The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm torn on this one.
As a fan of Sherlock Holmes in general and having been a rabid purveyor of delightful Victorian mashups with supernatural elements in general, I should have been all over Angel of the Crows. I should have been whooping it up. I enjoyed the author's Goblin Emperor, too, so I know she has the writing chops to pull it off.
So what happened?
First, I enjoyed the worldbuilding. There are several types of angels and they are locked into certain rules. There are werewolves in London and Doyle (A. C. indeed,) plays Watson as a Hellhound. Holmes plays an oddly constrained (or unconstrained) angel who seems rather... like a marginalized character.
The full extent of the supernatural races and the racism in London is also rather awesome.
And to top it all off, Addison runs a VERY CLOSE retelling of a TON of Sherlock Holmes stories! With the twist, of course. And you know what? I LIKE it. In concept.
Or I thought I would have liked it. In concept.
In actuality? I like all of this in concept. I don't know if I really enjoyed it all that much in actuality. After all, I know what happened in the original mysteries. I kept wanting to see some major breakaways or truly interesting twists that kept me guessing. In the end, I was appreciating the book more for the artistic commentary and the novelty value more than the actual writing.
And the novelty value was, unfortunately, not ALL that novel. How much angel fiction is there out there, by a rough count? Or UF in historical fictional settings? Quite a few.
So what we have to lean on is a very careful and elaborate retelling of the Sherlock Holmes stories INCLUDING Jack the Ripper in a UF base. The elaborate parts are better than most. They're careful and detailed. I really want to applaud the effort.
Unfortunately, what came to mind was Novik's Uprooted. Novik retold old myths, slightly altering the core AND the window dressing, while Addison seems to keep only an unaltered core while altering the window dressing. One surprises us, the other ... amuses us? At least some? Yes.
But I also feel like it could have been so much more, too.
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