Charish writes a fast-moving adventure book with a strong dollop of mystery and romance. Owl is a former grad student in archaeology who now specializes in stealing antiquities for her clients. She is careful in her work, never destroying the sites, always delivering what she promises and, after one particularly memorable job left her hunted by vampires, never working for or with supernaturals. Then a dragon demands she find one more item for him and tells her that he can negotiate a truce with the vampires. She takes the job and finds herself enmeshed in the supernatural world after all.
Owl’s personality is going to be familiar to readers of adventure fiction: She’s prone to leaping without looking, often tactless, and given to taunting people she shouldn’t be taunting. Charish gives her enough distinctiveness, though, to keep her interesting, and surrounds her with strong supporting characters. Owl’s world is one where any and all mythological creatures might be real—and Owl only thinks she is well-informed about it, leaving it unexplored territory that the reader learns about with her.
Both the mystery and the romance are well-developed. Charish includes some of the romantic tension, and quarreling typical of the genre, but she also makes it clear that the two people involved have been friends before being romantically involved and the reason for Owl’s attraction is apparent. The mystery portion of Owl and the Japanese Circus is also played fair. Readers learn what is happening as Owl does, and could potentially figure matters out before she does. There is always plenty going on, but it never feels extraneous and always contributes to the ongoing plot.
Charish includes a strong friendship that is as important as the romance. Nadya has been Owl’s friend since their graduate school days, and Owl knows she can turn to her for help. The two work together well with their shared past as a basis, trust each other, and share a number of interests. Their conversations ring true, both when they are cooperating and when they are quarreling and patching up their differences.
Owl and the Japanese Circus is the first book in a series. It is a strong introduction, with the promise of more to come. It is recommended for people who like urban fantasy where creatures from any mythology might show up, who enjoy a good romance, and like suspense and mystery.