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ARC Review: Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances by Aliette de Bodard

Publication Date: June 28, 2022


From the author of the critically acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen trilogy comes a sparkling new romantic adventure full of kissing, sarcasm and stabbing.

It was supposed to be a holiday, with nothing more challenging than babysitting, navigating familial politics and arguing about the proper way to brew tea.

But when dragon prince Thuan and his ruthless husband Asmodeus find a corpse in a ruined shrine and a hungry ghost who is the only witness to the crime, their holiday goes from restful to high-pressure. Someone is trying to silence the ghost and everyone involved. Asmodeus wants revenge for the murder; Thuan would like everyone, including Asmodeus, to stay alive.

Chased by bloodthirsty paper charms and struggling to protect their family, Thuan and Asmodeus are going to need all the allies they can—and, as the cracks in their relationship widen, they’ll have to face the scariest challenge of all: how to bring together their two vastly different ideas of their future…

A heartwarming standalone book set in a world of dark intrigue.

A Note on Chronology
Spinning off from the Dominion of the Fallen series, which features political intrigue in Gothic devastated Paris, this book stands alone, but chronologically follows Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders. It’s High Gothic meets C-drama in a Vietnamese inspired world—perfect for fans of Mo Xiang Tong Xiu’s Heaven Official’s Blessing, KJ Charles, and Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved the previous novella about Thuan and Asmodeus, so when I got the chance to read an early copy of this I jumped at it. This met and exceeded all my expectations. I absolutely ADORED it.

I haven’t gotten a chance to read the initial trilogy about Thuan and Asmodeus, though I immediately bought them after reading the first novella. I must remedy that soon. I can’t wait to explore the beginning of their relationship because everything about their dynamic here is brilliant.

We have Asmodeus, a very stabby fallen angel with a protective streak a mile wide and at least as much sarcasm and hidden knives. Then we have Thuan, a Vietnamese water dragon who loves books and believes in talking before stabbing (in most instances) but has a tendency to be attracted to stabby people.

Whilst visiting Thuan’s family and babysitting a horde of children, they uncover a murder and things get… interesting.

The pacing was excellent (and fast), the writing was gorgeous, the plot kept me guessing, and the emotional struggle between Asmodeus and Thuan was one I might have expected in a longer book. The story and emotional struggle was satisfactorily resolved within the novella but leaves enough that there could be future novellas. And I desperately hope there will be because I am not ready to leave these fascinating characters.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Aliette de Bodard, and JABberwocky Literary Agency, Inc. for providing an e-arc for review.

Favorite Quotes:

They fell asleep by each other’s side in their common bed, with the silence between them like a drawn sword.

They’d been on the ground for five whole minutes and nothing had attacked them yet, which was a great improvement on previous minutes.

“We are going to strip naked, and I imagine most of your spirits don’t approve of random exhibitionism.”

Thuan contemplated lying to her. It was really, really tempting, but nothing good ever came of lying to children.

Adult fun—in this specific case, figuring out what was wrong with a ghost—was really overrated.

And if there was anything Asmodeus was good at besides stabbing, it was stepping up when no one did, or when he thought no one did.

Words came welling out of Thuan like blood from a wound.

Thuan’s grandmother was a force of nature, an utterly scary old woman and a big proponent of killing everyone who stood in her way. She and Asmodeus had hit it off almost immediately.

Anything written was like catnip to Thuan, but at the moment even the thought of curling up with very large piles of written materials didn’t spark much joy.

Asmodeus put on his gloves slowly and deliberately, a gesture that looked much like a preliminary to drawing multiple knives.

“You mean Thuan has a type?”

“Thuan absolutely has a type,” Diem Chau said.

“I’m right here,” Thuan said. Being teased simultaneously by his husband and his ex had definitely not been on the to-do list for today.

Thuan was impressed by her capacity to get tea made in any circumstances.

ARC Review: Seven of Infinities by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this book! Like Aliette de Bodard’s previous books, this one is highly influenced by Vietnamese culture and language. This is also another installment in her Xuya universe of mindships and humans, and like The Tea Master and the Detective, this story centers around a mindship and a human. It is also a murder mystery.

The characters are well-crafted and sympathetic, and the growing romance is sweet. Vân is an impoverished tutor with a secret she fears will ruin her; Sunless Woods is a thief masquerading as a scholar. Of course keeping these secrets gets them both in trouble, and they have to give in and share them in order to save their relationship. I sympathized with both Vân and Sunless Woods, and was definitely rooting for them and their romance.

The worldbuilding was excellent and comprehensive, taking the previously established world of mindships and space stations and expanding it to include memimplants – fascinating idea, carrying the knowledge of your dead ancestors in your head, the better to succeed on exams. The world felt real and complete and rich with setting and characters.

The language is still a bit challenging, though it gets easier the more I read, and it often uses hinted and unspoken information, which requires reading between the lines to get the full understanding. Every book of hers that I read intrigues me more and I will definitely be putting Aliette de Bodard on my autobuy list.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Subterranean Press for providing an e-arc to review.

Book Review: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this. Like the House of Shattered Wings series this has a strong Vietnamese influence, but this is set in space.

Our protagonist is a mindship who exists both in space and as an avatar projected to rooms where she interacts with humans. She makes tea blends that are carefully tailored to each customer. She becomes fascinated by a new customer and ends up going to retrieve a dead body and helping solve a murder mystery. All the while dealing with seeming attraction to said customer – a brash, drugged, brilliant consulting detective – and past trauma.

I would read a novel or even a series of these characters happily – they grew on me very quickly and were intriguing as a pair. Very Sherlock Holmes-esque.

I also love Aliette de Boddard’s writing style. It’s dense and all the Vietnamese inspired names and terms make reading it a bit difficult, not to mention the way things are hinted at but seldom said outright – like wading through knee-deep water instead of breezing along the shore – but I love it just the same. Or maybe because? I’m not sure. All I know is that I’m adding her to my auto-buy list.