The Tea Master and the Detective

By Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 4 stars

I’d heard a lot of good things about this gender-swapped Holmes and Watson in space. However, in amongst that, nobody thought to mention that “Watson” is actually a mindship; a biological person, but wrapped into a starship shell close to birth and genetically engineered to live longer and fit into that system. It sort of reminded me of Anne McCaffrey’s Brain/Brawn books. Like Watson, The Shadow’s Child is traumatised, although moreso than Watson ever was, and Long Chau, the consulting detective that she partners with, is more abrasive (and drug addicted) than Holmes (even the Benedict Cumberbatch version) ever was.

I enjoyed the story a lot. I’ve read other short fiction set in the same universe, but this grabbed me more than any of them. While I found Long Chau extremely irritating, as a character she’s marvellous, and I really want to read more about her and about The Shadow’s Child. The universe is very interesting as well, and although I didn’t really understand the “deep space” that left The Shadow’s Child so traumatised, I want to find out more.

The fact that it’s a novella means that the story is pared back, and I would love to see a longer piece, to let the protagonists just be for a bit, and give a bit of space to the background as well. (Also, being a novella, the paper versions are priced around the same as a full-length novel, although the ebook version is cheaper).

So can we get a full-length novel? Pretty please? With sugar on top?

Book details

Publisher: JABberwocky Literary Agency
Year of publication: 2018

The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen, #1)

By Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 4 stars

In a Paris ruined by a war fought with forces beyond those of mortals, the Great Houses scrabble for power amongst each other in the ruins. Into this melange are dragged an immortal who doesn’t want to be there, a recently Fallen angel and an addict. They are dragged into a power play between the Houses that will shift the power balance in the city.

There’s a lot of interesting worldbuilding in this novel. We never know why angels Fall, but they are the source of the magic that drives the power within the Houses. I love how that was slowly introduced, starting with the idea that the blood has power and gradually widening.

I think my favourite theme in the book is the post-colonialism, manifested most in the anger of Philippe, the immortal from a Vietnam whose own magical traditions were overwhelmed with casual arrogance by the Fallen. This is a lovely metaphor and Philippe’s anger at Paris and the Houses is a perfect metaphor for the more mundane colonisation that happened in our world.

This is something that it often feels like Western, specifically European, literature doesn’t deal with enough. The acknowledgement that colonisation wasn’t “bringing civilisation and railways to the natives”, but destroyed ancient and proud civilisations, and brought countless misery to millions of people. And then the casual way that the natives of the colonies could be drafted into European armies to fight in wars that they have no knowledge or interest in. All these themes are brought into House of Shattered Wings and it’s great to see.

Even without this, it’s still an enjoyable read, with political intrigue and magic in the mix. I’ve got a lot of questions about the theology of this world. There’s a lot of talk about God, but nothing at all about Jesus. Does Christianity exist in this world? Philippe hints that his Jade Emperor and the God of the Fallen may be the same, but the place he was cast out from is definitely not the City of the Fallen. Do the gods of other faiths manifest as well? What does the India of this world look like? Was it also conquered by the Fallen of England? I suspect we’ll never get answers to a lot of these questions, but they’re fun to consider.

Having read and enjoyed this one, I’m not really sure how much I want to read the follow-up, House of Binding Thorns. Mostly because it sounds like it will focus much more on House Hawthorn, which never seemed like a nice place to spend time in. I’ll maybe wait until I get some trusted reviews before making a call on that.

Book details

ISBN: 9781473212572
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2015

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