Title: The House of Binding Thorns (Dominion of the Fallen #2)
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Rating: Highly Recommended
Genre: Fantasy, Angels & Demons, Political Drama, Vietnamese Mythology/Culture
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review and that’s what you’re all getting. There will be minor spoilers for character relationships in this book, but I’ll do my best not to dump any major spoilers.
The multi-award winning author of The House of Shattered Wings continues her Dominion of the Fallen saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war…
As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the Great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.
House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Philippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal—to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic may be more than he can bear.
In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater Dragon Kingdom—and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear…
As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength—or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.
Aliette de Bodard’s novel The House of Binding Thorns is an intense read filled to the brim with complicated characters and the relationships they have with one another. This second book manages to be both sequel and standalone amd f you wanted to read only this book without starting The House of Shattered Wings, you couldprobably manage it without being too confused.
But then, why would you want to miss out on the way that the characters from the first book have changed in the time between the two books?
For me, part of the enjoyment in this story came from retracing my steps.
It came from following familiar characters — some of whom were secondary or antagonistic in the first book — around the remnants of a once-great city. It came from the return to the kingdom of dragons underneath the river and the mysteries surrounding the Fallen that stand opposite them as enemies.
One of the best things about de Bodard’s writing that isn’t limited to The House of Binding Thorns is how she writes these rich descriptions of characters, locations, and well — magic. I’ve been thinking it to myself as I go through this book, but I can almost believe in magic as laid out here.
Reading the descriptions the magic that dragon-in-hiding Thuan does in order to find the source of the angel essence causing an epidemic harming his people was something out of this world. de Bodard’s writing makes it easy to visualize magic at work in her world and it’s amazing to read. Honestly, I can’t wait to get the audiobook because that will just make the magic even more realistic for me.
Another wonderful thing about reading The House of Binding Thorns is the way that de Bodard’s characters all make you feel something about them. I can’t remember one of her characters that left me feeling neutral towards them.
I found myself wanting to protect Madeleine as she fought against the political tide as well as an addiction to angel essence that will most certainly lead to her early death.
My complicated “I’d hit that but he’s awful” feelings toward Asmodeus from the first book are still here and seriously, I’ve read a ton of books that happened to have fallen angels or demons named Asmodeus (heck, I’ve even written one of my own), but de Bodard’s Asmodeus is my favorite. He’s a lot like a fractured mirror: you can sort of see what you’re looking at but getting closer (and touching it) will surely hurt you.
I’m also a huge fan of some of the characters we get to know in The House of Binding Thorns like Françoise and her lover Berith (who make me feel all the things, by the way) and Thuan (whose reaction to meeting Asmodeus for the first time made me cackle).
Maybe it’s because I’m a soft-hearted reader, but by the halfway point of this book I was ready to fight for these characters. I’ve been on the edge of my seat with anxious worry for hours and I can’t get enough of it.
The House of Binding Thorns is basically a character-driven murder mystery that just happens to center magic-users, angels, and dragons. Thuan’s quest to find out why his people are consuming angel essence is tied to his role as a not-so-secret prince. With Berith and Françoise, there’s a narrative of forming a family out of whatever you can and clinging to it the entire time.
Other characters and their arcs within the novel are driven by other things. By love By fear. By loneliness. By revenge. By loyalty to the long dead.
That’s what makes this book such an experience for me.
By the time that I finished The House of Binding Thorns, I was a bit of a mess. So much happens — especially in the last third — that I almost felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane being smacked around by all of the feelings and the incredible worldbuilding. It’s a brilliant, beautiful work of fiction and while it can hurt to read it and worry about the characters you’ve come to love over several hundred pages, there’s also hope to be had.
The House of Binding Thorns is an incredible book in a series that I can’t get enough of. If you enjoyed works like Susan Ee’s Penryn and the End of Days series or Kaori Yuki’s Angel Sanctuary, this book will be right up your alley. Trust me.