Book cover: Of Books and Earth and CourtshipEmmanuelle the archivist is a rarity: a Fallen of House Silverspires who rejected Morningstar. She knows her infatuation with his latest student is foolish, but when Selene needs help, there’s no question that Emmanuelle will be there…

This is short and sweet, merely hinting at some of the darker, bloodier themes to come in The House of Shattered Wings. Like any good prequel, the novelette does not require you to have read the novel.

We see the story through Emmanuelle’s eyes – I have found each glimpse of Morningstar fascinating, and Of Books, and Earth and Courtship reinforces how overwhelming and ruthless he was. Selene, by contrast, seems – not naïve, exactly, I think that’s an unfair assessment on Emmanuelle’s side – driven and out of her depth. She really wants to be his student, she wants his power, and for those who read this with House of Shattered Wings behind them it’s an intriguing inversion (although the out of her depth bit is entirely familiar).

Emmanuelle herself is adorable. I have a soft spot for librarian/archivist characters anyway (well, I would, right?), but Emmanuelle has a rare streak of empathy that makes her more relatable than most Fallen. She provides a little social commentary that adds to the world-building and makes us consider our own (no preaching; just food for thought), and I liked her the better for it. She’s also got an interesting back story that I hope we’ll hear more of one day – her refusal of the name Morningstar gave her, and her obvious experience at sneaking into other Houses in disguise.

There’s a glimpse of House politics and a taste of Fallen Paris, but neither overwhelm the heart of the story: this is romantic first contact, and even my cold heart melted. All wrapped up in de Bodard’s excellent prose – a little package of delight for a cold, grey morning at the end of winter.

****

 

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