British Fiction Focus

Aliette de Bodard Shatters Paris

Like Gollancz’s Gillian Redfearn, “I’ve long admired Aliette [de Bodard]’s writing,” as I asserted in this early edition of the Short Fiction Spotlight. So the news that the aforementioned author—which is to say “the winner of two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a BSFA Award”—has sold two new novels makes me a very happy chappy.

The two-book deal encompasses House of Shattered Wings and an as-yet untitled sequel. I dare say it marks the dawn of a new day for de Bodard, whose previous novels—the Obsidian and Blood trilogy comprising Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, and Master of the House of Darts—were published by Angry Robot Books. House of Shattered Wings, however—which is said to be “comparable to works of China Mieville and Iain M. Banks in epic scale and in delivering its ambitions”—will be in Gollancz’s hands.

So what are these new books about?

De Bodard blogged about their difficult beginnings:

Once upon a time, in a far, far away galaxy, I began working on this odd little project. It had started as [an] urban fantasy set in 21st century Paris, where families of magicians held the reins of power in every domain from banking to building. Then I couldn’t make it work, because the world-building wasn’t clicking with me. I wrote perhaps three chapters of it before it became painfully clear that my heart wasn’t in it.

So I nuked Paris.

Well, sort of. I made up a Great Magicians’ War, comparable in scale to WWI: a war that devastated Paris, making Notre-Dame an empty shell, the Seine black with ashes and dust; and the gardens and beautiful parks into fields of rubble. I set the action back several decades, to have a technology level equivalent to the Belle Époque with magic; and I added Fallen angels, whose breath and bones and flesh are the living source of magic; and whose power forms the backbone for a network of quasi-feudal Houses who rule over the wreck of Paris. And, hum, because it’s me, I added an extant colonial empire, a press-ganged, angry Vietnamese boy who’s more than he seems; Lucifer Morningstar (because you can’t have a story about Fallen angels without Morningstar); and entirely too many dead bodies.

In short, I mashed so many things together that it started looking a bit like the Frankenstein monster right before the lightning hit.

Sounds like classic de Bodard to me—and to Gillian Redfearn too, who negotiated the deal with John Berlyne of the Zeno Literary Agency. She said:

[House of Shattered Wings] blew me away from the first paragraph, with a rich and wonderful new world, evocative writing and an utterly gripping story. De Bodard is an exceptional and tremendously original writer and we are so proud to be publishing her work.

House of Shattered Wings is to be released in August 2015, which, despite sounding like the far-flung future, is in fact just nine months from now.

Isn’t maths magic?


Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He’s been known to tweet, twoo.

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