Night Owls is an Urban Fantasy novel by Lauren M. Roy. There’s a mystery to solve—for once not a murder—and plenty of gruesome deaths, but nothing in such detail to make me queasy.
1—A Priestess, a Vampire Hunter, and a Grad Student Walk Into a Bookstore
Ok, so Elly’s not exactly a priestess—she would’ve been a Sister of the Brotherhood if Father Value hadn’t taken her and her adoptive brother on the run as children—but “priestess” is much shorter and works into the joke better. And Val doesn’t hunt vampires, she’s a vampire who’s also a Hunter…and also retired. Val own the titular Night Owls bookstore, which she bought after her disastrous last hunt left her a traumatized sole survivor. These two, along with Chaz—Val’s Renfield—are the three POV characters in the book. There are plenty of other interesting characters though.
Cavale is Elly’s brother, who left her and Father Value a few years before the start of the book and currently makes his living telling fortunes and exterminating supernatural nasties. There’s that grad student I mentioned in the subtitle, Justin, who gets an evil spell stuck inside him. And then there’s Sunny and Lia, shapeshifting lesbian succubi with good senses of humor and better fighting skills.
And those are just the good guys. I haven’t started on the bad guys or the grey characters, but I think I’ll leave those to be discovered. Though I will say that even flesh-and-fear-eating monsters make friends.
So there are multiple kinds of undead but only two we really deal with in Night Owls. There are vampires, who are divided up into various clans about whom we know little as yet; and there are Jackals, who eat people alive and feed on their fear beforehand. And go nuts over virgins, for some reason. The Jackals are dying out and the vampires are happy to help.
We only meet two vampire clans, plus Val. I like that when Ms Roy tells us about Val’s powers and limitations she uses the opportunity to simultaneously tell some other powers vampires can have. There’s fingers turning into claws, healing, speed, and senses. And of course, some serious mind-fuckery.
There’s also the Brotherhood, a secretive society of humans who kill all kinds of supernatural creatures. Elly and Cavale were raised by an former member, Father Value, who was too radical for even that bunch of fanatics. Now Father Value is dead and Elly is on the run.
3—Mysteries Upon Mysteries
The plot of Night Owls mostly consists of the characters figuring out what the hell is going on—a book gets dropped on them, then Jackals show up and demand it, then they say it’s not in the book anymore and give it back—seriously, a lot of the plot consists of figuring out what the Jackals actually want. The rest of the plot consists of showdowns between various factions, and fraught emotional stuff—no melodrama, but all of the main and most of the secondary characters have significant trauma in their backgrounds.
I’m also pleased that, though taking place in the midst of a battle, the conflict is resolved with cleverness rather than violence. Not something you see much of in Urban Fantasy—typically the solution to the story is to kill the evil thing.
There are also a few less immediate mysteries going on the background, unresolved and clearly meant to draw you into the next book, but the main story goals get resolved so Night Owls does have a proper ending, not just a cliffhanger. Though there is a brief epilogue meant to set up the next book.
I liked Night Owls but it isn’t my favorite. The world and characters are interesting enough that I’ll eventually pick up the next book. But everything else I have to say about it, I’ve already said.