The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
February 1, 2011; St. Martin's Griffin
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.(courtesy of Goodreads)
I went into The Demon Trapper's Daughter with high hopes. It seemed like everyone raved about it. I came out of The Demon Trapper's Daughter disappointed. Not because it was a bad book, but because it didn't live up to the high bar I'd set for it.
Still, the book has a lot of positives. The story is told from the alternating points of view of (1) Riley: the only female demon-trapper apprentice and (2) Beck: The former apprentice of Riley's father who now looks out for Riley. Riley is a brave, funny, sassy girl. Like an early feminist, she has to prove she is stronger, tougher, and better than the guys to get any respect in the Demontrapper hierarchy. She has the inner strength to go for it. She idolizes her father, master demontrapper Paul Blackthorne. Beck left a troubled childhood for the military. Now a veteran of Iraq/Afghanistan, he is haunted by the past. He drinks hard and plays hard, but he also works hard in hopes of being half the demon-trapper that Paul Blackthorne is. He is a crazy guy but when you looked through he is you could see his genuine and hard-working nature. The alternating point of view is fabulous. It's one of my favorite literary tricks. Jana Oliver creates two very different characters who allow us to see different sides of the plot as well as the demon trapper world.
What kept me from liking Riley was how she treated Beck. She was cruel to him. No matter what he did, she constantly assumed the worst of him. The poor guy couldn't get a break. I understand why she felt the way she did. She was nursing a broken pride after Beck shot down a schoolgirl crush. But you have to grow up some time, and Riley refused to get past her preconceived notion of Beck. It was particularly frustrating, because the reader could see Beck's good intentions perfectly clearly. It nearly ruined the book for me.
(One other petty complaint, I hated that Beck said "ya" instead of "you." I get that dialect establishes voice, but I hate the use of dialect in novels. I don't know why. Probably for the same reason that I hate bananas when everyone else loves them. Personal preference.)
I also disliked Simon, Riley's crush. Uber religious and saintly, Simon fell flat. Other than being cute and capable, I didn't see what Riley liked about him. He certainly didn't have the loveable rough edges of Beck, who far better fits Riley's personality. However, I did see glimpses of hope that Simon will be a more full fledged character in later books.
Back on the positive, I loved the demon trapper world-building. You had the basic mythology of Heaven and Hell, complete with angels and demons. The demons are fascinating creatures. They ranged from pests that were so innocuous that you wanted them as pets to utterly evil creatures set upon destroying the world. The methods to destroy the demons are varied and well-described. Plus, I loved the culture of the demon-trappers. The long-standing tradition and the hierarchy of apprentice through master. The world was described fully enough that you almost forget it's not true.
The story is also full of action. It is appropriate that I read most of this book standing in lines at Disneyland, because the first chapter drops you off a high ledge and you alternate between holding on for dear life and raising your hands in the air screaming in excitement. The book moves very quickly as Riley and Beck go from one danger to another. No character is safe from harm, either physical or mental.
The Demon Trapper's Daughter is an exciting read with a well-developed fantasy world. I would have loved the book if only I liked Riley better. I'm curious to see where the series goes and may continue with it.