Monday, March 16, 2009

Sarah Rees Brennan - The Demon's Lexicon (Book Review)

"The Demon's Lexicon" (Amazon: UK - paperback available for pre-order, US - hardcover)
Format: Paperback/Hardcover, 336 pages/336 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's/Margaret K. McElderry (June 2009)

SARAH REES BRENNAN is in a way connected with my first steps into the world of English language books. When I was 13 and couldn't wait for the next Harry Potter book to be translated, I bought the original, made my way through it (I remember being mystified by the word 'dunno' - I didn't understand half of the words, of course, but this one appeared most often) and almost immediately went fan fiction hunting on the Internet. It took me quite some time (2 years, I think) to discover that there are other books worth reading in English and that the realm of fanfic is one of the creepiest places possible, but when I finally did, I ditched fan fiction for good. Well, almost – there was one girl who wrote really good fan fiction and who I often envied her ability to make me fall off a chair laughing. The general opinion about her was that she should write real books because she was really good. So you can imagine I was pleasantly surprised when a friend of mine told me that she wrote a YA trilogy whose first part, "The Demon's Lexicon", is to be published in June 2009.

However, the book didn't really make a good first impression on me. I know the saying 'do not judge the book by its cover', but, as you can see in various posts all over the blogosphere, the cover is, in fact, a crucial factor when deciding whether to buy a book or not. I certainly wouldn't buy "The Demon's Lexicon" if I judged it by its US cover, because I find it totally unappealing. Everything, from fonts to colours and the pretty-boy, screams 'cheap pulp fiction'. Also, there is a slight spoiler on the back cover, which made me decide that I'll never read the summaries on the back cover again. Luckily, the UK version looks much better (I don't know about the spoiler, though).

The content of "The Demon's Lexicon" is another story altogether. Lately, every urban fantasy book seems to be either about vampires, angels or demons and wizards, and BRENNAN went for the latter type – which was a relief for me, since I've only had good experience with this one, but lots of bad ones with the vampire type. For all of those who like to compare books: I found "The Demon's Lexicon" a bit similar to the Barthimeus Trilogy, but that's really all I can say – there's too much of unique in "The Demon's Lexicon" to lead the comparison further.

---Everything Nick and Alan wish for is a normal life – but sadly, it's not very likely that they'll ever have one. Constantly moving from town to town in attempt to flee from their pursuers, watching over their crazed mother and battling against demons, they are anything but ordinary. Things get even more complicated when Alan's latest sympathy shows up on their doorstep, claiming that her brother has been marked by some kind of magic …

I found it nice that the main characters are neither 'innocent children' nor 'the good guys' – in fact, Nick is a cold-blooded killer at the age of 16 and Alan is just as dangerous, but not as emotionless. Nick is sometimes a bit naïve, as are Mae and Jamie, but that goes perfectly well with their age – after all, they are teenagers. Also, there is something in BRENNAN's style of writing that urges you to read on and on; the reader is warned about that on the back cover and in the foreword, but I dismissed that as a marketing gesture and was later proven wrong. I didn't read "The Demon's Lexicon" in one sitting, but it took me just one evening, which is close enough. What bothered me, though, was that the first two major plot twists were too predictable – not because they'd be really obvious, but because there were details throughout the whole story that gave the twists away. However, the third major twist was completely unexpected, so I guess that pretty much evens things out.

Overall, "The Demon's Lexicon" is a nice enough read. While I remember BRENNAN's fan fiction mostly for being full of humorous events, I can't exactly say the same for "The Demon's Lexicon" – it is a much more mature work where BRENNAN shows her real talent for storytelling and where tidbits of humour serve mostly to keep things lively and not too serious (although some of those attempts at humour don't really come out as funny); t's not the laughing out loud kind of humour, but more of a break in the tension. There are also (too) many clues throughout the story that partially give away the ending, but on overall, it's a great YA debut and I expect the next two installments to be even better.
P.S.: You can read the first chapter here.
~ Trin ~



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