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Principles of Angels Hardcover – 19 Jun 2008

4.1 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz (19 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575082917
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575082915
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,688,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Jaine Fenn is a potential star in the making.--"SF Crowsnest"

"A vivid and unusual world, populated by an interesting array of characters." "The Times""

"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 . . . impressive . . . adds another name to the list of SF and fantasy authors worth watching." "SFX""

"Jaine Fenn is a potential star in the making. "SF Crowsnest"" --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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By A. Whitehead TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Jun. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 downtrodden forced to live in the Undertow. The city is a democracy by assassination, where unpopular politicians can be removed by official killers known as Angels. When an Angel is brutally murdered, it falls to her nephew, Taro, to learn the reasons why.

Principles of Angels, the debut novel by Jaine Fenn and the first in her loosely-linked Hidden Empire sequence, is a far-future SF novel centred on two contrasting protagonists: Taro, a male prostitute trying to avenge his murdered aunt, and Elarn, a high-class singer who has been blackmailed into travelling to the city to commit a heinous crime. Taro lives in an underworld of crime and exploitation, but is idealistic, which leads him into becoming an agent for the Minister, the city's enigmatic ruler. Elarn is a more civilised character, out to do the right thing but trapped in a situation not of her own making, one which could have severe repercussions for the entire human race. Other major characters include the Minister himself, the Angel Nual and detective/info-broker Meraint. Fenn does an effective job of distinguishing and motivating these individuals, although the focus is firmly on the two main characters (who alternate POV chapters for much of the novel).

A thousand years before the events of the novel, mankind was ruled by an alien species, the Sidhe. Humanity broke free of their control and apparently destroyed them but, as the title of the series indicates, this may not be the case. Fenn does a good job of filling us in on this backstory by seeding the information into the text naturally, not relying on info-dumps.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I met Jaine Fenn at Bristolcon, where she was the sole female science fiction writer speaking on the various panels. I had a chance to chat to her during the evening and made a mental note to get hold of her writing. I'm very glad I did, as her debut novel on my Kindle made a long train journey zip by in a blur of excitement and action.

So... this floating city with the privileged living a vastly better life than the underclass who - literally - struggle for survival under their feet - is it convincing and does it rise above the inevitable clichéd feel of that description? Yes - in my opinion it certainly does. And I've been startled to read some really unpleasant, sneering reviews about this book. What places it outside the norm for this genre is that Principles of Angels is completely character-driven. Perhaps the omission of a limited omniscient info-dump is perplexing some of those reviewing the book. Well, it's fine with me - I happen to think one of the reasons why Fantasy is currently trampling Science Fiction underfoot, is that the majority of best-selling Fantasy authors write punchy, character-led stories which readers find accessible and engrossing. And a large number of Science Fiction writers don't...

Fenn drops her readers right into the middle of the action in Taro's viewpoint as he battles for his life - his character sings off the pages from the start and continues to sparkle right through the book. He survives as a prostitute and while Fenn doesn't flinch from showing us the seamy underbelly of such a trade, at no time does she slide into gratuitous detail. Overall, I felt the world-building was strong and convincing - we see slices of Khesh City from both above and below and I particularly liked Taro's disorientation when he reaches Topside.
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