Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Review: The Demon Collector by Jon Mayhew
Edgy Taylor sees demons when nobody else can. Edgy thinks he is insane and expects to be carried off any minute. He is a prime collector, wandering the streets of London collecting dog muck for the tannery. The only thing Edgy is good at is setting and solving riddles, and evading his brutal and abusive master. One night, when his master seems genuinely intent on killing Edgy, Professor Envry Janus intervenes. Envry takes him to the Royal Society of Daemonology where Edgy will now live. It is here, though, that Edgy discovers chance had nothing to do with their meeting, and that he holds the key to a deadly demon prophecy.
I have been looking forward to reading this book for pretty much the whole of the past year, ever since I first read Jon Mayhew's debut book, Mortlock. In April 2011 Jon did an interview for The Book Zone, in which he mentioned The Demon Collector, and also explained that he had a total of three books planned, all standalone novels set in the same Victorian time period. Since its release Mortlock has received many fantastic reviews and also made the shortlist for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize this year; all thoroughly deserved, but would the author be able to deliver a similarly brilliant follow-up?
The answer to that question is simple: yes! Jon Mayhew is most definitely not a one hit wonder or one trick pony; he has a real talent for writing thrilling stories, with more than a hint of the supernatural. As he explained last year, The Demon Collector is set in the same time period as Mortlock, but with a brand new set of characters (although an observant reader will spot the occasional fleeting reference to characters that appeared in that first book). Yet again, we are treated to the author's atmospheric descriptions of the people and places of the time, with his writing really bringing the time period alive for the reader, but in a way that never seems unnecessarily wordy.
The Demon Collector is lighter in tone than its predecessor. Mortlock was pretty gory in places and had many genuinely chilly moments, whereas The Demon Collector is more of an action adventure story with a form grounding in the world of the supernatural. Yes people die, lives are put in great peril, there are a small number of nasty scenes, and Satan and Moloch are hardly entities to be trifled with, but there is also a rich vein of macabre humour running through the whole story, much of it revolving around the various demons that Mayhew has created. We are led to believe that demons can be good or bad, but sometimes the line between the two can be very fine and easily crossed, providing many twists and turns as the story progresses. Another great feature of Jon Mayhew's demons is their love of riddles. In fact, no demon can resist a good riddle, and with Edgy being something of an expert in this area, we are treated to a number of really entertaining scenes where he verbally 'does battle' with a number of these demonic creatures.
The motivations of the various adults that Edgy comes across are also not always as clean cut as we first think, and the author keeps us guessing right up until the final climactic scenes. I would like to say that the various demons are the real stars of this piece, but that would be doing a disservice to the plot, the descriptive writing of the settings, and the various human characters and their machinations. This really is a book that should be viewed as a complete package, and what a package it is! I'm now going to spend the next year waiting for Jon's third book.
The Demon Collector was released yesterday, and my thanks go to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy to review. If you are a fan of Jon Mayhew's writing then I also strongly recommend that visit the Mortlock website as the author is gradually adding a number of short stories set in his dark Victorian world.