This book was sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
21.05.19 / Titan Books / Magic & Mystery / Paperback / 432pp / 978-1785659362
Target Audience: Readers who appreciate the Sherlock lore (or want to get into it in new ways) as well of fans of magic, mystery and bizarre yet compelling stories. With plenty of hilarious antics, mythological beings and a darker grittier side hiding within. Those who would enjoy a solid fantastical ode to one of the most iconic characters of all time.
About Warlock Holmes: Sign Of The Nine
Warlock Holmes may have demons in his head, but now Dr. John Watson has a mummy in his bloodstream. Specifically that of the sorcerer Xantharaxes, who when shredded and dissolved in an 8% solution, results in some extremely odd but useful prophetic dreams. There’s also the small matter of Watson falling for yet another damsel-du-jour, and Warlock deciding that his companion needs some domestic bliss…
My Review of Sign Of The Nine
“We are friends to the hunted, the peculiar, the displaced and the vulnerable, which I strongly suspect makes us friends of yours“. (The Sign Of Nine P221)
G. S. Denning’s The Sign Of Nine is the fourth installment of his extremely clever and well imagined mash-up series featuring Warlock Holmes and his trusted companion Dr John Watson. Bringing together the extended lore of Sherlock Holmes, various mythological creatures, a ton of arcane magic, plenty of hilarious antics and a dash of darkness. Each Warlock Holmes book is an entertaining and fantastical twist on the classic texts of Arthur Conan Doyle. GSD obviously cares about the source material but he is also passionate about fantasy and he mixes them so well with stunning and jaw-achingly funny results.
The Sign Of Nine follows on directly from the aftermath of My Grave Ritual. Watson has recovered from the fatal poisoning he’d received from Irene Adler. The doctor has since become addicted to the effects of injecting the remains of a long-dead Persian sorcerer into his veins. The vivid and powerful dreams that accompany his habit divulge the secrets of the universe, past, future and present. It also allows him to see what plans both Irene and Moriarty are currently involved in. His health is deteriorating fast but he wants to unlock more and see what Warlock sees.
Meanwhile Holmes is facing some of his most challenging cases yet including a missing bride who seemingly ran off with another man in her wedding day, a napoleon hating battle monkey, an angry sea captain who has pissed of a mythological race, the most powerful Pinkerton detectives to ever have existed and the mystery of the treasure of Agra. Going head to head with even more powerful beings than usual is taking its toll but with everything that’s on the line, Warlock has to be stay in the game.
Still a team, though clashing over Watson’s recent life choices, the duo set out to solve the cases alongside the regular cast of re-imagined characters including Vladislav Lestrade (Vampire), Torg Grogsson (Orge) and the terrifying Mrs Hudson as well as new faces too such as the insufferable Mary Madsen and the incredibly unlucky Inspector Hopkins. The Sign of Nine documents Watson’s personal defeats, shame and failures (his doom level is off the charts) but it also pushes him to right some wrongs and get back on his feet to fight again once more.
Oh it is good to be back with this narrative. Warlock Holmes is 100% my favourite fantasy re-imagining series of all time. GS Denning has such a charming, hilarious and entertaining eye for this kind of work and I can’t get enough of those brilliant moments of comedic glory. Written for people who appreciate the deep lore of Sherlock Holmes and also for people who are interested in getting into it but are looking for a new avenue to do so. Respecting the formula but infusing it with unforgettable imagery, bizarre twists and unsettling yet some-how-funny moments of arcane magical force. And the cheeky pop culture references and little easter eggs here and there. I was already stocked up on memorable moments and Sign Of The Nine has just added a bucket more. I probably say this every time I review another installment but SOTN seemed more focused, evenly spread-out in terms of characters and narrative and the stories that Denning choose to mix together worked perfectly as a whole.
It was great to see the original Sign of Four story arc get the Warlock coat of paint. It was also great to the adventure of the six Napoleons get a new run as well with a distinctive addition to its plot. I laughed a lot. There are plenty of stories and sub-plots to sink into in this series and each of them bring out new and interesting sides to these characters. SOTN is no exception to this rule and we get even more than we bargained for. Especially in The Adventure of Black Peter Blackguard McNotVeryNice. I think this was my favourite story as it was brutal, funny and full of interesting mythology.
I am continuously in awe of how much GS Denning has redefined the dynamic between Holmes and Watson. It is always pot luck with SH re-imaginings when it comes to the duos format but these novels have it down perfectly. Warlock being the brawn and Watson being the brains is a refreshing take on the classic formula and I can’t recommend it enough to readers who think Sherlock can be a difficult protagonist to connect with.
The Warlock Holmes series is mainly just a goofy, somewhat satirical and yet deeply satisfying fantasy ode to the great consulting detective and his best friend. It does hold some great themes within its core though from dealing with addiction, confronting your loved ones, helping those who need it and facing down greed. I always try and find life lessons in each read I across but this is just as easily a sit-down-and-take-your-mind-off-of-things-and-just-laugh-a-lot type of read.
The only flaws I felt were worth mentioning are the story duration and the delivery of certain moments. I felt that the title story was just a tad too lengthy. I also fear that some of the best amusing points are a bit ‘blink and you will miss it’. A few of my biggest laughs were almost missed before I went back to read it again. There are plenty that stick out but there are a few gems are hidden away. That ‘spun away into an infinite nothing’ line made me laugh so damn much.
Overall I am impressed by how much this series is parallel to the original yet at the same time it is bonkers, awesome, belly laugh funny and seriously badass. Sign Of The Nine has successfully set up one of Warlock Holmes’ biggest tests and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds in The Finality Problem next year. I wholeheartedly recommend the entire Warlock Holmes series to you right now, demonic blades and all. Catch up quickly because there is going to be a huge finale coming at us very soon!
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.