The Demon's Surrender (2011, Margaret K. McElderry, YA, 400 pages) is the third of Sarah Rees Brennan's books about various sets of siblings whose lives are affected, in various ways, by demonic magic. It is one of my favorite series, because it is a. funny b. moving in its depiction of a suite of sibling relationships threatened by various Dark Forces etc. c. imaginative and fascinating and d. (the most important reason of all) it contains within its pages an erudite bookworm with red hair and a limp who is one of the most loyal, caring, deserving, and (I shamelessly confess to being a shallow fangirl) hot hot hot boys of YA literature.
It's a tricky book for me to review coldly and dispassionately, as this is what my heart insists I write:
Alan. I love you so, and Sarah was so unkind to you in this book. Yeah, she killed lots of other people (perhaps too many--there were lots of random deaths of little import). But you, you Suffered (my poor sweet).
Still, you got some nice bits (wink wink nudge nudge):
"Sin..saw Allan's free hand still holding his book, and started to laugh softly, looking up at him. "You're keeping your place."
"Of course. I'm going to read to you." Alan smiled down at her. "In minute."
After quite a lot longer than a minute, he did. Sin put her arm around his stomach and rested her cheek against his shoulder and listened to him. He'd chosen something to him. He'd chosen something he thought she would like." (page 143)
However, I don't consider this adequate, as The Demon's Surrender is a book that is going into my multicultural sci fi/fantasy list (courtesy of Sin, who is a Person of Color--see the UK cover at right), and so I feel as though I should try to speak a bit more about the book, qua book, and a bit less about the book, qua vehicle for Alan's awesomeness.
The Demon's Surrender is most definitely a book that should be read in series order, as it continues a complicated story. In this book, the focus is on Sin (short for Cynthia), a dancer at the Goblin Market who hopes to take over the leadership of it. But in the meantime, the threat posed by a very nasty group of wizards is growing, and they are striking out at the Market. On the opposing side are the Ryves brothers, Alan and Nick, and their friends Mae and Jamie (but whose side is Jamie really on?).
There are delicious machinations going on here--not everything is as it seems. And as Sin grows closer to Alan (quite a bit closer), she realizes that the stakes of this power game are greater than just her beloved Market...
Now, I think that Alan is the Hero of this trilogy, although we never have a book from his point of view (as he is not known for truthfulness, he would have been a terribly unreliable narrator). So although I was initially doubtful about a whole book from Sin's point of view (I didn't feel I knew her that well, or cared all that much about her), once I realized that the focus of her concern was going to be Alan (clever girl), I was happy.
As the book progressed, I grew to appreciate Sin for her own sake as well. She's brave, determined, and loyal to those she loves, and her concern for Alan even exceeded my own (he was, after all, right there with her as opposed to being a fictional character).
SPOILER ALERT! The next bit gives away the ending, which is by no means a certain one!
So I closed the book happily...but I do think Sarah Reese Brennan could have pulled a J.K. Rowling, and written a 15 years later epilogue:
"Alan and Sin were united in their struggle to get young Nick (or whatever they would have named their son) out the door and on his way to school...."
Because they will make AWESOME parents, and I would like to be sure they get to enjoy life a little....