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

Written by: Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: June 2, 2009
Pages: 336, Hardback
Series: The Demon’s Lexicon #1
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Sixteen-year-old Nick and his brother, Alan, are always ready to run. Their father is dead, and their mother is crazy—she screams if Nick gets near her. She’s no help in protecting any of them from the deadly magicians who use demons to work their magic. The magicians want a charm that Nick’s mother stole—and they want it badly enough to kill. Alan is Nick’s partner in demon slaying and the only person he trusts in the world. So things get very scary and very complicated when Nick begins to suspect that everything Alan has told him about their father, their mother, their past, and what they are doing is a complete lie. . . .

LetsTalk

I’ll admit it…when I found out The Demon’s Lexicon was this month’s #YAReadAlong book I screamed a little. As I’m sure all of you know by now, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Sarah Rees Brennan’s writing. Here’s the thing…I read the Lynburn Legacy before The Demon’s Lexicon and loved it, and if you asked me now I wouldn’t be able to say which series I liked better, but it wasn’t until I read The Demon’s Lexicon that I completely fell of the edge into Sarah Rees Brennan love. I blame my weakness for sibling relationships. Also, SRB’s dialogue and characterization are a breath of fresh air, and the book ends with one of my favorite plot twists ever.

Nick Ryves is a very unusual protagonist, and I must admit it took a while for him to grow on me. He’s ruthlessly efficient, thinks feelings are generally pointless, and makes no secret of the fact that no one matters to him except his brother Alan. He pretty much chops the ‘jerk with a heart of gold’ trope to bits with his sword; when he says he doesn’t care, he actually means it. Once I got used to that, I began to quite like Nick Ryves. I found his perspective understandable, and I appreciated his sarcasm. Most importantly, it became more and more obvious that in his own way, which even he didn’t fully understand, he genuinely cared about Alan, and later Mae and Jamie. It came across in the way he reacted when any harm came to Alan, and the big and little things he tried to do to make Alan happy.

I imagine Nick’s characterization would be extremely difficult to pull off. You go too far in one direction, and he becomes completely unsympathetic. You go too far the other way, and he loses what makes him unique. Sarah Rees Brennan always stays right on the line between the two problem areas, and this makes her story and character amazing.

More than anything else, this is a series about Siblings Who Love Each Other. Alan and Nick, Mae and Jamie, and later Sin, Lydie, and Toby, all have beautiful, nuanced relationships, and the main characters would do absolutely anything for their siblings. Strong sibling dynamics are always an added bonus for me, and reading a story where they were the focus was the best thing ever. Of course, there are some A+ romantic dynamics and friend dynamics and parent-child dynamics as well, and all of them manage to punch me in the heart.

Didn'tWork

Now it’s time for the part every book reviewer dreads–objective criticism of one of my favorite books. Honestly, I don’t have a whole lot to say here. Most of the complaints I had reading the book the first time are things I feel much better about now. For example, the first time I read the book, I wasn’t a fan of the writing style, but reading it now, it makes so much sense and it fits Nick’s character perfectly. I will say, however, that this book is not for everyone. It gets off to a somewhat slow start, and focuses on a character who is, for reasons I just described, an extremely acquired taste. If you don’t like it or have trouble getting into it, I’ll understand. I’ll just be very sad about it.

Also, what even is the US hardcover’s model for Nick? I cannot imagine the actual Nick Ryves ever having that facial expression. (Fun fact: if you take the slip cover off the US edition, there’s another cover with the sword underneath which I like much better).

DidWork

As always, Sarah Rees Brennan’s characterization is on point; the characters feel real and flawed and every one of them has a place in my heart. I’ve already talked about why Nick’s character was so effective for me, so now it’s time to discuss one of my favorite characters in the trilogy, whom I have affectionately nicknamed ‘Alan Ryves, ruiner of lives’. Sarah Rees Brennan’s description of him is perfect: “Alan is mild-mannered, sweet, kind, loves books, music, kittens — and guns. You shouldn’t believe a word he says, but you probably will anyway.” Alan can go from “adorable bookish dork” to “absolutely terrifying” in a matter of seconds, and really, he’s both. He seems fairly ‘normal’ at first, especially in comparison to Nick, but he’s incredibly messed up in his own way and later books in the trilogy explore this more. There are so many facets to his character and I was constantly impressed. And he loves Nick so much. I wish I could cry about their relationship a bit more without spoiling everything, but for now I’ll just say that it broke my heart into a thousand tiny pieces.

Mae and Jamie have more of a focus in later books than in this one, so I won’t say too much about them, but I love them with all my heart, Mae with her pink hair and her courage and confidence and straightforwardness and Jamie with his adorable rambly tendencies and attempts to explain empathy to Nick. And, oh, look another pair of siblings who love each other! Just kill me now, please.

And let’s talk about how Sarah Rees Brennan is basically the dialogue queen, and how good she is at balancing humor with heartbreak. When I wasn’t crying about all the sibling dynamics, I was definitely laughing at whatever hilarious thing Nick or Jamie had just said. (“My life was going to flash before my eyes, but it decided to hide behind my eyes and quake with terror instead.”–Jamie)

The plot twist at the end of the book is honestly one of the best ones I’ve ever seen!  I never saw it coming, but it made so much sense once it was revealed, and it made the story and Nick and Alan’s relationship (which I already loved) about two hundred times more interesting. While I still liked the book before The Thing happened, the last 30 pages cemented a place for it on my Favorites of All Time list.

Pickup

I think I’ve made my opinion on this series very obvious by now. That said, if you need some more convincing, try reading this short story! It takes place slightly before the book, is wonderfully creepy and upsetting, and introduces you to the world and some of the main characters.

If you’re already a fan of this book, remember to join our #YAReadalong chat tomorrow at 5 PM EST! Follow @YAbooknook or @RunYouCleverBoy for more information.

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