Deadly Destinations travels to post-war Paris after the devastating Great Magicians’ War. We have a list of Do’s and Don’ts on how to survive in this troubled city. The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard is a fantasy novel that explores this world in depth. It is the first novel in the Dominion of the Fallen series and it was released on August 18, 2015 from ROC/Penguin.
A Tourist’s Guide to How to Survive in Post-War Paris
The traveler fortunate enough to reach post-war Paris will find a wondrous city: ruined, to be sure, and a fraction of its former glory, but nevertheless a place where one can still find stupendous food, marvelous gardens, and glittering parties where the elite of the city entertain their friends and allies (and enemies).
Here are a few tips to help you to survive past your first night, and hopefully have a (reasonably) good time while you’re there.
Find lodgings at a House. Being a member of one of the main magical factions of Paris will immensely facilitate your life (not to mention provide you with food protection, and a roof over your head). The admission criteria are nebulous: if you are a member of a French or European House, you may be able to avail yourself of existing or old alliances. If you are a Fallen angel and/or skilled in the wielding of magic, you may be able to catch the eye of a House dependent. Generally, admissions are decided upon by the head of the House.
Pay your respects. It is customary for a new arrival to a House to have an interview with the head of the House upon arriving; if the opportunity is not offered by someone else, you will have to insist, as not doing it could be seen as a slight. Some Houses insist on protocol more than others: House Harrier (in the 15e arrondissement), for instance.
Keep your head down. Houses are ruthless and mostly run by Fallen: as befits former angels, Fallen are immortal, ageless, and have very long memories. In particular, the House of Hawthorn (in the Southwest, near the border of Paris with the suburbs) will never forget a slight against one of its dependents, and its head Asmodeus is well known for being implacable. The House Silverspires, on Ile de la Cité, will destroy anything and anyone in its path: it might be on the wane with founder Lucifer Morningstar’s disappearance, but it’s still not to be trifled with.
Be helpful to your hosts, but not too much. Post-war Paris is a fragile equilibrium between the various Houses: no one wishes to rekindle the magical conflagration that destroyed the city, but every House fights every other House for influence and power, and the alliances shift regularly. Visitors who are not proper dependents are considered expendable: do not get involved in intrigues you have no understanding of, as there is a possibility you might not come back.
Be out after dark. We cannot understate how important this is, whether you are human, Fallen or something else altogether. Paris at night is the province of gangs, who set upon humans to rob them and upon Fallen to dismember them and sell their body parts on the black market for magic. The gangs aren’t the only Houseless in Paris, but no one will help you against them (perhaps not even your own House).
Linger on bridges. The war has had an unfortunate effect on the Seine: it runs black with the remnants of spells, and sends out tendrils to snatch the unwary from bridges and quays, and drag them underwater. If you have to be anywhere near the river, run.
Visit the Grands Magasins. They were a wonderful tourist destination before the war, where you could find anything and everything for sale, whether from France, Europe or the colonies. However, with the war, they have been completely destroyed: to take just one example, the dome of the Galeries Lafayette is broken, every floor holds booby-traps, and the entire place is permeated with the screams of the dying–not to mention that the Grands Magasins are now in a Houseless area, and that it’s dangerous to visit them without proper backup.
Sample angel essence: the standard artifacts used to store Fallen magic are not a problem, but angel essence–distilled from ground angel bones–is an addictive drug that corrodes the lungs, and as little as one breath can set you on the road to ruin. It might sound attractive if you’re mortal, to have magic equal to the effortless one of a Fallen; or if you’re Fallen and seeking to replenish your own depleted reserves, but we would advise you to steer well clear of anything to do with essence.
(note that different Houses have different policies: essence is forbidden in House Silverspires, and more routinely used in House Hawthorn).
If you do survive your first week, chances are you have the right instincts in place. Paris is a great location to be if that’s the case–we wish you luck and joy, and hope that all goes for the best. (please note that we do not take responsibility if you fail to survive: Paris holds many traps for the unwary, and this is not an exhaustive guide to survival etiquette, merely a few helpful pointers. There is no right or wrong way: as House Silverspires would put it, whatever works is the right thing).
Aliette de Bodard lives and works in Paris, where she has a day job as a System Engineer. She studied Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, but moonlights as a writer of speculative fiction. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Obsidian and Blood trilogy of Aztec noir fantasies, as well as numerous short stories, which garnered her two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award and a British Science Fiction Association Award. Forthcoming works include The House of Shattered Wings (August), a novel set in a turn-of-the-century Paris devastated by a magical war, and The Citadel of Weeping Pearls (October), a novella set in the same universe as her Vietnamese space opera On a Red Station Drifting. She lives in Paris with her family, in a flat with more computers than warm bodies, and a set of Lovecraftian tentacled plants intent on taking over the place
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Available August 18, 2015 from ROC/Penguin
About this Book:
Multi-award winning author Aliette de Bodard, brings her story of the War in Heaven to Paris, igniting the City of Light in a fantasy of divine power and deep conspiracy…
In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.
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