Downside Girls by Jaine Fenn

(8.5/10)

Having read and loved all but the most recent book of the Hidden Empire series (Queen of Nowhere is waiting on my TBR pile), I couldn't wait to grab a copy of this novella length anthology, with four stories set in the familiar setting of Kesh – home of the Angels. Not only did it expand on a fascinating world and set of characters, but also some background to the two main characters from Principles of Angels, the first book in the Hidden Empire series. For me, I really enjoy tie-ins like this that help build a bigger picture of the author’s universe, and I appreciated the chance to glimpse into the origins of some of the main characters.

Collateral Damage - When Vanna Agriet accidentally spills her drink over an Angel it could spell death, but instead it leads to a rather peculiar friendship. Written in first person (which is not my favourite POV but that soon becomes irrelevant), this short covers the meeting of a new Angel and an unhappy woman in a bar that fast becomes a peculiar friendship. But there’s a real twist in the tail, and Malia soon learns the hard way that even an Angel can be played. I loved this additional insight into the life and ‘creation’ of an Angel, having encountered them all too briefly in Principles of Angels. And this story also ties into one of the main characters in PoA, giving us some background on their very early life.

Death on Elsewhere Street - The downsider Geal hopes for a better life topside, only to find herself embroiled in a 'removal' by the Angel Thiera. Loved this one, especially because we see a glimpse of Nual before she meets Taro in Principles of Angels. Geal has the misfortune to encounter a rogue Angel on a mission of vengeance, and gets way too close to the action for her liking. This is a heart-wrenching story, again told in first person, but the touches of skilful world building and use of downsider dialect giving a real depth and flavour to the story. You can’t help but sympathize, even with the rogue.

Angel Dust - Downside, Isha's brother Rakul brings a little black box home with him, and sets Isha on a journey that takes her to a meeting with the most powerful man in Kesh City. This story follows on from the previous one but introduces water-trader Isha, and told from her POV in first person. We meet Nual again, and the mysterious, omnipotent Minister of Kesh. Once more, this builds on the whole floating city of Kesh where the Hidden Empire series begins.

The Three Temptations of Larnia Mier - Larnia Mier, a talented topside musician and instructor, is injured after witnessing a removal first-hand. As her abilities diminish, new possibilities open up. This was a big shift from the previous stories – I kept waiting for an Angel to appear! I also wasn’t sure, even after reaching the end, whether Larnia was totally delusional and had imagined the whole thing, or whether had read more into her strange pupil than there actually was to him. Whichever, this short wove around the sense of loss and disconnection as a singer learns she may lose her talent (reminiscent of Anne McCaffrey’s Killashandra Ree in The Crystal Singer) and the power (or possible illusion) of faith. It depends on your perceptions when it comes to religion. I’m not religious myself, so I immediately found her refusal to accept medical aid due to her religion irritating. And yet, of the four stories in the anthology, this struck the deepest chord, if you’ll pardon the musical pun. Her struggle between following her faith and holding onto the only real passion of her life captured my attention and held it for the whole of the story. Faced with such a choice, she has to balance her beliefs with her desires.

Disclaimer – I won a copy of this novella from the author herself.

Review by

12+

All reviews for Jaine Fenn's Hidden Empire series

Downside Girls

by Jaine Fenn

The floating city of Kesh rests above the uninhabitable planet of Vellern. For the Topsiders life is about luxury and opulence, while for those of the Undertow day to day s [...]

Series: Hidden Empire
Published: 0000

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.5 | positive reader reviews

12+

Principles of Angels

by Jaine Fenn

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. [...]

Series: Hidden Empire: Book 1
Published: 2009

Score: 85

Our rating: 8.5 | positive reader reviews

12+

Consorts of Heaven

by Jaine Fenn

When a naked, amnesiac stranger is found outside a remote highland village, he is taken in by Kerin, a widow whose unconventional ways are tolerated because her son Damaru [...]

Series: Hidden Empire: Book 2
Published: 0000

Score: 89

Our rating: 8.9 | positive reader reviews

15+

Guardians of Paradise

by Jaine Fenn

Most people believe the Sidhe are long dead, exterminated centuries ago when the males of the race rose up and fought alongside the humans subjugated and enslaved by the fe [...]

Series: Hidden Empire: Book 3
Published: 0000

Score: 89

Our rating: 8.9 | positive reader reviews

15+

Bringer of Light

by Jaine Fenn

Jarek Reen is trying to save a lost world. He discovered the primitive theocracy of Serenein by accident, and now he wants it to take its place in human-space. To do this h [...]

Series: Hidden Empire: Book 4
Published: 2011

Score: 91

Our rating: 9.1 | positive reader reviews

15+

Downside Girls reader reviews

8.5/10 from 1 reviews

Write a reader review

There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?

Your rating out of 10

Books you may also enjoy

On Basilisk Station

by David Weber

Honor Harrington has been exiled to Basilisk station and given an antique ship to police the system. The vindictive superior who sent her there wants her to fail. But he ma [...]

Series: Honorverse: Book 1
Published: 0000

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

The Noise Within

by Ian Whates

On the brink of perfecting the long sought-after human/ AI interface, Philip Kaufman finds his world thrown into turmoil as a scandal from the past returns to haunt him and [...]

Series: NA
Published: 0000

Score: 80

Our rating: 8.0 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

Willful Child

by Steven Erikson

These are the voyages of the starship, A.S.F. Willful Child. Its ongoing mission: to seek out strange new worlds on which to plant the Terran flag, to subjugate and if nece [...]

Series: NA
Published: 0000

Score: 78

Our rating: 7.8 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+

Evening's Empires

by Paul McAuley

In the far future, a young man stands on a barren asteroid. His ship has been stolen, his family kidnapped or worse, and all he has on his side is a semi-intelligent spaces [...]

Series: NA
Published: 0000

Score: 75

Our rating: 7.5 | 0 positive reader reviews

12+