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Principles of Angels [Paperback]

Jaine Fenn
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 Jun 2008

Khesh City floats above the surface of the uninhabitable planet of Vellern. Topside, it's extravagant, opulent, luxurious; the Undertow is dark, twisted and dangerous. Khesh City is a place where nothing is forbidden - but it's also a democracy, of sorts, a democracy by assassination, policed by the Angels, the élite, state-sponsored killers who answer only to the Minister, their enigmatic master.

Taro lived with Malia, his Angel aunt, one of the privileged few, until a strange man bought his body for the night, then followed him home and murdered Malia in cold blood. Taro wants to find the killer who ruined his future, but he's struggling just to survive in the brutal world of the Undertow. Then an encounter with the Minister sets him on a new course, spying for the City; his target is a reclusive Angel called Nual.

Elarn Reen is a famous musician, sent to Khesh City as the unwilling agent of mankind's oldest enemy, the Sidhe. To save her own life, she must find and kill her ex-lover, a renegade Sidhe.

Though they come from different worlds, Taro and Elarn's fates are linked, their lives apparently forfeit to other people's schemes. As their paths converge, it becomes clear that the lives of everyone in Khesh City, from the majestic, deadly Angels to the barely-human denizens of the Undertow, are at risk. And Taro and Elarn, a common prostitute and an uncommon singer, are Khesh City's only chance . . .

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (19 Jun 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575082925
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575082922
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 14.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,335,206 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jaine Fenn is a British author, mainly of science fiction, who practices a small but evenly balanced number of virtues and vices. She studied linguistics and astronomy before going on to work in IT, an experience which left her with a distrust of technology unusual in an SF writer.

After having a number of short stories professionally published in the early noughties, she turned her writing virtue/vice into a career when her first novel was picked up by Gollancz in 2007.

The Hidden Empire series are far future SF, with each book telling a discrete story which contributes to the overall plot.

Product Description


In her first novel, Jaine Fenn has created a vivid and unusual world, populated by an interesting array of characters. A promising start. (Lisa Tuttle THE TIMES)

Fenn manages to put her own stamp on some familiar genre elements, enough to make this a genuinely promising debut (Faren Miller LOCUS)

"The plot speeds along, the dialogue is sharp... British debut author Fenn's future dystopia may contain some overly familiar elements but it's mighty promising nonetheless." (Dave Golder BBC FOCUS)

"What initially plays as a slow-burning blend of murder mystery and hard sci-fi (with an added dash of China Mieville's gritty sense of urban energy) is soon expanding in scale and taking on some highly intriguing concepts. Fenn's debut novel is an impressive piece of work and adds another name to the list of SF and fantasy authors worth watching." (Saxon Bullock SFX)

"Fenn shows considerable promise with this debut. Well paced, with a satisfying number of twists and turns to hold your interest and characters are well drawn, ensuring you care enough about them to keep reading. This is an accomplished first novel from an author who bears watching." (Steve Robinson DEATHRAY)

"The novel reads as a thriller, short and punchy with clear prose and authentic characterisation. This is an enjoyable debut." (BRUM SF GROUP NEWSLETTER)

The politics and social mores of Chesh are well-defined and surprisingly interesting...Given that it's a first novel, that bodes rather well for the future. (SF REVU)

Jaine Fenn adroitly creates a richly detailed future world populated by some colorful and intriguing characters. Fenn is adept at keeping the action moving. There are many fine fight scenes, changes of locale, and cliff-hanging ends of chapters. Fenn also possesses a strong gift for vibrant description: the clothing, architecture, and interiors of dwellings are conveyed with a keen visual sense. Principles of Angels is a fun read, and a well written first novel. (SCI-FI DIMENSIONS)

"Principles of Angels offers a meaty science fantasy. It has a soundly structured plot, is well written and engages the senses. Angels is founded on social commentary but offers no prescription. Written in an urgent and compelling style, if you simply want a fast-paced, well imagined sci-fi read, you'll enjoy it." (Beth Webb MSLEXIA)

"Jaine Fenn is a potential star in the making." (SF CROWSNEST)

An artfully engineered plot, flawed but compelling characters and a fascinating setting make for an entertaining first novel. (Eric Brown GUARDIAN)

I found myself really enjoying this slice of ¿low-tech¿ sci-fi and its hints of further developments in the future have got me looking forward to what Jaine Fenn comes up with next. (GRAEME'S FANTASY REVIEW)

"New author Jaine Fenn really doesn¿t pull punches in her dark look at the future of mankind in this tale where Dark City meets Bladerunner and one of the cheapest commodities is life. This really is Science Fiction at its best with risks that only a new author will take." (FALCATTA TIMES)

Book Description

A fast and furious debut from a stunning new SF talent: a woman playing in a man's world - and showing them how it's done!

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has me slightly puzzled, because now I've managed to escape from its clutches and stop checking for... no, to tell you what it made me scared of would be a spoiler... anyway, now I've got "out" of it, it's hard to analyse what made it so gripping.

We have an ancient man-made (er, sentient-made) space city, all luxury on top and slums in the sewers/recycling mechanism. Nothing new there, standard cliche of either SF or fantasy. Tribe culture in the underworld - check. Gritty references to food and water from recycling - check. Of our two heros, one is a youngster in the underworld who has recently lost his protector, the other is a wealthy newcomer to the entire world who can therefore receive explanations that also explain things to the reader. Check, check. (Though I notice that many of these things are cliches I'm more used to meeting in fantasy than in SF). There are other cliches later on, too, mainly about alien powers and what the climax consists of, but I'll refrain from spoilers.

The Angels of the title are state-sponsored assassins. Now, that's new. This is a democracy by assassination: for a politician, failing is a very bad idea. You may "win" the vote to be Removed. We get a look at the concept from the viewpoint of victim, of assassin, and of audience. It's well-thought out, it's different, and the consequences have been thought through.

What else is different? Well, that young hero is a male prostitute - by choice. For once, this subject gets treated in a refreshingly non-hysterical fashion.

I think what gripped me, though, was the characterisation. Both heroes, and many of the other characters, are sympathetic people. They're not idiots, but they do have human flaws.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real Fun on the Run 7 July 2008
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
New author Jaine Fenn really doesn't pull punches in her dark look at the future of mankind in this tale where Dark City meets Bladerunner and one of the cheapest commodities is life.

Well written with an almost classical class of characters the reader is treated to a story within a story as the characters each struggle to find their own way in this dangerous world only to end up discovering that through cooperation do they stand any chance of success as the tale builds up to a climatic finish that no one will see coming. This really is Science Fiction at its best with risks that only a new author will take allowing the reader to see a world in vivid colour against the backdrop of a power struggle for societies elite using the denizens of the undercity as pawns in a masterful game of political court chess where even a pawn can become King. If you're looking for something different to many books out there, this one truly does stand on its own two feet and will more than entertain.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A promising debut. 25 May 2009
Khesh City is a place of two halves, in a society with a history. It's one of the three government centres in an uneasy alliance of human societies that exist some time after the ending of the dominance of humainty by the alien Sidhe (hint; it's pronounced 'Shee', as in 'Banshee'). Only the Sidhe aren't as defeated as everyone would like to think, and when a singer arrives in Khesh City with more than performances on her mind, the City's semi-despotic ruler conscripts one of the underworld's rent-boys to aid one of his own Angel assassins in uncovering a plot that could doom them all.

This book is definitely one for grown-ups, including as it does a prostitute main character, and numerous passages you wouldn't want your child or granny to read. But in my view that's made for a bold debut. This book could have been written in a sanitised form, and wouldn't have had half as much integrity. I like a sci-fi story that treats its reader like an adult, and refuses to have its hands tied by the desire to please everyone - it's an easy trap for a genre book to fall into, and I admire Fenn for having boldly begun her career with her integrity intact. Word on the grapevine is that Fenn has secured a three book deal, and the hardback edition of the sequel to this book is about to hit the stores as I type.
The only reservation I have with this book is that it's quite obviously the first in a series. Self-contained though the story may be to an extent, it loses some of its impact for me by being an obvious 'first book' in a (presumed) trilogy. Having said that, I do intend to buy the next book, so obviously I'm able to get past that.
My hope also is that Fenn matures as writer as ther series moves on - this book, for all it's boldness, is a 'first book' in another way too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mysteries, murder and airtight plotting 18 July 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Confidence and assurance are vital for the debut SF novelist. Standards these days are high: the new writer who wishes to be taken seriously has to juggle atmosphere, individuality, plot and characters and make them more than the sum of their parts. She has to do this on a first outing, and eschew a safety net.
Jaine Fenn's confidence is well-founded.
Principles of Angels presents its setting through the eyes of outsiders: a stranger, and a prostitute. One doesn't understand the city; the other knows limited aspects far too well, and spends the whole story reeling between traumas. Describing a strange society through these lenses is hard, but Fenn manages to keep the reader on-track, seemingly effortlessly.
The plot grows naturally from the setting's details, and its revelation is skilfully managed; the characters' perspectives are one of Fenn's major tools in this trick, and allow her to keep the reader under control. Control? Yes. A reader has an advantage over the characters in a mystery story: he knows that there is a story, and will look for it. If the reader is indulged in this way, the characters have to fail to notice many of the implications of their knowledge and experience, and so they have to act like Hollywood idiots. It's an infuriating habit of lazy writers, and Fenn goes to a lot of well-concealed work to avoid it.
The result is a very deft and nicely layered mystery, on multiple levels, that resolves itself fully through heroism, and manages to leave survivors to populate sequels. Read it, and expect Fenn to get even better soon.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Fenn borrows much from Ian M.Banks, but can't put it together...
Jaine Fenn is trying to emulate Ian M.Banks / China Mieville, but instead overloads the reader with lots of concepts which she then doesn't bother to explain, leaving the reader to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Mr. David Moore
3.0 out of 5 stars Good stuff
It's taken me a long while to fish this out of my `to be read' pile. At the time it was a debut novel but now the author has delivered a few more novels. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Nick Brett
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent start
Just wanted to say that this is an excellent opening book, the characters are strong and interesting, some of the story is slow paced but worth sticking with as the book... Read more
Published 12 months ago by KJH Slayer
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong debut
Khesh City floats above the uninhabitable surface of the planet Vellern. It is a city of contrasts, with the rich and powerful living on the luxurious surface and the poor and... Read more
Published on 18 Jun 2012 by A. Whitehead
4.0 out of 5 stars Angelic Host of Adventure and Excitement
I met Jaine Fenn at Bristolcon, where she was the sole female science fiction writer speaking on the various panels. Read more
Published on 6 May 2012 by sjhigbee
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather good debut
I saw a review of a later book in the same 'Hidden Empires' series, and thought this was worth trying. Read more
Published on 15 Sep 2011 by Mrs. Pauline M. Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good for a first book
I bought this as a Kindle book - the first I'd bought in fact. I found it a little confusing in places but this may have been down to the Kindle conversion from the typed word. Read more
Published on 21 Feb 2011 by Zippy
5.0 out of 5 stars Review - Principles of Angels
Principles of Angels combines a convoluted plot, with unexpected twists, multi-dimensional characters,and a complex, and unique, setting. Read more
Published on 14 Sep 2010 by Dr. W. L. Lyon
4.0 out of 5 stars What a nice surprise
I really did not expect much from this book. The blurb did not do the book justice and I almost did not bother after the first chapter. Read more
Published on 11 Jan 2010 by Robert
4.0 out of 5 stars A noteworthy 1st novel for an exciting new scifi author.
I would have to say I really enjoyed this book, Ms Fenn writes with a flair and passion that made me want to turn page after page quickly. Read more
Published on 26 Sep 2009 by Mr. A. J. D. White
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