Angel Of The Crows By Katherine Addison
Is it my place to tell Katherine Addison that Angel of the Crows should be a series. Probably not. It is her work, not mine. I can’t imagine it is an insult for an author to hear that someone enjoyed her work so much that they want it to continue, though. So, I am not uncomfortable making this opinion known. While Angel of the Crows is undoubtedly similar to the Declaration of the Rights of Magicians, in that it is not a book you should rush.
I certainly could have finished it faster than I did. However, I believe I purposely took extra time with it, because I did not want it to end. The closer it came to an end, the more I dragged it out. I backed-up and reread. I did not want to leave these characters and this world that Katherine Addison had so well reimagined and put together.
The time it took to research both Sherlock Holmes and Jack, the Ripper lore must have been staggering, and it paid off in spades. In the same breath, both the BBC series Holmes and the Robert Downey, Jr movies clearly played a role in the humor, dialogue, and relationship between Crow (Holmes) and Doyle (Watson). Both the old and new are woven together delightfully. There was heart, wit, gore, and mystery that played out through the famous Holmes mysteries, with the overarching search for the Whitechapel serial killer… Jack the Ripper.
While the comparison I’m about to make is a YA to Adult, it applies very well. If you aren’t here for a supernatural, gaslamp retelling of Sherlock Holmes, I’m not sure why you are here. Mind you, and I will get to this, Addison does not just regurgitate Holmes lore. However, there are scenes and moments that anyone with Holmes familiarity, will pick up on. And all your favorite characters come to play a part (just not the elements you would expect). So, I say, much like In the Hall With the Knife, unless you are there for Clue? You are in the wrong book, friends.
Doyle and Crow
Holmes is an outcasted Angel and Doyle is a war veteran who was touched by a fallen angel, which curses him as a hellhound (this isn’t a spoiler as he knows what is happening to him pretty much right off. Crow doesn’t find out for a bit. They are unlikely flatmates, and because of Addison’s brilliant choice of Crow’s supernatural characterization, she has all the space to mold the perfect personality.
Crow doesn’t sleep; he has absolutely no understanding of how humans act, right down to sleeping. He can’t navigate general friend etiquette and not because he doesn’t want to or because he’s rude. Crow just doesn’t know. Sound familiar, much? HA! It sets-up their relationship perfectly. And Doyle, needing the room badly, is tolerant of it, at first. However, the individual and relationship arc throughout the book is lovely. It is beautiful how they come around to each other and for each other. Their dialogue is nothing short of spectacularly witty. The best parts being the most unexpected because most times, Crow doesn’t even realize what he is saying is outlandish, funny, or just CHRIST ON A CROUTON, WHAT?
The humor, heart, fights, and realizations play on through every facet of Angel of the Crows through everything. It is priceless!
I also loved that Doyle (Holmes) gets more independent leeway. There are mysteries that he takes the lead and is even on his own. I believe this accounts for the fact that he has more character growth than we have ever seen in the past.
Cast Of Characters
All of the favorites make a show, both within the smaller mystery, and then some come back throughout the broader context of the Jack the Ripper arc. One of my favorites and probably most unexpected was Moriarty as… an Irish Vampire. I loved it, and how/why he comes into play is very cunning, but I’ll leave those details out. However, while all the favorites show up, don’t expect all of them to play the roles you anticipate or how you presume. Nothing is ever quite what it seems.
What you can count on is Addison’s craft of rounding out each character thoroughly. Of course, the story is focused on Holmes and Watson, but everyone has their own voice and personality. Given, some of it comes from Holmes lore, but Addison never rests on that canon, alone. It is kind of hard when she is turning characters into vampires, hellhounds, werewolves, and such. At that point, you have to twist them around and make them your own. And that, Addison does, just as she does with some of the mysteries, like Hounds of Baskerville.
I don’t want to say too much else about where how and when characters show up because it’s fun to come across them when and where they pop-up, so I’ll leave it for you to enjoy.
Supernatural 1880s London
Addison sets her world of Holmes apart by spinning the supernatural into it. Other than my confusion between Hemophages and Vampires, which could have been explained better, everything worked very well. The concept of Crows, and their structure/hierarchy, made plenty of sense, as did the idea between crows that are fallen, nameless, and angels. Crows revelations about his situation that come about through the book (another mystery that leaves drops and clues as you read) are well developed and explained.
Thank You to Tor Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
The legal contracts between Vampire Hunts and the government of London was something I particularly enjoyed, as was the addicts that kept them fed without breaking that contract. Addison wove many different landscapes from the countryside to the seedier parts of London using all five senses. I could smell the rankness, taste the foulness, and see the dense fog on the Moore.
She also updated many of the terms and ideologies found in the original works. There is sexual representation, but I don’t want to spoil the how or what of it. To say I didn’t see it coming would be an understatement. However, it was one of the most poignant and endearing parts of the story.
This Can’t Be Goodbye…
There is so much foundational work in the world, the characters, and the supernatural in Angel of the Crows that it just seems like a crime not to be able to revisit it. I hope that maybe, Addison will reconsider and bring them back to us, again. It was a wonderful time while it lasted.