Author: Anne Blankman
Released: May 2nd 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 393 pages
Source: Publisher for review
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.
Well researched YA historical fiction is somewhat of a rarity. These are the books that come with an author’s note and lengthy bibliographies which show us that they’re based in fact, with minimal artistic liberties taken. Ruta Sepetys could be considered the queen of the genre, but Anne Blankman appeared to be a serious contender after her Prisoner of Night and Fog duology.
Traitor Angels follows along the same path. Blankman did her homework extremely well. Her book is well researched and convincing in its factual aspects and those who are somewhat familiar with John Milton and his work might feel as though they’re truly meeting him in person and expanding their knowledge about his life and personality. Blankman merely added an extra daughter and gave her a bit more education that the rest of Milton’s children. The image she painted of England in 1666 is detailed and convincing. I feel that I learned quite a bit from this book, which is always a plus. Unfortunately, the parts that were purely fictional didn’t work quite as well.
Traitor Angels is reminiscent of The Da Vinci’s Code in a way. It follows the same premise – discovering buried secrets by following clues hidden in famous works. It could have worked better, but Blankman failed to build any real excitement and I found myself bored with the search pretty early on. The two main characters, Elizabeth Milton and Antonio Vivani, were sent on this quest by Milton himself, but even though they were both groomed for it from their early days, they made some pretty naïve and ridiculous mistakes along the way.
Although Blankman tried to give us a worthy heroine, Elizabeth never rang true as a girl she was meant to be, and especially a girl living in the 1660. Throughout the book, she was reconsidering her puritan beliefs and discovering new things about herself, but for me her journey completely missed the mark and I honestly didn’t care about any of it. Antonio’s story and actions weren’t any more convincing and I’m sorry to say I had to fight to remain focused.
Traitor Angels had enormous potential, but most of it was left unexplored. I had to struggle for more than 15 days with it and barely found the will to finish it. If you’re interested in the genre, I’d recommend a trip to Nazi Germany in Blankman’s debut or a long journey aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff during World War II in Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influenced the opinions expressed in this review.