Monday, January 24, 2011

Review: The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

Book:  The Demon Trapper’s Daughter – Jana Oliver
Series or Stand-Alone: Series, The Demon Trappers #1
Pages: 340
Genre: Young Adult / Urban Fantasy
Purchase A Copy: Amazon | Book Depository 
Publication Date: February 1st, 2011
How I Got This Book: From the Publisher, For Review
Description (From Goodreads): Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself – and that’s exactly what the demons are counting on… 

Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father's footsteps.  The good news is, with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheaval and Lucifer increasing the number of demons in all major cities, Atlanta’s local Trappers’ Guild needs all the help they can get – even from a girl. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen 

But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood.  And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart – and her life?

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter by Jana Oliver is a unique addition to the young adult market for a variety of reasons. Although the book is centered around a teenage heroine it has more in common with an adult urban fantasy novel that it does with a young adult paranormal romance. Oliver’s version of Atlanta is extremely dark and she doesn’t hold back on the gritty details. Prostitution, alcoholism and sex, among other things, are all mentioned throughout the book. Riley is also faced with a lot of explicit language from some of her male counterparts. Please don’t misunderstand me, this is not a what I could call a vulgar book. In fact, I give kudos to Oliver for pulling out all the stops and keeping her vision consistent across the entire spectrum. Things are not sugarcoated like you would find in many YA novels - Riley is faced with a great deal of ugliness. But the harsh and crude treatment thrown at her is exactly what solidifies the “girl in a man’s world” vibe that Oliver works so hard to create. By including the darker elements, Oliver is able to truly bring the world to life.

Although there is quite a bit of world building in this series opener, it never feels like a dreaded “info dump”. The reader learns about the demon world with Riley, bit by bit. Because she is an apprentice demon trapper she is constantly figuring things out, so you are never bombarded with too much information at once.

Another element that makes this book a standout in today’s YA market is the demon storyline. I have to tell you, I LOVED the demons and the creative ways the trappers catch them. The majority of the books humor is found in Riley's interactions with minor demons. The lower level demons are usually quite small; Riley catches her first Biblio (teeny, tiny little creep that hates classical literature) by reading him Moby Dick and storing him in a sippy cup. Now, isn’t that just a riot? My favorite demon was easily the magpie. The magpie is basically an ugly, leprechaun sized kleptomaniac. They aren’t really dangerous they just like to collect shiny, pretty things – Gollum style. Riley catches one with a few pieces of glitter.

While the world in this story was phenomenal, the characters themselves were a bit of a letdown – Riley in particular. She was constantly getting on my nerves – there were a number of times I wanted to pull her out of the book and smack some sense into her. Especially when it came to her interactions with Beck. Beck is a fellow trapper, who was extremely close to her father. He and Riley are five years apart and when she was 15 she had a massive crush on him. He rejected her and now she treats him horribly. When Riley’s life is turned upside down, he takes responsibility for her and she often repays him with unkindness, insults and a constant stream of dirty looks. I just did not find this side of her charming or likable in any way.

I also had one small issue with Beck. Although I adored the character, the dialect that Oliver uses for his dialogue was rather irritating. Now, I am a big fan of dialects – I think that they are a great way to add some insight to a character, but this one just seemed off. It was supposed to be southern, but it just did not work for me.

However, despite the dialect issue, I absolutely loved the character of Beck. I felt like he was well-rounded and that he genuinely had a great heart. He feels extremely protective of Riley and does everything he can to ensure her safety and happiness. Out of all of Riley’s potential love interests (and believe me, there were quite a few) he was my favorite. I feel like Beck and Riley make the most sense together. 

Riley's other primary love interest is Simon. Simon is another apprentice demon trapper that works along side Riley. Although he is kind character, I don't think he is a good match for Riley. There personalities are far too different - he is an extremely religious boy who always plays by the rules and she is, shall we say, more rough around the edges. Riley has been dealt an unfair hand in life and it has jaded her somewhat. I do not think that Simon could ever fully understand Riley, where as Beck can easily relate to her.

With The Demon Trapper’s Daughter, Jana Oliver creates a gritty, tough and captivating world. There are moments of sheer brilliance, but there are also a few fumbles along the way. While the book definitely had its flaws, the good easily outweighed the bad. Oliver does a fantastic job creating a memorable and fascinating world that will delight readers and keep them turning the pages.


Precious said...

Great detailed review! It does sounds unique and different. And it seems like something I'd love!

Jenny said...

Exactly! Loved the world, loved the wide variety of demons, did not love Riley. I agree with you on Beck's accent, I just pretended it wasn't there when I was reading:) I'm really looking forward to book 2 though, I'm hoping we get some maturing from Riley!

j said...

This one is on my wishlist! Sorry to hear the characters weren't up to par, but I am happy to hear how great the world building is. Thanks for the review!

Anne said...

Sounds very interesting - I'd seen this one around a bit, but hadn't officially put it on my TBR list. I definitely will now =)

Info site for SEO Seattle Information said...

The complexity of the paranormal world, along with the vivid characterizations make this story a step up from the usual young adult fare. There's a dash of romance, but nothing that will turn off fans who want realism over romance. Riley's relationships never become cloying or obsessive, and that was something of a relief. This is a teenager who doesn't confuse a crush with the real deal, and her priorities are dead on.

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