[Review] THE WINE OF ANGELS by Phil Rickman

The Wine Of Angels gets an honourable mention as urban fantasy. It’s traditionally labelled as mystery– crime fiction, even.  Probably no one thought to describe it as urban fantasy until now.

The story is told from alternating points of view– mostly between the two main characters, but occasionally there are others: Merrily Watkins, the new priest for small town Ledwardine, England, and her teenaged daughter, Jane.

The town has never had a female vicar before, and some believe she will be open to allowing a controversial play be performed at the church. Others are opposed to this play. Politics ensue.

But there’s much more at stake than small town politics. The play revolves around the suicide of a seventeenth century clergyman accused of witchcraft and the secrets that have been long buried since. The vicarage Merrily and Jane move into is haunted. Jane has an enchanted experience in the orchard after drinking cider. The orchard that forms the history and the heart of the town might be haunted, or at least occupied by fairies. And we have a royal rumble about to break out between Christianity and paganism. Somehow Merrily has to keep it all from falling apart. Pretty hard to do after she throws up in the middle of her installment ceremony, prompting the town to believe she’s been possessed by the devil.

So we have these kick ass protagonists, both confronting their own personal demons, with one fighting the ghosts that may or may not be real in the vicarage, while the other may or may not have been possessed by the fairies of the orchard. (The beings in the orchard are not discussed as “fairies” so much, but as “the watchers” or other words, but fairies is what they mean.) The setting is modern, and though it is small town, the setting forms an intrinsic part of the story. We have supernatural elements, and a mystery to solve. Though the crime takes a while to appear, it is there.

Sounds like urban fantasy to me.

The writing is wonderful. Though it is a big story, it never feels slow or dull. This is a great read if you’d like a little more mystery to your contemporary fantasies. If you’d like less action, more controversy. If you like your books a larger size (a whopping 589 pages in the paperback). If you like British stories. It’s a great journey into small town British countryside, a tale with interwoven layers that will give you chills.

Have you read THE WINE OF ANGELS? Tell us what you thought in the comments.