For today’s stop on the OWL 2 blog tour, I’ll be sharing my review of Owl and the City of Angels and an interview I did with the author, Kristi Charish. There’s also a giveaway to win both books in The Adventures of Owl series, so be sure to check that out!
Owl and the City of Angels
Kristi Charish | 4/5 Stars
Ebook – October 5, 2015 | Trade Paperback – March 1, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books (Simon and Schuster CA)
Synopsis on Goodreads:
The wild second adventure for unforgettable antiquities thief Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world—from the pen of rising urban fantasy star Kristi Charish. For fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, Jennifer Estep, Jenn Bennett, and the like.
Alix Hiboux, better known as Owl, international antiquities thief for hire, is settling into her new contract job for Vegas mogul Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon with a penchant for ancient, supernatural artifacts. And now he has his sights set on some treasures of the mysterious Syrian City of the Dead that are sitting in a recluse’s private collection.
There’s just one wrinkle. To stop the resurrection of an undead army that could wreak havoc on Los Angeles, Owl must break into a heavily guarded archaeological sight in one of the most volatile regions in the world. A detour through Libya and a run-in with Somali pirates sends the clock ticking hastily toward total paranormal disaster.
Meanwhile, Alexander and the Paris vampires have stopped stalking Owl’s apartment, but they have by no means forgotten their death grudge against her. To top everything off, Owl finds out the hard way that there is nothing heavenly about the City of Angels…
- Alix Hiboux aka Owl is this strong, female protagonist who never fails to entertain me. I’ve actually never read a character quite like her! What inspiration lies behind your extraordinary MC?
KC: I love the old Indiana Jones movies and growing up. Over the years, I was always disappointed that in most of the action genre movies, there is a stereotype of an acceptable female protagonist. Unlike Indy, Han Solo, and Rick in The Mummy (another all time favourite) the women never really get to be as bad and selfish as them, partly because the traits that make them such fun are not considered acceptable traits in a woman. Women in film and TV- especially the protagonists are supposed to be likeable (or we’ve been conditioned to think of them that way), and by likeable I mean a woman who shows very specific traits- she can be tough, carry guns, but at the end of the day most of the characters we see are nurturing, empathetic, and often have a character arc that involves finding a suitable romantic partner.
Indy, Rick, and Han didn’t have to do that. In fact, they’re outright scoundrels. They’re not likeable people at all. Folks often say that Indy wasn’t a thief- Are you nuts? He was the worst kind of thief! Often the plots revolved around stealing artefacts from their rightful countries and indigenous populations to give to an American museum (though in some cases he is convinced to leave them as a plot arc- see Temple of Doom) If that’s not tomb raiding under an altruistic guise, I don’t know what is!
The thing is as an audience we accept them as characters because it’s considered acceptable for a man in a story to behave that way. We’ve only recently seen female protagonists breaching that role, to mixed acceptance by audiences. I want to see more females protagonists who aren’t being rescued by Indy- they are Indy.
Owl is also a huge blast to write because she’s a woman who has recently lost everything, despite playing by societal rules that women should be nice and follow the pack (in her case, following the rules in grad school), and in response has said ‘to hell’ with societal expectations. Why should she go out of her way to make herself likeable? It’s never gotten her anything before except scapegoated. For the very first time in her life is embracing her unabashed self and the fact that she doesn’t have to be nice, she can tell people to ‘Fuck off’. Granted, it often leads to some problems, and you’ll probably see Owl testing and finding her limits in future books, but she’s rejecting the idea that a woman needs to be ‘nice’ spectacularly.
So in short, Owl is inspired by wanting to write a female Indy who didn’t fit the ‘typical, likeable, female mould.’
- In Owl 2 we get to travel to incredible locations like Syria, Egypt and the City of Angels. What sort of research goes into this? Do you draw back from first-hand experience?
KC: I have six letters for you. Google. Travelling is one of my favourite things to do but oddly enough I haven’t been to any of the locations in the Owl series. Yet. I very much plan on going to Japan and Bali one day.
- Trouble always seems to find Owl, whether she goes looking for it or not. As the unseen goddess of your book world, does it entertain you, getting Owl into trouble?
KC: Hmmm. Does it entertain me to get Owl into trouble…yes, but it’s more along the lines that I like writing her reactions to situations that befall her more than anything, so it’s a two parter answer. The more trouble I put her in, the more fun I have writing her reactions.
- Did you find any differences when writing Owl 2, versus Owl 1 when you hadn’t yet entered the publishing world?
KC: Well, I had already entered the publishing world- I didn’t write book two until the series was picked up by my publisher, Simon and Schuster (Good advice for aspiring writers out there- don’t write book 2 until you manage to sell book 1). However, I did have to write Owl 2 and hand it in before book 1 came out, so in a lot of ways I was writing in a vacuum. There are advantages and disadvantages to that- On one hand reviews aren’t going to influence your choices, but on the other hand you have NO idea whether the choices you do make will appease fans of the first book.
- I see a lot of the time, aspiring writers are studying or have studied science and want to know about that switch from science to writing. How has science influenced your writing? How do you juggle a career in science with a career in writing?
KC: I think more than anything my science background has influenced the way I write. I’ve written before about the similarities between plotting a story or novel and designing and executing an experiment, and I still think it holds true. I think my years in research has given me an edge in plotting- like my experiments, I have most of the plot set out in my head before I sit down to write the book. In writing urban fantasy I think my science background also makes me more aware of fitting my fantastical elements into the modern world- a trickier task than a lot of people think because the masters of the genre- Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Faith Hunter, and Patricia Briggs – make it look easy and seamless.
As far as my science career goes? Haha- it’s actually on hold as I now have a schedule of ~3 books a year for the next couple years. Having said that, who knows what will happen with the series and my career in the future so I may very well be back in a lab one day.
- You also have a second urban fantasy series, Kincaid Strange releasing from Random House Canada in May 2016. What’s it like having two different series by two different publishers at the same time?
KC: Short answer: it’s awesome! I love switching between series when I’m writing it means that when I get fed up with one character and plot, I can go off and work on the other one. There is certainly a lot of time juggling involved when writing two series but I think once you reach a certain level in writing and publishing you really do have to treat it as a career and not a hobby. I sit, set a timer, and write.
- I heard you’ve contracted two more OWL books: Owl and the Electric Samurai and Owl and the Tiger Thieves. Congratulations! Can you tell us about your experience with this? Did you query these two novels at the same time?
KC: I have! And Thanks! I did query both novels at the same time (meaning I had synopsis written out that my agent passed on to my editors), but that is incredibly common in a series like Owl. It helps my editors know that I know where the series is going for the next few books and that I have a plan (I do!).
- Now that we’re on the subject, what’s next for Owl? I’m dying to know about this “electric samurai”.
KC: Here is the tentative back cover blurb for The Electric Samurai;-)
The International Archaeology Association (IAA) is responsible for keeping all things supernatural under wraps. They’re also responsible for ruining the promising archaeology career of one Alix Hiboux. Needless to say she’s still a little sore on that.
In keeping with their goal to derail Owl’s life, the IAA has opened a bounty on World Quest, the online RPG that uses supernatural dig sites in game and is much, much more than it seems. Strong-armed into joining the hunt, Alix needs to find the notorious gaming duo before the rest of the bounty hunters pick up the trail, one of whom is already two steps ahead of her. And if you think for one second he isn’t a supernatural, Owl has a bridge to sell you.
Finding the gamers won’t be easy since every clue points to them hiding out in the legendary lost city of Shangri-La… well, that and the last time Owl and the game designers spoke the conversation didn’t exactly end on a great note…
Meanwhile, undercurrents of supernatural politics are running amok in Tokyo, dragging Owl, Rynn, and Nadya into a deadly game of wits with an opponent who calls himself the Electric Samurai. The cost of loosing? All out civil war between two powerful supernatural factions.
Not only does Owl need to save the World Quest designers from themselves she needs to stop the Electric Samurai from unleashing the supernatural in all its unabashed, violent glory onto the streets of Tokyo. And then there is the small matter of her online friend Carpe and a certain spell book…
AZ: I love that “Owl has a bridge to sell you” bit. I cannot wait to read this.
I first came across The Adventures of Owl in a Simon & Schuster CA Tumblr post of the cover [Owl 1]. I stopped scrolling for a moment and went, “interesting cover”. Later on, I came across it again on social media and decided I better check it out from the library. Months later when I finally got to read it (it took awhile to come in at my library), I felt like Owl and the Japanese Circus was written for me! I’m a huge The Mummy fan so it had everything I liked in an adventure novel – strong heroine, action-packed scenes and supernatural creatures. Side note: the naga is a new favourite of mine thanks to Charish.
I was extremely excited to receive an advance copy of Owl and the City of Angels and am happy to say it was just as entertaining as Owl 1. There’s something about the writing, maybe it’s the dialogue, that has me feeling like I could read it again and again, and never get bored. Most of the places Owl visits I’m unlikely to go, at least in the same context so I love that I can picture everything perfectly in my mind. The reader experiences an epic adventure through Owl.
In Owl 1 Charish showed the reader strong, compelling characters and it’s no different here. Most of the characters are consistent with how they were portrayed in Owl 1, but there’s still character development going on. Alix (Owl) and Rynn are together before the novel begins, but they’re still working out issues in their relationship. They used to date in the past, before Owl 1, but these same issues were some of the reasons they broke up. Alix doesn’t necessarily lie about what assignments she’s on for Mr. Kurosawa, but she doesn’t exactly tell the truth either – especially if she doesn’t follow the original plan. This is extremely frustrating for Rynn, and I think these trust issues stem from Alix’s days as an archaeology grad student. Then there’s Nadya, Alix’s best friend, who’s kind of like that voice of reason. I love this balance of a love interest and a best girlfriend – both characters are equally important to Alix. I can’t stand when there’s a female protagonist without one good female friend she can call on for advice etcetera.
The world-building is phenomenal! When it comes to the supernatural world, you can always expect Charish to create some sort of original twist. I think my favourite examples are the vampires. They use pheromones to attract their victims (and get them addicted) and smell like rotting lily of the valley. Alix has known a vampire named Alexander (and his Paris vamps) since she entered the supernatural world and not on pleasant terms. Alexander is always an amusing character and I love when Alix’s cat/sidekick Captain – a vampire-hunting cat breed – comes into the equation. Along with the action, there’s plenty of humour in Owl 2.
We see old characters from Owl and the Japanese Circus as well as meet new characters, which makes for a fascinating group. The moment I started reading Owl 2, I was waiting for an appearance from Alexander because like I said, he is hilarious! Captain plus Alexander equals a priceless moment! A new character Owl readers will love is Artemis Bast, introduced by Rynn to Alix to help with her new assignment – finding a treasure of the Syrian City of the Dead. He’s a very carefree, laid back character – in a way the opposite of Rynn. I love when Alix interacts with him because of the contrast of personalities.
I absolutely loved that Alix’s past, particularly her days as an archaeology grad student, were brought up and weaved into the plot. I always got the sense that although Alix had moved on from the past, she’d never had closure. She was always running from her past. Owl 2 gives Alix the opportunity to confront her past and move on without regret. Charish did a similar thing in Owl 1 re: Rynn, but here I felt like it happened on a bigger scale. Another intriguing thing about the plot, Charish doesn’t give her protagonist an easy way out. When the going gets tough, Alix fights back, no matter how human she is. The great thing about the plot, the reader see’s just how human Alix is and how easy it is to forget about important details.
There were a couple of things I disliked. I went into Owl 2 with really high expectations (loved Owl 1!) so when I didn’t immediately get into it, that was upsetting for me. When I did get into it, it was smooth sailing but I kept thinking about how easy it was to get into Owl 1. Furthermore, I loved the plot and thought it was original and engaging, but ultimately enjoyed the plot of Owl 1 slightly more.
All in all, Owl and the City of Angels is a compelling sequel and I can’t wait to read the next couple of books in the series! I recommend anyone with a craving for adventure to pick up this series, you won’t regret it. When you’re traveling to places like Egypt, Syria, and the City of Angels through Owl and thinking how can it get better? BAM! Charish surprises you with a plot twist or a very charming, vampire-hunting cat. P.S. Captain is my favourite character.
I received an eARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Kristi is the author of OWL AND THE JAPANESE CIRCUS (Jan 13th, 2015, Simon and Schuster Canada/Pocket Books), an urban fantasy about a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. She writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, savvy female protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. She’s also a co-host for the Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast.
The second installment in the Owl series, OWL AND THE CITY OF ANGELS, is scheduled for release Oct 5th 2015. Her second urban fantasy series, KINCAID STRANGE (Random House Canada), about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, is scheduled for release mid 2016.
Kristi is also a scientist with a BSc and MSc from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. Her specialties are genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology, all of which she draws upon in her writing. She is represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists. Visit her website.
Kristi has been kind enough to offer one copy each of Owl 1 and Owl 2 (physical or digital). This giveaway is US/Canada only and ends November 6, 2015 at midnight EST. Winner must respond within 48 hours of being contacted or a new winner will be chosen. Do not take entries for something you haven’t done, you will be disqualified. Good luck!