Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders
by Aliette de Bodard
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted June 5, 2020
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A new novella in Aliette de Bodard's Dominion of the Fallen series, Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders will be published in a little over a month, July 7. I received an e-ARC from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. At this time Amazon only has a pre-order for Kindle, and B&N only for the Nook. I'm not sure if a print edition is planned for later. [UPDATE July 7: Amazon now has it in paperback, but there is no listing for it at Bookshop yet, and B&N still only has it for the Nook.]
I have the first novel in the series but haven't read it yet, although I've now read four shorter works, and I believe there are at least three others. I think this is set after the third novel, but it's enough of a stand-alone story as long as you are aware of the general premise. Most of the series is set in a post-apocalyptic Paris, with Fallen Angels aligned in various Houses, along with other supernatural beings. This story is about Asmodeus, head of House Hawthorn, and his husband Thuan, a dragon from the Celestial City, which I gather is in an alternate dimension, but I could be wrong about that. Thuan can shape-shift and take human form, and Asmodeus can keep his wings in check to appear human too. The Celestial City, based on Vietnamese culture, is home not only to dragons, but also crab/humans and fish/humans, and probably other creatures, but dragons are the dominant class.
Thuan is a member of the royal family but is uninterested in that part of his life. He is a scholar, fond of books. He now lives with Asmodeus in Paris, but they have come back to the palace in anticipation of the Tet Holiday, Lunar New Year. Their visit is interrupted by a murder. Due to his keen ability to smell blood, Asmodeus gets to the body quickly, and the authorities are unaware he finds and keeps a bag of an unknown powder on the victim's body, which he suspects is a poison. Thuan is invited to aid in the investigation by one of his cousins, a local magistrate. There are other bodies too, one burned beyond recognition, another Thuan suspects was killed by Asmodeus, who is known to be fond of knives. A synopsis of the story includes "…a tale of dragons, and Fallen angels—and also kissing, sarcasm and stabbing." Asmodeus is convinced they are being trapped between rival court factions. He would rather return to Paris, but Thuan reluctantly commits his help. When they determine the purpose of the powder, Thuan races to warn and protect the Empress. This works well on its own, you can forget about the supernatural trappings and read it as a straight mystery, replete with corrupt authorities, arrogant royalty, and underlings presented as scapegoat.
One of these days I'll read the novels. Yes, I say that a lot, about books I already have and many others I need to buy or borrow from the library. I want to experience the beginnings of Asmodeus and Thuan's relationship. How did they meet, what attracted them to each other, how do they reconcile their differences? Asmodeus is sadistic, prone to violence, but since Thuan is a bit of a masochist it makes some sense. There are other Fallen in other Houses, with some humans aligned with them, and if I recall correctly, another story included vampires. Aliette's prose is lyrical and colorful, visually dynamic, the cultures and characters unique and complex. I've also read a sampling of her Xuya stories, with many more I want to experience. As with the Dominion stories, all work well on their own, but I'd like as broad a view of her worlds as possible. In the future, when I do read the trilogy, I'll create a page for that, perhaps another for the novellas and shorter stories, blending this page into that. In the meantime, check out the links below concerning the Dominion of the Fallen.
The Author's Website
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