Tuesday, October 23, 2012

SPOOKTACULAR GIVEAWAY HOP/REVIEW: Forsaken, by Jana Oliver




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There are great prizes involved,
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I will be giving away
TWO PAPERBACK COPIES
of Forsaken, the first book in
The Demon Trappers series,
UK edition!
(This is a USA only giveaway.)
 
 




(The Demon Trappers #1)
Trade Paperback, 423 pages
Macmillan Children's Books
February 7, 2011
YA Urban Fantasy


Here's my review!



This is the UK edition of The Demon Trapper's Daughter.  I bought this one because I loved the cover at first sight. 

This is a gritty, fast-paced story, and yet, it does contain some depth, since several of the characters do quite a bit of soul-searching along the way. 

At first, I thought I would finish the book quickly.  However, I got stalled by a completely unexpected event pretty early in the story -- one that came very close to home, and I could not continue.  Of course, I won't spoil things for other readers by divulging any details of said event.  I will merely say that it was one that had a strong emotional impact on me. 

Another element I disliked was the presence of necromancers, and thus, of zombies.  Although they're not really an integral part of the story, they are there, at least on the sidelines.  If there's one thing I dislike in paranormal/urban fantasy fiction, it's zombies.  The concept of revived dead people mindlessly walking around is totally repugnant to me!  I must concede that the ones in this book are not entirely mindless, and they don't go around eating people.  Still, the concept does bother me.

So I put the book aside, and picked up a nonfiction book, which I subsequently reviewed on my nonfiction book blog.  I didn't think I would return to Forsaken; in fact, I began to seriously contemplate getting rid of the book.  I felt chagrined about it, too, because I also own the original American edition, as well as Soul Thief, the American edition of the second book in this series. 

Someone pulled me back into the book, which I then went on to finish, without a hitch, in spite of the above-mentioned elements.  Who was that someone?  Riley Blackthorne, the novel's seventeen-year-old heroine.  As in Angelfire, by Courtney Allison Moulton, and The River of Time series, by Lisa T. Bergren, I had come across a character that I could really admire -- a strong, yet feminine, girl with firm convictions, one who didn't take kindly to being ordered around by her male companions, even if they had her best interests at heart.  It was Riley who kept me reading, with her combination of strength, compassion, and paradoxically, emotional vulnerability. 

Incredibly enough, I've ended up loving this book!

Riley is the daughter of Paul Blackthorne, a legendary Demon Trapper.  The trappers work for the Vatican, and have an arsenal of weapons, chief of which is holy water.  For those not acquainted with Catholic beliefs, this is water that has been blessed by a priest.  When thrown at a demon, the water causes it great pain, since it burns demonic skin.  Holy water is also a key component in the making of spheres, which are magical globes that are either thrown directly at demons, or near them, causing several types of effects on them. 

One of the interesting things about this book is that the demons manifest as real, physical entities, which can then be fought through physical means.  Even more interesting is the fact that they're classified into categories.  A Five is more powerful than a Three, for example.  This doesn't mean that a Three is not a formidable foe, however.  Riley manages to trap one of these on her own, while still an apprentice trapper, a feat admired by the other trappers.

There are also different kinds of demons; Biblios, for example, love to destroy books, Magpies love to steal shiny trinkets to stash in their secret hoards, and Pyro-Fiends love to play with fire.  These three types are so-called 'minor' demons.

The Demon Trappers Guild, to which Riley and her father belong, has regular meetings in an abandoned auditorium.  (The setting of the book is a rather bleak, futuristic Atlanta, Georgia, USA.)  These meetings are protected from demon intrusion by the preparation of a magical circle of holy water around the participants.  It's here that Guild business is conducted, master trappers take on apprentices, and so forth. 

As the story opens, Riley, who happens to be the only female trapper in the Guild, has been sent to a law library to trap a Biblio.  Things somehow don't turn out as she expects, however, since a more powerful, yet invisible, demon intervenes.  The result is that Riley is summoned to a Guild meeting, with the possibility of having her apprenticeship with her father completely suspended. 

The series of events that follow give the reader a comprehensive picture of Riley's character, as well as that of Beck, her father's close associate, and the second one in the book I found very appealing.  Denver Beck is totally devoted to Riley's father, and thus, to Riley herself, who had a crush on him when she was a young teen.  Although not that much older than Riley, he's gone through a lot, and comes across as a hard-boiled guy with tons of experience.  This really annoys Riley, as she feels it makes him feel superior.  Still, Beck is not quite the insensitive 'macho' trapper she takes him to be.  Underneath his 'tough guy' exterior, he cares deeply for Riley.  I suspect he doesn't want to admit to himself that he really loves her, and not as he would a little sister, either.

Paul Blackthorne is also a wonderful character.  As the master trapper in charge of Riley's training, he must attempt to remain objective, while it's obvious that he really loves his daughter.  He would have preferred that she not follow in his footsteps, since trapping demons is a dangerous profession.  Yet, he respects her choices, and never treats her with any degree of condescension.  He and Riley have an ideal father-daughter relationship, and this is yet another factor of the book that I loved.

The secondary characters are very well-done, too.  Harper, the senior demon trapper, is totally despicable, even memorably so.  He makes me grind my teeth in disgust!  Simon, the staunchly Catholic boy, is sweet and very engaging, yet firm in his dedication to his chosen profession.  Ayden, a member of the group of witches who make the magical spheres for the trappers, gives Riley excellent advice at one point in the story.  She suggests that Riley deal with school bullies not by taking revenge on them, but by emphasizing her own inner strengths, thus boosting her self-esteem.  Very sage advice, indeed!

Another element of this tale I enjoyed was the sense of humor displayed by the characters.  The overall tone is dramatic, of course, but there are sparks of humor here and there that serve as comic relief, and are not overdone.  Still, it might be objected that some of the minor demons come across as rather cartoonish.  I do think this is a valid point.  Riley herself remarks to Simon, during a discussion they have about catching 'hellspawn', that Magpies aren't that evil.  Simon sternly reminds her that all demons belong to Lucifer's army, no matter how 'cute and harmless' they might appear to be.

Coupled with the strong, believable characterization and plot is an equally believable setting.  Atlanta in 2018 is in deep financial trouble; kids are shuttled from abandoned building to abandoned building in order to attend classes, and gas prices are astronomical.  City corruption is rampant.  This setting goes quite well with the story's grim theme.

Toward the end of the book, a new set of characters appears -- angels.  I had already started to enjoy the novel, and this added element made me enjoy it even more. 

In spite of the fact that demons are fear-inducing characters, I did not feel very scared while reading Forsaken.  That's because this is not a horror novel.  Horror novels have a completely different emphasis.  Their main focus is on inducing fear in the reader, not on evil being conquered in the end.  Thus, every element of fiction is geared toward that purpose.  Also, the evil characters in horror novels are not always beaten in the end; there's usually an element of ambiguity as the book reaches its conclusion.  (I know this from research I've done on the Internet, not from reading any of these novels.  I thoroughly detest the horror genre.) 

In contrast, Forsaken wades uncompromisingly into the eternal fight against evil.  Also, this is a character-driven novel.  The act of trapping demons is not just what the main charaters do; it's also a sort of metaphor for the soul-searching they engage in.

Summing up, I have completely changed my opinion of this book!  It's a solidly entertaining story with deeper implications, and I heartily recommend it to all those who enjoy reading paranormal/urban fantasy novels.  I also think this book and its sequels would make great movies.  True, the added visual element would make the stories pretty scary, but the very interesting characters would be sure to make the movies absolute hits!


MY RATING: 







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23 comments:

  1. Your commentary is always intelligent yet fun Maria!
    powers
    I love when books, or movies or games create these intricately detailed worlds. This one sounds like such a great example with a what sounds like all kinds of malevolent creatures running around playing with a wild variety of powers.

    I suppose that if such things were about, it might be that they would exhibit a variety akin to the variety found in the Animal or Plant Kingdoms!

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  2. Love your review! I've not read this book yet. Your review makes me want to run out to the store and buy it!
    Thanks for the giveaway!!!
    http://www.myparanormalbookreview.blogspot.com

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  3. thanks for the great review! I've heard such wonderful things about this book, it was already on my wishlist :) thanks for the giveaway!

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  4. Hey, brian!

    You know, even though you don't normally read YA fiction, I feel certain that you would really enjoy this one. Oliver has a GREAT imaginagtion! And there's plenty of action, as well!

    Thank you so much for the compliment!! I do try to make my reviews serious, and yet, I can't but interject a note of humor, as well. So I really appreciate your comment regarding this!! : )

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  5. Hey, Shar!

    Well, if you win one of the books in this giveaway, you won't have to run out and buy one! Lol.

    Thank you so much for the comment, as well as for participating!! You're very welcome for the giveaway, as well!! : )

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  6. Hi, Erin!

    Yes, this book is a really GREAT read! Glad it was already on your wishlist!!

    Thanks for the compliment, as well as for participatin, and you're very welcome for the giveaway!! : )

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  7. Hi, Jenifer!

    Oh, it definitely IS great!! Thanks for participating in the giveaway!! : )

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  8. You make it sound really good! I am not a big zombie person, but I like necromancers! I also really like character driven novels! this one sounds great.
    Thanks for the giveaway

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  9. Hi, Kimberly!

    Yeah, this book is terrific, in spite of the zombies! I can't stand zombies, either, but at least the ones in this book are NOT the flesh-eating kind. This is just a really great read!

    Thank you so much for the compliment, and for participating in my giveaway!! : )

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  10. Thank you for the chance at this giveaway!
    I would like to win because it sounds like something I would definitely read.

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  11. I love books with humor and lots of action. Sounds like a great book. Nice review. Glad you went back to it!

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  12. I've never heard of this book but the cover is sexy and your review was very detailed

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  13. I've read this book on my Kindle but I would love to read it cause there is nothing like holding a book in your hands when you read it.

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  14. I LOVED the first book! I didn't think I would, but I was shocked at how much I did. Thank you for the review and I hope you have a Happy Halloween!

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  15. I loved this book! I wonder why the covers changed!? I loved the original cover! But I just loved this book! Blew through it!

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  16. I love having female leads in paranormal/urban fantasy. I am with you on the zombies in a urban fantasy type book, they really usually need their own book. The demon and angel elements sound interesting too. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  17. I've had this book on my Goodreads TBR list so thank you for the chance to win it! I love a strong female lead and i'm interesting in reading about the zombie storyline.

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  18. You provide a good, critical review of the book. I would like to win it because I love the series and do not have this one yet!

    Nikki @ Books Most Wanted

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  19. I'm not big on zombie books~ but, you make this one sound really good! I love the sound of the characters and the lore in the book sounds really interesting~ lots of different paranormal aspects and I'd love to see how they're executed. Thank you for the chance to win and Happy Halloween!

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  20. I have never heard of this book before, but it sounds like a good read (minus the zombies, I don't like them either)! (Thanks to your review of course.) You have a great writing voice. I am always looking for new books to read, especially ones with strong, female lead characters.
    Thanks for the chance to win!

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  21. Well, besides the fact that book sounds great and I love series, nothing is better than getting a book in the mail on a fall day and sitting around in your pajamas with a cup of coffee reading it and discovering a new world! Thanks for the great giveaway and for being a part of the hop.
    Happy Halloween,
    Marlena
    charmedpoms(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  22. Great review! I want it because I want to own the whole series eventually but don't have any yet!

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