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Literature: The Demon's Lexicon

In two worlds, there is nothing I love half as much as you.

In modern-day England, brothers Nick and Alan try to live a normal life. They get jobs, Nick goes to school (at Alan's insistence), Alan has crushes on girls (and girls have crushes on Nick).

Of course, Nick starts right off rescuing his favorite sword from under the sink (and don't think he won't use it), Alan could shoot you before you realized that sweet, smiling guy even knew what a gun was, they've got to watch out for mad Mum in the attic, and they're forced to pack up and move every time a magician or demon bursts into their house. Which is once every couple of months. At best.

Enter Jamie and Mae, a brother-sister duo who witness the latest demonic intrusion and need Nick and Alan's help: Jamie's been marked by a demon, a mark that lets a demon trace, hurt, and eventually possess him, leaving nothing of him behind. Alan wants to help them; Nick wants them out of his house. Naturally, brotherly arguments ensue.

Between running from, beating up, capturing, killing, and attempting to outmaneuver scheming magicians, of course.

The Demon's Lexicon is written by debut author Sarah Rees Brennan. It's the first in a trilogy. The second, The Demon's Covenant, was released in May 2010, and the third, The Demon's Surrender, was released in June 2011.

This series provides examples of:

  • Action Mom - Surprisingly, Annabel Crawford.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Mae does, at least.
  • And I Must Scream: Being possessed by a demon is this. Imagine being trapped in your body, unable to speak, as a foreign presence invades you and takes over your autonomy. First there's the fighting, the refusal to capitulate, and the demons love that. They respond with torture, every form of mental and emotional and not-quite-physical pain, and you can't even cry out because you have no voice any longer. Then you beg, you plead, for a reprieve from the pain, for your soul back, but demons have no empathy to be moved by human grief. The only thing left is to strike a bargain, but there's no bargain you can make that the demon won't win.
  • Anti-Hero - Nick. Will he wantonly slaughter evil magicians to save your brother? Yes. But only because Alan asked him to.
  • Ascended Extra: Sin goes from being in a single scene in the first book, to being a minor character in the second, to being the point of view character in the third.
  • Bad Dreams - A side-effect of a second-tier mark, in which the demons let you know that they're coming for you.
    • Mae starts to get them in The Demon's Covenant and eventually realizes that it's the demon Anzu trying to scare her out.
  • Badass Bookworm - Alan is the absolute epitome.
  • Badass Families: Alan and Nick, Mae and Jamie.
  • Badass Normal - Mae, full stop.
  • Bedlam House: The House of Mezentius, an institution for restraining demons possessing humans until they wear down the human body and it dies. Relatives of the possessed pay Mezentius House large sums of money for their upkeep and even more for the chance to spend their loved one’s final days with them.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jamie and Seb. Alan and Sin, sorta.
  • Berserk Button: Don’t threaten Nick’s people if you value any of your body parts.
  • Big Bad - Black Arthur and the Obsidian Circle. Anzu and Gerald seem primed for this role in future books.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Alan and Nick both despite not being biological brothers. Mae towards Jamie.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Alan is saved from possession and the Obsidian Circle is defeated, but the Market must become what they've fought for so long, sacrificing humans to demons in order to win.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The demons, best exemplified by Nick.
  • Break the Cutie: Jamie. To an extent, Seb.
  • Buxom Is Better - Mae, according to Nick's lingering eyeballs.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Alan and Nick have always been barely one step ahead of the sorcerers and their demons, but when Alan gets marked the demons can track them now, and there's no escape.
  • Cannot Cross Running Water: Possessed bodies can, they just don't like to because it can trigger extreme nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, and dissociation.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Nick, often quite literally, because he has such difficulty with words and expressing feelings.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Demons are incapable of doing so. And Nick does so casually mention he never lies.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Jamie.
    Jamie: You said not to have another drink. And do you know what I think? I think you were right.
    • and:
    Jamie: You are my friend.
    Nick: Yeah, I am.
  • Catchphrase: Mae says "Uh" a lot.
  • Cats Are Mean: Alan once tried to adopt a cat, but it didn't take to Nick because he's a demon.
  • The Chessmaster: Hello, Alan.
    • By the time The Demon's Surrender ends, it's clear Mae is becoming a Chessmistress skilled enough to rival Alan.
  • Child Prodigy: Daniel Ryves's journal reveals Alan was teaching himself dead languages when he was still pre-puberty.
  • Code Name: A one-time brush with discovery results in Alan and Sin calling each other Clive and Bambi. They turn this into a Running Gag.
  • Consummate Liar - Alan, to the point where speaking the truth - even simple truths with no potential whatsoever for harm - is uncomfortable and pained.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Nick and Sin are both from poor backgrounds with dead parents and Sin is a black girl, but in between them is Mae, whose family is quite wealthy.
  • Cool Big Sis: Mae, who's protective of and close to Jamie.
    • Sin is very aware of this. When she goes to pick Lydie up from school, she notes that it can't hurt to have her sister's classmates know that she has a cool big sis.
  • Corrupt the Cutie: Book three plays with this with Mae and Jamie.
  • Covers Always Lie: Book one has Nick on the cover, which makes sense as he’s the narrator and protagonist. But then book two has Sin, whose POV book is the third, and book three has Alan on the cover, who doesn’t even get his own point of view narration. Poor Mae.
    • One edition of the second book, however, does have Mae on the cover.
  • Creepy Crows - Crop up in the kitchen fairly early on, as demon-controlled attackers.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Jamie argues it must be broken to change how magicians and non-magicians interact, and makes Mae promise not to exact any further revenge for their mother’s murder.
  • Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday - Sixteen is when you become fair game for demon possession.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Pretty much everyone, but most notably Mae, Jamie and Nick.
  • Deal with the Devil - Magicians by definition, but Black Arthur takes this to an art form, sacrificing his wife and then-unborn son for a tremendous amount of power. Pity it didn't work.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen - King, in Nick's case. Slowly and with great difficulty.
    • Liannan is an interestingly literal (if brief) example.
  • Demonic Possession - Right there in the premise: it's what gets demons to help out magicians - nice human bodies to hang around in (for as long as they last).
  • Did You Just Romance a Demon, Mae?
  • Disabled Love Interest: Alan to Sin. It’s one of the things they need to work through, because Sin has always looked down on Alan on principle for this reason.
  • Disabled Means Helpless: Very, very strongly averted with Alan.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: How does Nick respond to Alan being possessed? Oh, only setting the entire River Thames on fire.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything? - When Jamie starts to tell Annabel that he is a magician she nervously says that they had the same conversation when he was thirteen and reminded him that she was fine with his sexuality.
  • The Dragon: Gerald starts out as Black Arthur’s Dragon, then in book three becomes Celeste’s. Temporarily
  • Dying Moment of Awesome - Olivia
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Nick.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Demons in their true forms, which aren't even described.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Mae is short for Mavis.
  • Empathic Environment: Before Nick’s powers are sealed, his mood swings can bring on storms. At one point one of the storms results in the deaths of two bystanders.
  • Empty Shell: Nick's body when he vacates it, as it never had a soul of its own.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Mae and Sin spend much of The Demon's Covenant that Nick will kill Alan and end the world if Alan betrays him.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Nick, who responds to being checked out by gay Jamie by not making an issue of it because most people find him attractive.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: Gerald.
  • Evil Magician: Several, but most notably Black Arthur and Gerald.
  • Exorcism: Although in this case, Exorcism doesn’t mean casting out a demon so much as naming a demon and commanding it - sometimes to leave, sometimes to do something else entirely.
  • Face of a Thug: Nick. Largely on account of the whole violent demon in a human body thing.
  • Fish out of Water: Most of Nick’s tension with other characters is a result of him being this.
  • Five-Man Band - While Mae, Alan and Jamie's roles are very obvious, Nick and Sin both have elements of The Lancer AND The Big Guy. Before Sin joins the group, Nick fills both roles.
  • Foreshadowing: The first book is chock full of hints that Nick is a demon. He has difficulty speaking and even more difficulty reading; his impulses are towards violence and he has a hard time understanding other people's emotions, much less his own; crossing running water sends him into violent fits; and his talisman burns him and feels like a collar.
  • Freudian Excuse - Gerald and Seb, possibly many more magicians as well.
  • Friend to All Children: Alan is good with kids.
  • Friends with Benefits: Nick and Sin were this before Sin found out Nick is a demon.
  • Gaining The Will To Kill: Mae spends much of the book working up the commitment to save her brother, whatever it takes, climaxing when she finally kills a magician to paint over Jamie’s mark.
  • Gambit Pileup - The climax to The Demon's Covenant
    • Taken even further in The Demon's Surrender
  • Geometric Magic: Summoning circles rely on geometric symbolism.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom - Jamie in the third book. Later, Gerald as well.
  • Good Is Not Nice: The Goblin Market is the only resource people victimized by demon’s and magicians have, so why not turn a profit?
  • Guns Are Worthless: They only work sometimes, if a magician isn’t enchanted to protect against bullets. Because of the superiority complex most magicians have, many don’t bother.
  • Has Two Mommies - Matthias the piper. Mentioned very briefly when he arrives with them to tour the Goblin Market at the end of The Demon's Surrender.
  • Hates Being Touched - Nick. Attempts at familiarity (unless you're Alan) will probably end with a knife in the offending body part.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Sin spends much of The Demon's Surrender in the dark on the others' plans, and unsure whether she can trust the others at varying points due to various revelations.
  • He Who Must Not Be Heard: Demons possessing human bodies are incapable of speech, partly because they have no concept of language and partly because the body is fighting the possession in the only way it can.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: And Nick keeps his favorite under the kitchen sink.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Some demons are fond of assuming human-like form, with just enough minute differences to make the effect disturbing rather than comforting. Liannan, for instance, is unspeakably beautiful but has razor teeth and no eyelashes.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The magicians’ justification for why they treat non-magicians as no better than livestock: most of them were rejected or abused by their family when their powers became known.
  • I Am What I Am: Jamie's character arc involves coming to terms with being a magician.
  • I Know Your True Name: To exorcize a demon is to name it and command it. Conventional belief holds that you must know a demon's true name, but demons don't have true names; they respond to them because humans believe them to be true.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills - Alan doesn't miss.
    • Neither, for that matter, does Nick.
  • Incest Is Relative: In a deleted scene revealed during the TDS launch chat, Anzu kisses Nick while in his brother Alan's body. It's noteworthy that demons don't care for taboos like incest and probably can't differentiate between sexual and platonic feelings.
  • Interspecies Romance: Mae and Nick.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Mae is relieved to discover this is the case for her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Nick, although by the end he’s arguably beginning to develop a Hidden Heart of Gold. Arguably.
  • Jerkass - Nick looks like one for most of the book, possibly overlapping with Jerk with a Heart of Gold, albeit a laser-guided heart of gold.
  • Karma Houdini - Helen avoids any repercussions for killing Annabel by switching sides at an opportune time. Rather disturbingly, it seems like we're supposed to support this.
  • Kick the Dog: Nick, the ostensible hero of book one, pulls one of these on Mae, trying to coax her into admitting she’s glad her brother was marked for demonic possession.
  • Kid with the Leash: Alan raised a demon while only a child himself.
  • Kiss of Death - Olivia snuggles up to Black Arthur for a kiss, then sets herself on fire while still holding on to him. Subverted that this doesn't kill him straight off - his son does that a few minutes later.
  • Knife Nut - Nick. Another character points out that he carries the equivalent of a restaurant's cutlery drawer on him at all times. Sin embodies this trope, as well.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The shock of being thrust into a developing fetus's undeveloped mind wiped Nick's memories of his life before.
  • Last-Second Chance: Jamie tries to offer Gerald one.
  • Leaking Can of Evil: When Nick removes his talisman, his magic seeps out and affects the world around him. If he's feeling particularly strong emotions, the talisman won't stop even that.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Aventurine Circle wears all white, but they’ll feed people to demons just like any other magician circle.
  • Loners Are Freaks - Nick does try to fit in with the kids at school...sort of. It doesn't really take.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Inverted. Alan and Nick actually aren't brothers.
  • Louis Cypher: Nick was the name Alan chose because it sounds like the demon name Hnikarr.
  • Love Martyr: Alan, to an extreme.
    “I’m not scared of being hurt. I’m scared of what he’ll do. He could tear himself apart or tear the world apart, and next to those two choices what happens to me doesn’t matter at all.”
  • Love Redeems: Nick's love for Alan, and eventually for Mae and Jamie, is precisely what makes him an Anti-Hero rather than outright villainous in the first place. And it's their love that allowed Nick to slowly begin to learn how to be human.
  • Magic Dance: Dancing up a demon. Sin is the best dancer at the Market.
  • Magic Music: There are pied pipers as well as magicians, and they feed their magic off the vitality of people responding to their music.
  • Magic is Evil: At least if you ask the people of the Market.
  • A Man Is Not a Virgin: Nick once slept with a teacher to get a passing grade. Sin also notes Alan is no stranger to waking up with a girl in his bed.
  • Manipulative Bastard: And Alan again....
  • Master Actress: Sin is a performer, and she treats the world as as much of a performance as dancing. She knows how to act to maximum effect to get what she wants.
  • Mayfly-December Romance: Mae and Nick, with the implication that he'll keep living even after his host body dies.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Two worlds."
  • The Mole: Phyllis
  • Morality Chain: Alan, Mae, and Jamie to Nick.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Nick spends an awful lot of time being shirtless and good-looking.
  • Multilayer Façade: Sin as three primary identities she uses for different situations: Sin, the alluring and exotic dancer of the Goblin Market; Thia, the darling Market princess who grew up among them and is loved by all; and Cynthia, the quiet, reserved schoolgirl who certainly wouldn't be hiding anything you need to examine more closely.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution - Nick certainly thinks so. With certain magicians, he's generally right.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Strongly averted with Mae and Sin, who flirt with multiple guys, are implied to have had several boyfriends, and whose sexuality is celebrated by the narrative.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Jamie and Mae throughout much of the first book.
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Nick is dyslexic and alexithymic because he’s a demon.
  • No Social Skills: With Nick, played for comedy as well as drama.
  • Nurture Over Nature: It was being loved unconditionally that allowed Nick to begin developing attachments to the world and something resembling a heart.
  • Odd Friendship: Nick and Jamie.
  • Offing the Offspring - Olivia tried to drown Nick as a baby. Cue Alan's Promotion to Parent.
    • Add in Black Arthur's attacks and Daniel Ryves, in baby Nick's bedroom, with an enchanted knife...this positively abounds.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Incomprehensible supernatural entities from a parallel universe that’s a cold, bleak wasteland. They only seek the warmth and vitality of the human world, but view humans themselves as insects. They have no spoken or written language and while it’s indicated that they do feel emotion, their understanding of emotion is vastly different from how humans understand them.
  • Parental Abandonment - Nick and Alan's parents aren't exactly around. Their dad's dead and their mum's mad, to start with. Well, Alan's dad and Nick's mum, respectively. Alan's mum is also dead and Nick's dad is the Big Bad.
    • On a much more normal level, Mae and Jamie's parents didn't pay them much attention even when they were still together. Their dad dislikes Jamie for being gay and avoids Mae for being odd. Their mum, whom they live with, although she loves them, doesn't have much time for them.
  • Perky Goth - Mae has pink hair, wears corsets and bat jewelery, and almost always has a smile on her face.
  • Possession Burnout: What happens to those who are Demonically Possessed.
  • Power Limiter: At the end of The Demon's Covenant, Alan has Liannan place one on Nick, cutting his power in half and restricting him to the body he's already in.
  • Promotion to Parent - Alan raised Nick more or less on his own ever since their mother tried to drown Nick as a baby. Mae's got a lesser degree of this going for Jamie. Sin to her younger siblings.
  • Replacement Love Interest: Sin for Alan.
  • Romantic False Lead: Seb and Alan for Mae.
  • Rotating Protagonist - Although all the books are told in third-person, the first is from Nick's POV, the second from Mae's and the third is from Sin's.
  • Running Gag - The number of times Nick shows up without his shirt is remarked on by several characters in the third book
    Mae: Is this no-shirts festival day?
    Alan: Every day with Nick is no-shirts festival day.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Sorcerers and demon dancers alike always take extreme care when summoning demons to never let them escape the summoning circle (or in the sorcerers' case, make sure the demon is constrained to a human body), because a demon freed upon the world would mean The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Ship Tease - YMMV, but take any two (or three or four...) characters and chances are there's plenty of shipping fuel.
  • Shipper on Deck: Hilariously enough, Nick is this for Mae and Alan.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet wouldn't have lasted
  • Sociopathic Hero: Nick, who has a hard time understanding concepts like empathy and pity.
  • Spell My Name with an S: “Cyn” is actually a fairly common pet form of “Cynthia.” Sin spells her name the way she does because a few years ago someone misspelled it, playing into the stereotype of the sexy and alluring black woman, and Sin chose to take it and make it her own.
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky - Nick.
  • There Are No Therapists: Justified in that the vast majority of human society is unaware of magic, so Mae is left struggling with the trauma of murder on her own.
  • Thicker Than Water: One of the central themes of the trilogy. Nick would destroy the world for Alan, Alan would set a demon free on the world for Nick, Mae would commit murder to protect Jamie, Jamie would lose his hold on his sanity for Mae, and Sin would give up everything she’s ever known and loved for her sister and brother.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill - Averted with just about everyone, magicians being the most probable target. In particular, Nick's default anger mode is Kill Something.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Averted, and how. Nick actually heals Alan’s leg at one point for the duration of a single fight, before Alan makes him give his injury back because it’s a part of him. Nick also tries to do this for Jamie later after Jamie loses his hand, but Jamie’s not having any of it either.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The end of book one reveals Nick is actually a demon, summoned into a fetal host while it was still in its mother's womb.
  • Took a Level in Badass - Jamie, by the end of Covenant. Worth noting that Nick was his Professor of Badass.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Jamie in The Demon's Covenant. It's actually all a part of Mae's master plan to trick everyone into believing magicians can control demons who mark them, so that Gerald lets himself be marked by Nick.
  • Transformation Of The Possessed: When Anzu possesses Alan, he begins altering the body to better suit his tastes, as Liannan likewise does with Merris.
  • Translation Convention: One of the lines drawn in a summoning circle is designed to translate demons' silent speech into something humans can understand, and vice-versa.
  • Trojan Prisoner: In The Demon's Surrender, Nick pretends to be bound to Jamie's will so that Gerald will accept Nick's mark, continuing the act with Gerald until they're prepared to corner him and defeat his army.
  • Troubled, but Cute - Nick notes that girls are just about always attracted to him.
  • Twist Ending - More specifically, Tomato in the Mirror.
  • Unexpected Successor: Pulled by Merris at the end of The Demon's Covenant, who suddenly announces her intent to nominate Mae to the position.
  • Unreliable Narrator - At the beginning of the book, the reader is given a bit of background information regarding Nick and Alan's lives. By the end, most of it turns out to be wrong.
  • Urban Fantasy
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Nick inspires this reaction in most people and in the reader too, particularly in the first book when everyone but Alan is in the dark about his true demonic nature.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Nick.
  • You Gotta Have Pink Hair: Mae, though it is dyed.
  • Zero Approval Gambit: Alan has a plan to get the Obsidian Circle off his family's backs forever. Freeing the demon Black Arthur is chasing and unleashing him into the world unfettered.

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alternative title(s): The Demons Lexicon
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