Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Review: Forgiven, by Jana Oliver (eighth review for The 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge)

Here's my eighth review for this
wonderful challenge!!

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Title: Forgiven (UK edition)
Author: Jana Oliver
Format: Trade Paperback, 407 pages
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Published: March 1, 2012
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Dystopian Fiction, Young Adult

This third installment in The Demon Trappers series (there's a fourth book on the way) is just as riveting and exciting as the previous two!  In spite of plot elements that I found totally objectionable, I couldn't stop reading!  I don't know what kind of magic this author wields, but I had to keep reading to find out how everything ended, in spite of all my reservations...

I firmly believe that a large part of the attraction these books have for readers, including me, is the great characters. 

Riley Blackthorne is, I think, one of the most wonderful heroines I've ever come across!  She's gutsy, compassionate, daring, smart, and, to top things off, very touchingly devoted to her father, the Master Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne.  She's still hurting from her mother's death, and has done everything possible to rescue her father's body from the clutches of the unknown necromancer who reanimated him.  She finds him, only to lose him again shorthly thereafter, and her desperate anguish moved me to tears.

Then there's Denver Beck, who is Master Blackthorne's apprentice.  He comes from a troubled family background, and is also illiterate.  He attempts to hide these things behind a macho front, but Riley discovers that he's really a very sensitive, caring soul.   She initially misinterprets his attitude toward her as a bossy one, only realizing, in this novel, that he actually loves her, and has for a long time...  She herself had a crush on him when she was 15, and never got over his apparent rejection, which Beck felt was necessary at the time, due to her age.  Beck has been fighting his attraction to Riley for a long time -- two books, as a matter of fact.  In this third one, he finally begins to acknowledge it. 

I don't want to give the impression that this is really a romance novel, because it's not.  The romance takes second place to all the action, which is another of the things pulling me to these books.  At the beginning of the novel, Riley's in hiding from the demon hunters, who have somehow discovered that she has an agreement with Hell.  Furthermore, Beck is furious with her because of her brief relationship with Ori, a Fallen Angel,  in the second book.  Riley has found her dad, and he's safe, for the moment.  Then she finds out that Beck will take the blame for the horrible Tabernacle massacre, which occurred in the second book, unless she decides to turn herself in.  She promptly does so, under the protection of the Scottish Grand Master Stewart, another of my favorite characters.  When questioned by Father Rosetti, the leader of the Vatican's demon hunters, she's surprised to discover that she bears the marks of both Heaven and Hell -- the first on her left hand, the second, on her right!

Riley already knew, at the end of the second novel, that she was supposed to somehow stop the coming Armageddon.  She's puzzled as to how she's also supposed to render a favor to Lucifer, the Prince of Hell...

To my dismay, there's a new element introduced in this third novel -- zombie demons!  Due to some really powerful magic, they are now nearly invincible, and can only be killed through decapitation.  Ugh.  As if it weren't bad enough already that there are reanimated humans who are then sold as servants to the rich...  Of course, this new element adds more excitement to the plot, since the stakes have been raised.  Riley and her friends -- the demon hunters and the demon trappers are now working together -- have to do their utmost to defeat these formidable foes.

Ori is still part of the story, trapped inside a statue by Lucifer, only coming alive at the dawning of each new day.  He calls out telepathically to Riley, attempting to convince her to give him her soul.  She remains firm, however, and instead, uses him to get information crucial to her cause.

This third novel is as full of twists and turns as the first two.  There's hardly any respite from the constant action!  There's plenty of character development going on, though, especially in the case of Denver Beck.  We also learn more about Paul Blackthorne, and the terrible thing he did in order to protect Riley, whom he loves just as fiercely as she does him. 

We also find out more about Mort, one of the necromancers.  I didn't expect to actually like such a character, but Mort turns out to be a very decent sort.  Even though I still object to his occupation, I do appreciate the fact that he takes care of Riley and her father, doing everything he can to help them.

Another character I like is Ayden, the witch.  She, too, is a very good friend to Riley, using her magic to help her young friend, and coming across as a very compassionate person.

Peter, who is Riley's best friend, is another wonderful character!  He helps her solve the mystery of the holy water scam, and is always there for her emotionally, listening to her problems, giving her unsolicited, but helpful, advice.  If it weren't for him, Riley would probably have ended up an emotional wreck a long time ago.  

The complex mix of elements in these books not only create a compelling plot, but also raises some questions for this reader.  Since the plot is so laden with religious concepts, I have to mention those things that I find so objectionable. 

 First off, the idea of demons creating physical havoc, and capable of being killed (before the new zombie ones arrive) just doesn't seem believable.  I realize that this is fiction, but still...   Demons are supposed to be spiritual, not physical, entities; as such, I would think they could not be killed.  They could perhaps be portrayed as creating physical havoc, if they manifested in physical form.  But I really don't see how they could possibly be killed.

Secondly, fallen angels are, essentially, demons.  In these novels, they're treated as creatures who are somehow not completely evil, and apart from demons, as if they were between Heaven and Hell.  According to the Biblical tale, when Lucifer was thrown out of Heaven, he took many angels with him, angels who had rebelled against God right along with him.  These angels then became demons, or devils. 

Thirdly, I think it's rather incongrous, not to mention pretty much unbelievable, that the Catholic Church would be working so closely with wielders of magic such as Mort and Ayden.  Although the Church no longer burns witches at the stake, it still frowns on magic.  In this novel, though, Father Rosetti has to acknowledge that magic can help them defeat the demons, even while he warns Riley that using it could place her soul in jeopardy.  But then, some Christian denominations consider certain Catholic practices to be magical, such as the use of holy water, the rosary, and praying to the saints...  This is a topic that certainly opens up a can of worms!

I've already mentioned my fourth objection -- the zombies.  Reanimating human corpses is a sickening concept in itself.  Although Oliver handles the encounters between Riley and her father in a very delicate, even touching manner, I still find the idea offensive.  She really goes outside my comfort zone when she then presents the zombie demons!

There's one more point, and it's actually the most important one of all.  How could one human being, whether male or female, possibly stop Armageddon?  This is simply not plausible, or believable!  According to the Book of Revelation in the Bible, Armageddon is a done deal, something that will inevitably take place at some time in the future.  No mere human can possibly stop it.

In spite of all my objections, I have to say that Oliver is a superb writer!  She kept me interested throughout the novel, in spite of all my inward groaning.  Her pacing is flawless, and her strongest point is her characterization.  Riley, Beck, Paul, Stewart, Mort, Ayden, Peter, the demon hunters...even her villains, all emerge as real people, with all of their conflicting motivations and hidden agendas, their flawed personalities, their strengths and weaknesses.

I will definitely go on to the fourth and last book in the series.  Why, you might ask, since I have found so many objectionable elements in this book?  Well, all I can say is that Oliver has made reading her story a very compelling activity that I find myself wanting to see to the very end...

I would not say that these books are in the young adult category, even though they're presented as being such.   In spite of the age of the main characters, the themes and elements presented are much more suitable for a mature, adult audience, one with a solid spiritual background, to boot.   


Where To BuyAmazon, Barnes & Noble



  1. I haven't heard of these books before... you make them sound so wonderful though that my curiosity is piqued. I may have to look into this series in the future. Great review, I love your writing.

    Megan @ Storybook Love Affair

    1. Yes, in spite of all my objections, I must admit that they are indeed wonderful! Somehow, Oliver makes it all work. However, I still think that these books are really more appropriate for an adult audience.

      Thanks for your compliment about my writing! Music to my ears!! : )


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