by Jana Oliver, fantasy (2012)
St Martin's Griffin, $9.99, ISBN 978-0-312-61480-5
Forgiven is the third book in Jana Oliver's Demon Trappers series, and since this story continues from where we left off in the previous book, it's hard to review this book without spoiling things in the previous two books. There will also be some spoilers for this book in this review. I can't avoid mentioning them if I am to explain why I don't enjoy this book as much as the previous two books, alas. So, gentle people, if you wish to remain unspoiled, take yourself and those flowers in your hair away from here ASAP. If not, and you're new to the series, take a look at my review of the first book, Forsaken for the lowdown before you join the love-in.
So, where were we? Our heroine, Riley Blackthorne has finally found her father, although the reunion is rather unexpected, let's just say. And she's going to discover some skeletons in Daddy's closet as a result of this reunion, so things are going to be fun. Meanwhile, the Demon Hunters of Vatican have decided that she's the most likely candidate to be the mole within the Atlanta demon trappers, consorting with Lucifer to take the forces of good down, and it doesn't help that her ex-boyfriend is at the head of the queue of people who are pointing fingers at him. Meanwhile, Riley is still staggering from the aftermath of her tryst with Ori, the mysterious angelic being, and she also has to deal with Beck who is going into wangst almighty mode. It's all so Season-6-Buffy, and the author even lampshades this, as at one point, Riley wonders whether she's living in a Buffy episode.
The previous two books are keepers as far as I am concerned, so I am not too surprised when I find myself feeling less enamored of this book. I mean, poor Riley has been through so much and the hard knocks never stopped from the moment her beloved father died on her in the first book, leaving her alone to stand up against Lucifer, God, and - worst of all - adolescence, so she deserves some time to wallow a bit. The problem, though, is that after the previous two fast-paced books, this one feels rather uneven in terms of pacing. For a long time, the book focuses on internal emotional turmoil and moves very slowly, but late in the story, things explode into action, making me feel as if I've opened a door and has a dynamite go off on me. If the book has been more evenly paced with a better build-up towards that climatic denouement, this book would have been a far more enjoyable read. As it is, it's all slow and simmering angst and then - BOOM! - everything goes to hell.
Riley is still in character, tough but vulnerable inside, but I have to admit that I am not too fond of conflicts where the heroine is made to feel guilt and shame for sleeping with the wrong guy. Come on, so she trusts someone who turns out to be not what she thinks he is. Big deal. At least he didn't brag to the entire school and write down her phone number on the toilet wall, no? In a way, I can understand Riley's turbulent feelings, and heaven knows, I don't expect a young lady her age to be entirely reasonable after what she's been through. I'd probably be stark raving crazy were I in her shoes. But surely the author can give her a less clichéd reason to feel blue over?
I actually have no problems with this story apart from the pacing issues, except for one more thing. It's an irrational thing, a very subjective matter that other readers may not agree with: I loathe the character Beck with the white-hot fire of a million angry suns, and there is just too much Beck here. Worse, Beck is whining and acting like the biggest crybaby there ever is.
Let's see, Riley is the younger person who has lost her father, stands accused of betraying the very organization that she and her father stand for by her own ex-boyfriend, she found solace with a guy who turns out to be in cahoots with the devil, and oh yes, she's on the run. A 17-year old orphan, pursued by demons, abandoned by her former allies, on the run all on her own except for a handful of allies who help her now and then.
And yet, Beck, the twenty-something trapper, is the one who spends the whole book whining that Riley has cared for another guy, treats Riley badly when she reaches out to him, is never there for her when she needs him, is hypocritically sleeping with a floozy who is so obviously untrustworthy that she could have come with a neon sign above her buxom chest that says "DELILAH INCARNATE" even as he rails at Riley for sleeping with Ori, and, by the last page, has dug himself into a mess so big that I suspect Riley will have to add him to the list of charity cases she has to rescue from the dung heap. What's truly irritating here is that Riley actually feels bad thanks to Beck's behavior, believing that she has hurt a friend and has to make amends to him. What is this, people, what the freaking hell is this?
Ori is the one here who fights for Riley, and heck, I'm not too fond him - he's tad underdeveloped to be a compelling antiheroic woobie, but he's on his way to becoming one if the author allows Ori to continue showing up in this series - but he has proven in just the space of a handful of pages that he is a hundred times more worthy of Riley than that whiny useless passive emo wail-bag Beck.
In fact, there are many times when I wonder whether Ms Oliver wants me to hate Beck - he is so over-the-top useless, an actual anchor around Riley's neck that threatens to drag her down with him, that I can't help thinking that I am supposed to want this wretch dead. Ms Oliver is doing so well with other aspects of this series - Beck is too big an incompetent crybaby ass to be a misfired attempt at creating a Spike for Riley's Buffy, right? What truly terrifies me here is the increasingly stronger signs pointing to a terrifying future where Beck will become Riley's boyfriend. It is slowly reaching a point where I have to take a deep breath whenever I realize that the story is going to shift to his point of view, so if Ms Oliver has any mercy on me, she should kill off that waste of flesh ASAP. Preferably in the most humiliating manner possible, such as being squashed to death when a fat demon stumbles and lands its rear end on his face.
Forgiven is a dip in the momentum where the series is concerned, but I'm fine with it as I don't expect every book in a series to be awesome. And this book is still a pretty good read even if it lacks the solid pacing and nail-biting atmosphere of the previous two books. But good lord, Beck really is like nails on chalkboard where my nerves are concerned. What is the author thinking to make this useless tosser so over-the-top whiny, passive, and pointless while hogging nearly half this book? Maybe there is some good reason for this, but I can only hope that I can discover what this reason is without feeling the urge to camp on the author's front lawn and wave angry placards in front of a burning effigy of Beck.
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