The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison
Maturity Level: 4- (non-graphic disembowelment)
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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.
I loved this book! Sherlock fan-fiction set in a London with every supernatural creature you’ve ever thought of (and some you haven’t) and a vaugly steampunk vibe, plus Jack the Ripper. What’s not to love?
When I first read the synopsis I was worried that Sherlock AND supernaturals AND steampunk AND Jack the Ripper would be too much and the book wouldn’t work. I should have known better. Katherine Addison has a way of making her world building feel so effortless for the reader, even though there’s always so much going on. Everything works together so perfectly and feels so natural that you don’t even realize just how much stuff there is until you’re trying to tell someone about it. I don’t know that anyone else could have pulled this book off.
I also love that Katherine Addison writes books that feel good. Her characters are kind and genuine in a way that nobody else’s ever are, and you keep waiting for the catch but it never comes. I loved Doyle and Crow, and their relationship was so fuzzy wuzzy, and everyone was just so NICE.
This is truly Sherlock fan-fiction. If you’ve read the original novels and/or short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (or watched the recent BBC adaptation) you will recognize plot lines and characters that are lifted directly from those stories. Addison took everything that is good about Holmes, re-structured the narratives to resemble actual mysteries, and added a small twist to give the reader something to guess about.
She also played with the Holmes/Watson relationship in a way that (I think) improved it. While Crow is just as insensitive as Sherlock has always been, there are good reads for it (he’s … not human). More importantly to me, though, is that Doyle is aware that Crow maybe doesn’t care for him in the most traditional sense, but just doesn’t care. Someone half caring about him is better than no one caring for him at all.
Some modern themes are explored, especially PTSD and gender identity. Don’t want to say much because spoilers, but know those themes are there.
I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed this book. It’s nice to read feel-good fantasy that is just plain fun, but still has the depth and nuance to make it interesting. Highly recommend for fans of Sherlock, Supernatural, or historical fantasy.