Saturday, July 8, 2017

Children of Thorns, Children of Water, by Aliette de Bodard

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(Alternate History Fantasy; Dominion of the Fallen) Two people from a secret, underwater House try to infiltrate a troublesome surface House that rules much of a Paris still recovering from long-ago magical wars. (11,966 words; Time: 39m)

Rating: ★★★★★ Great Characters, World, and Plot

Although this story is set in the world of the author's Dominion of the Fallen stories, it is an excellent standalone read.

"," by (edited by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas), appeared in issue 17, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: Superficially, the plot is that Thuan passes the test and infiltrates House Hawthorne. At a deeper level, he frees himself from dependence on Kim Cuc, which he’d been chafing against from the first paragraphs of the story.

Sere has her own plot arc, and the fear that she’ll figure out what Thuan and Kim really are adds a good bit of tension.

We learn the most about Thuan, and we rather like him by the end. He’s got a conscience and a sense of duty. He goes back into the house after Kim, even though he’s not sure he’s up to the task, but he knows she’d go there for him. We see a touch of the same thing when we watch him directing the making of the chocolate eclairs. He really can be decisive when he lets himself be.

Sere earns our respect as well. She works hard to protect her charges, and she goes back in after Thuan. Nor does she make him leave; she understands that he can’t leave his friend behind. Her choice at the end makes perfect sense, given what she knows.

The world in the story has a very real, gritty feeling to it. Several things contribute to this: The antagonist here is simply a malfunction in House Hawthorne’s own protective wards, not some evil being. Lord Asmodeus is making policy changes to fix long-standing problems. When Sere talks to Kim Cuk and Thuan, she sounds a lot like an interviewer or an HR person.

Con: It’s a shock when we learn that Thuan is 300 years old. From the story, I’d have guessed 25 or so. Learning that his true form is scaly and has horns makes him a bit less relatable as well.

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3 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. I read the novel "The House of Shattered Wings" and loved it, enough to nominate it for that year's Hugo awards. This story was written as part of the promotion for the 2nd book which was published this year.

    I agree with the 5-star rating. This story is excellent, real tension in it with rounded characters and gives the reader a strong flavor as to what the novels are like.

    I agree with RSR that this novelette can be read as a stand-alone story. I had to think about this, but the core event in this story has nothing to do with what occured in the first book.

  2. Definitely makes me want to read the books to find out more about this world.

    Thuan is a dragon. 300 might be comparable to 25 in human terms. :)

    (Sare and Kim Cuc)

  3. Good, not great. I liked the setting, and Sare was an interesting character (having more nuance and complexity than the average villain). But I was surprised by Thuan's character arc and didn't feel that it was handled very well.