Set within the beautiful and exciting city of Milan, The Demon Catchers of Milan was enveloped by a deep-rooted family history which permeated every surface Mia encountered. The foundation of her Milanese relatives' house was built by her ancestors and their presence is a lingering force that provided Mia with safety and comfort, even during her stifling first few months of relative seclusion. The powerful history also added a dark tone to the novel, as it whispered of answers within Mia's grasp that could unlock the mysteries surrounding her demon catcher heritage and the demon determined to call her his own. I also loved that Beyer provided us with a classic method of demon exorcisms, incorporating bells, candles and family-tested secrets, adding a certain creepiness and fearfulness to each demon encounter. While I love a good action-packed Buffy-style demon slaying, something a little more subtle suited The Demon Catchers of Milan much better and was a refreshing change.
Mia was an interesting character. Her growth is subtle and understated, like much of The Demon Catchers of Milan, and is something that really takes you by surprise. Her revelations about herself, her demon, and the art of demon catching happen in small moments when she is alone with her thoughts and aren't given much fanfare. Her original perceptions about herself, of being mousy and unattractive in comparison to her younger sister, are replaced slowly with a new-found confidence that blossoms with her growing self-awareness that only comes with maturity. Her perceptiveness about her surroundings and her inquisitive mind led her to figure things out for herself, without having to be spoon-fed the information by her relatives. This did leave us in the dark for much of the book, and it did create some frustrating moments of confusion, but it made her continuous character development possible because of her tenacity in the face of the unknown.
Most of my confusion was the result of Mia's extensive family. With a lot of Italian thrown around, I found myself wishing I was able to speak the language. I kept mis-reading Nonna and Nonno or Francesca and Francesco, which obviously had me re-reading sections for clarification. It definitely didn't help that I was also confused about demon catching for most of the book, or about why Mia's family was being so secretive.
But my main issue was The Demon Catchers of Milan's lacklustre plot. Various plot lines were touched on - Emilio's struggles with his father's death, Lucifero's mention of Martegno and his role in Mia's grandfather's separation from his family, the satanists, Signora Negroponte and the obvious tension she shares with Mia's Nonna - and then dropped. Much was left unsaid and any attempt Mia made to uncover the truth was met with resistance or the promise of an answer in the future. It did make The Demon Catchers of Milan feel almost like a prequel, rather than the first of a planned trilogy, as not much happens. There is much buildup, and the promise of great things to come, but the ending leaves us with little in the way of a satisfactory resolution.
My issues aside, however, I really enjoyed reading The Demon Catchers of Milan. I was (mostly) able to forget about my issues because I found the atmosphere so all-encompassing and the idea of old-school demon catchers so intriguing. While I was unsatisfied with the ending, I am excited to see what's next in store for Mia!