25 September, 2012

Review - Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

Downside Girls [US] [UK] is a novella-length collection of four short stories by Jaine Fenn, all of which take place in the universe of Fenn's Hidden Empire series, beginning with Principles of Angels. With a foreword by Alastair Reynolds, I couldn't resist giving this a go.

After reading the first story, I was already extremely interested in this world Fenn's created and convinced to give the main series a go.

"Collateral Damage" - As I said above, I really enjoyed this story. A topsider (upper class) inadvertently spills her drink on an "Angel" (who ended up not quite being what I thought she was having no experience with this world) and a budding friendship ensues. This story was a good setup of the universe and some of its elements including the fact that "Angels" are downsiders (poor/lower class) who act as the justice for the people...i.e. assassins. Angels are also enhanced in ways that make them better (and cooler) assassins. You can't really go wrong for me with this type of story, although there wasn't a whole lot of assassining (It's a real word right? ...No) going on. Instead, this story was a great introduction to the world and had a nice twist. (4/5)

"Death on Elsewhere Street" - Another solid entry into this short short story collection. After running from an Angel (huge no no), mistaking her for a thief, the Angel makes the story's protagonist witness the events that unfold. This one's the shortest of the bunch, but doesn't lack for great storytelling. (4/5)

"Angel Dust" - My favorite and longest of the three connected stories. A downsider's brother ends up with a box that's wanted by all the wrong people. Rival gangs are implicated, angels show up, fighting, and lots of suspense. I couldn't put it down. (4.5/5)

"The Three Temptations of Larnia Mier" - While on par with the rest of the stories in terms of being well-written and captivating, I had a hard time with this particular story. Larnia is involved in an accident that may injure her music career especially due to the fact that her faith prevents her from obtaining any implants that could easily help.

I struggled with The Three Temptations because I didn't feel like religion in general got a fair shake. The guy who's anti-religion in this story makes great points against religion, but what about the other side of the argument? I enjoyed her character, but suddenly this person I thought was completely competent has no ability to defend herself and her beliefs? I'm sorry, but that's just not going to be the case. Not every religious person is a complete idiot (even though plenty act as such).

I feel like the point you're making loses credibility by completely ignoring the other side's argument. (3.5/5)

Overall, this is a great collection that's highly recommended. I will do my best to find more from Jaine Fenn, especially the original series from which these stories stem, although I think they may only be available in the UK at least paper-wise.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

If you're interested in her work, here's what I found:

Hidden Empire series:
Principles of Angels [Amazon]
Consorts of Heaven [Amazon]
Guardians of Paradise [Amazon]
Bringer of Light [Amazon]

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Hmm, this one is all completely new to me, author and stories. Sounds good. Thanks!

Bryce L. said...

Yeah, I think you might enjoy it. I had lots of fun and will definitely be back for more.