A world of angels and demons exists in a war-torn Paris around the turn of the twentieth century. Those who must, seek to live in one of the Houses led by a Fallen. A power struggle between them means a constant flux. Newly Fallen are used for their magic. No one is safe. Under it all, the dragons keep their kingdom unseen to prying eyes in the River Seine but they are being destroyed as well.
After the terrible events of ‘The House Of Shattered Wings’, we find Madeline has returned to the House of Hawthorn where she suffered so much before being taken in by Silverspires. She is once more under the control of the Head of the House of Asmodeus, who will control her both in life and death. Her addiction to angel essence, drawn from the Fallen after they die, makes her fatally weak. Her friend, Elphon, has been resurrected by Asmodeus but retains no memory of his previous life, the knife twists a little more. Selected to be part of a delegation to the dragon kingdom, Madeline is worried she might not survive and added to this the newly made Elphon is also to accompany her.
Thuan is part of the retinue of House of Hawthorn and, to all observers, he is training to be a complete dependent of the House. But Thuan is a dragon from the kingdom under the Seine and is trying to find the source of the angel essence that his taking over and killing his brethren. He’s a spy and is putting his life on the line for his family and his world. Thuan has made friends in the house who treat him as a surrogate son but he may have to betray them at any time. When he first encounters Asmodeus, Thuan is overwhelmed by the Fallen’s raw power and he cannot begin to imagine how much his future will be tied to his master’s.
Phillipe, who was at the heart of the previous book, has suffered a terrible loss. Working as a doctor to the poor of Paris, he nurses a hope of resurrecting his love but at what price will this come? Encountering another fallen who is surviving outside of the protection of any House, he is offered a bargain but it means he will come to be noticed by the House and being noticed is never a good thing.
This book does a very good job as a follow on to ‘House Of Shattered Wings’. With new characters and problems alongside our original protagonists, this makes a very intriguing and pacy adventure with the denouement being both satisfying and leading to the next book. The story feels fresh and we do get invested in the trials of the characters. It’s descriptively dense with some excellent word pictures creating a world at once so familiar and so different to ours. The underwater world where everyone can breathe water as if it is air is beautifully thought out and, just when you forget they are under the river, something happens that breaks them and you out of complacency. There are no saints in this book of angels but there are certainly characters we can identify with and this empathy is half the battle in getting the reader onside.
I think this is an excellent series with lots of variety and it feels more inventive than many books I come across. It’s an exciting world to fall into and I am looking forward to the next book.
(pub: Gollancz. 351 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-473-21260-2)