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Darker Angels [Hardcover]

S. P Somtow
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 28 1998
Based on an acclaimed short story that was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, "Darker Angels" takes the reader from the bloodstained battlefields of Virginia to the slave auctions of Haiti. Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Lord Byron, and Marie Leveau, the legendary voodoo queen of New Orleans, all have a part to play in the epic tale of a mysterious, one-eyed shaman who dares to raise the dead from the battlefields of the Civil War Author publicity. Print ads. .

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Product Description

From Booklist

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.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining historical horror novel Nov. 19 1999
By A Customer
In 1865, the corpse of President Lincoln lies in public view in New York. Widow Paula Grainger pays her respect to her country's assassinated leader.
She meets Walt Whitman and his companion Zachary Brown. The two males, along with Paula's servant Phoebe, tell her a strange story starring her late husband, Aloysius and similar beings. Aloysius apparently won the African Phoebe in a card game. The woman is one of the DARKER ANGELS with the ability to change into a leopard. In spite of having attained the mysterious Phoebe, Aloysius failed in his efforts to reanimate Paula's dead children. However, the one-eyed shaman Joseph apparently tasted success as a necromancer who ultimately planned to raise the dead black Civil War soldiers.
DARKER ANGEL is a metaphysical horror tale that takes readers on a dark tour on nineteenth century America. The story line switches narrators, giving it a short story feel inside a featured length novel. This technique will divide readers as some will find it distracting from the main story line while others will feel the subplots have an opportunity to fully develop. The historical side of the tale shows that S.P. Somtow did his homework so that his supernatural creatures fit in a world populated by authentic known people of the era. If you prefer non-stop action, this tale is a bust. If you relish an eerie surreal novel, this tale is a cause to celebrate.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Reads Like it was Written by a Zombie April 17 1999
When I read the description of "Darker Angels" I was excited - I love alternate histories and fantasy books involving historical figures, a la J. Gregory Keyes or Tim Powers. The cast list was impressive - Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Poe, Marie Laveau, George Gordon (Lord Byron). But this shambling, soulless mess of a book didn't even live up to the Kirkus Review.
It is perhaps appropriate that a novel about zombies in antebellum America be as lifeless and dead as this one. But seeing the aptness is not the same as being entertained or enlightened. Somtow's primary gimmick - having a character within the story told by the narrator tell a long story, in which another story is told by another character, in which another story is told by a character in THAT story - quickly becomes tedious and confusing. If you like that sort of thing read Melville, who can pull it off with artistry and subtlety. Somotow just doesn't have the chops.
Add to all this Somtow's preoccupation with male anatomy and necrophilia and you have a book about as appealing as poodle lasagne.
I'd suggest you give it a miss, or wait until you stumble across it in a used bookstore.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Historical horror Oct. 12 2000
In his earlier novel, MOON DANCE, Somtow created a nightmarish American epic: a tale of the clash between European and Native American werewolves. In DARKER ANGELS he makes a triumphant return to his alternate history where magic and shape-shifters (were-leopards this time around) are real.
At about 200 pages less than MOON DANCE, DARKER ANGELS is in many ways the more successful novel. I must also note that it contains one of the most successful uses of a non-linear narrative I have yet to encounter.
This is not a book for anyone looking for a light and easy horror/dark fantasy read. It deals unflinchingly with war, slavery and homosexuality. But I highly recommend it for readers who aren't afraid to brave the darkness to find the riches therein. DARKER ANGELS may be a work of fiction, but there is more truth in its pages than in many non-fiction history books.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Daker Angels Shines Through! Aug. 25 2002
By Rafik
I've read MOONDANCE some years ago and was totally capitivated by the story. Now several years later, I come across Darker Angels (though out of print, I got from the used section at Amazon and the service was EXCELLENT!). Here, Somtow weaves another fabulous tapestry of horror, fantasy and history all in one! (Just reading the other better reviews is proof positive.) We even get to see the origin of the most foul Cordwainer Claggett [sic] a villain we met in MOONDANCE. In Darker Angels, the multi-level narration by the different players is fantastic (though at times tricky but works out well in the end). Just a word of warning, this book is not for the faint of heart or the easily offended. I look forward to more from this author. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
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