Friday, September 25, 2009

REVIEW: The Demon's Lexicon

Rees Brennan, S. (2009). The Demon's Lexicon. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.
Teenage brothers Alan and Nick were dealing with a leaky pipe when an unkindness of ravens flew through the window to attack. The birds were possessed by a demon and controlled by a magician. The brothers have often had troubles like these since their mother was driven crazy and since their father's murder. But what's complicating this particular situation, is the fact that a brother and sister, named Jamie and Mae, from school happened to witness the attack and have their own magical problem that they need the brothers help with.
Mae and Jamie's demon problem becomes the brothers' as well and actually draws out the original reason Nick and Alan have been running across Great Britain for as long as they can remember. Twists abound as strong and angry Nick hunts a way to defeat those who hunt him even if his plans oppose his more sympathetic brother's methods.
On the cover of the book, there is a quote by YA author Scott Westerfeld which states "The Demon's Lexicon is full of shimmery marvels and bountiful thunder." Ummm. Bountiful thunder? Really? Now, I loves me some books my Scott Westerfeld. He's an excellent author. But, ah, I don't really know what he's saying here. I read The Demon's Lexicon...I'm paging through it again now. I don't see anything that I would call a "shimmery marvel" or a "bountiful thunder." I think I need some more information, Scott. Maybe with some language that isn't quite so pretty, but that actually means something. That's all I'm saying.
The Demon's Lexicon includes a lot of great humorous lines and excellent witty banter. The only think the book has more of than those is suspense. Oh the fantastic dramas! They never stop. As I began reading The Demon's Lexicon, I was strongly reminded of the TV show Supernatural: Two brothers, fighting the forces of evil, helping others at great personal risk, etc.
And as with several episodes of Supernatural, the Nick and Alan could be mistaken for a couple.
A teacher or literature circle leader could guide discussion about the rules Rees Brennan creates to construct the supernatural world, the occult, the mix of old and new culture and architecture in older cities, the experience of having to move often or having a deceased or insane parent, the consequences a parent's choices may have on their child's life, etc. Students could also discuss the ethical implications of making family members pay to be present with a loved one as their health declines.
A teacher could also pull out quotes from this book to demonstrate how to write snappy dialogue.
Quotes of Note:
"The pipe under the sink was leaking again. It wouldn't have been so bad, except that Nick kept his favorite sword under the sink" (p. 1).
"He hoped that their uninvited guests would be gone by the time he reached home. It shouldn't take long for Alan to tell them that there were magicians in the world who could call up demons and set them on people. That there were quite a lot of other things happening side by side with the normal world those idiots pretended they didn't fit into. They had probably just heard the warnings Alan had spread and convinced themselves they needed "occult help."
Chances were, after all, that whatever problem the pair had was imaginary. He turned the engine on. It roared to life, and he pulled away fast from the side of the river where the body was sinking.
Imaginary problems. Must be nice" (pp. 16-17).
"Do you remember Mrs. Gilman, our neighbor from three houses ago?" Alan asked. "She used to watch you practicing the sword with binoculars. I never told you. I'm sorry."
Nick laid his sword down on the draining board with a metallic clink.
"Why did you do it?"
"Well, Nicholas, she was over sixty. I thought you'd be a little disturbed" (p. 39).
"People die all over the world, and I doubt you lose sleep over them. What's so special about you? Why should I want to help you?" (p. 44).

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