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.
Normally, I’m picky about reviewing books in a series. If I’m asked to cover a sequel, I will read the first book as well so I can fully understand how the books function together and what the arc of the series is. In the case of Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances, I haven’t yet read any of the Dominion of the Fallen series; however because this book is a standalone—technically, it’s the sequel to the first book in the spinoff series Dragons and Blades, Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders—I figured it would be fine to break my own rule. Turns out, that was an excellent choice.
True to its claim, Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances is a solid standalone story. Aliette de Bodard does a good job of both explaining enough to keep new readers like me fully engaged and not quite enough to leave us enticed to want to pick up the other books in the series. This is a fascinating world unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The entire novella takes place in a slowly decaying underwater dragon kingdom where shapeshifting dragon Thuan, his husband Asmodeus the fallen angel, and their precocious children stumble upon a murder mystery. To save a dying ghost they must discover who has been killing worshippers at an abandoned shrine, but first they’ll have to survive magical attacks from a hidden enemy.
Thuan and Asmodeus’ relationship is the real draw here. Aliette centers consent and empathy in her characters, and I appreciated how she showed the two men actively working on those aspects in their marriage. Real relationships take effort and patience. While Asmodeus’ intensity and Thuan’s compassion sometimes clash, they always find a way to get back to each other.
Romantic, compelling, and lushly descriptive, Of Charms, Ghosts and Grievances is a great addition to your Pride Month reading list.