Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Demon's Lexi-Yawn

[Please forgive the horrid, horrid pun.]

So, I tend to avoid book reviews, mostly because I always feel awkward writing them, but since it's not like I have any great nuggets of wisdom about writing to share, and since my life is about as exciting as watching slime mold grow (no offense, George), I figured I might as well try my hand at the reviewing thing again.


The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan, is a book with what I thought was a fantastic premise--teenage brothers living with their erratic mother and being hunted by evil magicians, the older brother gets a demon's mark that is basically a death sentence, suddenly it turns out there are a whole lot of secrets the younger brother doesn't know. I'm not the best summarizer, and I didn't actually finish the book (which I'll explain in a minute), but that's the basic gist.

I discovered this book through a bad review. Sadly, I don't remember who reviewed it or where, but I recall the book being described as "badly disguised Harry Potter fanfic with a Supernatural bent" or something of the like. (Incidentally, this same review finally pushed me into watching the show Supernatural, and I love it to bits.) But, this reviewer also described the book's premise in an extremely intriguing way, and so I thought--might as well give it a try, right? So, off to the library website to put it on hold.

Fast forward to a week or so later, and a much-anticipated reading.

Let me say something: at this point, I had already seen, I think, the entire first season of Supernatural. Like I said, I loved it. I like urban fantasy. But, this book kind of crystallized something for me: I freaking HATE swords in urban fantasy. Hate them. Loathe them. Despise them with the fiery passion of a billion frozen stars, or some other somewhat mixed metaphor thing. (With the much-deserved exception of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, which is pure awesomeness distilled into book format, but the magic in that world isn't a hidden thing, and it makes sense to carry a sword, 'cause you can use a sword even when the magic makes your opponent's gun unusable...)

So, when the book opened with,

"The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn't have been so bad, except Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink,"

I was immediately put off. Swords are tacky, I think, in urban fantasy. They just are. They totally don't fit with the modern world. Some worlds, they're acceptable; for me, in most urban fantasy I've seen, they're just... y'know... tacky.

So, already unimpressed, I read on. And discover: this kid is a freaking jerk. That's the only way I can describe him. Nick in a word: a jerk. A big, fat, completely self-centered jerk. Oh, I'm so depressed, my life sucks because I'm chased by magicians, everyone else is a stupid idiot if they think they have occult problems because I have REAL occult problems. The brat has no empathy for other people. He doesn't care. Completely egocentric and misanthropic and--I think I got almost 100 pages in before deciding I wasn't going to keep spending time with this kid. No way. I get enough of jerks in real life; I don't want them in the books I read, too.

To be fair, he's a teenager. And he kind of does have a point. It's the attitude, though. You can tell, this is a guy who really doesn't give a crap about other people, except maybe his brother. I find it hard to sympathize with someone who hates people. (Somewhat ironic, considering who's talking here, but my I-hate-people phases are always short-lived and always directed strictly at jerks and mean idiots and mean idiotic jerks, so I'm going to pretend I'm not actually being a hypocrite here.) One of the things I love most about Supernatural is, the main characters care about people. They want to help. That's what sells it, for me (that, and the, y'know, paranormal craziness that is the selling point of the show, but that is completely beside the point).

So, I'm not sure if I can technically call this a book review, considering this is one of the few books I've never finished. (Actually, I find that as I get older, I'm more inclined to just stop reading a book if it bores or angers me in some way. Case in point.) I'm not saying the book itself is bad, because I didn't read enough of it to tell. (Although, a kid going up against a flock of murderous birds with a sword is a little dumb in my opinion, but considering my bias against swords...) Definitely, Brennan's got a great handle on Nick's voice. All jerk, all the time. Probably perfectly realistic, too (re: teenager). Which is exactly why I couldn't handle reading further.

I put up a valiant fight, too. Kept telling myself, just one more page. One more page of jerkface. One... more... and then the exciting part of the plot will pop up and it won't matter how much of a jerk the POV character is, because PLOT! And SECRETS! But... obviously, did not work out.

Conclusion: The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan. A potentially awesome book that simply didn't work for me.


  1. lol, I wonder if you read my review on Amazon. It went like this: I've enjoyed other YA fantasy novels, such as Harry Potter and Garth Nix's novels and I was hoping for more of the same. This novel is no where near that talented. The world building is weak and seems to piggy-back off of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world, except with much less depth.

    And so on and so forth. You get the idea that I didn't care for it.

    It turns out Brennan did in fact write Harry Potter fanfiction, which is why the book reads like it.

  2. Hi! I'm a fan of The Demon's Lexicon but I think your review/opinion is totally fair and cool, and actually kinda fascinating. Part of me is like, I can't help but wonder whether you would change your mind if you had managed to stick it out to the end when spoiler spoiler spoiler happens, but obviously no one should continue reading something they don't like, and yeah, it's just really interesting to me to see a different reaction, especially one that while I don't share I can very much understand. Most people I've encountered either only write about books they like or when they dislike something attack it in a slightly OTT or harsh manner, so it's cool to see you criticise it so fairly! Nick is a jerk. A massive jerk. And he really doesn't care about people at all.

    Also, a bit of me is like, "maybe you would prefer the sequels!" which are not told from Nick's point of view and have much less Nick in them - did you like any of the other characters? But on the other hand, I don't want to be that fan that's all "oh you'll change your mind if you read all the canon so your opinion doesn't count!" Because obviously it does count. So... Thanks for sharing it :)

    Oh, and I agree with you about swords in urban fantasy.

  3. I totally see your point about Nick, and I understand it. The funny thing is though, is that if you had finished the book you would have found out why Nick is such a jerk and it all would have made sense. Really, your description of him is spot on, and he is that way for a perfectly valid reason. It's just really funny reading this review having read the book, since it's almost ironic the way you're describing him having not finished the book. (Sorry for the very round about comment, I'm trying to avoid posting spoilers)

  4. You're entitled to your opinion, but I wish you'd finished the book because a) it gets better and b) you find out why exactly Nick is such an enormous jerk and trust me, it's a good reason, better than omgteenageangst. At the very least, read some spoilers about the climax and ending. Also, the second book is much, much better and it's in Mae's POV, so more of a human voice and lots of empathy, if you want to give it a shot.

  5. It seems the biggest reason you hated this book was because of Nick's lack of care and empathy toward others. Perhaps you should have finished the book before posting this review. If you had, you would have realized that this "personality flaw" in Nick was a *huge* plot point in the story.

  6. Hey! I understand and appreciate your review, although I will tell you one thing- Nick is supposed to be an unreliable sociopathic narrator. He's supposed to be a jerk. It makes more sense toward the end of the story, but it's very clear in the next books (which are in different POVs) that every other character in the universe (except maybe Alan) completely agrees with your assessment of Nick.

    That said, I'm not telling you you should keep reading or read the next books! And I'm not trying to correct you. Just letting you know!

  7. Finish the book, seriously the ending more than makes up for Nicks jerkiness. I promise.

  8. finish the book, than you have the right to sook about it.

  9. :D You should finish the book. The jerkiness is explained :) And it's kinda awesome :)