Michelle Herbert reviews Angels of Music by Kim Newman…
In Angels of Music, Kim Newman takes us into the murky underworld of the Paris, with the focal point the Paris Opera House. At the start, it almost feels like a “what if” the Phantom of the Opera ran his own agency of spies? The Phantom’s spies all happen to be famous women from fiction. This book is a compilation of short stories showing the Opera Ghost’s ties to different Angels and how they came to keep France safe from numerous threats.
Reminiscent of the TV show Charlie’s Angels; these Angels, also never really hang out with the Phantom, instead they deal with his agent, The Persian, and communicate with the Phantom via mirrors and messages. This is a fun romp through literary history importing many characters you may not have previously thought would fit into this world. There are also a few characters that after reading their stories here, I wanted to know more about in their original settings.
Each act or chapter focuses on a different group of Angels, as well as different cases. The Angels are always grouped in threes. The Angels always have different but complementary skill sets. In most of these stories, there is always danger and intrigue that the Angels have to deal with. In the first act: The Marriage Club, we get to meet the original Angels, Christine Daaé, Trilby O’Ferrall and Irene Adler, as they face the Countess Cagliostro.
Some of the stories are more detailed than others and although there are a huge number of characters, most get to star in their own act, there are also some Angels that are only mentioned by name as the current Angels reminisce about their predecessors. The streets of Paris are brought to life, full of wonder and horror with some fantastic foes to combat. The stories switch between leaving much to your imagination, but also including lots of details. With some acts being quite grim to read. Although that doesn’t mean that there isn’t humour in these stories. Time moves on at a good pace and frames the old world with that of the new in the final act: Deluge.
Out of the stories in Angels of Music, my favourite of these is Act Two: Les Vampires de Paris with La Marmoset, Sophy Kratides and Unorna, closely followed by Act Three: Guignol which is very different in tone from the two proceeding stories. It is also good to see that although the Angels complement each other, they do not always understand or trust one another. It was also good to see female protagonists that appear in a short amount of time as different people, with different motivations, rather than being stock characters. They also showed that you can become more than your source material, even if the source material left the character broken.
As mentioned before most of the Angels have come from other books. Kim Newman has written these characters in an interesting manner, allowing you to see the differences when the story is about the Angels, rather than the male protagonists in their own stories. Kim Newman has also added real events in history to his stories, as well as including hints of pop culture in his novel. This is managed in a way that never feels jarring to the story.
I found this book really engaging, the writing was pleasantly pleasing and the language was intricately phrased. There were some Angels that I definitely would have liked to spend more time reading about. Considering some of these stories were written as short stories rather than a structured narrative, Angels of Music is a great addition to Kim Newman’s books.