead us!” and they continues to do so even when we learn how much of an abusive a-hole he is. Really, this guy and his “it’s for the House” were incredibly frustrating.


If only only the characters were my only problem with the House of Shattered Wings. If only.

Let’s start with the beginning. No I am not talking about the first chapter or the prologue, I am talking about the title.

The House of Shattered Wings.

The House. Let’s talk about the Houses shall we?

During the entire novel, we are reminded of how powerful and destructive the Houses are. Of how dangerous and important they are to the world. However, not even once during the whole book we are told what they actually do. Not once.

Yes, at one point they were fighting with each others but what for? For power yes. But for for power over what exactly?  What about the Great War that ruined Paris? What was it for? Who won? Over what? When?

All of those questions were left unanswered.

Then, let’s have a word or two about the actual setting of the story.

Paris, my dear Paris.

Aliette de Bodard is French and I also believe that she’s Parisian too. Well, this novel could have take place anywhere really really. Throwing out words like “Notre Dame”, “Boulevard St Germain”, “Les Halles”, “la Seine” etc… did not make the setting more interesting at all. I never felt like I was in Paris at all and for me, it was a real shame. I couldn’t picture any of it.

Also, more than the worldbuilding or the setting or the plot that were all bland and/or incoherent and uninteresting, the writing did not work for me at all.

I am not going to lie, at first, it was beautiful and it made the first quarter of the story very enjoyable to read even if the characters were a bit off for me right at the beginning. However, as beautiful as it was, it was also incredibly repetitive. De Bodard kept repeating “dark”, “shadows”, “fallen”, “house”,”power” in almost all of her sentences and, the moment you realized that is the moment you completely stop enjoying the book.

Well, I am going to stop there. I think that I’ve said enough to make cristal clear that I didn’t enjoy this book at all.

However, I think that I may give the second book in this series a try (it coming out in 2017) because the title (The House of Binding Thorns) suggests that it might focuses more on House Hawthorn and since I overall enjoyed the characters that were in this house (except Madeleine, ugh, I did not like her one bit) so I think that I might enjoyed it more. However if after 50 pages, it is still like HoSW, I will say adios to this series once and for all.


10 thoughts on “The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

  1. I have a copy of this and was really looking forward to it – the cover, the title, the synopsis, everything. But I’ve read a couple of reviews that have been, not outright disliking it, but at the same time finding a number of things they were unhappy with – it kind of puts me off picking it up! One day I will but for the moment it’s moved down the pile a little.
    Lynn 😀


  2. I actually really loved the beginning of this book, but somewhere along the way, I lost some of my initial enthusiasm. I don’t know, I think maybe after a while, I just wanted MORE. While I was intrigued by the drama within the houses, I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see the wider world and how their conflicts mattered. Like you said, Paris was like a two-dimensional backdrop, I didn’t get a sense of the place at all. I think I enjoyed the book more than you overall though, if there’s a second book I won’t mind checking it out either.


    1. I liked de Bodard’s writing in the beginning but I definitely had problems with the characters.
      Yes a broader picture of the world would have been nice especially because the fallens seemed to be controlling the borders of Europe and I think it would have been nice to expand the story to those territories.
      I am also willing to give the next book a try but I have very low expectations. HoSW was one of my most anticipated releases of 2015 so maybe it’s why I was so disappointed with it, I am not going to do the mistake again.


  3. I already knew going into this that de Bodard’s style isn’t something I’m drawn to– she’s rather dry– so I wasn’t too disappointed. I admire the thematic platform she is working from, addressing imperialism and the non-heroics of most people, but it wasn’t very intriguing beyond that. And I fully agree that the Parisian atmosphere was not fostered beyond a list of landmarks.


    1. The themes of the book were indeed interesting enough (that’s I gave it 2 stars and not 1 :P). I had very high expectations going into this since a lot of authors that I admire deeply (like Ken Liu) raved about it and if I read the next one, I will lower my them quite a bit.
      As for the “she’s rather dry” I think that it is the best description I’ve ever read of her prose…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve discovered that the best way to predict dryness is to check out the writer’s area of study. If they come from STEM, ie Bodard from Info Sys or something like it, good luck. They tend to put more effort into what’s happening and less thought into how to word it (or not word it, preferably).

        Lit majors tend to write in layers, more nuanced linguistically, socially, and internally. Creative writing majors tend to be more reductive or abstract (50/50 here), relying less on literary instinct. Social science majors are hit and miss, but they tend to have better instincts than STEM or creative writing majors.

        Not a 100% reliable method, but it explains a lot of my reading experiences.


  4. *OUCH*
    Yours is not the first far-from-happy review I’ve read about this book – a book that seemed so promising that it went straight to my list of titles to buy as soon as I heard about it. But the flaws you mention – lack of proper characterization, poor worldbuilding and lack of a believable background – are exactly the things that I hate about books, no matter how well-written.
    It’s a pity, because the setting looked fascinating and the story had all the marks of being the kind of tale I enjoy.
    My respect for your strength and fortitude in getting to the end of the book: I would not have made it… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s