We reviewed Aliette de Bodard‘s House of Shattered Wings some time back and then subsequently read The House of Binding Thorns and The House of Sundering Flames, books 2 and 3 in the trilogy known as the Dominion of the Fallen. The books continue the story of a Paris devastated by war with order existing pretty much only in the houses governed by the fallen angels. The houseless are left to manage by themselves. This includes the people brought over forcibly a few generations ago from Anam which is the ancient name for Vietnam. There is also the eastern dragon kingdom which has relocated to the Seine.
In Book 2 the dragon kingdom, plagued by its internecine rebellions, seeks to ally with House Hawthorn by marrying off a Prince of the kingdom to the leader of the house. Book 3 is the culmination of the series and the power struggles between the houses. It is a strong comment on the abuse of power whether colonial or between the houses. It is also an exploration of what it means to be a true leader. Morningstar, the first amongst the Fallen once again makes an appearance. And how! The Fallen don’t remember why they fell only that they no longer have grace. They don’t much remember their God either. All they have is Morningstar who is the first and the most powerful of them. They either look for his protection or rebel against him or seek to control him, In whichever way, he pervades their consciousness and also that of the reader.
The powers of the west which are basically the Fallen have in the past conquered the lands of the east, wiped out and enslaved local cultures resulting in the withdrawal of the spiritual and magical powers of those lands. The books speak of senseless destruction and disregard for all aspects of Anam’s culture which did not benefit the houses. But this does not stop them from using and abusing the powers of another land when they can get hold of it. Enter Dan Chuay, the tiger god/spirit/manifestation with the power to basically be a nuclear weapon. He has been captured and enslaved and is, when released wanting revenge on anyone and anything in his path.
The last novel in the trilogy is a murder mystery and political potboiler rolled into one. Throw in magic of different kinds, dragons and of course Morninstar and Dan Chuay, a host of insane fallen and the story just zips along but raises numerous questions along the way. It all boils down to the one question of where do you draw the line? In their desire to make their house more powerful the leaders are willing to destroy the city which is already in tatters and everything and everyone that is not their house. Ultimately the heroes of the book are the people who are standing behind the leaders and who are willing to show more compassion and be more inclusive. They are the ones who make the difference at the end of the day along with the common people who have been subjugated.