Guardians of Paradise by Jaine Fenn [Book Review]

I love Jaine Fenn. Her characters and intriguing world building is superb. She is one of my favorite authors and Guardians of Paradise is one of my most anticipated books this year. Let me start by telling you a bit background.

The Hidden Empire series is about the Sidhe, a race  with overwhelming mental powers and beauty that has been screwing with the human race in secret for a long time. Centuries ago their Protectorate ruled the human race. But their tyranny was so great that the males of their own race joined the subjugated humans in an uprising believed to have killed all of them and freeing the human race. But now a few humans learn that they are still around.

One good thing with Jaine is that her books are self contained and can stand by themselves. That is especially true for the previous two books that can be read independently.

Principles of Angels is about ](slight spoiler, mark to read)[a conspiracy that could destroy a floating city to kill Nual, a renegade Sidhe. This is where Taro and Nual meet and become what they are now.

The second book Consorts of Heaven is about (slight spoiler, mark to read)[a secret colony where the Sidhe breed a special kind of talent only to lure them with fake religion and put them in stasis to send them off planet to use their tortured brains as jump-cores. This is where Jarek Reen regains his memories among the local barbarians and helps them overthrow the Sidhe and escapes with the secret]. This is Jarek’s story.

Guardians of Paradise brings together the characters and plots from the previous books. Nual and Taro are now both certified Angel assassins hiding in the house Nual inherited from Elarn Reen. Jarek arrives at his dead sister’s house in time to foil an assassination attempt on them and they decide to join Jarek in his crusade against the Sidhe.

The hunt takes them trough hard personal dilemmas, arduous jumps, elusive allies and equally elusive enemies. Nual and Taro goes ahead to the vacation planet that was the destination of the Consorts of Heaven to try to find the operation there while Jarek goes to a trading hub to find a hacker competent enough to hack the Sidhe datacore he stole from their ship.

The story is well paced, captivating and thrilling. I especially enjoyed the artificially induced love between Taro and Nual. The Sidhe power of healing induces love and she saved his life at the end of Principles of Angels. He is a 17 year old kid, a bit more mature than most in some respect since he grew up in the Undertow but very much his age in others and she is an alien with different ways of thinking brought up as she was in a hive-mind-like community. It has many surprising twists and turns. And every good story should have a love interest in it. The captures and escapes kept it thrilling too. And the overall journey of discovery has some big surprises at the end.

The world building is one of Jaine Fenn’s strengths. This world is well thought out with its history and different political solutions. The seemingly rural vacation planet with hidden high tech corporations at war with each other while maintaining a tabu against killing is well executed and made believable.

The characters are easy to love and root for. Jaine makes them sympathetic, lifelike and believable like ‘ordinary people’ with special circumstances. They are human and they make mistakes maybe thats what makes the threats to them so gripping. The powers they have are not superpowers that take them out of any bind, rather the opposite it is their ingenuity that saves the day unless their friends have to come and help them. The multiple main characters hold together well and the plot doesn’t diverge much.

Another great thing is that I finally get to know about how Nual became a Sidhe rebel and how she as a child was rescued by Jarek. That explained a whole lot but it also opened a can of worms that I am sure the reader will enjoy in books to come.

I got this random thought. Interesting the way you thinks about female alien villains. It doesn’t feel like a gender issue here but what would I think if a male writer had the same female villains? I would probably never think about it at all if they were male…

I love journeys of discovery like the one here. Guardians of Paradise is an action adventure that puts two Angel assassin and a Free trader against sinister alien conspiracies. Jaine proves again she is a master at doling out revelations and pacing the story that keeps me captivated from beginning to end. This is enjoyable science fiction with a spice of fantasy. This book is less standalone than the previous two and I would recommend that you read them first. I don’t know how long you can keep calling someone a promising new author, Jain Fenn is one of the most promising authors of this century and I am sure you would enjoy her books too.

The ending keeps me thinking and speculating on where this is going but we will have to wait until July 2011 for Bringer of Light. Here is the blurb for the next book.

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 he needs a shiftspace beacon – without it, there is no way to find the planet again. The beacons were made by the Sidhe, the race that originally gave humanity access to the stars – and dominated human-space for millennia, before a coalition of human rebels and Sidhe males brought the evil Sidhe females down. Most people think the Sidhe are long dead, but Jarek knows better: a renegade female Sidhe is one of his companions, and a male Sidhe gave her and her lover the special powers that made them Angels, very unusual trained assassins. Jarek’s only hope is to find Aleph, the hidden system where the last Sidhe males are rumoured to live. But even if he can persuade these eccentric, introspective beings to put aside their interminable internal squabbles, he still has to persuade Serenein that joining the rest of humankind.


Title: Guardians of Paradise
Series: The Hidden Empire book 3 (also known as Sidhe)
Author: Jaine Fenn
Hardcover: 352 pages | Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Gollancz (September 2010)
Copy: Bought by me from Amazon UK

Order from: Orion Books | Amazon US | UKsfbok

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 female Sidhe. But Jarek Reen knows better: he’s discovered, the painful way, that the Sidhe are alive and well, and still screwing over humanity. They’ve already killed his sister, so he’s not surprised when he discovers an old friend and her partner are next on the Sidhe’s hitlist. He helps not only to foil the assassination attempt, but also to muddy the scene of the crime, leaving the Angels Nual and Taro sanMalia presumed dead – and free to join his crusade to expose the insidious influence of the Sidhe, and their evil plans to enslave the human race again. Their mission takes them across human-space, from utilitarian hub-points to rich, exotic planets – where they discover that a brilliant vacation spot hides some of the darkest secrets of all. And that’s when they discover how easy it is for the hunters to become the hunted …

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I read Principles of Angels and Consorts of Heaven about a year ago before I started doing reviews so the posts on them are only quick notes. I plan to make proper reviews of them in the near future, maybe even this week.