by Amber Benson, fantasy (2009)
Ace, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-441-01694-5
Yes, Amber Benson is that same lovely young lady who was made to look like a sullen simpleton in her most famous role, Tara the Brown Cow in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Because Tara the Sapphic Sue is the patron of emo lesbian young girls everywhere, I can only dread the repercussions that will be heaped on me should they and other various factions of emo teens and not-so-teens, who believe that everything touched by Joss Whedon is sacred, find the review of this book.
Calliope Reaper-Jones seems like an ordinary woman at first, paying her penance as PA to the Vice President of Sales at House and Yard, Inc when she's not trying to seek the Bridget Jones dream in Manhattan. However, when her father goes missing, that's when we realize that there is more than meets the eye to Callie. Her father is Death, the President and CEO of a multinational conglomerate that we know as Hell. When he and the entire Board of Death vanish, it is up to Callie, the only person in her family to inherit the special bloodline, to prove herself worthy to be her father's successor. From assisting in the production of the biggest Bollywood spectacle from Hell to dog-walking Cerebrus's adorable puppy, Callie is going to need to learn all the ups and downs of being Daddy's sweet little girl if she wants to rescue her father.
While the idea of Hell as a big company isn't original, this story is definitely full of unexpected surprises as the world building reveals plenty of colorful spectacles. Seriously, where else can I find a Bollywood movie being filmed in Hell? The world building in Death's Daughter is far from overly sober - there are plenty of eccentric whimsies and humorous elements to ensure that this story is not all gloom and doom. There are also many memorable secondary characters here, from Kali the cool mean goddess to Callie's spunky younger sister Clio. The potential love interest, Daniel the protégé of the Devil (the Devil is a separate - higher-up - entity), is pretty bland here, though.
But there is one big drawback to this story: Callie. This story is narrated entirely through her first person point of view. The problem here is that Callie is singularly one of the most blisteringly negative and whiny characters I have ever come across. Seriously, when a family friend she is supposed to be pleased to see hugs her, the only thing she can think of is that she hopes he has washed his hands. She hates her job, can't stand the men she dates, doesn't like her boss, goes all "But what about me?" when she is first told of her missing father, and spends the entire story screwing up and blacking out while other characters do all the dirty work. During the confrontation with the bad guy, it is a secondary character who delivers the coup de grâce. The heroine is just... there. Even when she's being suffocated to death, she has the time to whine about something that happened in the past.
This brings me to another thing: Ms Benson writes here in a style comparable to a long phone call from a chatty good friend. She often has Callie go off into bizarre tangents during climatic moments, therefore killing all the build-up leading up to each moment as I go, "Wait, how can she afford to talk about something that happened in her past when she's being slowly killed?"
I don't know, I think I'm just too old to appreciate a heroine like Callie. I've come across many self-absorbed whiny heroines like her in young adult stories, and heaven knows, those books have no problems finding adoring readers among a particular demographic. Clearly, I am not in that demographic as Callie's constant whining just makes me feel old and tired, as if I've just spent thirteen hours dealing with a rebellious fifteen-year old girl's temper tantrum.
Perhaps Callie will mellow a little in the next book? I can only hope so. While I am not going to ask you to endure Callie's antics here - if you want to, you're on your own - I will admit that I really love the world Ms Benson has created here, enough to give this series one more chance, at the very least. This is the first strike for Callie - she has better grow up and behave a little better in the next book!
This book at Amazon.com
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