In an alternate Paris, fallen angels rule the city. The Great War left its mark on the city, leaving the Seine polluted and grand landmarks in ruins. When Phllipe is present when Isabel falls, he is drawn into House Silverspires, who live surrounded by the remains of Notre Dame.

All you hold dear will be shattered; all that you built will fall into dust; all that you gathered will be borne away by the storm.

I just loved the world created by Aliette de Bodard, twining together elements from both sides of her heritage (Vietnamese and French). Paris is recognisable but changed. None of the fallen know why they were banished from Heaven, but what remains of their power has helped them rise above the humans.

The houses are all at a sort of stalemate, all of them seek power but no one wants another war, so they circle each other, on the look out for weaknesses. When Phillipe finds a mirror which appears to hold memories of the first fallen, Morningstar, little does he know he’s opened Silverspires up to something dark.

There were no dragon kingdoms here—no spirits of the rain and rivers, not under the polluted clouds that rained acid; not in the blackened waters of the Seine; not in the wells that had long since run dry.

Phillipe is an immortal, unable to return to his homeland (an alternative version of Vietnam). He hates what the fallen stand for and is angry at being bound to Silverspires. Yet, he has a bond with the new fallen, Isabelle, who is an innocent in all this. The fallen represent colonialism, using their power to spread across the globe, ruling where they don’t belong. But then the fallen are also exiles of a kind. I hope the other books explain a bit more of the history of this world and explore how the fallen came to be.

Then there’s the house alchemist, addicted to the ground up bones of the fallen and trying to block out the memories of her previous house. The bodies of fallen possess power and when one dies, it’s important to harvest every last drop. But this power isn’t for humans, and Madeleine is slowly killing herself. She turns to drugs because reality is too hard to bear.

As well as all these fantastic characters, there are the power struggles of the houses, not all of them as kind as Silverspires. Plus the plot lines of the dark forces unleashed by Phillipe, if accidentally, and the mystery of who is behind it.

“Miracles never happen here,” Madeleine said, with terrible bleakness. “Not in this city, not in this House.”

It took me a little while to get into, just because of all the elements. Once I’d absorbed the world and characters, I loved it. A breath of fresh air in a genre so often dominated by US and UK settings.

ATY: 33. A book you have owned for at least a year, but have not read yet

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