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Literature / The Demon's Lexicon

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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 the debut book of 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:

  • 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.
  • Badass Bookworm - Alan is the absolute epitome.
  • 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.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: 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.
  • Buxom Beauty Standard
    • Mae has a well-endowed figure, according to Nick's lingering eyeballs.
    "Thanks. I grew them myself."
    • Also, Sin, who is described as having curves and using them.
  • 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.
    • To the point where Mae makes being able to spit it out a condition to having a relationship with him.
  • 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.
      Jamie: But these stairs. They are not my friends.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Nick, in the first book, is an interesting non-romantic example. He has no problem with Alan's crushes, and is even supportive in a grudging way of Alan and Mae, but the thought that there are people who matter so much to Alan that Alan would keep them from Nick, which in a way implies they may mean more to him than Nick, to the point that Nick would steal a photo Alan is hiding and put out an ad looking for information in the newspaper where the photo was taken to get information on who the girl in the photo is, is pretty....extreme.
    • In the second book, Alan's continued attachment to his biological family causes Nick to spark off a magical storm that wreaks havoc on the city.
  • 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 16th 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).
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lethal Chef: Jamie.
    Mae: I was there when you made that tin of beans explode.
    Jamie: It was faulty. I am sure of this.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Surrender. 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.
  • Unexpected Successor: Pulled by Merris at the end of The Demon's Covenant, who suddenly announces her intent to nominate Mae to the position.
  • The Unfettered: Nick's whole idea of morality revolves around what makes Alan happy, but even that goes out the window when it comes to his safety (it later applies to Jamie and Mae as well).
  • 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.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Nick.
    Jamie: Oh my gosh, Nick. You're not wearing a shirt! This must be one of those exciting days ending in Y.
  • Wham Line: "Did you ever think you were actually human?"
    • Another in The Demon's Covenant that is understated, but no less whammy. For the whole book, Mae has been afraid to tell Nick that Alan is planning to betray him and take away his power, justifiably freaked out about his reaction. When she does, and Nick confronts Alan...
    Nick: Betray me....Turn me over to the magicians, take the magic, do whatever you think you need to do, I do not care. But don't leave.
    • When Alan gets possessed: Sunlight could not touch the flat black of his eyes, cold openings into another world.
  • 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.
  • 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.