Friday, November 16, 2012

What We're Reading: Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon’s Lexicon
by Sarah Rees Brennan
322 pages
Three-book series
(this is book one--the other books are The Demon's Covenant and The Demon's Surrender)
High school, grade 9 and up
Reviewed by

Nick and Alan are brothers united by tragedy, filial love, and a sense of duty to fight and destroy the demons and magicians who murdered their father and who continue to pursue them and their mother from town to villlage to London itself.To hide from demonic search parties, Nick adopts the demeanor of the tough outsider who disparages school and knows something about auto engines--and swords, when necessary. Alan is the limping, red-haired, bespectacled scholar, translater of arcane languages, and occasional bookstore employee, protector of his dark, powerful, but emotionally withdrawn younger brother, and keeper of their equally dark, brooding mother.She guards a mysterious talisman that a sinister magician seeks, but she also harbors an abiding fear of Nick.When a local brother and sister arrive on Nick and Alan’s doorstep seeking help to remove the strange marks that the brother, Jamie, has received from demonic forces, the two brothers reluctantly agree to help them.First stop, the Goblin Market,where Alan chooses to “carry” one of the demonic marks Jamie was given and Nick performs a ritual dance to call on his own familiar demons for help and answers.

But in short order, more dire problems are revealed, not the least being a relationship Alan has been hiding from Nick; and why is Alan lying to Nick, his closeset companion? And if Alan is lying about their relationship,the only close relationship Nick has ever experienced, what does this make Nick? Is he the cold,violent monster he has always thought he was?
There are any number of books published about demons and demonic possesion, evil magicians and their machinations, and romancing the “dark side,” but this book centers on the point of view of a particularly troubled young man and his empty inner life rather than a yearning young woman and her empty heart. Nick is a teen who truly doesn’t understand the forces that have been working on him all his life: He doesn’t understand his mother’s pathological avoidance of him, he doesn’t understand why he can’t read the feelings of the people around him, and--except for his brother Alan--he doesn’t understand why he can’t even care about others. He doesn’t know why the talisman his mother holds is more valuable than building a stable life, and he doesn’t comprehend making a loving sacrifice for one’s family. Does being pushed around by the demands of magical forces preclude the idea of free will? Can loyalty trump destiny? Can love be learned? These questions are partially answered in this first book of a trilogy, and I’m intrigued enough to want to know the outcome. Yes, I liked this book!

Rating: 3.75--The writing is better than average, and the story provides a slightly different twist to a familiar theme.

Cover: I’ve seen better, I’ve seen worse. The hardcover version shows Nick full-face, while the paperback version shows a full-figure representation of him.

In addition to this trilogy, Sarah Rees Brennan is the author of Team Human, co-writing with Justine Larbalestier. Her new book is Unspoken, a romantic Gothic mystery about a girl who discovers that her imaginary friend is actually a real boy. Unspoken was just nominated for Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013 by ALA/YALSA. Sarah writes from Ireland, but likes to travel the world collecting inspiration.

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