Somtow's latest is one of his most accomplished novels, and it is set in a slightly altered nineteenth-century U.S. in which zombies, werewolves and other were-creatures, and possession by evil spirits are as real as Abraham Lincoln or Walt Whitman (who are major characters). The plot, though too complex to be concisely summarized, involves a multiple-viewpoint narrative and the concept of wandering souls and those who can see and wish to control such entities. Although the number of historical and fictional characters is sufficiently large and complex to make one wish for a cast list, well-informed readers will be gratified to see that Somtow has done his folkloric and historical homework and then written with care, producing a book of several satisfactions. Occasionally slowly paced and featuring adult themes that may put off young readers, Darker Angels
is a highly worthwhile read for serious dark-fantasy fans. Roland Green
From Kirkus Reviews
More supernatural horror from Somtow (Vanitas, 1995, etc.), whose passion for splatterpunk effects have, thankfully, cooled of late. In 1865, when New York widow Paula Grainger goes to view the body of assassinated Abraham Lincoln, poet Walt Whitman makes her acquaintance. With Walt is a young soldier, Zachary Brown; together with Paula's eerie black servant, Phoebe, the three begin to relate the exploits of Paula's late husband, Aloysius. Certain African women, it seems, can transform themselves into leopards. Phoebe, whom Aloysius won in a poker game, is one such ``darker angel,'' supposedly capable of redeeming her people through the power of song. Zachary calmly continues to speak of wartime atrocities, supernatural events, his meeting with Walt Whitman (then a nurse in a hospital), and how his comrade Kaz was brought back form the dead by Joseph, an old one-eyed black shaman. Old Joseph's assistant was a young white boy, Jimmy Lee Cox; continuing the stories-within- stories format, Jimmy describes Joseph's experiences in New Orleans and during the slave revolt in Haiti. Joseph's final intent was to raise the black soldiers killed in the Civil War from the dead. Meanwhile, Aloysius's diaries reveal his futile attempts to reanimate Paula's dead children. Unfortunately, the ending, involving Lincoln and his sons, implodes through oversentimentality. Knotty, dark, nasty in places, and cleverly constructed, but diffuse and lacking propellant. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.