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!