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07 June 2009 @ 09:17 pm
The Demon's Lexicon, Sarah Rees Brennan

I want to say I loved this book unreservedly, because I like the word unreservedly, but I do have some reservations. So let us say I loved the book reservedly, with a sort of Susan Sto-Helit kind of love.

First, I think she picked a fascinating topic - basically, what makes a human human? Is it the body making demands on the brain (thinking: Lady Myria LeJean)? Is it environment? Is it upbringing? In fact, it brings a whole new facet to the nature versus nuture debate that I really appreciated.

Sadly (for me) I guessed pretty early on that Nick was the thing Black Arthur wanted. I am not usually very adept at these things, and the reason I was this time lay in the fact that 'ex-Harry Potter fanfiction writer!' kept the old seventh Horcrux debate fresh in my mind. Remember how we all had that pet theory that Harry was the Horcrux? Now, the two things aren't related at all, except for how I had a sneaking suspicion that Black Arthur's quest wasn't for a charmed magical object so much as a charmed magical person.

Ninety percent of the time, I felt the clues to Nick's identity were deftly woven into the narrative. I especially liked the way his anti-hero dyslexia turned out to be the biggest hint. The other ten percent, you ask? Well, I would have loved loved LOVED to see a few more flashbacks to Nick's childhood. The snippet about Olivia trying to drown Nick in a boiling bath was one of the best scenes in the book. Alternatively, I'm hoping we get Alan's POV in later books, because there is surely nothing more fascinating than this human child taking pity on a demon baby and trying to raise it 'right.'

I'm not sure how I feel about Jamie and Mae. I should have picked up that Jamie's wisecracking was at odds with his retiring, feeble character. I think he may turn out to be the most interesting of the lot, despite my enduring image of him - inspired by one description - in a lavender shirt and earring plus (my own addition) black sweatpants and white Nikes: the image of a scrubhead. Then again, he is from Exeter, the birthplace of chavdom. As for Mae ... I take it the next book is from her POV, which, yay! Because I really can't fathom her attraction to Nick, beyond pure superficiality. Maybe good looks as a defining character trait need to be played up more in a non-visual medium? I don't know, but I guess we'll find out in the second installment.

Black Arthur's plan gave me shivers. I kept thinking of Nick as his son, but of course his son was long dead. It was a creepy, creepy thought. Only one quibble: Black Arthur's name sounds like a cat's. An evil cat's, sure - maybe the one the baddie strokes in James Bond films; "I keep this human robot to speak for me and pet me, Bond ... which do you think is most important?' Maybe plain Arthur would have sold me. Or maybe I'm just being nitpicky.

It was keeping a secret from Nick that was different. He'd kept only one secret before: the letters he used to rise early for and collect from the postbox. Nick rose even earlier to cut them up, and eventually they stopped coming.

Oh, boy, I felt for Nick here. To do something so reprehensible speaks of a deep love, even if he was a demon who supposedly couldn't feel it. (I'm surprised Alan didn't just email Natasha, though. Maybe that would have been too easy for Nick to discover?)

Alan looked from Nick to Jamie's alarmed face and seemed a little sad, just like he had when they were young and teachers had told him that Nick didn't play well with others. Nick failed to see how it could keep coming as a surprise.

One of the subtly brilliant hints. I love how this could have worked if Nick were a) a demon b) a psychopath or c) just not a very nice kid. Deft!

who'd raised him, packed his school lunches, and used to sit on the edge of Nick's bed like a small, ferociously patient owl, waiting for him to fall asleep

This was my favourite description of Alan-the-owl. It ... kind of made me 'awwww'.

And these descriptions win at life:

The little room felt suddenly cold, frozen in its horrible cream and silver, like a wedding cake left in the freezer.

Nick stood braced as the train rattled through tunnels with a sound like bones shaking in a drum

I'm like YES! THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT TRAIN TRAVEL FEELS LIKE! Only far less lyrical, sadly.

It was dark and a little cold. He felt tired and chilled by everything that had happened today. He wanted to go home to Alan, eat cereal on the sofa, and sleep in his own bed.
That was what humans did, with the whole world laid out before them every day.

TOTALLY THE PINNACLE OF THE BOOK. I'm not sure I have the words to explain why Nick wanting his bed and realising he's neither human nor demon but both, simultaneously and apart, is so amazing. I'm really, really curious to see how this plays out for him and Alan in their future life. They seem to be pretty much free of the magicians' threat now that Gerald thinks Nick is dead/gone; they can have that 'normal' life. But can Nick both forgive Alan and come to terms with his own humanity? I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Oh, and I'm dumb as a bag of rocks, but. Wry is demon's lexicon? I don't remember there being any books of significance in this story.

I went to marmalade_fish to seek other reviews and, uh. Does it strike anyone else that posting fanfic there, where SRB is known to read, is the equivalent of going up to Ryan Ross and handing him a 'Ryden exists' sign? I.e., creepy.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope
The Bostonians, Henry James
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger
The Outsider, Albert Camus
The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot
The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope
Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans
Villette, Charlotte Bronte
The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
Cecilia, Fanny Burney
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
The Duke and I, Julia Quinn
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Bright Shiny Morning, James Frey
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
erica sue: do i dazzle you?ericaplease on June 7th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
Does it strike anyone else that posting fanfic there, where SRB is known to read, is the equivalent of going up to Ryan Ross and handing him a 'Ryden exists' sign? I.e., creepy.

ahahaha not really, since she used to write awesome Harry/Draco fic. or maybe i am depraved. :(
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fooish lanternscoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
lol I KNOW. But she's also said she doesn't care to read fanfic of her own work and ... idek, there's a difference between writing fic and writing fic where the source material can see it.
(no subject) - ericaplease on June 7th, 2009 08:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ericaplease on June 7th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ericaplease on June 7th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kessie on June 7th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - ericaplease on June 7th, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kessie on June 7th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - oceaxe on June 8th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: tattooscoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Aha, thanks for clearing that up! I didn't even think about it till the end and I was all 'HUH? WHAT LEXICON?'
Riakessie on June 7th, 2009 08:29 pm (UTC)
The Demon's Lexicon... well, I take it as Nick's vocabulary, or lack thereof. How words were so difficult for him, and how words and their use, both for Nick and everyone else, is such a central theme of the book. When I think of it in context, it's such a clever title and I am way jealous, lol.

I pretty much expect Sarah will just be... scrolling on by the fic and going 'la la la nothing here' etc., for her own legal safety at least, but maybe posting the fic somewhere else might be a good idea.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: halowrites: majestic catscoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's clever, and it went straight over my head. :D Never mind, nothing to see here! (Literally.)

It's only polite, if nothing else.
(no subject) - kessie on June 7th, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
wildestranger on June 7th, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
I loved that description of Alan as a ferocious little owl. Most memorable line in the book. :)

Also, Jamie as the Draco/Brendon character (in bandom, we know what lavender hoodies mean!). Am totally shipping Nick/Jamie.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: owlsscoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)

It's funny, I didn't get any vibes pairing-wise. Maybe because Nick was a feeling-less demon and it's from his POV, and the only one who has her head turned by his looks is Mae - not Nick or Alan.
(no subject) - wildestranger on June 7th, 2009 08:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - spinfrog on June 7th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Neeryneery on June 7th, 2009 08:45 pm (UTC)
I really like all those quotes. Will keep the book in mind for when I have a book-buying budget again.

Would you mind placing the list of previous books behind a cut? It's getting to be pretty long, and if you post it three times in a row, that's a fair bit of scrolling on the flist. ;)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Disney: Cinderellascoradh on June 7th, 2009 08:48 pm (UTC)
It's worth it.

I'll change the format so it's not a list. It's only because I'm behind in posting them that there's three at time (I am not actually that fast at reading).
(no subject) - neery on June 7th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC) (Expand)
screaming cardiac frenzy of berserk despair: spirited away // at seaacchikocchi on June 7th, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
Hm, I think an important difference is that marmalade_fish is a fan comm, created IIRC by fans. It would be different if there were people posting links to fic - "Look, read my story!" - in the comments of the author's own journal or an official setting, especially if she's said she doesn't care to read fic. But one of the points of (many, even most) fan comms is to share fan works and if the author herself happens to hang around there then that's her choice, I think? I mean, if one doesn't feel comfortable posting fic where the author might find it, that's totally understandable. But - unless there are legal issues involved - I don't think the fans have a particular responsibility to keep fic off "their" comm just because the author has been known to frequent it. Sort of like ellen_kushner and _riverside, or naominovik and temeraire_fans. I definitely understand the feelings of anyone who personally wouldn't want to post fic under those circumstances, though, eek. :)

To continue with your bandom analogy, as far as I see it's sort of like the difference between showing up with "Ryden Exists" signs and having band members hunt down your fic themselves. XD (Except that... it's real people so that's a lot more awkward if they find you and inappropriate if you approach them. D:) And this is all just my personal opinion, of course! :)
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: princessscoradh on June 8th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
I guess, it's a point. I just think it would be ... nicer, if there was one place SRB could browse easily, and another just for fic. It isn't like every other fandom doesn't have a least ten comms to its name!
jehnt: james mcavoy - love in an elevatorjehnt on June 7th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
Obviously I need to remember to go get this book. Sounds fun.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: singingscoradh on June 8th, 2009 04:44 pm (UTC)
That's exactly true! HI JAMES MCAVOY.
oceaxeoceaxe on June 8th, 2009 01:32 am (UTC)
I understand you having reservations about the book. I was about halfway through and fretting "Why am I not liking this more???" I didn't like Nick, couldn't imagine why Alan cared so much about him, and found Mae and Jamie irritating.

And then it got ___GOOD____. I'm not sure exactly when I started buying it... it could have been that part of my brain was disappointed that it wasn't Drop Dead Gorgeous. As soon as I reconciled myself to that, I think I was able to accept it on its own merits.

So, for my money, all my reservations evaporated as though they never existed, but I'm sure others work differently.

Although I saw some of the plot a mile away, I really never did foresee that Nick was a demon, which is surprising given how many hints there really are. But you're right, she handled it so deftly. It was easy to see him just as a borderline psychopath, badly scarred by a traumatic childhood.

I was shaking and my heart was racing as I finished it yesterday. Cannot wait to see how she develops the story and characters.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Twins playing keyboardscoradh on June 8th, 2009 04:46 pm (UTC)
Of course it is vital to remember that for me, 'liking something with reservations' is akin to someone else flailing with utter joy. I've reviewed nearly a hundred books since I started this post-y thing and they are usually rife with capslock and expressions of utter rage. I hate easily, but like cautiously. It's nothing to do with this book at all, really.
fat girl rules the world: Bella Thinksfatgirlrules on June 8th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC)
Sarah Rees Brennan is famous for her H/D, so I don't think she can get mad at anyone for slashing her characters. Knowing Sarah, she'd take it as a complement and an honor.

I liked the book, even if I figured out Nick was a demon the moment he vomited blood. The writing was great and I loved Nick. I can't decide whether I like him, but I loved him. My only real complaint was that I recognized several of her characters having very similar voices to her fan-fic voices. It's a small thing though, and no one who hadn't read all of her fanfic would probably notice.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: bandsscoradh on June 8th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
She can't and, I imagine, won't get mad, but the official stance of any author has to be that they don't read fic, so they can't be accused of 'stealing' ideas. It'll be hard for her to keep referencing MF the way she does if people pack it with fic.

Oh, that's undoubtedly true; Jamie is her Draco the same way Jade or whatever his name was is Cassie's Draco. It's not a huge problem; I guess it must be hard to let it all go. :D
(no subject) - fatgirlrules on June 8th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
sleepingfingers on June 8th, 2009 10:11 am (UTC)
I haven't read Lexicon yet because I'm out of the country, but I think I will soon when I get back. I wasn't all over the first chapter that Sarah posted, but knowing her, it will undoubtedly get better.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Pretty shoesscoradh on June 8th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
It's a bit of a slow-burner, but it's also short, so I didn't really notice.
winkingannie: Champloowinkingannie on June 20th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed the Demon's Lexicon. I was flabbergasted by the ending. Then realizing how many hints there were, felt foolish. Like you, I am unsure what Mae sees in Nick. "Ah, a total asshat, but he's cute! Must make out." Maybe demon's give off an unresistable allure? I can't wait to read the second book, Mae's pov should be interesting.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: anumberonme fainting couchscoradh on June 22nd, 2009 08:44 am (UTC)
lol! I was talking to my brother, who insisted on borrowing the book once I was done. I asked him what he thought; he said 'It was good.' I asked him if he figured out that Nick was a demon before the end, and he said, "No, but I wasn't really analysing it that much. I was just reading it." So - there's also that POV?

Maybe demons give off an unresistable allure?

I'd buy that!
JRevalangui on July 1st, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Actually, nop.
I remember her saying she would be deeply flattered by people writing fic about her books once. I don't think people should go and hide the fic somewhere else or anything, either, marmalade_fish is a fannish comm about her writing, just because people pointed it out to her that it existed it doesn't make it her property or anything (she mentions it often, sure, but I would think it's because she's aware by personal experience what good promotion fic and fanarts are) it's not the same thing at all that if someone commented to her own lj with fic.

I don't think it can be compared to RPF either, no matter how invested she's in her characters!

I like this review a lot, btw, so thanks :p
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Fooish girl in chainsscoradh on July 1st, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Actually, nop.
Oh, I never said to hide it (although I still think people are making it difficult for her to affiliate with m_f due to the inevitable legal constraints). I just think it would be more ... appropriate? to have it in a different place. Or a couple of different places, per ship or whatever.

Re: Actually, nop. - evalangui on July 1st, 2009 04:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Actually, nop. - scoradh on July 1st, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Me = rambling - evalangui on July 1st, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)