Sometimes, you cross paths with books that are so marvelous, you want to inhale them whole and at the same time, you don’t want to actually finish them. Such was the case with The House of Shattered Wings, from Aliette de Bodard.
When Netgalley sent me an early copy, I knew I had to read it ASAP because a) want and b) it fit with the last two books I read in terms of flying creatures and heartbreak. Also, well, Paris. Paris has never not been magical for me as a writer or a reader, and this book did not disappoint.
We find ourselves in a ruined Paris after the Great War, a city filled with Houses and Fallen — angels, that is. And when you think fallen angels, who do you think of? Beautiful Lucifer himself — Morningstar. Is he dead? Alive? Creeping in the shadows to carelessly kill those who’ve displeased him? Our Fallen have a mystery on their hands — a murder mystery.
When you weave in the wonder of the Seine, dragon kingdoms, Furies, and angel bodies as sources of magic and addiction, you’ve captured my interest. I did not want this book to end, so stretched it out as long as I absolutely could. (Not long enough — I think it’s the first in a series though? Huzzah!)
Another book of wonder is the collection from Nalo Hopkinson, Falling in Love With Hominids. It feels like a lifetime ago since I stumbled across Brown Girl in the Ring, and I’m so glad Hopkinson is still writing. This book is a treasure, collecting stories from across a dozen years or so.
I cannot pick a favorite, because they all have something to recommend — but I do love Hopkinson’s introductions to each story; I love getting that peek inside a writer’s mind — where they were, what they were thinking, what they hoped to play with in the story at hand.
Hopkinson’s forward is also a thing of wonder, and timely for me as a reader and human. She talks about despairing about the human race — we’re awful, and yet, we can be so astonishing, too, so the title of the collection as a whole encompasses her own journey, falling in love with hominids — and what a journey it is.
Speaking of journeys…
The wild west is full of them, and Nunslinger from Stark Holborn is one for the ages (and the keeper shelf). It was the artwork that first caught my eye, but it was the story that kept me reading, long into the night.
As you might guess, this is a book (actually a collection of novellas) that features a nun (Sister Thomas Josephine) who comes to pick up a gun. She finds herself entangled with murderous bandits and a man who is obsessed with her. She’s got no time for nonsense, this nun!
Holborn crafts a deeply enthralling landscape for the characters to move through (America, 1864). If I have one gripe it’s the pacing of the work as a whole. I think this stems from the fact that each section is a novella, which was originally published alone (I think) — so my recommendation would to be that one approach this as a serial, and read it in deliberate installments, not one fell swoop. There are cliffhangers aplenty, so allow them to linger as they were perhaps meant to, rather than reading on to see them immediately solved.
Maybe…eventually…we’ll learn how to not swallow books whole. Until then…