Adult · Book review · Fantasy

Review: The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard

27693272The House of Binding Thorns is the best fantasy I’ve read so far this year, the opposite of second book syndrome, and part of a series you need to read if you’re interested in diverse SFF.
I really liked The House of Shattered Wings, but this was on a completely other level – the character arcs actually went somewhere, the conspiracy was unpredictable but didn’t come out of nowhere, and there were even more queer characters.

If The House of Shattered Wings followed the events surrounding the mysteries and past of House Silverspires, this book follows another house of fallen angels in fallen historical Paris: House Hawthorn, and its relation with the underwater Dragon Kingdom in the Seine.
We follow:
✨ Madeleine, a woman who is trying to recover from angel essence addiction while not falling victim to political intrigue, which seems to be everywhere in House Hawthorn;
✨ Philippe, a Vietnamese ex-immortal who is trying to bring someone back to life;
✨ Thuan, a shapeshifting bisexual Dragon Prince, also Vietnamese, who is a spy in House Hawthorn;
Françoise, a pregnant Vietnamese woman who is trying to survive in this post-magical-war Paris with her trans girlfriend, a fallen angel;
✨ not PoV characters, but a major characters anyway: Asmodeus, gay fallen angel, antivillain, in an arranged marriage with a prince from the Dragon Kingdom, and Ngoc Bich, a dragon princess. I loved them both, Asmodeus because he’s awful and Ngoc Bich because she’s awesome and just a bit awful.

In the first book, not being able to connect with the characters was one of my main problems. Here, that didn’t happen – I loved all of the new ones (Thuan’s and Françoise’s PoVs were my favorites), but Madeleine grew on me a lot, and some of the side characters were just as memorable as the PoV ones.
I read this book in two days, which is something I haven’t been able to do with novels – especially not with adult fantasy – lately. But this was so good that I just couldn’t stop reading it. So much political intrigue, most of it revolving around a gay antivillain, of course I loved this.

I also really liked the setting – in The House of Shattered Wings, I wanted to know more about the Dragon Kingdom, and a significant part of this book is set there. This also meant that this book gave an even more overwhelming sense of rot than the first book, and it may sound weird, but the atmosphere is beautiful also because of it. Ruins have their charm, and it makes sense that in a series about falling the settings is falling apart too.

There’s not much romance in this series – there is an established f/f couple in this book, another one in the first book, and a m/m arranged marriage with the kind of plotline I love (which means: tension between enemies) – but all the romance here is wonderful. I’d read more of it and I almost never say that.

My rating: ★★★★★

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