Aliette de Bodard’s Dragons and Blades series is a stand alone spin-off from her Dominion of the Fallen series. I didn’t feel like I was lacking information, but I am now intrigued enough that I want to read it. At some point during the first series, a marriage is arranged between Thuan, a lower level prince in the Imperial Family, and Asmodeus, a murder happy fallen angel. The marriage may not have initially been welcome by either party (they planned to kill each other), they have settled into an affectionate if wary partnership.
In Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders Prince Thuan and Asmodeus return to the underwater kingdom of the Seine to celebrate Tet, the Viet Lunar New Year. It is home to dragon and sea-creature shifters and ruled by Thuan’s Second Aunt, the Empress. Asmodeus is a reluctant guest, loath to be away from his seat of power and unenthusiastic about family celebrations.
“Good food and the company of your loved ones?” Thuan was sitting in one of the carved mahogany chairs, the straight-backed and uncomfortable ones of his childhood. He hadn’t missed these at all.
“The House’s version of Christmas involved rather less love, and more bodies dangling in trees.”
Asmosdeus’ mood improves a lot when a dead body turns up on their doorstep and then a convict to torture is delivered to him as an entertaining distraction. Thuan gets pulled into the murder investigation and while he wants to thwart the conspiracy against the Empress, he sees the rot around him.
In Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances, Thuan and Asmodeus are on another visit to the underwater city, this time with two children in their care. Naturally, there are dead bodies, but this time the ghost of a child is at the center of the action and threatens to destroy the fragile understanding between the husbands.
The cultural and personality differences between Thuan a dragon shifter, and Asmodeus, a fallen angel, are a central dynamic, but now the tension between them is an obstacle and not just a sexy edge of danger. To be fair, everything Asmodeus does carries a sexy edge of danger. They do recognize that they are stronger working together, even when they aren’t sure the relationship will survive. Even when they aren’t sure Asmodeus will survive.
In a very few pages Aliette de Bodard builds a gorgeous and intriguing world. Her novellas show us just enough for it to feel lived in and layered. And I love that we find out Thuan has a type.
If Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders was about doing the hard work to set things right, Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances is about the power of seeing. Both novellas are wonderful and well worth your time.
I received an arc for Of Charms, Ghosts, and Grievances from NetGalley. My opinions are freely and honestly given.