Book Review: The Demon's Lexicon

Welcome to my actual post for Sarah Rees Brennan Week! In case you missed my abrupt Monday post, here's the gist.

The ladies of YA Bibliophile and The Reading Housewives of Indiana are co-hosting a week of celebratory blogging for cool beans author Sarah Rees Brennan and the release of her newest book, The Demon's Surrender. Yesterday marked the release of that third and final book in the Demon's Lexicon trilogy.

I AM SO EXCITED TO READ THIS LAST BOOK, GUYS. Sadly, I do not have it yet because Real Life is crazy right now, and I have to keep away temptation while I finish up the reading I'm in the middle of. BUT maybe this weekend, I'll reward myself with a book purchase.

You can check out my Monday intro post or click the image in the sidebar to find out more about Sarah Rees Brennan Week.

ONWARDS TO THE POST! I'm offering up a review of the 1st book in the trilogy, The Demon's Lexicon.

Do you like hot boys with knives?
Do you like sassy, fierce girls?
Do you like snarky banter and sibling relationships that'll break your heart?
Are you looking for a paranormal YA that's not all about the romance (but still gives a little)?

Then, you might want to check this book out. Also, if you like these boys who travel around the country hunting supernatural beasties...

Dean & Sam Winchester from Supernatural
You'll like Alan and Nick Ryves (though they look nothing like Dean or Sam, but they do remind me of them).

In fact, that was the sell my friend used when she recommended The Demon's Lexicon to me that long summertime ago. She said, "You should check out this book. It's about these two brothers who fight demons. It's kinda like Supernatural."

The School Library Journal review agrees: "Fans of the Supernatural television series will be hooked from 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.)"

Book Blurb (from goodreads): Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick's mother stole -- a charm that keeps her alive -- and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon's mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase...and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is desperate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians' Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon's Lexicon. Turn the page.

Review: Let me tell you how this book is not like a lot of the paranormal YA books out there. First, there's a hot, mysterious, dangerous "bad boy," but he's the one telling the story. The book is told in Nick's close-3rd-person POV. He meets a strong-willed "damsel in distress" named Mae, except she's not actually the one in distress; her brother is and she'll do anything to save him. In classic bad boy fashion, Nick is a total jerk to her, except he isn't a jerk to her because he secretly likes her / she's his "own personal brand of heroine" / she reminds him of someone he lost. No, he's a jerk to her because Nick couldn't care less about her plight; he's got big enough problems on his own. Really, the only person Nick cares about is his brother Alan.

One of the things I loved about this book and its sequel is that the strongest relationships are sibling relationships. Nick is cold and distant, but he is fiercely loyal and protective of Alan, and Alan is devoted to Nick, even when it affects his own happiness. Mae and Jamie have distant parents, and so they have always relied on each other.

Secondary to the sibling relationships are the forming friendships. It was fun to see the dynamics between the siblings change and adjust when they were all thrown together in similar dire straights.

It's a refreshing turn from the prominent focus on romantic relationships in a number of paranormal/urban fantasy YA books. Of course, I like a little romance in my books (and I mean, with young adults, someone's probably crushing on someone), but it's nice to see a spectrum of relationships. And don't worry, there's a bit of romance in this series - just not so much in the first book (especially since it's told from Nick's POV).

So Nick doesn't exactly sound like a likable protagonist, and I'll be honest, he isn't most of the time. He kind of scared me, but I think that's the point, and it's actually another interesting and great part of the book. It's uncomfortable to be in Nick's head, but it's also fascinating trying to figure him out. He is complicated and nuanced with moments of both utter callousness and a kind of desperate vulnerability. You feel his struggle to understand people and you want so badly to understand him (I mean, he has to be more than just this jerk if Alan loves him so much, right? - oh and I haven't even TOLD you about Alan yet), and then...

Then, Sarah Rees Brennan pulls something pretty awesome, and suddenly everything MAKES SENSE. I'm going to leave it at that. It was one of my favorite things about the book and I refuse to spoil it for you.

Oh and Alan Ryves. Nick's older brother. Sweet, clever, noble (and maybe not-so-noble) Alan, who turns out to be more layered than a cabbage. I love him, like a lot.

Some Notes: Some caveats, The Demon's Lexicon was SRB's debut. As such, there were moments in the scene pacing that felt odd to me. Like I think the transitions from scene to scene sometimes felt choppy. I also wish there was more world-building. There are some supernatural things that are painted with broad strokes that I wanted a little more explanation for. (I get my wish in Book 2 though.)

The biggest issue I can see though is the not-so-likable protagonist thing. It will bug some people enough that they don't like the book or are wary of reading the sequel. For me, it was okay. Yes, it was hard to connect to Nick and yes, it wasn't exactly rainbows to be in Nick's head, but it was interesting and the other characters were engaging and relatable. And the payoff at the end was worth it all for me because I thought it was brilliant and well done (because SRB set it up throughout).

Also, if you read the 1st book and you liked it but are kind of wary of jumping into Nick's head again, NEVER FEAR! Book 2, The Demon's Covenant, is told from someone else's POV. Yeah, that's another thing Sarah Rees Brennan isn't afraid of pulling, giant POV switch. Here's another heads up: Book 3, The Demon's Surrender is told from yet another character's POV.

So, I liked Book 1, but I LOVED Book 2. A large part of it is because the new POV is easier to relate to, and I liked seeing what Alan and Nick's relationship looked like from the outside. Plus, SRB amps up the tension and emotion.

But more on The Demon's Covenant on Friday when I post up a review for that! See you then!

Have you read anything by Sarah Rees Brennan? What did you think?

Want a sample before you buy? You can read the first chapter of The Demon's Lexicon at SRB's site.

Be sure to check out both YA Bibliophile and the Reading Housewives to see what fun stuff they have going on today and to find out who else in the blogosphere is squeeing about the series!


Sophia Chang said...

Ohhh this is the book you wrote me about in the ye olde times of our friendship beginnings. Yup, like before I skimmed the review and will save it for after I finish the book. lol

Lori M. Lee said...

I really loved Nick's pov. I was disappointed when I learned book 2 wouldn't be from his pov lol. But I did enjoy Mae's pov b/c as you said, she was much easier to relate to. And what I wouldn't have given for a book in Jamie's pov!

Alan... omg Alan. Both brothers are just so amazing and tragic and... amazing. Yes. I'm so articulate today, I tell you lol.

Krispy said...

SOPHIA- Just read it already! :) This review is probably less spoilery than the email I sent you though.

LORI- I know! I would've LOVED a book from Jamie's POV! Nick's POV took some getting used to for me, but I ended up thinking it was a great decision. But I really liked the outside POV in Book 2 just because I like seeing the brothers from the outside.

And don't worry! The Ryves brothers make me all flaily and inarticulate too. I LOVE THEM.

Danyelle L. said...

I haven't read these books yet, but they sound awesome. Love your introduction--who couldn't love characters with knives? >:)

Lydia Kang said...

Okay, I need to read more. I keep stopping by your blog only to find out about yet another book I haven't read!

Connie Keller said...

Okay, time for me to read these books. Thanks for the recommendations.

Jolene Perry said...

I love books with good sibling relationships - I don't think any other kind of relationship allows for the really snarky banter of siblings. Nice review :D

Anonymous said...

I agree...the sibling relationships are wonderful, so devoted to each other.

vic caswell said...

ohman! this sounds SO GOOD!!! i love supernatural, so... man. added to the list!

Jacinda (The Reading Housewives) said...

I've seen one episode of Supernatural and I soooo know what you mean! I never even thought of that! Great review! :)

Anonymous said...

I am going to have to check out these books. i am such a 'Supernatural' obsessive fan - that it sounds like my kind of thing. :)

Trisha said...

Thanks for the review...anything that inspires a comparison with Supernatural has me at hello!! Added to my TBR :)