The Demon’s Lexicon

The Demon's Lexicon (The Demon's Lexicon Trilogy, #1) - Sarah Rees Brennan

So I tried to catch up on ‘Geek and Sundry’ instead of attempting to write a single review as I had planned to do. Luckily, I need the pressure of someone actually wanting to hear my thoughts on a book. Thanks Sam and Kerry for providing that. :) So, here are my unedited ramblings that deal less with The Demon’s Lexicon and more with my current troubles enjoying this particular kind of books.

I’m sure that most everyone will like The Demon’s Lexicon. Really like it. Unspoken was a refreshingly entertaining read and it’s evident that Sarah Rees Brennan’s charmingly snarky style was not invented for that book only. While the narrator’s voice in The Demon’s Lexicon is not identical with the one of Unspoken, the humour is similar if a little bit darker.

So, why did I only give a meagre rating of three stars to The Demon’s Lexicon when the novel so obviously delivers what I like and so easily avoids the pitfalls I learned to dread in books marketed to a young adult audience? I can only conclude that it’s me, not the book. I must have reached a point of saturation with this kind of paranormal YA adventure. Looking back at the first books I read on my extended YA spree, I wonder whether they REALLY deserve the high ratings I handed out; the same question applies to the first fantasy novels I read. Back then, these books were something refreshingly different from what I’d read before (classic or high-brow literature at university before embarking on all things sci-fi and fantasy and genre fiction and more classic scientific fiction before starting with paranormal YA in September 2012). After a while I noticed (and got bored with) the recurring patterns and tropes. And some examples plainly annoyed me. I thought them to be insulting, insulting my and the targeted readership’s intelligence, insulting to women’s empowerment, insulting to classic literature (why is every whiny heroine’s favourite book Wuthering Heights? I stand by my claim that Bella and co grossly misinterpret the book’s intention and meaning); I disliked the way they moulded images of perfect heroines who acted and thought in a way that I found downright wrong – and I’m usually of the “live and let live” persuasion, too!

These days I enter a book targeted at a YA audience with a lot of (unjustified, I admit) expectations, assumptions, and apprehensions. Will it turn out as awful as this one? Will the turn of events be totally unsurprising and underwhelming? Will I be bored to tears with monologues steaming with teenage angst and centring on multiple love interests? Will plot holes be resolved with a handy deus-ex-machina device`? Will it end on a forced and idiotic cliffhanger?

As you can see, I’m pretty prejudiced and I wish I could go back to simply getting sucked into a story and enjoying it instead of constantly thinking about the ways in which the book I’m reading might disappoint me.

The obvious solution is to take a break from the genre (that doesn’t seem the right term here, but what the hell) I have been overindulging in for almost a year now. It will be hard because most of the books still look and sound so enticing, but it has to be done. I can’t keep reading these books and not fully enjoy them. It’s not fair.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with The Demon’s Lexicon. It’s entertaining and attention-grabbing. The tone is refreshing. The two main characters, Nick and Alan, present an enchanting variation from the usual routine. The mother figure is sufficiently creepy (another one for my mad-mother tag, if I ever start to use it). While I wasn’t too fond of secondary character Mae, a strong and caring female intruder, (do I have a problem with female protagonists in YA literature in general?! I’ll ponder this for a while instead of freaking out at the advanced stage of my hypocrisy right away…), I found Jamie, Mae’s younger brother, absolutely adorable.

The hinted at love story between Alan and some mystery girl made possible a nice twist in the story. Speaking of romance: the biggest bonus for me was that The Demon’s Lexicon was so ultra-light on it. Yes, there’s a little bit of unfulfilled/unrequited romantic interest going on, but it’s pretty inconsequential and does not highjack the entire story line.

It’s a book about family, trust and distrust, secrets, the question of nature versus nurture, responsibility and love – with magic! And evil magicians and demons chasing the heroes, who attempt to turn the tables and hunt the magicians instead but struggle because they are also keeping secrets from each other. The plot is designed in a way that keeps the reader wondering why exactly Nick and Alan and their mother are targeted by this group of magicians specifically and what exactly the magicians’ leader, Black Arthur (*coughs*), is trying to get back from them.
And if you, like me, think about it too much instead of letting the well-told tale sweep you along, you’ll figure this out before it’s revealed by the narrator and then you’ll be, well, not disappointed exactly but – not as thrilled as you could have been.

So, yes, read The Demon’s Lexicon. Don’t think too much. Don’t overanalyse like I did. Just enjoy. It’s not a race to see who will put the clues together and come to the right conclusion first. It’s all about taking pleasure in reading. I seem to have to re-learn this simple truth that used to come so naturally to me before.