Author: Anne Blankman
Genre: historical fiction
Published: May 3 2016
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.
Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.
Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s men arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?
When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.
On paper, this book is seemingly made for me - the setting and tone, the time, the plot itself. But in execution, I was more of a lukewarm fan than anything else by the end of its nearly 400-page length. I have loved (book one) and mehh'd (book two) my way through the author's previous WWII-centric duology and found Traitor Angels to be more on the slow side like Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke rather quick-moving than Blankman's first and best novel, Prisoner of Night and Fog. I had high hopes going in and did like Traitor Angels quite a bit for its originality, but also found it a tad unpolished and slow-moving.
The pacing dragged my reading down, but the author kept my interest with a creative and new plot; one that is far-reaching and ambitious. The story of Traitor Angels is centered on main character Elizabeth, the daughter of the infamous John Milton, and she grows into a great, multifaceted young woman. I wasn't the hugest fan of her male compatriots on her journeys, but happily the author doesn't ignore plot for romance or worse, use an hastily-drawn love story to propel that plot. There's a good balance of mystery and historical fiction in Traitor Angels, and the author is smart to keep all the various pieces moving for hundreds of pages and the overall outcome unpredictable.
I have to admit that my attention wandered sometimes during this read; I am a fast reader and it took me a few days to finish. I was interested in it, but it can take a long time for the plot to really engage on more than a superficial level. Elizabeth, though I cheered for her by the end, took time to emerge as a character with her own voice. I appreciate the plausibility of the plot that Blankman has created -- John Milton's Paradise Lost has never before been so interesting to me as a reader -- but 400 pages is a long time for a book that can be a bit overwrought and overdrawn.