Review of THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER by Jana Oliver
St. Martin's, February 2011
Riley Blackthorne doesn't expect much trouble. Little biblio-fiends don't have the power to face a demon trapper and that's what Riley wants to be. Sure she's just an apprentice now, but her dad is one of Atlanta's top trappers, and she's following in his footsteps. What happens breaks the rules. Everyone knows that biblio-fiends don't have much power and everyone knows that demons don't work together. At least one of those rules has changed, though, and Riley is both humiliated and endangered. Worse, she has to get picked up by Beck, her arch-enemy, her dad's star student and the man she once had a huge crush on... and who broke her heart.
Riley's problems quickly escalate when her father and Beck head out to capture a level-three demon and only Beck comes back. Now she's got no mentor, has to work for the Trapper who hated her father most, and has to spend every night guarding her father's grave because a young and healthy body can be raised and the zombie put to work.
Like any high school girl, Riley's life isn't all work and family. For her, there's the issue of boys. She's got a male best friend with whom she can share all of her secrets... except that her dad thinks maybe he wants to be a boyfriend rather than a friend who's a boy. Then there's cute Simon--the apprentice of the most obnoxious demon trapper in Atlanta. Simon is not just cute, he's nice--and he seems to like Riley a lot. Finally there's Beck. Beck isn't cute, he's a serious hunk. Angry at the world, Beck can't help wanting to take care of Riley.
Author Jana Oliver creates an intriguing world and magical system. Set in a near-future version of Atlanta, the blight of demons seems to echo the blight humans have made of their world. With the bankrupcy of the school system, Riley tries to complete her high school diploma by attending classes in a defunct Starbucks. Meanwhile, the rich get richer, helped along by the zombies they buy, and the poor get demons. I was a little distracted by the romance angle of the story. Beck comes across as the classic romantic hero--the bad-boy who needs the love of a good woman to tame him. Simon could be the too-good-to-be-true secondary romantic interest, except he really doesn't develop that way. So, we have Riley falling for the guy that classic story-telling is the wrong one. Finally, it felt to me like we never followed up on the best-friend-in-love angle. THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER is Oliver's first novel and I sometimes got the idea that she revised it a lot, perhaps changing it from a standard paranormal romance to a young adult contemporary fantasy (with some romantic elements). With such a nice combination of urban fantasy and gritty near-future dystopia, it's a shame that the romance angle distracted rather than enhanced the story.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
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