Wednesday, July 06, 2011

DNF Review: "The Demon Trapper's Daughter" by Jana Oliver

I've never done a DNF (did not finish) review before-- usually I don't get far enough into a book I don't like to actually qualify it as review material. But Jana Oliver's The Demon Trapper's Daughter is unusual in that I made it most of the way before giving it up as being too irritating to be worth the effort to finish.

Obviously you don't need to read this whole review to know what my final verdict will be.

"The Demon Trapper's Daughter" is the story of Riley Blackthorn, the daughter of a well-known demon trapper who wants to follow in her father's footsteps. At seventeen Riley has been training as an apprentice to her father long enough to be trusted to trap a minor demon on her own. But her fist solo trapping goes awry as it becomes clear that two demons are working together and, even worse, they seem to know Riley's name. Riley thinks things can't get worse as video of her escapades hits the net, but another fatal collusion between demons leads to her father's death.

Alone in the world Riley knows the only thing she can do to survive is the become an independent trapper, but she must first finish her apprenticeship and her new master not only hated her father, but doesn't think woman are capable of working as trappers. But becoming a master trapper is only the first of Riley's challenges: she must also stand vigil at her father's grave for twelve nights to prevent necromancers from animating and selling her father's body; and sort out her feelings for two young men-- one of whom she's had feelings for since she was a child.

"The Demon Trapper's Daughter" has a lot of interesting premises. In this dystopian world angels, demons, Heaven and Hell aren't a matter of faith, but known for a fact to exist. It isn't spelled out when the demons first appeared, but the world has significantly changed. Everything is extraordinarily expensive and school is held in old coffee shops and grocery stores. Demons range from harmless little magpies that steal odd items from your home to monstrosities that have to be hunted down with holy water and lots of weapons. And it was the mythology that kept me interested long enough to really give this book a go.

However, as I got further into the story I kept getting distracted and irritated by the YA elements that Oliver kept throwing into the story to keep the young adult label, and the incongruity of that with the book's more adult content. Because Riley is seventeen the story is littered with the requisite teenage dramas of boyfriends and bullies and that would be fine if it were balanced well within the story; but it's not. For a book that's targeted at young adults, there is a lot of profanity and frank sexuality. We don't get sex scenes, which might explain how the book keeps it YA designation, but it's definitely a book for older teens at best.

But I persevered beyond the language despite my feeling that it wasn't right for the age designation because I kept hoping for the payoff. There were a couple of different mysteries within the story, one concerning the holy water and another regarding a reality-TV show about Vatican sponsored demon hunting, that had the potential to go somewhere. But as I reached the last fifty pages of the book too many annoying distractions took away my ability to care how the story resolved itself.

One of my main beefs with "The Demon Trapper's Daughter" is the constant insistence that women would be regarded as less able to hunt demons. It just doesn't jibe with a rough demon infested world that anyone capable of handling a weapon is going to be disregarded because of their gender. It just seemed contrived to appeal to an audience that would likely be largely female and addicted to "Twilight." But the coup de grĂ¢ce for me was the random introduction of too many "hot" guys who are destined to flirt with the main character. We already had two love interests in the first two-thirds of the book, so when the story edges into it's final chapters there seemed no reason to bring anyone else into the mix. I'm sure the character had something to do with at least one of the mysteries that needed to be solved, but his appearance was too abrupt, too convenient and totally off-putting.

I admit that I am not a huge fan of YA fiction that gets into the whole does he like me or doesn't he like me? mold. But I can overlook teen angst if the story is interesting enough. Books like The Hunger Games and Divergent worked for me because there was a logic to the story as well as a good emotional payoff. But "The Demon Trapper's Daughter" jumped around too much for my logic-loving brain and didn't strike the right chords for me emotionally to make it work.

Despite my reservations, this book seems to be a big hit among the teen crowd, if the reviews on Amazon are any guide (it's probably the language); but I suspect that most adult readers looking for a nice paranormal diversion would probably be better served by avoiding this one.


Amanda Makepeace said...

I gave it mixed review, with similar reservations. My daughter saw the cover and immediately gravitated toward the book (she's 13) and I said, No Way!

SQT said...

I plowed through because there was enough to like about it, but couldn't reach the finish line. And yeah, my daughter won't be touching this one.

Jackie (Literary Escapism) said...

I get everything you're saying and it was the premise that made me finish the book. I have to say you didn't miss much. Nothing was resolved and there wasn't a single cliffhanger. Everything was a little too convenient and it was just Okay I'm done.

Jackie (Literary Escapism) said...

I totally agree with everything you said, but I did end up finishing the book because like you, I did like the premise. Honestly though, you didn't miss much. There was no conflict resolution and no cliffhanger to give an idea of what to look forward to.

It was okay, but I don't get why you wouldn't think it would be okay for a younger crowd. Maybe I glazed over the areas you're thinking of, but I didn't think the language was that bad.