Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish (@jessicadhaluska, @kristicharish)

Posted January 21, 2015 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Urban Fantasy / 54 Comments

Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish (@jessicadhaluska, @kristicharish)
Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish
Series: The Adventures of Owl #1
Published by Pocket
Published on: January 13 2015
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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Fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Linda Hamilton will flock to the kick-ass world of Owl, a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.

Ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl—has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until she crosses paths with Mr. Kurosawa, a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas. He insists Owl retrieve an artifact stolen three thousand years ago, and makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. A dragon is about the only entity on the planet that can deliver on Owl’s vampire problem – and let’s face it, dragons are known to eat the odd thief.

Owl retraces the steps of Mr. Kurosawa’s ancient thief from Japan to Bali with the help of her best friend, Nadya, and an attractive mercenary. As it turns out though, finding the scroll is the least of her worries. When she figures out one of Mr. Kurosawa’s trusted advisors is orchestrating a plan to use a weapon powerful enough to wipe out a city, things go to hell in a hand basket fast…and Owl has to pick sides.

FED-THE-NERD fangtastic paranormal

A lot of you know that Urban Fantasy is my go-to genre—I can go (and have) for a straight six months of reading it and nothing else.

This can be a problem, b/c compared to others, UF is kind of a small genre, and an even bigger problem is that a LOT of the big series have been concluding over the last few years, and while many of those authors are starting new series (eventually), some of the new players often leave something to be desired.

I cannot tell you how many times a new series has caught my eye in the last eighteen(ish) months, only to leave me feeling MEH on a good day, and downright frustrated or misled on a bad day.

Enter Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish:

Fans of Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Linda Hamilton will flock to the kick-ass world of Owl, a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world.

Let’s take a minute to dissect this claim.

1. I have no idea who Linda (Laurell K.?) Hamilton is, but Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher . . . those are mighty big shoes to fill.
2. The original Indiana Jones movies are (IMO) some of the BEST movies ever made.

Publicists have been doing this sort of thing a lot lately. I’ve been lured into reading books by claims of “perfect for fans of insert-Big-Deal-author-here” or “dark debut reminiscent of random-Genre-Defying/Ground-Breaking-novel” and, sadly, these carrots have always left me feeling like a put-upon donkey.

I don’t like feeling like a jackass.

So when I saw the above comparison . . . I admit it . . . there were a few squints, and perhaps a snort of disbelief (or three).

BUT “Indiana Jane” was too fantastic a possibility for me to bypass.

Which is a good thing, b/c for the first time ever, a book has actually lived up to its hype.

Owl is a . . . procurer of rare things . . . old things . . . artifacts, if you will.

She got into this line of work after being laughably expelled from her doctoral studies when she discovered things that ought not be discovered, and true to her tenacious nature, refused to bury said discovery.

This made her understandably bitter.

Now most “normal” people in this situation would probably find a teaching position at some third-rate institution. After all, one must complete a Masters degree before starting work towards a PhD . . . but not Owl.

What she didn’t realize at the time was that frequently the “people” with the means and inclination to hire her for her services are the same “people” who destroyed her dreams of becoming a legitimate archaeologist, and after one such job goes south, Owl finds herself living on the run, in a Winnebago, with her cat.

As it turns out, an angry vampire is just as tenacious as Owl herself.

SO. No working for supernaturals. Ever.

Unless a dragon sends his goons to track you down to the parking lot of an abandoned service station, toss you unceremoniously into a helicopter, and deliver you to his Las Vegas doorstep for a face-to-face chat . . . then, you know . . . you do as you’re told. B/c DRAGON.

If you missed my Interview with Kristi Charish, my first question was “is Owl really 100% human?” b/c humans don’t tend to hold up well in the supernatural world. BUT through a combination of cleverness, tech savvy, and friends (supernatural and otherwise), Owl does quite well for herself.

I have two concerns. The first is (like the Special Snowflake MC) the Human-among-Creatures character has a list of stereotypes they can easily fall into, the foremost being serendipitously-rescued-by-bigger-stronger-b/c-NOT-human-friends. However, this type of character is typically relegated to sidekick status, and Charish is determined that Owl stand on her own two feet.

The second is habitual use of an extremely offensive term. Owl isn’t great with people. She also has trust issues, and the resulting incredibly small circle of friends. When one of these friends reveals previously unknown (and admittedly important) information about himself, Owl is both shocked and hurt, so she lashes out, and says something . . . so far over the line that I had a flashback to adolescence of my mother saying, “Don’t speak in anger, b/c once you say something to someone you love, it can never be unsaid.”

Stuff happens, and they reconcile, but afterwards that same ugly word is used as a sort of joke. Friend calls Owl something not nice in return, but it’s the equivalent of a friend calling you a hot mess, and you calling them a hideous skank or a stupid cow in return. Over and over again. Maybe this is just one of my trigger words View Spoiler », and it won’t bother anyone else. Regardless, to me, the “joke” only served as a reminder of the terrible thing Owl said to Friend that can never be unsaid.

BUT of those two concerns, one will hopefully not be an issue, and the other . . . maybe part of Owl’s new gig will include a required class on workplace sensitivity that will bleed into other areas of her life. *crosses fingers*

Overall, Owl and the Japanese Circus is the surprisingly good first installment of an Urban Fantasy series that has made my inner cynic shut her mouth about publicity plugs in book blurbs. Charish is the cool new kid you don’t want to miss, and Owl just might be the human to make the creatures sit up and pay attention. Highly recommended. And as the ebook is currently priced at only $1.99, it’s not much of a monetary gamble, is it?<------NOPE.  

And now for the giveaway:


I’m lazy and hate rafflecopter, so this is how it’s going to work. Charish has generously offered up a signed copy of Owl and the Japanese Circus for a winner from the US or Canada, OR a digital ebook for a winner from anywhere (US, Canada, or otherwise). The winner will be chosen by in one week, and if you are that commenter, and are from the US or Canada, you can tell me which you want when I email you. If you are from somewhere else, you get the ebook, but HOORAY for international giveaways, right? Right. *winks*

Congratulations to the winner, Amir from The Not-So-Literary Heiresses!!
Was this review helpful to you? If so, please consider voting for it on Amazon or like it on Goodreads!


Jessica Signature

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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54 responses to “Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish (@jessicadhaluska, @kristicharish)

  1. So many people are loving this, which is crazy because up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t even know it existed! I know it is a new release but still, usually there is hype about these amazing books long before it releases.

    I am so glad you really liked this as well. I definitely think I need to read this one and add it to the pile.
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week

  2. I’m right there with you on the bait and switch. I’ve started giving over the top comparisons the jaded stink-eye, since so many have nothing in common with the author/series/movie mentioned.

    I’ll also admit I’m shallow and a good cover will pull me in, so this title made it to my to buy list.

  3. Pili from In Love With  

    Hmmm, the more you talk about this book, the more I feel like I really need to read! Thank you for the warning because I don’t really like that word used as an insult, and frankly even less as a joke insult, but we all have our own issues with words… But as you say Indiana Jane? I’m all over that!

    AND YAY for International giveaway!!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #78!!

  4. I bought a copy of this books last weekend because it sounds so good and my sister gave me a Kobo gift card, so I just had to buy this one. I am happy to hear you enjoyed this one and I am pretty sure I will like this one as well. I find it so interesting that Owl is just a normal human in a supernatural world. Although that publicity plug in the blurb put me off at first I am happy to hear it actually lives up to the comparison, still I wish authors or publishers would leave those comparisons out of blurbs. Great review!
    Lola recently posted…Review: Fear’s Touch by Emma L. Adams

  5. Yay for a book living up to the hype!!! If I were an author, I would absolutely not want any of the promotion of my book to be based on a comparison to a HUGE book or author, that would just feel like I was being set up to fail. I’m so glad in this case the comparison seemed accurate:)

    I’m with you though, I’m not a fan of that word either, nor the “c” insult that seems to be appearing more and more often, so I understand why that was off putting. Still, glad this was a winner overall!

  6. Hi Carmel. Fantastic review and it makes me want to read this, NOW. ^_^ I’m with you about Rafflecopter. I used it a time or two and went back to random and commenting. I find it fun to see what people have to say about the book. Congratulations Kristi. I love the cover and the title made me curious enough to have to come over and see what the heck is going on. ^_^ Thanks for the giveaway.
    sherry fundin recently posted…Giveaway ~ Book Blast for Avenge by Amity Hope

  7. I actually loved this book. Owl’s smart alec mouth and her total penchance for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person made for a highly amusing story. I obviously don’t have the same triggers as you, and while I can see how the jokes could offend some people, they didn’t bother me.
    Sarah recently posted…Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus

  8. I have really wanted to read this book since before it came out. I am looking forward to reviewing it myself after I read it.

  9. Linda George

    I keep hearing good things about Owl. Yes, I am tired of this book is just perfect for ________ fans. Tell me about the book itself (like you did). Every author has their own style. Anyway, I do believe that I should try our Owl’s world. It is on my “To Be Read” list. Thank you.

  10. I FEEL YOU JESSICA. I seem to be running out of UF to read and there are so few UFs coming out lately that catch my eye and that makes me so very sad. I am glad this book was so great for you because I want to picks it up. The comparisons to Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison made me question mark butttttttttt seriously, Indiana Jane. WHO CAN RESIST THAT? I cannot. It’s temptation.

    Also, I clicked on the spoiler for the trigger word and I don’t really like that either. Maybe owl *should* take a class on sensitivity! 😛

    Fantastic review, hon <33
    Rashika recently posted…Potato Awards 2014 + GIVEAWAY!

  11. It’s always nice to find a new series you really love. I hate seeing books compared to other authors and titles; I know, we all do it, but it’s not really fair for the author if someone hates their book MORE SO because it didn’t live up to the title/author it was compared too. At any rate, this sounds like a fun read!
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski

  12. Lisa D.

    I am so glad I read this review. I had the very same reservations about adding this book to my already ginourmous TBR pile but I’m now feeling much more optimistic about this foray into ‘Indiana Jane’ territory!

  13. Indiana Jane? Oh yes, that would hook me in too. I’ve already had this book on my wish list since I read another enthusiastic review for it.

    Yeah, that ‘words said in anger’ thing gets most of us at one point. Makes her a little flawed so a much more believable character I imagine.

  14. Trix

    I hadn’t heard about this one, but it sounds intriguing. And Rafflecopter annoys me greatly these days…

  15. Kayla

    I’ve heard so many good things about this book, and it seems like the perfect read for me at the moment. Thanks for offering this giveaway!

  16. erinf1

    thanks for such a fun review! I’ve been reading such great reviews for this and the kindle price makes it irresistible. I just bought it! I’m so excited to dive in! Thanks for sharing!

  17. Mogsy from BiblioSanctum  

    This was a very fun book! And as for Linda Hamilton…they’re most likely referring to the actress of Terminator fame. A kickass tough chick for sure! But how strange…if they’re going to say “Indiana Jane” in the description, why the hell didn’t they just use Sarah Connor the character name as well?

  18. I already wanted to read this because of your interview. Now I really, really want to read it. 🙂 I’m glad I hadn’t seen any of the “Fans of” publicity prior to reading your interview and review because that always turns me off. I’ve been disappointed too many times, too. So I’m glad that Owl was able to silence your inner cynic and served up a great intro to a new UF series. Owl sounds like a riot!
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…Travel by the Book #1 ~ Savannah

  19. Christine  

    I was on the fence about this book, but after your review I have decided to give it a try. I also think Linda Hamilton is the actress who played Sarah Conner, but she also played the lead in the Beauty and the Beast television series. Why not just say Sarah Conner. Weird.

  20. Anonymous  

    I’m glad to see you had a good time with this one, I really enjoyed it even if sometimes the main character bothered me with her actions. But it’s so fun, the story, the characters, the place and you’re right, we’re immediatly intrigued by what is annonced from the book. Great review!

  21. Chelsea B.

    This sounds MEGA interesting! And I love the title! Thank you for the great giveaway!

  22. Rhonda Stees

    Oh, my, now I have to read this. Jessica, your the third person who liked it. And so happy to see you reviewing again! Missed you!

  23. vicki webster  

    I keep seeing good reviews for this book and I do need another series to get into. I’m looking forward to this.

    (Is it just me or does everyone feel as though the best firend let you down when a series ends or it’s announced that the next book will be the last?)

  24. Anonymous  

    Hi; this was an excellent review. Thank you for respectfully giving us the OPTION of liking your review. I truly hate feeling obligated to like a review to enter a contest (and won’t do it-I feel it’s dishonest). I purchase my books heavily based on reviews and I ALWAYS click that handy “yes” button on Amazon if the review is helpful. Always. I also have no problem commenting (as I’m doing now) when I read a review that’s wonderful, honest, free of spoilers, beautifully written, and shows talent. I, too love UF, but have been VERY frustrated lately with the selections. Thanks for providing me with a nice, affordable choice. Thank you as well for offering a go-to site for great reviews. That means a lot.

  25. Mary from BookSwarm  

    WHY AREN’T THERE MORE AWESOME URBAN FANTASY SERIES OUT THERE?!?! Because, like you, I could gorge myself on awesome UF, reading it for months without a need for palate cleansing or anything. (And this is $1.99 on Kindle at the moment, FYI. I just bought it and have weekend plans with it. So no need to enter me in your lovely giveaway!!)
    Mary recently posted…Review: Burned by Karen Marie Moning

  26. Danielle

    Sounds like a good read, especially since I have an anthropology degree. Love books that can tie in to something I love or know.