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Saturdays in Books

Reviews of speculative fiction, YA, middle grade, and graphic novels, along with stray thoughts, links, and pictures.

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The SFWA European Hall of Fame: Sixteen Contemporary Masterpieces of Science Fiction from the Continent
Kathryn Morrow, James K. Morrow

Review: Owl and the City of Angels (Owl #2)

Owl and the City of Angels - Kristi Charish

I'm not even sure what I'm writing here is a review so much as a collection of ramblings about this book. So let's start of with a few useful sentences before diving into whatever the hell I'm on about here:

 

This is stronger than the first installment, but is also very true to the characters, setting, strengths, and weaknesses of that book as well. If you weren't sold on the protagonist after the first one, this will feel like more of the same. If you liked the first one, congratulations, more Owl for you. 

 

For me, someone who dug a lot about Owl and the Japanese Circus, but also had a list of very specific complaints, reading this was a weird experience. I know in terms of book production timelines that there is basically no way Charish could possibly have read my review and written an entire book in response to it, but Owl and the City of Angels feels like she was doing just that. And with a reasonable degree of success.

 

It starts off with her finally thinking to use the damn game as an asset in her reconnaissance. But being Owl, she does it in a convoluted, backwards way that makes everything worse for her. Perfect. No sarcasm there - this is exactly how Owl would do it. Complaint addressed, but without retconning anything.

 

I'm still not wild about Rynn. While book one cataloged many of Owl's issues, in book two she has identified one she wants to change. Sadly, she elects to improve her interpersonal relationship skills by ignoring her instincts with Rynn and basically ceding defining their relationship to him. And this feels true. In no small part because it's very Owl, but also because at some point Nadia says something about it - a nice gesture to the reader that the author knows Owl is fucking up yet again. There's also a really great scene late in the book where Owl finally manages to use that big, beautiful brain of hers to think through their interactions and draw a valid conclusion. 

 

Let's take a moment to appreciate this: By the end of this book, their relationship is improving. Not because she buried her misgivings or acted against her instincts, but because she used critical thinking and communication. Mother. Fucker. Best book ever.

 

Also, we get enough new pieces in the grad school disaster puzzle to actually form a coherent picture. 

 

It's by no means perfect. I still find the way she interacts with the game to be baffling, but I suspect the third book will recontextualize that as successfully as this one does her grad school experience and the unbroken masquerade. Her comments about how the IAA stepped up security don't really paper over the giant continuity hole that is this seemingly entirely different organization. And while I'm not wild about Rynn, he's competent in a way that makes one of the later plot detours seem rather absurd from a logistics standpoint. And why is this world like 95% dudes? Is it because almost everyone she knows is an engineer? And the cover - makes sense having read the book, but boy is it poor marketing. Readers of the first book will find it baffling to see her holding a knife and new readers are being set up for disappointment.

 

I should probably stop now as the rest of the list is really small stuff. Just so you understand how ridiculously nit picky I am being right now, here are a couple of copy editing errors:

 

I glanced down; there was a cork mouse floating in my coffee, the one I’d balanced in my lap before nodding off. I held the mouse up. “Did you seriously just throw a mouse in my coffee?” Captain chirped again in response. I pulled the mouse out and launched it across the room. Captain took off, his hind legs skidding out as he tried to make a turn.

 

The second sentence should start, "I held the mug up."

 

Looking at the wall, I could have sworn I needed to go left, not right, like Carpe said.

Followed shortly by:

“Alix, Carpe’s right, I can see it on the map—left tunnel,” Nadya added.

Yeah . . stopping now.

 

Action packed and with a good lead in for the third book, Owl and the City of Angels is a lot of fun. This series is a great ride, and I'm looking forward to the next one.