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Friday, April 26, 2013

The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler

On her fourteenth Halloween, Lizzy Mortimer sees her first death-specter.

Confused at first, Lizzy soon learns from her grandmother Bizzy that as Death Catchers, they must prevent fate from taking its course when an unjust death is planned-a mission that has been passed down from their ancestor, Morgan le Fay. Only, Lizzy doesn't expect one of her first cases to land her in the middle of a feud older than time between Morgan le Fay and her sister Vivienne le Mort. Vivienne hopes to hasten the end of the world by preventing Lizzy from saving King Arthur's last descendant-humanity's greatest hope for survival. It's up to Lizzy, as Morgan's earthly advocate, to outwit fate before it's too late.

With its unique spin on Arthurian legend, this fresh, smartly written story will stand out in the paranormal genre.

Released: August 16th 2011         Pages: 352
Publisher: Walker Childrens        Source: Library

First Look: ***** Arthurian legend?  I'm all in.  Not many YA/MG books feature it, so I was curious to see how this turned out.

Setting: ***** There wasn't anything particularly memorable about it.  I got a good sense of the small-town feeling the author was trying to convey.  Other than that, the setting doesn't play a huge role in the story, and it's a bit generic.

Characters: ***** Lizzy was likable enough.  Maybe a bit on the generic side, again, but I still cheered for her.  She had the typical unnoticed-girl-from-the-sidelines thing going on, but she was written in an honest and real way.

Bizzy annoyed me more than anything else.  I understand that she was supposed to be eccentric, but she came off as too eccentric to seem realistic.  I couldn't take her seriously.  I didn't really understand any of her motivations. 

Drake was an interesting love interest.  Again, a little on the generic side, this time with the Troy Bolton-style popular-athletic-guy-with-secret-artsy-passion thing.  Still, I liked him, and I could see why Lizzy was attracted to him.

Plot: ***** More of a 3.5 star plot.  It was interesting, but it just didn't grab me like I wanted it to.  Lizzy didn't actually do much in terms of being a Death Catcher--she only used the ability twice, as far as I can tell.  Also, Arthurian legend didn't play into it as much as I had hoped.  It was definitely there, but only one aspect of it.  Then again, I was kind of hoping that Bradley James-style Arthur would come waltzing in, which he did not.  I had no logical reason to expect that, but it might've been fun.

Uniqueness: ***** The part about the Death Catchers was unique, but the romance aspect was very generic and followed a much-overused storyline.

Writing: *****
This whole book was written as a letter from Lizzy to her teacher.  This worked sometimes, but not others.  Each chapter began with an explanation of a literary term, like metaphor, trope, etc.  They were supposed to fit with the chapter, but many times the connection felt like a stretch.  Also, most of the readers of this book have enough education to know what these words mean.  It felt a bit condescending, actually. 

Here's a line that made no sense: "I pressed my elbows against my chest..."  I tried that.  It doesn't work.  All I end up doing is slamming my upper arm into a place a girl would rather not be hit.

Likes: The Arthurian aspect was interesting, but I just wish we could've seen more of it.

Not-so-great: How are there 17th century gravestones in northern California?  Also, how are there gravestones with Arthurian legend names on them, and nobody notices?  How is Lizzy in high school and has never heard of any of these legends before?

Overall: It had some decent points: likable characters (for the most part, and if not a bit generic), a dash of Arthurian legend, and a unique premise.  The author felt the need to define literary terms that most readers would already know, though, and some parts were quite generic.  The plot didn't compel me like I hoped it would.  3.5 stars, but I'll round it up to 4.

Similar Books: It's a modern-world story with classic mythology like the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, connects modern teens with old legends like Endymion Spring and Dreaming Anastasia, and is a bit reminiscent in tone and humor of the Children of the Red King series.  It features a teenager with the ability to stop/prevent death like Thirteen Days to Midnight.

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  1. This book sounds pretty cool! Love the cover too!

    What's the pacing like? It sounds pretty weird being in the format of letters.

    Lol! I tried touching my chest with my elbows too! :D

    1. The pacing wasn't bad. Really, the only place where the letters made it any different from another first-person POV book was at the very beginning, and in the first paragraph of each chapter. Otherwise, you couldn't really tell.

    2. Ok thanks!

      I never saw it before but the cover really reminds me of Philip Pullman's His Dark Material's trilogy!


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