This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
15.05.2018 / Titan Books / Fantasy-Thriller / Paperback / 432pp / 978-1783299751
Target Audience: Readers who appreciate classic Sherlock Holmes re-imaginings mixed with arcane thrills and plenty of heart.
About Warlock Holmes: My Grave Ritual
As they blunder towards doom, Warlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson find themselves inconvenienced by a variety of eldritch beings. Christmas brings a goose that doesn’t let being cooked slow it down; they meet an electricity demon, discover why being a redhead is even trickier than one might imagine, and Holmes attempts an Irish accent. And, naturally, Moriarty is hanging around… in some form or other.
G. S. Dennings’ Warlock Holmes series are the kind of books you didn’t know you needed in your life until you read them. I love this series as it is magical, larger than life, witty and hilarious. Dennings enjoys calamity as much as nuance with his own iteration of the classic Sherlock stories and I can’t get enough of them. The imagery that Dennings conjures in the mind is marvellous to say the least. My Grave Ritual is a clever addition to the series that sets up the return of Moriarty and also lays down the foundations for the arrival of another key and compelling adversary for Warlock and Holmes to go up against.
My Grave Ritual is a stellar continuation of the eccentric and highly entertaining alternative version of the Sherlock Holmes stories we all know and love. Dennings is 100% passionate about Conan Doyle’s work and his magical homage to the greatest detective (or mage) works well on so many levels. For those readers who haven’t approached the series yet, Warlock Holmes is a gentleman with immense archaic power who hides his abilities in plain sight (or not in most cases). Along with an exceptionally smart Watson, Warlock takes on classic cases that include the mystical, the satanic and the dark arts. He rubs shoulders with demons, soul eaters, monsters, creatures and many other oddities as well as powerful individuals much like himself.
The Sherlock Holmes facade is still firmly in place. It is not a huge jump out of the norm. Holmes and Watson’s dynamic is still solid and immensely enjoyable and Dennings includes all the classic characters such as Lestrade and Mrs Hudson but with their own unique twists. In My Grave Ritual we get 8 more cases that take the duo on another wild goose chase. This time they are chasing the disembodied soul of the late and great James Moriarty. On their journey for answers they must deal with everything from pompous fouls, an intellectual and violent goose, ancient rituals and goat throwing wildlings to soul-sucking red-headed demons, cunning and powerful women and the rightful squid king of bohemia, to name a few.
I felt My Grave Ritual was much more cohesive as a novel than the other books. The running theme between the stories was strong and the shift between narratives felt more natural. As usual the events are detailed by Watson, other than one genius tale told by Warlock as Watson was soulless at the the time, and his back and forth with Warlock is as good as ever. The dialogue had me in stitches constantly and the situations the duo find themselves is just as hilarious. Dennings knows how to manipulate tones well though and can generate meaningful moment well on the fly.
My favourite story this time around has to be the final one, quickly followed by the League Of Red-headed Gentleman story. The last chapter of this book was superb and capped off Warlock’s adventures perfectly. I struggled with the two cases that overlapped quite a bit because they were told by two different people at different times and it didn’t sit well in my mind. I will have to return to it again to wrap my head around it. My main issue with My Grave Ritual is, in my opinion, it was just missing a little bit of the spark I saw in the previous novels. Not too much but enough to notice. That said, the last chapter had enough spark for the entire novel so maybe I am just looking at it in the wrong way.
I was glad that Dennings continues to build on the magical side of the story in interesting and meaningful ways. It makes Warlock’s powers less of a gimmick and more fundamental to the narrative. It was great to see the return of the phenomenal illustrations that pop up out of nowhere and really highlight an event or occurrence. Whoever does those pieces should be very proud as they stop me in my tracks every time. One of the most important details to mention about My Grave Ritual is the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger of sorts! Awesome.
I can’t wait to see how Dennings explores these characters more in the future. If this is the end of Warlock Holmes then I am going to be very sad. Overall I highly recommend all three books to readers as they are clever, exciting, fascinating, familiar yet new and ultimately hilarious. It is a refreshing alternative style of Sherlockian shenanigans which is always welcome. Dennings knows how to whip up creative new ways to explore one of literature’s most iconic characters and I am excited to see where events take us next.
About G. S. Denning
G.S. Denning is the author of the acclaimed Sherlock-fantasy mashup series Warlock Holmes, including Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone and Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles. He has a background in improv and has performed with Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife and two children.