Principles of Angels

By Jaine Fenn

Rating: 3 stars

I enjoyed Fenn’s Downside Girls, the collection of short stories set in the Hidden Empires series, of which Principles of Angels is the first. This, however, didn’t grab me a huge amount. The plot follows two main characters: Taro is the adopted son of the Angel Malia, who was murdered by the man who bought his body for the night; and Elern Reen is a musician who comes to Khesh City on behalf of a group that everyone thinks died out centuries ago to kill an Angel.

I found the book very slow to get started. The two strands are almost entirely separate until close to the end, when Taro and Elern finally meet, although their stories do overlap occasionally around the edges. I really wasn’t hugely interested for a good chunk of the book, not finding it bad, it just didn’t grab me. It got more exciting towards the end and there’s a lot of good ideas in there, but it did feel a little like everything was thrown at the wall to see what would stick: floating city; divided society; state assassins; secret hidden enemies; aliens; and more that would constitute spoilers. I’m probably not going to bother too much in searching out more of the Hidden Empire books.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575083295
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2008

Downside Girls

By Jaine Fenn

Rating: 4 stars

This is a small collection of four short stories set in Fenn’s ‘Hidden Empire’ universe. The first three stories all directly involve Angels, the official assassins of the City, while the last focuses on a musician and only references them indirectly. I’ve not actually read anything else by Fenn, but she’s going to be a Guest of Honour at Satellite 5 so I thought I should read something that she’s written before the con and I enjoyed the collection quite a lot.

Fenn is excellent at both storytelling and worldbuilding without exposition. Despite it never really being mentioned, I picked up a fair bit about the City that the stories are set in, and I enjoyed reading about this city whose elected officials all have a Sword of Damocles hanging over them. If they fail to do what is expected of them, the Angels carry out “the will of the people” and “remove” them from public life. Permanently. The three linked stories see a few characters recurring, from the newly appointed Angel, Malia, to the shadowy Minister, the master of the Angels.

Collateral Damage starts with a newly appointed Angel and an accidental friendship that she strikes up with a woman in a bar and deals with love and betrayal. Death on Elsewhere Street has a downsider getting accidentally involved with a “removal” and the repercussions that she has to deal with following it. The final linked story, Angel Dust sees a young downsider have to complete a mission for a wounded Angel to the Minister himself. This is probably the widest in scope of the three stories, the one that gives us more than a very narrow view of the City and whets the appetite the most.

The fourth story, The Three Temptations of Larnier Mier shows us a musician who was injured while witnessing a removal and who must decide between her career and her faith. I found this one somewhat less interesting than the Angel stories. Perhaps I was hoping for a different outcome, but you can never entirely win with religion.

I enjoyed the collection a lot, and I’m intrigued now to read Principles of Angels, the book from which these stories are spun off. However, I’m somewhat put off after discovering that that is the first in a series that currently spans five books, and it’s not clear if it’s finished or not. I don’t know if I want to commit to yet another ongoing series, but that’s a question that I can perhaps put to Fenn at the con :).

Oh, and I’m still not entirely sure if the cover art is fantastic or awful.

Book details

ISBN: 9781909016170
Publisher: Monico
Year of publication: 2012

Powered by WordPress