Monday, May 3, 2010

The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2009. ISBN-10: 1416963790; ISBN-13: 978-1416963790. 336 p.

Plot Summary
Demons are real--and 16-year-old Nick Ryves and his brother Alan have spent their lives on the run from them and the magicians who summon them. The demons are hunting the Ryves family to retrieve a charm their mother stole, one that keeps her alive. When a brother and sister come to them, asking for help to remove a demon's mark dooming one of them to death, Nick is reluctant to put his life in danger to help. Bug when Alan is also marked by a demon, Nick must kill one of the magicians who've been hunting them if he wants to save his brother.

Critical Evaluation
Nick, our protagonist, is disconcertingly emotionless at the beginning of the book, and speaking as a reader, it was off-putting. I could not understand why the author made the choice to have such a cold, distant narrator. But as the book progressed, and Nick's history and motivations became clear, the relationships between all the characters clicked into place. This book was a fascinating, engrossing look at what it means to be human and how the relationships we create on this earth are what really matters.

Reader’s Annotation
Nick and Alan have spent their lives fleeing from the demons and magicians who are tracking them. When Alan is marked by a demon, they must kill a magician to keep themselves safe.

Author Information
Sarah Rees Brennan grew up in Ireland, where her teachers did their best to make her fluent in the Irish language. Mostly, she chose to read books under her desk instead. Some of her favorites included Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Robin McKinley, and Diana Wynne Jones, and she still loves these authors today.

After college, she lived in New York for a while, but returned to the British Isles to work on a Creative Writing MA and work in a library in Surrey, England. She wrote The Demon's Lexicon while in Surrey, and has since made Ireland her permanent home base. Her website can be seen at, and she blogs at She has also guest posted for the author Justine Larbalestier (found here), and several interviews are also available online (such as here and here)


Curriculum Ties
English: mythology and folk tales

Booktalking Ideas
-Share the scene where Nick and Alan learn that Jamie and Mae (the brother-sister pair who come to them for help) need help because Jamie has a demon's mark. It's a good scene to introduce the sense of suspense that permeates the rest of the book.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9+

Challenge Issues
Magic and the occult. Any occult magic is as innocuous as in Harry Potter, but some parents still will have a problem with it.

Challenge Defense
Ask if the challenger has ever read the book. By the end of the book, there's an uplifting message about family and friends.

I included this book because it was nominated for a Cybil Award in 2010, and it looked interesting.


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