The Demon Collector is another of the great covers that has caught my eye whilst working at Waterstones, and it’s always nice to find a little fantasy-meets-mystery by a great English author. So I gave it a go, and found an action-packed and tense novel with brilliant gothic overtones and wonderfully developed characters…
The book opens following main character, orphan Edgy Taylor, who lives his day to day life in 1854 collecting manure from the streets for his master, the tanner Talon, whom Edgy had always been able to see as a cloven hoofed demonic creature, even if no-one else can, where his only friend is his little dog Henry. One day while collecting his filthy workload, he meets a young boy, around his own age, racing through the streets, terrified. Before dying in Edgy’s arms, the stranger gifts him an inscribed triangle of bone. Only moments later, and he meets an enigmatic and mysterious women who seems to know all about him… Back at the tannery, he meets a professor by the name of Janus, who has come to visit Talon. Professor Janus explains to Edgy that demons are an ancient and evil part of the world, and that Edgy has a very rare gift, the ability to see Demons through their various devious guises to trick humans. After dispatching Talon, Janus inducts Edgy to the Royal Society of Demonologie, an old established order who study and examine demons. Here he finds that not all demons are evil, and some have fallen to sin so highly that they’re almost human themselves, be it the lazy Sloth demon or the ever jealous demon of Envy. It is also here that Edgy makes his first friends beyond Henry, the professor Janus, a young dead girl who haunts the society and a paranoid demon who curates the societies collection. He agrees to help Janus on his quest for the Arch-Demon Moloch, the demon who attempted to overthrow Satan himself. According to legend, Moloch had his heart removed for his treachery, and was buried on the Earth in a location known only to Satan. He entrusted to heart to his wife, the enigmatic Salomé, who Edgy had met the day he fell into the world of demons. Salomé took the heart, and stored it away on Earth as well, and once every thirteen years, she must produce it to Satan, to satisfy him that Moloch has not returned. Salomé continues to harass Edgy at every turn he makes, sending demons after him, and tripping him up with riddles, but eventually, him and his friends solve the mystery of Moloch’s whereabouts, and on an epic voyage to the north they endeavour to cement the Professor’s reputation by being the first people to prove the existence of an arch-demon. But not everything is as it should be, and soon Edgy is left to wonder who is friend and who is foe, and are demons really ever worse than humans at all?
The Demon Collector is a delightful fantasy, with a nice sense of fun, mystery and tension all rolled into one. I’ve never read Jon Mayhew’s previous title Mortlock, and while the books are (so I’m told) related by some recurring characters, I’m happy to say that it’s not required to have read it to understand The Demon Collector. Far from it in fact, since through demon’s histories, professor Janus’ explanations and various mythological passages, the back story of the demon world and all it’s idiosyncrasies are laid out in a twisting way that offers up clues to the mystery, and leaves the reader in no-way confused about the books world. The book also doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is a must for any title set in such a dark world. Characters and their interactions are warm and caring, funny and ultimately captivating. Edgy in particular is such an unpretentious, curious and engaging character that his mission, and his emotions, are instantly taken to heart by the reader, and this makes the twists and turns of the plot all the more captivating. As for the plot itself (since we were there anyway!), it’s a great mystery with plenty of cliffhangers and puzzles to be solved, steeped in a feeling of Gothic fancy and ancient demonic lore. The scale starts of simple and humbling, but soon Edgy finds himself in a massive world beyond his comprehension, and the story drops into the realms of epic fantasy journey at the halfway point.
All in all, I would highly recommend The Demon Collector to kids and adults alike. It’s a fantastic gateway into other fantasy novels, be it His Dark Materials, The Hobbit or David Eddings. This is sure to get a lot of kids hooked onto fantasy writing for life, and brings through the warmth and humour that resides in a usually unfairly viewed genre.
’till next time!