THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS
REPRESENTATION: Genderqueer MC
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Paranormal Historical, Retelling (Sherlock Holmes)
THE GOBLIN EMPEROR by Katherine Addison is one of — if not my very — favourite books, so I was really excited to read THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS. However, it’s also a Sherlock Holmes retelling, which I’ve not had much luck with, so I knew going in that this would be an interesting read for me.
Addison’s writing style certainly doesn’t fail to deliver. Her prose is as stunning as ever and, even if I had hated the story itself, I think I would have stuck around just to enjoy her words.
Major pro: Doyle would be turning in his grave at the way his stories have been retold while cutting through all the racism, antisemitism, and sexism. OG Holmes is Victorian-era literature obviously, and although not all writing from the period is the same, Holmes canon has always been pretty steeped in those attitudes. Addison’s retelling vignettes of individual cases stay pretty close to the original stories but without that sour aftertaste. There’s even a bit of gender exploration.
Funnily enough, I’m not a fan of wingfic (which THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS started life as). Big fanfic fan, just never found appeal in that subgenre. So, I was hesitant about that side of this going in. Addison’s world-building though, is every bit as detailed and rich as I’d hoped it would be. There are different types of angels (and rules governing them) of which, as per, Crow/Sherlock is the exception, hellhounds (which are different from werewolves), vampires, and other supernatural beasties that make this a fascinating alternate London. If this book is a success, I could quite easily see it developing into a series and moving away from the Sherlock cases to new mysteries. I would definitely read more books in the universe.
It’s around 450 pages and I felt some of that could have been trimmed down. Not by much perhaps, but just to pick up the pace in one or two places. This is nit-picking though.
The retelling aspect. THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS is the best Sherlock Holmes retelling I’ve read, although that’s admittedly few. However, the little mini-case vignettes, worked around the longer Jack the Ripper plot, were very, very close to the originals (or to the BBC Sherlock series if you look at it that way). I really liked these little mysteries, but I can’t help but wish they’d moved a tad further from the originals. (Although this is maybe a mixed thought consider my second point in the Pros…)
This is not the story you think it is. These are not the characters you think they are. This is not the book you are expecting.
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. And human beings remain human, with all their kindness and greed and passions and murderous intent.
Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of this London too. But this London has an Angel. The Angel of the Crows.
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.