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The Angel of the Crows

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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 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.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published June 23, 2020

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About the author

Katherine Addison

16 books2,806 followers
A pseudonym of Sarah Monette. Both Sarah and Katherine are on Twitter as @pennyvixen. Katherine reviews nonfiction. Sarah reviews fiction. Fair warning: I read very little fiction these days.

Sarah/Katherine was born and raised in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of the three secret cities of the Manhattan Project.

She got her B.A. from Case Western Reserve University, her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Despite being summa cum laude, none of her degrees is of the slightest use to her in either her day job or her writing, which she feels is an object lesson for us all.

She currently lives near Madison, Wisconsin.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,080 reviews
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
June 20, 2020
On sale June 23! Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

The Angel of the Crows is Sherlock Holmes fanfic … if Sherlock were an outcast angel called Crow, Dr. Watson (here named Dr. Doyle) had a paranormal affliction caused by an injury given him by an Afghani fallen angel, and Victorian England were filled with vampires, werewolves and other paranormal beings. In fact, Katherine Addison states in an author’s note at the end that The Angel of the Crows originated as Sherlock wingfic, a type of fanfic in which one or more characters have wings. It’s an idea with potential, but Katherine Addison squanders that potential by spending (I estimate) some eighty percent of the novel simply retelling several of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous adventures with a supernatural twist.

It begins immediately with the first Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, in which Holmes and Watson (Crow and Doyle) first meet and become flatmates, and works its way through four more adventures that will be immediately familiar to anyone who’s read many of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. The least well-known one is “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” and that one would only be called obscure by non-Holmes fan. The framing device for all of this is the search for Jack the Ripper: his murders are happening right while everything else is going on. Crow and Dr. Doyle can’t help but be interested, and interest leads to involvement.

It’s a reasonably interesting novel, even if you’re familiar with the source material, and Addison clearly did quite a bit of research into the Sherlock Holmes canon and Victorian-era crime, with a focus on the Jack the Ripper cases. But I found myself earnestly wishing that Addison had written a more original novel. In The Angel of the Crows, proper angels are tied to a habitation, like a cathedral or even an inn; Fallen angels cause disasters on the level of bombs; Nameless angels have lost their individual identity and their will along with their habitation. Crow is none of these, unique among angels. All this is explained as part of the background and world-building, but Addison never delves deeply into this aspect of the story or unlocks the potential of conflict with Fallen angels. Focusing more on these original ideas would have made for a more compelling novel.

The first adventure of Crow and Doyle, based on A Study in Scarlet, took up the whole first fifth of this novel, and was such a straight retelling of the original (at least, the London-based half of the original) that my jaw was literally dropping by the end of it. The Angel of the Crows does get progressively more creative as it goes along, as Addison includes more twists to the plots of the original Holmes stories. Occasionally an unexpected connection would make me laugh, like this one:
“Introductions!” the vampire said briskly. “My name is Moriarty.”

“Doyle,” I said and, having observed the vampire’s long, curved nails, did not offer to shake hands.
I appreciated Addison’s spin on The Hound of the Baskervilles plot, and she also gave most of the racist, sexist and other outdated parts of Doyle’s stories a much more modern spin. Even gender identity come into play, which would probably make old Arthur roll in his grave. I found myself gradually getting more invested in the story as I got deeper into it.

Still, for readers who are familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories that Addison wove into this novel, much of the element of mystery and surprise will be lost. Addison should have done much more to transform and subvert the original Holmes stories. I found myself looking forward to the interim chapters about Jack the Ripper, since those events were less familiar to me. Coming from the author who wrote the inventive book The Goblin Emperor, The Angel of the Crows was a bit of letdown.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Thanks!
Profile Image for Melindam.
633 reviews275 followers
June 19, 2020
A curious mesh of Victorian steampunk, angel-fantasy and Sherlock retelling with guest-appearance by Jack the Ripper.
If you are a fan of any or all of these, you will probably love this book.

Many thanks to the Publisher Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for the ARC.

After finishing this book it was hard for me to decide what to think about it.

Maybe the problem was that I started reading it with EXPECTATIONS, not because of the cover blurb, but because the author's other book, The Goblin Emperor has been 1 of my favourite books ever since I read it first (and at least 3 times since then). It was wonderful and unique!

I am rather indifferent to angel-apocalypse fantasy books, as well as to werewolves/vampires (and the blurb strongly suggested that this is what I would get), still, I expected something unique to equal the reading experience of The Goblin Emperor.

ALAS, I was ... not disappointed, but a bit bewildered, when almost from the first page a Sherlock Holmes-Dr Watson retelling was "staring back at me" so to speak, even though it maskeraded as angels/steampunk/fantasy characters kind of genre.

While I really appreciate Sherlock Holmes, as a famous literary detective and enjoyed his original stories, I am not a huge fan, so I was not that keen on reading the retellings, even with the twists and even though they were well written. Obviously, the author made a thorough research of it as well as the Jack-the-Ripper aspects.

What I would have been really interested in, was the angel-aspect of the whole story, which was used as a kind of literary glue, but very thinly applied, with some details here and there. I wish it was laid on much thicker.

All in all the book was interesting enough for me to finish, but it never draw me in.
Profile Image for Ari.
782 reviews180 followers
July 2, 2020
Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Amazon | Waterstones

Thank you NetGalley and Tor Books for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

"I don't think human beings understand
how dangerous names are."

Welcome, to a Sherlock Holmes and John Watson-inspired mystery with vampires. And angels. And werewolves. Oh my!

Despite my great love for mystery novels, I've never read an original Holmes' story, much to my chagrin. And no matter how often I tell myself to remedy this set-back, new books continue to fall into my hands. Who am I to resist? I have, however, heard plenty of synopses for a few of these stories over the years, so it wasn't difficult to pick up on the theme of The Angel of the Crows as soon as I began to read.

In the likeness of Sherlock Holmes, we have Crow, the Angel of London. He's brilliant, amusing, thinks well outside the box, and is highly sought after by Scotland Yard. And in Watson's stead we have Dr. Doyle, a physician who has been discharged from his service in the military after a run-in with a Fallen angel that has left him not just injured, but in need of keeping a rather big and illegal secret about himself.

The composition of this book is clever: it's told through stories within the main plot of the novel. Featuring Holmes and Watson, one expects to (hopefully) explore their classical tales. And The Angel of the Crows does not disappoint. At the heart of it all is Crow's obsession with finding the murderer we now know as Jack the Ripper. Constantly called in by Scotland Yard to assist, he usually brings Doyle along so that he may offer his expertise. And as we close in on Jack, we're taken through the different investigative jobs that many come to Crow given his sleuthing popularity.

Despite the fact that the story is read through Doyle POV, and he is, in essence, the main lead, Crow steals the spotlight. It might be that as the embodiment of Sherlock Holmes he has no choice, but as his own character, he's fantastic. Not only was it incredibly enjoyable and interesting to learn, by his own words, how the angels' caste system and politics work in this novel, but Crow is simply endearing to know. He's intelligent, yes. And he's certainly quick-witted and fast to take charge. But behind all that, and for all that they state that angels don't show human emotion as much as they rather learn how to mimic it, he's got a protective and warm core that puts Doyle at the top of his small group of cared ones. You can't help but like him.

Even though Doyle and Crow are the two characters that we naturally become best acquainted with, there's a big cast to enjoy, and even an entertaining handful of encounters with Moriarty in the role of Vampire. You can imagine how fond of him Crow is. The various tales that run circles around Jack the Ripper are as absorbing as one might expect with two leads such as these, and full of the supernatural. I was especially fond of Doyle's visit to Dartmoor to look behind the riddle of the hound of the Baskervilles.

The Angel of the Crows smoothly transports the reader to the streets of London during the late 1800s in its style of writing. It's fast-paced, compulsory to read, and has a few surprises that were not even remotely expected, and will delight in their reveal.
Profile Image for Emma.
976 reviews976 followers
June 19, 2020
This was one of those books that promised much, but was shaky on the delivery. Firstly, the blurb. It gives the setting well enough but this... ‘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’. No. We’re not expecting these things because you didn’t tell us about them. Otherwise, once you find out what the story is really about, then it’s exactly what you think it is. The potential grandness and the possibility of some epic conflict was kind of suggested at the beginning, wars with fallen angels taking place in distant lands. But then it turned into a series of short cases with a light overarching link and only the barest hint at the bigger picture. Of course, this may well be all the stuff that’s going to fill the subsequent books in the series, but, as always, creating expectations for one kind of story and delivering another does not work. If it had said that what I was getting would be some Sherlock Holmes stories redone with angels and the supernatural, that would have been more than enough for me to be all in. But the whole thing about ‘Angels can Fall, and that Fall is like a nuclear bomb in both the physical and metaphysical worlds’ … that apocalyptic stuff is nowhere to be found. Why don’t publishers save this material for when it’s actually relevant?

More importantly, for me, the overarching Jack the Ripper story hit the wrong note. Now this may be a niche issue, but after reading the popular, well-researched, and convincingly argued The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper’ by Hallie Rubenhold, it has become increasingly difficult to see the deaths of these women being used as a sensationalist plot device, a means of showing how clever this ‘Holmes’ is when he catches the bad guy. As soon as victims become human, it’s that much harder to dismiss them, whether it’s in fiction or not. All the rest of the stories are reimaginings from the Sherlock Holmes oevre, but this is real life. These women were horrifically murdered, but have been repeatedly used as nothing more than props in the Ripper story, their sad and painful deaths offered as evidence of his brutality and cleverness. Here, again, they are all portrayed as prostitutes. Despite what all the virulently self-aggrandising and obsessive Ripperologists would like you to believe, Rubenhold has presented a powerful, evidence based argument to explain why this isn’t true. The precarity of female lives at this time meant that sex work could end up being the only answer, but it’s not one that all of these women chose or were forced into. To see them once more shoved into the mould of 'another dead whore' for the sake of this story had me cold.

ARC via Netgalley
Profile Image for Katie.
303 reviews60 followers
May 5, 2020
It's probably first important to point out: The Angel of the Crows first started as a Sherlock wingfic. For anyone unfamiliar with the term, wingfic is a fairly common sub-genre in the fanfiction community for stories where the characters are given wings. How/why they have wings is unspecified. They can be angels/devils/some other supernatural creature, humanity as a whole has evolutionarily evolved to have wings, they were the result of human experimentation, etc. In this world, there exists a society of angels, and our Sherlock character is one of them.

I point this out for two reasons. Firstly, because this only gets mentioned in the Author Notes after finishing the book, it helped me reframe and clarify some of the perceptions I already had. And secondly, because it amplified the disappointments I already had with the book.

I'll start with the first point. I've read my share of Sherlock Holmes retellings over the years, but The Angel of the Crows easily comes closest to the original material. Set in 1880s Victorian England, our Watson character (Dr. Doyle) comes back wounded from Afghanistan, complains to his friend that he won't find a flatmate, then meets the Sherlock character (Crow) later that afternoon and within a week they move into 221b Baker St. Sound familiar so far?

They work their way through A Study in Scarlet, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, The Hounds of Baskervilles, and then The Speckled Band, in that order. In the backdrop, the Jack the Ripper murders are taking place and Crow (Sherlock) is getting increasingly frustrated at being unable to solve them. Also, there's a whole slew of supernatural societies (a flock of angels residing throughout London, werewolf packs, a powerful vampire den run by a Moriarty) place throughout this version of London.

The problem is, none of the added elements seem to matter. While a detail might turn to the supernatural (the victim's a vampire! what if the hound is actually a werewolf?), the overarching story remains painfully the same. The day-to-day behavior of character groups may be affected because, surprise Moriarty's a vampire or there's an angel blocking my way, in the long run there's no real effect on the outcome. There's no real effect that these elements contribute. Yeah, it's kinda cute that Crow emotes through his wings instead of his face (because he can't blush, we are reminded over and over again), but I wanted to know more about the impact angels have on England society, details into how the Vampire covens operate, or insight into the formation of werewolf packs.

Even before knowing that this started as Sherlock fanfic, I had my guesses. Dr. Doyle and Crow are written so closely to the original characters, they may as well have been the original characters with different names. For the first 40%, it was genuinely hard for me to differentiate the two. Crow did eventually manage to evolve into his own character (somewhat), but Doyle remained static. Between that and the lack of original plot, reading that this was original fanfic hit me with big "ohhhhhhhh".

Moving onto the second point, one of my biggest disappointments when reading this was that Crow and Doyle never establish a more 'fixed' relationship. They start as amicable flatmates, go on detective-y adventures, each undergo emotional trauma that the other helps them deal with, and end up... amicable flatmates. There's hints, I guess, that the two of them view each other as something more, but to my great disappointment, it never really gets explored.

Of course, knowing that this was fanfic just makes that disappointment so much worse. Those familiar with the Sherlock fandom will know the extreme to which John and Sherlock get shipped. For anybody unfamiliar with the term 'Johnlock', Google it. I dare you. I've read romance novels where the main pairing has less chemistry with each other than these two did. So that fact that the two did not end up together, or even have some level of discussion about it? Disappointing.

Fanfiction-related complaints aside, I did have issues with other components. For one, the pacing. The Angel of the Crows is written in a Victorian-esque style, which already forces me to read slower. But there were just certain arcs, particularly the Baskerville arc, that just dragged. I read enjoy Sherlock Holmes stories because I find the character of Sherlock Holmes fascinating. So when Doyle ditches Sherlock to have his own adventures, when Doyle ditches Sherlock for nearly a fifth of the book, I'm not very happy. Especially when Doyle is the least interesting character of the cast.

The overarching Jack of the Ripper arc also felt both unnecessarily stretched out and anticlimactic. Keeping with the mystery of the real Jack the Ripper murders, Crow offers no deductions than what is known about the real murders. And the real murders left behind very little. Which leaves Crow and Doyle doing absolutely nothing to actually help solve the murders and Crow just angrily telling the police they're wrong about whatever theory they cook up. In the end, when Jack is finally 'caught', the whole even happens in about twenty pages with very little fanfare and left me thinking, I endured the Baskerville arc for this?

I finish with a more minor complaint. For a book about deductions, there's very little deducing. My favorite part about Sherlock Holmes stories is the deductions Sherlock makes from even the smallest amount of overlooked evidence. Emphasis on evidence. Beyond the initial deductions in the Study in Scarlet arc and the ones about Doyle's pocket watch (both from the original material), Crow doesn't really deduce things. He often makes conjectures that happen to be right, but he rarely seems to actually present evidence to back up his claims. Purely by power of the protagonist is he right and the police wrong.

Overall, I rate this book a 3.5/5. Despite how much I rag on it in this review, I found the writing and Crow to be quite interesting. However, the pacing and the lack of depth on the supernatural aspects really hurt my enjoyment of the overall story.
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,564 reviews2,312 followers
November 8, 2022
The Angel of the Crows
by Katherine Addison
I loved this! It was so incredibly fun! If you are a Sherlock and Watson fan and like things just like the original then do not read! But if you want a fun and twisted supernatural element to the stories then read this! There are more twists then you can imagine!

In here they are Crow and Doyle. Doyle was a doctor in the war too. It is written from Doyle's point of view. Many of the stories have the same sort of story lines but Doyle was injured in the fight with the Fallen, (Angels, that is!). Other stories come up such as the Hounds, special appearance by Jack the Ripper, and a couple of side jobs too. Exciting, fun, and definitely not as boring as the original Sherlock! (I like Sherlock but when Sherlock has wings, well, game over!)

There's Hellhounds, ghosts, Angels, vampires, psychic, mechanical Cerberus, and more! What's not to like when added to great characters and realistic backgrounds, mysteries, sprinkled generously with humor and intrigue!
Profile Image for Para (wanderer).
362 reviews195 followers
May 26, 2020
ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review.

Well. I certainly had high expectations for this book. I loved The Goblin Emperor and the concept seemed amazing – a retelling of Sherlock Holmes with magic and “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.” as the tagline, so presumably a fresh approach and some giant twist? Gimme. Now.

Unfortunately, it didn’t come close to living up to its promise. No matter how much I try to avoid it, the main word that comes to my mind when trying to describe it is mediocre. Deeply, painfully mediocre.

At its heart, The Angel of the Crows is a classic Sherlock Holmes retelling. Structurally, it’s pretty unique, composed of several largely independent short story to novella length arcs all connected by a framing story of Jack the Ripper. As per the author, it started as a wingfic of Sherlock (fanfic where a character has wings), which I thought was quite interesting as well. It was definitely a draw rather than a detractor.

However. What I’m looking for in retellings of classics are new takes on an old story. In a new setting, queerer, crossover, whatever. Here, the names and plot points are different and there’s magic and angels, but it even though it promises to reinvent the wheel, it…doesn’t, really. Admittedly, I’m not even remotely an expert on Sherlock Holmes, and it might work better for someone who is and gets a kick out of catching references, but changing a few details in a isn’t-this-clever way and adding magic do not a good retelling make. Not on their own. And before anyone gets their hopes up: no, it’s not even queer. As in, I don’t think there’s a single unambiguously queer character even among side characters. And if there was subtext, it’s too subtle for me to see.

There’s nothing horribly wrong with it. It’s competently written and I have no complaints about the structure or style. It was just a slog. This book’s version of Watson isn’t a particularly interesting character and of course, Crow (the Sherlock), the far more interesting of the pair, somehow isn’t around as much as I’d wish. I quite like fantasy mysteries, but here, even the plot was dull to follow and without any real tension. And yes, it can be challenging to add tension to stories everyone knows. But it’s surely not impossible.

But the main problem of The Angel of the Crows and the biggest dealbreaker for me is that it throws a whole lot of cool concepts at you and then absolutely refuses to explore them in any kind of depth. Angels are fascinating, but I can’t help but feel that more could be done with them. How does the magic impact society? What do magical beings add beyond cosmetics? Not much. Even the promised big twist is nearly forgotten a few pages later and even though I was suitably shocked by it at first, the more I think about it, the less I like it.

Ultimately, retellings of Sherlock Holmes have been done to death and unless they do something dramatically refreshing and new with the source material, I don’t see much point in reading them. This one, alas, failed to convince. If there was a 2.5* rating, I'd use that, but as it is, I will be rounding down to 2*.

Enjoyment: 2/5
Execution: 3/5

Recommended to: those desperate for a Sherlock Holmes retelling with magic
Not recommended to: those looking for a fresh take on an old story or LGBTQ+ representation

More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.
431 reviews22 followers
August 7, 2022
This is a great parady of the Sherlock Holmes adventures wherein the charictor of Holmes is played by an Angel of Lundon, and the charictor of Dr. Watson is played by a hell hound. It is a very delightful read. I recommend it to all Sherlock Holmes fans.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
July 5, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Celeste.
908 reviews2,342 followers
May 16, 2020
I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Tor) and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Angel of the Crows is basically Sherlock fan-fiction. I can’t even say it’s thinly veiled, because it isn’t veiled at all. And I am completely okay with that.
“I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for a second that I am one of them.”

There were a couple of pretty big twists here and there, but for the most part this book is a collection of faithful retellings of some of Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories. A Study in Scarlet, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Sign of Four, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, and more are covered in this collection. The still unsolved case of Jack the Ripper, which has been included or alluded to in many secondary works about Holmes written by other authors, is the thread which ties all of these separate cases into one cohesive narrative. But what sets this book apart from other Sherlockian stories outside of Doyle’s original canon is the author’s truly fascinating addition of the supernatural. This is not mere whiffs of supernatural in and around certain cases. Addison created a world in which the supernatural runs rampant and is accepted as reality but civilization at large.
“You can not keep faith with the faithless.”

Where the supernatural is seen most interestingly is in the Sherlock and Watson characters. Crow, the Sherlock character in this story, is an angel. Kind of. He doesn’t have his own habitation, which is what gives angels their identity. He isn’t one of the Nameless, because he managed to wrest an identity almost out of thin air. And he isn’t one of the Fallen, who are basically angels who lost their habitations and went crazy. Crow is something that no one can define, and it freaks everyone the heck out. Everyone, that is, except for Dr. J.H. Doyle, the Watson character in this tale. After being wounded in the war in Afghanistan, Doyle finds himself sharing a flat with Crow at 221B Baker Street. Addison barely deviated from the original meeting of the two, which I appreciated. From there they embark on the adventures that have become so well known over the past century, with just enough differences to keep things interesting.
“Shepherds watch over their flocks. And angels watch over shepherds.”

The Angel of the Crows is very much rooted in the Victorian London of Doyle’s original canon. Addison stays incredibly true to the stories that provided her inspiration. But what kept this book from feeling like a stale rehashing, besides the supernatural elements, were all of the references to the BBC series that Addison included. Some of the dialogue was word for word from the show. I’ve read and loved every Sherlock story Doyle penned, but the reason behind that love is my adoration for the BBC series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I have watched each and every episode multiple times; the first six episodes I’ve watched half a dozen times at least. It’s my sentimental favorite series ever. When Addison opened the book with a quote from the show, I was already won over. But every time she gave the series even the slightest of nods in the narrative it made me giddy. I mean, she gave Crow wings with the same level of moodiness and sass as Sherlock’s coat gave him in the show. The biggest change was Crow’s complete innocence and joy over the smallest things. Since these personality traits make him very believable as an angel, so I’m totally in favor of them. And I really don’t think they’re too far off from Sherlock’s portrayal in the show.
“Your real name has power.”

If you’re a fan of the original Doyle canon, this is a fun replay of some of its greatest hits, so to speak. Does it do anything truly new? No. The core of the stories are exactly the same. But the trappings are a lot of fun. And if you’re as obsessed with BBC’s Sherlock as I am, The Angel of the Crows is going to make you really happy. It’s as light and sweet and frothy as any plot relying on murder can get.

You can find this review and more at Novel Notions.

All quotations above were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
428 reviews184 followers
September 2, 2020
3.5 stars. I was ready to dismiss The Angel of the Crows as fanfiction for people who get off on imagining Benedict Cumberbatch with wings. The first part, a blow-by-blow recap of Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock story (A Study in Scarlet), was not promising. I'm not sure exactly when this book started to win me over, but at some point on Sunday evening, I was reading well into the if-I-don't-go-to-bed-NOW-Monday-at-work-is-going-to-suck time zone. (I didn't, and it did.)

This book shouldn't work, and yet it kind of does. It's unabashed Sherlock Holmes fanfiction (apparently there's a subgenre called wingfic for people who imagine wings onto their favorite characters - who knew?) including cases that diverge from the originals only in some supernatural details. In Addison's wingfic, Sherlock is an outcast angel named Crow and Watson is a...well, now that would be telling. Anyway, Watson is Dr. Doyle here, in a nod to the author. 19th century London is gritty, and made grittier by magic: angels standing guard, vampires and werewolves going about their daily business (only partly nefarious), governesses certified in clairvoyance, and a butcher of prostitutes in Whitechapel called Jack.

The cases are episodic, threaded together by the ongoing murders by Jack the Ripper. I don't think they work as mysteries, being too short and easily resolved, and if you have any familiarity with the originals (A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, Hound of the Baskervilles, etc.), very little about them will be surprising. The Jack the Ripper bits seem to be historically accurate, but are not built up into horror. Even when things are at their hairiest, neither Crow nor Doyle seem to be in that much danger. This gives their adventures together a chummy pleasantness that belies the number of dead bodies.

What saves The Angel of the Crows for me is how genuinely decent, human, and likable Addison's versions of these characters are - far beyond their equivalents in the canon and even in Sherlock. Crow is not a genius sociopath, but rather a being who doesn't quite understand humans, but is interested and tries to do well by them. Doyle is not a pompous bumbler with the deductive powers of a gnat, but an injured vet with secrets several layers deep. The friendship that springs up between these two is quirky, but unexpectedly healthy and healing for both.

Addison's previous book The Goblin Emperor is one of few that makes me think that perhaps people are better than I give them credit for, and there's an echo of that here as well. Even Moriarty (a vampire, of course) is kind of likable. I don't think The Angel of the Crows will go down as one of Addison's major works, as she is clearly capable of stories with much greater originality, but for what it is, I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Charlie Marie.
180 reviews70 followers
June 13, 2020
Many thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for sending me an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review!

First things first, it is important to know that The Angel of Crows started life as a Sherlock Holmes fanfic, specifically wingfic (fanfiction where characters are reimagined with wings)(thank you, author note for explaining this to me).

Second, it is important to know that I loved it!

I am not a die-hard Holmes fan, but have encountered many a Holmes retelling, and have enjoyed them all. This, though, is my favorite of the bunch!

For this re-imagining, Holmes is Crow, an angel, who is deeply kind and full of wonder, and has given himself the mission of solving mystery's in London, as a way to watch over his flock. (All angels in this world need a place/people to watch over, to give them their name and purpose, and keep them from falling). Watson is Doyle, a doctor, and former military person, who has come home from the wars with mobility challenges and a mysterious condition. They begin rooming together, and develop a tender and heartwarming friendship as they solve a series of mysteries alongside the London police. An overarching mystery that spans the book is that of Jack the Ripper.

Things to know

-This book feels a bit like a series of short stories, with each section focusing on a reimagining of on of the classic Holmes stories.

- In many ways, the re-imaginings stick very closely to the original stories, just with supernatural elements mixed in. If you are a deep Holmes nerd, you may love this! If, like me, you have a passing familiarity and fondness for Holmes, you might find it delightful when you can recognize the parallels! If you want an original mystery plot, you may be disappointed.

Things I loved
-Crow, Crow, Crow. I could not love a character more! I am a very enthusiastic human, who often falls for characters in books, but I cannot remember the last time one stole my heart so hard! I want to wrap him up in hugs, except he doesn't like to be touched, so instead I want to have tea with him and ask him lots of nerdy crime questions!

- The LGBTQIA rep: Reviewers have different opinions on whether or not this book has queer content, which I totally get! I think it does, it's just platonic queer content!

-The worldbuilding: Though we don't get to dive deep into the specifics of this world, where angels, vampires, demons, and other supernatural beasties openly roam, we get glimpses as our heroes solve mysteries, and I adored every moment! In particular, the way the author addressed angels and vampires were really unique! One thing that really stood out was the importance of names to angels- without a name, and a place to be tethered to, Angels have no purpose or identity, and exist in a sort of hive mind. Something about naming, and Crow's queering of the naming system, really melted my heart.

-Crow and Doyle's friendship: Both are complicated people, who live just a little outside the norms of their world, and watching them make a home together and learn to care for each other was just the sweetest thing! I am here for more depictions of queer, platonic life partners!

- The Hounds of the Baskervilles section: hellhounds on the Moor- need I say more?

Things I less-than-loved

- I will admit that this lovely book was a slow start for me; something about the pacing or the period language made it so I kept picking it up and putting it down. Once I sat down and dedicated time to reading it, though, I devoured it in a day. I don't read a ton of historical fiction, though, so other readers may not have the same trouble I did.

Overall, The Angel of Crows is a deeply nerdy, supernatural Sherlock retelling with the best pair of best friends solving mysteries in London's paranormal underworld. Cozy mystery + fantasy = what's not to love?

Before reading: I received this ARC and am doing the happiest of dances! I love a good Sherlock retelling, and this one has vampires and angels?! Swoon!
Profile Image for Boston.
405 reviews1,851 followers
January 23, 2021
As a fantasy reimagining of Sherlock Holmes and set against the backdrop of London in the midst of its dance with Jack the Ripper, this book certainly seems to have it all. I did really enjoy this book, I think it was fun and interesting and the characters were fantastic. Unfortunately, murder mysteries don't hold my attention very well, hence the rating. However, I think anyone who likes Sherlock Holmes would absolutely love this and I highly recommend it.

*thank you to the publisher for sending me and early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
906 reviews278 followers
December 5, 2020
DNF @ 32%
Just not enough here to keep me going. Let's delve into the specifics below.

Holmes Mysteries
I came to a realization as I was reading this, and investigated it in other reviews to see if I was correct (which I was), all the mysteries (except for Jack the Ripper) are all well known Sherlock Holmes cases. They all resolve the same as the originals. For someone like me who is familiar with many of the original Holmes stories and knows how most of them are solved this took away a lot of appeal. I get that it's supposed to be about nostalgia and a new setting for Holmes (plus add in Jack the Ripper) but honestly I just can't bring myself to navigate this dense writing just to read outcomes to mysteries I already know.

Jack the Ripper
While still slightly intrigued about how Katherine Addison plans to resolve the Jack the Ripper case in this story; it wasn't enough to keep me going. The writing is absolutely beautiful here, and her set-up of the snippets of the Ripper's point of view are clever. I absolutely loved each one of them. It's almost tempting to just read those pieces of the story until the end of the book; but that feels sacrilege and I just can't bring myself to disrespect the effort Addison has put into this. Additionally my greatest fear, and one of the reasons I also didn't finish this, is that the Ripper cases will end unsolved as they are today in this story. A thoroughly unsatisfying end that I just wanted to avoid.

Beautifully Written, but Dense
Some books are just so beautifully written you don't care what the story is. Addison almost achieves that for me here. This is a gorgeous piece of prose taken on it's own without any other context. But it's also dense. The writing matches the Victoria era on the story and really puts you into the place and time of London. It's tragic that instead of finding this glorious, I instead found this to be more dragging density along with the plot that didn't have enough to keep me interested.

I am sure there will be people who think this is the best book ever. And I wouldn't disagree with them. It just wasn't for me at the moment I had it in hand. There is a possibility I could come back to it if the mood strikes me to want some Holmes stories repurposed. The density of the story reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (although not quite that epic with footnotes) which is one of my absolute favourite books of all time. So I may be inclined to blame the pandemic for my inability to focus, or I really just found this too predictable knowing that the Holmes mysteries will all be resolved in the way I already know.
I would say if you have any interest in this book give it a shot. But don't be afraid to put it down early if it's just not for you.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Dave.
3,014 reviews334 followers
May 1, 2020
"The Angel of Crows" began as a piece of fan fiction, reimagining the Sherlock Holmes saga. Those familiar with those stories will immediately recognize them as their origins are certainly not hidden. Not only is this originally fanfic, but a specific sub-genre of fanfic known as "wingfic," which considers what would happen if characters had wings. So we get a late 1800's sort of steampunk London with airships and Angels, many of who are geographically inclined. Thus, there would be the Angel of the Tower of London and so forth. There are also the Fallen, Angels who are still endowed with mighty powers but the intellect of ferocious beasts.

Into this literary space we get Holmes reimagined as An Angel named Crow with huge mighty wings and a never ending intellectual curiosity and often consulted by the police. Watson of course is now Dr. Watson, the coroner, except when he wakes at night and turns into a hellhound. There are vampires, werewolves and other fell beasts about.

All kinds of intriguing ideas, but the Angels are the most interesting of all and their world and history is only barely scratched at here. It would have been great to learn more about the battle for Heaven, the Angels, the Nameless, and the Fallen. Overall, just so intriguing, but it had difficulty holding my interest at times and took awhile to get through.

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,609 reviews192 followers
August 6, 2020
I read many, if not most, of the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in high school, over one interminable summer. I inhaled these stories, and fell in love with the idea of Holmes and Watson. So, it was natural that I’d pick this book up by Katherine Addison, though her The Goblin Emperor was the second reason I looked forward to this story.
This book wasn’t riveting, but I still enjoyed her version of several Doyle stories*, along with her Victorian London filled with a variety of supernatural creatures (hell hounds, vampires, angels, etc.)
I appreciated Addison’s take on the Holmes and Watson relationship, and how they ended up relying on each other’s complementary abilities to solve problems. That the Watson here was actually called J.H. Doyle, with a surprise or two of their own (one of which I figured out fairly early!)) and Holmes was an angel, worked nicely, and actually became useful to the resolution of a few of the situations.
The Goblin Emperor was a book I loved, and this was one I liked. And as fan fiction goes, this was an enjoyable interpretation of the Sherlock canon.

*A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Adventure of the Yellow Face (what a terrible title!), The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Speckled Band.
Profile Image for Veronique.
1,233 reviews169 followers
March 24, 2021

Let’s start by saying that if you’re expecting something groundbreaking and new, especially after having read the author's previous book, you will be disappointed. Addison instead offers us a re-telling of Sherlock Holmes's most famous adventures - with a few differences, naturally.

If you approach this novel aware of this fact and do not expect anything else, you will enjoy it, quite a bit. I did :O) The changes made were actually pretty good and I appreciated some of the ways this new version set things. Furthermore, I did smile at the ways the original stories were mended into this new mold. However, and I guess this is where most readers will have a problem, there was no truly ‘new’ plot per se.
Profile Image for TS Chan.
700 reviews868 followers
June 28, 2020
ARC received from the publisher, Tor, in exchange for an honest review.

The Angel of the Crows was a decent and pretty fun read, though not at all what I was expecting from the blurb. This book is Sherlock Holmes fan-fiction written in the subgenre of wingfic, where some of the characters have wings (in this case, they are angels).

I should somewhat have guessed Sherlock from the mention of Jack the Ripper. But then again, plenty of fiction has been written around the one of the most infamous serial killers in history. I was quite hyped after reading the synopsis of the book as it sounded like a fascinating Victorian-era urban fantasy with angels, vampires and werewolves. Even when I found out it was essentially Sherlock fan-fiction I was still fairly excited to read this title being a fan of the Sherlock franchise, although I've technically only read one story so far, i.e. A Study in Scarlet.

Funnily enough, that's exactly how The Angel of the Crows started - with the retelling of A Study in Scarlet which introduced the reader to our first person POV, Dr J.H. Doyle. Dr. Doyle having returned to London with an injury from a war in Afghanistan ended up finding a housemate in the form of an angel named Crow. I'm sure this sounded familiar. Whether from the book or even the Sherlock TV series, this was the opening scene of Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes.

While I've no issues at all with fan-fiction, I did feel a lack of investment in these retellings, which also notably included the other most famous Sherlock titles, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four. If not for the supernatural aspects, I might even be disinterested in continuing with the book. Crow's story was fascinating as he was neither Nameless nor Fallen, but still managed to gain an identity without a real habitation. Well, so was Dr. Doyle, who kept two dark secrets from the mortal world. Even though the characterisation was fine enough, I didn't find myself terribly eager to pick up the book again, as I usually do when I'm really invested and enjoying a read.

I'm not sure if I picked this up at the wrong time, because I expected myself to enjoy this more. Victorian England, supernatural beings, mysteries and Sherlock - all these are some of my favourite trappings in fiction.  The writing was also era appropriate without being fussy or long-winded. While my review may not sound very positive, rest assured that this could still be a fun read for fans of the Sherlock canon. On that note, my co-blogger, Celeste, enjoyed this book more being a huge Sherlock fan, and you can check out her review here.

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping) | Bookshop.org (Support Independent Bookstores) | Amazon UK | Amazon US

You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
Profile Image for Tijana.
736 reviews193 followers
July 4, 2020
Na samom kraju knjige je napomena autorke koja lepo sažima sve što unapred treba znati o ovoj knjizi pa da se slučajno ne razočarate kad uzmete da čitate, a ide otprilike ovako: "Anđeo vrana započet je kao wingfic za seriju Šerlok". Na šta svaki ljubitelj fanovske proze vredan tog imena može samo da se osmehne onako kvarno i s razumevanjem istovremeno.
Anđeo vrana ima, naime, premisu koja je istovremeno fanfikovski suluda i profesionalno pedantno razrađena: šta bi bilo da Votson nije Votson nego Dojl (i još nešto drugo što vam neću spojlovati, a kad malo razmislim, i nešto treće što vam takođe neću spojlovati) a da Šerlok nije Holms nego... anđeo koji nije baš pali anđeo ali nije ni da nije, i da su njih dvojica cimeri u svetu prepunom zbunjenih, blagih i često besposlenih anđela kojima je posao da čuvaju pojedine zgrade, ali i drugih demonskih/natprirodnih bića. I da (između ostalog) ganjaju Džeka Trboseka.
Ketrin Edison/Sara Monet voli da piše o osetljivim prijateljstvima između duboko nesrodnih i teško oštećenih osoba, pa ni ovo nije izuzetak. Voli i da gradi "guste" imaginarne svetove sa brižljivo razrađenom mitologijom i kompleksnim društvima; ni u tome ovaj roman nije izuzetak osim što je njen prvi stimpank (i da, ima cepelina, ona baš voli cepeline... uopšte je ovo knjiga pisana za svoju dušu i to se baš vidi). Očigledan je veliki trud uložen u to da se ne odstupi mnogo od odabranih Dojlovih priča, a da se one ipak malo "protegnu" i prirodno uklope u taj izmaštani svet. Ceo roman sastoji se od ulančanih najpoznatijih Šerlokovih slučajeva (samo nema Irene Adler), a između njih se kao crvena nit provlače poglavlja u kojima se traga za Trbosekom i koja, iznenađujuće, uglavnom strogo prate istorijska ubistva. Možda se ne odaje previše ako kažem da se ta potraga završi nekako blago razočaravajuće jer autorka ne želi da nam ponudi neko konkretno nerealno rešenje tipa Trbosek je Morijarti, ali ni da se opredeli za neku od bezbroj teorija koje su tokom godina razvijane.
I tako. Ovo jeste za one koji vole Šerloka... i fanfik... i beskrajno je zabavno a na mahove nežno i toplo (da, znam da ništa iz opisa radnje ne upućuje na to) ali ne spada baš u najbolja dela Sare Monet.
Profile Image for Kate.
559 reviews76 followers
June 30, 2020
*deep breath*

I did not know that you could actually publish fanfiction. I did not know that this book was, in fact, fanfiction until I reached the author's note at the end. I did not know that I could be so blase about a book by an author I love so much which seems to intersect the worlds of Sherlock and Supernatural.

But I was not amused. Or entertained. And I am SO SO SAD ABOUT IT.


The characters are so flat and lifeless, and I really didn't care much about them. The "world" is apparently prebuilt, so we don't need any detail on how all this fits together...but we really do. The characters have been changed and the world has been edited so much that we need more detail to know what's going on and how it all fits together, and we just don't. Get. It.

Any information that is given is dumped into dialogue, which I particularly dislike, along with the fact that this story is told in first person POV. But it's okay. I'm fine.


Taken all together, these things kept me from getting into this book at all. Again, SO SO SAD ABOUT IT.

My recommendation would be to skip this, go read The Goblin Emperor, and wait impatiently for The Witness for the Dead.

SAD. 2 stars.


Ummm....ok. Full review to come.


I am SO EXCITED about this book. HERE WE GO!!!


Profile Image for Christine Sandquist.
185 reviews59 followers
July 22, 2020
This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.


* Sherlock Holmes wingfic retelling! but with no real wingfic tropes
* Deep platonic friendships! that pretty much should have been romantic
* Pining, sort of? except not really I guess*
* Queer main characters! only it's not really relevant to, uh, anything

*it SHOULD have been proper pining and I'm grumpy it wasn't

Full review!

After having read and loved The Goblin Emperor, I was incredibly excited to see that Katherine Addison had a new book out! I cannot express how quickly I smashed "request" on NetGalley. Unfortunately, I regret to say that this book was a bit of a hot mess. Admittedly, I came into it with slightly incorrect expectations: when I heard that this novel had begun as a Sherlock Holmes wingfic, I instantly made the assumption that I would see some of my favorite tropes from that particular subgenre of fanfic. However, even outside of this mismatch of expectations, I felt that the book had major issues with pacing, character development, worldbuilding, and queer representation. It did not grab my attention at any juncture. Every time I thought it was going to do something interesting, it went nowhere. I felt set adrift and overall dissatisfied. 

For those who are unfamiliar with wingfic tropes, it’s important to understand that wingfic is usually very, very gay. It’s a bit like telling someone you wrote a Harry Potter fanfic about Draco / Harry. Someone will click on that with the expectation that this is going to be queer. It’s incredibly jarring to discover that no, actually, it’s really not. 

“You didn’t have to come,” I started, but he said, “Doyle, surely you aren’t seriously suggesting you would have left me behind?”

He made me laugh, which was the last thing I was expecting. “No, of course not,” I said.

“Good,” said Crow, “for you wouldn’t have succeeded.”

He stood up, and despite the fact that I disliked the touch of his feathers, I found myself missing the slight weight and static prickle of his wing.

Given this, I expected this to be gay as hell . It was not. Much to my dismay, there was also a very high degree of queer-baiting throughout. I was disappointed . There are so, so many moments where the relationship between Doyle (Watson) and Crow (Sherlock) hints that it will become romantic. Although Crow, as an angel, does not have any sexual desires, this could have been a beautiful ace romance.

To be clear, I'm not at all opposed to deep friendships between main characters rather than romantic entanglements. There are many books that do this very well, such as Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace. Where Archivist Wasp perfectly balances two main characters in a friendship that receives every ounce of attention that a romantic relationship would have, The Angel of the Crows seems to sit off-axis. Their friendship grows, certainly, but it's interspersed with lines that I can only interpret as queer-baiting. I did not enjoy feeling strung along. 

“Doyle, are you still mad at me?”

“Yes,” I said, because all the folktales say you should not lie to an angel. And because I was still mad.

“If . . .” He broke off. I was halfway down the casualty lists when he blurted, “If you have sexual congress with me, will you stop being mad?”

Tea went everywhere. If I’d had a mouthful of toast, I probably would have choked to death. As it was, I wheezed and gasped and finally said, “WHAT?”

“I don’t want you to be mad at me,” Crow explained unhappily. “I thought maybe—”

“That is not what sexual congress is for!”

“It isn’t?”

In addition to these issues, Addison had the sheer audacity to create a fascinating world filled with hellhounds, angelic societies, vampiric hunts, and necrophages…. Only to somehow make them not very interesting. The little bites of information we get about the angels are all terribly intriguing but never explored. Doyle himself is a hellhound; he was infected during the war by a Fallen angel. There’s a mysterious, ominous registration act… but no one properly explains why it’s so bad to be registered. There are strange, magical automata without a hint as to their origin. The whole thing was an exercise in frustration. I wanted to know more. I wanted a deep, highly developed world. The book was certainly long enough to give me that. Instead, I was given just enough to be annoyed. 

Some cerberus automata were actually built in the shape of dogs. This one was in human form, save for the three mastiff heads, which its body was built broad and squat to accommodate. It was two-thirds my height and probably that much broader.

“It knows me,” Sholto said, “but it will want to examine the three of you. Brother Bartholomew is becoming more and more paranoid.”

Speaking of length, I expected the novel to focus on a single Sherlock story, going into detail on the intricacies of the crime and the investigation needed to resolve it. Instead, this was a rambling mess of, oh god I don’t know, ten? different mysteries. It sure felt like ten. It dragged on and on. This book was all over the place when it needed focus, clarity, and a proper plot arc. Essentially, Addison smooshed all the Sherlock Holmes novels and then a few short stories all into one book. We had Moriarty and Jack the Ripper and The Hound of the Baskervilles all overlapping each other at once. It was just a bit too much. It was hard to tell which plotline was mean to be the “real” one tying everything together. This book could have had half the page count and twice the worldbuilding, had it only had some of the fat trimmed off it. 


One of my largest frustrations with the book, beyond what has already been mentioned, was the queer representation. Generally speaking, the more queer characters a novel has the happier I am. When it came to The Angel of the Crows, though... they felt forced and shoehorned in. I don't really understand why you'd make your main character queer and then make it almost entirely irrelevant to their character arc as a whole. About two thirds into the novel, it’s revealed that Doyle is, in fact, a trans man. Which is great! Beyond a few paragraphs explaining how he’d hidden his secret while in the army, this becomes almost completely irrelevant to the remainder of the plot. It felt cowardly. Beyond that, he even identifies himself as "a woman" in conversation with Crow. Now, I cannot speak for trans folks of the 1800s, but I cannot imagine one saying that they're actually a woman. 

“You know I’m a woman, Crow.” If he knew I was a hell-hound, he had to know that.

“Yes,” he said, “but what does that have to do with it?”

“Well, for one thing, it isn’t legal for two women to marry. For another thing, I feel quite sure that Miss Morstan doesn’t want to marry a woman.”

Similarly, it turns out that all angels, including Crow, are biologically female. However, angels may present as either men or women depending on how they are perceived. This, too, never became relevant again. This sort of gender presentation and assignment was never explored in a meaningful way. It has so, so much potential: I love the idea of a book that goes into what it means to have an identity imposed on you by society and your surroundings in the way that the angels do here. Sadly, it didn't do this. At the end of the day.... it was effectively just one more instance of queer-baiting: Crow revealed this tidbit shortly after Doyle spoke to him about being trans but preferring women. 


All in all, this book is fine if you're hankering for a Sherlock Holmes retelling with fairly good prose. If you can look past all of the opportunities for engagement and exploration, it's only real issue is the pacing. I was not able to look past that. This book had so, so much potential. It wasted it at every step

More reviews on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks.

Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,034 reviews2,604 followers
June 22, 2020
3.5 of 5 stars at The BibliboSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/06/21/...

Sherlock Holmes with angels—which is pretty much The Angel of the Crows in a nutshell. It certainly wasn’t the book I thought it was going to be, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since it was so very obvious a pet project for Katherine Addison, who explained in her author’s note the concept of “wingfic” and the impetus behind this novel. Its unique provenance resulted in some hiccups, it’s true; but on the flip side, there’s no denying the author’s passion for her work behind every word.

Opening in an 1880s alternate London, our story is told through the eyes of Doyle, our “Watson” in this retelling. He’s also a hellhound, recently come home after sustaining an injury from a fallen angel in the war, where he served as a military doctor. The search for a new roommate leads him to 221B Baker Street, where he meets the inimitable Crow, the declared Angel of London.

The rest readers can probably work out for themselves. As London is his domain, Crows feels obligated to lend his services to the police whenever they need help cracking a tough case. At the moment, a ruthless killer known as Jack the Ripper stalks the streets, taunting Scotland Yard with the butchered bodies of his victims. It’s up to Crow and Doyle to solve the mystery of his identity and stop his reign of terror on the city. Meanwhile, fans of the original Sherlock stories will also be able to enjoy re-imaginings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic tales, including A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles and other such favorites—all seen through an inventive, supernatural lens.

While the concept of Sherlock Holmes as an outcast angel is a fascinating one, a fantasy twist on the original source material certainly isn’t new. I think that’s why I finished this novel feeling like I wanted more. In recent years, I’ve read a number of Sherlock retellings, and in particular, G.S. Denning’s Warlock Holmes and The Affair of the Mysterious Letter by Alexis Hall came to mind frequently as I was reading The Angel of the Crows. There are many shared elements between the three works, and while each featured their individual and unique qualities, I couldn’t help but wish Addison had done more to break away from the pack. Undoubtedly, it would have helped this novel stand out more, as we’re currently still seeing this trend where retellings are all the rage.

Still, it’s hard to say anything negative about the world-building, especially the little details. Like the fact there are vampires, werewolves, angels and demons, and a whole host of other supernatural creatures populating these pages. Or the fact that angels are portrayed a little like the fae, like how Crow can’t lie and true names have power. And also hemophages, which are DEFINITELY not the same as vampires. In fact, I only wish the book had gone a little further into clarifying some of the questions readers will inevitably have, considering all these intricate details of the world. Among angels, for example, there are the Fallen and the Nameless, just to name a couple, and the explanations into their origins and traits, etc. simply aren’t sufficiently enough as it stands. In sum, much of the world-building is fantastic, but just feels incomplete.

The characters are also great, and I enjoyed every moment of the dynamic friendship between Crow and Doyle. Truly, there are some incredibly wonderful and heartwarming moments to be found there. Again though, I just wished there had been more. In part, some of the limitations could have been due to the format of the novel, which, as I mentioned before, retells a series of Sherlock Holmes stories. This led to many shifts in focus and lots of zipping around, which had a pesky way of getting in the way of developing relationships or at times interrupting interesting plot threads.

All told, I can understand a lot of the middling ratings I’ve been seeing for The Angel of the Crows, mainly because so many of my own thoughts echo these reviews. But of course, I also had fun with the book and found absolutely nothing disagreeable at all about it. I’ll simply say it one final time: I just wish it had been more. Still, it’s a decent read for any fan of Sherlock Holmes looking for fantasy retelling, and the wingfic angle definitely gave it an interesting spin. Worth checking out, if the premise appeals to you.
Profile Image for Lila.
843 reviews9 followers
June 22, 2020
I received this book from NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge free of charge in exchange for a review and I wish to thank them for this opportunity.

In Author's Note at the end of The Angel of the Crows, Katherine Addison wrote that "this book started as Sherlock wing-fic"- a subgenre of fanfic where characters have wings.
On paper, you couldn't have found a better fit for me.
I love The Goblin Emperor.
I am huge fan of classic mysteries.
I am an ever bigger fan of Sherlock Holmes, both original and various interpretations and media alterations and takes. And I remember SFSquee podcast episode with Sarah and some cool guests (can't get cooler than Elizabeth Bear and Paul Cornell*) where she shared her love for "consulting detective" as well.
And I love fanfiction.

But this book didn't do much for me and after giving some serious thought about why exactly, I came to this: the note cited above note implies that this book "started as a wing-fic", as in it's not anymore, it evolved into something else entirely. Having read it, I don't think this is particularly true.
This novel is just a basic retelling of Sherlock's adventures.
And it's that thing, precisely, that doesn't work for someone who is familiar with ACD's stories. The reason someone like me can enjoy and like various versions of Sherlock in media is twofold: staying true to characters even if they wear a different name in a completely different setting or if you focus on stories itself, then putting a different spin on them. Kind of like what BBC did with their modern version of Sherlock.
Other than main character names who are not Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, but Crow and J.H. Doyle, some other characters even retain their original names: you have your Lestrade and Moriarty and even the names of "canonical five", Jack the Ripper's victims. I immediately knew which stories Addison used (The Sign of The Four, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches...) not because they were cleverly intertwined with this whole novel concept of winged creatures and magical world. No, I knew they were these stories because she set them up the same way: The Hound of Baskerville starts with Watson and Holmes theorizing about the man who forgot his walking stick. Same happens with Crow and Doyle. I recognize the names of characters, so I couldn't even be surprised by the outcome which took the mystery element out. This, of course, excludes the confrontation with the Ripper.
Speaking off, it's not the first time famous detective is pitted against Jack the Ripper: in fact the last book I've read on this theme was Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lindsay Faye which was great. If you are familiar with the case, Addison used the victims and their injuries, word by word transcript of Goulston Street graffito and "Dear Boss" letter, the whole shebang.
So, with so many things retold and things I already knew about, what was left? Well, I guess, the wingfic element which, and I am perfectly honest about this, just never mashed that well with this premise. Sometimes it seemed like it was entirely forgotten and left in the background, sometimes it was used as an additional flavor, a character trait to spice it up (like Moriarty is a vampire) and sometimes as a Deus ex Machina, but it's never mashing with some adventure or other to make it fresh or interesting.
I loved how much importance Addison gave to making Crow's and Doyle's friendship believable. Tentatively friendly building up to complete trust. She also made Doyle just as important character in art of solving mysteries, but, again, I wasn't fan of using as a plot twist. I liked the idea quite a lot, just not how it was written into story. When it comes to setting, the whole thing with angels is incredibly interesting and their involvement in war is something I wanted more to read about. I almost hope she wrote a whole different book around this idea and not tying it to Holmes.
This was a well written retelling of Sherlock Holmes where he has wings and is called Crow in a form of journal entries from the perspective of Watson whose name is Doyle who's also more than appears, and had I expected exactly this, I guess I would liked it more.

*This was years ago and it dawned on me all three of them wrote something Sherlock-y since.
Profile Image for Christie«SHBBblogger».
959 reviews1,245 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
July 5, 2020
DNF 50%

I was so excited when I got approved for this fantasy as it seemed to have such an original combination of things that I haven't seen before. Who wouldn't want to read a fantasy about an alternate reality 19th century London in which there were supernatural shifters, angels, and Jack the Ripper?? Although I knew ahead of time that there would be some level of mystery involved, I had no idea that this was going to be a Sherlock Holmes retelling. That is essentially what this is, and I have to say that I'm pretty confused as to why this wasn't used as a descriptor of the book by the publisher.

I'm completely unfamiliar with Sherlock Holmes because I'm not a big fan of the mystery genre, but when I highlighted certain characters' names on my kindle, I discovered that more than one was identical to the Holmes stories. There's a Holmes quote at the beginning of the book. If I had known right from the start that the focus would be on the mysteries rather than the fantasy world I never would have requested it. I feel like the publisher is doing themselves a disservice in their marketing because they're not targeting the people who would enjoy it most.

I tried to keep an open mind when I realized the tone of the book, I really did. The language is clunky to say the least, and the dialogue makes you trip over yourself trying to read it. I love historical books for the escapism of traveling to another time and place. It allows you to immerse yourself in another era, so naturally old-fashioned speech is typically welcome. But in this case, the use of obsolete words was done to such an extent that the characters became as dry as dust. After voraciously reading for more years than I would like to admit to, I think my vocabulary is pretty decent. Yet I found myself looking up the definition of a word that I had never even heard of before on every other page.

All of these things were somewhat frustrating, but the biggest hurdle of all in getting into this book was the lack of worldbuilding. The author completely disregards the reader's need to understand the fantasy world in which the story takes place. From page one, words/phrases like hell-hounds, the Fallen, metaphysicum morbi, Fallen miasma, and Nameless were inserted into conversations with zero explanation. Which forces you to repeatedly stop and try to find context clues to understand what is being discussed. Unfortunately even then you're left in confusion for many chapters. When you finally understand a handful of concepts, the fact remains that there is no history, no detailed descriptions of this bizarre alternate reality for you to feel like you can get a foothold.

Everything combined made it very difficult for me to feel invested in the story or motivated to continue reading. This is partly due to my reading tastes though, so if you're a huge Sherlock Holmes fan and you're looking for something that puts a different spin on what you're familiar with, this could be the book for you. I wish I could have gotten into it more, but I knew once I was halfway in that it was better to cut my losses and move on.

Profile Image for Courtney.
276 reviews28 followers
May 15, 2020
A well composed story with an interesting plot. The characters were instantly like-able and had a dry sense of humor which I appreciated. However, I am just the type of person who does not really enjoy whodunnits as much as I enjoy mystery/thrillers. I thought the fantasy aspect would sway a little more in my favour but unfortunately not.

Additionally, I was slightly irked that the different sects of angels (i.e. nameless and fallen) were not well explained? I remained confused why these were introduced and what was the story behind them?

Thank you to Netgalley and Tor Books for the opportunity to receive this arc in exchange of an honest review.
Profile Image for Valsh.
240 reviews
June 3, 2020
DNF at 52%

Thank you NetGalley for sending me this ARC!

I started The Angel of the Crows with high expectations due to an apparently amazing plot and an interesting setting. Unfortunatelly for me, it wasn't my cup of tea at all. I couldn't relate with the characters, nor with Crow and neither Doyle, and the more I read the more I found them flat. Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't empathize with them, nor I was interested in their lives and what happened to them. Plus, the plot twists were predictable and somethimes even over the top.
Talking about the plot, I have to say that reading this book for me was like reading a novel by Sir Conan Doyle all over again and that was not what I was looking for. What I was looking for was something original, something that simply made this book remarkable and interesting. I think that Katherine Addison didn't try hard enough to make this book hers, to create something new with two amazing characters like Sherlock and Watson. Such a pity.

That said, I think that if you never read anything by Sir Conan Doyle you should give this book a try anyway. I really think that you will appreciate this book so much more than I did, because the plot will be way more interesting and unexpected.

Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,264 reviews222 followers
August 6, 2020
The latest from Katherine Addison introduces us to Dr. J. H. Doyle as he returns to London from Afghanistan, pensioned off because of a war wound. There he meets a consulting detective, an angel name Crow, and the two become first housemates and then partners in investigation through a series of bizarre cases that involve a wide range of supernatural creatures and gruesome murders all while they hunt for Jack the Ripper.

This is an entertaining riff on the Sherlock Holmes mythos that imagines a fantasy world overlaid on our 19th century that renders things like vampires, werewolves, angels and hellhounds completely prosaic. It's actually fascinating just how close the episodes of this book are to the actual source material, all while playing with a whole lot of urban fantasy concepts. For some readers I can see the closeness of the plotting of these to be a bit off-putting, but I thought it was fine.
Profile Image for Yogaa Lakshmi.
87 reviews5 followers
August 28, 2020
The Angel of the Crows is a wingfic (fan fiction which imagines one character with wings) of Sherlock Holmes with a supernatural twist where Sherlock (Crow) is an angel and Dr. Watson (Dr. Doyle) is a hell-hound.

Crow is an angel with only a piece of his habitat in his pocket because if angels loose their habitat entirely, they fall. And this fall is like when a dead bird falls off a tree. Instead, it is more like a nuclear bomb.

One such fall of an angel while tending to soldiers in Afghan, injures Dr. Doyle's leg and changes him into a hellhound. So, Dr. J. H. Doyle has no other option than to go back to London and live on his measly pension.

Unlike most of the historical fantasy novels, the language is lucid and easy to understand. The whole story is said through Dr. Doyle's perspective. The novel is divided into nine parts, each of which is based upon a new mystery/case. And some of these cases are pretty well-known, like 'The Hound of Baskerville', 'The Sign of the Four' etc. I love the way that the Whitechapel Murders and Jack the Ripper mystery were added to the story. I also admire the friendship bond between Crow and Dr. Doyle.

One of the major reason for giving this book a 3/5 is that the stories are just too predictable and familiar because storylines are exactly similar the original Sherlock Holmes except for the supernatural twists and Jack the Ripper part. I last read Sherlock Holmes two year ago but I was still able to predict at least seventy per cent of the mysteries. None of the names are changed except for Crow (Sherlock) and Dr. Doyle (Dr. Watson). I also felt that the whole system of the angels was very confusing and blurry.

Overall, the novel is engaging, entertaining and a wonderful retelling of Sherlock Holmes. I strongly recommend this book to all the Sherlock fans because although the novel is heavily based on it, the author has done justice by adding supernatural elements and plot twists here and there.

I thank NetGalley and Macmillan/Tor-Forge for giving me this wonderful opportunity to review this book. Also, this book has added 'The Goblin Emperor' (Katherine Addison's previous book) to my ever-growing list of TBR.
7 reviews1 follower
March 24, 2021
I'm currently stuck/idling about 400 pages in and I'm deeply frustrated. I was expecting something of at least the calibre of The Goblin Emperor. Instead, I have a poorly executed Sherlock Holmes trope with no real point to the conceit. Have all the editors died or been sent to hell? "These are not the characters you are expecting." Only because the author hasn't created strong characters, and the characters as they are do not much honour the best elements of the trope. Also, 800 pages? Science/Fantasy has been littered with takes on Sherlock Holmes/Conan Doyle over the past seventy years or so, with varying degrees of success. Add Angels and Hell Hounds? To compete, your writing game has to be on point, and you need to create robust and engaging characters with pronounced moral/ethical compasses, a distinct world in which they exist, and driving plots (even if weak in the original). Despite some nice, all to brief, allusions to the Afghanistan of the Fallen Angels, this is something of a snooze in a late Victorian fog. To be fair, the writing itself is good, her style mimics the original nicely.
Profile Image for Heather.
319 reviews288 followers
February 19, 2021
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

The Angel of Crows

3 stars

What I like

I want to say that this is a unique story but it really isn’t. It is essentially Sherlock Holmes with a minor twist. Not even a major twist. That being said … I did really enjoy it. The story was dark and intriguing as one might expect from something that mimics the great classic stories involving Holmes and Watson.

The twist of course is that this takes place in a work with angels and demons and other creatures of fairytale and lore.

I don’t have much else to say as to my enjoyment of this book as it was just simply that … enjoyable.

The writing was good. The characters were interesting. The plot was intriguing.

What I did not like

I feel that when you are dissecting a famous story or fairytale, and reimagining it … you have to pay careful attention to making it entirely new at the same time. This story failed to do that. It took a classic, put black cursed wings on it and called it a new release. I'm not mad at it. I could read Sherlock Holmes stories all day. But I am disappointed in the fact that The Angel of Crows did not take the dissection as far as it could have. And by the same token did not take the reimagining nearly far enough.

I still don't exactly understand the fantasy aspects of this story and feel like this was a major missed opportunity. It’s like I have the groundworks of a truly fascinating world-building opportunity that was never truly realized.

In Conclusion

This book was still enjoyable given its lack of uniqueness. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes retellings.
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