Sunday, 8 September 2019

The House of Sundering Flames

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.

The House of Sundering Flames is the third book in the Dominion of the Fallen series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous books. If you're new to this series, read my review of The House of Shattered Wings.

He could taste the rot underneath, the earthy, moldy smell that clung to everything in Paris. A reminder that he was there, that the city was dying, and that he was part of it, trapped in it because no boats would take a Houseless back to the country of his birth.

Silverspires and Hawthorne are weakened but surviving, just about. When a huge explosion takes out House Harrier across the river, both houses are concerned at who would have that kind of power. Someone has unleashed an ancient weapon on the city, and they're seeking revenge, a revenge that threatens to destroy all of Paris, not just the Fallen.

Some months have passed since the events of The House of Binding Thorns and Thuan and Asmodeus have grown to love one another as spouses and joint heads of House Hawthorne. There wasn't a huge focus on their relationship but I enjoyed seeing Asmodeus mellow from the former tyrant, now playing with the dragon children and trying to make the house a better place to be.

I felt there were too many "big bads". There's Guy and his terrifying hawks, able to fly into bodies and drain everything, including bones and organs. Dan Chay, an immortal with immense skill with fire khi and justifiable hate against the houses that bound him. To add to that, there's also the children of thorns from Hawthorne trying to save themselves, as well as all the smaller antagonisms between houses and minor characters. With all this going on, there was a focus on action rather than the interplays between characters that was so well done in the previous books.

I wasn't born when the war ended, but I remember what it meant for our parents to be torn from our homes. Those wounds never really closed. This... we built this. We built our altars and we buried the bones of our ancestors, and every flat that stands is something we made with our own hands, against the indifference of the Houses. This is what home means. And this is where we'll be buried.

Part of the rational behind the attack is that everyone is to blame in a war, everyone who fights or turns a blind eye should take personal responsibility. The Fallen took Annamites for their war, but to then punish those Annamites for fighting when they had no other choice? There is a point when revenge has to stop, to accept and forgive. Again, there was a lot going on so this idea didn't seem fully explored, because the wronged was killing indiscriminately, including children, and it's hard to stop and reflect when someone is being so evil.

However, I would still fully recommend the series. The world-building is unique and the characters ambiguous, with some really lovely and poignant pieces of writing. It often focuses on the impact of colonialism and the meaning of living in a land that's not your homeland. Plus I love the setting of ruined Paris.

The House of Sundering Flames is published by Gollancz and is available now in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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