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on 24 July 2015
As is apparent from the back cover blurb, this book veers away from the regular protagonists we have been following to date. Instead, solitary data-hacker genius Bez takes centre stage. I really enjoyed her spiky, paranoid personality as she tries to stay one step ahead from the authorities while fighting the Hidden Empire. Fenn pitches us right into the middle of the action from the beginning of the book, with the tension pinging off the page. Bez is not remotely cosy or particularly approachable and to make me care so much for her so quickly is a harder trick to pull off than Fenn makes it look.
That said, if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the Hidden Empire series, then don’t be afraid to jump aboard. While there is a considerable backstory, and you would clearly benefit from reading the other four excellent books, Fenn’s writing is too slick and accomplished to leave her readers flailing around in confusion. I also enjoyed the fact that despite the epic nature of the story, which spans a number of worlds light years apart, Fenn manages to mostly keep the focus trained on a small handful of characters, thus raising the stakes for the reader.
And the stakes are high, because like a growing number of speculative fiction authors, Fenn isn’t afraid to kill off major characters. I stayed up reading far later than I’d intended to discover what happened next. And yes, there are some big surprises along the way – and not all of them are happy ones. Did I see the finale coming? No, but I wasn’t overly surprised when it did. And I’m really looking forward to seeing where this interesting series is going to go next – because, being Fenn, this could go anywhere.
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on 10 May 2014
Review based on an ARC, supplied by the publisher.

I generally don’t like coming in in the middle of a series, and this is book five of Jaine Fenn’s ‘Hidden Empire’ series, so I contacted the author and was assured that ‘Queen of Nowhere’ was a stand-alone novel within the series.
Bez is a somewhat paranoid character, but then she has reasons to be. She’s fighting a secret war against a malign alien influence that was thought to have been long dead. Humankind had suffered the oppression of the Sidhe for millennia, but they were finally defeated a thousand years ago. Now few people believe they are still around, but they are. They can look like us, and they have agents placed in key positions all through human ruled space.
Bez, a supremely talented hacker, works alone. She has agents who supply her with intel, but these agents don’t know who she is, or even exactly what cause they’re working for. None of them even know Bez’ real name, as she has created dozens of aliases, fully realised identities, with their own backgrounds. She is the classic underground spy, working without any government backup, breaking laws to survive.
This is how Bez likes it. Her life is dangerous, but as long as she is careful, she might just survive long enough to see the Sidhe influence eradicated completely.
Then things start to go out of control. The only person she has ever trusted with her real identity and the details of her mission may not be trustworthy after all. And who is this person, who reveals himself to be not only aware of who she is and what she’s doing, but claims to have been helping her in the background all along?
While it certainly worked as a stand-alone story, it definitely made me want to pick up the previous four volumes to fill in more details of the background. If I force myself to be critical, I would say that it gets a little slow in the middle, but that genuinely is me trying my best to pick fault with a very enjoyable book.
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The Sidhe, who once enslaved and ruled all of humanity, have returned and inserted themselves into key positions of power right across human-controlled space. Only a few are aware of their return, and the data expert Bez is working hard to bring about their downfall. Her plan requires perfect timing, the recruitment of trustworthy allies and, if necessary, blackmail. But when her strongest ally apparently betrays her, Bez is left to face the Sidhe alone.

Queen of Nowhere is the fifth novel in the Hidden Empire sequence. This sequence is interesting because it tries to be a fairly tightly-serialised space opera whilst trying to make each book a stand-alone, with the focus moving between different groups of characters. Queen of Nowhere brings Bez, a fairly minor character in the earlier books, into sharp relief (Jarek, Taro and Nual, our 'regular' protagonists, are relegated to bit-players in Bez's story). Compared to the frequent point of view changes and shifting between planets of the previous volume, Bringer of Light, Queen of Nowhere benefits from a tight focus on Bez and her storyline.

That said, Queen of Nowhere also depicts events on a fairly large scale, some of them happening many light-years from where Bez is. The book's structure intercuts between Bez and brief scenes on other planets as members of Bez's network get ready for the decisive moment of action and their enemies try to protect themselves. It's an efficient structure which helps get across a big story in a modest page count.

Fenn's biggest weakness - her fairly prosaic, indifferent prose style - has been addressed, with more colour and strangeness in her descriptions. A visit to a planet with both segregation of the genders but also a relaxed attitude to sex is fairly vividly described. Her characterisation has also taken a big step forwards. Bez may be the most compelling protagonist Fenn has created so far, her very ordinariness and lack of material resources (despite her immense data-mining abilities) or superpowers being contrasted against Fenn's more familiar characters. Action sequences are handled with skill and there's a general feeling of improvement across the board.

The main weakness is that this is part of a series, despite the author's attempts to make things approachable for a newcomer. Indeed, newcomers may be frustrated by what they'll see as deus ex machina (such as Taro and Nual's Angel powers) whilst long-term readers may be disappointed by a lack of development on dangling plot threads from earlier in the series. The 'greater threat' which even dwafs the Sidhe and was introduced in Guardians of Paradise goes completely unmentioned, and there's certainly the feeling in the book's conclusion that we still have some way to go to reach the endgame, despite some elements being wrapped up in this volume.

Queen of Nowhere (***½) is, by a whisker, Fenn's best novel to date.
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on 28 August 2015
Really enjoyed reading this. I'm not sure whether it's the last in the series but it ties up most of the loose ends of the current plotline to do with the Sidhe but the last chapter hints at something which could be taken further. There's a greater sense of scale here, Bez, the main character moves from hub to hub a fair bit as well as chapters written from other points of view. Speaking of Bez, she's hard to like at first with lots of sharp edges but Fenn gives you lots of insight into why she is the way she is without bogging the story down with lots of exposition. There's a lot going on at once and sometimes it's hard to keep track of where something is happening but it all comes together for a very satisfying end to the book.
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Jaine Fenn is one of those authors that knows how to weave a story for the reader whilst maintaining the integrity of the overall arc with her hidden agenda. Here, in the fifth outing is a story that continues the war against the Sidhe as our intrepid heroine takes on the alien in her own techno-savvy way.

As usual the prose directs your journey with some wonderful interludes, solid pace and when backed with the authors own unique writing style really keeps you going. All round another success in the series although I still think my favourite is the original.
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on 2 March 2015
Cant wait for the next one
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on 18 August 2013
I have really enjoyed Jaine Fenn's previous books in this series but am finding this really slow and boring, it does not seem to be going anywhere and I am 2/3rds of the way through, hopefully it will all become clear if I ever get around to finishing it.
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on 6 August 2013
This book only adds to my enjoyment of good sci-fi writing, keep up the good work, Look forward to reading more.
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