Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Sometimes what your friend really needs is a good shove under a moving bus…”
Alix Hilboux aka Owl is a disgraced archaeology student turned international antiquities thief. She has only one rule…no supernatural jobs. Ever. When a powerful business man offers her a job finding two ancient scrolls, she jumps at the chance and quickly finds herself embroiled in a supernatural mystery. With a host of supernaturals and humans shadowing her every move, looking to find the scrolls first and end her career permanently, Owl will have to use every trick and skill up her sleeves if she wants to survive this job.
“If there is one thing I learned in my line of work…it’s to look up the chain of command for advice, not down.”
Kristi Chardish’s debut urban fantasy is an action packed “fight or die” adventure composed of a trouble magnet heroine, a host of supernatural entities, and a mystery that manipulates and deceives on all levels. Biting humor, questionable situations, and charismatic characters brings to mind the old Indiana Jones movies. Fast pacing and a roller coaster ride of intrigue and suspense keeps the reader engaged to the very end. The standard urban fantasy setting gives us a modern world filled with supernaturals who hide in plain sight and strive to keep their peculiarities under wraps. Strong world building blends Japanese and Russian culture, offering interesting subplots and pathways for future evolution. A dynamic and diverse cast of secondary characters gives drama, humor, and insight to both the world and the story as each one has a stake in Owl’s survival and/or demise. I admit to loving Owl’s vampire detecting cat side kick, Captain. He stole the show on multiple occasions.
“It’s never fun coming face to face with a house pet who’s smarter than you.”
The storyline is pretty streamlined with a nice investigative bent. After being thrown under the bus by her university three months before graduation, Owl turned her knowledge of archaeology into a thriving “retrieval” business. For the right price, she will find and bring you the antiquity you desire. When a particular job goes bad and she is forced to go into hiding from a deadly band of vampires, Owl takes a job on a whim only to discover she has broken rule number one…no supernatural jobs. Her new boss is a powerful red dragon who makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Find and translate a pair of ancient scrolls and he will make her vampire infestation go away. The only problem? He makes it perfectly clear that failure is not an option she will walk away from alive. From Japan to Las Vegas, Owl, her best friend Nadya, and Rynn, a bartender who is much more than he lets on, all circle the globe looking for the scrolls. Hot on their heels is a plethora of supernaturals, all who want the scrolls and Owl’s head if possible.
“You don’t attract trouble, Owl, you dive into it like the shallow end of a swimming pool.”
In a world filled with industrious supernaturals who hide in plain sight, Owl is a non magical human whose smart mouth, poor decision making skills, and unconscionable risk taking gives you a heroine that you will simultaneously cheer while face palming. She follows the typical dynamics of the average UF heroine in that she is largely a loner with poor social skills and narcissistic tendencies. She fears intimacy and trusts almost no one. Monetary gains guides her actions. A geek and RPG gamer with a slight alcohol problem, Owl rushes where even angels fear to tread. She has no filter and an appalling lack of foresight. She repeatedly spits in death’s face and gets her arse handed to her for it. Every. Single. Time. Regardless of her multiple transgressions and they are multiple, I was okay with Owl most of the time. She is flawed but I feel her lack of perfection is what made her humanity stand out. She may be a walking health hazard but her heart is in the right place. She is loyal, protective of her friends, and will strive to try to do what is right most of the time. She does experience some character growth by the end of the book which goes far in offering the reader hope for her survival.
“ You know, I’m beginning to see why the vampires are willing to chase you halfway across the globe.”
The romance is very low key and the only area of the story I wasn’t completely on board with. I like Rynn and Owl as individual characters but never felt the chemistry between them. Not even the faint whiff of attraction. It seems she spends her time running from him and he spends his time saving and chastising her. The supposed attraction is already established so we never see what drew them to one another. All we know is Owl thinks he’s good looking and Rynn likes a challenge. I had a huge problem with Owl’s nickname for Rynn. He’s a bartender/host in a Japanese night club. Owl equates that with being an escort and addresses him as Whore. It’s insulting, degrading, and I never understood why she kept calling him that.
There were some issues that may be just be first book syndrome and will possibly subside as the series and Charish’s voice finds its groove. The brand name dropping was a little over zealous. Some plotlines went nowhere and others contradicted themselves. Certain scenes didn’t collaborate well with the current events taking place. For instance, the gaming aspect was an interesting subplot but it always takes place when Owl has little to no time to play. Owl also has exposition issues. She is overly chatty during life and death situations, the constant repeating of her “issues” as an excuse for her behavior became redundant, and she contradicts herself on some points. One example-she claims to never have killed anyone on purpose but we already know she thinks she has.
Regardless of the issues at large, I do believe Charish has created an urban fantasy world with much potential. I am interested in seeing where she will go with book two as the ending not only wraps up the conflict but opens a whole new can of worms. The second installment, Owl and the City of Angels, is scheduled for release Summer 2015.