Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Court of Birth, Court of Strength, by Aliette de Bodard

★★★★☆ Clever, Exciting, Moving

(Alternate History Fantasy; Dominion of the Fallen) In an alternate post-war France, Samariel, a junior fallen angel, appeals to much more powerful one for help recovering a mortal child whom he doted on but who seems to have been kidnapped. (10,641 words; Time: 35m)

There’s no need to read the rest of the Dominion of the Fallen stories in order to enjoy this one; it stands alone quite well. I liked this one well enough that I went and read the rest of the series (which is quite good), so I can attest that it's fine to start with this one.

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 261, published on .

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

Review: 2018.535 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The setting, a Paris ruined in a magical war between still-tense Houses of fallen angels, is quite compelling all by itself. It’s quickly clear that Samariel feels passionately devoted to little Eglantine, and that he’s willing to risk quite a lot for her. It’s less obvious why Asmodeus is willing to help, although on rereading it, there are plenty of hints that the senior Fallen has a sexual interest in the young man.

Samariel faces a serious dilemma. He’s very loyal to his house. So much so that Asmodeus scandalizes him with his openly seditious talk. But he’s not willing to sacrifice someone he loves. Further, he’s very afraid of doing anything that might restart the war, so he’s in a terrible bind. His strategy of forcing the head of his house to at least make the offering public is a poor one. His brave offer to submit himself to House Harrier is a very noble gesture, even if Asmodeus gets him off the hook. (Literally, one imagines.)

Asmodeus has the power to rescue Samariel, but he pointedly stays uninvolved until the young man has committed himself. Then he can rescue him, giving him an entre to approach him sexually. It certainly stands to reason that House Harrier is willing to trade a non-descript girl for the favor of the possible future lord of House Hawthorne.

Eglantine has only a small role, but she comes across well, bravely insisting she’ll do her duty to the house, even as Samariel tries to save her.

It’s a fine dramatic moment when Asmodeus gets involved, showing just what sort of power is still his to command. By that point, we care about Samariel and Eglantine both, and we’re anxious to see them rescued somehow, so it’s heartening—even though technically we’re watching an evil fallen angel powering up.

Con: In the end, Samariel gets everything he wanted at little or no price. Yes, he’s going to have a relationship with Asmodeus, but there’s every indication that he welcomes it, so that’s not really paying much of a price.

Other Reviews: Search Web, Browse Review Sites (Issue 261)
Aliette de Bodard Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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