Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: June 23rd, 2020
Synopsis: Katherine Addison, author of The Goblin Emperor, returns with The Angel of the Crows, a fantasy novel of alternate 1880s London, where killers stalk the night and the ultimate power is naming.
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 in 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 world. 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.
Being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I was immediately intrigued by Angel of the Crows which began as fanfic. It’s not bad, but it could have used some more originality.
For the most part, what Katherine Addison has done, is taken some of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories (A Study in Scarlet, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Speckled Band), thrown in the Whitechapel murders by Jack the Ripper in the background, and added fantasy, dystopian, and steampunk elements. The problem is, despite these different themes the characters and stories don’t really divert much from the original source material. Some of the dialogue is even remarkably similar to BBCs Sherlock Holmes series.
For the first half of the book I was also a bit confused much of the time in regards to this alternate London. It took me a while to understand the difference between angels and their roles. I felt as though I had just been dropped and left to make my own way through this murky world.
Despite these issues, I did find much to enjoy in this rather curious tale. I did like Crow (Sherlock), and Doyle (Watson), and as much as I love ACD’s original stories, it must be admitted that some had racist and sexist connotations. Addison deftly removed these without taking anything away from the story. I also liked the addition of Dr. Doyle’s secrets that he’s hiding. They’re creatively done yet perfectly fit in with his personality. The story is also quite fast-paced and I never found myself bored.
Overall, while not perfect, Angel of the Crows is an entertaining journey back to Victorian London with English literature’s most endearing odd couple. I can easily see this being turned into a tv series like Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. For fans of the original Sherlock series, think of this as a nice reread with some interesting fantastical additions. If you’re not familiar with the four stories I mentioned, you may actually enjoy this even more.