Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Demon Collector, by Jon Mayhew

First published by Bloomsbury, 2011.

From the get go, we are straight into the action. Edgy Taylor is no one much, cleaning up poop on the streets of London and working for his brutal and abusive master in a tannery. He is saved from this life by a curious old man and taken back to the Royal Society of Daemonologie. They want him, Edgy Taylor – because he has the ability to see Demons in their true form. But they also want something else ...

It’s not long before he is embroiled in the mysterious and often deadly goings on in the strange, eerie building the society calls home. Here he has constant run ins with demons, both malignant and benign, sulky ghost girls, the library snake, pompous members of the society who just can’t seem to accept him, and, most important of all – constant attempts on his life. What is it about Edgy that sees him hunted throughout the society, the streets of London, across the sea and into icy caverns? With the help of his few friends and his own wits, he must find out ... before he runs out of chances.

For kids, The Demon Collector pushes all the right buttons – Mayhew has got his formula down pat. A constant chase, chapters that almost always end on a cliff-hanger, great adventure, intriguing settings, colourful characters. There is great fun to be had and more than a few thrills and grisly bits to satisfy those more gruesomely inclined. As it is, I am always going to compare it to Mayhew’s first book, Mortlock – a great first novel, and one that I really enjoyed. Formulaically, this book is very similar, but I think it lacks the great atmosphere that so pervaded the first. It is perhaps not quite as ‘fresh’, but that’s to be expected. As an adult reader, I also found the stylistic choices/formula a bit obvious – I could predict just about every outcome and felt like I was being ‘pushed’ into feeling things, which doesn’t sit so well. But that’s just really me being cynical. For a kids audience, particularly those slightly resistant readers, this kind of encouragement is perfect.

I do wish the two major deaths could have been drawn out a little more – the big baddies need a big send-off! Mayhew does baddies well – they are suitably larger than life and creepy and constantly seeming to change alliances. The demon mythology Mayhew draws on to tell his story is just enough – interesting spin but never bogs down the plot. Also, I loved the demon Slouch.

Really works as a companion novel to Mortlock. I feel like Mayhew knows his stories and knows how he wants to tell them and just goes for it. If Mortlock’s emphasis was on gothic creepiness, The Demon Collector feels more like a mystery adventure. A good, fun and creepy read. Does just what it should.

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