The Demon’s Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan

  • TITLE: The Demon’s Lexicon
  • AUTHOR: Sarah Rees Brennan
  • PUBLISHER: Simon and Schuster Children’s Books
  • PUBLICATION DATE: June 2009
  • RATING: ★★★★

demons-lexicon-coverI hunted down this book when searching for YA fantasy with male protagonists. I’ve nothing against female leads (sometimes, even with a male protagonist, the women in the cast outshine them and become my favourites) but after the sixth book, a guy wants to read about “himself” for a while.

The Demon’s Lexicon sold me on the blurb, but the cover is fairly awesome, too. There’s very little I didn’t like about this book and overall it was new and refreshing. Nick and his brother Alan are always on the run. Their mum is mad: she won’t even look at Nick, much less talk to him. Still, Alan insists they bring her along when she’s the reason they’re running. The reason dad was killed and the reason they can’t have a normal life.

When the magicians find them Nick expects it to be just like always: kill the magician, run away, start again. But this time it’s different. And when the girl he’s somehow found time to crush on and her little brother show up and glimpse their strange, dangerous world, he doesn’t just send them packing like Nick wants. Mae and Jamie enter their lives needing help, help Nick doesn’t want to give. But Alan does and Alan was always the kind one. Without much of a choice, Nick agrees to help Alan help them.

But it’s going to be harder to help Jamie and Mae than either of them expected. Jamie has a third tier mark and he’s going to die.

Alan knows what happens with third tier marks and still be insists on trying to help. Nick is irritated but there’s something else going on with Alan, something odd. Does it have something to do with the Christmas he spent away? Nick isn’t sure but he wants to find out. Nick and Alan’s world is a dark and alien one to anything that Jamie and Mae have ever experienced, filled with demons and magicians and magical markets. Whether Nick likes it or not, Mae and Jamie are there to stay.

The world of the Demon’s Lexicon is a dark and sinister one filled with excitement, intrigue and new takes on old ideas of demon summoning and magic. Here, the magicians are the bad guys and Nick and his brother are just trying to survive. But is that the case? There are too many things Nick realises he doesn’t understand–things that he is sure used to make sense–for him to really know what’s going on.

His mother has always hated him, but why? Does it have something to do with the fact that Nick can only summon two demons whilst the other dancers at the market can summon more? Why does his mother scream when he comes near and why did their father really have to die defending them?

But it’s more than that, isn’t it?

The more Nick spends time with Alan and his tag-along friends, the more it becomes apparent that it’s Nick who isn’t normal. He doesn’t feel things the same way, see things the same way, or act the same way as anyone he has ever known. Sometimes he wants the magicians to come and take mum and whatever talisman she stole away forever, but Alan wouldn’t like that. Just like Alan wouldn’t like seeing Mae upset if Jamie died. Nick doesn’t understand, of course, but they are brothers, so that’s that.

The story of The Demon’s Lexicon is very tightly woven and intricate and interesting from the very first page. The characters are likeable and push the story forwards effortlessly. You care about these characters and are eager to see where the story will take them.

Nick is what I generally call the Red Ranger type: the one in anime that will wear a lot of red and be reckless. The strong guy; the hero. Usually it’s a character I turn right off to, especially with the bookish, intelligent more-brains-than-muscles Alan to balance him out and draw my attention more. However, there’s simply more to Nick than his lack of empathy, his strength and his temper–and it’s all part of the story. For once, we have a brutish jock who is as he is for a reason–and it is a damn good reason at that.

I enjoyed reading about siblings. When I read Julianna Scott’s The Holders I found myself disappointed that Ryland was so much younger than Becca. I felt I didn’t really get to explore a sibling relationship–more that of a younger caregiver with her little brother. It never reads the same if there isn’t a smaller age gap, I find. Hence why here, with Nick and Alan, I enjoyed their rapport and watching as their relationship developed on the page.

I went into this book expecting something “good”; I read something very good. The action gets started almost immediately and never lets up. Usually, I like space and time to breathe in which I learn the characters and see who they are. This doesn’t really happen in The Demon’s Lexicon but the book isn’t any weaker for it. It works for the story to keep a constant pace.

This was a good YA urban fantasy. I’ve not read the subsequent books, but I am intrigued. Not enough to hurl myself headlong into the next book, but it’s definitely marked on my TBR pile and will get a decent look-in.

As a YA book this is excellent; as an urban fantasy, it is all the more so, because it is different. The world is rich and clearly imagined and draws the reader in whilst the plot hurtles towards a very surprising yet satisfying and wholly exciting conclusion.

★ ★ ★ ★

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