People have been asking, so I thought I’d also point out that the publication of Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders makes Dominion of the Fallen eligible again in Best Series. If you have space in your ballot for an alternate Belle Epoque that deals with queerness, colonialism, oppressive power structures, survival and rebellion (not to mention dragons under the Seine and the best disaster bi dragon prince/fallen angel diplomacy/murder pairing!), I’d be overjoyed if you considered it.
And now the part where I recommend other people’s stuff I loved.
Graphic novel The Magic Fish, Trung Le Nguyen: a story of immigration, fairytale retellings and a young boy struggling to come out to his family. This just hit me hard in the feels and never let go.
Novella When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo. Nghi had two releases this year in the novella category. Empress of Salt and Fortune is good, but When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain, which received less attention (due to its late release in December and being edged out by her upcoming novel), is really amazing. It’s about the scholar Chih, stuck in the mountains with three tigers, but also about the sapphic courtship of a tiger and a scholar. It’s about history, and stories, and who gets to tell what, and it absolutely nails down the oral form while managing to hit all my buttons. It sounds like the grown-up version of the tales my bà ngoại told me as a child, and that’s the highest praise.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected inWater, by Zen Cho. When a bandit walks into a kopitiam (coffee shop), everything goes downhill for the waitress-not to mention the bandit. Hilarious, pointed and heartbreaking. I blurbed this and laughed so much when I was reading it.
Novel Black Sun, by Rebecca Roanhorse. A dark and gritty epic fantasy inspired by Mesoamerican culture, this just swept along. It’s a tale of revenge and politics, and godhood, and the consequences of belief systems. It’s a tale of families and clashing views on the world, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series.
Unconquerable Sun, by Kate Elliott. A genderbent version of Alexander the Great, in space, where Alexander is an indomitable young woman named Sun who is the heir to a vast, sprawling galactic empire. But there are other powers, as well as political infighting within the court, and Sun’s companions are soon thrust into a fight for their survival. Amazing worldbuilding, deep characters, and a place that really feels lived in–such a great book. Special mention for Perse (Persephone) who is just the best.
The Midnight Bargain by C.L Polk. I read this at precisely the right time in my life, in a deep reading slump where I hadn’t touched a fiction book in a few months. I devoured it in a few days because it was so good. In a universe where women are magically prevented from practising magic once they get married, Beatrice dreams of becoming a magician. When her path intersects that of two siblings with their own interest in bucking the gender system, they are drawn together–but will this tenuous alliance hold as Beatrice is pressured to marry? Not Regency and not set in Great Britain, but this feels like Regency all the same–along with a smart discussion of power, gender, social expectations and how magic would be used in a gender-rigid system. Such a great read.
Tor.com has revealed the cover of my upcoming book Fireheart Tiger, an f/f postcolonial The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle. Look at it, isn’t it amazing?
Cover art by Alyssa Winans
Some small details you might not have noticed:
the dragon on the pillar behind the woman (the flag of the country in the story is the dragon and pearl)
the object catching fire in her hand is a teacup, referring to a story scene
the guns in the lower right-hand corner, both propping up and threatening the palace
the pavilion in the gardens, a crucial story location
the markings on her skin near the flame evoke a tiger’s skin
the large building in her sleeves is Cửa Ngọ Môn, the Noon Gate in the imperial citadel in Huế. The fact that she’s transporting things in her sleeves is a reference to Vietnamese (and Chinese) garments having sleeves large enough to be used as pockets
You’ll be wondering why the title: it refers to a Vietnamese folk tale about how the tiger got his stripes: they’re the marks of a rope when man burnt him with fire, and explains that the resentful tiger now seeks to eat men. I took the fire, the tiger and the idea of imprisonment, and ran with it.
And here’s the official summary
Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world. Fire burns bright and has a long memory….
Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.
Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.
Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?
The book will be out Feb 9th 2021.
You can preorder now—a small reminder that preorders help books a lot, because they indicate enthusiasm, and that in turn influences visibility and thus the attention given to the book (and many many thanks to everyone who’s already preordered, you rock).
An unlikely duo of a bookish dragon prince and his ruthless Fallen angel husband have to cooperate with each other to navigate political intrigue and solve a murder. A combination of Asian court drama (think Nirvana in Fire) and Gothic comedy of manners; a fun and fluffy (*) book involving a mismatched couple, dollops of embarrassing moments, and the occasional kiss.
(*)”fluffy” for Bodard values of fluffy. It still involves a murder investigation, and ideas of consent and rulership and change, because, well–
From the author of the critically acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen trilogy comes a tale of dragons, and Fallen angels — and also kissing, sarcasm and stabbing.
Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit.
But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic.
It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one — as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship….
A sparkling standalone book set in a world of dark intrigue.
A Note on Chronology
Spinning off from the Dominion of the Fallen series, which features political intrigue in Gothic devastated Paris, this book stands alone, but chronologically follows The House of Sundering Flames. It’s High Gothic meets C-drama in a Vietnamese inspired world– perfect for fans of The Untamed, KJ Charles,and Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves.
“A delightful and delicious story of court intrigue, tense family relations, and – of course – murder, OF DRAGONS, FEASTS, AND MURDER delivers on all three in a tightly plotted and tensely paced novella in which the fate of a country rests in the hands of a soft-hearted dragon prince and his murder husband. With luscious and lyrical prose, de Bodard effortlessly envelops the reader in a rich and expansive world. A fun read, I look forward to immersing myself in the rest of the Dominion of the Fallen series!”
K.A. Doore, author of the Chronicles of Ghadid trilogy
“Delightful… Beautiful writing, weird and magical world, fascinating culture and politics, and compelling characters: what more do you need?”
KJ Charles, author of Slippery Creatures
“I absolutely loved this… Two charming protagonists (in very different ways), beautifully descriptive writing, a cunning plot, and a thoughtful discussion of the ways that rooted injustice in a system can be changed. Also, dragons. Lots of dragons.”
Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library series
“A delightful political mystery featuring de Bodard’s vibrant world-building, beautiful prose, and compelling characters”.
Juliet Kemp, author of Shadow and Storm
“Fantasy of Manners but with corpses and a stabby husband. The stabby husband may or may not have produced the aforementioned corpses.”
I’ve had to sit on this one for a while, but I’m pleased to have sold my novella Fireheart Tiger to Jonathan Strahan at Tor.com. I’m absolutely thrilled, as I’ve loved a great deal many books published by the imprint (and I can’t wait to see the cover art).
The blurb is below. This is a f/f story of politics, magic and resilience in the face of trauma as well as overwhelming odds. It went some rather dark and unexpected places when I was writing it (story of my life lol). It’s set in a universe heavily inspired by Nguyễn Cochinchina in the 18th Century (prior to the actual dynasty, the unification of Vietnam and the French colonisation), but draws a bit from a bunch of other time periods in Vietnamese history. It will be out in 2021 (I know, so far away!).
Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns in this fantasy novella that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a precolonial Vietnamese-esque world.
Thanh is royalty in a beleaguered nation of scattered provinces pressured on all sides. The daughter of ancestors armed with swords and courage, she was fostered in a foreign capital to seal an alliance, and returned—to her powerful mother’s disappointment—quiet and thoughtful instead of brash and confident.
Propped up by the guns and silver of Ephteria, a far more powerful empire, her country is losing the game of power. In Eldris, an Ephterian princess, Thanh finds both romance and intoxicating risk. Eldris may desire her, but she doesn’t respect what Thanh holds dear.
Giang, Thanh’s humble handmaiden, who appeared to her the night of a terrible fire and who has deep secrets of her own, might be the one who holds the key to love, freedom, and true power.
It’s that time of year again! I’ve had a 2019 and a half to say the least, so I’m afraid this is going to be a brief list, but I did want to highlight a few really really nice things I read last year, so without further ado.
For your consideration
My novel The House of Sundering Flamescame out last year from Gollancz/JABberwocky, and wrapped up the Dominion of the Fallen series, a tale of a Gothic devastated Paris, Fallen angels, dragons, politics, colonialism and how to rebuild in the wake of huge devastation (also the cutest dragon toddler, the best murderbirds husbands aka the combination of a totally amoral Fallen and his increasingly distraught dragon partner, and the best Vietnamese aunties that you DO NOT want to cross)
It was long listed for the BSFA Award and is on the Locus Recommended list for Best Fantasy Novel, and here’s what people have said about it:
“A dark saga of ruined cities, fallen angels, and awakening dragons… a must read… an intoxicating blend of gothic mystery, apocalyptic fantasy, and Vietnamese myth—meaty, singular, and satisfying.”
I’ve had the question, so yes, the “birthday goes wrong” comedy of manners “Of Birthdays, and Fungus, and Kindness” in my short story collection Of Wars, and Memories and Starlight is eligible for Best Novella if you so enjoyed it. The short story collection as a whole is eligible for Best Collection in awards like the World Fantasy Award.
EDIT: Farah Mendlesohn kindly reminded me that Dominion of the Fallen, as a whole, is eligible for Best Series if you happen to have a spot in your Hugo Awards ballot.
And here’s my list of things I loved this year! (I will, as usual, amend as I catch up on 2019, though I do have to be fair and warn that I’m not committing to this as this continues to be a bit of a wild year).
Tade had two books out this year, but the finale of the Rosewater series (an alien invasion tale set in the eponymous city in Nigeria) is to me the most memorable, dealing with complex politics, colonialism as alien invasion, and how people from disparate walks of life can rise and fight to make something better.
Arkady’s book follows an ambassador from a space station in an alien and all-encroaching empire, and deals with her fascination and repulsion for her massive neighbour. The world building is amazing, and so is the storyline, which deals with the politics of encroachment and hegemony.
I wasn’t expecting this book to stab me in the chest and tear it apart, but that’s what it did. It’s a raw, unflinching look at slavery and its consequences in a re-imagined Carribean world where people have a magic called kraft (which is forbidden to slaves), and one woman’s quest to get revenge at any cost and what it does to her.
Tasha’s strong followup to Empire of Sand follows a young widow who must learn to make her own life and find her own happiness–and, in the process, fight the darkness that has spread over the Ambhan empire. It’s strongly paced, imaginative, and has a delightful set of main characters with great chemistry.
This was super sweet! The follow-up to the Sorcerer Royal follows a queer Muslim woman looking for her missing sister and dragged into the politics of Faerie. It’s a fun and fluffy English regency, with sharp digs at the reality of Regency for non-white colonial subjects. And also the sweetest dragon and his husband (Pogo is back!!). Can be read standalone from the book that precedes it (but you really should get both).
This is an unflinching and much needed book about abuse and what it means for children. Sisters Mike and Eleanor hide under the bed at their home to find a safe place, and trade monster stories. But when the bed becomes the opening to a magical land, Eleanor must find a way to heal the land–and help Mike and herself finally find true safety.
I believe Tasha Suri is eligible for this one and it’s her last year of eligibility!
So… a question I’ve gotten asked a lot was about a US edition of The House of Sundering Flames, book 3 in the Dominion of the Fallen series. It’s been… tricky (to cut short a long story, I’m out of contract in the US and it’s not super easy to convince a publisher to pick book 3 of a series).
I’m pleased to announce that The House of Sundering Flames is now available for sale through JABberwocky Literary Agency, with a gorgeous atmospheric cover that matches those of the US editions.
Art and cover design is by Dirk Berger, who also did the UK edition of The Tea Master and the Detective (with thanks to John Berlyne for all the help).
This concludes the Dominion of the Fallen series (after The House of Shattered Wings and The House of Binding Thorns). Expect: more Gothic devastated Paris, more dragons, more snark, queer families, Vietnamese immortals, and creepy trees + creepy hawks!
Here’s the cover copy:
The white-hot conclusion to the Dominion of the Fallen trilogy by the multi-award-winning author…
The Great Houses of Paris—headed by Fallen angels and magicians—have co-existed in fragile peace. When a powerful explosion razes House Harrier, old alliances are torn apart and a race begins to fill the power void.
Thuan, the beleaguered dragon head of House Hawthorn, finds a war on his doorstep. Aurore, once cast out by Harrier and almost beaten to death, seeks power to protect her family—and must venture back to her former home. And, in the ruins of House Harrier, Emmanuelle desperately tries to piece her fragmented memories of the explosion.
But beneath House Harrier awaits a fiery magic that hungers for destruction. And it is time for Houses and Houseless to stand together—or be engulfed in flames…
Praise for The House of Sundering Flames:
Incredible… one of the most original, fantasy settings I’ve seen