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Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan


Title: The Demon's Covenant
Author(s): Sarah Rees Brennan
Genre: YA Supernatural, Family, Romance
Page Count: 440
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The Summary:Mae always thought she was in control, but in the past few weeks control has turned into chaos. She’s learned that her brother Jamie has magical powers and that Gerald, the new leader of the Obsidian Circle, is trying to persuade Jamie to join the magicians. The same magicians who tried to kill Mae and Jamie last month in London. The magicians who get their power by feeding people to demons.

Mae turns to brothers Nick and Alan to help her rescue Jamie, but they are in danger themselves. Every magician in England now knows what Nick really is—and they all want him dead.

Nick’s new power has also caused a rift between the brothers. In the weeks they were gone something terrible happened, something that haunts them both. With Nick as unreadable as ever and Alan making secret bargains with a demon, Mae finds herself attracted to both brothers—though she knows she can’t trust either of them. The magicians are closing in on one side and the dangerous, seductive Goblin Market is tempting her on the other, and Mae has to form her own plan to save them all. She's going to find that the price she must pay is more than she ever imagined.

The covenant is binding. There is no escape.

- From US Hardcover

Note: This is a second book in the trilogy. I've done my best to omit spoilers for both the First and Second book in this review, but there are some hints for one of the big reveals for the first book. If you're a complete spoiler-phobe then please proceed with caution.


The Review: Before I begin, I think I ought to confess how this book utterly ruined my week. People, I had plans. I was going to write up multiple reviews here, do more memes, leave comments on posts, go out into that big blue room with the giant yellow fireball in the ceiling and actually socialize with friends and family, but no, ever since I read The Demon’s Covenant last Tuesday, I could think of nothing else. I cancelled all plans, my to-read posts on google reader is at this atrocious triple digit number, and basically I’ve neglected everything just so I could read this book over a total of four times in six days and a small part of me whispers that if I didn’t have to spend a good chunk of my day going to work, the reread count would have at least been double. I even loved this book so much that I went and dug up a copy of the FIRST book to reread as well. (For the record, I reread it twice in these six days. Apparently my revelation for the week was that a day not reading SRB’s writing was a day wasted.) I harassed my family with constant squeals and sighs as I made a public spectacle of myself going all emotional over the book, roping my siblings into listening to various passages I re-enacted for them, whipped out the book from my purse (yes, I lugged that hardcover book everywhere with me) to wave its gorgeous cover in front of the faces of my friends, and even called a friend long distance the second she told me she finished the novel so that I could TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK with someone. This is the kind of sequel that makes the first book a better rereading experience. In fact, this is probably the most amazing sequel book I’ve ever read, and just a really amazing YA book overall and I love it to bits and it’s going to make it on my top 20 books I read this year, I know it, I can feel it in my bones.

I was actually surprised that I loved this book so much, because I wasn’t wow’ed by the first book. I mean, I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my favourite read of the year or anything. The first book had its moments of emotional intensity, and a really fast paced plot, (It reminded me of The Hunger Games’ pace, but with a much more careful eye at her choice of words, and interesting metaphor usage. Yes, I am indeed implying that Sarah Rees Brennan writes better than Suzanne Collins.) but for the most part I was mostly swept by apathy towards all the characters unless their name was Alan or Nick (For the record, I liked Jamie’s lines, but I didn’t get attached to his character like the way I did with Alan or Nick.). In many ways, Nick’s world was very small, with very few people he considered important in his life, and this apathy towards anyone who wasn’t his brother was reflected throughout the writing of the first book and ended up generating a lack of story connectivity for me unless it was an emotional moment between the brothers. I also found the dialogue rather forced, with Nick’s lines trying a little too hard to be sarcastically funny (which looking back, I think was on purpose as it was Nick’s way to try to make Alan happy, but I didn’t see it this way a year ago) and the worldbuilding wasn’t to my taste. (Briefly, I prefer my fantasy based strongly on a body of related folklore/mythology instead of a mishmash of different myths/stories mixed together, and the magic here, while neatly laid out, feels a little flat in its tidiness and simplicity.)

The world building still isn’t to my taste, to be honest, but I don’t care about any of that because, my gawd, the characters just blew me away here. I was doubtful about this character POV change to Mae, whom I had a mostly reserved reaction to in the first book, but this story from Mae’s POV was so good . It gave me all the very human moments that neither Nick nor Gerald (who was also considered as a possible narrator for Book 2 and I praise the heavens that this didn’t happen) could have provided, and I got her now, understood her in the ways I couldn’t gleam out of Nick’s narration in Book 1. Mae is totally a female protagonist you can root for, determined and good hearted and funny and all-around fun, and how she doesn’t sit around being a passive narrator and takes measures into her own hands. I’m sorry I doubted the strength of Mae as a narrator for even a second, or Sarah Rees Brennan’s ability to make her sympathetic. Because if there is only one thing I could name in terms of the author’s strengths in her writing abilities, the first and foremost thing that comes to mind is her way of drawing her characters so vividly, through amazing interpersonal character interaction that not only brings out the protagonist’s characteristics, but the other person she’s interacting with as well. Mae’s POV illuminated the very raw and achingly beautiful brother relationship between Alan and Nick that was different from the first book, but in no way less powerful. I love how we got to really know a good slew of people in this novel that we didn’t get in the first book, and there was none of that character disconnection I felt in the first book, which I believe probably stems from the fact that Mae herself is anything but apathetic towards the people she meets and interacts with around her. The experience of reading this novel was just so intense, because you feel like you really got these characters, and you care so much and there’s so much stuff happening and thrown at the character’s way, and you want everything to work out so bad. I wish I could explain this ability of Sarah Rees Brennan’s more clearly, but I’m not skilled enough with my words to do so, and instead I’m going to direct you this reaction post to The Demon’s Covenant that explains the character interaction thing in this novel much better than I have done here.

A large part of The Demon’s Covenant dealt with the idea of consequences. To the best of my abilities in talking about this without spoiling, in the first book people were willing to do the “wrong” thing to “protect” the important person in their lives, and in the second book, it deals with what happens after you do the unforgivable thing. Sarah Rees Brennan doesn’t hesitate to blur the line between Good and Bad, complicating her characters with varying shades of grey, and I really enjoy that, how not only does she challenge the rights and wrongs but is willing to take this a step further and examine the good/bad decisions her characters have made.

I really, really love the theme of family in this trilogy. Of course Nick and Alan was very lovely, and my fondness towards darling lying Alan continues to grow. I really enjoyed seeing the sibling interaction between Mae and Jamie, as a lovely contrast to Nick and Alan, and of course on its own right. It’s nice to see siblings in YA novels who don’t hate each other or the stereotypical Annoying Younger Sibling vs. Distant Older Sibling. I mean, they fight, but they love each other, the kind of family bond siblings share, and they always come through for each other no matter what. I'm so glad we got a better handle of Jamie in this book, because while I liked his lines in the first book, I didn't feel like I really got to know him. All that is rectified in this book. I loved how he was gay without making the whole coming out and what not stuff a Big Issue and he gets a love story and everything, and it was just really, really well done and I want him to be happy. I also enjoyed Mae’s interactions with her mother. Mae’s mom is seriously badass. I may have been a little in love. Actually all the women were rather badass in this novel. No helpless damsels as victims here. Sin in particular was my favourite. (Who is gorgeous and a dancer and an older sister and good with knives and incidentally biracial in the Not Making Race A Dominant Part of Her Identity way and will be the narrator of the third book! So excited!)

I also loved the string of makeout scenes in this novel, but that may be influenced by the fact that I am shallow. Also these kissing scenes were just really hot and sizzling in general. Mmmmmm... *coughs* Er, the fight scene was brilliant too! Very intense, especially the one on the bridge. The dialogue here was much smoother and flowed well to boot, and this book made me laugh and gush sniff and broke my heart and brought it back together all at once. I honestly can’t recommend it enough.

The Verdict: If you’ve read the first book and haven’t put the second book on your to-read this 1) there is something very wrong with you and 2) RECTIFY THIS TERRIBLE AND HEINUOUS ERROR OF YOURS NOW. If you’ve haven’t read the first book, read that first, and then run immediately to grab a copy of the second book. Theorectically I suppose you could read the second book without having read the first, since there’s enough context to pick up what’s going on without getting too lost, but it spoils the first book terribly and the experience of reading the first book would be utterly ruined, so I don’t suggest this. This is one of those rare special sequels that not only tops the first book in every way, but makes the first book better by proxy, and you’d be missing out if you skip out on reading covenant. Plus, the US version is all repackaged with a new gorgeous look with some amazingly beautiful cover models, and HOW CAN YOU RESIST THAT. Dark, intense, funny, and heartwrenching, the story will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it. And it'll also make you want to commit ritual sacrifices to get your hands on the third book.

Rating: 5/5
Enjoyment: Look, I’ve read this over FOUR TIMES already since having bought it less than a week ago. If this doesn’t make it obvious that this is the book I enjoyed reading the most so far this year, I don’t know what will.

Title and Cover Discussion: EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. EVERYTHING. I’M SO HAPPY THE US COVERS GOT REDESIGNED. I am in love with the font style and colour choice, the dynamic movement of the models, the beautiful blue flames of beauty, the twirling white dress. I am no longer jealous of the UK covers, as this beats the UK version, hands down. I loved it enough to pay full price for the hardcover, which I wasn’t supposed to do since I’m making an attempt to “save money” but I couldn’t let the precious book out of my hands. (I do miss the secret cover of the first US hardback though, as I was kind of hoping for the same thing with the second book, but blue flames make up for everything.) Although now I’m all ~*conflicted*~ since I don’t have matching covers and I want a matching set for this trilogy and don’t know whether or not I should go and collect this trilogy with the UK covers or US, but I am thoroughly off topic by now so I’m just gonna shut up and give this whole package an A

Title: A
Cover: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

7 comments:

Splendibird said...

I found this review because the author tweeted about it - and I am so glad I did. I loved the first book but wasn't overly excited about getting the second (though I totally planned to read it eventually). However, your review has moved it right to the top of my wish list (not out in the UK until the end of the month, sadly). What I love about your review is your honest admittance that it totally took over your life... I am so glad that this happens to other people when they read and not just me. Will be following your blog avidly from now on!

bookshop said...

YES YES YES. I agree so much 100% with all of this post (except for the part about Gerald being narrator, not because I don't love Sin, I can't wait to read her pov, but because I FREAKING LOVE GERALD and I think having him as the narrator would have been incredible also).

I am also so in love with the cover! I can't believe how pretty it is in person! SO SHINY :D. And yes, I know what you mean about the conflict but I solved that by also buying the paperback copy of TDL, FOR MAXIMUM CARRYING-AROUND EFFICIENCY.

And yeah, TDC completely took over my entire weekend. Which I was supposed to be spending touring Our Nation's Capital. I think I toured, like. a tenth of ONC. and read 440 pages of TDC in 2 and a half days. God, it was that good.

Emma said...

Amazing review. I kind of despise this cover but I loved the first book and I'm excited to read this one!

renae-love said...

This is an excellent review that answers a lot of the questions I had about the sequel, thank you! I loved Nick's POV in the first book, and I've been kinda ambivalent about the shift to Mae. I'll be checking out your blog more often. : )

MissAttitude said...

AHHHH I need to hurry up and read The Demon's Lexicon! Your review totally sold me on both books because I want to experience the awesomeness (everyone raves about the 1st but this is the first review I've read of the 2nd, besides's bookshop who also just RAVED about it).

Amazing review, you have made me want to go out and buy the book right now. except no money =/

Ah Yuan // wingstodust said...

@bookshop,

Gerald ranks as one of my most disliked characters of this trilogy, but I understand that this is a minority opinion, lol. (Er, if Jamie/Gerald happens, I'm going to have to kill myself.)

But then I'd have one hardcover and one softcover! THE DILEMMA. My plan was to wait for the paperback of TDC and buy them both paperback to solve this problem, but I already bought the 2nd book hardcover argh... Maybe they'll reissue TDL in hardback, or something, or maybe I'll just buy all the editions and console myself that even if they don't match at least I got all the covers. *shuts up before I reveal how much of a fanatic I am*

@MissA,

Join the giveaway contests!! Getting TDC will be so worth it. 8D

Audrey; (AyC) said...

I LOVED this book too!! It was SO GOOD, the whole series is :) I love your review, it's awesome. thanks for stopping by my blog (via Sat Net.)