Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: The Demon Trapper's Daughter

Jana Oliver
Paranormal Young Adult
368 Pages
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.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. I really liked this one. I totally agree with your assessment of Riley's character though. At times you just kind of wanted to tell her to get out of her own dang way.

    I thought the mythology was well thought out and it kept me interested throughout and the ending was definitely action packed.

    Fabulous review as always!

  2. I really enjoyed this book. I like the uniqueness of the story and plot. Great review.

  3. Thanks for the review Jenny! I've been looking forward to The Demon Trapper's Daughter, but I'll admit, even reading the plot description sort of implies that there are a lot of things going on at once. I still can't wait to read about this slightly futuristic world Jana Oliver has created filled with demons though... :)

  4. I was so excited for this but I think I'll lower my expectations a bit. I'll still be reading the book though since I find the premise interesting and now want to know more about Beck. Poor Beck!

  5. Great review Jenny! I am still excited to read this although I am a little concerned about the character Riley and the love triangle. I hate it when the girl picks the wrong guy. Beck sounds amazing :)

  6. Even though I've seen this book everywhere, this is the first review I've read. Riley sounds pretty irritating, but hopefully her character will grow as the series progresses. Beck sounds like an interesting character. Maybe Simon is just supposed to be his foil so Riley will eventually see the real Beck as opposed to the bad guy she's turned him into.
    I'll check out a few more reviews, but I think this one has slipped down to "summer library reading" status.

    Jennifer (An Abundance of Books)

  7. Wonderful review, Jenny! I have seen quite a few reviews of the book. Now I really want to read it. From your review, it seems that it's not that great. But I guess, it's ok for a one-time read.

  8. I actually read this one and thought it was pretty good. Very good review--I agree about Riley. She was really hard to fully support but the world itself was very interesting.

  9. What a fantastic and honest review. I'm seeing a lot of reviews about this at the moment, some of them not favourable. Guess I'll have to read it to see for myself.

  10. I completely agree with your review. I felt the same way. Riley was definitely a hard character to love. Thanks for the honest review.

  11. I think the premise of the story sounds amazing, but when a plot lags or loses focus, I tend to do so, as well. That worries me. I'll definitely read this, but I'll take my time. Beautiful honest review, Jenny! :)

  12. Carissa - I quite enjoyed it as well, especially after the end, Riley just bothered me at times.

    Savy - Definitely a unique story, I loved the world:)

    Liz - She does a beautiful job with the world building, I just wanted to throttle Riley sometimes because I felt so attached to Beck.

    Zahida - Definitely read it! I loved Beck, not everyone will because he doesn't make it easy, but I'm a sucker for the damaged ones.

    Nic - I'll be looking forward to seeing what you think! I'm hoping for a Beck/Riley pairing in the future:)

    Jennifer - She certainly has the potential for growth, and I liked her more at the end than I did in the middle, so I have hope for this series:)

    Misha - It was an interesting read for sure, I just wanted a little more from the characters:)

    Felicia - I agree, loved the world!

    Cheree - Thanks! Everyone should definitely read and see for themselves, we don't all like the same aspects of books:)

    Christina - She was! I'll still be picking up book 2 though after everything that happened at the end:)

    Melissa - I put this one down in the middle because I got lost in it, then I picked it back up and it finished strong:)

  13. I can't wait to read this, good thing it comes out soon! Great Review!

  14. What an eloquent and fabulous review! I'm all for paranormal books, but if the plot gets too confusing or too much information is presented all at once, I tend to lose interest very quickly.

  15. Ugh, I had high hopes for this one but I cannot stand an irritating main character. I'll give this one a try and see how I like her. Thanks for your review!

  16. Hey Jenny, I love reading your reviews because you are such a great writer.

    I really loved this book and while I did not find the plot bogged down with the too much information or jumbled, I can see where some might find that the case.

    I also felt Riley being only seventeen and dealing with so much (no mother, father's death, and a male dominated society) smart to deal with Beck the way she did. After all he did make it very clear early on that she was just a kid and he remains aloof and a bit of a jerk too. Plus, he is a bit old for her and way more experienced in most everything.

    While I hope that Riley and Beck will eventually find their way to each other, I am glad Oliver chose not to do it in this book.

  17. I really like the sound of this book. It has a pretty unique and interesting concept. Riley seems like a character that will take some getting used to though. I do love action packed books so I'll definitely be reading it. Wonderful review!

  18. Ohhh your reviews are so awesome!! Even though this really isnt my type of novel, you make it sound good!!

  19. I can't wait to read this one, especially as it takes place in Atlanta. I had assumed that it was set in our world... with a secret group of underground demon-hunters - kind of like the girls in Sisters Red. But, it sounds like this takes place in a not-so-distant dystopian future where demons have suddenly made their presence known? Either way, I'm sure I'll enjoy it... this totally sounds like my kind of book.

  20. Thanks for such a great review! I have been seeing this one around a lot and Im still not sure if I wanna read it =/

    I dont think it sounds like something I'd be into =/

  21. Katie - Thanks, hope you enjoy it:)

    Tara - Thank you! It may have been my attention span and I just spaced out in the middle, but a lot of things seemed to be happening. Once the main conflict became apparent, I was fully on board:)

    Small - She probably won't irritate everyone, I just found her interactions with Beck frustrating. Part of it is because we get to see things about him that she doesn't though.

    Jan - Thanks! I definitely see your point about Riley being seventeen (I forget that sometimes when I read YA), she just irritated me a bit at times. I'm glad she and Beck didn't get together in this book as well even though I prefer him to Simon, and I think there's so much going on with them it's a relationship that definitely needs time to develop:) I look forward to reading more for sure:)

    Adriana - I loved the concept, and I think I will grow to like Riley eventually:)

    Tina - Thanks! It's an interesting read, I thought the demons were fabulous.

    Madigan - Yes, it's more of a future reality where demons are well known and people have figured out how to deal with them. That aspect of it was very cool:)

    Larissa - You're welcome, glad you enjoyed! I think you could probably wait until the next book comes out, I think this is a series that will get better as it goes.

  22. Still on the fence about this one, but at least I'm better informed as to why I'm riding that fence. I get why Riley becomes selfish, but if it lasts the whole story, it may grate on my nerves. Maybe I'll wait until the next book since this one ends on a strong note. Thanks for the review! Brilliant as always!

  23. Oh, you've intrigued me with your description of Beck. If I didn't want to read this book before, I certainly do now. :D

  24. I bought this one the other day and can't wait to read it. I know I'll be thinking about your review when I do. I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it quite so much. Maybe the next in the series will improve :o)

  25. Melissa - She does get better toward the end, and I think she'll grow as the series continues, she just bothered me in this book.

    Tammy - I liked Beck, but I'm always on the side of the dark or damaged ones:)

    Slowest - Looking forward to seeing what you think of it!

  26. I've only ever heard of this book from you (you always read books I've never heard of!), so I haven't read many reviews about it. I think that Riley probably won't annoy me as much, because I've dealt with a person that sounds just like her. But then again, you never know. I'm glad you were able to enjoy this, even with its flaws. Every book has its flaws though, right? :P Great review Jenny! ♥

  27. Why do I get the sense that Riley is a TSTL character? Hopefully it is just because she still needs time to develop. I can accept that in characters.

    This is the first review I read for this book, and I gotta say, I was hoping for more. Seems like the cramming in of multiple storylines is a popular trend right now, but I hope it fades because it does muddle the picture.

    Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts on this one Jenny.

  28. This sounds interesting. It's unusual that the girl prefers the squeaky clean boy over the bad boy. It's usually the opposite. Funny that in real life, I always prefer to good guy, but I am really drawn to the dangerous guys in books.

  29. Jenny- Good review. My feelings exactly.

    But did you see anything coming with Ori? I thought Beck might remain a fatherly figure and Ori become a love triangle player.


  30. Kristina - Exactly, and through the flaws this one still had a good world and an interesting story, so I will pick up the next book:)

    Missie - She's young and she shows it, but I didn't much like Faythe when I started Rachel Vincent's Shifters series and ended up loving her, so I'm thinking that might be the case here.

    Alison - You're right, usually it's the other way around, but I think in the context of this world, her wanting the good boy makes sense even though I prefer Beck:)

    Heather - Thanks! Ori was a very interesting addition, I'm not sure what to think of him just yet, I look forward to more of him in the next book:)

  31. I believe this is the first review I've read on this one. Great review as always! Nervous about Riley's character... I find that an unlikeable protagonist can really ruin a book for me. But I assume she'd grow as a character as the series progresses!

  32. Me too. I always fall in love with the guy you know the protagonist isn't going to choose and then I'm disappointed when he isn't chosen. One of these days, my guy will get the happy ending :)

  33. I'm seeing this one all over the place and am sort of in the middle about whether I want to read it or not. I think I'll probably give it a go sometime in the near future if the series is set to improve.

  34. Great review. I have not read this one yet, but I have it on one of my book challenge lists this year. Thanks for sharing!

  35. This is one of those books that I was really looking forward to, but the reviews have only been so so thus far. You gave it a 3.5 though, which gives me some hope! Based on how you described Beck, I think I'm really going to like his character :o) It's too bad Riley isn't a very likable protaginist. Great review!

  36. Another great review (sometimes I feel like I start every comment on your blog with that lol)! I've seen this on a few blogs and for some reason it has never caught my eye. After reading your review, I feel a lot more comfortable skipping this one. Thanks!

  37. Sorry, I just found this review or I would have commented earlier. Thanks to all for the in-depth discussion. I always appreciate hearing readers' thoughts on the stories and the characters.

    It was a gamble to have Riley be as ungrateful and snarky as she is with Beck in DTD, but it was totally intentional. I promise you that Riley learns some really big lessons in the second book after which she will be able to view herself, Beck and others in a new light. You'll see that change in the third book, for sure. Then it'll be up to Beck to exorcise his own personal demons, if he's able.

    Thanks so much for all your comments. I really appreciate them.

  38. 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.