This collection of four short stories by Jaine Fenn, set in the universe of her series Hidden Empire, assumes no previous knowledge of her work. Leaping straight in, without any introduction to the world, it is still completely accessible to readers who have never read any of the series. Facts were laid out when they need to be, rather than dumping lots of information on the reader. It is for this reason that I believe it is the sort of science fiction that is accessible to any reader. One of the downfalls of the science fiction genre is that it is often very specialist, and so much of it is very heavy – someone who does not usually read sci-fi could easily be put off. However, that is not the case with Downside Girls.
The city in these stories has a ‘topside’ and a ‘downside’ – topside being the upper class area, and downside for the poorer citizens. Patrolling the city are Angels – downsiders chosen to be assassins and given special powers, who target corrupt politicians. The descriptions and feel of the city definitely gave me a bit of a Mass Effect vibe – I was imagining the scenarios taking place in the Citadel, which was pretty cool.All four stories have very different situations, and weave together the lives of humans and Angels. The stories are also interlinked in small ways, but I think you have to read the main series to truly understand the link – I only picked it up from reading the synopses of Jaine Fenn’s other work. The narrative of the stories is just about different enough to show that each one is being told by another character, but I do feel that this aspect could be improved on.
The writing flowed very well – not overly showy, or too simple. Despite only spending a short amount of time with each character, I somehow felt for them all – particularly in the last story. Fenn manages to pack a lot into only 80-odd pages – trickery, assassinations, gangs, as well as a rather sweet tale at the end.
This novella has made me definitely want to check out the main books. Whilst appealing to science fiction fans, I believe it is also a perfect collection of short stories for those wanting to ease themselves into the genre.