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Principles of Angels

(Hidden Empire #1)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  42 reviews
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. A place where nothing is forbidden, Khesh City is also a democracy, of sorts, policed by the Angels—elite, state-sponsored killers who answer only to their enigmatic master, the Minister. Taro lived a privil ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Gollancz
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Raj To answer my own question after someone loaned me this book: it's perfectly standalone. It leaves space for a sequel, but the main plot in definitely …moreTo answer my own question after someone loaned me this book: it's perfectly standalone. It leaves space for a sequel, but the main plot in definitely wrapped up in this book.(less)

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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Sarah Newton
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Fenn writes a story that's universal - its science-fiction elements are cool, transhuman, edgy, but like all good sf her concern is to show how *different* human beings have become in this distant future. It's full of the unusual, the world depicted slightly out-of-kilter, garnished with an expert handling of language. As a linguist, I'm always sensitive to portrayals of slang, jargon, swearing, etc, and in that respect Principles of Angels is a delight - the street argot of the ...more
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2015
The alien city of Khesh is the only habitable part of the planet of Vellern. It is a city of two halves; the Topside is luxurious and peaceful part; the Undertow is dark, and full of danger. It is partly democratic, but is ruled by the Minister who exercise control with his Angels, an elite race of assassins.

Taro used to live in the privileged Topside, or did until a man who he had spent the night with followed hime home and killed his Aunt, an Angel. Now he is struggling to survive in the Under
Aug 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2017
I read 25% of the book....and could not take it anymore.
Sorry, this SF writer is not for me.
Fenn pales in comparison to Ursula Le Guin.
I'm moving on to James Tiptree jr pen name for
Alice Bradley Sheldon (1915-1987)
My search continues for ....great SF books!
Pauline Ross
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
I saw a review of a later book in the same 'Hidden Empires' series, and thought this was worth trying. Each book is an independent story, but they are all set in the same world/universe and later there is some overlap of characters. The genre is science fiction, but with a fantasy feel about it, at least for this book.

I have to admit to a certain ambivalence about this book. The setting - a decadent city with a violently seedy underworld, and a protagonist just barely surviving on the margins of
Adam Whitehead
Apr 16, 2017 rated it liked it
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 i
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This story takes place on the planet Vellern, where people live high above the ground in a city called Khesh. The main protagonists are Elarn (a singer from Khathryn), Taro (a young man living with his aunt, who is an Angel),Nual (aka Lia) (an Angel- a government sanctioned political assassin) and the Minister (who runs the City). They encounter Scarrion (a brutal bodyguard), Salik Vidoran (a political official), Limnel (a crime boss), Solo (an alien who runs a bar), Meraint (a scrupulous inform ...more
Jan 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
I didn't finish this so should not really "count" it in my reads. It was a book group book and I decided quite early on that I did not like it, and so stopped. As sci fi goes I thought it was poor, I shall try another sci fi soon though. ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it did not like it
I did not finish this book. It started out okay and then went downhill from there.
Michael Botterill
May 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's a slightly slow start, but it's an excellent story, with an interesting use of language.

You get a lot of information about the city, but what I love is that at no point do you have a huge infodump, it comes quite naturally to you, which is the mark of a talented writer.

Well worth coming back to.
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Thought I'd reread a favourite Space Opera on my holidays this year.
Things I'd remembered. Knife fights and x-ray maser rifles. Politics by flying assasins, and a city laid radially by sin (I really want to see their zoning commission meetings).
Things I'd forgotten. The details of life in a gang in the undertow. It's really not a nice life down there!
Rebecca Davenport
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Fell into a wonderful pit of compelling characters and mysterious plot. If you enjoy the world, I would thoroughly recommend the sequels - you'll learn more about the Angels and the mysterious, sinister Sidhe... ...more
Kaine Beveridge
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really solid piece of Sci-fi, good characters and interesting concepts. would always recommend.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a well written book - at least as far as I've read - but I found it too brutal for my taste. I loved Consorts of Heaven and will certainly read some of her other books. ...more
Nick Ray
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oct 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this read. It's a nice blend of SciFi and fantasy.
Once I was able to concentrate solely on this novel, I found myself absorbed by it. The different characters had distinctly different voices. Jaine Fenn did a wonderful job of drawing these characters, making them stand out from each other. I also enjoyed the dialog (one of my pet peeves) - found each character's way of speech consistant and "fitting" each person. Written in third person - I also found the narration interesting
Espana Sheriff
The overall setting was pretty interesting, and worth exploring but curiously for a book set in a thousand-year old city full of ancient tech and related mysteries, it wasn't until the very end that the city itself felt real or alive to me, before that it suffered from being seen from the perspectives of the two POV characters, one of whom doesn't live in the city proper and the other is newly arrived and not particularly enamored with the place, the result felt a bit sketchy and superficial for ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy, 2013
When I saw Queen of Nowhere at a local bookshop, Fenn's latest, I was intrigued enough to track down the first instalment in the Hidden Empire sequence, having never read her before.

Women SF writers are particularly celebrated for creating some of the best novel series out there - one only has to think of Ursula K, LeGuin, C.J. Cherryh and Steph Swainston.

I practically gulped Principles of Angels down. It is a white-hot read, expertly paced, with a truly fascinating premise and set-up. Also, Fen
Mar 02, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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 g
Erica Anderson
I have mixed feelings about this book. There was a lot to enjoy--some really interesting ideas, good characterization of the protagonist, well-drawn setting. But several things weren't explained sufficiently to satisfy me. For example, there is a character called the "Screamer", but it isn't until the last quarter of the book that the name is explained. Similarly, the setting is a 'democracy by assassination.' This is a fascinating concept, but I wanted to know much more about it and the author ...more
Andreea Pausan
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting construction. On Kesh, a city suspended above an inhabitable planet, you have citizens, living topside and outcasts, making a dangerous and precarious living in maze stretched under the city disk. Kesh is a city where 3 races rule through Concord, a special form of politics enforced by sanctioned murder. The hunts and public executions, highly attractive for tourists from all over the Galaxy, are carried our by Angels, ruthless assassins who everybody looks up to. Taro is a pros ...more
Fast sf adventure in an orbital city where official assassination by public vote keeps politicians on their toes.

But Kheesh City has many mysteries and when an Underworld urchin loses his Angel aunt - Angels are mostly female state assassins that have implants allowing them to fly - to an offworld Screamer - those are assassins from an allied/rival orbital city that can kill with their voice - and when a classical singer from a theocratic backwater visits Keesh ostensibly for a tour, age old s
Adrian Leaf
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
A distant future Sci Fi thriller set on a floating city with an unusual and twisted political set up. Far from being Hard Sci Fi, it is more interested in the characters and morally grey areas than huge mind expanding concepts. A rather strange world is set up in this book, and an intriguing universe, it is almost 'New Weird' in style and feel. At first it seems a bit on the nose and cliched, what with the ruling elite living high in the city in opulence and the poor literally shovelling shit in ...more
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
I wanted to get excited but I just couldn't. I thought the world building was impressive and original and I liked the pace of the book, but, I couldn't engage with the characters. If they were not having this adventure they were not people I would want to read about. Taro had a privileged background and chose to become a hooker, and for some reason drops his H's and says aint a lot which really bugged me. I really wished they had signposts in the Undertow. Elarn was naive and there was a scene w ...more
Jul 31, 2013 rated it liked it
At some point in this book my brain went kind of offline, because I couldn't understand the descriptions of the locales. I think it was because I had just finished reading Gravity by Tess Gerritsen; the writing in that book is very clear and sharp, almost clinical; in Principles of Angels, the feeling of the writing is very ephemeral, and floaty.

I don't think that's a bad thing, though.

The storyline itself was very interesting, though, and I like the presentation of the Angels. I had the feelin
I'm honestly not sure what to make of this book. It wasn't bad but it also wasn't very engaging. I kept losing interest and it was hard to keep reading at times.

Principles of Angels had some very interesting worldbuilding ideas and was very good at some points but it was also confusing at other times. A lot of the fictional terms used in the book were barely explained and even near the end I wasn't sure what some of them meant. While I liked Taro a lot and rooted for him through the story, I'm
Guy Robinson
Feb 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf
Starting from the shanty town built on the underside of the floating Khesh City, Taro is forced to confront the inner workings of a city that excluded him and where he has always had very little choice of what he can sell in order to stay alive.

This book features "democracy by assassination", a complex and layered city with cultural as well as political needs and a window onto the wider universe that features in books by Jaine Fenn.
Pippa Jay
Oct 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I loved the world-building in this although it came a little too much and too fast at the start. A touch of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere thrust into space, with the not-so-fairytale Sidhe lurking behind the exterior of an artificial city, where Angels are agents of death rather than mercy and you show your true colours in your hair. Some wonderful descriptions in this with a handful of tortured characters to explore. ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Obviously a well thought-out setting but somehow I never got the feeling of it actually being alive - the few main characters could be the only people in the world for all I could tell. The plot moved so slowly I was a good two-thirds of the way through the book before I realised I wasn't still reading the prologue. Characters two-dimensional at best, prose undescriptive and failed to convey emotion. Altogether a few interesting ideas but otherwise nothing special. ...more
Mark Cheverton
May 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
A solid adventure novel, interweaving the characters nicely towards a satisfying climax. If it did have a weakness I'd say that the main characters rapid slip into doe eyed love with its attendant blindness to the obvious was annoying. However, the other key characters were well drawn and believable.

However, I think it will be a book I will forget quite quickly. I certainly enjoyed reading it, but was left with the feeling that it didn't really do anything new.
James Hoff
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
For the first 50 pages or so, I thought this book might be a bit of a letdown. Although Taro's story was dark and compelling, Elarn's just wasn't doing anything for me. This all changed abruptly as the author kicked in the turbo chargers. Wow, was I glad I persevered. Here, I don't want to give away too much. But suffice to say that it weaves an expansive group of characters into a seamless, insanely fast-paced SF action thriller. Once it got rolling, I could't stop reading. Excellent. ...more
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Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it's also far harder to track down. Jaine Fenn has had numerous short stories professionally published, some of which appear in the collection 'Downside Girls' and has won the British Science Fiction Association Short Fiction award. Her Hidden Empire space opera sequence, published by Gollancz, starts with the novel 'Principles of Angels'. Her Shadowlands sc ...more

Other books in the series

Hidden Empire (5 books)
  • Consorts of Heaven
  • Guardians of Paradise
  • Bringer Of Light
  • Queen of Nowhere (Hidden Empire, #5)

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