Ancient demonic legend and Satan himself feature in Mayhew's latest title...
The second offering from a previously successful author is always a tricky one: can they equal or better their first novel? Or will it fall flat and herald the fall of yet another potential? Surprisingly, Mayhew hasn’t wasted any time in delivering his latest children’s thrill-fest; perhaps he felt it necessary to capitalise on the wide appeal of Mortlock, or more likely (in my opinion), he’s a crafty so-and-so and has an entire library full of bare-bone manuscripts just waiting for his undivided attention and some publisher’s go-ahead. I say this because The Demon Collectors is massively entertaining, thoughtfully crafted and impeccably written.
The story is set in an age of stage-coaches, steam engines and a reality of horrid, dirty work. Edgy Taylor supposes himself an orphan, having no memory of his parents and no real clue of his age – although he suspects he’s roughly twelve or thirteen. His reality consists of scrapping up dog mess, taking it back to the tannery for his extremely unpleasant and bizarre master to use for softening raw hides and being on the receiving end of his foul moods. That is, until the unfortunate day when he witnessed a young lad being sun down by a coach and he is pulled into a strange world of demons, ossification, the scatterbrained Professor Janus and the Royal Society of Daemonologie.
As it turns out, Edgy has a unique gift: he can see Demons’ true form beneath their human guises; a gift that piques Professor Janus’ curiosity and earns him a job working for him. However, not everyone is happy that Edgy has joined them at the Society, and it isn’t long before Edgy discovers that he is no safer within the walls of the Society than he is outside with the demons.
Mayhew has a distinct knack of picking vivid character names that mirror exactly their character’s nature; none more so than “Edgy”. The cautious boy is only too willing to share his fear, worries and anxieties with those around him; finding comfort only with his little terrier, Henry. The demons themselves are cleverly adapted to signify their individual selves: whether it is green with envy or red with temper. The ambiguity of ‘good’ demons versus ‘bad’ demons is equally brilliant and calls to question our perceptions based on appearance alone – beauty can hide an ugly personality and vice versa. And there are elements of theology contained in the narrative, but these are few and far between; the author preferring to concentrate on the plot itself and it is the level of imagination and creativity that Mayhew brings to his stories that makes them compelling reading. You are barely given pause for breath before you are thrust into the next dilemma, or yet another terrifying encounter with gruesome demons. The Demon Collector is a scare-fest that is best served at night, immediately on going to bed... just don’t expect to get much sleep.
As a side note: following in Mortlock’s footsteps, The Demon Collector contains some violence and gore that younger readers may find disturbing. We wouldn’t recommend this for under 10’s.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012