THE DEMON TRAPPER'S DAUGHTER (Book #1)
Paranormal Young Adult
St. Martin's Griffin
Available February 1st
Received for review from For What It's Worth
Riley Blackthorne is a demon trapper. She's following in her father's footsteps, aspiring to be a master trapper and the only women to choose such a profession. For now, she's stuck with the lesser demons, finding herself covered in unmentionable demon fluids while videos of her botched containment attempts go viral.
When tragedy strikes, Riley becomes more determined than ever to be a master trapper, recklessly attempting to catch higher level demons to the chagrin of her father's protege, and her first crush, Beck. When it's clear she's outmatched, she's brought under the tutelage of a senior master trapper, a man who hates her and her father, and only agrees to train her so he has another person to abuse.
Though it's not the best of situations, it does allow Riley to spend more time with fellow trapper apprentice Simon, the one bright spot in a world that seems to have turned it's back on her. Things are changing in Atlanta though, and while Riley is training, it seems the demons, previously content to work alone, have begun to team up and even more surprisingly, they all seem to know Riley by name. With the demons working together and the trappers' special supplies not working as they should, things seem increasingly bleak for Riley and company, and she may soon be following far closer in her father's footsteps than she would have ever expected.
The Demon Trapper's Daughter introduces us to a world where darkness has temporarily eclipsed light, and the lethal claw-tipped fingers of Hell have crept from Lucifer's realm and made their way to big city Atlanta. With their increasing occupation of the city comes minor mischief from the lower level minions, but a bloody end awaits those who think to tangle with the upper level fiends as they maim and destroy with an evilness and disregard for life characteristic of the soulless monsters they are. The details of this nightmarish world are presented to us gradually, sparing us from being buried under the enormous weight of an extraordinary influx of information, instead giving us time to observe and question as we learn the ins and outs of demon trapping along with Riley. Though her world is grim and death manifests itself into terrifying demonic forms, Riley and Beck's faith in their cause keeps hope alive for us as readers, their strength of purpose a tiny encouraging flame in the surrounding blackness.
Despite an interesting world, Riley herself is a problematic character. While we respect her desire to be the only female demon trapper and her ability to hunt down horrifying creatures with a remarkable tenacity, her interactions with Beck make fully supporting her difficult. When tragedy befalls her, she is understandably devastated, and in her grief she becomes so self-centered she refuses to acknowledge that Beck not only shares her pain, but is experiencing the loss on a level as equally personal and crushing as her own. His rejection of her feelings for him when she was fifteen forced her to erect protective walls to safeguard her new emotional fragility, but even when it's clear Beck's protectiveness and sometimes curt reprimands stem from an inherent affection and need to protect himself from his own feelings, she reacts with utter immaturity and, at times, an unwarranted disrespect that reinforces the reality of her young years. We then can only read on with the wish that her behavior with regard to Beck could be as admirable as her dedication to her cause.
Though Riley's romantic attentions focus on Simon, Beck is the more preferable choice, his experiences as a soldier overseas and his trapping with Riley's father leaving him with significant emotional and physical scarring, and those marks buy him an infinite number of reprieves for his terse interactions with Riley as we have the opportunity to see through the facade to the troubled young man underneath. Riley, blinded by her girlish hurt at her initial dismissal those years ago, refuses to open her eyes wide enough to see how truly similar she and Beck are and how much he so clearly cares for her. Though her preference for squeaky-clean, ultra-religious Simon is understandable, we still can't help but want the chance to speak to Riley face to face and plead Beck's case on his behalf. He alone earns sole possession of our hearts–Simon remaining a bit too flat and too perfect to hold our interest, and Riley, though she certainly has the potential for us to form a cherished connection, uses her youthful selfishness to keep us at a distance.
The Demon Trapper's Daughter is full of promise, starting strong with moments of humor that offset the tragic darkness of the world, but it falters a bit in the middle as a jumble of different storylines all struggle for dominance, creating a hazy picture that prevents us from separating the main conflict from the minor ones. As a result, our focus continues to shift haphazardly as we await the details that will more clearly direct our course and help us find our way amongst the monsters. Luckily, toward the end that much needed direction makes its way to us and we find ourselves swept up in an action packed finale that leaves us eagerly anticipating the next installment. Though not without its flaws, this is an interesting story and one, now that we are properly informed, I look forward to continuing.