anime - amatsuki - smile - summer

The Demon's Lexicon - thoughts

So I finally got around to The Demon's Lexicon.

First: fanart of Nick can be found here (scroll down) and here

In a nutshell: it didn't work for me.

I know a lot of people adore the book to pieces so please skip this post if that's the case for you.

I'd been looking forward to Brennan's original fiction ever since the announcement was first made for the novel. Ended up entering several giveaways for the advanced readers copies, to no avail. In the end I went to Barnes & Noble on the release date and bought the book. Stopped reading The Greenstone Grail and started on The Demon's Lexicon.

A chapter in and I was still waiting for the story to take flight. Another chapter and I stopped reading and went back to Hemingway's book. Didn't have a lot of time so it took me a while to get back to the novel.

The Demon's Lexicon seemed to lack a key element present in my favorite fanfiction by the author: the humor. Or at least the attempts with it kept falling flat for me.

Maybe it was 'cause I never really warmed up to most of the secondary characters and Nathan had a certain inability to feel than left me at a distance from the start itself. I felt pissed of and ready to hit Alan for his behaviour but I couldn't really feel sympathy and warmth for Nick. He was hard to get close to and empathise with.

Jamie, the one character I liked, also got the least amount of time in the book. Couldn't stand Mae whose personality - and romance!side-plot - actually pissed me off half the time and got in the way of the sibling bond between Nick and Alan, which should have been the story's best bit. I'm a sucker for sibling relationships (FullMetal Alchemist is evidence of that). And then there was Alan, whose behaviour would have had me giving up if not for hope that at some point the story would all improve in some way. And in a way it did. The climax of the book was interesting and kept me reading on with interest.

And yet...I'd figured out Nick had to be at least part demon within a few chapters. There were so many issues with Alan and Nick's relationship, with Nick's emotionless reactions, with the way Alan would constantly observe and watch Nick - almost like an experiment of sorts - and the way the older brother lied so glibly made me realise that Nick's whole life was probably a lie long before the final chapters. I never warmed up to Alan either who was supposed to be charming but we didn't really see so very much of it in action apart from Mae and Jamie who were only around in the first place 'cause of the demon problem.

I don't know, maybe it was due to watching/reading Naruto so many times and remembering Gaara (who would outstare Nick any given day IMO) or getting used to figuring out Supernatural's plot twists with each episode or just coming from starting the Sangreal Trilogy which was easier to read than The Demon's Lexicon but also needed more reading between the lines. It just felt like all the hints were ANVIL sized and I remember going at one point, "come on, running water? Collapsing in a boat?"

Couldn't help remembering ladyjaida's novel HaveMercy and how I'd paused to reread paragraphs because the writing style was just so lush. While I didn't fall in love with the characters there- in fact,there was one main character who *really* turned me off - it was still an easy read. The Demon's Lexicon? Not really.

There's wasn't enough meat to the story and there was a definite lack of worldbuilding, which I'm alright with in fanfiction but not so much with original published fiction. I was hoping for more than just a Goblin's Market, an asylum and a Magician's parlour >_>

I'm just...disappointed, I guess. I was unable to really feel for the characters apart from wanting to hit Alan (and Mae for that matter), which makes it hard to look back at the story in a positive light. When it comes to not-nice-guys as the main characters, we have manga like Death Note, shows like Dexter and even books like Artemis Fowl where you usually end up championing the dudes despite the fact they might be trying to frame/kill/rob someone. The emotions manage to draw you in and somehow you embrace the characters anyway.

But the lack of humanity and emotions in Nick made it hard to empathise and feel for his situation 'cause he himself doesn't care half the time. There's this need for Alan but Nick's so very lost without his brother as an anchor and you wonder if he feels anything on an emotional level. The nature vs nurture issue was barely touched - though probably because it was all supposed to be a surprise felt like the story only started in the final chapters.

Or that maybe the story SHOULD have started with the climax and had the rest of it as flashbacks while Demon!Nick and Alan went on their next adventure.

If I were to read fanfiction it would be in the far far future (maybe when Jamie is close to his 30s) with a darker, more demonic Nick and Jamie in league with him as a magic!user. Alan marries Mae and has a shop somewhere where he can do research while the other two go gallivanting around. Nick's managed to slowly develop an attachment for Jamie as a partner/colleague but on some level it becomes something more.

Anway, I found myself nodding while reading this review/reaction post by baeraad who manages to say things so much better.
"Not enough meat" is a pretty good way of summing up my reasons for not liking it too, I think. Not enough meat on the characters. Not enough meat on the setting. It's all just so... sketchy. The plot itself would be all right, except for the fact that since it's mostly emotional stuff it relies on the reader having a vested interest in the characters, and those are the same characters that, well, don't have enough meat on them for me to care.

Funnily enough, I liked Alan fine (except for the scene with the heroic torture), and instead wanted Nick to get smacked. We agree on Jamie, though - horrible as he was in the first couple of chapters, he probably is the most human of the four.
Aw, I'm sorry the book wasn't to your taste! I was willing to forgive the paltry world-building because it felt like the sequels would expand on the universe, but then again, I was reading very heavily into Nick. (I think I hated Alan up until the big reveal. Lying in parental figure = trigger.)

Lots of other great books out there, and I'm confident SRB will get better.
Thank you for having the courage to write an honest critical post. I'm sure SRB appreciates it too, now that her writing's out in the real world (I would too if I was a published author - you want to know what people really think, even if it's not pure squee). I haven't read the book yet but have uploaded it to my Kindle. I do enjoy SRB's fanwriting, but I am not sure I'd like it as quite as much without the slash romance elements. Nevertheless, I'm proud to see someone from our fandom make it to the big time.
Out of curiosity, did you read the second one? Any further thoughts?

I agree pretty about the lack of world-building (actually, the goblin market annoys me a bit), but I really had fun with Nick and Allen's dynamic (even with the anvil-sized hints; I'm a sucker for FMA-siblings as much as the next, well, person with awesome siblings. :)

Regarding humor, I'd argue that SRB did sneak in an enjoyable amount of situational contrast and snarky dialog... but I was a bit appalled at Jamie in the first book-- it was like Maya!Draco suddenly appeared in an otherwise unrelated YA Fantasy book, and any scenes with Mae (plus the threat that she would be the main POV in the second book) caused these long pauses where I tried to remember where the light at the end of the tunnel was. Anyway. I totally found this by digging around in my blogger stats, and just in case other people end up here, mebbe this link discussion will add flavor?