We’re excited to share the cover for The House of Binding Thorns, the sequel to Aliette de Bodard’s award-winning The House of Shattered Wings, a dark Gothic fantasy set in a decayed and dangerous Paris riven between magical factions. As the city rebuilds in the aftermath of war, the Great Houses all vie for control of the capital. Available in April 2017 from Roc.
Check out the full cover below, as Aliette joins us to explain some of the visual inspiration and meaning behind the design.
Spanish artist Nekro and art director Adam Auerbach had done a tremendous job with the cover for The House of Shattered Wings, producing a distinctive and atmospheric illustration that perfectly conveyed the broken splendour of my re-imagined Paris in the wake of a devastating magical war. This cover was, however, going to be a tough act to follow.
There was also a further complication: when Jessica Wade, my editor at Roc, asked me for thoughts on what the cover for The House of Binding Thorns should look like, I had not started writing the book yet: I had started researching it, but the fatigue linked to my first trimester of pregnancy meant I wasn’t being as productive as I wanted. So the cover was going to end up being based on whatever ideas I could come up with, and my capsule synopsis, which was mildly worrisome: I don’t tend to completely go off-piste on synopses, but there is always a risk something unexpected might cause me to rethink the book.
The House of Binding Thorns focuses on House Hawthorn, a magical faction in the Southwest of Paris who is a twisted version of the 19th Century bourgeoisie, its interiors strongly based on turn-of-the-century hôtels particuliers, those huge mansions that were a world apart from the cramped lodgings of many Parisians. Hawthorn is also known for its (ruined) gardens, so I sent over a lot of visuals of French gardens, with the wrought-iron gates characteristic of large estates. The 1881 Ferdinand Knab painting The Castle Gate was one of my favourites: I think it captures the atmosphere of forlorn decay very well. I also suggested a hawthorn tree (the symbol of the House): I thought that with its thorns and red berries it would make for striking and sinister colour contrast.
The resulting art by Nekro has, I feel, some of that same vibe as the Knab painting, except with the creepy amped up to eleven—which is as it should be, because, like its predecessor, this is a dark fantasy thriller that has a bunch of unpleasant events in store for its main characters (I’m the author. My job is to make characters’ lives as miserable as possible for maximum drama). I loved it as soon as I saw it: it matches the previous art and invites the viewer into some very dark places. There’s no hawthorn tree, but you can see the thorns creeping all over the gates, and the palette is a dark, ominous red that clearly signals the tone.
House Hawthorn is the magical faction that never lets go of its own, or of grudges—its Fallen angel head, Asmodeus, is a cross between Greed from Full Metal Alchemist and Sebastian Michaelis from Black Butler—and I feel the thorns on the gates encompass this possessiveness. But the view on the ruined city also serves a double purpose: it’s the escape from the House denied to characters like Madeleine, but also a symbol of Hawthorn’s hunger for dominion over Paris, as well as the corrupting influence of magic in this universe, which literally causes places like the Dragon Kingdom to rot. And I like how the sword draws the gaze and reminds us that this is, at heart, a fantasy on an epic scale—except not in a medieval setting.
And hum, yes, in case you did wonder: I saw a first draft of the cover, which was pretty close to the final version, before I’d actually started writing the novel, and after I already knew a third of the synopsis I’d given my agent and editors was likely never going to happen. It was certainly a special kind of scary and a rather new experience, though in the end everything worked out (thankfully) fine.
The House of Binding Thorns publishes April 2017 from Roc. Here’s the official cover copy:
The multi-award winning author of The House of Shattered Wings continues her Dominion of the Fallen saga as Paris endures the aftermath of a devastating arcane war…
As the city rebuilds from the onslaught of sorcery that nearly destroyed it, the Great Houses of Paris, ruled by fallen angels, still contest one another for control over the capital.
House Silverspires was once the most powerful, but just as it sought to rise again, an ancient evil brought it low. Philippe, an immortal who escaped the carnage, has a singular goal—to resurrect someone he lost. But the cost of such magic may be more than he can bear.
In House Hawthorn, Madeleine the alchemist has had her addiction to angel essence savagely broken. Struggling to live on, she is forced on a perilous diplomatic mission to the underwater Dragon Kingdom—and finds herself in the midst of intrigues that have already caused one previous emissary to mysteriously disappear…
As the Houses seek a peace more devastating than war, those caught between new fears and old hatreds must find strength—or fall prey to a magic that seeks to bind all to its will.