“The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except that Nick kept his sword under the sink.” How could you not pick up a book that starts like that?
The book in question is Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, which occupies a special place in my library, right next to Lorna Doone by Richard Blackmore. The connection is a solely personal one, but they are the only two novels I’ve read that mention Tiverton, a small town in England, where I grew up.
Admittedly, that’s not why I grabbed Demon’s Lexicon as soon as I could, which is significantly more fun to read than Lorna Doone. I got hooked on Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog when friends who were into the Harry Potter fandom recommended it to me. This is what I learned from her wonderful “stumbling towards publication” posts:
Step 1. Have crazy adventures throughout England and Ireland.
Step 2. Accost people, including mechanics, roommates and literary agents, wide-eyed, with an adorable Irish accent while hideously sleep deprived.
Step 3. Gather a group of amazing YA fantasy authors together in an Irish castle and frolic.
I was hugely excited to get her first book, the beginning of a trilogy, which came out on June 2nd. In retrospect I didn’t actually stop to learn details of the book I was hyping to all my friends. Things I knew before from her blog: There was a sixteen-year-old boy named Nick and his older brother Alan; Nick worked as a mechanic; there were demons; also possibly magicians. When I finally got my hands on it, I was a little leery of the very bright cover. The emo-hair, the pout and the obviously magic necklace didn’t give me confidence. Neither that, nor the back cover copy which is equally dramatic, gives the slightest sense of how very charming and sympathetic these very screwed-up characters can be. Brennan has now posted the cover art from each country as she receives it and I significantly prefer almost every other design.
From the beginning I fell madly in love—not with either brother individually, but with Nick and Alan as a team. Their relationship is the strongest part of the book and Brennan, obviously working to her strengths here, weaves it into the plot incredibly neatly. The book jumps straight into the conflict, so the characters and their relationships become obvious—painfully so in some situations—in a hurry. While I was distracted by the action I almost accidentally formed a great picture of this highly dysfunctional duo and their insane mother.
Brennan’s very first lines start to build a world that catches you off guard, almost indistinguishable from ours except that certain people know demons exist. The demons are so desperate to leave their plane of existence and enter ours that they’ll seduce, possess and destroy humans in the process. There are also magicians who use and abuse the demons—sacrificing people along the way—and innocent bystanders who often get caught in the fray. In the first group are Alan and Nick, their crazy mother who screams if Nick comes near her and an entire Goblin Market support-network of magician haters. In the latter category fall Mae and Jamie, a girl Alan has his eye on and her recently demon-marked brother, among others.
But now I’m about to enter the realm of spoilers. So if you haven’t read it and don’t like spoilers, stop here and go get it! I can sum the rest of the review up very briefly: if you like urban fantasy at all, if you like smart, funny writing and really good twists, you will like this.
[If you don’t like these things, I might blink stupidly in your direction.]