Jana Oliver‘s first YA novel, The Demon Trapper’s Daughter [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], came out at the beginning of last month. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance review copy of this one, and finished it earlier this week.
The book is set in Atlanta in 2018, and worldwide Hell has begun to break loose. There’s a pre-postapocalyptic feel to the story … we’re not fully postapocalyptic yet, but civilization is certainly going downhill. School is taught wherever they can find space, such as the back of an old grocery store. Commerce has moved away from big stores and back toward the street vendor model. And demons lurk in the shadows and the pitted ruins of the streets.
Enter Riley Blackthorne, 17-year-old daughter of Demon Trapper Paul Blackthorne, and well on her way to being a trapper herself. When her father is ambushed and murdered by demons, Riley must figure out how to survive on her own, paying bills and protecting her father’s body from the necromancers, not to mention dealing with her father’s former partner Beck, her abusive new master Harper, and a potential new boyfriend.
In many ways, this is a setup novel, laying the groundwork for the series and the conflicts to come. The ending isn’t a cliffhanger, but an awful lot is left unresolved, and I found myself wishing for a few more answers.
The worldbuilding was fascinating: the economy of the trappers, who sell their demons to middlemen who then transport them to the church for disposal. The high volume of holy water sales, and the way increased demon activity drives up the prices. The slow and uneven technological backslide (we still have working cellphone networks, but we’re using computer disks again). One of my favorite touches was a homeless man who carryied around a Grade One demon (small, weak, and at times almost cute) to help him survive.
Riley was a believable 17-year-old. Stubborn, still seeing things a bit too black-or-white sometimes (especially with Beck), but smart, skilled, and determined to succeed … even when that determination crosses the line into foolishness. (At one point, she sets out to trap a Grade Three demon on her own. An understandable choice given her circumstances, but not a wise one.)
Overall, I wanted a little more story and a little less groundwork, but it was a fun read, set in a vividly decaying Atlanta with a flawed but sympathetic heroine.
Has anyone else read this one yet? If so, what did you think?