Saturday, June 19, 2010

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

Book: The Demon's Lexicon
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: 2009
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

Nick and his brother Alan have never spent the whole school year in one place. It's a hazard of being a target for every evil magician in England, who are chasing them in order to get a charm that keeps their mother alive. Nick's used to sudden magical attacks, pitched battles, and hitting the road as fast as they possibly can. In fact, he can barely remember anything else.

Then Mae and her brother Jamie come into their lives. Jamie's fallen prey to an incubus and needs help to escape death at its hands. Against Nick's better judgment, Alan insists on helping the pair. But the problem starts to look bigger and bigger the more they work at it. This is something more than a simple incubus event. There's something big underneath it all. Lies untangle, only to reveal more lies within, until Nick can't be sure of anything, even himself. But no matter what, he can always trust that Alan will be there for him.

Can't he?

I was partway through the book when I set it down, thought for a moment, and realized that Nick was basically a sociopath. Not in the serial-killer sense, but in the sense that other people simply don't matter to him. There is a good reason for this, but you don't find that out until the very end. There's only one person in the world that Nick truly loves, and that's Alan. Everyone else can go up in a puff of smoke as far as he's concerned, even his mother (although to be fair, she feels the same about him). This makes him a fascinating character, although fascinating =/= nice. In fact, that's a pretty good rule of thumb for characters period. You can have nice or you can have fascinating, but it's hard to do both. Ahem. Where was I?

The other thing about Nick is how he functions in terms of the plot. He's the viewpoint character, and while it takes awhile for you to realize it, he's What It's All About. While he seems to be a bystander, the narrative gradually pushes him more and more inward until the climax reveals that everything that's happened can be traced back to him and the secrets of his past. Brennan is marvelously good at sprinkling hints throughout the novel. There are all sorts of secrets revealed in the climax, and I kept flashing back to earlier events and going, "Oh! OH!"

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is "Supernatural," and this book reminded me forcibly of that show. A certain businesslike attitude toward the occult and heapin' helpings of brotherly snark and brotherly love create the appeal of both. There are other similarities that I can't get into without mega-spoilers, but this is perfect for fans of that show and anything else occult. I can't wait to go back to this world, but I'm a little glad that the next few books are going to be from Mae's point of view. Nick may be fascinating, but he's not the easiest person to spend an entire book with.


Audrey; (AyC) said...

I actually really love the series, even nick's emotional detachment gave it a twist, and the ultimate reveal was insane, haha :) will you read the sequel? it's excellent! good review!

Lisa said...

I just got notice that my copy of the sequel is in at the library!

Jenny said...

Hm, interesting idea about the nice/fascinating dichotomy. I think you can have characters who are both fascinating and kind - nice is a rather vague and harmless and limiting sort of word, isn't it?

*is now on quest for a nice and fascinating character*

Bibliovore said...

Audrey and Lisa: Oh, I'm totally reading the sequel! It just came in at the library for me too.

Jenny: good point about "nice." It's such a bland word. Let me know about the success of your quest for kind + fascinating!