Sunday, August 7, 2011

Review: The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter (Demon Trappers #1)
by Jana Oliver
February 1, 2011
Borrowed from Library
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: C

Demon Trapper Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself—and that’s exactly what Lucifer is counting on…

It’s the year 2018, and with human society seriously disrupted by the economic upheavals of the previous decade, Lucifer has increased the number of demons in all major cities. Atlanta is no exception. Fortunately, humans are protected by Demon Trappers, who work to keep homes and streets safe from the things that go bump in the night. Seventeen-year-old Riley, only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing attraction to fellow Trapper apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving citizens from Grade One Hellspawn. Business as usual, really, for a demon-trapping teen. When a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood, she realizes that she’s caught in the middle of a battle between Heaven and Hell.

The Demon Trapper’s Daughter struck me as a completely serviceable urban fantasy for young adults, but it was missing a certain spark or...something that would elevate it to the level of a really excellent read. I’m finding it difficult to pin down why exactly I was left slightly cold by the novel.

I really enjoyed the first five chapters of the book. Riley’s library assignment gone wrong and the subsequent disciplinary meeting of the Trapper’s Guild introduced the characters with flair and drew me into the demon-ridden, post-industrial city of Atlanta. Both burdened and blessed with a demon trapper legend of a father, Riley’s attempting to survive her apprenticeship and become the first fully qualified female demon trapper. It’s probably a toss up which the Guild holds against her more: her family or her gender, and Riley’s quiet determination to show them up endeared her to me instantly.

But then as the plot continues, Riley never seemed to deepen or grow. She goes through a lot during the course of the book as one would expect for an urban fantasy heroine, but her character arc was completely flat. I enjoyed her voice, but I wanted her to grow as a character, to react to outside events with more than self-pity or anger, to approach something without complaining first or last, and maybe, just in general to suck it up a little. Riley comes across as a very immature seventeen year old. Perhaps the author justified this as her father sheltering her, but the details about having difficulties making the ends meet and finding rent don’t seem to lead to a sheltered childhood.

The other viewpoint character is Denver Beck, the other apprentice of Riley’s father. Once I got past the incredibly annoying dialect (every ‘you’ is ‘ya’ and Riley is called ‘girl’ half the time) and the sweet hero worship of Riley’s father, he seemed to be made up of a collection of character traits with no personality filling them out.

I did enjoy the demonology and portrayal of the Trappers’ Guild and their rivalry with demon hunters (trappers only trap demons while demon hunters are employed by the Church and get to kill demons) and attempts to stay on the good side of the Vatican. I liked the magic system and the spheres and holy water used to fight demons as well as the tension between the magic needed and the religious beliefs of some of the demon trappers. And despite my stated general dislike, the angels in this book were very well-done.

As I’ve been writing this review, I think I’ve pinpointed that the characterization of Riley and Beck and the odd love developing love pentagram (points for not being a love triangle, but...really?) are my major sources of disappointment with the book. The writing’s fine - utilitarian but nothing to complain about, but without feeling comfortable with the two main characters, I have a hard time feeling attached to the book as a whole.

However, the world-building and Riley’s original character interests me enough that when the second book comes out at the end of the month, I’ll remember it when I'm in the mood for a paranormal read.

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