Book review: The Demon Catcher’s of Milan by Kat Beyer

12643556The Demon Catcher’s of 
Milan
by Kat Beyer
August 28, 2012
Egmont USA
288 pages
Source: NetGalley

Synopsis
Mia’s ordinary life is disrupted in the most horrifying way possible when she is possessed by a hungry and powerful demon–and only saved by the arrival of relatives from Italy, the country her grandfather fled many decades ago. Now her cousins Emilio and Giuliano say the only way to keep her safe is for her to come back with them to Milan, to live, to learn Italian, to fall in and out of love, and to master the family trade: fighting all demons with the lore of bell, book, and candle. Milan is not what Mia expected, but it will change her forever, in this stunningly well-written novel about an American girl who, fleeing an ancient evil, finds her only salvation in her ancestral home (Taken from Goodreads.)

Opening Line

I used to be the kind of girl who would check under the bed and in the closet every night before going to sleep. 

My Take On It

This is a case of a book which has had a somewhat lukewarm reception but that I really, really enjoyed. Why? Well, I’d be happy to tell you. I like books about demonic possession and exorcisms like I like books about cults. It’s kind of a weird fascination but it’s there nonetheless. And what I liked so much about The Demon Catchers Of Milan (TDCOM) was that Beyer’s take on the those two subjects was not your typical take. This book has no bad ass demon hunter á la Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not that there is anything wrong with Buffy, love that show (especially any episode with Angel, SWOON) but if you are looking for action packed demon slaying by a bunch of hero types you may be disappointed. What TDCOM does have is a very cool story of a family, a family with a long history of exorcising demons, and doing so in an interesting and somewhat traditional manner. You also have a relatable main character in the form of Mia Della Torres, a teenage girl thrown into the middle of a feud between one scary-ass demon and a branch of a family she knows little to nothing about. And by thrown into the middle I mean Mia is possessed by said demon within the first few pages of the book. Talk about starting off with a bang!

During her possession Mia is there but not really there. She experiences what is going on around her somewhat numbly and she has no control over her body. After a couple of failed attempts by the church to rid Mia of this demon, two of her Italian relatives she has never met, successfully perform the exorcism. Unfortunately her family fears it’s not over for Mia and after some family discussions Mia is packed up to return to Milan with these relatives.

Mia learns a little about the role her family has played over the centuries in exorcising and apprehending demons, but not everything. It’s frustrating, but on the other hand, I like how she was forced to discover things on her own. Mia is a teenager but at times she feels younger. I think this is because Mia is a bit of an odd duck. We don’t hear much about school friends and even less about boyfriends. Mia seems closest to her younger sister and her parents. She’s also pretty insecure about herself and I think this adds to her introverted nature. For Mia to leave the security of her home and family to travel with unfamiliar relatives to a strange land, where she doesn’t speak the language may seem out of character. But I think it also speaks to the seriousness of the situation. Her family feels Mia is very susceptible to this demon and she might not survive another possession if (or more like when) one occurs.

Mia may be away for her immediate family, but she does email them throughout the book. I especially enjoyed her email correspondence with her sister. Mia is frustrated by the language barrier (although the girl picks up Italian REALLY quickly!) she’s frustrated about how little she knows about her situation, she’s frustrated by the isolation (she’s not allowed out of the house without family guards for fear of another attack) and she’s frustrated that she’s not trusted enough to do more to help. Through these emails Mia is able to vent and it also gives the reader more insight into her (and her family’s) character.

And I love Mia’s Italian family. It’s a big crew full of eccentric personalities and getting to know them alongside Mia was perhaps my favorite part of this book. My favorites are Nonno and Nonna, the head of this branch of the family, and of course Emilio, the potential love interest/ crush. Ok, we don’t get to know Emilio as well as I would like, in fact the romance angle in TDCOM is played down. But I think in this case it works. From what I can gather, this book is the start of a series, and like many first works it is setting the scene for future installments. Emilio’s character comes across as very caring and kind, but also mysterious and aloof, thus adding to Mia’s crush.

There is another male character in the book that garners some of Mia’s attention, but I am going to skip saying much because there is huge potential to spoil. I will say that he is a questionable character, with unclear motivations. He is also somebody that Mia is warned to steer clear of. Does she? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Earlier I talked a little about the way the exorcism/ demon catching is handled, and how it’s a different angle than others that I have read. What I liked about it was that it felt very old school and traditional. Almost holy, or spiritual in nature.You’ve may have heard of bell, book and candle in terms of witchcraft or casting spells? Well that method is used here to apprehend and contain demons. In fact, Nonno owns a handmade candle shop, and there are some pretty cool things about the candles in his store. Although we don’t get a bunch of action filled fight scenes between demons and their catchers, we do witness the demon attacking and another exorcism. And it’s very creepy, let me tell you. Also? These demon catchers have cool little demon catching cases or kits which I think is AWESOME. Kind of like Ghostbusters but less cheesy.

So most of the complaints I have seen about TDCOM have to do with the of lack ass-kickery in catching demons (which I have addressed) and the lack of information Mia receives in regards to her particular role in this feud between her family and this particular demon. There are things alluded to in the story that allow Mia, and the reader, to fill in the gaps and there are some moments of foreshadowing. I’m totally cool with this because again, it’s setting the scene for the developing story. TDCOM never felt confusing to me so much as mysterious and suspenseful. I am invested in these characters and this story and really want to find out more. In the end Mia must make a decision as to whether she wants to join the “family business” and her choice excites me. I foresee lots on interesting developments ahead as the story unfolds!

There is always room for improvement and some minor complaints I have about TDCOM are that we actually don’t get to see much of Milan. Because Mia is sequestered in her family’s home, we only get the barest descriptions of this beautiful old city. We get some cool lessons on it’s history, and lot’s of info on food and customs (which I LOVE by the way) but not much in setting. I hope that this will change in future books because I would LOVE to get a better view of that Italian city.

I also hope to see more fleshing out of secondary characters. I feel like I know Mia and Nonno and Nonna, but more on Emilio and Mia’s other cousins, as well as the demon itself, would be awesome. Again, I have high hopes that this will come in future books.

What else can I say? This book worked for me. I think it’s a great start to a new series and I look forward to reading more by author Kat Beyer.

4/5 Stars