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Fantasy Review – The Angel of the Crows

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

In 1893, a British army doctor is wounded in Afghanistan. His leg injury is bad enough that he’s discharged and goes back to London. Unemployed, and with his pension unable to provide enough for both food and rent, he is in search of a flatmate.

If this all sounds familiar, I’m delighted to tell you that yes, it is familiar. And yet, not quite. Instead of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, we have Dr. Doyle (get it?) and Crow, the Angel of London.

In this London, supernatural beings are everywhere. Vampires, werewolves, and angels all walking around with humans. Especially angels. Not the Christian heavenly kind, these angels do have wings, but are beings mostly tied to a place. They need habitations – a place to belong to – or they become Nameless and just drift about.  Sometimes, horrifyingly, they Fall and become evil killers. And then there is Crow, the Angel of London. He is an oddity among the Angels, who calls all of London his place; an angel who investigates crimes and calls himself a “consulting detective”.  Most of the other Angels don’t trust him, as he doesn’t have a habitation but is not Nameless nor is he Fallen.  But he needs a flatmate.

Addison takes a number of very familiar Holmes stories and gives them just a little twist.  A Study in Scarlet is almost scene for scene. The others have a few more differences but any Holmes fan will recognize them instantly. Frankly I would have liked a bit more surprise, considering the new milieu. What I thought was really fun are the bombs she drops about Doyle and Crow.  Lestrade is still there and much the same. Moriarty of course makes an entrance but is not (maybe not yet) the enemy of the great detective. It’s also the same time period as Jack the Ripper, and the two get involved in that investigation as well.

Addison says in an afterword that this novel grew out of “wingfic”, fan fiction where familiar characters have wings. (I read a lot, but I don’t read fan fiction, and never even heard of wingfic)  There are gruesome bits. There are more than a few funny bits. The pacing…maybe just a tad slow, with the Holmes stories inserted into the Ripper framework. Doyle and Crow are both well-portrayed, and even though it’s Doyle’s POV we see, I thought Crow really stole the book. But Doyle is not the bumbling Watson from the original books and he plays a big role. I would have loved more about the angels themselves and how this society works. Again, I also would have liked bigger differences from the original canon, because I knew whodunit and why,  but these worked fine. If you have never read any of the original Holmes stories, they will be even better for you.

I don’t currently see signs that this is going to be a series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes that way.



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