BOOK NEWS: Aliette de Bodard on The House of Shattered Wings

I recently reviewed ‘House of Shattered Wings’ by Aliette de Bodard to be released in the UK on Thursday 20th August 2015.

It is always a privilege to hear from the authors themselves about their work and so we were delighted to receive this extract from Aliette de Bodard discussing her most recent novel. We join the characters in Chapter 8, ‘The Conclave’, in which the Great Houses are all meeting and so alchemist Madeleine and the newly Fallen Isabelle watch from a disused room as the delegates arrive.

‘Isabelle unfolded her mirror again, and went back to her ritual of trapping her breath within. “I can’t do it,” she said after a while.

“I’ll show you again,” Madeleine said. She rose, and set both hands on either side of Isabelle’s, feeling the lambent coolness of the Fallen’s flesh, the trapped magic shimmering within. “Like this,” she added, drawing on small scraps of magic. She wasn’t on angel essence; too dangerous, with Selene on the prowl for any offense she could use— and she missed its fire; missed the ease of casting spells.

It should have been a small spell; but, senses dulled, she overreached. Something cold and vast squeezed her entire body, leaving her drained of energy. Her hands fell back limp, and it was all she could do not to fall to her knees. Instead of being dulled, the compact mirror’s surface went the black of tarnished silver, flipping fully open in Isabelle’s hands. “Oh,” she said.

“Sorry,” Madeleine said, fighting back a fit of coughing. “I— didn’t—”

The mirror was—no, not quite black, but shot through with slowly moving patterns, like magma in a live volcano—which was probably the feeling it’d leave any magician who attempted to use this much trapped power.

Isabelle closed the clasp, and then opened it again. All the blackness fled upward, straight into her nostrils. For a brief moment she was outlined in the same darkness as the mirror’s surface, and then the magic was back within her. “I see,” she said. She closed both hands around the mirror, and breathed; and this time the mirror’s surface lightly frosted over. “I see.”

She didn’t even appear out of breath. The world was unfair. Magicians and witches could only cast small spells on their own magic, or run the risk of being exhausted into a comatose state by their own workings; and here was this child with more power in her left fingertip than anyone in the whole of Paris. “Well done,” Madeleine said, quashing the twinge of jealousy before it could overwhelm her. She had enough to do without that to bother her.’

This is a lovely scene for me: it’s one of the quieter moments of the novel, and an occasion to explain the workings of the magical system in a little more depth. It basically works on a transfer system: Fallen (former angels) have got a surplus of magic that they can bestow of people with a touch or a shared breath; and their magic can also be trapped in artefacts and re-used later, either by them or by mortals who would normally be unable to cast large spells.

Madeleine is basically the geek character in the novel: she’s very, very good at what she does (making magic-infused artefacts), and utterly oblivious to everything else–something that fast becomes a problem when she finds herself involved in high-level House politics… – Aliette de Bodard

You can read my review of novel here.

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