More complex, engaging, and emotional ride, 3.5 stars
Though I was disappointed with Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel, THE DEMON'S LEXICON, I was intrigued enough to pick up the sequel from the library, and I'm very glad I did.
In THE DEMON'S COVENANT, siblings Mae and Jamie have tried to return to as normal a life as possible after the harrowing demon and magician attacks of the prior month. When Mae realizes that Jamie is getting mixed up with the new leader of the magicians' circle, she calls the only people she thinks can help: brothers Alan and Nick. Though willing to help, the brothers' presence brings added problems, including the magicians' desire to control Nick and the Goblin Market's rebuke of Alan. Mae also finds herself conflicted about her feelings toward Alan and Nick. With her loyalties stretched between the two and her own brother, Mae must make potentially dangerous decisions to protect those she cares for most.
Compared to the first book, THE DEMON'S COVENANT was a more complex, engaging, and emotional ride. The writing improved overall, and transitions were smoother. Rees Brennan excels in her descriptions of complicated sibling relationships and in her portrayal of how love and concern may be expressed in different ways. Told through Mae's limited third-person point of view, the narration was more accessible than Nick's distant perspective of the first book. Mae's viewpoint also provided the opportunity for more mystery and suspense regarding what would happen with Alan and Nick. The quick and snappy dialogue felt more natural in this installment, and it helped to move the plot and to define characters. Character development advanced for the four main characters, most notably for Nick and Mae in some poignant moments involving his father's journal. The role expansion of secondary characters from the first book and the introduction of new ones also provided for an increasingly detailed mythology. The book then finished with a conclusive, satisfying ending (instead of a cliffhanger) that provided growth for the four main characters with the hint of future challenges.
Even though I enjoyed the book, there were still some weaknesses. Moments of rough transition still existed. Inconsistencies in Nick's character also became confusing and frustrating regarding his ability to understand human interaction and his willingness to be touched. Aspects of the mythology remained unclear at the end, as did parts of the climax and its effects. Finally, some of the secondary characters, like Annabel, Seb, Gerald, and Sin, sometimes felt more convenient than necessary.
As this trilogy concludes, I hope that Rees Brennan continues to expand and clarify her magician and demon mythology and that she maintains her focus on the strength and fragility of the sibling relationships. Though I didn't expect my opinion about this series to change so much, I'm very glad I picked up THE DEMON'S COVENANT and I'll be looking forward to the final installment next year.