Original concept, poor execution
In Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon, two brothers must fight against the evil magicians who seek them and the talisman their mother wears. Another set of siblings, Mae and Jamie, seek out the brothers' help when it is discovered that Jamie has been marked by a demon. The four teens, and now awkward friends, set out to find a way to remove Jamie's mark and then that of Alan, who is marked in the process of trying to help the others. A race against time begins, as Alan and Jamie must have their marks removed before demons ravage their bodies and souls, all while avoiding the magicians who still seek to harm them.
While many others enjoyed this book, it fell flat for me. The writing felt awkward and forced, as though the author was trying to make things sound important. Poor pacing plagued the novel, and things didn't pick up until the final 100 pages. When things did pick up, the villains were portrayed as mostly inept in spite of the frightening powers we've been told they possess. Though the book had an original set-up about demons and magicians, there were problems with the mythology that made me question the story. Additionally, the main character Nick was emotionally distant and unlikeable. Though this is a significant plot point and one that is explained later in the book, it made it difficult to connect with him as the main narrator (third-person). Secondary characters, like Jamie and Mae, felt underdeveloped.
Despite these qualms, I did see glimmers of a strong story with potential for the books to come in the series. The story differs from typical YA paranormal fare by focusing on demons and magicians, and the darker tone should appeal to fans of dark urban fantasy. Also, instead of being a romance, it was refreshing to see sibling relationships as the focus. When hints of romantic tension did enter the story, they didn't take away from the main story arc about the brothers. Finally, as mentioned, things did pick up in the final chapters and some of those plot surprises were both creative and frightening.
I know that Rees Brennan already has a devoted fan base, both due to her previous fanfic work and then this original novel. Though I won't be rushing out to get it, I hope that the sequel, The Demon's Covenant (The Demon's Lexicon Trilogy), expands on her original story concept and takes things to a higher level.