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The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

It seems as though The Demon's Lexicon has been on my radar for ages now. I can't remember where I originally heard about it, but I've had a good feeling from early on, ever since I heard it was about two brothers who fought dark forces. What can I say? I'm a sucker for brothers. It's a relationship you don't often see done really well. Or not as often as you'd like. I really hoped this one was done well. As the reviews came rolling in, they all certainly seemed to indicate Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel was spectacular. I'm only sorry it's taken me so long to get around to it. I was happy to find it nominated for a Cybils award and looked forward to it coming up in my towering nightstand stack.
A note on covers: I've posted the UK cover here because I am just so in love with it. That is what Nick looks like. Dark and confused and angry, with the silhouette of ravens and the city behind him. Not like the model dude on the U.S. cover. Sunlit and glowing and coy, with lips so pursed he must kiss you or they will fall off.

Nick and his big brother Alan are on their own. It's been that way for years now and they've learned how to cope. Real well. With their crazy madwoman-in-the-attic mother in tow, they live a life on the run, moving from town to town, dumpy apartment to dumpy apartment, avoiding the darkness that haunts their footsteps. Together, Nick with his sword and Alan with his gun, they can handle anything the bloody magicians send their way. That is until kind-hearted Alan takes in a couple of strays in need of their particular brand of expertise and all hell breaks loose in their living room. Rather the opposite of kind-hearted himself, Nick is determined not to let any harm come to him or his brother just because quirky Mae's little brother Jamie got himself a demon mark. Or three. But Alan won't abandon them and Nick won't abandon Alan. So the four of them set off together, first stop--the Goblin Market--where magical folk gather periodically and where the Ryves boys hope to acquire the information they need to remove the demon marks and fend off the Circle of magicians hunting them and the demons they ride. The novel's opening lines:
The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink.
He rescued it, wiped the steel, and absently tested the edge with his thumb while water flowed out onto the kitchen floor. Once he'd laid it aside, he realized the knees of his jeans were already soaked through.
Alan brought Nick his toolbox.
"Care to lend a hand?" Nick inquired without much hope.
"No, I'm too busy cooking," Alan said. "You do the heavy lifting around here. I'm more the sensitive intellectual type."
Nick raised his eyebrows. "Oh, get in the kitchen and bake me a pie, woman."
He peered into the cupboard again. The pipes made an ominous gurgling sound, and the bottom of the cupboard became the site of the world's tiniest waterfall.
"I can be a sensitive intellectual type as well," he said at length. "If the other option is drowning under our sink."
"Save us all from a watery grave or cook your own dinner. It's entirely up to you."
It was a compelling point. Nick could cook his own dinner, but Alan actually worked at being a good cook. He made everything from scratch, and the sizzling sound of food hitting the pan and the sudden rich smell of frying vegetables made his argument for him.
Nick glared, which was effective when dealing with everyone but his brother. Then he took the knife out of his wrist sheath, laying it carefully alongside his sword, rolled up his sleeves, and got to work.
As you can see, right from the word go you get a tangible feel for who these boys are and the intense kind of relationship they have. This was key for me because, with every page that passed, it became clear that Sarah Rees Brennan had knocked it out of the park as far as Nick and Alan go. These boys are the real deal. They were so awesome I kept picturing them as comic book heroes, busting into a den of magicians, back to back, sword and gun ablaze. And while the characterization is stellar, the writing is a cut above as well. I was repeatedly caught delightfully unawares by a suddenly perfect turn of phrase. This tale is a particularly dark one and just when I felt I might be sucked down by a nasty undertow, an especially effective passage or an exquisitely potent scene between Nick and Alan would surface and carry me through. The world itself is as dark and twisty as an underground grotto and I happily immersed myself in its frightening intricacies. I could not put this book down. I was so scared for and so enamored by these characters that it was literally a race to the finish to find out if they would survive and still resemble themselves by the time all was said and done. Reading The Demon's Lexicon was an unbelievably satisfying experience. It exceeded all my expectations and I cannot wait for the sequel, The Demon's Covenant, to come out in May. Standing ovation, Ms. Brennan!

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Comments

  1. ooh. this looks fun. :)

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  2. TOTALLY agree with the cover thing. I don't need an Abercrombie model invading my reading experience.

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  3. "with lips so pursed he must kiss you or they will fall off" HAHAHAHAHA!!! Absolutely agree. Nick is way too edgy for that pretty boy cover.

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  4. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Oh Angie, I've been trying to decide whether to buy this one for ages. I decided to wait for the April paperback (because I don't like the US hardcover image), but all of these 2009 lists I've been reading have weakened me. Now your review! This one sounds so good.

    I finished reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher last night and that left me hungry for more dark, complicated YA so I started The Hunger Games this morning. The Demon's Lexicon sounds perfect for my mood which means I have a great excuse to buy it, right? ;)

    Karen

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  5. This one was fantastic wasn't it? I hate the US cover, too! I always take off the jacket when I read it. That boy on the front cover looks like he'll kill someone if his lip gloss isn't perfect. :P And I agree with you on the perfect turns of phrase! It seems like Sarah Rees Brennan gets it just right, all the tensions and emotions. Definitely a supernatural read :P

    --Sharry

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  6. Liza, you need this book. You need it bad.

    Dannie, what was up with that? Can we dial down the lips here? He's angry, not horny. *sigh*

    Michelle, exactly. I liked the texture on the talisman itself, but even that is not at all how I pictured it looking. Poor Nick. He deserved better than that...

    Karen, if you are in the mood for dark, complicated YA then this is the book for you! I'm glad I'm not the only one who was deterred by the cover. I actually gave mine away and I'm ordering the UK version from The Book Depository. They've got it for $9.49 right now. Because I love this book So Much and I want the UK cover for my keeper. Definitely let me know what you think when you finish it. And HUNGER GAMES! :)

    Sharry, absofreakinlutely fantastic! I love that you take off the jacket. That's hysterical. He's just too diva for words, let alone Nick.

    One of my favorite phrases was, "an unkindness of ravens" bursting into the room. Great stuff.

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  7. This one is on my TBR pile. It is so up my alley I'm actually afraid to read it. I have a *major* weakness for brother-bonds in film/tv/books, you see. Major. I want to love it. Which is why I'm hesitant to read it. Go ahead, slap a weirdo sticker on my forehead.

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  8. I think I'm the only one who didn't enjoy this one, but I'm starting to think it's me. I just don't enjoy cold narrators. Especially sexually callous ones. Liking Nick is essential to liking the book, and because I didn't like him most of the story plodded. As did the writing. "Palmed his knife" came up far too often.

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  9. I think this was my favorite review of this so far. And the US cover totally turned me off, but I've heard enough great things about it that I definitely want to check it out! Thanks!

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  10. thanks for linking to me! I did love this, so I'm glad you did too. I can't wait for the sequel and Nick is cold, but I loved reading about him and Alan is just awww. lol I want him to be MY brother or you know, marry me. Whatever. :-)

    -Lauren

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  11. I, too, was stunned by this book! I called it my surprisingly amazing book of the year. So excited for the sequel now!

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  12. Chelle, that doesn't sound weird to me at all. I know EXACTLY how you feel. It's so hard to plunge in and actually find out whether or not it's as good as you were hoping it would be. All I can say is I thought this one really was.

    Rhiannon, I'm sorry. I hate it when I feel like the only dissenting voice, like I'm somehow missing the boat. I agree liking Nick is essential for this one. He is very, very cold. Which doesn't normally work for me. But I was absolutely transfixed by his relationship with Alan. In all its messy, dysfunctional beauty. Given what we find out about Nick, I understood why he was the way he was and I couldn't hate him for it. But to each her own. :)

    Donna, aw, thanks! There are a lot of them out there now. And definitely don't let the cover deter you. It is NOT representative of what's inside. :)

    Lauren, LOL. I understand perfectly. The sequel cannot come fast enough. What in the world is going to happen to them all?

    Melissa, that's exactly what it was. Surprisingly amazing. Completely blew me away and I'm so happy about that.

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  13. What a great review, I'm glad you enjoyed this book! This has been one of my favorite books this year, I can't wait to read the next one!

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  14. I read The Demon's Lexicon a few months ago. I have to agree with you on the UK vs. US covers. The UK cover portray's Nick's looks and vibe so, so, so much better than the US one.

    Overall, I thought the story was very good and establishes a very compelling series. I admit, though, that I needed to put effort into staying 'in' the story as I read... especially the first third or so of the book. I don't know why exactly. I'm glad I stuck it out, though, because I enjoyed that latter part of the story very much and do plan on reading the sequel. I mean, after that ending, how could I not?!

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  15. I've read quite a few reviews on The Demon Lexicon but I think I enjoyed yours the best. I have this book, I want to go grab it off the shelf and start it now. Thanks for the terrific review.

    Happy New Year!

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  16. kay, I couldn't believe how excited I was upon closing LEXICON to find out there is another one on its way! YAY.

    Christine, I've heard that several times. And I understand. It's a very unique book and you have to get used to the world and its rules and, of course, Nick and how different he is from your average hero/protag/narrator. But, yeah, killer ending if ever there was.

    Donna, aw, thank you! How nice it's already on your shelf all ready and waiting for you. :) Happy New Year and happy reading!

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  17. I feel like the only dissenting voice, like I'm somehow missing the boat.

    Work from home India

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  18. kanishk, I hate that feeling. What about it wasn't your cup of tea?

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