Sunday, 26 October 2014

Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus

Owl and the Japanese Circus
Owl and the Japanese Circus by Kristi Charish

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a pre-publication copy via Netgalley for purposes of review. (Accordingly, there is a chance that the editing issues I mention will be resolved before publication.)

This is an action-packed urban fantasy starring an antiquities thief, something between Indiana Jones and Lana Croft, only more obviously outside the law than either. It's fast-paced and entertaining, though the bits about translating the scroll are obvious technobabble to anyone who knows anything about linguistics, and there are a few other issues.

Firstly, there are some very strange vocabulary errors: summarized/surmised, appraise/apprise, enacted/enforced, distinct/distinctive, lead/led, glazed over/glossed over, damper down/damp down, you're/your, up/us, my/me and check/cheek (typos), friend's/friends', one/one's, consciously/in good conscience, reprise/reprieve, anymore/any more, succubi or incubi/succubus or incubus, conjugated/I have no idea, but probably not conjugated. As I say, hopefully these will be resolved before publication. I suspect that they're the remainder of a much larger number that have mostly been corrected. There are a few fumbled full stops and quotation marks, about the usual percentage.

More significant, to me, were the character issues. The story, as usual with urban fantasy, is told in first person by the protagonist, and the protagonist, also as usual, is a smart-mouthed woman who keeps getting herself in trouble by making stupid decisions. She tells us so over and over again, in fact. Now, I'm fine with all of this except the stupid decisions part. I never have much respect for female characters who make stupid, headstrong decisions that keep placing them in need of rescue by their sketchy-seeming, more powerful, more skilful, all-around more awesome love interest (who has A Secret that will Shock You, though it will probably be obvious to you a lot earlier than it is to the protagonist). It's true that she's competent in her field (perhaps unbelievably so; archaeology, like any discipline, has many parts to it, and people specialize early, so it's not really credible that she knows so much about so many different times and places and languages). What she's not competent at is doing anything remotely sensible that would keep her from getting beaten up or killed. And since she doesn't have the power of, for example, Harry Dresden, but is just a vanilla human, her survival to the end of the book is... let's say unlikely on the face of it.

I liked the cat, though. The cat rocked. Even if, in one scene, she started out with the cat on a leash accompanying her, and by the end of the scene he'd been with her friend the whole time. And even if he can open a window on the 23rd floor of a Vegas casino hotel (which generally don't have opening windows, do they?).

I did enjoy it, in a popcorn sort of way, and I've seen much worse. In all honesty, though, with so many problems I can't bring myself to give it four stars. It's a high three.

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