Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Death Catchers by Jennifer Anne Kogler

Publisher: Walker Children's
Pages: 352
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
SummaryOn 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.

The Death Catchers caught my eye (ha, ha.) because it's a young adult book based in Arthurian legend, specifically in the story of Morgan le Fay. After knowing almost no information about king Arthur and all those related to him, I took a seminar in college on Arthurian literature and received a crash course. My semester long group project was on Morgan le Fay's character throughout history, so I was extra interested in a young adult novel about her.
Lizzy is a normal fourteen-year-old that has just discovered that she has an abnormal ability--she is a death catcher, a descendent of Morgan le Fay that foretells the deaths of those close to her and has the responsibility of stopping these predictions from happening.  To Lizzy, these death warnings appear in the form of newspaper articles and book pages that explain where, when, and how the deaths are going to happen. With the aid of her grandmother Bizzy, who also happens to be a death catcher, Lizzy must attempt to save her crush Drake--the boy who may also be the descendent of King Arthur, thus the savior of the free world. Unfortunately Morgan's sister Vivian la Morte is trying to end both Drake and the line of Morgan's descendants--meaning that in addition to saving Drake, Lizzy and Bizzy must make sure to save themselves.
One of the strongest elements of this book was the fact that it was based in Arthurian legends. When a book is based in mythology, I prefer that it include some background information (though not in a way where they just spew paragraphs of information. Dialogue is a great tool, people. Use it). I know before I took a class on it, I had incredibly limited knowledge of Arthurian legend. I would have liked the information incorporated a bit more fluidly, but at least it was there. I also really liked the idea that Morgan le Fay and Vivian la Morte were sisters and two sides of the same coin--Morgan's job was to measure life threads, whereas Vivian's was to cut them. That was a cool bit of legend on the author's part.
I also liked the fact that Morgan le Fay was painted in a positive light, mostly because she was my character of study for my class. Morgan is often portrayed as the villain; it was nice to see an author harkening back to Morgan's roots as a benevolent healer. And now I'm done being a nerd.
While there were several good things about this book, I think it may have been too young for me. The story moved more at a middle grade speed than at a young adult pace. Aside from the one kiss Lizzy and Drake share, I felt like the actions of the protagonists would have been just as believable if she were ten rather than fourteen. I wished for a little more badassery from the heroine. I found her grandmother to be more interesting than she was.
Some of the other characters were just slightly too cutesy and quirky for me. For instance, Lizz's mother was a librarian that was said to look the part (several times) and couldn't function like a normal mother and social being because she was too busy trying to find the perfect book for a certain person. Listen, I like to make book recommendations too, but I know the time and place for them. Also, the names bugged me. Lizzy and Bizzy? They freaking RHYME. Not okay.
Overall, I've got a mixed review for The Death Catchers. I thought the concept of Morgan le Fay's descendents having the responsibility of saving lives was great, but the book itself was too young to be considered a young adult read. A bit cutesy for my tastes.

Rating: 3 - okay.

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