Book Review: The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler
The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler was a surprise find that I stumbled across when I was forced to walk down a different isle because of a mother and her crying demon offspring at the library. Thanks demon offspring! Then I discovered it had Arthurian legend as its basis and counted it as a double win. It also has grim reapers, magical sisters, and one very confused teenager. You can’t lose with that team! This is my second book of 2012 and counts toward my 100 books in a year challenge.
Lizzy Mortimer’s grandmother, Bizzy, has a secret and on Lizzy’s fourteenth Halloween she learns that her family has a special origin, one that connects her to King Arthur and Avalon. Words swirl on the newspaper page and Lizzy sees the announcement of the death of her best friend, Jodi. Lizzy discovers that all legends are based in fact and an ancient grudge threatens her family, her friends, and the world itself. It’s a race to unravel the secret of The Last Descendant, Vivienne le Mort, and figure out Lizzy’s part in the future of the world.
I loved this book. I disliked this book. I am of two minds about this book. First of all, it was a surprise Arthurian legend find, although it is only the female Avalon characters that show up. (I’m hoping for a sequel so we can see Merlin woken up. I would bet money that Jodi is really Merlin reborn. [or that’s what I am hoping anyway]) Still, it has Arthurian legend as its base and that makes me happy. I also have a soft spot for death characters; grim reapers, banshee, lords of the underworld, etc. I want to pet them. So that’s another positive for this book. But my biggest peeve about The Death Catchers is the style and form it is written in. The narrator and main character, Lizzy, writes the whole story as if she is summiting a report to her teacher, Mrs. Tweedy. Apparently the events of the book caused her to miss an important school assignment and Mrs. Tweedy is allowing Lizzy to do a make-up project.
This would have been an inventive and amusing way to begin the story if Lizzy didn’t stop at the beginning of every chapter to talk to the fictional Mrs. Tweedy. We’re reading along in a chapter, happily engrossed with events, and then WHAM, Mrs. Tweedy and some stupid English fact derails us. It’s like having the floor suddenly disappear from under you and about as pleasant. Why Kogler insists on chopping up the story by doing this at the start of every new chapter, I have no idea. It ruined the whole flow of the book, in my opinion. I quickly found myself just skimming the first few paragraphs of each chapter so I could get back to the actual story.
Formatting faux pas aside, I loved the plot. The rest of the book almost makes up for the annoying Mrs. Tweedy parts. Lizzy is flawed and uncertain and makes a great main character. The male lead has that annoying habit of being perfect in every way, so much so that I have to roll my eyes a little when I read about him. It sounds like our heroine is hooking up with a plastic Ken doll. Bizzy is awesome. She’s the type of grandmother everyone wishes for and is probably the most badass character in the book, despite being in her seventies. The surprise reveal is actually a surprise because you didn’t know there was another surprise to be revealed. We think we have everything about the Hands of Fate figured out but then a new fact appears and things get even more complicated. I’m rarely surprised in books now’a days but The Death Catchers managed to keep its secret until the very end.
The Death Catchers was a very good book but those annoying chapter beginnings kept it from being great for me. It’s a lovely coming of age story and the characters are a lot of fun. Bizzy and Jodi are the stereotypical kooks in the story but they are generally entertaining if you look past the cliché. There are a few hiccups in the writing but your mileage may vary and this might not even bother you like it does me. I’m glad I stumbled across Jennifer Anne Kogler’s book, even if it was because of a screaming demon child.