"There are demons living in another world....a world side by side with ours, and they are hungry.
They are hungry for the sounds and sights and sensations of our world. None of them can get in, though. None of them can touch you, unless a magicians' circle builds a bridge for the demons. Stay safe. Stay away from magicians." (page 17)
The Demon's Lexicon, by Sarah Rees Brennan (Simon and Schuster, 2009, YA 322 pp) tells of two teenaged brothers who have spent their lives on the run from demon-raising magicians, caring for their mother (who was driven mad by magic), and fighting off magical attacks. Nick, the younger of the two and the central character, is a fierce fighter who cares only for his older brother, Alan. Alan is his opposite--a loving, gentle, book-loving young man who spreads his compassion widely. When a Jamie, a boy from Nick's school, and his sister show up at their door, desperate for help, it is Alan who takes them in. And when Alan takes on part of the demonic sign that has appeared on Jamie's skin, saving the boy's life but opening himself up to death by demonic possession in the process, Nick is furious. He'll do anything to help his brother--including hunting down the most dangerous magician of them all...
It is a fast-paced story of demonic danger set in a nicely realized imaginary world within our world, that features good use of sharp weapons, among other excitements. Nick is one of the more fascinating central characters I've come across in a fantasy novel. His single-minded fierceness, and his inability to understand basic human emotions, might make him an unlikable character, one not easy to empathize with. But Brennan has written him richly and believably, and he is tremendously interesting. So is the relationship between the brothers, and the story itself.
Sure, there's trouble with demons and magicians and people being marked for death, but this is a funny book too--there are quite a few welcome moments of levity that lift the reader out of the dark testiness that is Nick's point of view. Here's an example:
Jamie, at one point on a rather dangerous wizard hunting expedition, is chatting to Nick as they stalk. "I mean, I don't want to offend you, but it's not just that you summon demons. It's not even about the fact that you've got more knives on you right now than a fancy restaurant has in its silverware drawer. You, um, you don't smile, and you look through people, and you're--"
"Quiet," Nick said.
"Yes, you're very quiet," Jamie agreed, "and I have to say, I find it a little disturbing."
"I mean," Nick said, "shut up. I think I see something."
At the left corner of the bar was a magician. He was buying a bag of crisps." (p 154)
(I love it).
But Brennan only puts in just enough humor to lighten the story without distracting--Nick and Alan's journey remains dark, and ominous, and completely gripping, in a "character-driven magical violence and suspense" kind of way.
Viz age of reader--sure, there's scary stuff, a smidge of torture, and a couple of hints of demonic lust lurking around, but not really that much more than is in the Harry Potter books (although, after typing it, I am hard pressed to think of any hints of demonic lust at all in those), but anyway, my point is that younger readers, seventh or eight graders (girl or boy) might really be as thrilled by this as the rest of us.
A sample of other reviews and reactions: Read This Book, Carrie's YA Bookshelf, A Chair, a Fireplace and a Teacozy, and LiyanaLand.