Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: "Owl and the City of Angels" by Kristi Charish

It was the odd title of Kristi Charish’s “Owl and the Japanese Circus” that first caught my attention last year when I was browsing for new reads. I picked it up and found a quite enjoyable adventure tale with shades of Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider.

The second volume in the series, “Owl and the City of Angels” ($18, Simon & Schuster) due out Oct. 5, is, if anything, more fun.

We start with antiquities thief Owl in Egypt, working on an assignment for her dragon boss, Mr. Kurosawa. Well, sort of. The dragon gave her a choice of artifacts to retrieve for him, but Owl decided she could get both, and make a personal stop along the way, too. Not a good idea.

Things go south when riots break out and the International Archeological Association (IAA) deploys an army of agents to try to capture Owl, ironically, for thefts that she didn’t commit.

No one is happy with Owl – not her incubus boyfriend Rynn, not her boss Mr. Kurosawa, and definitely not the dragon’s Naga assistant Lady Siyu, who would love any excuse to sink her fangs into the thief. There’s only one way out of the predicament alive, and that’s to find the artifacts and the other thief who is posing as her. A journey that will lead her to one of the most cursed places on earth.

In the second book of the series, Owl continues to confound me. Much like the first volume, I find her simultaneously annoying and fascinating. She’s mouthy, which can be fun at times but just as frustrating at others. For a pretty smart character, she can be quite dumb, too.

For example, there was a moment late in this book that made it a little hard to suspend my disbelief – and that’s saying something with the wild assortment of supernatural characters running around. Owl was put in a position that was an obvious trap, and I thought she’d be too smart to fall for it, but she waltzed right in with almost no hesitation. It was enough to bring a little growl out of me.

Despite those faults, though, I like her – a lot.

Aside from that one moment near the end, I found the book, much like the first, to be a lot of fun. Charish throws a lot of monsters at the wall – and we meet a few new ones in this volume – and provides suitably colorful supporting characters to complement Owl.

There’s a bit of a mystery angle here. It’s not a heavy one, but the series does seem to be building more in that direction with the events of “City of Angels.” I could also see it taking a slightly darker turn in future volumes.

The Owl series is not astoundingly original by any means. It largely follows the formulas of the urban fantasy genre – plucky heroine, supernatural love interest, lots of monsters and a hero that manages to come out on top against seemingly impossible odds – but there’s just something about these books that have managed to hold my attention where similar books in the genre haven’t. I’ve given it a lot of thought while reading this book, and I can’t really pinpoint it. For some reason, though, Charish and Owl pull me along on their adventures, and I’m happy to go.

If you’re looking for a read that’s fast, light and fun, I’d definitely recommend this series.

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