Book Review: The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

Originally posted 11/01/11 in my meta/review blog

Sometimes, even though I should know better, I forget how detailed, engaging and even disturbing a young adult novel can be. (I have no idea why I do this. There are many, many engaging disturbing and intense young adult novels out there.) So, I was surprised when I read the The Demon’s Lexicon because it’s a very intelligently written urban fantasy with some fairly intense moments. (And when I say intense I mean horrifying and various levels of disturbing.) I have to admit that the book also in general reminded me a little of Supernatural, though the show and the book have almost nothing in common except two brothers and also, demons.

Our Heroes are Alan Ryves and his brother Nick. They and their (apparently mentally ill) mother have been on the run from magicians as long as Nick can remember. We learn that their father died in a battle with the magicians who are after a talisman their mother stole. Because the talisman is keeping her alive, they understandably don’t want to return it.

Shortly after an attack, Alan and Nick meet Mae and Jamie, two kids from Nick’s school who have a very serious problem. Jamie had been marked by a demon and is in great danger; Alan is willing to help, but Nick very much isn’t, and his not wanting to help increases when his brother Alan also ends up with a mark. This leads to a sequence of events where Nick makes some very unpleasant discoveries about himself.

What makes the novel particularly interesting is that the story is told from the point of view of Nick, who is a dangerous and seemingly hostile young man who at first seems cold and ruthless as a result of having been raised on the run. As we get to know him as a character, we learn things about him that are increasingly disturbing, and since the narrative has such a tight focus, it’s difficult to realize how disturbing they are because of the point of view; Nick certainly isn’t bothered by his quirks, even if others find them strange or unnerving. (Nick does not understand emotions and his idea of right and wrong is, “would “Alan like this or not like this?”) Given the way this is played you are certain we have a sociopath on our hands, but as the plot moves forward, it slowly becomes evident that it’s Nick’s brother who is the actual ruthless one.

I really enjoyed this book, and adored the snarky, breezy dialog. (The sarcasm and conversational style made me feel very nostalgic for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, without it actually being a direct copy of the Buffy style.) The characters were interesting, and I liked the worldbuilding aspects of the story.

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