Nick's been on the run his whole life, ever since his mother stole a charm from the most feared magician of them all, and the only person he trusts is his brother Alan. Alan's just been marked by a demon. Only Nick can save him, but to do so he must face the magicians - and kill them. The hunt is on, and Nick's going to discover things he never dreamed were out there...
This is Sarah Rees Brennan's debut novel. I think that does show, as some of the writing is a little awkward at first. It smooths out once the story gets going, however, and this is a fantastic story. The plot is fast-paced with plenty of twists and turns, and the ending cleverly pulls together hints I hadn't even noticed SRB dropping. It was one of those surprises that made me feel like I should have guessed what was coming.
The narrator, Nick, is a fascinating character, and I loved him right from the beginning - although I realise I might be in a minority here! It maybe says bad things about me that I felt like I understood him, but I did - his incomprehension of social rules, his frustration with the emotions of those around him, how he was incapable of empathy and yet, in his own screwed-up way, deeply loved his brother Alan. He was violent and ruthless, but could still feel hurt and pain. I was left desperate to know how he'll handle what happened at the end of this book (which is the first part of a trilogy).
Alan obviously cared deeply for Nick, and came across as patient and loving. However, his desire for a normal life, and his many lies, saved him from being too good. The other two main characters were Mae and Jamie, sister and brother. At first I shared Nick's frustration with Mae, but as she grew on him she grew on me too. Initially some of Jamie's wisecracks felt a little forced, but as the character developed he became much more interesting. And it's brilliant to see a gay character for whom being gay is not a huge part of the plot - there's no drama over his sexuality, it's just accepted.
I also liked the world SRB created, and I'd like to see more of it. She's got a new take on the idea of the Goblin Market - after finishing I rushed to look it up, as I couldn't remember what I'd read of it before. In Christina Rossetti's poem, the Goblin Market was the work of the Unseelie Court, and involves the taboo of eating fairy food leading to death. In The Demon's Lexicon, the Goblin Market is a human invention, where those who aren't magicians trade magical items and summon demons through dance. So, very different! I hope it's something we get to see more of. I loved the imagery and descriptions, and the acknowledgement that even when opposing evil, people are going to try and make a profit. There were a few great cameo characters as well - I hope Sin reappears in later books.
Overall, I loved this book, and cannot wait for next summer, when the next is due to be published. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys dark urban fantasy and ambiguous characters.