Plot Summary: Lizzy Mortimer learns about her special gift on her fourteenth Halloween. As she reads the newspaper, the letters on the page rearrange themselves into an obituary for her best friend, Jodi, who isn’t dead – yet. After Lizzy and her grandmother, Bizzy (short for Beatrice) save Jodi from the path of an oncoming car;, Bizzy reveals to Lizzy that she is a Hand of Fate, descended from a long line of women hailing from Morgan le Fay of King Arthur fame. They have a gift that allows them to foresee when someone close to them is due to die before their time, and they have some time to try and stop it; the name of the person at risk also burns itself into the Hand of Fate’s arm until the person is no longer in danger. When Lizzy’s next “death specter” appears – the school crush, Drake Westfall – things get even complicated; Drake is the Last Descendant of King Arthur and Vivienne le Mort, one of Morgan le Fay’s sisters, wants him dead.
Critical Evaluation: Written as a school essay for Lizzy’s teacher, The Death Catchers is written in the first person from Lizzy’s point of view. The chapter heads are named after different literary devices such as Foreshadowing, Aphorisms, and Proofreading; each chapter leads in with Lizzy’s explanation to her teacher that links the chapter head with the story; how Lizzy learned in her class what each device means, and then proceeds with her story. The characters are fairly well-written and the storyline is interesting, with the skeleton of Arthurian legend built in and fleshed out with a more modern perspective that will appeal to younger readers (and hopefully, get them interested in the tales of King Arthur). There is not a lot linking Drake to his role as Arthur’s Last Descendant – perhaps that will come in time, if Death Catchers becomes a series; for this book’s purpose, he is merely the plot device and provides a romantic interest that should keep girls reading.
Reviews: Booklist: “A creative mix of Arthurian legend, romance, and fantasy . . . Characters are richly developed, particularly Lizzy and her grandmother, and the plot’s pacing is pitch-perfect.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: “[A]n effective blend of elegant mythmaking and genial, homey storytelling . . . The romance between Lizzy and Drake is sweet, and the promise for its development in the sequels, along with Drake’s future role as king, will surely bring readers back to another visit to Avalon.”
Awards: No awards yet.
Reader’s Annotation: When Lizzy discovers that she sees death notices before the deaths occur, and that she can prevent them, she also learns about her family gift – handed down from her great-many times over-great grandmother, Morgan le Fay.
Author Information: Jennifer Kogler is a YA/Teen author primarily writing fantasy. Her author website allows readers to e-mail her and offers links to her blog, more information about her books, and readers guides for The Death Catchers and her other book, The Otherworldlies.
Genre: Fantasy. Subgenres: Family, Arthurian Legend
Booktalking Ideas: Lizzy discovers a valuable gift when she learns that she can predict when people close to her are going to die – and that she can change that. What are the pros and cons of being able to tamper with the future? Lizzy is able to talk to her grandmother about her gift – who would you tell?
Reading Level/Interest Age: 13+
Challenge Issues/Defense: Some may have an issue with witchcraft, because Lizzy and her grandmother have the ability to see death. Defense: This is a fantasy story that brings in elements of the King Arthur myth.
Why did you include this book in the titles you selected?
I am an avid King Arthur fan, and the book’s concept was intriguing; it brings the myth of King Arthur to a new generation.