This is the third novel in the Dominion of the Fallen series and follows on from the events of The House of Binding Thorns. This book is told from multiple character perspectives, most that we have met in the previous two novels and we get to see in some cases how they adapted to their lives or are looking to change their circumstances.
The House of Sundering Flames, again centres on the relationship between Thuan and Asmodeus as their House (Hawthorn), is still struggling to get used to the new power structure and continues to push to see where the weak links are. Thuan is still having to prove his worth and status to those Fallen who are still loyal to the old ways of the house. Whereas Thuan is looking to the future of the House, he knows that if there is a war between the houses, then Hawthorn is still not at full strength and knows that their only chance of survival is by working together.
When Thuan feels that something is off balance with the Khi in the House, he can’t work out what it is. When Thuan sees an explosion over the sky of House Harrier, he isn’t sure what to think, as who would attack a House? House Harrier, is supposed to be having a demonstration of power on the day of the explosion. Due to this some of the Fallen from other Houses are trapped in the aftermath, including Emmanuelle and Morningstar from House Silverspears.
As mentioned there are several different storylines in the novel and it can feel jarring to be jolted between them. There are times where you are trying to remember who some of the characters are and where their storylines ended when you last read about them. Although as most of the characters are returning from previous novels we are not being introduced to a large cast of new characters.
The other two main characters that we are following are Phillipe, who is working as a doctor and training Isabelle, both who were main characters in the book The House of Shattered Wings. Phillipe is visited by an Immortal from the Jade Court, who asks for his help. Philippe does not want to get involved as he was expelled from the Jade Court centuries ago. Then there is Aurore who is another of the houseless. Aurore wants to find a hidden source of magic that is supposed to be hidden in Hawthorn so she will no longer be beholden to anyone and will finally be powerful. Before Aurore can do this she is forced into finding out what happened at Harrier.
There is a lot of turmoil in this book as major characters are hurt in explosions and hunted by the unknown. The characters seem to be trapped, either by not having the correct knowledge or not physically having anywhere else to go. We find out some of the things that the Fallen did to consolidate power in the past with the release of a powerful being whose mission is to hunt and destroy anyone and anything with magic.
There are many questions about power and how it not only corrupts but whether it is worth having in the first place. There are also limitations to power, as people can change and grow, but power doesn’t always give you the chance to do this, and it may not be what you expected. There are also lessons to be learnt about letting go of the past and forgiving yourself for things you were not able to control. The novel has a good satisfactory ending where changes have to be made and allowed to grow for a better world to happen.
Review by Michelle Herbert
Aliette de Bodard writes speculative fiction: her short stories have garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. She is the author of The House of Shattered Wings, a novel se [...]
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