Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

The Devil's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan

My primary thought after I finished reading The Devil's Lexicon was "Wow, that was awesome". Coupled with "And she managed to write more books about these characters? HOW?" This is a three-book trilogy (so far; the third came out in 2011, so I don't know if more are planned in the series or if that's actually the conclusion. The first book wrapped up in a satisfying manner and I didn't think it needed a sequel, though I'm certainly very interested to see what comes next.) I put the next two books on reserve immediately.

I read this book because the_gneech pointed me at Unspoken, by the same author, which isn't available from the library yet. I was sufficiently amused by Brennan's style in her guest blog post on Scalzi's site that I figured I would just get something else by her. GOOD CHOICE.

The Devil's Lexicon is young-adult supernatural urban fantasy, about sixteen year-old Nick and his older brother Alan, who have spent their whole lives being hunted by demons and the magicians that summon them. Alan and Nick have become pretty good demon-slayers as a result of much practice. Two other teenagers, Mae and Jamie, show up on their doorstep seeking occult help. Alan has a pre-existing crush on and Mae and agrees to help; Nick doesn't want to. This makes Nick seem pretty cold-hearted, although if one takes into account the whole "we never spend more than a couple of months in one place because demons attack us and then we have to run away again", it's also rather pragmatic. These guys are not in a great position to take care of themselves, never mind help someone else.

This is all a pretty typical supernatural urban fantasy set-up. What makes it great is primarily the PoV character, Nick, and his relationship with his brother and lack-of-relationship with practically anyone else. Nick reminded me of John Wayne Cleaver, the protagonist of I Am Not a Serial Killer, in that Nick has a sociopath-like lack of normal emotional responses and empathy, and a general sense of isolation from humanity. But where Cleaver has a genuine impulse to heroism, Nick does not. He is not the guy with the tough exterior concealing a heart of gold: he's pretty much the jerk that he looks like. You get to feeling sorry for Nick, because he has had a craptastic life, but that never excuses Nick because Alan has had the same craptastic life and is nonetheless a sweetheart. Anyway, there's quite a bit of neat interpersonal stuff leading up to and at the ending, which I thought was wonderfully executed. Part of the finale struck me as a bit too contrived, but overall I loved the story. 9 out of 10.

SPOILER ALERT (warning for those like me who've turned off cut-tags):

Until about halfway through the book, I kept thinking "Wow, Nick is a jerk". And then the group take a ferry to the Isle of Wight and Nick is so violently ill that he passes out, and my first thought is "... the author earlier established that demons have a lot of trouble with running water."* Then: "OK, so Nick is a big jerk for a human. For a demon, though, he's a pretty nice guy."

* I did not actually guess the big reveal correctly -- I suspected Nick was some kind of halfbreed between demon and human. In context of the rest of the novel, the actual explanation hung together better than my theory.

And I am down to just TWO BOOKS. D: The library did get another one in for me today, but for some reason my phone did not pick up the email notification. Huh. Anyway, it was raining after work today so tomorrow will be better for biking over to get it and any others that show up. And return the three I've read.
Tags: book review, books, review
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