|Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders was a brilliant little novella. Despite technically being part of a larger series, it functioned very well as a standalone, touching on concepts from the previous novels while also providing a plot that stood independently.|
The story follows our protagonist, the Vietnamese dragon prince Thuan and his prickly, amoral Fallen Angel husband, Asmodeus. The pair have returned to the palace of Thuan’s childhood to celebrate Lunar New year, and are immediately beset by a twisted web of court intrigue spurred by the mysterious murder of a palace resident.
The action is well-paced and balanced with delightful character interludes–Asmodeus having tense tea with his in-laws, Thuan reminiscing about his childhood in the magnificent underwater palace. The world-building, as is usual in de Bodard’s work–is unparalleled, as she blends together Vietnamese mythology, oceanic imagery, and original ideas to create a setting that bursts with life despite the short length of the story. I also enjoyed the dynamic between Asmodeus and Thuan– though they could stand for some relationship counseling at times. I’m a sucker for relationship where one of the pair is kind and thoughtful and bookish the other is more “stab first, ask questions later” but still fiercely protective of their significant other.
I was also struck by meaning both implicit and explicit captured in such few pages–Thuan’s cognitive dissonance regarding his culture and upbringing in the face of injustice, Van’s bravery despite the horror of her situation, even Asmodeus–sadistic and an awful menace to his enemies in the best of times–is unshakable in purporting the importance of consent and protecting his dependents. All together I found Of Dragons, Feasts, and Murders to be a pleasantly unexpected read that has motivated me to pick up the first ‘Dominion of the Fallen’ novel as soon as possible in order to return to this fascinating world.