Book Review: Traitor Angels

Traitor Angels
By: Anne Blankman
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: May 3, 2016
Genre: YA historical fiction
400 pages
Source: galley kindly provided by publisher

It’s cheating to say that this book is National Treasure meets British literature, but it’s what I was thinking much of the time while I was reading it. Historically accurate characters leave secret messages in enduring pieces of writing.  People chase across the countryside looking for clues. Unlikely pairs find love. It all feels slightly familiar, but the packaging is so wholly different that it’s as if it were completely new.

I am 100 percent in favor of new YA lit that hearkens back to classics. John Milton, who penned the famous Paradise Lost, is a central character in this book; Samuel Pepys also makes an appearance. If a few readers investigate the writings of these gentlemen, the book has done those readers a great favor. If a handful of readers do some research on King Charles II, Galileo, or Vincenzo Viviani, all the better. I’m hopeful that Traitor Angels can serve as a gateway to learning, as well as providing hours of great reading entertainment.

I enjoy reading about girl characters who defy the expectations of their society, becoming educated and battle-ready rather than leaving such things to their male counterparts. Elizabeth, our heroine, has been preparing for years to fulfill a specific purpose. Her father has provided her lessons that are not afforded most girls, and when the time comes, he expects her to carry out her orders. I especially love the fact that, when it comes time to act, Elizabeth’s biggest obstacle is her love for and devotion to her father.

17th century England is a fun period to visit. The world is on the brink of many significant discoveries and shifts in thinking. Fashion is sweepingly beautiful, people travel by horse and carriage, and the deep dark of night is not yet penetrated by much artificial light. Adventures seem even more daring, and this one is no exception.

There is a lot of fun in these pages. The book is plot-driven, and the pace is relentless; there isn’t much of a lull in the action. If you’re looking for a great story to get caught up in, this might be just what you’re looking for. 

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 man 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.