Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders: Mystery and court intrigue in a cool setting

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de BodardOf Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de Bodard

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders by Aliette de BodardLast Friday night, I was feeling indecisive about what to read, so I emailed Jana and listed the options I was considering: YA Historical Fantasy? Creepy Medical SF? I admitted I was leaning toward Snarky Murder Novella. “It’s Friday,” she said, encouraging me to treat myself with Snarky Murder Novella, and I’m very glad I did.

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders is part of Aliette de Bodard’s DOMINION OF THE FALLEN series, coming between book three, The House of Sundering Flames, and a fourth book yet to be released. However, it is written to stand on its own; you don’t have to have read any of the previous books. I hadn’t, but I definitely will after this.

Thuan is a dragon (he can shift between dragon and human form). He is returning to his home, the underwater citadel ruled by his aunt, for the Tet holiday. With him is his husband, Asmodeus, a fallen angel. It’s not long before trouble finds them, in the form of a dead body in the palace. Thuan’s cousin, who heads the secret police, enlists him to help investigate. He has certain advantages as a spy; any strange behavior or lapses in protocol will be chalked up to his long absence.

The setting is really cool. It’s a Vietnamese-based underwater palace complex (there’s a bubble around it so land-dwellers can breathe) with coral and algae in the gardens. The court is made up of a variety of aquatic shapeshifters — dragons, orcas, crabs, fish. It’s a progressive society in some ways; gender makes no difference to what positions you can hold or who you can marry. In other ways, it’s stratified and restrictive, not to mention the palace intrigue that Thuan describes as “a nest of hornets.”

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders isn’t really a traditional mystery. Thuan learns pretty quickly who, or at least what faction, committed the murder. The question is less whodunit and more why, in two senses of the word. Why is this group angry? (They have some legitimate grievances.) And why are they doing the specific things they’re doing — what are they trying to accomplish?

At first, Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation because he’d love a chance to make some trouble and stab some folks. Later, though, he decides the danger to Thuan is too great, and he urges a return home to House Hawthorn. Thuan, though, feels obligated to stay and figure it out, and is afraid that failure could mean the deaths of his whole family. This becomes a source of tension between the two.

And now that I’ve made this all sound very serious — and a lot of it is! — it is definitely a Snarky Murder Novella. De Bodard lightens the mood with dry humor. The bond between Thuan and Asmodeus is also a bright spot, as is their commitment to protecting everyone they’ve taken under their wings.

Unsurprisingly, Jana was right, and this was just the thing for a Friday night. You’ll probably like it too, if you enjoy mysteries, court intrigue, sarcasm, and diversity (both in the human sense and in terms of the variety of magical beings portrayed). It has sold me on the DOMINION OF THE FALLEN series, and I plan to read the first book, The House of Shattered Wings, very soon.

Published in July 2020. From the author of the critically acclaimed Dominion of the Fallen trilogy comes a tale of dragons, and Fallen angels—and also kissing, sarcasm and stabbing. Lunar New Year should be a time for familial reunions, ancestor worship, and consumption of an unhealthy amount of candied fruit. But when dragon prince Thuan brings home his brooding and ruthless husband Asmodeus for the New Year, they find not interminable family gatherings, but a corpse outside their quarters. Asmodeus is thrilled by the murder investigation; Thuan, who gets dragged into the political plotting he’d sworn off when he left, is less enthusiastic. It’ll take all of Asmodeus’s skill with knives, and all of Thuan’s diplomacy, to navigate this one—as well as the troubled waters of their own relationship…. A sparkling 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 The House of Sundering Flames. It’s High Gothic meets C-drama in a Vietnamese inspired world—perfect for fans of The Untamed, KJ Charles, and Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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3 comments

  1. Jana, expect a call from me next Friday night.

    • Jana Nyman /

      Callers, I’m listening. All lines are open! :D

      I’m terrible at figuring out what I’m going to read next, but I love helping other people make that decision, haha.

  2. Jana Nyman /

    Kelly, this sounds so fun that I’ll have to track down a copy for myself. I really enjoy de Bodard’s settings, and if she’s also really good at putting a murder-mystery framekwork into place, then I think I’ll enjoy myself quite a lot!

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