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Book Review: The Demon’s Lexicon

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This is a review of The Demon’s Lexicon, the first book in a trilogy of urban fantasy novels from debut author Sarah Rees Brennan.

I first encountered Sarah Rees Brennan on her blog, which is located on LiveJournal under username “sarahtales” (one word, no underscore). This blog is an absolute must-read. It’s a collection of hilarious stories from Sarah’s day-to-day life, as well as book reviews and movie parodies. Back when Sarah was better known as Maya, a prolific Harry Potter fan fiction writer, this was where all of her stories were posted. Sadly, in an unusually cruel cyberattack, all of Sarah’s blog was deleted one week prior to the release of The Demon’s Lexicon on June 2, along with all of her personal and business emails. It is a testament to the respect and love Sarah has earned as a blogger that within a day of the attack, several of her loyal readers had managed to recover seven years’ worth of posts from Google’s cache, and Sarah’s blog has mostly been restored to its former glory.

But back to the main topic of this review – The Demon’s Lexicon. This young adult urban fantasy novel centers on two teenage brothers, Nick and Alan, who live in modern-day London. In Nick and Alan’s world, there is no such thing as good magic. Magicians crave power, and they’ll do anything and hurt anyone to get more of it. The two brothers, along with their mother, a former magician who has gone mad, have been on the run from magicians their whole lives. And as if they don’t have enough on their plates trying to avoid being captured and thrown to the demons, siblings Mae and Jamie show up at Alan and Nick’s house, knowing nothing of the magical world and in desperate need of their help. Meanwhile, Nick discovers that Alan has been keeping secrets, and he wants to find out why his brother is lying to him. The book is a roller coaster to the finish, with magicians, demons, plot twists galore, and an ending that will quite possibly literally blow your mind.

I think it might rankle fantasy enthusiasts if I were to compare this book to the Harry Potter series, but I’m pretty sure that such comparisons are inevitable: both books are about magic, both are set in England, and both are intended for younger readers but have universal appeal. However, the Demon’s Lexicon is a much darker novel, especially since sixteen-year-old Nick, from whose viewpoint the first book is told, is kind of a scary character: he rarely speaks, he doesn’t seem to have any empathy or even any emotion whatsoever (well, besides anger), and he could care less about the well-being of anyone besides himself and his brother. Alan, a geeky, sweet, and extremely intelligent nineteen-year-old, is a nice counterpoint to Nick’s gloom and doom, but then both brothers are hardened killers who as a rule have at least three weapons on them at all times – so on the whole, I’d say the novel is pretty dark. The author has a fantastic sense of humor, though, and she manages to make you laugh even as the characters’ situation becomes progressively more dire.

Mae and Jamie, the sister and brother who come to Nick and Alan for help when Jamie is marked by a demon, are sort of the Harry and Hermione of this book. They’ve never heard of magicians and demons before and have to figure things out quickly when they’re thrust into this new world. Jamie is a wonderful character, a quirky sixteen-year-old who continually spouts hilarious one-liners, despite (or perhaps due to) being in mortal danger. Sample Jamie dialogue: “Do demons have disco fever?” We don’t get too much insight into Jamie’s seventeen-year-old sister Mae, beyond learning she has pink hair, she will do anything to help her little brother, and both Nick and Alan have a thing for her. I’m hopeful we’ll learn much more about both of these siblings in the next book, The Demon’s Covenant, coming June 2010.

I’ve left a lot of the details out of this review, because the fun of this book is in the journey. See if you can guess any of the tricks Sarah Rees Brennan has up her sleeve, but trust me when I say she will surprise you. You can buy The Demon’s Lexicon in stores today or online. If you’d like to read the first chapter before buying, you can go to Sarah’s website at www.sarahreesbrennan.com. For fans of The Demon’s Lexicon make sure to check out the fan community on LiveJournal (warning: there are spoilers).

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