[GUEST REVIEW] Rene Sears on Sarah Rees Brennan’s ‘The Demon Lexicon Trilogy’

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two brothers navigate a world full of demons and magicians hidden in present-day London and discover the truth about their past.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Funny; at times horrifying; plenty of fast-paced twists and turns.

CONS: Narrator of first book distant and cold.

BOTTOM LINE: A wonderful debut trilogy.


The final book of Sarah Rees Brennan’s Demon’s Lexicon YA trilogy (The Demon’s Lexicon, The Demon’s Covenant, The Demon’s Surrender) came out in June. It was one of my highly anticipated books of 2011. Sometimes reading such an anticipated book can feel a little fraught, especially if it’s the final book in a series. The questions loom. Will it live up to the previous books? Will the resolution be satisfying? In this case, the answer to both questions is yes.

Nick and Alan Ryves are on the run, and it’s been harder since their father died. Magicians have been sending demons after them, trying to retrieve the charm their mother stole. When Alan gets marked by a demon trying to help a neighborhood boy, Nick is furious and wants nothing to do with the boy, Jamie, or his sister Mae. As the brothers get further entangled with the siblings’ problems, Nick begins to suspect that Alan has been lying to him about their past.

The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy has an unusual structure; each book is narrated in close third person by a different character: The Demon’s Lexicon by Nick, The Demon’s Covenant by Mae, and The Demon’s Surrender by Sin, a dancer who summons demons at the Goblin Market. Nick’s point of view is emotionally distant (except for anger); he doesn’t understand why he should care about anyone except Alan, and some readers may feel disconnected from a protagonist who is, at times, an unrepentant jerk. Mae and Sin are, on the face of it, more sympathetic narrators. However, by the end of The Demon’s Lexicon, and certainly by the end of the trilogy, the reader can see what Nick cares about, perhaps better than he can himself.

While romance is a factor in the books, the trilogy is largely concerned with family, both that you’re born with and that you make. The Ryves brothers are the center of the books, with Jamie and Mae’s relationship, and that of Sin to her siblings, illuminating and reflecting that of Alan and Nick. Alan and Nick will do just about anything to protect each other, but their definitions of protection differ. Nick sees safety in isolation; Alan wants connections for Nick. Nick will hit just about anything with a sword; Alan is more subtle. He’ll lie to his brother to keep him safe if he has to, make deals with demons — anything.

The books deal with the nature of secrets and lies — who keeps what secrets from whom, and for what reasons. Alan is not the only one hiding things. Jamie has been keeping things from Mae as well, and Sin’s entire existence is layered with secrets. By changing narrators with each book, Brennan explores the truth, and the related question of the different faces each character presents to the world; not only with the primary characters, but also with the engaging cast of secondary characters.

Even when the books are at their grimmest, humor shines through the darkness, and several scenes were laugh-out-loud funny. The plot moves quickly, with twists aplenty. These are fun books, with enough questions beneath the surface to give them a satisfying depth.

Rene Sears is an editorial assistant at Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. She’s been reading genre since she started reading and lives in Alabama with her husband and son. You can find her on Twitter as @ReneSears or at renesears.livejournal.com

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