Reviewed by Lorraine Cormack
Guardians of Paradise was a flat, mildly interesting novel that left me completely uninterested in reading the rest of the series.
To be fair to Fenn, it does appear that this is the third in the series, and I have not read the earlier novels. However, I’m only guessing about that; nowhere in or on the novel does it explicitly tell you that this is part of a series. I’m assuming that because half a dozen pages into the novel I felt like I was coming in at the middle of the story; because the title page lists two other novels by Fenn with very similar titles; and because this volume ends on something of a cliffhanger. Fenn is doing herself and her readers a disservice by not offering them the opportunity to start the series at the beginning.
However, it’s also worth noting that as a reviewer I often find myself starting a series part-way through. In this situation, other authors have still presented me with strong and engaging novels, and indeed in some cases novels that have caused me to later search out and read the earlier books in the series. Fenn has not done either of these things.
As the story opens, Taro and Nual are visiting the home of Elarn, an old friend of Nual’s who has died. They scatter her ashes, but before they can leave as secretly as they arrived, they are attacked with lethal force. In the midst of the attack, Jarek, Elarn’s brother and close friend to Nual, unaware of Elarn’s death, arrives and helps them to escape.
Most humans think the Sidhe are long dead, exterminated centuries ago by an uprising of humans and the equally subjugated male Sidhe. But these three know better; not only do the Sidhe still exist, but they are subtly manipulating and controlling humankind. Our heroes decide that they must expose and destroy the Sidhe. They know this won’t be easy, given the powers of the Sidhe. But the Sidhe aren’t aware of all these three know; and Nual and Taro are Angels, assassins augmented with an array of technology. The odds aren’t entirely on the Sidhe’s side, and so the three friends set out to gather more information to further improve their chances.
It was hard to get really involved in this plot. Apart from the idea that controlling other people without their knowledge is bad, Fenn didn’t really provide a compelling reason why the Sidhe were so evil. Sure, they do bad things to our heroes at times, but after all, those three are trying to kill them. There might be some justification there. Perhaps Fenn outlined this is an earlier novel, but if so, she should have recapped it here in some way. Without knowing why it was so important to get rid of them, I found it a little hard to care.
The characters, too, made it hard to care. They didn’t seem fully rounded, and again I suspect there was a good deal of missing history which might have made a difference here. In particular, their relationships were a little difficult to “feel”, and this contributed to the overall feeling of flatness.
Fenn has managed a number of aspects of the novel quite well. For example, her three main characters – Nual, Taro, and Jarek – do not all know each other, and do not all know the same things about each other. By bringing them together early in the story, she manages to provide quite a bit of exposition in a way that seems natural, as they catch each other up on what they’ve been doing, or get to know each other. This sort of thing suggests that Fenn has a fair degree of skill as a writer, although she’s failed to translate that into an involving novel.
On the whole, this novel simply felt flat to me. I wasn’t all that interested in the plot, and the characters didn’t catch at either my attention or my emotions. And it ended on an unsatisfying note, providing only partial resolution to the story. Although readers of the earlier novels might find this enjoyable, I’d suggest Guardians of Paradise doesn’t have a great deal to offer most readers.