Sublime cities: the metropolis as gateway to the past- A comparative reading of The House of Shattered Wings and City of Stairs
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In Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Shattered Wings (2015) and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs (2014) the metropolis used to be at the center of a wealthy and powerful Colonial Empire. With the decline of the empires, both cities have fallen to ruins. The cities remains effectively function as an archive to the past for the characters in the novel, and allows them to interact with both the physical and ethereal remains of the past. In both novels, contemporary events force the characters to uncover the hidden past, which leads to the past manifesting itself in the presence. For The House of Shattered Wings the past manifests itself as a Gothic haunting in the form of a spectral tree, while in City of Stairs mythological creatures from the past manifest themselves physically and pose an immediate and violent threat. These interactions with the past allow the characters to negotiate the future. The metropolis in City of Stairs will be rebuilt while Paris in The House of Shattered Wings will remain unhealed.