Book Reviews 2015 · Supernatural Books · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘Forsaken’ by Jana Oliver

Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself—and that’s exactly what the demons are counting on…

1.5 Stars (Rounded to 1)

It took me so long to get through this that I must have considered DNF’ing it about 20 times. To be honest, the only reason that I finished it is as it was a TBR jar pick, and was on my TBR list from December. Yet here I am in January, finally telling you about the book which I started in November. I have to say, it’s bad. It’s really bad. I don’t like posting reviews where I just rant on and on until you’re bored sick of my criticism, but I really do have very little positives to attribute to this one, so you’ll have to bear with me and accept that this review really will not be full of sunshine and rainbows.

‘Forsaken’ is the first in the ‘Demon Trapper’s Daughter’ series by Jana Oliver, which I believe has 4 books, but as I have no desire to check, do not take my word for it. I own a bind up of the first two books, and they sounded right up my street. With a protagonist who traps demons as a living and is trying to prove that women can succeed in this male-dominated career line, I thought that this could be a good opportunity to mingle a strong female with a bit of action and paranormal to get a great series. I was sadly massively disappointed.

Being a supernatural/paranormal kind of read, the world-building and creation of the non-realistic element has to be very strong. This book uses demons intermingled with urban life, so I was hoping for a clear sense of what the demons are, why they are in society and what their aim is. I felt like nothing got answered. After reading about 450 pages, I know nothing about why these demons insist on attacking people on the street, I couldn’t tell you a thing about the history of the demon trappers and I’m left yearning for more information on how these demons actually came into the ‘real world’. The book does nothing to create a sense of believability in its creations. Beyond the fact that there are demons and there are two different groups of people who interact with them (I couldn’t tell you the difference between the two groups), all I have established is that Riley is obsessed with killing these demons which we have no understanding of. Also, there’s a bizarre section where she must guard a grave to prevent necromancers from bringing the body back to life… Do we get any information on how this unbelievable concept works? You bet we don’t. I got so confused by the world, the demons, the concept… Nothing was given the opportunity to develop properly, I just had to kind of accept ‘oh, there are dead people being raised and demons attack people on a regular basis, which the world kind of accepts as normal’. I had a hard time warming to the story given that I had no reasoning to explain anything that occurs. It just didn’t work as a whole world for me.

Let’s talk about our protagonist, Riley Blackthorne. I know that I am very picky when it comes to female protagonists, so the chances always were that I would not agree with this one, but flipping hell, I was not expecting to encounter a character who annoyed me almost as much as Tris Prior (for any of you who don’t know, she’s my benchmark for aggravating female characters). Riley was the most self-centred character I’ve read about recently. Every single little thing has to be brought back to her life, her suffering, her abilities. The narrative isn’t even first person (thankfully), yet I couldn’t go a page without wondering why Riley has brought up how terrible her life is, or wishing that she stop thinking about how she is the best female trapper the world will ever see. She is far too aware of her own good looks, and seemed to not only acknowledge that she was pretty, but use it to her advantage, and began to expect that things will happen to her because she is ‘attractive’. She seemed obsessed with how her life is so much worse than anyone else’s, and is constantly telling us about how the Trapper’s Guild never treat her with any respect ‘because she is a girl’, whereas I reckon part of the reason they have no respect for her is that she is always rude, bolshy and bad-mannered with them, and also has an incredibly high opinion of herself considering that she has not done anything of importance to aid the Guild. She is constantly creating a pity party, talking about how she deserves more from people, but it backfires on her as she is often more in the wrong than anyone else. A perfect example of this is how she treats Beck. Beck is her father’s apprentice, and he is frequently doing all he can to look out for Riley and protect her (often when she is getting herself into danger which she cannot handle). Riley then calls him a plethora of rude names and talks about how he treats her like a little girl, in turn proving exactly why it would be reasonable for him to treat her like a child (if he even was, which he wasn’t). He is a lovely guy (and the only character in the book I could tolerate) and a large portion is made up of Riley behaving in a downright disgusting manner, being incredibly insulting towards him and treating him like dirt. This infuriated me, and gave me very little time for Riley as a character.

I would go into the other characters, but they’re all interchangeable: hot young male characters who occupy some space on Riley’s love pentagon. Yes, love pentagon. For the majority of the book, she has three love interests, and at times this peaks at four. Four characters all insistent that this intolerable, offensive cow is worth their time. Two of these characters are indistinguishable (the boyfriend and the best friend), one was in it for all of twenty seconds (I still do not understand who this person was and why he was important or relevant) and the final guy, Beck, was the only character worth bothering with. A genuinely caring guy who would do anything to protect Riley in homage to her father, Beck had a troubled past and clearly suffered throughout the book, but he overcame everything and did what was right in the grand scheme of things. The only thing I could not tolerate about Beck was his dialect. He is of a lower class than the other characters, and has a somewhat unfortunate background, so the author thought it would be necessary to make him incredibly poorly-spoken: every single line of his speech was punctuated with errors such as ‘ya’ and ‘yer’ and missing ‘t’ and ‘g’ letters at the end of words, and it was incredibly unnecessary and annoying. We knew his class status from his description, the overemphasis of this fact through an appalling dialect just became difficult to read and rather insulting to the character’s intelligence.

The general narrative was little better than Beck’s dialect. The writing was jam-packed full of slang phrases and informal language, with very little in the way of a complex sentence or a sophisticated word choice. This narrative style annoys me more than anything – I cannot tolerate a writing style where the phrasing lacks any kind of formal language. The story was made up of two third-person viewpoints, Riley’s and Beck’s, and there was nothing to distinguish between them. I very often lost track which one I was following, and seldom did I care.

I think that’s the main problem. I didn’t care. I hated nearly every character and had no understanding of the world, but primarily I was bored silly. I struggled to read more than a page at a time, and often skim read bits of dialogue. The book failed at holding my attention, and if it weren’t a TBR jar choice I wouldn’t have even reached the midway point. The writing, world-building and characterisation were poor and the story had no point; I see no reason why I should read on with the next book, even though I own it. I really would not recommend this book to anyone. I’m pretty sure that this is one series and author I’m laying to rest permanently.

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