Before I even talk about these books, I just have to say that Sarah Rees Brennan is 1) Completely adorable and 2) so funny I almost peed my pants listening to her stories on the Smart Chicks tour stop in Jackson, Mississippi (yes, I drove seven hours round trip to be able to meet some authors. And yes, this happened to my windshield). You always have this idea in your head of what someone will be like when you meet them, and Sarah Rees Brennan was more hysterical and awesome than I could have ever imagined.
/end shameless fangirling
Now it’s time for a confession. I’m an idiot sometimes. We all are. But in this case, I was a real dummy. Back when Demon’s Lexicon came out, I half-heartedly read a couple of reviews and decided it wasn’t for me. To quote Julia Roberts, BIG mistake. Huge! (I kicked myself for weeks after I finally read it for being such a nincompoop). I almost didn’t buy it a second time when they redesigned the covers. Now, I like the new cover. I do. But I liked the old one better. And I like the British versions best. And the sequel, Demon’s Covenant, was even better than its predecessor. This review is going to contain spoilers (though they’re mostly pretty vague, I promise). I can’t not include them and still talk about the things I loved, so just be warned.
Demon’s Lexicon and Demon’s Covenant follow the Ryves brothers, Nick and Alan. The boys are in hiding, along with their mother, running from a set of wizards who supposedly want an amulet their mother stole. Only the wizards don’t want the amulet. They want something much more important. Along the way they meet Jamie and Mavis, siblings who stumbled across them when Jamie was marked by a demon. Together, they discover the wizards’ secrets and ultimately end up fighting back to keep what has been hidden safe. When these same wizards claim Jamie as one of their own, Nick promises to teach him to protect himself if Mae will help him seem more human.
I want (read: need) to talk about Nick first, because he pretty much made these books for me. I’ve said before that it’s difficult to make a villain complex enough to be interesting. Well, it’s even more difficult to make someone who seems on the surface like a villain into your hero. And I refuse to believe that Nick is not the hero of these books. The best thing about him is that loving him isn’t easy, for other characters or for the reader. You spend most of the first book wondering what’s wrong with him that he can be such a turd sandwich to everyone – to care so little. But you know there has to be more to it than that because he cares so much about Alan. You can’t help but like him anyway. He’s witty and smart and weirdly loyal underneath all of his being a seemingly cold and unfeeling stinker (and, ok, I can admit it: the scenes when Nick uses a sword are among my favorites. I have no shame).
As Demon’s Lexicon is Nick’s book, the frustration with him runs high until you find out who he really is. In Demon’s Covenant, it’s really interesting to see Nick through someone else’s eyes – especially someone who knows what he is and is drawn to him anyway. When I first read these books, I almost wished that Mae had told us the story of Demon’s Lexicon and Nick Covenant, because I wanted so badly to know how Nick thought of himself once he found out he was a demon. But the more I think about it, the more I think it was brilliant to snatch him away just when we want more. It’s good to filter him away from the reader, because seeing Nick from the outside tells us a lot more about the goodness he has than seeing him from the inside.
Nick is good. I feel the conflict in him, I do. I don’t know what that conflict is going to ultimately lead to or its cause, I just know that Nick is so much better than he or anyone else gives him credit for. He’s a jerk, straight up, but he’s a complicated jerk. You almost feel like he’s playing a part, and being with Mae as she watches him really hammered that home for me.
I loved the plots in both Lexicon and Covenant; the books were perfectly paced with a good mix of action and mystery and the perfect amount of supernatural to turn you on your head but still make things seem real. But really, what works so well with these books are the supporting characters that kind of orbit around Nick. I love that Mae is not shown to be perfect by any stretch. She’s insecure and kind of a know-it-all and certainly a bit bossy, but she’s also loyal and kind and relatable. Watching her struggle between how she reacts to Nick and how Alan wishes she reacted to him tugged on my heart. Her reactions with Nick in general had so much chemistry I was afraid my book was going to catch fire. It was amazing. Whenever the two of them were in a scene together, I was just as tense as I imagine they were.
Jamie. Dear lord Jamie. Every book with a serious lead like Nick needs someone who pops up on a page and makes you giggle, and Jamie almost never failed in that respect. Sin, when she pops up, is the kind of girl you can’t help but like even if she sometimes seems more serious than someone her age ought to be.
And then Alan. I liked Alan in the first book. But by the second book I wanted to punch him in the face, which is so odd. I said in my Chaos Walking reviews that I loved how Todd and Viola would screw the world to save each other, but I’m a hypocrite and that’s what I hate about Alan. Maybe because Alan comes across as a bit manipulative and kind of a liar. All the things that so-called evil Nick seems incapable of Alan does freely and without regret. He loves his brother, I don’t doubt that for a second. And even if I want to punch him and even if I hate him, I still like him too. Most of all, I love how unexpected his character’s growth has been. He has these moments where I want to cuddle him and tell him it’s gonna be ok, but then he does something that just makes me want to throttle him. Which is a good thing, because simple characters are boring.
Best of all is how these characters work together. Even at their worst moments, they’re a team (though maybe motley crew would be a better description? Only in the non cliché sense, obviously) and that, combines with the infinite amazingness of Nick, makes these books incredibly readable. The last book could be nothing but these characters sitting around a living room talking and hanging out, and I’d be happy reading that.
The final installment will be titled The Demon’s Surrender, and I need it in my life yesterday. I’m really interested to see how it plays out having the last book be from Sin’s perspective, as my reading tells me it will be.
To cap off this very long review, I have a reward for those of you who are still with me. It’s time for a giveaway! When I met Sarah Rees Brennan, I got a copy of Demon’s Lexicon and one of Demon’s Covenant signed, and one lucky winner will get both books. To enter, be from the US/Canada and leave a comment in this entry telling me which author you would most like to have lunch with. You get an additional entry for tweeting about the giveaway and another if you follow our twitter, though be sure to leave your twitter name in your comment! This giveaway will run until Monday (October 18, 2010) at Midnight, CST. Good luck!