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*The Demon Trapper's Daughter (A Demon Trappers Novel)* by Jana Oliver- young adult book review
The Demon Trapper's Daughter (A Demon Trappers Novel)
by Jana Oliver
Grades 9+ 368 pages St. Martin's Griffin February 2011 Paperback    

The life of a demon trapper is a hard one – and, all too often, one cut far too short. Riley Blackthorne, the daughter of renowned demon trapper Paul Blackthorne, learns that for herself when her father is killed by a Grade Five Geo-Fiend.

Her mother died of cancer not long before, and Riley decided to follow her father’s footsteps to bring in some much-needed income. Trying to become a demon trapper in an occupation where females are unheard of is a challenge, especially since she’s attending school three nights a week, but with jobs a scarce commodity, she has little choice. She also discovers that her biggest challenge might not be trapping demons, but keeping necromancers from stealing her father’s body and reanimating it to be used as a slave by rich people.

The Demon Trapper's Daughter is an excellent, fast-paced, action-packed and sometimes poignant novel, the first in Jana Oliver’s “Demon Trappers” series. Atlanta, Georgia, in the not-too-distant future (or an alternate version of our universe) is an Atlanta not many people today would easily recognize. Some well-known buildings and highways remain, but much of the city is in a shambles. Traffic lights have been stolen by scavengers who sell the metal. Ragged people stand in long lines at soup kitchens. Bats live in the Tabernacle’s eaves. Coyotes roam the streets in packs, “looking for a stray meal to wander their way.”

Then there are the demons: the Biblio-Fiends, the Klepto-Fiends, the Hellspawn, the “carnivorous eating machines” that are the Grade Threes, the Grade Five Geo-Fiends, and others. Trapping and selling demons is a Church-sanctioned business, and though the business can be deadly, it is a good way to earn cash in hard economic times.

Beyond the wickedly cool demons which Riley and the other demon trappers hunt, there are the unsettlingly macabre necromancers. Riley encounters all types as she stands vigil at her father’s grave at night in the protection of a circle of candles that Beck, her father’s apprentice, has helped her arrange then performed the necessary invocations to keep out evil.

Riley has been told that she needs to stand vigil for the next twelve nights - until the next full moon - or necromancers might come and reanimate her father’s body. Their goal is to sell his services to some rich person who might relish the status symbol in having a former demon trapper as his/her servant.

Riley has other options - selling her father herself, or foiling the necromancers by having her father’s body cut up into pieces to render it unusable by them - but she is repelled by both of these choices. Neither is an acceptable way to treat a person who was so important in her life, who loved and took care of her, who comforted her when her mother died. Fortunately, Riley has help during these brutally difficult days: Beck and two other friends - another apprentice, Simon, and her friend Peter.

Twenty-something Beck was with Paul a Geo-Fiend and a Grade Three demon pierced his heart with a shard of glass that somehow passed through the magical barrier that Beck and Paul had erected - a small but deadly piece of a whirling tornado of debris that the Geo-Fiend unleashed upon the two demon trappers. They’d never known demons to work together before, although Riley believes that two worked in tandem against her when she captured a Biblio-Fiend at the library earlier in the book. The other Guild members thought Riley had difficulty capturing the Biblio-Fiend because she was incompetent; the real reason is that it was working with a Grade Three demon who had taken the form of a student.

Beck is one of my favorite characters in the novel. He sometimes overindulges in alcohol, but he genuinely cared for Paul and wants to help Riley out economically. This means he takes risks he ordinarily wouldn’t (like going after Grade Three demons on his own) so that he doesn’t have to share the money with anyone else and has more for Riley. When Riley was younger, she had a crush on Beck, though when the novel opens she acts like she hates him. He turned her advances down then, knowing it wasn’t right for him to be fooling around with and taking advantage of the daughter of his Master. He is a veteran of the Afghanistan War, and the scenes where he combats demons and faces street thugs are some of the novel’s best parts.

Jana Oliver’s descriptions of Atlanta and the demons are vivid and colorful, lending an air of realism to the story. You will want Riley to succeed despite the odds stacked against her, to earn enough money as a demon trapper to make a go of it. This is one of the best supernatural urban fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. Highly recommended.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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