Book Review: THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS by Katherine Addison

Title in orange on black with grey crows
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating:
Series: Standalone

Synopsis:

Book cover for THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS: title in orange on black surrounded by grey birds above a line drawing of the houses of parliament

In an alternate 1880s London, angels inhabit every public building, and vampires and werewolves walk the streets with human beings under a well-regulated truce. A fantastic utopia, except for a few things: Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds.

Dr J. H. Doyle returns to London having been wounded in Afghanistan by a Fallen, and finds himself lodging in Baker Street with the engimatic angel Crow. But living with a rogue angel is not so easy; the pair find themselves drawn into the supernatural and criminal worlds of London, from a man kidnapped by a vampire nest to Jack the Ripper’s horrific murders.

Besides Doyle’s nightmares, there is the lingering worry that the Crow might Fall… 

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Synopsis:

THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS is one of the best re-imaginings of Sherlock Holmes I’ve encountered (tied with the BBC’s first two seasons of Sherlock.) It takes some of the best known stories and tells them in an episodic manner, much like the way the stories were originally published, with a paranormal twist.

The stories (as far as I can tell) retold are: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, the Adventure of the Copper Beeches, the Hound of the Baskervilles, and the Adventure of the Speckled Band. They all have the world’s paranormal slant on them, and though they follow the original stories quite closely in some respects, it was a lot of fun to try and guess how they would be different.

If you have read the originals, you probably will get an extra nerdy kick out of it. The flow of the stories, the prose, and style are all homages. It’s what drew me in from the first chapter, excavating the Holmes stories I’d read from somewhere in the back of my brain. I love retellings of books (rather than tales that have many versions) that pay homage to the style.

There isn’t much of an overarching story (there are two Moriarties, for example, but they’re not villains), but the Jack the Ripper murders are threaded through as the backdrop. They are “solved” at the end, but in terms of mystery pay off, it’s rather underwhelming.

It took me a bit of reflection to work out that this was the point. The consequences of how the person is caught takes precedence, not to mention the unsolved “why?” and “is this even the right person?” questions are deliberately left unanswered to mirror the fact that it is still (and probably always will be) and unsolved case.

The blurb on my copy contains an author quote that (paraphrasing) says “this is the Holmes you know”, and that is certainly true. “Watson” becomes Doyle, and “Holmes” is the angel Crow. Crow is most unlike his “original counterpart” of all the characters. Rather than an aloft, rather maddening even as a reader person, Crow is more affable. He’s so curious about the world, and people’s lives (as he doesn’t experience them.) Instead of a cold and rude bluntness, we get a more curious one – still born from not understanding social conventions.

I know, for some, that the coldness is Holmes, but I really seeing a more sympathetic take – and it helped distinguish it from others. Plus it allowed for a very different take on their relationship, and the ending wouldn’t have worked without a more genial relationship.


Read my reviews of other books by Katherine Addison:

The Goblin Emperor:

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