Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders is a Vietnamese inspired fantasy that takes place after the third book in Dominion of the Fallen, though it’s easy to read as a standalone as I myself did. Aliette de Bodard struck an excellent balance of writing an easy entry point to the series while also referencing worldbuilding aspects and past occurrences that (I assume) serve as Easter eggs for those who have read the previous trilogy and as a motivation to do so for those (like me) who have not.
The only major thing I felt I was missing in reading this as a standalone is the manner of the relationship between Thuan and Asmodeus. (Did they marry for love or politics? How long have they been together?) But this only made me more intrigued by their interactions. Thuan and Asmodeus fall under the adage of “opposites attract,” one being a bookish dragon prince and the other rather stabby fallen angel. Their snarky disagreements and distrustfulness are underlain with loyalty and concern, and this dynamic was made even more entertaining by de Bodard’s skill with dialogue.
This novella has a steady pace but not a great deal of suspense considering that mystery is central to the plot. To me, the consequences of failing to solve the mystery felt a bit abstract, primarily impacting a lot of people that we’ve never met rather than our protagonists. Yet, I was impressed by the subtlety of right and wrong that was brought to light through the investigation. As Thuan and Asmodeus encounter a number of different perspectives, they realize just how delicate a balance the court is maintaining, and that more than one side has a valid grievance.
If you have yet to read Dominion of the Fallen, this 80-page novella is great way to try out de Bodard’s writing before committing to a full novel. It’s also a great read if you’re not interested the trilogy but do feel up for a delightful murder mystery interspersed with romance and political intrigue.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.