Peer Review: “Shadowfall” by Tracy Revels

This is a bit of a departure for my Peer Reviews. Since being signed to MX Publishing for Watson is Not an Idiot, I get a steady stream of iBook codes so I can read and review some of the other Sherlock Holmes books that MX puts out. I’m not going to turn down free Sherlock Holmes books! So in this case, I’m using “peer” in a slightly different sense — I’ve never met Tracy Revels, but she is part of the MX stable of authors, so we are peers in that sense.

Before I get into the novel proper, though, follow me down a rabbit hole of sub-genres. Shadowfall is a Holmes pastiche about the supernatural, which is a common subject — one that Doyle even touched on at times. In my experience, there are two forms of this: the supernatural elements are explained as science (which is true to canon), or the supernatural elements are real (which Shadowfall falls into). Inside the “supernatural is real” sub-genre there are two sub-sub-genres: Holmes does not believe in the supernatural, or Holmes does believe in the supernatural. Shadowfall very firmly falls into “Sherlock Holmes/supernatural is real/Holmes believes in the supernatural.”

I bring this up because you need to buy into that concept before you can appreciate this book. I personally prefer either “the supernatural is really explained by science” or “Holmes does not believe in the supernatural,” but as long as I know the basis of the story I’m reading, I can put that behind me if I need to. Luckily, Tracy sets the stage in the first chapter, so the book doesn’t pull a bait-and-switch or string you along. I personally appreciated this up-front approach, and it helped me enjoy the book more.

The novel revolves around Titania, Queen of the Faeries, attempting to hire Holmes to recover something that was stolen from her. The novel progresses, picking up a variety of 19th century occult traditions as it progresses. In structure and tone, it actually reminded me a bit of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, as it possesses a decently cohesive explanation for the metaphysics of the story, although at times some of the deductions ended up being an excuse to explain those metaphysics instead of showcasing the cleverness of the detective… another connection to The Dresden Files. It is not particularly dark or gruesome (which the cover might otherwise imply), nudging it more into urban fantasy rather than horror.

Ultimately, I enjoyed it. It was a fast read, a lot of fun, and an entertaining adventure (if not much of a mystery). More purist fans of Holmes may not be able to put aside the conceit to give the book a chance, but more open-minded fans will find an entertaining adventure waiting for them.

Shadowfall is available from all good bookstores including in the USA AmazonBarnes and Noble, in the UK AmazonWaterstones, and for everywhere else Book Depository who offer free worldwide delivery. In ebook format there is KindleiPadNook and Kobo.

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