Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan The Demon’s Lexicon (The Demon’s Lexicon #1)
By Sarah Rees Brennan
Margaret K. McElderry Books

To Sum It Up:

Killing demons and running from the magicians who summon them are just part of the daily routine for Nick Ryves and his older brother, Alan. Their mother once loved a powerful magician from whom she later fled, but not before stealing a charm that he’ll do anything to get back. The family’s lives are already chaotic when a pair of siblings comes to the brothers seeking help to remove a demon’s mark that will eventually result in death. Alan ends up getting marked, too, and as the Ryves brothers work to now remove two marks, Nick begins to realize that Alan, the lone person Nick has always relied on for the truth, is keeping secrets. Nick sets out on his own mission to find out what Alan is hiding, never thinking that his brother might have a very good reason for withholding information from him.


Despite its title, The Demon’s Lexicon is as much about magic as it is about demons. Sarah Rees Brennan vividly paints a world in which demons strike bargains with magicians who summon them into the mortal realm so that the demons can experience human senses by possessing human bodies. In exchange, the magicians are able to use the demons' powers. I thought this was an inventive take on both paranormal beings, and I really liked the imagery used to bring this world to life. There’s a Goblin Market where vendors hawk everything from charms to talismans, and there’s also dancing. It’s not your average type of dancing, though; this kind, if successful, summons a demon. Lines are drawn on the ground, and the dancer has to follow their intricate pattern. The descriptions of the dancing had a hypnotic feel to them, and I found myself mesmerized.

My favorite aspect of the novel was its study of Nick and Alan’s fraternal relationship. These two couldn’t be more different in temperament. Alan is kind and compassionate; if he discovered a litter of abandoned puppies on every street, he would rescue all of them. Nick is all snark, snarl, and sneer; he wounds not only with the sword that he’s extremely deft at handling, but with his words as well. When Nick wants to hurt someone, whether it’s physically or emotionally, he aims straight for the jugular. Even Alan is not safe from Nick’s wrath. And yet the brothers would do anything for each other. Their bond provides an interesting contrast to that of Jamie and Mae Crawford, the brother and sister who turn to Alan and Nick for aid after a demon marks Jamie. The Crawford siblings’ concern for each other is filled with more warmth and probably closer to what you would expect from siblings. With Alan and Nick, Alan is the one who is open with his affection; Nick’s way of showing you he might care is by saving your life or something like that. Although Nick is determined to find a way to save Alan after a demon marks him, too, he can’t grasp why Mae is sticking her neck out for Jamie, whom Nick doesn’t exactly deem save-worthy because he looks at just about everyone he meets with contempt.

I think the majority of your reaction to this book hinges on your opinion of Nick. He possesses a very, very smart mouth, which I didn’t mind because I love sarcastic fictional boys who don’t know when to keep their traps shut. The snarkier, the better! (Yeah, I’m weird like that.) What I didn’t like about Nick was his treatment of Alan, who basically raised him after their father was killed and who clearly loves Nick. When the Crawfords enter their lives, Nick is jealous of Alan’s sympathy for their situation, of Alan’s willingness to help them, and of how being around Mae seems to make Alan happy. I thought some of Nick’s actions were quite cruel, and my tolerance of him fluctuated with how odious his behavior was. The thing is, however, I can’t completely condemn Nick because there’s more to his callousness than simply being unable to muster empathy for anyone.

My main quibble with the book was that most of its secrets spilled out in one info cluster during the big showdown with the villain. I did appreciate Brennan poking a little fun at villain monologues with Nick’s quip to the bad guy about making sure that he revealed his weakness to Nick as he delivered his grand speech. I thought the twist that the story took at this point was clever, but I couldn’t help feeling that what was supposed to be a dramatic reveal came out in a bit of a rush. Still, this was a fascinating story, and by the end, I even wanted to read more about Nick. I’ll definitely be seeing this series through to the end of the trilogy.

All in All:

I loved Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, and while The Demon’s Lexicon didn’t quite measure up to that novel, this was a solid read. I will say that Nick isn’t the most lovable character, and there were times when I wanted to run him through with his sword. I will also say that I did derive some amusement from a fictional character irking me so much, so even as I was shaking my head over Nick’s latest offense, I was smiling a little, too.


  1. Great review, Lee. I've still got to read SRB but her writing - like you say - sounds solid. I love the idea of a goblins market and would love to see how she brings that to life.

    1. I really like her writing style, and the humor in her books just slays me!

  2. Another excellent & insightful review :D Though I had heard of SRB's Unspoken, I only discovered Demon's Lexicon a few weeks ago, so this is another book I was pumped to see you'd read and reviewed! I like how fresh the plot & magical elements sound...and I too share your affect for snarky boys so I can see this one being quite fun! Can't wait to check it out, thanks Lee!!

    1. Snarky fictional boys are the best! The Boy Scout-y ones have never really been my type. :D

  3. Hmm, love me a snarky smart ass boy. The info dump has me slightly put off but I think I'll be adding this one to the TBR regardless. Nicer review Lee!

    1. If you like the snarky lads, I also recommend Sherrilyn Kenyon's Chronicles of Nick series (yep, another sarcastic character named Nick), if you haven't read it. It's a YA spin-off of her adult paranormal romance Dark-Hunter books, which I also really like.


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