Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review – “Death’s Daughter” by Amber Benson

Calliope Reaper-Jones so just wanted a normal life: buying designer shoes on sale, dating guys from Craig's List, web-surfing for organic dim-sum for her boss...

But when her father-who happens to be Death himself-is kidnapped, and the Devil's Protege embarks on a hostile takeover of the family business, Death, Inc., Callie returns home to assume the CEO mantle- only to discover she must complete three nearly impossible tasks in the realm of the afterlife first.
When I posted a preview of Death’s Daughter at the end of last month I was pretty excited about reviewing this debut urban fantasy novel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumni Amber Benson. It offered a great title and premise and a cool character name in Calliope Reaper-Jones. Plus she had done several collaborations with accomplished writer Christopher Golden. So with the hope of discovering a fresh new urban fantasy voice I dove in . . . and almost broke my neck in the shallow pool. OK that was a bit harsh but Death’s Daughter was the first book in a long while that I considered abandoning less than half way through but I persevered.

I found the main character Calliope thoroughly unlikeable – whiny, self-absorbed, judgmental and immature and she exhibits little personal growth or improvement as the story progresses. Supporting characters likewise are shallow and/or cardboard. Dialogue is flat - even childish in its delivery. Here is just a sampling.
What next I thought to myself. Vomit Locusts? Snot toads?
"Stupid toothless Frenchman" I called across the water.
"Gormless human-being reject!" Monsieur D yelled back at me.
"Don't make me come over there." I screamed, almost losing my grip on the unconscious Daniel in the process.
“I dare you to try, wannabe!” he shot back.
My father is Death… like duh,” I said, exasperated. Did I have to explain everything to the man?
"You fulfilled your tasks. You're Death now, you dumb white girl."
"I am?" This was unbelievable. I had to make sure. "I'm Death?"
"Yep." Kali giggled, suddenly finding the whole thing hilarious. "You be The Man."
“Aw, shucks, it was nothing,” I shrugged as I took the silvery cup from his hands.
and finally...
“Don’t you dare laugh all condescendingly at me, you jerkoid.” I yelled, but this only made him laugh harder.
The banter is probably meant to be witty and snarky, and the tone of Death’s Angel meant to be comedic, emulating a chicklitish style with numerous fashion and pop culture references. Calliope’s journey to accomplish the three tasks also feels somewhat aimless (reminiscent of absurd knock-off Monty Python style scenarios) and each task is accomplished with relative ease. I would cite additional examples but frankly the effort is too onerous. I encourage you to sample pages at random before picking this up.

Overall, Death’s Daughter is a supremely disappointing debut. For the life of me I cannot figure out what type of reader or even age range this might appeal to. So if you are a fan of Amber Benson’s or just curious by all means check it out, but if you are looking for an entertaining urban fantasy there are so many better choices.


Official Amber Benson Blog

Penguin Group (USA) Ace
Published: February 24, 2009
ISBN #: 9780441016945
Format: Paperback
Pages: 368

Read an excerpt.

Other Fantasy (with Christopher Golden):

  • Accursed - Ghosts of Albion (2005)
  • Witchery - Ghosts of Albion (2006)
  • The Seven Whistlers (2006)


  1. "Bring out your dead..."
    "Not dead yet!"
    I love Monty Python.

    Trying to figure out what "gormless" means. O_O

  2. Aww, that's too bad. The premise was promising.

  3. Oh that seriously sucks. It sounds really neat too! Well at least until I read those excerpts :(

  4. I liked it. It's fun and funny, and a great find for readers who like comedy with their fantasy.

    The first chapter is up at the website, if you want to try a longer, truer excerpt.

  5. I think you'd been a little too harsh...

  6. "For the life of me I cannot figure out what type of reader or even age range this might appeal to."

    Apparently not you then...

    I read the online chapter and enjoyed it, I'm looking forward to the book. Gormless is a great word.

  7. KB pretty sure gormless is same as "clueless".

    Kmont that is what made this so disappointing :(

    Ladytink kind of like movie trailers. Sometimes they can make a mediocre movie look great.

    Anonymous thanks. I have already posted a link to the excerpt in the "Showcase" section.

    Laura - only a little.

    Elliot I hope you like it and yes gormless is a neat word.

  8. I really, really wanted to enjoy this novel, but it's...not horrible, but it's not good. I sooo agree with you though.

  9. I disagree with your review. I liked it overall, but the world would be pretty damn boring if everyone agreed with me. As far as the age and gender to whom this book might appeal, I'm 20 and female.

  10. Amber described the book as 'chicklit' in interviews so I have a good idea of what to expect when I get my preordered copy. I'll reserve my judgment till then. :)


  11. Princess Allie me too.

    Anonymous I agree that diversity of opinion is good.

    Hi Lizzy. Chicklit makes sense. I mention it in my review. I am a fan of many excellent UF and PNR chicklit writers including MaryJanice Davidson, Gerry Bartlett, Kathy Love, Erin McCarthy, Kimberley Raye, Stephanie Rowe and more.

  12. That's a bummer. Thanks for the insightful review!

  13. I LOVE it! I mean it all depends on what kind of books you into, but I just don't like it when people are all out mean and don't give the author any credit for their hard work. Let's see you write something better.

  14. Hey Sci Fi Guy: Me thinks some of Amber fans from the good old Buffy days are stopping by.

  15. Katiebabs: Amber posted it on her blog. We may see more fans.

  16. Anonymous - as an earlier posted said "the world would be pretty damn boring if everyone agreed with me."

    Hey KB and Hi Princess Allie
    I am afraid the fans have taken my review to heart a little too much. I didn't HATE the book - just felt it wasn't what a mature UF reader might want. Nearly 300 of them have clicked through from her site. Some pretty nasty comments over there. At least those commenting here are polite. Amber herself was professional and said you can't argue with someone's opinion and her fans definitely have the right to speak their mind.

  17. I also thought Amber was very professional on her response. But as well all know, fans tend get defensive when it comes to their favorite authors. I admit, I get that way also.
    But I am still interested in reading Death's Daughter.

  18. KB I am really interested in hearing what you think once you've read. Feel free to email me.

  19. I was expecting the publisher to send me a copy, but they did not. Will have to go out and buy or see if my library has it.
    When I do and read, I will shoot you an email.

  20. Thanks KB - I suspect the publicist is none too happy with my review :( I look forward to your thoughts.

  21. I enjoyed reading the book. It didn't change my life, but I felt good after putting it down.

    I actually think that the main character did develop, but this book is more about the adventures than the character development.

    I liked the dialouge too. It's not brilliant, but definitly not bad. The dialouge you showed were funny to me, mainly because the characters sounded so silly. but doesn't most people sound silly?

    And yes, Callie is a bit whiney, but it's her inner dialouge we're reading and although she has to travel through hell, she gets the job done. After she's finished crying. She does have flaws, but I'm tired of perfect heroes.

    So over all, a great feel-good-book. It's not everyone's cup a tea, but I like it. I didn't think you sounded mean either, you were honest.


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